To die alone

Once you entered marriage or monasticism, that Sacrament becomes your personal cross. Like any other cross it will kill you, but that is not something to run away from, but something to embrace. That is the whole point of carrying a cross, that you die with Christ, so you may be resurrected with Christ. When one enters a Sacrament, one changes for ever. Sacraments change us, they alter our spiritual being. We are no longer the persons we were before entering the Sacrament.

It is a horrid temptation to look back and imagine that you could have made ‘better’ choices. One can waste one’s whole life reassessing one’s choices. One can waste one’s whole life ‘trying out’ one cross after the other, carrying each for a while before dropping it to try another. By the end, none of these crosses will become your own and none will kill you, because you have thrown them too soon. You have valued your earthly life too much, and you have managed to save it from all the crosses that may have crushed you. You have succeeded not to lose your life and soul for Christ – but is that really a victory?

Should a seed be thrown in the earth and not rot, it remains alone and will never bring fruition. It will never lose its ‘self’, but it will lose its potential – always a seed, never a flower, never a fruit. It seems to me that most of us today are like that; most of us ‘succeed’ to protect our lives from the crosses around us, and most of us die without ever bringing forth the spiritual flowers and the fruit we carry within ourselves. We may save these earthly identities, but we risk losing our real Selves; we may save our life on Earth, but we risk losing our Life in Christ.

Without entering death, one will never reach the Resurrection. And what is a Christian without the hope of Resurrection? Death by Cross is the only Gate to the Resurrection. One must first enter this gate to get to the Resurrection.

Lift up your cross – be it marriage, be it monasticism – and follow Christ every day. In our patience, we shall be saved.

34 Responses

  • Father, it is always a blessing to read what you have to say. Is there anyone who has written about unmarried (single) Orthodox life as a cross that you could recommend for reading?

    • Dear Gregory, thank you for your kind words. I’m afraid I cannot really think of anyone I could recommend. I’ll ask the fathers in my monastery in Bucovine; if there is anyone, they will know. To be frank, I don’t think there is much available because, although living alone is absolutely all right, the Fathers try to discourage this option, because they deem it very dangerous. Most Fathers would recommend either marriage or monasticism, because the long tradition of the Church has shown that facing the world alone (spiritually speaking) is simply too much of a risk. And one can take a chance with anything, except one’s salvation.

      I’ll let you know if I find out anything.

      • Thank you Father. I think that for our times this may be a subject very necessary to ponder as there are many in the Church who like myself find their situation in life with a serious prospect either for marriage or monasticism maybe for many years to come. I can hope to marry, I can hope to enter a monastery but if neither is possible due to personal environment and or circumstance therein lies a cross of crosses as the the danger as you rightly put it increases. Many in my country are converts and often enter the Church utterly alone. Churches are few and so are monasteries. The convert often faces definite separation from family. Church communities are often small as well leaving one’s pool of marriage possibilities extremely limited. The same goes for monasteries. Thank you for all your efforts Father!

        • Dear Gregory, I don’t want to start a conversation on this topic, and I most certainly do not wish to offend anyone, but I honestly see no reason for you to limit your ‘pool of marriage’ (it sounds so horrid) to the Orthodox communities. I have never understood this – Orthodoxy is not a sect, a group of people who only interact with their own ‘kind’. Orthodoxy is a way of life, a way to sanctification, not a group or institution – you can be a saint if you marry a non-Orthodox person, too; our ‘kind’ is the whole humankind.

          • Thank you Father, well “pool” is my spiritual Father’s term. Be that as it may I understand and appreciate encouragement and I thank you

          • Father, thank you for this comment. It is just what I needed at this moment. I will keep you and the monastery in my prayers.

      • I agree Father. This is exactly why I pray that there will be monastic options for middle-aged people, such as myself, who are widowed or who have been abandoned by a spouse (my situation). It is terribly difficult to live in the world alone and “too much of a risk” for one’s salvation, as you stated. I pray that church leaders will make some type of monastic or community living options available for my situation and I wonder how many more like me there are in the world who long for monastic life but find the doors closed…

        • Hello Alexandra, I hope you don’t mind a reply from me. All can say is that I agree with you. A societal collapse is occurring especially in the West and (if our circumstance permits) a monastic path I feel is certainly “safer” in these times.

          • No, its great! Thank you! If the choice is between marriage and monasticism then I know for sure that I am destined for monasticism. My husband left me, and I will never marry someone else. In the time he has been gone my relationship with God has gotten so strong and it is the most important thing in my life. So, the choice has been made. Now, what monastery will take me? I need the support of other strugglers on the ascetic path….

          • Dear Alexandra, dear Gregory, I’m travelling all day today & tomorrow and this is actually an important question, I’d rather not hurry into answering it. It deserves prayer and proper thinking. Things are not as simple as they seem; I’ll definitely think about it and send you an answer. Thank you both for your comments and for your support. May God bless us all.

    • Thank you for your post in the first place father, but thank you also for your question Gregory…!

      • Thank you Maria. I’ve only been Orthodox since 2009 but have never heard of a retreat or a book or even a homily that addresses this issue. My intention is not to change the original subject of the post please forgive me.

        • Dear Gregory, there is nothing to apologise; I’m sure Maria agrees with me. I’m aware from the people I confess how much of a challenge living alone in the world can be. Then there’s also the whole choir of the Fathers confirming that, if possible, one should enter either monasticism or marriage – again, not because living alone cannot lead to salvation, but because it is a very tricky and dangerous path.

