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Reverend Ioann Barbus Reverend Ioann Barbus


We are glad to welcome you to the official website of the Transfiguration of our Lord Russian Orthodox Church, located in the city of Baltimore, the state of Maryland, USA. The church belongs to the original Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) and has as its goal the preservation of the spiritual traditions and the treasure of church services of ancient Russian Orthodoxy.

We invite you to acquaint yourself with our church and our parish, to see our small but wondrous iconostasis, to hear our modest choir. When visiting our online Orthodox library, you will be able to acquire deeper knowledge of the Orthodox faith through the spiritually-enlightening materials that are contained therein. These materials are printed in our church bulletins, which are issued monthly in both Russian and English. You are also very welcome to visit our church in person.

  View our current schedule of services.
With love in Christ,
Reverend Ioann Barbus and the church council.





The Last Judgment will be so simple, that apparently we will be asked neither about our faith, now about how we prayed, or kept the fast, or theologized, but only about whether we did or did not act humanely towards other people. However, in this extreme simplicity is revealed the mystery of God's Incarnation, and of the Cross, and the Resurrection, and the Pentecost. When the history of mankind comes to its conclusion, in summing it up Christ will speak only of Himself. “I was hungry, I was thirsty, I was a stranger, I was imprisoned, I was sick.” As though among the multitude of people only He alone existed – with an innumerable and infinite presence: “Truly I say unto ye: that which ye did unto one of those lesser ones, ye did onto Me.” This does not refer to an abstract theoretical person, but to a person who wants to eat, drink, have a home, clothes, comfort, care. We will be judged for our humblest actions of love. In this love is the hidden and continuous presence of Christ on earth. The Last Judgment seems to many to be abstractly remote, but the Lord is “close, at the door,” and everything is already happening now. He is on the right hand of God the Father, and He is also in this world together with man... The mystery of the Last Judgment is the mystery of the general resurrection, of the resurrection of each of the dead. And this will be given to all of us – no one, not a single person will be deprived of this. The martyrs bought the Kingdom with their blood, the desert Fathers attained grace through their labors of abstinence, while we, living in the world, can attain the Lord's glory with the simplest human aid – feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, give shelter to the homeless, give comfort to the sick, visit those in prison – this is something everyone can do. This is offered to us every day, this is what makes up all of life. Through the most ordinary hospitality the Lord wants to make us part of His unfathomable gift... Only love will stand up at the Last Judgment.


Protopriest Alexander Shargunov






The previous Sunday we celebrated the Triumph of Orthodoxy, the triumph of that true Church of Christ to which, by the grace of God, we all belong. But the triumph of Orthodoxy is not only a historical event, dear brethren; it is not revealed only in the fact that for almost 2,000 years, despite diverse and most terrible persecutions and heresies, this Church, founded by Christ Himself and His apostles, continues to exist unchanged and to safeguard the fullness of truth. The Church is not some bureaucratic institution; the Church is a living assembly of all its members and, therefore, the full triumph of Orthodoxy occurs only when all the members of the Church are truly Orthodox, i.e. when the faithful incorporate their faith into their lives, when their lives become transformed by Orthodoxy, when they live in an Orthodox manner.

But precisely how should we live in an Orthodox manner? In what way must Orthodoxy permeate our entire life? To this answer the Church dedicates the remaining four Sundays of the Great Lent. First of all, there is prayer. Through prayer we come directly into contact with God, our Creator. Prayer is the breath of life for us, without prayer we spiritually suffocate. Prayer is just as essential to our soul as air is to our body. And so – as a prime example of prayer – on this, the second Sunday of Lent, the Church offers us Saint Gregory of Palamas, teacher of the highest form of prayer – the inner prayer, the internal spiritual endeavor.

Another factor of Orthodoxy in our life is the bearing of one’s cross. Thus, as a supreme example – on the third Sunday of Lent the Church brings out to us the life-giving Cross of our Lord. Subsequently, on the fourth Sunday of Lent the Church gives us St. John of the Ladder, who teaches us another important aspect of Orthodoxy in our life – the acquisition of virtues.

