One has only to go into a church of one of the modernist Orthodox jurisdictions in this country to see some of the results of this worldly spirit: pews, often organs, streamlined and sometimes dramatized services, various modern gimmicks for making money; and very often the chief emphasis is placed on ethnic rather than spiritual values — including the newest ethnic emphasis, Americanism.
The churches of our Russian Church Outside of Russia are usually quite different, with no pews or organs, and a more old-worldly kind of piety; and there has been a noticeable revival of traditional church iconography and other church arts. The traditional Orthodox influence is visible even in such external things as the way our clergy dress and the beards which almost all of our clergy have. Just a few decades ago almost no Orthodox clergy in America had beards or wore ryassas on the street; and while this is something outward, it is still a reflection of a traditional mentality which has had many inward, spiritual results also. A few of the more conservative priests in other jurisdictions have now begun to return to more traditional Orthodox ways, but if so, it is largely under the influence of our Church, and a number of these priests have told us that they look to our Russian Church Outside of Russia as a standard and inspiration of genuine Orthodoxy. However, the object of this talk is to go a little deeper than these externals and to see where our Orthodoxy is today in America, and especially what we ourselves can do to make ourselves more fervent, more Orthodox, more in the spirit of St. Herman, who for all time has set the “tone” for Orthodoxy in America.
To do this, we must first of all recognize the chief enemy facing us: it is, of course, the devil, who wants to knock us off the path of salvation; and the chief means he uses in our times to do this is the spirit of worldliness. This is what has weakened and watered down Orthodoxy in America — and not just in the other jurisdictions. The spirit of worldliness is in the air we breathe, and we cannot escape it. You cannot watch television, you cannot go to a supermarket, you cannot walk in the streets of any city in America — without being bombarded by this spirit. In supermarkets and other large stores they even play lighthearted, senseless music in order to catch you in this spirit and make sure that you don’t think or feel in an otherworldly way. Our Church and everyone in it is attacked by this spirit, and we can’t escape it by isolating ourselves in a ghetto or in a small town; the outside influences can be lessened, perhaps, in such ways, but if we are not fighting an inward spiritual battle against worldliness, we will still be conquered by it without fail.
And so the chief question regarding the future of our Orthodoxy in America — and in the whole world, for that matter — is: how do we remain orthodox and develop our orthodoxy against the spirit of worldliness that attacks us on all sides? In order to answer this question we have to ask first another question that might be a little surprising: what is Orthodoxy? But this question is basic; if we aren’t sure just what Orthodoxy is, we won’t know what we’re trying to preserve and develop against the spirit of worldliness. ~Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose) of Platina , Dec. 12/25 1979 at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, N.Y.
Though offered 26 years ago, Fr. Seraphim’s observations and exhortations are just as meaningful and important today.