          I shall pray and think about this, and I hope to get back to this in one of the future AFR podcasts.

          • Thank you so much Father. I pray God bless your endeavor on Mull. Your posts mean a lot to me. I look forward to reading them!

    • Glory be to God. I am sorry I am not a bit more consistent with these posts; I try to, but I just cannot plan them. Please pray for me and the monastery.

    • Glory be to God. Thank you for your comment. Please pray for me and the monastery – these are very slow and difficult months for us.

  • Thank you so much for this Father. I was deeply touched by these words…and convicted. Glory to God.

    • Glory be to God. In some way, this is just a side comment to the latest Ancient Faith Radio podcast, on Marriage and Monasticism. Thank you for your kind comment.

  • inspiring as ever father, and a well needed reminder to keep taking up the Cross received at baptism even while seeking whether marriage or Monasticism is our path.

    Though we also do well to imitate Simon of Cyrene in helping others with their cross while not forsaking our own.

    • Well, sometimes, dear Phoebe, the cross of those around us becomes our own. Our crosses are intertwined – we carry the cross of those around us; and they carry ours. That’s why the Fathers say that Christ is the only One who carried His cross alone. We all have each other and Christ Himself to lift up and carry our crosses.

  • I’m praying for you and All Celtic Saints Monastery, dearest Father Seraphim. The truth laid bare is such a gift. To live in sobriety (reality) is such a battle in this world where everything is candy coated and the temptations to seek a life of “ease and happiness” are all around us. Please continue to speak to us and pray for us in a way that truly will “change our blood”.

    • Dear Juliana, thank you for your prayers. ‘Ease and happiness’ are not excluded from the life of a true Christian; we are called to rejoice, we are called to love and hope and trust, which are all wonderful things. Please continue to pray for us, and do tell people around you about the monastery. We need everyone’s support to make this happen.

  • Greetings Father Seraphim from Sydney. I heard your talk on Ancient Faith radio and was moved. I will keep you and your monastery in my prayers.

    • Thank you, dear Jana. As I’ve asked Juliana (see above), please talk to people in your parish about the monastery and do ask them to support us if they can. I cannot do this alone, I need you all to become our ambassadors to the communities around you. If we all did the minimum in our power, the great things beyond our power would also become possible. Please continue to pray, as well; prayer can do wonderful things.

  • Alexandra, of all the many facets related to a monastic commitment, Ive never heard of age being one of them. I’m in no way advising you one way or the other, of course, but many people enter the monastery after divorce, death, or even on mutual agreement between living spouses. Age is a negligible factor.

    • Dear Anon, that is not entirely true. There are many exceptions, of course, and the history of the Church has many examples of people joining monasteries later in their lives. However, things are more complex than that, and age is definitely one of the things that is taken into account when one wants to join a monastic community. I can totally understand Alexandra’s worries, and I can see how one would indeed find it difficult to be accepted in a monastery after a certain age.

      I’ll try to put some order into my thoughts, and write something about this soon. In the meantime, please pray for me and the monastery; I’m getting tired again, and I cannot afford to.

  • Dear in Christ, Father Abbot,

    In a pop-culture world drowning in milk, it’s really nourishing to have some meat to chew on.

    The business of being prepared to live the life God has prepared for us, and then being formed by Him to live it (more or less, in my case mostly less) as He would have us do, is exciting, terrifying, awful and
    wonderful, all at the same time. That’s because He gives us the unspeakable privilege of walking with Him
    as he leads us through it–and as C.S. Lewis pointed out, He is not a tame Lion.

    I always look forward to reading your reflections, Father. Thank you for sharing them.

    with you in Christ,

    Fr. James +

    • Dear Fr James, please keep me and the monastery in your prayers. I need your help, and I need everyone’s help to turn this monastery into a reality – as I’ve told Jana in a previous comment, I need all of us to do the small sacrifice within our power, so that God can achieve through us what is beyond our power. In many ways, I am living a blackmail: God forces me to keep doing these things (the Ancient Faith podcasts, this blog, the weekly visits to new parishes, talks and conferences etc) so that one day He may give me the peace and quiet I have prayed for. It’s quite a tough bargain, but who dares complain?… All I can do is ask you to help me finish this work as soon as possible.

      • Father Abbot–

        Mull, Iona, Lindisfarne, Llantwit Major, Bangor, and of course Glastonbury, where it all started,
        in the West–are names that ring down through the ages, whose very mention still makes the hair rise on the back of the neck. These are some of the holiest places in the world.

        The impact on our beleaguered world, should these places be revived, is incalculable. I can
        already see fruit from your own work to re-ignite Mull, even at this beginning stage!

        We certainly are praying for you, Father–at every Liturgy and every Divine Office. The Lord is bringing revival, and the sum of what He has you doing in this very hallowed place far exceeds
        the number of its parts.

        Many years!

        Fr. James+

        Fr. James+

  • Father,

    Pure wisdom. Thank you.

    You continue to be in our prayers here in Marin County, CA., USA. The Lord Bless…

    • I place a lot of trust in the prayers of the wonderful people I’ve met while in the US, dear father. I know that the only reason I still have the strength to keep going is the silent prayer of this small army of great people.

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