Contemporary Signs of the End of the World

By: Father Seraphim Rose - Continued

4. Positive Signs

All these are very negative signs, and, of course, a Christian is supposed to be prepared for the most negative things possible.  Nonetheless, we should also be prepared to look for the positive signs of the end of the world. 

First of all, one of the positive signs is Israel.  Of course, the state of Israel is a totally different matter, but the very fact that it looks as though there is beginning in the Jewish people some kind of stirring, as though the process of coming back to Christ may be beginning-that is a very hopeful, very positive thing, because this is the thing which St. Paul said, that he would rather be in hell for the sake of his people if only they would awaken and see Christ, Who came for them first of all.  And when they finally see, that means that is the very end of the word, because all the peoples have been called in, and they are the last ones to come back.

Then there is the movement of conversion to Orthodox Catholic Christianity in many parts of the world.  In Africa, for example, in the last fifty years there has been a tremendous movement of conversion of people in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, the Congo, and other countries.  They often write to us the simplest kind of letters, very "evangelical," about "rejoicing in the Lord," and they have Scriptural texts and are very pious and faithful to Orthodoxy; they are just the kind of simple-hearted people Christ wants. These people are coming into the Orthodox Church now.

The same thing is happening in other countries; in fact, right here in America we see more and more people are awakening, and often for no apparent reason they are finding out that Orthodoxy is the real Church. This is happening also in Western Europe and in other countries.

Then there is suffering Russia, and this is a subject which deserves many talks by itself.  But it is certainly a remarkable thing that this country, which for sixty years now has suffered under communism, under atheism, has endured, and according to all the communist laws-since religion is only a superstitious remnant of the past, and all the old ladies are dead-there should be no more religion left, but now after sixty years, when all the old ladies are dead, religion is coming back stronger than ever.

Something is therefore wrong with their idea, and the "something" that is wrong is that they do not realize that the soul wants God, wants Christ; and thus, these people for sixty years endured this yoke of atheism, which is a very powerful thing, with the whole of society based upon Godlessness. People have endured this, they have literally stuck it out, and they are coming back to believe in God. 

Solzhenitsyn says of Russia and other countries which have endured communism: "Through intense suffering our country has now achieved the spiritual development of such intensity that the Western system in its present state of spiritual exhaustion does not look attractive to us.  A fact which cannot be disputed is the weakening of human beings in the West, while in the East they are being firmer and stronger.  Six decades for our people, and three decades for the people of Eastern Europe.  During that time we have been through a spiritual training far in advance of the Western experience."

Father Dimitry Dudko, especially, says very similar things and here makes a very important point also, that when someone once told him how much better it was to be in the West, because there they have freedom and are able to practice their Christianity in freedom.  And he answered that there they have spirituality with comfort, whereas here we have spirituality with suffering, and, therefore, it is deeper.  And on the basis of our sufferings and martyrdom, there can come a seed of Christianity, because the blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christianity.  That is why something very deep is happening in the Russian people and those who have suffered under communism.

In this hopefulness coming from Russia, which is awakening to its Christian roots, we also have a very practical lesson: that is, Russia in these last sixty years has gone through the experience of living in catacombs, under persecutions, under torture chambers and refined techniques of the modern Gulag, and the people have survived.  And we have records of how they survived, and we know how they were tortured and how they got through it.  Therefore, if this persecution comes here to America, we already have a beginning, something to rely on; we already have more hope that we can endure the same thing which they endured.

Finally, the entire outlook of Orthodox Christianity is a positive one. Even in the earliest times, when the whole Roman world was against the Church and simply hunted out Christians from the catacombs and took them to torture and death.  And Christians went to their death singing.

Of course, today, we have more than ever before the experience of all the past centuries of Orthodox saints, Holy Fathers, martyrs, ascetics: all those who have lived for Christ in this world from all the different lands-west, east, north and south.  This experience is ours to know, much of it is in English, and it gives answers to basically all the contemporary questions which arise.

And if we have this living contact with the saints of all ages and with those who are suffering today for Christ, especially people like Father Dimitry Dudko, the many people who are in prison camps. . . You should read the publication Orthodox America.  Each issue has articles on the people who are suffering in prison camps, and it is very encouraging to see how they do not give up in the midst of all kinds of tortures, and while sometimes they sort of give in a little bit you can understand that it is very difficult for them; still, they are really extremely courageous-this gives courage and inspiration to us.  And for us, in the condition of freedom, there is no excuse for us not to be offering our struggle to God.

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