2007 AFR Interviews about Fr Seraphim Rose

On this day in 1982, Fr Seraphim Rose of Platina reposed. Three years ago, Ancient Faith Radio recorded a three part series of interviews about Fr Seraphim. The first two are interviews with Hieromonk Damascene. The last is an interview with Abbot Gerasim.

Father Seraphim Rose: Spiritual Father (mp3 link; will open in your computer’s player)
Father Seraphim Rose: The Man, the Struggler (mp3 link)
Father Seraphim Rose: Prayer and Orthodox Spirituality (mp3 link)

Father Seraphim’s Intercessions

About three and a half years ago, I wrote about how Father Seraphim’s prayers for me regarding a particular matter about prayer had been answered (and here). More recently, I’ve asked Father Seraphim’s intercessions on some other matters. God saw fit to answer his prayers for me regarding some physical healings of minor ailments (in one case practically instantly).

Father Seraphim’s intercessions for others are documented in his biography by Hieromonk Damascence: Father Seraphim Rose: His Life and Writings, as well as in The Orthodox Word Issue #254, May-June 2007, Vol. 43 No. 3.

Recently, I was discussing Father Seraphim with some fellow parishioners. I told them how, after Father Patrick had given me an indication that he would bless my taking Father Seraphim as one of my patron saints, I’d written to a hermit devoted to Father Seraphim for copies of one of Father Seraphim’s lectures. The hermit had indeed sent the CDs, and then, without any mention on my part of what I thought about Father Seraphim or my esteem for him, also sent oil from Father Seraphim’s vigil lamp and soil from his grave. What a marvelous providence.

One of the parishioners also shared a picture of Father Seraphim’s biographer, with some remarkable footwear. It seems that Hieromonk Damascene has been blessed to wear the boots Father Seraphim was wont to wear. In 28 years since Father Seraphim’s repose, the boots remain in good shape.

It is my hope to one day travel to Platina to visit Father Seraphim’s grave and to pray there, and if God wills, his cell. And perhaps to be blessed to meet his biographer, Hieromonk Damascene and speak with him about the the life and witness of Father Seraphim.

[Note: if you click on the category link “Fr. Seraphim (Rose) of Platina” on the right hand side of this blog, you’ll see all the posts on my blog related to Fr Seraphim.]

On Patron Saints and Leaving Academia

While I have previously here remarked on the fact that both my patrons saints left academia to pursue monastic vocations, it took the jest of a friend and co-worker to cause me to wonder if my leaving academia more than two years ago was, in fact, perhaps inevitable. Since, after all, both my patron saints left academia, isn’t there some sort of spiritual gravitational pull impacting me in that regard?

Continue reading “On Patron Saints and Leaving Academia”

Happy Anniversary to The Orthodox Word

Forty-five years ago today, Eugene (the future Father Seraphim) Rose and Gleb (the future Abbot Herman) Podmoshensky started the journal The Orthodox Word as a work of the Father Herman of Alaska Brotherhood they had formed (which would become the St Herman of Alaska Monastery). On 29 September, for $200, Eugene received the printing press he’d purchased. The Archbishop John who blessed their work, is the (now) St John Maximovitch.

On September 30 [1964], Eugene recorded: “Today, less than twenty-four hours after our printing press arrived, Archbishop John came to our shop ‘by chance.’ When he saw the press his first thought was to bless it with holy water and prayer, which he did immediately. Thus our press is spiritually born on this day.”

The title of the Brotherhood’s magazine was given by Archbishop John. Gleb had originally thought of calling it The Pilgrim, after the outstanding pre-Revolutionary Russian journal The Russian Pilgrim (Russkiy Palomnik), and also after his favorite book, The Way of a Pilgrim. Together with Eugene, he chose five possible names for the magazine and sent the list to Archbishop John, asking him to give his blessing to the one he thought best. On September 30, 1964, the same day he blessed the printing press, the Archbishop wrote back, suggesting a title that the brothers had not submitted:

Dear Gleb!

May the Lord bless you in the second year of the Brotherhood’s activity, and in its necessary undertakings. It would be good to call the publication you have planned “The Orthodox Word.”

I’m calling God’s blessing upon you and all the members of the Brotherhood.

+Archbishop John

Within a few weeks Eugene and Gleb printed the first page on their new press; one of the spiritual instructions of St. Seraphim of Sarov. Their dream of starting an Orthodox journal was becoming a reality, although from a financial point of view it seemed inconceivable. “We’re dreaming about a magazine and we can’t even afford the paper!” Eugene wrote to Gleb. “Nonetheless, if we work hard God will bless us.” (Father Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works, pp 290-291)

That journal is still in circulation, and to it I subscribe as so many others.

