From: Not Of This World, The Life and Teaching of FR. SERAPHIM ROSE
Pathfinder to the Heart of Ancient Christianity
(published 1993 by Platina)
Chapter 61

"A man who does not express desire to link himself to the latest of the saints (in time) in all love and humility owing to a certain distrust of himself, will never be linked with the preceding saints and will not be admitted to their succession, even though he thinks he possess all possible faith and love for God and for all His saints He will be cast out of their midst as one who refused to take humbly the place allotted to him by God before all time, and to link himself to that latest saint (in time) as God had disposed." --St. Symeon the New Theologian

Father Seraphim lived at a time when there was talk among scholars and intellectuals of a fashionable "Patristic revival." This was a positive phenomenon in that many rare Patristic texts were being made known in the modern world; but Fr. Seraphim was also to see its dangers. Having himself learned how to approach the Orthodox tradition through a direct, living transmission from saints, he was unhappily though inevitably set at odds with scholars and theologians who had not received such a transmission. These people, he said, were creating "a whole new approach to Orthodoxy"; and his times demanded that he speak out.

The new breed of scholars came first of all from the so-called "Parisian" school of Orthodox thought, composed mostly of members of the Russian intelligentsia. While in Russia, some of these people had helped pave the way for the Revolution. (One, Peter Struve, had even been the translator of Marx's Das Kapital into Russian.) Seeing the horrors this would bring, they had repented of their work for the Marxist cause. But it was too late: the horrors did come, and they all fled the country. They formed an emigre community in Paris, and in their philosophy attempted a return to their cultural and religious heritage. When they came to Orthodoxy, however, it was largely to an Orthodoxy of their own devising. They looked down their noses at the "popular piety" of the "masses," which they felt they had to refine according to their superior knowledge and intellectual expertise. The most famous of this school were Nicholas Berdyaev and Fr. Sergius Bulgakov, [he means Sergius N. Bulgakov, and not Sergius V. Bulgakov] who, in trying to be original, defended a whole system of heretical ideas which were later condemned by the russian Church both in the Soviet Union and in the free world. The next generation of thinkers was more subdued and careful; they would never fall into teachings so foreign to the Church. In many respects, however, they shared the same general approach. Some of them came to America, bringing that approach with the. Chief among them was Fr. Alexander Schmemann.

Fr. Schmemann came to New York from Paris in 1951, and very soon became the unrivaled idealogue of the American Metropolia. There were many things which he felt needed changing. Like his predecessors, he was critical of "old-fashioned piety," particularly that of pre-Revolutionary Russia. He believed this "piety" (the very word he usedin a pejorative sense) was the result of unfortunate "cultural accretion" which had to be reevaluated and stripped off in layers by modern scholars. He said that Orthodoxy had come under "Western captivity," that its theology had been completely dominated by "Western influences" in recent centuries. He spoke of finding "new ways of Orthodox theology," of intellectually "mastering history" and thus "restoring" Orthodoxy to what he regarded as its pure form. This, he said, was the task of the new theological "movement" that had sprung up in the 1920's to supersede the old, "antiquated" understanding of Orthodoxy. As Fr. Seraphim put it: "For Fr. Schmemann, the whole of Orthodoxy is transformed into a series of tremendously important 'problems' to which only a few of the academically elite have the approach to any 'solutions.'"

Fr. Schmemann believed that much could be gained for Orthodoxy in place of the old-world mentality. He and his colleagues wanted Orthodoxy to be recognized by the big names in contemporary theology and the ecumenical movement, and to address problems in the Western Christian "dialogue" in a fresh and exciting way. To do this, they naturally resonated the theological fashions which were then in the air, making use of the new catch words and phrases such as "crisis" and following Teilhard de Chardin, the "sanctification of the world."

One of the currents of "progressive" Christianity was the disparagement of what was now termed "private virtue." Thomas Merton had been one of the first to take part in this, and Fr. Schmemann also reflected it, claiming that Orthodox piety had become too self-centered and individualistic, too concerned with the personal salvation of individual souls. Compared with famous figures like Thomas Merton and Patriarch Athenagoras, however, Fr. Schmemann was more guarded in his conclusions. He did not accept all the ramifications of the main contemporary currents of thought, but he worked to effect an enlightened "synthesis" between these currents and Orthodoxy. (1) Very quickly he gained widespread recognition as a "dynamic and articulate spokesman for Orthodoxy."