But perhaps we already pray more-or-less, we more-or-less patiently endure the cross which we have been given in life, and perhaps we have even acquired some virtues, and yet we are still not living entirely in an Orthodox manner. Why? Because we sin. All of us are already born with the seeds of sin within us, and during our lifetime we further amass our own sins. If we continue to live with these sins, we cannot be truly Orthodox. However, the Church offers us a wonderful means of overcoming this handicap in our life, and that is – repentance. And so, as a supreme example of penitence and also an example of how we should never despair of our sins, – on the fifth Sunday of Lent the Church offers us St. Mary of Egypt, who from the worst possible sinner turned not only into a righteous person, but literally into an angel on earth. In this fashion, throughout the entire Great Lent the Church reveals to us the treasures of the Orthodox faith and teaches us how to incorporate this faith into our lives.

But now let us dwell on the lesson of this Sunday, which is prayer. Saint Gregory Palamas came from Constantinople, lived in the 14th century and was the Archbishop of Thessalonika. He attained a highly virtuous life, became an eminent theologian, and wrote many spiritual writings. But his greatest achievement was the revival of the ancient art of inner prayer, which flourished among the great Church Fathers – desert-dwellers and ascetics, – and which in time became forgotten. This method was also called the “internal endeavor,” because those who used it not only prayed at certain times, for example in the mornings and evenings, as we barely manage to do, but remained in prayer constantly.

Such a state of constant prayer became possible only after a long and hard effort, when a person learned to disregard all external stimuli of the surrounding environment, learned to focus his attention within himself, which was called “to bring the mind down into the heart,” and then, miraculously and by the grace of God, a direct link between man and God Himself became established. This was made possible through the use of the so-called “Jesus prayer”: “O Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner.” This short prayer was constantly said in such a way that it became incorporated into one’s very breathing, and thus prayer literally became part of one’s breath, even when one was doing something, or talking to someone, etc.

For us, in our extremely busy lives, with the constant hurry in which we live, with the manner in which we are bombarded by external stimuli, – the process of internal endeavor, dear brethren, is beyond our capability. However, its most elementary part – the Jesus prayer – remains quite accessible even to us. We may not be able to combine it with our breathing, but we can certainly manage to say it continuously within ourselves: while traveling to and from work, while doing household chores, while going shopping – we can always at least keep this prayer in our mind. And you will see, dear brethren, how the fruits of this prayer will quickly reveal themselves: by saying this prayer over and over again, and by continuously repeating the sweetest name of Jesus Christ, we will not be so quick to pay attention to all the temptations that surround us, we will not be so quick to take offense or pass judgment on others, we will not be so quick to fall into despair; on the contrary, as long as we occupy our minds with the Jesus prayer, we will be calm, joyous, and peaceful. The Scriptures tell us that whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Such is the treasure of prayer which Orthodoxy gives us.

Let us take advantage of this wonderful time of the Great Lent, dear brethren, in order to apply some effort and try to teach ourselves the Jesus prayer, which is the mightiest weapon against the evil spirits and, at the same time, a source of spiritual blessings and joy for us.

“O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon us, sinners.” Amen.


 Father Rostislav Sheniloff






What is the purpose of the Great Lent?


Why has the Great Lent been established? In order to purify the Christian soul with abstinence and prayer, waken and renew it before the great feast of Christ's Resurrection, and make it capable of receiving that glow of true eternal joy, which is granted to Christians on Pascha to a greater extent than on all the other holidays. What hinders a person from receiving this joy? The soul's pollution with sins, enslavement by earthly concerns, and its every possible disfigurement. This is what the Lent cures it from.

In all times the diabolic powers enslaved man by gratifying his flesh and combatting his spirit But never yet have the diabolic powers been able to achieve such complete possession of man as in our times. Never yet has man been so powerful in the material world as now, with his knowledge, his proud technical mind, his mechanical achievements, and never yet have nature and the entire physical world with all its elements been subordinate to man so fully and comprehensively as now. And never yet has man been so wretchedly weak, so internally desolate as now. Wherein lies the cause of this?

There are many causes, but one of the main ones is the incorrect hierarchy of values, the rearrangement of forces within man himself, which had occurred a long time ago in the progressive part of mankind, but which is only now producing its final ominous fruits. By fasting we battle with the satanic powers, which are striving to take possession of the human soul in that very aspect, from where the enticement of men by Satan always began. He first alienated the humans in Paradise from God, and now he does modern humanity as well, with the bait of fleshly gratification. And no wonder Christ the Saviour said that the diabolic powers are vanquished only by prayer and fasting. By means of the fast the soul is purified, awakens, renews its regal power over the body, and prepares to greet the shining joy of Pascha.


