On the surface of the Church, like foam on the ocean waves, we can find the froth of ‘Establishment Orthodoxy’, with its institutes and personalities, its theories and its philosophies, its doctorates and its ologies. If we take that froth for the deep ocean, we are sadly mistaken. We must forget the surf on the surface and head for the deep ocean where we will find the real thing, the depth of the Faith. Incredible though it may sound, some, thinking superficially, forget that the Church does not exist to create intellectuals and academics, but to create saints. The life of the Church is not vain, futile and superficial, as are so many intellectuals, but purposeful and serious, as are the saints.
Indeed, when there is no longer anyone who wants to become and strives to become a saint, then will come the end of the world, because its existence will no longer have any purpose as the seedbed of saints, to be nurtured by the Church. This quest for holiness, which is what real Orthodoxy is, is to be found in the monasteries and convents, among faithful clergy, families and parishioners, not among academics and intellectuals who live on booklore and fleshly reasoning. The Church exists to provide our ‘daily’, that is, ‘essential’ bread, spiritual food, soul food, and not brain food, for humanity does not live by bread alone and if it tries to do so, it dies, as we can see.
This is why the Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) has brought the world three saints. They are St Jonah of Hancow (+ 1925), St John of Shanghai and San Francisco (+ 1966) and the future St Seraphim of Sofia (+ 1950). St Jonah represents Asia, St John, though he lived long in China and Western Europe, represents North America, and St Seraphim represents Europe. His long-awaited canonization is now being prepared by the Churches of Russia and Bulgaria, but most of his life after the fateful events of 1917 was spent in the Church Outside Russia, where he wrote against the foolish heresy of Sophianism and of the Resurrection of Rus as a spiritual and political entity, as the Christian Empire.
All three of these saints were faithful to the Russian Church, all three were hierarchs and ascetics, all three struggled within living memory, and together represent three different parts of the Church Outside Russia. Some will say, surely, our Church has produced more than three saints? They are right. Suggestions have been put forward about other candidates for canonization in other parts of the world, in Australia, in South America, in China, in Western Europe, holy men and women, laypeople, monastics and parish clergy. In God’s good time these three holy hierarchs will be joined by others, whose earthly remains wait to be revealed from their places of rest all over the world.
However, at the moment our attention is turned to these three and especially to the coming canonization of St Seraphim, the preparation for which was announced at the meeting of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church on 23 October 2015. All three saints came forth from Russia and were given as a gift and witness to the world. All three announced the freedom of the Church and awaited its arrival inside enslaved Russia so that they could return to administrative unity with the Church there. All three mystically proclaimed the providential arrival of the Message of Holy Rus, of the Gospel of Christ in its authentic Church context, to the world outside the Russian Lands.
St Seraphim of Sarov (+ 1833) had already prophesied that his veneration would spread worldwide and that he would glorify him who glorified him, meaning that he would bring the worldwide veneration of Tsar Nicholas II (+ 1918), as it is indeed coming about. And as for St John of Kronstadt (+ 1908), he announced that the rebirth of his church in Kronstadt, which has now taken place, would proclaim the rebirth of all Russia. These three saints, representing Asia, North America and Europe, mystically represent not only the first fruits of worldwide veneration, but the actual physical presence of contemporary holiness outside Russia, without which the world will die.
19 October/1 November 2015
St John of Kronstadt