Fr. Herman had encountered Fr. Schmemann's books when he was at Jordanville. As he explained: "When I came to Jordanville, I read three books which were bound up with my conversion: the Life of St. Seraphim, the Life of Elder Ambrose of Optina, and The Way of a Pilgrim. I found that the most interesting thing about Christianity is the ascetics, because they make all of Christ's talk about the Kingdom of God make sense. And then someone said, 'If you really want to know what's happening in Orthodoxy today, read Schmemann.' So I read it, and I was bored. I read more and I was still bored. I wondered what was wrong. And then I figured it out. He speaks abstractly, albeit eloquently, not from experience like the ascetics. And then I thought: Big deal. I could do the same -- read books and think about them. It was two-dimensional, while the saints are three-dimensional, because they have sought and attained the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. they try their best to get it across to us, and it's only our denseness that prevents us from understanding their experience."

Fr. Seraphim had an even stronger reaction to modern academic theology. Once, when Fr. Herman read to him from some recent theological journal, Fr. Seraphim became indignant. "If you read too much of that," he said, "you may begin to take it seriously, which will detract from the power of the true spiritual texts which gave you life." We have seen how Fr. Seraphim had left the modern academic world because it was not governed by a love of Truth and had degenerated into "playing around with ideas." Here, he felt, were people doing much the same to the most precious thing in the world to him: Orthodox Christianity. Like modern scholars in other fields, they had to "kill" their subject, take away its pulsing life, before they could dissect and study it. Often their talk seemed a mere juggling of loaded theological terms, deprived of concrete application.

Of course, some of their writings and lectures were better than others. but as Fr. Seraphim noted, "the message of even the best lecturers and writers today seems strangely powerless, without spiritual force." In an article for The Orthodox Word, he explained why:

"Orthodoxy today, with its priests and theologians and faithful, has become worldly. The young people who come from comfortable homes and either accept or seek . . . a religion that is not remote from the self-satisfied life they have known; the professors and lecturers whose milieu is the academic world where, notoriously, nothing is accepted as ultimately serious, a matter of life or death; the very academic atmosphere of self-satisfied worldliness -- all these factors join together to produce an artificial, hothouse atmosphere in which, no matter what might be said concerning exalted Orthodox truths or experiences, by the very context in which it is said and by virtue of the worldly orientation of both speaker and listener, it cannot strike to the depths of the soul and produce the profound commitment which used to be normal to Orthodox Christians ...

"In the Russian emigration, the 'theologians' of the new school, who are eager to be in harmony with the intellectual fashions, to quote the latest Roman Catholic or Protestant scholarship, to adopt the whole 'casual' tone of contemporary life and especially of the academic world -- have been aptly called 'theologians with a cigarette.' ... Their message has no power, because they themselves are entirely of this world and address worldly people in a worldly atmosphere -- from all this it is not Orthodox exploits that come, but only idle talk and empty pompous phrases."

Writing about an 80-year-old "living link" in Australia, the aforementioned Fr. Nicholas Deputatov, (1a) Fr. Seraphim noted that such true theologians "are not, as a rule, to be found in Orthodox academies, nor in pompous 'theological conferences.' They are to be sought in humbler places, and usually they will not bear the name of 'theologian.' they themselves would not presume to call their handing down the Orthodox theological tradition anything more than 'faithfulness to the Holy Fathers' -- but it is just this faithfulness and this humility that mark them out as bearers of the authentic tradition of Orthodoxy -- qualities which are lacking in the most renowned 'Orthodox theologians' today."