Archbishop Nathaniel (Lvov)





The feast of the Annunciation of the Theotokos is one of the most beautiful, glorious, joyous, and splendid holidays. When the Virgin Mary heard the Archangel's glad tidings, Her most holy soul was bewildered: the Archangel is annunciating to Her that She will be a mother, but She had vowed to remain a virgin and will never retract that vow, so how can it be? A virgin cannot be a mother, and a mother cannot be a virgin – thus how is one to understand these tidings? This is why She asks Her humble question: “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man” (Luke 1:34)? But when the Archangel said to Her: “The Holy Spirit shall come upon Thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow Thee” (Luke 1:35), and ended his tidings with the words “for with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37), i.e. not a single word or command given by God can remain without fulfillment, Her holy soul quieted down, and She understood that this would be a supernatural birth and, becoming calm, She said those wondrous words which the Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow called “glad tidings from earth to heaven.” Note the following: the Archangel supposedly has done his duty, has told Her everything, has explained everything to Her, yet he is still waiting for something, he does not leave, and finally he hears Her answer: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto Me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38). That is, I am God's servant; a servant does not debate, Her master deals with Her as He sees fit, and She only obeys and fulfills His will. Humble and total obedience, and complete submission to God's will, announced by the celestial Messenger... And thus were accomplished these mutual glad tidings from heaven to earth and from earth to heaven, and “the angel departed from Her.” May all of this be a lesson to us... She gave us the greatest and holiest example of how one must always, and especially in responsible and important moments of one's life, be concerned primarily with fulfilling the will of God, just as She Herself fulfilled it on the day of Her Annunciation.


Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky)






Homily for the Saturday of Lazarus


In today’s troparion we heard the following words: “Thus we, too, cry out to Thee, the Conqueror of death: hosannah in the highest, blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord!” Today’s holiday is truly great, dear brethren! Just think of these words: “Conqueror of death!”

There were many conquerors in the history of mankind: there were talented physicians who conquered many illnesses; there were famous military leaders who conquered huge armies and entire countries. There are conquerors of space, there are conquerors of distance, etc. But the world does not know a single “conqueror of death” except for the Lord Jesus Christ. He alone bears this distinction. Even the world of unbelievers is unable to propose any other name. None of the most prominent people in the world have ever pretended to such a distinction. Yet He is, has been, and will be – our Lord and Saviour, the conqueror of death.

During His life on earth the Lord gave proof of this in three cases: the resurrection of the daughter of Jairus, the resurrection of the son of the widow of Nain, and now today – the resurrection of Lazarus.

The death of the daughter of Jairus was a recent, fresh death. The girl died while Christ and her father were on their way to her. Even Christ called it “sleep,” but other people laughed at Him, knowing that the girl had died. But He made everyone leave the room, then took her by the hand and said: “Maiden, arise!” And her spirit came back to her, she arose, and He commanded that she be given food.

In the case of the son of the widow of Nain death had asserted its rights more strongly: the deceased had already been placed on a bier, he not only had been carried out of his house, but was being carried out through the city gates. The Lord had to stop the bearers in order to approach the bier. And only then He said: “Young man, I say to you, arise!” The dead youth sat up and began speaking. And Christ gave him back to his mother.

And now there is Lazarus. In this case death’s victory was final, it was 100% complete. Lazarus had already stayed in the tomb for four days. There was great weeping, but no one had any hope whatsoever of his resurrection. Even one of the deceased’s sisters said to the Lord: “I know that he shall arise again in the Resurrection on the last day.” And even the Lord Himself, seeing her weeping and all the others together with her, was troubled in spirit and wept. Finally He said: “Take away the stone.” At this point the deceased’s sister could no longer endure and cried out to Him: “Lord, he is already malodorous, for he has been dead four days.” But still the stone was lifted from the cave where the dead man lay, and the Lord cried out in a loud voice: “Lazarus! Come forth.” And the dead man came out, bound hand and foot with graveclothes. Jesus said to them: “Loosen him and let him go.”

