Fr. Seraphim Rose and the call for a North American Thebaid
Two brief passages from Fr. Seraphim’s monastic life and writings make clear how he longed for an American Thebaid to flourish in his homeland, as it had in Orthodox lands in preceding centuries:
As at the beginning of his monastic path he had drawn inspiration from the phenomenon of desert-dwelling in northern Russia, so now was he to do so from an identical phenomenon in the land of his forefathers. The flight of God-seeking men and women into the Jura Mountains of ancient Gaul was in fact an exact precursor of the movement that began in Russia almost a millennium later. “The Jura monasteries,” wrote Fr. Seraphim in 1976 to a young monastic aspirant, “are especially interesting to us because they are a forested desert, very close to the spirit of the Northern Thebaid (or to the American Thebaid that could be if there were souls to match the mountains!).”
Excerpt From: Hieromonk Damascene. “Father Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works.” iBooks edition, p. 1963.
The second excerpt comes from the Epilogue Fr. Seraphim wrote for The Northern Thebaid itself, and shows how his monastic inspiration was always connected with the real examples of earlier desert-dwelling men and women who serve as spiritual trailblazers, showing us the way:
…Still the voice of the Northern Thebaid calls us—not, it may be, to go to the desert, but at least to keep alive the fragrance of the desert in our hearts: to dwell in mind and heart with these angel-like men and women and have them as our truest friends, conversing with them in prayer; to be always aloof from the attachments and passions of this life, even when they center about some institution or leader of the church organization; to be first of all a citizen of the Heavenly Jerusalem, the City on high towards which all our Christian labors are directed, and only secondarily a member of this world below which perishes.
Epilogue to The Northern Thebaid, St Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, Platina, CA, 1975.
Fr. Seraphim Rose strived to live as closely as he could to the examples of the desert strugglers of the Russian Northern Thebaid, of 5th century Gaul, and of the Egyptian Thebaid, and to convey that life to Orthodox strugglers of today. The anonymous author of the beautiful Akathist to Our Holy Father Seraphim of Platina focuses on the monastic call in the Seventh Kontakion and Oikos:
Loving the paradise of God before this passing earth, you sought the monastic habit to train your soul to seek the higher things. Having sat at the Lord’s feet listening to his words, you took the better part. And we, chasing after many things, long to say with you to the Lord: Alleluia!
Having sought to save your soul as a humble monk you are exalted beyond passion’s reach. And we, plundered by enemies and passions, beseech your prayers by such praises as these:
Rejoice, you who sought to provide monastic life to perishing modern man!
Rejoice, you who led the call for an American Thebaid!
Rejoice, lover of the desert dwellers of Egypt!
Rejoice, creator of a Mount Athos in your heart!
Rejoice, follower of St. John the Forerunner crying out to the world from the wilderness!
Rejoice, veneration of the New Martyrs, forerunners of the monastics of the end times!
Rejoice, Holy Father Blessed Seraphim, radiant lamp of Christ illuminating the last times!