Yesterday, I received in the mail the four books I’d ordered from St. Herman Press, all by my patron, Father Seraphim Rose:
I’ve read all these before (see list below), having checked them out from the libraries at the seminary or Loyola, but got some birthday money last month, and had just enough to order these four books and pay for shipping, so I decided to add them to my home collection. (They’re also all in newer editions than the ones I’ve read, so they have extra material I’d like to read, too.)
Although Blessed Seraphim’s list of authored books is relatively finite, as can be seen from the list below, his list of translated books is relatively larger. What makes these translated books valuable is not just the translation of previously unavailable texts, but Father Seraphim’s godly-wise introductions.
A case in point. I’m currently re-reading the out-of-print Vita Patrum: The Life of the Fathers, a translation of a portion of a work by St. Gregory of Tours (historian of the Franks). (By the way, it is currently in revision and soon to be republished under the title Western Orthodox Roots.) The first one-hundred-fifty pages are a detailed introduction by Father Seraphim on monasticism in fifth and sixth century Gaul, and its relevance to modern Orthodox Christianity. Clearly, Father Seraphim’s introductions are important works in their own right.
In any case, I remember reading the books listed above, particularly Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future and The Soul After Death, and being a bit mystified by them. Keep in mind that this was early on in my intensive investigations into Orthodoxy. On the one hand, much of what they said I could definitely agree with. The dangers of occultism and the lifting up of religious experience over dogma. The necessity of sobriety about one’s own death. But there were other teachings of ancient Christianity that struck me as, well, frankly, weird. Prelest, or spiritual delusion, and the necessity to focus on religious struggle. The reality behind the metaphor of the toll-houses.
But recently I reread Father Seraphim’s Nihilism, as I commuted on the bus. I also remember my first experience with this book, and coming at it from a philosophical perspective. I thought, “Father Seraphim doesn’t understand the philosophers he’s criticizing.” But now I’ve got more than a year of Divine Liturgies under my belt, and something like a discipline of daily prayer. I also am more grounded in my academic discipline. So when I came to Nihilism again, I thought, “Man, Blessed Seraphim is dead on.”
It was partly as a result of that experience that motivated me to go ahead and purchase these books so I can more receptively take in the godly insights of this saint.
So, although I should have dutifully plowed through “Observing Reason” in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit on the commute this morning, instead I pulled out God’s Revelation to the Human Heart and read the first section. I was almost in tears. (I’m very emotional of late. What’s up with that?) Father Seraphim indeed spoke the truth, a truth he both knew personally and struggled through suffering to know.
Blessed Seraphim, our father in the faith, pray for us.
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