Brother Seraphim Laments the Present Condition of the Church: A Fictalogue with St. Basil

Note: A fictalogue is a genre of writing that the author created. It is best described as a fictitious dialogue that uses the writings of another, such as a saint, and incorporates them into the discussion. The author has also written “ficterviews”, which are fictitious interviews, and are based on a similar concept.

St. Basil: Hail, Brother Seraphim!

Brother Seraphim: Ye gods! St. Basil, is that you again?

St. Basil: Indeed, it is I, brother, it is I! The Lord sent me to console you during this tribulation.

Brother Seraphim: Well met, but how? You could not possibly understand what we are going through!

St. Basil: Then explain, brother Seraphim. What troubles you so?

Brother Seraphim: We, the church militant, are struggling with problems you could not possibly conceive! The state of the church is deplorable! In the words of Jesus ben Ananias, “woe to Jerusalem…woe to Jerusalem, woe once more to the city and to the people and to the temple….and woe to me also”!

St. Basil: Brother, I understand your distress. Believe me, I can relate to your anguish more than you realize.

Brother Seraphim: Perhaps I was wrong to say you could not conceive of the state in which we are in, for you see God in the beatific vision and are aware of the condition in which we find ourselves. However, when you fought the good fight, during your earthly ministry, you could not possibly have imagined how deteriorated the state of the church could become. We have numerous profligate clergy, heresies galore, scandalous liturgies and there appears to be no end in sight.

St. Basil: You would be surprised, my good friend. I can recall a time when “theone charge which is…sure to secure severe punishment is the careful keeping of the traditions of the Fathers.”

Brother Seraphim: Indeed! It is as if the only “heresy” that is scrupulously rooted out of the church is the keeping of the deposit of faith! For example, a good friend of mine, a priest of the highest character and orthodoxy, was recently accused of sexual immorality with no proof! He was immediately restricted in his ministry and silenced, yet truly scandalous and heretical priests who have credible charges against them have been promoted and applauded!

St. Basil: Oh Brother Seraphim, I know your frustration all too well. This sounds awfully familiar to me, as I have long said: “no malefactor is doomed without proof, but bishops have been convicted on calumny alone, and are consigned to penalties on charges wholly unsupported by evidence. Some have not even known who has accused them, nor been brought before any tribunal, nor even been falsely accused at all. They have been apprehended with violence late at night, have been exiled to distant places, and, through the hardships of these remote wastes, have been given over to death.”

Brother Seraphim: Then your words are very apropos to today, because that describes well what we endure. However, dear brother, I remain distressed! Laity come to my cell daily expressing despair and anguish over the way they are treated. It seems as if they are often a flock without a shepherd. It is no exaggeration to say the shepherds appear to be more interested in the affairs of non-Christians than their very own flock. In so many cases they tend to pander to the needs of those who revile the name of Christ over those who bow their heads reverently at the very saying of His precious name.

St. Basil: This is true as I have seen it with my own eyes. I can testify that “the laity groan; tears are falling without ceasing in public and in private; all are mutually lamenting their woes. No one’s heart is so hard as to lose a father, and bear the bereavement meekly. There is a sound of them that mourn in the city — a sound in the fields, in the roads, in the deserts….joy and spiritual gladness are taken away.”

Brother Seraphim: Yes, exactly! It is quite a dreadful state. Surely, it is one to mourn rather than applaud as a “new Pentecost”! Our liturgies are deplorable, for example! We will provide irreverent and scandalous worship for days without end but the few parishes that worship God solemnly are targeted with an incredible efficiency and closed without any explanation!

St. Basil: I’ve witnessed these things and agree that what you say is true. I can firmly say “our feasts are turned into mourning. (Amos 8:10) Our houses of prayer are shut. The altars of the spiritual service are lying idle. Christians no longer assemble together; teachers no longer preside. The doctrines of salvation are no longer taught. We have no more solemn assemblies, no more evening hymns, no more of that blessed joy of souls which arises in the souls of all that believe in the Lord at communions, and the imparting of spiritual boons. We may well say, neither is there at this time prince, or prophet, or reader, or offering, or incense, or place to sacrifice before you, and to find mercy.

Brother Seraphim: Truly you understand, oh dear saint! However, why do so many others turn a blind eye to our state of agony? Why do so many slumber with a numb disposition of apathy? Why do they not hear our cries and join us with our efforts to purify the body from the dross with which it has been stained?

St. Basil: My prayer is that they awaken from their slumber. My desire is that they “grieve with us, all you who love the brethren, at the shutting of the mouths of our men of true religion, and at the opening of the bold and blasphemous lips of all that utter unrighteousness against God. The pillars and foundation of the truth are scattered abroad. We, whose insignificance has allowed of our being overlooked, are deprived of our right of free speech. Join the struggle, for the people’s sake. Do not think only of your being yourselves moored in a safe haven, where the grace of God gives you shelter from the tempest of the winds of wickedness. Reach out a helping hand to the Churches that are being buffeted by the storm, lest, if they be abandoned, they suffer complete shipwreck of the faith. Lament for us, in that the Only-begotten is being blasphemed, and there is none to offer contradiction.”

Brother Seraphim: Well said, holy father! It brings comfort knowing that you, and the rest of the saints, are interceding for us with your prayers. As you have prayed, may it be so, that the sleeping faithful hear our prayers and take up their swords along with us in this good fight against the enemies of God!

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