Monday, December 23, 2013

‘It’s Later Than You Think!’

Father Seraphim Rose, a California convert to Orthodox Christianity, was ever trying to open the eyes of his generation to this - that is, the nearness of Christ’s return and all the events that must precede it.  It is something we, being later in time than he, must be aware of, too.  In his lecture given in 1981, ‘The Future of Russia and the End of the World’, Fr Seraphim gives us a fairly good idea of where we stand in world and Church history.

Here is a portion from the latter part of the address:

    Archbishop Theophan of Poltava summed up in the 1930’s the prophecies which he had received from such elders as these:  “You ask me about the near future and about the last times.  I do not speak on my own, but give the revelation of the Elders:  The coming of Antichrist draws nigh and is very near.  The time separating us from him should be counted a matter of years and at most a matter of some decades.  But before the coming of Antichrist Russia must yet be restored — to be sure, for a short time. And in Russia there must be a Tsar forechosen by the Lord Himself.  He will be a man of burning faith, great mind and iron will.  This much has been revealed about him. We shall await the fulfillment of what has been revealed.  Judging by many signs it is drawing nigh, unless because of our sins the Lord God shall revoke, shall alter what has been promised.  According to the witness of the word of God, this also happens” [The Orthodox Word, 1969, no. 4, p. 194].

    Thus we may see in the prophecies of these God-inspired men in the early part of this century a definite expectation of the restoration of Holy Russia, and even of an Orthodox Tsar, for a short time not long before the coming of Antichrist and the end of the world. This will be something miraculous and not an ordinary historical event.  But at the same time it is something that depends upon the Russian people themselves, because God always acts through the free will of man.  Just as Ninevah was spared when the people repented, and Jonah’s prophecies about its destruction proved false, so also the prophecies of the restoration of Russia will prove false if there is no repentance in the Russian people.

    Archbishop John Maximovitch of blessed memory, whose tomb is in the very cathedral where services were held this morning, reflected deeply on the meaning of the Russian Revolution and the exile of so many Russian people.  In his report to the All-Diaspora Sobor in Yugoslavia in 1938 he wrote:

    “The Russian people as a whole has performed great sins which are the cause of the present misfortunes:  the specific sins are oath-breaking and regicide.  The public and military leaders renounced their obedience and loyalty to the Tsar even before his abdication, forcing the latter from the Tsar, who did not desire bloodshed within the country; and the people openly and noisily greeted this deed, and nowhere did it loudly express its lack of agreement with it....  Those guilty of the sin of regicide are not only those who physically performed it, but the whole people which rejoiced on the occasion of the overthrow of the Tsar and allowed his abasement, arrest and exile, leaving him defenseless in the hands of the criminals, which fact in itself already predetermined the end.  Thus, the catastrophe which has come upon Russia is the direct consequence of the terrible sins, and the rebirth of Russia is possible only after cleansing from them.  However, up to this time there has been no genuine repentance, the crimes that have been performed have clearly not been condemned, and many active participants in the Revolution continue even now to affirm that at that time it was not possible to act in any other way.  In not expressing a direct condemnation of the February Revolution, the uprising against the Anointed of God, the Russian people continue to participate in the sin, especially when they defend the fruits of the Revolution” [The Orthodox Word, 1973, no. 50, p. 91].

    Of course, regicide — the killing of the anointed Tsar — is not the only sin that lies upon the conscience of the Orthodox Russian people.  This crime is, as it were, a symbol of the falling away of Russia from Christ and true Orthodoxy — a process that took up most of the 19th and 20th centuries, and only now is perhaps beginning to be reversed. It is most interesting that in Russia itself today the question of the glorification of the Tsar together with the other New Martyrs is bound up with the lifting of the literal curse which has lain upon the Russian land since his martyrdom.  Father Gleb Yakunin — who is now suffering a cruel imprisonment precisely for making statements like this — has written a letter to the Orthodox Russians of the Diaspora, signed also by several of his fellow strugglers, that expresses the same ideas about the Tsar that Vladika John has expressed.  At the end of this letter he writes:

    “The meaning for world history of the martyr's death of the Imperial Family, something that likens it to the most significant Biblical events, consists of the fact that here the Constantionopolitan period of the existence of the Church of Christ comes to an end, and a new, martyric, apocalyptic age opens up.  It is begun with the voluntary sacrifice of the last anointed Orthodox Emperor and his family.  The tragedy of the Royal Family has lain like a curse on the Russian land, having become the symbolic prologue of Russia's long path of the Cross — the death of tens of millions of her sons and daughters. The canonization of the Imperial Martyrs will be for Russia the lifting from her of the sin of regicide; this will finally deliver her from the evil charms” [La Pensee Russe, Dec. 6, 1979; no. 3285;p. 5].

    It is too simple, of course, to say that the glorification of the New Martyrs, including the Royal Family, will bring about the restoration of Holy Russia.  But if the Orthodox people, both in Russia and in the Diaspora, would receive this act with all their hearts, and use it as an opportunity to repent deeply of their sins, there is no calculating the impact it might have on Russia.

    One great prophecy of the future of Russia was known to only a few before the Revolution; t was so daring that the church censor would not allow it to be printed.  It was found in the same collection of manuscripts of Motovilov that gave the world the famous “Conversation” of St. Seraphim on the acquisition of the Holy Spirit.  This prophecy, which has now appeared in several printings in the last decade, concerns the literal resurrection of St. Seraphim before the end of the world.  Here is what St. Seraphim told to Motovilov:

Though our histories (especially apologists for the American Empire, but at times Southern apologists as well) often puff us up with pride, and though our popular culture makes us awfully shortsighted; we must do what we can to overcome these dark tendencies, or we will fail to see the importance of other countries and peoples in God’s redemptive work, especially that of much slandered and misunderstood Russia.  And we will be the less able to discern false christs from the True Christ, false doctrine from true doctrine, and be unsure of just how to live our lives in a God-pleasing way.

We thus encourage all to set aside time to read and meditate on Fr Seraphim’s lecture.

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