But aside from physical death there is also spiritual death. It happens thus: a sinful thought passes through our mind and incites in us a sinful feeling, but the soul comes to its senses, cries out to the Lord in repentance, and the Lord extends His hand as to the daughter of Jairus and says: O soul, arise! And once again life goes on joyfully. But it may also happen that we do not come to our senses in time, and sin enters our soul more deeply, but even then, through the prayers of the Church, our soul can still rouse itself, can repent, and the Lord will say to us as He did to the son of the widow of Nain: O soul, I say unto thee – arise! And our soul will come alive again and will be granted salvation.

But what is to be done if sin enslaves our soul completely, covers it as though with a huge burial stone, and turns into a passion which becomes sinfully malodorous… as in the case of Lazarus? What do we do then? In this case we have great need of confession, the sacrament which has been established by the Lord Himself. Look at how it is reflected in the resurrection of Lazarus. Lazarus could not leave the burial cave by himself – it was covered by a huge stone. He could not even walk properly, because he was bound hand and foot by the graveclothes. And at this point Christ said to His disciples: loosen him. Applied to us this means that the Lord commands clergymen, who have received the gift of the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of ordination, to absolve our sins which bind us hand and foot. What joy for us! For death is not the cause, but only the result or consequence of sin. And Christ is also the conqueror of sin, and together with it – of death itself. Let us triumphantly proclaim: hosannah in the highest! Amen.


(From “The One Thing Needful” by Archbishop Andrew of Novo-Diveevo)






The Resurrection of our Lord, the Feast of Feasts, is called in the Church calendar “radiant” or “bright,” as is every day of the week that follows. And indeed the dominant theme of the Feast, felt especially acutely by those who have attended many of the dark somber services which the Orthodox Church prescribes for the Great Lent and Passion Week, is one of brilliant, dazzling light. During the Matins of the Resurrection every light in church is lit, the clergy is attired in bright vestments, every believer holds a lighted candle, and the constant theme of the hymns and canticles is one of light.

“The Day of Resurrection! Let us be illumined, O ye people! Let us purify our senses and we shall behold Christ, radiant with the light ineffable of the Resurrection… Now are all things filled with light… Let us behold Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, Who lighteth the life of all mankind… Holy is this redeeming and radiantly-effulgent night, the harbinger of the bright and beaming Day of the Resurrection, on which the Light Eternal that hath no bounds shone forth in the flesh from the grace for all mankind.”

The brightness of the Feast of the Resurrection is symbolic of many things: of purity, of life, of the everflowing joy and grace of the Feast. But it is also much more than a symbol; it is already a foretaste of what every Christian lives for: eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven. In the canon of the Resurrection we hear: “Shine, shine, O New Jerusalem, for the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.” The New Jerusalem is the Kingdom of Heaven, in which everything and everyone shall be filled with light; “then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of their Father” (Matt. 13:43).

Already in our perishing world this light has become visible. It is the light of the Transfiguration of our Lord that blinded the apostles on Mount Tabor; it is the light with which the prophet Moses shone after he had spoken with God on Mount Sinai, so that his face had to be covered with a veil; it is the light with which St. Seraphim of Sarov and other great saints have shone. It is the light seen with his inward eye by every Orthodox Christian who lives the life of grace in the Church through the sacraments, the life lived so intensely by the recently-canonized Orthodox pastor, St. John of Kronstadt, that he could feel and exclaim: “All is fire, all is light, all is warmth.” Those who have received Holy Communion on the Feast of the Resurrection, after having fasted and mourned with the Church throughout the Great Lent, already know something of this radiant joy.

If we can begin such a life already in this corruptible flesh, can we even imagine the life that we shall lead in the spiritual body with which we shall be resurrected in our Lord? Then the darkness of sin will no longer obstruct the action of grace in us, and we shall shine with the light of the spiritual Sun, our Lord Jesus Christ, and all who shall attain to that Kingdom will live in effulgent light.


Father Seraphim (Rose)






On March 30th (the 17th by the old calendar) the Church commemorates Saint Alexis, the man of God.

What a wondrous saint and how deeply moving is his life! St. Alexis was born in the 4th century A.D. in Rome, in the reign of the emperors Arcadius and Honorius. His parents, Ephimian and Aglaida, were very pious and a model of chastity and hospitality. Although Ephimian was a rich nobleman, he himself ate only once a day, but every day at his home he fed a multitude of widows, orphans, wanderers, the poor, and the sick. St. Alexis also grew up to be a pious and educated young man, well-versed in the Holy Scriptures and other religious writings.