As early as 1957, Fr. Seraphim had read in the writings of Rene Guenon about modern scholars who look into a traditional religion to find "something that can be made to fit the framework of their own outlook," and then claim that this represents the "primitive and true" form of the religion, "whereas the remaining forms, according to them, are but comparatively late corruptions." This, as Fr. Seraphim understood, was exactly the approach of the modernist Orthodox spokesmen. They were not at all restoring Orthodoxy to some lost purity, but were instead "renovating" it to conform to modern prejudices. While disclaiming the fruits of the Reformation, they were in effect doing what Guenon had said of Protestantism: "exposing revelation to all the discussions which follow in the wake of purely human interpretations ... [giving] birth to that dissolving 'criticism' which, in the hands of so-called 'historians of religion,' has become a weapon of offense against all religion.'" (2)

In his book Introduction to Orthodox Liturgical Theology, Fr. Schmemann had critiqued the whole substance of Orthodox worship in a manner that appeared more Protestant than Orthodox. Relying on Western, non-Orthodox sources, he yet claimed to have escaped the "Western captivity" of Liturgics. He rejected the traditional Orthodox view that the history of worship was "divinely established and Providential," and looked upon it rather as the result of mere historical circumstances. Like Protestant scholars, he put changes that occurred at the beginning of the Constantinian era in a dubious light, regarding them not as new forms of the expression of the same piety but rather as a reformation of the interpretation of worship and a deviation from the early Christian liturgical spirit and forms. The true, "eschatological" nature of worship, he said, had been partially obscured by 'mysteriological piety" and "symbolical explanations," as well as by the "ascetic individualism" arising largely from monasticism. Accordingly, the theological idea of the cycle of services had been "obscured and eclipsed by secondary strata or Ordo," and it remained for modern theologians to find it again. 

This "secondary strata" consisted of precisely those elements which Protestantism disowned -- the Mysteries as a source of individual sanctification, the division of clergy and laity, the distinction between church feasts and "ordinary days," the glorification of saints, the veneration of relics, etc. -- elements which Fr. Schmemann referred to by such terms as the "cult of mysteries" and the "cult of saints." He expressed doubts as to "the complete liturgical soundness of Orthodoxy," decried the present "liturgical piety," and claimed that the Church was in a "liturgical crisis."

As could be expected, Fr. Schmemann's book was acclaimed by non-Orthodox scholars. Its approach was quite disturbing, however, to one of Fr. Herman's teachers at Jordanville, Fr. Michael Pomazansky. Being one of the last living theologians to have graduated from the theological academies of pre-Revolutionary Russia, Fr. Michael felt called upon to write an article on Fr. Schmemann's book. (2a) Originally printed in Russian, the article was translated by Fr. Seraphim and printed in The Orthodox Word. Fathers Seraphim and Herman thought it was excellently written: evenhanded, with clear expositions of Orthodox teaching to contrast with Fr. Schmemann's distortions.

About the author of Introduction to Orthodox Liturgical Theology, Fr. Michael wrote: "He pays tribute to the method that reigns completely in contemporary science: leaving aside the idea of an overshadowing of Divine grace, the concept of sanctity of those who established the liturgical order, he limits himself to a naked chain of causes and effects. Thus does positivism intrude nowadays into Christian science, into the sphere of the church's history in all its branches. But if the positivist method is acknowledged as a scientific working principle in science, in the natural sciences,one can by no means apply it to living religion, nor to every sphere of the life of Christianity and the Church, insofar as we remain believers.

It may be argued that Fr. Schmemann was inwardly not as Protestant as he appeared, that he was only trying to get the attention of heterodox theologians by writing in the key of modern academia, with its pretensions at "objectivity." At the canonization of St. Herman, for example, when he personally experienced the maximum expression of the "cult of saints," he said he felt the whole substance of faith." Reading this in an article, Fr. Seraphim wrote: "His heart is still Orthodox ... but with his mind he is leading the 'reform' of the Metropolia and of Orthodoxy that will precisely make it impossible for future generations to feel what he felt ... In all fairness, it should be noted that Fr. Schmemann probably does not see himself as a 'reformer,' and it will doubtless be left to other less sensitive souls, another generation removed from the life of genuine Orthodoxy, to draw the inevitable iconoclastic conclusions from Fr. Schmemann's already Protestant views. In the words of Rene Guenon: "Once launched, the revolt against the traditional outlook could not be arrested in mid-course."