How Fr Seraphim Became One of My Patron Saints

[A note to certain of my Protestant friends and family: an important article of Christian faith lies behind the following account–the communion of all the saints. It is essential to understand the connection of that dogma to this account.]

In October 2002, I began reading the first edition of Father Seraphim Rose’s biography, Not of This World,. By March 2003, I had finished it. It was my first introduction to Father Seraphim, through a deeply flawed book, and I have to confess, forgive me, but my first reaction was, “How weird.” The “oneness of mind” he sought to practice with his then co-laborer, Abbot Herman, just seemed plain goofy to me. And then the whole beard, ryassa, “fringe” traditionalism (so I thought) just added to the mixture of oddity I was perceiving. And yet . . . there was something that really drew me to Father Seraphim and his life.

So I also read during this period: The Soul After Death, God’s Revelation to the Human Heart, Heavenly Realm, his translation A Treasury of St. Herman’s Spirituality (Little Russian Philokalia v. 3), The Place of Blessed Augustine in the Orthodox Church, another of his translations, St. Seraphim of Sarov (Little Russian Philokalia v. 1), Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future, and two other of his translations, Vita Patrum: The Life of the Fathers, and On the Orthodox Veneration of Mary the Birthgiver of God.

Later, just a few days after my birthday in 2003, I received the much better revised version of his biography, Father Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works. I read his biography ever year beginning roughly around the anniversary of his death. (I read St Benedict’s Rule and Life daily. They’re much shorter.)

Like the first edition of his biography, my reading of his other books carried some mixed emotions. I remember reading these books, 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. The concept of prelest, or spiritual delusion, and the necessity to focus on religious struggle. The reality behind the metaphor of the toll-houses.

A few months after finishing the biography, I read 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 later, after more than a year of Divine Liturgies under my belt, and something like a discipline of daily prayer, as well as being more grounded in my academic discipline, I thought, “Man, Father Seraphim is dead on.”

So, for several months I carried this ambivalence.

But it wasn’t until May 2003, a couple of months after finishing the first edition of the biography, that I knew Father Seraphim was going to be my other patron saint. The event was entirely by “accident.” It was 30 May 2003, and I had gone to see the movie “X2: X-men United” in the early afternoon. After the movie I had had about an hour to kill till Anna left work to pick me up. I had originally decided to just cross the street and head into Borders for some coffee and to do some reading. For some reason, however, I thought I’d instead head to the library. But while on the way, I changed my mind yet again and decided it would be too far to walk to the library and back, and since Barnes and Noble happened to be on the way, I ended up stopping there and browsing. I had no desire to buy any books, nor did I even have any books in mind that I was really wanting to look at. But as it happened, while browsing in the Christian section I happened upon the out of print original edition of Father Seraphim Rose’s biography, Not of This World. I was stopped in my tracks. This was a book I couldn’t order online, and would have had a hard time getting anywhere. Barnes and Noble wouldn’t even have been able to special order it for me. But there it was, providentially moved out of some warehouse somewhere and plopped down on the bookstore shelf, waiting for me to catch it in my peripheral vision.

I should at this point tell how St. Benedict came to be my patron saint as well. While I was still in Bible college, and only just beginning my journey to historic Christianity, I happened to be on a short trip to one of our sister colleges and seminaries in Lincoln, Illinois. I’d already done some reading about St. Benedict through my then-new interest in monasticism, and had read some snippets from St. Benedict’s Rule. While in the college bookstore–a conservative evangelical bookstore, mind you–I happened to notice a copy of the Rule, tucked neatly away from merely curious views on the clearance shelf. I bought it without a second thought. It was, at the very least, a serendipitous moment. And although I then had no concept of what a patron saint was, I began to have an affinity of sorts with St. Benedict, his rule, and monasticism.

So, there I was, more than six years ago, in Barnes and Noble having an almost identical encounter, some thirteen years after St Benedict “introduced himself” to me. Although I had not yet considered Father Seraphim my patron saint–that spot had long been held by St. Benedict–this “chance” encounter was so similar to how St. Benedict “found” me, that I took it as an indication another saint had “picked” me. That 30 May 2003 experience was a turning point. (Forgive the many scare quotes, but after all, how does one speak analytically of such things?)