When St. Alexis came of age, his parents had him engaged to a maiden from a princely family, but after the wedding the saint came to his bride and gave her his gold ring, then went into his room, changed into a poor man’s clothes, and secretly left his house and his city. Arriving at the seashore, he found a ship that was set to sail for Asia Minor, and so he sailed on this ship, wishing to escape from the vanity of secular life. After wandering for a while, the saint came to the city of Edessa and settled there at the church of the Holy Theotokos. St. Alexis lived as a beggar at the church portal and kept a very strict fast, partaking only of bread and water. From such a severe life his whole body withered and the beauty of his face waned.

Meanwhile, his parents and his bride grieved terribly over his disappearance, while his father sent servants everywhere to search for his son. Some of them even came to Edessa, but did not recognize St. Alexis and, taking him for a beggar, gave him alms.

St. Alexis lived in Edessa at the church of the Mother of God for 17 years, and through his pious life earned God’s grace. During this time the church sacristan had a vision concerning St. Alexis: the sacristan saw an icon of the Holy Theotokos, Who said to him: “Lead into My church the man of God who is worthy of the Heavenly Kingdom; his prayer rises up to God like incense, and the Holy Spirit rests upon him like a crown upon a king’s head.”

After this vision the sacristan began to search for a man of such righteous life and, not finding him, appealed to the Holy Theotokos for help. And once more he had a vision in which he heard a voice issuing from the icon of the Theotokos, saying that the man of God is the beggar who sits at the church portal. Then the sacristan led the saint into the church, for him to live there.

However, since many people began to venerate St. Alexis for his righteous life, once more he secretly left the city, in order to flee from earthly fame. The saint boarded a ship sailing for Silicia, but by God’s Providence a storm arose during the voyage, and the ship unexpectedly ended up in Rome. Then St. Alexis decided to return to his own home, but to live there as a stranger. Ephimian, seeing a poor wanderer and not recognizing his own son, greeted him warmly and ordered the servants to build him a small dwelling near the entrance to the house and to serve him.

And thus St. Alexis lived at the entrance to his parents’ house for another 17 years, overcoming many tribulations by his extraordinary patience: on the one hand, he had to bear insults from his father’s servants, who, at the instigation of the devil, taunted him most harshly; on the other hand, the saint was continuously forced to hear the pitiful weeping of his mother and his bride, who did not cease to mourn him. His heart was torn with pity at the sight of their tears, but his love for God helped him to bear this trial and to continue leading the life he had chosen.

But the time came for the saint to leave this temporal life in which he had experienced such poverty and deprivation, and to enter the joy of eternal life. At this moment a Divine liturgy was being served in the city cathedral, at the end of which a wondrous voice issued from the altar: “Come to Me all ye that labor and are heavily laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). All those who were present in the church fell to the ground in fear, crying out: “Lord, have mercy!” Then the voice was heard a second time: “Look for the man of God, who is already leaving this life; let him pray for the city.” Everyone began to search all over Rome for such a man, but did not know where to find him. Meanwhile, the voice from the altar was heard again: “Look for the man of God in the house of Ephimian.” At this point the king, who was in the cathedral at that time, turned to Ephimian and asked: “How is it that you, possessing such a treasure in your home, did not tell us about it?” Ephimian replied: “As God is my witness, I know nothing about it.”

Then the king arose and went together with his noblemen to Ephimian’s house, deciding to search there himself for the man of God. Arriving at the gates, they found dead the beggar who had lived at the entrance, but whose face was now shining with an angelic radiance, while his hand clasped a letter to his parents, explaining all that had happened. The king immediately ordered St. Alexis’ body to be carried into the midst of the city, so that everyone could venerate the saint. And all Rome gathered there; and all the people venerated the saint, from whom there were many healings and miracles. Afterwards the body of the saint stood in the cathedral for a whole week, open to universal veneration, and subsequently, as it was being placed in a marble casket, a stream of aromatic myrrh issued from the body, filling the entire casket. All the inhabitants of the city anointed themselves with this myrrh and were healed of all their illnesses.

Saint Alexis, the man of God, reposed in A.D. 411.






(Lecture given by Father Seraphim Rose )


1. Introduction


Today I would like to speak on a subject which is very relevant to our times: the end of the world; more particularly, the signs being fulfilled in our times which point to the end of the world.