It should also be said that Fr. Schmemann's"reforms"were actually a sincere attempt on his part to improve the morale of contemporary parishes. In one article he wrote that the Metropolia's "financial bankruptcy only reveals and reflects its spiritual state -- a state of apathy and demoralization." He correctly diagnosed the disease, but, in Fr. Seraphim's view, he gave the wrong cure. The chief hierarch of the Metropolia, Ireney, had been trying to help matters by salvaging at least some parts of the liturgical practice of the Russian Church. But Fr. Schmemman believed that the nominal parishioners would even find this minimum unmeaningful. "He believes." wrote Fr. Seraphim, "the Typicon (3) must be revised in the light of our knowledge if its historical development, of other traditions, and the like. In a word, the services must be made somehow palatable to spiritually bankrupt people! Fr. Schmemann takes a bad situation and makes it worse, advocating the establishment of a new typicon, a lower standard -- which the next generation of the Metropolia will undoubtedly likewise find "unmeaningful' and too demanding!"

Elsewhere Fr. Seraphim wrote that the new breed of Orthodox "adapts the faith to the present low level of spiritual awareness; there are no exceptions, of course, but that is the general trend."

This could also be seen when reform-minded Orthodox gathered in 1971 to prepare for an Eight Ecumenical Council," a council which was supposed to do for Orthodoxy what Vatican ii had done for Roman Catholicism. One of the reports on the agenda, entitled "Revision of the Ecclesiastical Prescriptions Concerning Fasting, in Conformity with the Needs of our Epoch," proposed that, since most Orthodox believers do not keep the whole Orthodox fast, the fast should be made easier to suit them, "in order to avoid the problems of conscience created by the violation of the severe ecclesiastical prescriptions."

"Such an approach," wrote Fr. Seraphim, "is totally un-Orthodox, and constitutes an obvious and crude imitation of the reform spirit of the Latin church, which ended by abolishing fasting altogether. The Orthodox rule of fasting is not intended to 'avoid problems of conscience,' but rather to call believers to a difficult, inspiring, and humbling standard of Christian life; if they fall short of the standard, then at least they can see how far their life is from the standard, the norm, which always remains the same. The Papal idea, based on the corrupt modern principle of spiritual self-satisfaction, is either to give a special 'dispensation' from the standard (an idea which has already entered some Orthodox jurisdictions), or else to change the standard itself so that the believer can fulfill it easily and thereby obtain a sense of self-satisfaction from 'obeying the law.' This is precisely the difference between the Publican and the Pharisee: the Orthodox man feels himself constantly a sinner because he falls short of the church's exalted standard (in spirit if not in letter) whereas the modern man wishes to feel himself justified, without any twinge of conscience over falling short of the Church's standard."

Fr. Seraphim, then saw that the cure for apathy lay not inn dissecting Orthodoxy into pieces, but in setting up the whole of its tradition as a goal towards which people could strive. "We, the last Christians," he wrote, "are far from the normal life of Orthodox piety; how much, therefore, must we struggle in order to get back to that normal life! But how inspiring is the path to it!" "Enlightened" criticism of Orthodox piety only distracts people from the main concern. As Fr. Seraphim observed, what is needed is a "priest of the 'old-fashioned' mentality, on fire with Orthodoxy and so desirous for the salvation of his flock that he will not excuse their sins and worldly habits but is constantly urging them up to a higher spiritual life."

With pain Fathers Seraphim and Herman watched the new "American" Church that Fr. Schmemann, in his won sincere way, was striving to create. Since America has no deep, long-standing Orthodox roots, the greatest danger in this lay in cutting off the roots to living tradition. As Fr. Seraphim stated, "Fr. Schmemann was paving the way for a rootless Orthodoxy for new generation of Americans who "will not even know what they have lost." He was seeking to build American Orthodoxy on the autonomous "theology" of modern scholars rather than on a living transmission of spiritual wisdom from holy bearers of the tradition. Fr. Seraphim knew from experience how vital that transmission was: without it he would never have entered the "hear of hearts," the deeper dimension of Orthodox life for which it was worth giving up "all that is in the world." Once this transmission was lost, it could not be restored.