Less than a year after that Barnes and Noble encounter, I ordered some CDs of one of Father Seraphim’s lectures. The hermit from whom I purchased them providentially placed in the package a vial of oil from Father Seraphim’s vigil lamp at his grave, as well as some earth from the gravesite as well. Since I received them, they’ve been on my prayer shelf, with other such relics (oil from the vigil lamp at St John Maximovitch’s tomb; a stone and pine cone from St Herman’s beach on Spruce Island; some earth from the Holy Land).

Since 2003, I’ve grown in my appreciation of Father Seraphim and his role in my prayers and understanding the Orthodox Faith. In fact, about a year and a half ago, I experienced an answer to one of his prayers for me.

In autumn 2005, I had been reading the book, by Anthony Coniaris, Confronting and Controlling Your Thoughts According to the Fathers of the Philokalia. I had also read Father Seraphim’s translation of a couple of works of St. Paisius Velichkovsky, much of which dealt with the Jesus Prayer. I also spoke with our parish priest about the Jesus Prayer and practicing it. I struggled in my undertsanding and actions to practice the Jesus Prayer.

It was difficult for me to make sense of some of what I was reading and the counsel I was receiving. I now see that such counsel was not essentially contradictory, but it felt to me as though I was being encouraged in two opposite directions, to both pursue and avoid the same things. I was quite confused.

But I knew better than to simply trust my own thoughts, or work toward my own conclusions on the matter. One does not expect expert level skills from one who hasn’t even begun the life of prayer. So I simply stood still, neither pursuing nor avoiding what I had been counseled on, and just maintaining my modest and irregular practice.

One thing I did do, however, was to ask the intercessions of Father Seraphim, on my behalf, that I might be brought to both correct thought and correct practice on the matters that were confused in my own mind.

For the next several months, however, I shied away from reading certain books on the Jesus Prayer, and simply continued what I had been doing, doing it no more nor no less than had been the case. I had one book on my shelf, Igumen Chariton of Valamo’s The Art of Prayer, which I frequently was drawn to read, but hesitated to do so, because I did not think I was at a point in my life where I would be making useful gain of such reading. I was concerned that reading it apart from a state of readiness to both receive and to practice the teaching would end up being spiritually harmful to me.

But in the fall of 2006, I had a sense of being more ready to receive direction about the Jesus prayer, and so began to read Igumen Chariton’s book. And in so doing, I had at last, after about a year, the answer to my questions and to Fr Seraphim’s prayers on my behalf.

Only a few months later, I was received into the Orthodox Church by chrismation. I was, therefore, extremely blessed to be able to take the names of two patrons on my chrismation, St Benedict of Nursia and Fr Seraphim of Platina.

Just as St Benedict’s influence of stability, discipline, work, study and prayer has grown on me over the nearly twenty years ago that I encountered his Rule in the bookstore, so, too, has Father Seraphim’s influence of subsuming the mind in the heart, of struggle as the essence of spiritual growth, of reliance on the Tradition grown on me as well. I started my encounter with Father Seraphim thinking him odd and weird. Through his struggle to “crucify his mind,” his emphasis on the heart as the organ for knowing God, and his soberness regarding Christian life and witness, I have come to know him as the most normal man I could think of.

Through his prayers, may God grant us mercy, life and peace.

Blessed Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose) of Platina


Troparian Tone 4
As a faithful ascetic of Saint Herman / thou didst flower as a spiritual rose in Platina / As an illuminator of Orthodoxy in America / thy writings bring hope throughout the world / Having taught us the True Faith / O Blessed Seraphim / pray to God for us.

Kontakion Tone 4
Being one supremely devoted to the Mother of God / thou didst take up thine abode on a mountainside near Platina / and there thou didst crucify thy flesh, with its lusts and passions, through ascetic struggle / wherefore thou art become the first born American saint, / an inspiration and guiding star to American Orthodoxy. / Wherefore we cry unto thee, / save us by thy prayers, / O Seraphim our Holy Father.

A Prayer to Father Seraphim:
Oh, Our Holy Father Blessed Seraphim, thou didst live thy life in accordance with the commandment of Christ to die to thyself, pick up thy cross and follow Him. Having done so, thou didst produce much fruit for God’s harvest. Pray to the Lord for us, thy spiritual children, who live in an age of unbelief and hostility to absolute truth. Pray that Christ our God strengthen us and give us the wisdom and faith to survive the ordeals ahead. Pray for our family and friends, both living and dead. Pray that the inner eyes of our souls be opened to see the divine and true Gospel of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ, that we might acquire the Holy Spirit within ourselves. Pray that we all might someday dwell in bliss with thee and the other Saints in the Kingdom of Heaven. Pray to the Mother of God to entreat her Son to have mercy on our souls. For glorious and unending is the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, both now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

