Monday, September 04, 2006

New Feature #2: Saint of the Week

Second new feature: Every Monday I will post the life of an Orthodox Saint celebrated around this time. I am starting with Fr. Seraphim Rose. This will necessarily be a condensed biography. For a mich more rich study of Fr. Seraphim's life, works, and teachings see the biography written by Fr. Damascene Christensen, Fr. Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works.

Fr. Seraphim Rose, commemorated Sept. 2/August 21

Fr. Seraphim is not a canonized saint, but many Orthodox consider him one, particularly in Russia and Serbia. He is widely known as "Blessed" Seraphim Rose, but I prefer to call him Fr. Seraphim. I do consider him a modern-day saint.

Fr. Seraphim was born Eugene Rose in San Diego, California. His parents were Protestant and as a young man Eugene had little real contact with the church. As a college student he studied Buddhism and other eastern philosophies. He was a brilliant scholar, excelling in the study of Chinese. Eugene's friend, Jon Gregerson, introduced him to the Russian Orthodox church at a time when Eugene was beginning to move towards Christianity. He was chrismated in 1962.

Eugene and his friend Gleb Podmoshenky opened a bookstore next to the Russian cathedral in San Francisco. With the blessing and encouragement of St. (then Archbishop) John Maximovitch they began the labor of publishing a magazine which they called the "Orthodox Word". Gradually a brotherhood of like-minded young men grew up around the bookstore and in 1968 Eugene, Gleb, and others left the city to go to the wilderness of northern California. They bought land in Platina and began to develop a monastic life as the St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood. St. Herman is one of the earliest American Orthodox Saints. Two years later Eugene and Gleb were tonsured monks. Eugene became Fr. Seraphim and Gleb became Fr. Herman after St. Herman of Alaska.

The monastery continued to publish the Orthodox Word as well as books and pamphlets written by Fr. Seraphim and translations of texts. One of the most important books they published was Russia's Catacomb Saints which documented the struggles of Orthodox Christians within Communist Russia. The book was edited by Fr. Seraphim from a manuscript given to them by I.M. Andreyev. After Fr. Seraphim's death in 1982, more of his writings were published and today practically every Christian bookstore and church library has his writings in translation.

Fr. Seraphim died on Sept. 2, 1982 at 48. His body did not experience rigor mortis and some say that they smelled roses when they were by him.

Fr. Seraphim is a witness to the fact that an American brought up in a normal household can attain the heights of Orthodoxy and indeed can be a major contributor to its preservation. Fr. Seraphim Rose is one of the most important figures in the rebirth of Russian Orthodoxy. But beyond that he is an inspiration for each and every one of us. We must study his writings and keep his sayings alive in our hearts. "Today in Russia, tomorrow in America." "It is later than you think; hasten then to do the will of God."

Holy Fr. Seraphim, pray to God for us!


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