Fr. Schmeman was ignoring the "living links" by which alone, according to the teachings of St. Symeon the New Theologian, he could be tied to the ancient saints. He said the idea of "Holy Russia" was just romantic nostalgia. And its brightest luminaries -- those whom Providence had washed onto American shores -- represented to him an immigrant parochialism and an obsolete "apocalyptic" piety unsuited to what he regarded as "the mission of Orthodox theology today." As a case in point, not twenty miles from his home in New York lived Fr. Adrian, that link with the Optina Elders and a clairvoyant spiritual guide himself, who was very open-minded with regard to thinkers like Fr.Schmemann. Although Fr. Schmemann knew about him, he chose to receive his wisdom from modern institutes instead.

It was from the example of the new breed of theologians that Fr. Seraphim first beheld how perilous was the attitude of "knowing better": nothing so hindered one from receiving the living tradition. "In our confused days," he wrote, "when a hundred conflicting voices claim to speak for Orthodoxy, it is essential to know whom one can trust as spokesmen for true Orthodoxy. It is not enough to claim to speak for Patristic Orthodoxy; one must be in genuine tradition of the Holy Fathers, not merely 'rediscovering' them in a modern academy or seminary, but actually receiving their tradition from one's own fathers. A merely clever explainer of Patristic doctrine is not in this tradition, but only one who, not trusting his own judgment or that of his peers, is constantly asking of his own fathers what is the proper approach to and understanding of the Holy Fathers."

After Archbishop John's death, Fr. Seraphim's own guide to the Holy Fathers had been Archbishop Averky, to whom Archbishop John had once told the brothers to turn whenever they had questions. "Archbishop Averky," Fr. Seraphim wrote, "is in the genuine Patristic tradition as few other living Orthodox fathers. A disciple of the great 20th century theologian and holy hierach Archbishop Theophan of Poltava, archbishop Averky is a bearer and transmitter, in a direct and unbroken line of Orthodox theologians, of the genuine Patristic doctrine which is in danger of being eclipsed by today's generation of Western-educated proud 'young theologians.' In recent years his voice has resounded and thundered as never before ... as he strives to give the true Orthodox teaching to Orthodox Christians who are rapidly losing the salt of Orthodoxy."

Archbishop Averky himself addressed the phenomenon of the new theologians. "Alas!" he wrote. "How few people there are in our times, even among the educated, and at times even among contemporary 'theologians' and those in the ranks of clergy, who understand correctly what Orthodoxy is and wherein its essence lies. They approach this question in an utterly external formal manner and resolve it too primitively, even naively, over-looking its depths completely and not at all seeing the fullness of its spiritual contents."

One difference between a modern Holy Father like Archbishop Averky and a mere explainer of Patristic doctrine was their respective attitudes toward the apolcalyptic and prophetic aspects of Orthodoxy. Being in a direct line of prophets, Archbishop Averky did not hesitate to impart what to the lovers of this world might be a hard saying. Modern Academic theology, on the other hand, was already too much a part of the world to do this. "If the Christian faith is indeed eschatological," Fr. Schmemann wrote, "it is precisely not apocalyptic ... Apocalypticism is truly a heresy." Not only Archbishop Averky, but all the holy people Fr. Seraphim had known had a very sober view of imminent tribulations and deceptions. The new theologians demonstrated their foreignness to this traditional outlook by calling such people "neurotic" and "defeatists."

It was clear to Fr. Seraphim that today's academic theology could not be successfully blended with the life of monasticism. Various attempts at such a combination bore this out, and reasons were not difficult to discern. Whereas the former was abstract, the latter was down-to-earth; whereas the former was filled with talk of complex theological "problems," the latter required simplicity of heart; and whereas the former was devised according to the way the world thinks, the latter was by nature at odds with the world. Of all the academic theologians, Fr. Schmemann had the most animated vision of Orthodoxy in America; but even this could do hardly more than raise one a step above nominal Christianity. It could not inspire one to take the first step of the Ladder of Divine Ascent: renunciation.