An account of the death of Father Seraphim from his biography, Father Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works:

On the morning that followed the Transfiguration Vigil, Fr. Seraphim served what was to be his last Liturgy on earth. Soon afterwards he fell ill and could not come to the monastery services. It was not unusual for him to be sick, and when he was he never complained, so that it was difficult to know just how bad his condition was. This particular illness caused him acute stomach pains. He remained in his secluded cabin, keeping his pain to himself. The heat, which had abated during the summer pilgrimage, now grew stifling and increased his discomfort. The aforementioned John from the Santa Cruz fellowship, now a catechumen, went to ask him some questions about the Holy Scriptures. “I found him to be in so much pain that he could not think clearly,” John recalls. “As usual, he listened patiently to my questions. He tried his best to be cheerful and not show his suffering, but finally he had to say that he just couldn’t answer right then.” (1014)

When Fr. Seraphim was examined at the hospital, the doctors found his condition to be quite serious. His blood had somehow clotted on the way to his intestines, and part of the intestines had already died and become gangrenous. . . .

Fr. Seraphim was immediately taken to an operating room, where the dead part of his intestines was removed. . . . (1015)

Having finished the first operation, the doctors thought that Fr. Seraphim would survive. Further tests, however, showed that the problem was not over: the blood had begun to clot again. The doctors immediately operated a second time, removing even more intestines, but they were coming across a great dilemma: if they used anticoagulants to prevent the blood from clotting, he would bleed to death internally, but if they did not use such drugs more and more tissue would die. A specialist in this rare disease was called in from San Francisco, but even he was at a lost to stop the damage. At this point doctors could give Fr. Seraphim only a two percent chance of recovery. (1016)

During Fr. Seraphim’s week-long agony, it was manifest to Fr. Herman and others that he had indeed been purified, conquering his will and offering it as a burnt sacrifice to God. There was not a trace of anger or rebellion in him now, only devotion, love, contrition and repentance. Once before administering Holy Communion to him, Fr. Herman read the Gospel and then, holding the book over the dying man, began to bless him with it. Suddenly Fr. Seraphim, exerting every last bit of strength in his dying, convulsing frame, raised himself up to kiss that sublime Book that has given him life. . . . (1020)

At about 10:30 on Thursday morning the doctors announced that there was nothing more they could do. Fr. Seraphim, weakned beyond recovery during a week of suffering, had begun to have multiple organ failures. Within minutes the watch over the dying had ended, and a new life had begun for him. . . . (1022)

Fr. Seraphim reposed on August 20/September 2, 1982. He was only forty-eight years old. . . . (1022-1023)

Fr. Seraphim’s body was placed in the middle of the monastery church, in a simple wooden coffin that had been built by Fr. Vladimir Anderson’s son, Basil. There it was to remain until the burial. The Psalter began to be read around the clock in the church. The vigil had now become a vigil of prayer for the repose of Fr. Seraphim’s soul. (1023)

In the three days between his death and his burial, Fr. Seraphim’s unembalmed body never stiffened, nor did decay of any kind set in, even in the summer heat. There was no deathly pallor about him whatsoever; in fact, his coloring was literally golden. The skin remained soft and the body seemed to be, in the words of one monastery pilgrim, “one of a sleeping child.” . . . Since incorruption has from ancient times been viewed as a sign of sanctity in the Orthodox Church, all those present felt that they were witness to a manifestation of God’s grace. (1025)

Another account of his repose can be found here.

Accounts of miracles attributed to Blesssed Seraphim’s intercessions can be found here.

An akathist to Father Seraphim can be found here. (I have been working on a revision of this over the past few years, for my personal use.)

The Illumined Heart interviews of Hieromonk Damascene and Abbot Gerasim on the 25th Anniversary of Fr Seraphim’s repose (all links mp3 audio):
Father Seraphim Rose: Spiritual Father
Father Seraphim Rose: The Man, The Struggler
Father Seraphim Rose: Prayer and Orthodox Spirituality

Father Peter Alben Heers, on his podcast, Postcards from Greece, talks about Father Seraphim Rose in Greece

Icons of Father Seraphim

Father Seraphim’s biography.

The Seraphim Rose entry at OrthodoxWiki
The Seraphim Rose page at Death to the World

Information to obtain the video of the 20th anniversary of Blessed Seraphim’s repose, from The Father Seraphim Rose Foundation, was available from the Foundation website. But as of this posting, it does not appear the Foundation is any longer keeping a website. I’m not sure now how to obtain the video.