There have been a number of times in the past when this subject was of great interest. In fact, you can even call them “apocalyptic” times. The Apostles themselves felt that their times were very apocalyptic. (Later I will present some of the statements they made in the Scriptures which show that they really expected the end of all things to be very close.) At various other times – for example, in the West, around the year 1000 – there was a great expectation of the end. In Russia near the end of the 15th century, again there was a period when the end was expected shortly. This was because the year 1492, according to the chronology of the Old Testament, was the year 7000 from the creation of the world. And many people in our own times have this same feeling that time is running out, that something big is going to happen. Often this is bound up with the number 2,000. That is, we have come to the end of two millennia of Christianity; a millennium is thought of as a big thing, a whole thousand years, and two of them means some great crisis must be approaching; and many people place this in the terms of the end of the world. Of course, that does not necessarily mean anything, since we don’t know the day, or the hour, or the year when the world is going to end (Matt. 24:36). I will try, however, to go into what our attitude should be toward this expectation of the end.

Nowadays, when you think about “apocalyptic awareness,” you think of Protestant sectarians of various kinds, who have definite ideas about what is going to happen at the end of this age. It is not only religious thinkers, however, but also ordinary secular philosophers who talk about the end of the world in a very bold way. I will give you an example of one who should be close to us, because he is an Orthodox writer: Alexander Solzhenitsyn. He has been outside of Russia since 1974, and has written about life in the Soviet Union and especially in the Soviet labor camps, the infamous Gulag. He is not what one would consider a “mystical” or “vague” thinker, or someone who’s up in the clouds; he is very down-to-earth.

A while ago he gave a talk at the Harvard University commencement, in which he spoke boldly to the people of the West (just as before that he had spoken boldly to Soviet leaders), telling them that their civilization is collapsing and is in danger of being taken over by Communism, that modern humanism is not deep enough to satisfy the human soul, and that it is no model that can be followed by Russia, if Russia should overthrow Communism. At the end of this address he used the following words to express his idea of the depth of the crisis which is now occurring in the world:

“If the world has not come to its end, it has approached a major turn in history, equal in importance to the turn from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance.”

Here he speaks seriously of the possibility of the “end of the world,” based on his observations that it is impossible for men to live long without deep spiritual roots, which have been uprooted in the East by Communism and in the West by worldly humanism.

In his other writings, Solzhenitsyn, like many realistic thinkers today, speaks of specific reasons, quite apart from the spiritual ones, why he thinks that such a period of great crisis is facing humanity. He mentions things that you will find in any serious analysis of today’s news: namely, such things as the nearness of the exhaustion of the earth’s resources (if they are used at the present rate); the disastrous pollution of air and water and soil (which is much worse in Russia than in America); the overpopulation of the world and the approaching disastrous shortage of food which seems to be coming; and, of course, the development of weapons in the last few decades, which makes the virtual annihilation of human life possible.

All this relates to the physical signs of an approaching great crisis, the end of the modern age, and perhaps the end of the world itself. But much more remarkable than these are the spiritual signs that are multiplying in our times. This is what I would like to mostly talk about.


2. Our Christian Attitude


First of all, I would like to ask a question: What should be the attitude of a committed Orthodox Christian toward this whole idea of the end of the world, and toward the signs which are preparing for it? Should we dismiss all this as some kind of superstition, hysteria, and so forth?

No, we should not. We have, first of all, the answer given by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself in the Gospel. Just two days before He was to go to His Passion, His disciples came to Him on the Mount of Olives and asked Him: “Tell us, when shall these things be?” – that is, the destruction of the temple, which He had just mentioned. Then they asked Him: “And what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matt. 24:3). Our Saviour at that moment did not reject the question, as He did at other times when the disciples asked things they should not be asking, such as when James and John asked if they would be able to sit next to Him in the Kingdom of Heaven (Mark 10:37). On the contrary, He allowed them to ask the questions, and He answered them. These answers take up the entire twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of St. Matthew (where the historical events before the end of the world are set forth), and the twenty-fifth chapter (where He teaches most fully on the coming Judgment and on how to prepare for His coming). In a shorter form, these are also set forth in the Gospels of Mark and Luke. Some of these prophecies refer directly to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, which happened several decades after the Crucifixion, but the rest refer to the end of the whole world.