In theory Fr. Schmemann regarded monasticism very highly, but in practice he was suspicious of it for what he regarded as its corruption, blaming monastic influence in large part for the piety and church traditions of which he disapproved. (3a) He placed the monastic-ascetic tradition at odds with the "lay" Orthodoxy he envisioned, rather than seeing the former as the prime motivator and inspirer of the latter. As Fr. Seraphim wrote, however: "It is precisely the monastic services which are taken as the standard of the Church's life of worship, because monasticism itself most clearly expresses the ideal toward which the whole believing Church strives. The condition of monasticism at any given time is ordinarily one of the best indicators of the spiritual condition of the whole Church, or of any Local Church; and similarly, the degree to which the local parishes in the world strive toward the ideal of monastic services is the best indicator of the condition of the Divine worship which is conducted in them."

Father Seraphim saw the final argument against modernist theology in its very fruits. Traditional Orthodoxy, with all its alleged "cultural accretions" and "impurities," has nurtured saints even in our own times; "resorted" or "rediscovered" Orthodoxy, with all its claims at being more pure or better informed, has produced, at best, clever men. The latter, Fr. Seraphim perceived, has lost the feeling for the whole atmosphere of piety in which saints have been raised.

Whereas academic theologians were tying to inspire the new generation of American Orthodox with "the task of Orthodox theology today," Fr. Seraphim wanted to inspire it above all with ascetic podvig: "emphasis on doing spiritual life rather than talking about it."Podvig was what had moved all the great "living links" to become men and women of sanctity, and it alone would give birth to more sanctity in the American land. As Archbishop Averky said, "Orthodoxy is an ascetic faith that calls to ascetic labors in the name of uprooting of sinful passions and the implanting of Christian virtue." And, according to the teachings of St. John Climacus and other Holy Fathers, one must conquer the passions before even attempting to theologize. (3b)

In almost every issue of The Orthodox Word, the fathers presented the Life of an ascetic laborer, a true knower of God. They knew that, more than anything else, it was love for the ascetics themselves that inspired one to podvig. Fr. Seraphim did not see this love for ascetics coming from the journals of the new theologians. "And without love for saints," he wrote, "one's Orthodoxy is crippled and one's sense of direction is off -- for they are the examples one has to follow."

In 1973 the fathers began to publish the Lives of the desert-dwellers of Northern Russia, having painstakingly written and compiled them from a number of rare sources. Their definite aim, they said, was to give them "not merely as an example of dead history, but of living tradition." Even while they were printing them separately in each issue, however, one leading academic theologian chastised in print "those who call to non-existent deserts," evidently regarding such Lives as an appeal to a religious "romanticism" totally out of step with contemporary conditions of life. When the fathers finally printed out the Lives together in a book, which they called The Northern Thebaid, Fr. Seraphim answered this criticism as follows:

"Why, indeed, should we inspire today's Orthodox youth with the call of the 'Northern Thebaid' [of Russia] which has in it something attractive and somehow more accessible for a 20th-century zealot than the barren desert of Egypt?

"First of all, the monastic life here described has not entirely disappeared from the earth; it is still possible to find Orthodox monastic communities which teach the spiritual doctrine of the Holy Fathers, and to lead the Orthodox monastic life even in the 20th century -- with constant self-reproach over how far one falls sort of the Lives of the ancient Fathers in these times ... The wise seeker can find his 'desert' even in our barren 20th century.

"But this book is not intended only for such fortunate ones.

"Every Orthodox Christian should know the Lives of the Fathers of the desert, which together with the Lives of the Martyrs give us the model for our own life of Christian struggle. Even so, every Orthodox Christian should know of Valaam, of Solovki, of Svir, of Siya and Obnora and White Lake, of the Skete of Sora, and of the Angel-like men who dwell there before being translated to heaven, living the Orthodox spiritual life to which every Orthodox Christian is called, according to his strength and the conditions of his life. Every Orthodox Christian should be inspired by their life of struggle far from the ways of the world. There is no "romanticism' here. the actual'romantics' of our times are the reformers of 'Parisian Orthodoxy' who, disparaging the authentic Orthodox tradition, wish to 'sanctify the world,' to prostitute the spiritual tradition 'for the life of the world,' (4) to replace the authentic Orthodox world view with a this-worldly counterfeit of it based on modern Western thought. The spiritual life of the true monastic tradition is the norm of our christian life, and we had better be informed of it before the terrible last day when we are called to account for our lax life. We shall not be judged for our ignorance of the vocabulary of contemporary 'Orthodox theology,' but we shall surely be judged for not struggling on the path to salvation. If we do not live like these Saints, then let us at least increase our far-too-feeble struggles for God, and offer our fervent tears of repentance and our constant self-reproach at falling so short oft he standard of perfection which God has shown us in His wondrous Saints."