An audio recording of Fr Seraphim, available for purchase from St Herman Press:
Living the Orthodox Worldview

Transcribed talks of Father Seraphim online
Signs of the End Times (This talk is part of Father Seraphim’s lectures on CD)
The Search for Orthodoxy
In Step With Sts. Patrick and Gregory of Tours
Raising the Mind, Warming the Heart
The Orthodox World-View
The Royal Path: True Orthodoxy in an Age of Apostasy
The Holy Fathers of Orthodox Spirituality: The Inspiration and Sure Guide to True Christianity Today Part I, Part II, Part III

Podcasts About Father Seraphim Rose

Recently, Fr Peter Alban Heers put up a podcast on the veneration of Fr Seraphim Rose, one of my patron saints (with St Benedict of Nursia), in Greece:

Fr Seraphim Rose in Greece (mp3 link)

You may also want to check out the three-part interview about Fr Seraphim put up on the 25th anniversary of his repose:

Father Seraphim Rose: Spiritual Father (part 1) (mp3 link)
Father Seraphim Rose: The Man, the Struggler (part 2) (mp3 link)
Father Seraphim Rose: Prayer and Orthodox Spirituality (part 3) (mp3 link)

Platina-Style Coffee

Another thing they [Frs Herman and Seraphim] used sparingly was coffee. I remember learning how to make coffee Platina-style. You leave the old gounds in the percolator from the day before, and you just add two scoops. The next day you add two more scoops . . . and it gets stronger and stronger. That’s what I thought coffee tasted like. That was my introduction to coffee.

–Thomas Anderson reminiscing on his days as a young man living at the St Herman monastery (The Orthodox Word, 43:3/no. 254, May-June 2007, p. 119)

Father Seraphim: On Knowing the Truth

I think one of the reasons God put me in the path of the life of Father Seraphim, is that I, too, am a crippled and deformed Christian. I love God with my mind, my strength, even my soul, but I do not love him well with my heart. My Restoration Movement upbringing, and my lifelong training in various fora of academia, have certainly developed my mind. But it has left atrophied and stunted that central part of me that is the heart.

‘Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ Without truth there is no Christianity, and without knowledge of Christian truth one cannot be a Christian. And the end of this knowledge is not power, what science wishes; nor is it consolation or comfort or security or ego-bolstering, whatever the cults of the subjective desire. Its end is freedom, Christian, Divine-human freedom, the freedom of men, the sons of God.

The knowledge that brings freedom is beyond any subject-object categorization; it is knowledge in which the whole man participates, which informs the human being in his entirety. It is gained not by research or special experiences, but by living a Christian life, with the aid of the sacraments, prayer, fasting–and our encounters with other human beings. It is not a knowledge of which one can say, ‘I know (or have experienced) this or that,’ but one which is revealed in all that one does, alone or in company, and is present in all that one thinks. The Christian desires to be one with the Truth, Who is Christ Jesus; and so the Christian is what he knows. He who rejects Christ does not know Him; he who accepts Him but does not live the fully Christian life, does not know Him fully. Only the deified man knows fully–as fully as man may know; the rest of us are merely striving to be Christians, that is, knowers.

Eugene Rose, Philosophical Journal of Eugene Rose (1960-1962), 1 Jan 1961.

Just as it was with Father Seraphim, it is the life of the Church, the wholeness of Orthodox worship, the Sacraments, that have opened the pathway to the heart, and to the experience of the union with God. By Father Seraphim’s intercessions (and here), I have come to a greater (though still extremely limited) understanding of the relationship of prayer, especially the Jesus prayer, and the heart. And it is changing me.

The last great writing project I had here on this blog was my series on true philosophia. Earlier this year I began a series of reflections on St. Gregory Palamas’ Dialogue, but that series lies languishing. I am finding it ever more difficult to write of my faith from the standpoint I am most used to do: that of the intellect.

Do not mistake: I am not denying the intellect, or the service of the intellect to Christ and his Church. Heavens, where would I be without some of the reading I’ve done on Orthodoxy which is expressed in distinctly and challenging intellectual terms. My favorite Orthodox reading is still history and theology. Metropolitan Hierotheos’ The Person in the Orthodox Tradition graces my shelves (though as yet unread).

But I clearly have made a shift in the working out of my salvation with fear and trembling. It is to unite my mind and my strength, my soul, in the heart in prayer and obedience to Christ. Thankfully, I have Father Seraphim as a guide and exemplar.