In His answer, our Lord gives the following main points. First of all, beware of deception, of following false Christs. Then there will be various signs, such as wars, famines, earthquakes – and all these are not the end but rather the beginning of the tribulation. Then there will be the moral signs: the persecutions of Christians; the increase of evil; the growing coldness of love, which is one of the main signs that Christianity is dying, because the sign of a Christian, as our Lord told us, is that he has love for others. Then another sign is that the Gospel is to be preached to the whole world, after which the end will come. Another sign is that there will be a terrible tribulation, i.e. apart even from all the things He has mentioned already, such as wars, famines, earthquakes. And “the abomination of desolation will be in the holy place” (we must understand this according to the interpretation handed down by the Holy Fathers, which I will speak about); and “the days will be shortened… for the sake of the elect” (Matt. 24:15, 22).

Then again He warns about false Christs and false prophets, and about “great signs and wonders” which, “if possible, will lead astray even the elect,” i.e. not only will terrible physical events happen, but there will also be deceptions which are so subtle that even the elect themselves might be fooled.

Then the sign of the coming of Christ: it will be sudden, from above, and not like His first coming. The signs of the very end are that “the sun shall be darkened, the moon shall not give its light, the stars will fall from heaven”; and then Christ Himself will appear in the heavens with the sign of the Cross.

But He tells us that the day and hour of His coming are not for us to know. Nonetheless, we should pay attention. He gives us the parable of the fig tree: when we see its branches putting forth leaves, we know that summer is nigh; and, likewise, when we watch the signs and see these things beginning to happen, then we know that the times are ripe, that the end is drawing near.

Therefore, we are to watch not for a specific day or time, but rather for the signs of the end so that we can be prepared. We are especially to be prepared against deception, which is involved with one of the great events to happen at the end of the world: the coming of Antichrist, which we will discuss shortly.

As I mentioned earlier, the age of the Apostles – the first century – was full of the expectation that Christ would soon return. Today it is a little difficult for us even to imagine how the Apostles could be so filled with fervor for Christ that they could go to all the ends of the world; but they literally did. The Apostle Thomas went to India, and some say even as far as China; St. Andrew went north to Scythia, which is now Russia; St. Aristobulus and others went to England; St. Matthew and others went south to Abyssinia. The whole civilized world at that time was covered by the Apostles, because they had the idea that the world was coming soon to an end, and that they were to go out to all the lands and preach the Gospel. Already by the time of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70, the Gospel had been preached to virtually all the known inhabited world. From that time on began the bringing forth of fruits in all those countries in which the seed of the Gospel had been planted.

And we see, if we take any one particular country that received the Gospel, how over the centuries it brought forth fruits. It had saints, the lives of people were completely changed, and there was a total difference between the time that country was pagan and the time it accepted Orthodox Christianity. If you take any country in the West, such as Britain or France, or in the East, such as Byzantium or Syria or Russia, you will see that this is the case.

There are a number of Scriptural passages in which the Apostles mention the coming of the end. For example, in Philippians 4:4-5, St. Paul writes: “Rejoice in the Lord always… The Lord is at hand.” St John mentions in 1 John 2:18: “Little children, it is the last hour.” The Apostle Peter says in 1 Peter 4:7: “The end of all things is at hand.” Elsewhere, answering those who said that the end was a long time in coming, St. Peter says in his famous statement that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day, and that the Lord is only being patient with us until we repent (II Peter 3:8-9). And then, immediately after that, he gives us a full description of the actual end of the world by fire (3:10-13).

So, from that very time, those who were fervent Christians had a definite idea: the world is soon coming to an end. Of course, nineteen centuries have passed since that time. Does that mean that the Apostles were mistaken? Or that anyone else who thinks so is also mistaken, and we should put away all ideas that the end of the world is at hand, that Christ is coming soon? No, it does not mean this. It means that we are to understand this in the right way, and the right way is the spiritual way. If we ourselves are leading a conscious spiritual life, conducting unseen warfare against our own fallen nature and against the demons who are against us, then we will be constantly expecting the coming of Christ into our soul.

The only danger is if you go overboard and begin to try to place dates, to calculate exactly when it is going to happen, to be too concerned about specific events which are occurring, and too quick to place them in categories, so that they fit into chapters of the Apocalypse.