In some of his later works== those which were aimed more at the Orthodox faithful than at academicians -- Fr. Schmemann succeeded in providing practical edification while avoiding modern criticism of the "defects" of traditional Orthodoxy. (5) But for him, and especially for his followers, the transmission remained severed. Although he made frequent mention of St. Seraphim in his lectures, he could not appreciate selected aspects of him. He could not fully enter into this Saint's ascetic and apocalyptic spirit (as seen, for example, in the "Great Diveyevo Mystery"), for he had cut himself off from the saints of his own time,even from those of St. Seraphim's same spiritual lineage who lived nearby. (6)

It was their burden to preserve the living transmission of Orthodoxy in America that caused the fathers to take such a sharp tone against "renovated" Orthodoxy. "Schmamannism" posed a real threat, but the fathers were after all able to separate the man from the "ism." The distortions of Orthodoxy could never be accepted or passed over, but the man himself could be forgiven.. Fr. Seraphim had no personal animosity toward him, and in fact respected him for his commitment to bringing the Orthodox Faith to his fellow Americans. Fearing that Fr. Schmemann might have misinterpreted Fr. Seraphim's intention and been personally hurt, Fr. Herman went to visit him after Fr. Seraphim died. He made a prostration before Fr. Schmemann and asked forgiveness on the part of his departed brother. Fr. Schmemann, who was approaching death himself, readily forgave Fr. Seraphim. (7)

Thus by God's grace, were the souls of Fr. Seraphim and Fr. Alexander Schmemann reconciled for the future life. Fr. Schmemann, although there is no indication that he came closer to agreeing with Fr. Seraphim's ideas, must have placed value in the fact that Fr. Seraphim was a product of the very American Orthodox mission to which Fr. Schmemann had devoted the greater part of his life. In the case of Fr. Seraphim, it was no immigrant, born in 19th-century Russia, who was calling Americans to old-fashioned, apocalyptic Orthodox piety, but rather a full-blooded American who had himself been raised in this secular, pluralistic society, who had never even been told of Orthodoxy while growing up but had instead been inculcated with the "American dream," which he had rejected. Soon after Fr.Seraphim's death and not long before his own, Fr. Schmemann was able to look at Fr. Seraphim's life, the life of an American Orthodox convert, and to say: "Here is a man to whom belongs the future."

{Notes revised -jh}

1. In Church World Mission (Crestwood, New York 1979,pp. 218-219), for example, he laid the foundation for a synthesis between the this-worldly Christianity of Pope Paul VI and the new Orthodox 'Liturgical movement."

1a. Previous chapter, "The Mind of the Fathers" p. 457:
*An elderly priest in Australia, whose uplifting book on the inward spiritual life, Bogosoznanie (Awareness of God), was published by the St. Herman Brotherhood in the original Russian in 1975. Fr. Seraphim translated portions of this book into English and printed them in The Orthodox Word, no. 69.

2. full quote on pp. 64-65, Guenon:
"Actually, religion being essentially a form of tradition, the anti-traditional spirit cannot help being anti-religious; it begins by denaturing religion and ends by suppressing it altogether, wherever it is able to do so. Protestantism is illogical from the fact that, while doing its utmost to 'humanize' religion, it nevertheless permits the survival, at least theoretically, of a supra-human element, namely revelation; it hesitates to drive negation to its logical conclusion, but, by exposing revelation to all the discussions which follow in the wake of purely human interpretations, it does in fact reduce it practically to nothing ... It is natural that Protestantism, animated as it is by a spirit of negation, should give birth to that dissolving 'criticism' which, in the hands of so-called 'historians of religion,' has become a weapon of offense against all religion; in this way, while affecting not to recognize any authority except that of the Scriptures, it has itself contributed in large measure to the destruction of that very same authority, of the minimum of tradition, that is to say, which it still affected to retain; once launched, the revolt against the traditional outlook could not be arrested in mid-course."

