Orthodox Study Journal~~Youth Issue 3/Aug-Sep 2018
Today’s society is showing signs of deterioration of traditional culture; of noble values being replaced by materialistic ones. In such a decay, we are generally getting to observe many of our contemporaries speaking of “progress”, and of overcoming evil and war, and of future societies of peace and brotherhood.
Many in today’s society seek to satisfy themselves in this subtle deception. The deception being; to try to realize in this world, through powers of human reason, the ancient longing for heavenly perfection.
Autonomous man is attempting to refashion the outer world to conform to his new idea of the world by means of technology, social and economic theory, architecture etc. This he does to bring in perfection/complete satisfaction for himself because he is inwardly insecure about this, due to his autonomous reason. This kind of reason, by being out of contact with God, will also be out of contact of the reality that we are created by God (the concrete reality), and so this autonomous man can only look on things as ideally…as perfect which is nothing but termed as utopia.
Perfection is that in which man rests, but man can only rest in God, because God alone is perfect. Without God, there are always imperfections. The imperfections of the world and of men only lead us to what is truly perfect (God). Modern man, however wants to rest in the world, so he has to make it perfect. Since the world is obviously not perfect, modern man strive to make it perfect. The result; ideal, utopian character of all rational schemes of the world.
Without a utopia, modern man would despair. It is a sure thing when deprived of it, he will despair. In normal times, in such a despair he would turn to God, but most people today no longer believe He exists, so despair is futile and self-destroying. The choice before man is always the same: perfection in the world, or perfection in the other world. Man is not able to live without some hope of some kind of perfection. For modern man, then the choice is: the rationalist utopia (modern man making this world perfect and satisfies himself in this perfection without God) or God.
‘The deceptive spirit of the age’, which makes man seek to fulfil his innate yearnings in this world is the ‘spirit of Anti-Christ’. This spirit is in preparation to the real coming of Anti-Christ in person as mentioned in Revelation.
Anti-Christ is viewed not only as that which is against Christ, but also as that which replaces and mimics Him, since Satan is the “ape of God”. “The Anti-Christ, is the fake Christ who promises to give outwardly and obviously what Christ brought inwardly and hidden”. Christ promises a perfect Kingdom of Heaven; the Anti-Christ, whose master Satan was cast out of Heaven and consigned to earth, promises a perfect Kingdom in this world. Modern man having lowered his gaze from celestial reality to what is most “obvious” succumbs to the latter, false promises; he thinks that an ideal society on earth is more attainable than a vague heaven, whereas actually such a society is made impossible by the unavoidable reality from the Scriptures of the primordial fall (fall of Adam and Eve- is explained in another article, the link to which is provided at the end of this article).
On the satanic imitation of God’s otherworldly Kingdom, we find Modern man lives on the dregs of Christianity, on Christian experience digested and turned into ‘ideas’ for mass consumption (for everyone to follow, who does not follow Christ and his commandments). Hence the parody of Christianity is to be seen in modern ideas like ‘equality’, ‘brotherhood’, ‘charity’…. In orthodox Christianity, one has to train oneself in the life of virtue, holiness and righteousness with the help of the Divine grace for selfless love, sacrifice and charity. Then only charity and other like virtues become true charity to a Christian. Then this will turn into true Christian love for your brother or neighbor, as we try to imitate Christ in the love of God. The coming Kingdom which is not of this world (John 18:36)—has been perverted into the coming Kingdom of this world that practically everyone believes in today. Modern man cannot return to Christ until he is first aware of the apostasy of his age. He has to differentiate between that which is of Christ and that which—no matter how harmless or even “Christian” it seems—stands in opposition to Him.
From the life of Fr. Seraphim Rose, a 20th century hieromonk, who lived the Orthodox Christian life in its full sense, we come to know how before his conversion, that Fr. Seraphim suffered enough to know that complete fulfillment and happiness were not to be found in this life, and how, even after he accepted Christ, his deadness to the world caused him to suffer profound loneliness. He understood that Christianity was by nature ascetic, looking beyond this world and its inevitable end. So foreign was his otherworldly outlook to the spirit of his times that even contemporary writers whom he otherwise admired—such as Buber, Berdyaev and Merron—were expressing hopes in “one world government,” “the abolition of war,” and “the final union of mankind.” Fr. Seraphim wrote “And so it is still only the lonely ones who experience the ‘end’; everyone else has ‘interpreted’ that end to fit their own desires. Only the lonely ones dare to live it in fact, in full awareness (as full as men may know) of what it is.”
In referring to these “lonely ones” (those striving to live a true Orthodox Christian Life) who “suffer in intense form the great evil of modern age,” Fr. Seraphim was of course counting himself among them. He looked on his life in the world as a form of crucifixion.
“Let not us, who would be Christians, expect anything else from it than to be crucified. For to be Christian is to be crucified, in this time and in any time since Christ came for the first time. Christ’s life is an example—and warning—to us all. We must be crucified personally, mystically; for through crucifixion is the only path to resurrection. If we would rise with Christ, we must first be humbled with Him—even to the ultimate humiliation, being devoured and spit forth by the uncomprehending world.
“And we must be crucified outwardly, in the eyes of the world; for Christ’s Kingdom is not of this world, and world cannot bear it, even a single representative of it, even for a single moment. The world can only accept Antichrist, now or at any time.
“No wonder, then, it is hard to be a Christian—it is not hard, it is impossible. No one can knowingly accept a way of life which, the more truly it is lived, leads the more surely to one’s own destruction. And that is why we constantly rebel, try to make life easier, try to be half-Christian, try to make best of both worlds. We must ultimately choose—our felicity lies in one world or the other, not in both.
“God give us the strength to pursue the path to crucifixion; there is no other way to be a Christian.
‘The true Orthodox teaching on life after death, on the other hand, fills one precisely with the fear of God and the inspiration to struggle for the kingdom of heaven against all the unseen enemies (Satan and his army) who oppose our path. All Orthodox Christians are called to this struggle, and it is a cruel injustice to them to dilute the Orthodox teaching to make them more ‘comfortable’. Let each one read the Orthodox text more suited to the spiritual level at which he presently finds himself but let no one tell him that he can dismiss as ‘fables’ the text he may find ‘uncomfortable’. Passions and opinions among men may change, but the Orthodox tradition remains ever the same, no matter how few may follow it. May we ever be its faithful children!’
For a more detailed reading on the Orthodox Christian teaching/purpose of our life from the treasury of the Church Father’s writings , click the link : https://orthodoxchristianlife.com/2018/10/08/i-will-get-up-and-go-to-my-father-luke-1518/
Click the link(Issue 3 – Aug/Sep’18) below to continue reading other articles……
For previous issues go to : Categories—>> Youth Corner