Of course, the big mistake made by the people who go overboard in these details occurs when they fall into the heresy of chiliasm: the expectation of Christ coming to earth for a thousand years. Chiliasm, a heresy fought by the early Fathers of the Church, constantly comes up again in sectarian circles, especially in times of historical uncertainty and crisis. It is the teaching of a reign of Christ on earth before the end of the world: a reign of peace and prosperity under Christ, Who will reign with His elect in Jerusalem and conquer all foes. This troublesome heresy was widespread even in the early history of the Church and was condemned by the Second Ecumenical Council in A.D. 381. That was when the phrase was put into the Creed: “…and His Kingdom shall have no end.” This phrase was introduced into the Creed with the specific intention of countering the chiliastic teaching of the heretic Apollinarius.

The idea of chiliasm arose out of a misinterpretation of Apocalypse chapter 20, which says the devil was bound for a thousand years, and Christ came and reigned with His saints. If you just read the text straight through without stopping and interpreting it according to what the Holy Fathers have said about it, you can get the idea that there is to be a period of a thousand years between two future comings of Christ. This means you have to have two different Judgments. In fact, the Protestants do: they have a “Great White Throne Judgment,” and some other kind of Judgment. This confuses the whole picture of Christian eschatology.

In the universal interpretation of the Orthodox Holy Fathers, however, there is no mystery about this. The reign of Christ with His saints is occurring now. This is the Church. This is the life of grace in the Church with the Sacraments, which Protestants, not having, do not understand. The life in the Church is such a blessed state – because we are with Christ, we have His grace, we have His Body and Blood within us – that this is like Paradise. And this is what people call the millennium. The “thousand years” means a whole period. One thousand is a round number: 10x10x10 in symbolical language means the fullness of time between the First Coming and the Second Coming of Christ.

Expectation of a chiliastic coming of Christ (i.e. of Christ reigning as an earthly ruler for a thousand years) has led to fantasies and bloodshed, from the time of the Middle Ages to now: “charismatic” leaders persuade their followers either that they are Christ, or that they are preparing for Him. This is an exact fulfillment of Christ’s prophecy of fake Christs who will not come from the heavens at the end of the world. In recent times, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-Day Adventists, and many other sectarian groups have preached this doctrine, often predicting the exact year and day of the end of the world – which never comes on schedule – or preparing for a great “world leader” who will bring peace on earth. This “world leader” will be the Antichrist, about whom the Scriptures prophesy exactly. Fantasies of the coming “millennium” are one of the chief ways mankind is preparing for the Antichrist.

Our times are full of this chiliasm or millenarianism. This is the basis of the Communist ideology of the perfect state on earth that will come when the “dictatorship of the proletariat” finally ends. Such fantasies always result in tyranny in the name of a religious or philosophical ideal,

Chiliastic views themselves are not a particular sign of the end. They existed in the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and in more modern times; but they have never been more widespread than today, not merely among small groups of sectarians, but among political and religious leaders of humanity. This I will talk about a little later as one of the signs of the end.

Now let us turn to some of the spiritual signs of the end. Most of these signs are bound up with the figure of Antichrist, the world ruler at the end of time, the last great enemy of Christ. Many people have a very superficial idea about him: Luther thought it was the Pope, others have a caricatural idea of him as simply a vicious dictator. We must go deeper than this, and especially distinguish between the general spirit of Antichrist, the many lesser antichrists who have this spirit to some degree, and the Antichrist himself, who will come only at the very end of time and rule the whole world. St. John says (1 John 2:18): “As ye have heard that Antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come; therefore we know that it is the last hour.” That is, just because we have seen many with the spirit of Antichrist in the past – those who have fought against Christ, like some Roman emperors, and especially those who have tried to deceive Christians by means of some fake teaching and seeming miracles – this does not mean there will not be a single Antichrist at the end of the world. These many small antichrists should prepare us for the coming of the great Antichrist.


(To be continued)


Father Seraphim Rose










My King and God! A word of power

In times of yore didst Thou pronounce,

The grave's captivity was shattered...

And Lazarus came back to life and rose.

I pray, may such a Word ring out,

May to my soul it say – “Arise!”

And then the dead one will rise up

And enter into Thy rays' light!

It will revive, and with majestic voice

Exuberant laudations will proclaim –

To Thee – the Father's glory's shine,

To Thee – Who died for us and rose!


– Aleksey Khomyakov

– Translated by Natalia Sheniloff






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