2a. The complete review can be read here:

3. "Typicon" refers here to the Rule of Church services.

3a. cited: The Eucharist, by Alexander Schmemann, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1979, pp.231-232

3b. {Fr. Schmemann was afflicted with a cigarette addiction through to the end of his life. -jh}

4. The title of one of Fr. Schmemann's books.

5. In this regard, his best book is undoubtedly Great Lent (with the exception of the Appendix, in which he speaks against the practice of requiring confession before Holy Communion).

6.Fr. Adrian, Archbishop Averky, Fr. Gerasim and countless others were, together with St. Seraphim, in the direct lineage of Blessed Paisius Velichkovsky 

7. A year before the death of Fr. Schmemann's partner, Fr. John Meyendorff, Fr. Herman was able to be reconciled with him also, when by God's providence they unexpectedly met in Russia. It was on the eve of the Transfiguration in 1991, at the first Vigil service in the Donskoy main Cathedral since its closure in the 1920's. Fr. Herman and Fr. John went as a pair for the anointing, at which time they kissed each others' hands and Fr. Herman asked his forgiveness for everything.



Unprofitable Servant said...

Father Seraphim Rose truly LIVED the Orthodox life, didn't he? He didn't simply talk about the Orthodox life, or analyze it for academic or didactic purposes like Frs. Schmemann, Meyendorf, et. al. Not to demean anyone, but this is a fundamental difference, is it not? So much of the SVS Press literature seems dry, analytic, academic, and, at least for me, unedifying. In contrast, Orthodox hagiography and the sayings of the Fathers never fail to inspire, comfort, and edify. Put differently, grace is acquired not by mere scholarship, but by the paths and means of holiness-- fasting, vigils, standing, prayer, alms-giving, and, of course, the sacramental life of the Church.

Joanna Higginbotham said...

I'm not as generous as the Platina fathers were. I see the renovationists as doing the will of antichrist. Not just passively failing to strive to live the true Orthodox life, but actively working towards the opposite- to draw people away from it.

The only thing I do not do is judge whether they serve antichrist consciously or not. I refrain from this judgement, not because of any virtue of being non-judgmental, but simply because I do not know their hearts.

Anytime we hear talk about a moral rebirth for society through our being an Orthodox example, or what we give to the world, watch out! That's the renovationists!

Or if we hear any avoidance or ridicule of end-times teachings, watch out! That's the renovationists!

Orthodox women with hyphenated last names esteemed as teachers in media - watch out!

By "watch out" - I mean, don't fall for it ourselves. Don't let us lose what little thread we might keep of true Orthodoxy. By reviewing these lessons, such as this chapter on Renovationism, we help ourselves keep our grasp on reality. I feel this chapter review is important enough that I typed it in this blog word by word. I realize not everyone has access to a copy of 'Not Of This World' which was revised, primarily, to be less offensive to world Orthodoxy.

I recommend everyone make and keep a hard copy of this chapter (and anything else valuable that offends world orthodoxy) for their personal library - just in case sooner comes sooner than later.

God help us.

Reader Daniel said...

This is an excellent article! My own personal contact with Fr. A. Schmemann and Fr. John Meyendorf, was at their St. Vlads. Seminary. I have not much to criticize about kindly and soft-spoken Fr. John Meyendorf,(both of them from Paris, though!) except to say that his ecclesiology was very ecumenist and downright pro-Roman Catholic, 'we need a pope, to make order in our church', etc. But A. Schmemann and his contradictory/confusing/impious teachings and passionate influences on the whole seminary atmosphere, made me feel that I was in a vortex of hell, and not in a holy Orthodox or Christian institution. A. Schmemann was very egotistical, and he worshiped himself, and taught us many things contrary to the Gospel, and to traditional Orthodoxy. He was in the process of creating his own Orthodoxy, his own Christianity. He had deep reserves of hate and anger inside him, not God's love. He used people, and dumped them when he had no more use for them or if they disagreed with his plans. Indeed, it was as if he lived by standards and rules, seperate from both Christ's Gospel and Orthodox norms. When I left that hell-hole, on the Greyhound bus, I felt that I was escaping the jaws of satan!
Reader Daniel