As the 100th anniversary of the birth of Protopriest Seraphim Slobodskoy approaches, the publishing arm of the Moscow Patriarchate is coming out with a new edition of his famous book Zakon Bozhii (“Law of God”). This edition of 20,000 copies has the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia. A special website devote to this book has been launched: www.slobodskoi.rop.ru.
The Editor-in-Chief of the publishing arm of the Moscow Patriarchate, Protopriest Vladimir Siloviev, talks about the book:
What is special about this book?
Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Protopriest Seraphim Slobodskoy, renowned in the Russian Orthodox Church for his book Law of God. This book is today the standard textbook for those who are studying the basics of Orthodox Christianity.
Why is a book written a half a century ago so popular today?
The book outlines Orthodox teaching of the faith. Without a doubt, it has become outdated in some ways, but not in its general content. Fr Seraphim’s wealth of experience with children in America in the mid-1960’s has proven universally applicable not only for children, but adults as well.
There are people who own the rights to this book, specifically, the son of Fr Seraphim. What sort of arrangements did you make with him?
The publishing arm of the Moscow Patriarchate, because of its prestige and due to general Christian principles, cannot violate the right to publish that belongs to the copyright owner. For this reason, in 2007, we contacted Fr Seraphim’s son and reached an agreement with him that makes us the owner of the exclusive rights to publish and distribute this book in Russia and the nations of the CIS.
There have been many editions of the Law of God printed by other publishers in Russia, including non-Orthodox publishers. What is your attitude towards these publications?
Of course, they played a role in preaching Orthodoxy, but they all had one substantial flaw: not one of the dozen or so publishers bothered to contact the owner of the copyright for permission. All of these are, therefore, “counterfeit.” We consider the right to publish a book very important and a matter of principle, especially since copyright laws are protected not only in Russia but throughout the world, including America. Once again, our Christian conscience would not allow us to violate the rights of others, no matter how noble the cause may seem. For this reason we assumed the obligation to protect the author’s rights of publishing Fr Seraphim’s Law of God in Russia.
The Copyright for the Law of God
The copyright to the Law of God belongs to Fr Seraphim’s, son, Alexei Seraphimovich Slobodskoy. The traditional publisher of this book, Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY, confirmed this right and gave its legal permission for the distribution of the book in Russia and the CIS. Archimandrite Luke, the Abbot of the monastery, wrote in a letter:
“Holy Trinity Monastery confirms that the right to publish the Law of God belongs to you, Alexei Seraphimovich Slobodskoy, the son and heir of Protopriest Seraphim Slobodskoy, the author of the book. Our brethren share my support for your view that the textbook Law of God must continue to be published in Russia for Orthodox Christians seeking spiritual guidance. Of course, it is desirable that this book be published legally, so we are happy to recognize your right to this book and support you in your desire to protect the work of your father, the author.”
The publishing arm of the Moscow Patriarchate owns the exclusive rights to the publication of both the physical book and its electronic form on the territory of Russia and the CIS. As an institution of the Russian Orthodox Church, the publishing arm received this right from Alexei Slobodskoy in 2007, having signed a license with him.
Our partner in this publication is the renowned law firm Tulubiev, Osipov and Partners, specialists in protecting author’s rights. The famous lawyer Irina Tulubieva heads this group; she is the director of the All-Russian Organization of Intellectual Property.
The publishing arm of the Moscow Patriarchate is open to proposals on the distribution of the Law of God.
The Law of God by Protopriest Seraphim Slobodskoy
Not one textbook on the law of God has ever been as popular as the textbook by Fr Seraphim. Written in 1957 for Russian émigrés in America, it has been published several times in Russian and English and has been the primary textbook for church schools, for both children and adults. At the time, this publication was the most modern work of its kind in terms of language, style and form. Fr Seraphim laid down the fundamentals of Orthodox teaching, the history of the creation of the world and Biblical history, bringing supporting evidence from the science of the time. The author himself taught children and brought his pedagogical skills to the pages of his book, which can be seen in the form the book takes: at the end of each section are questions for discussion.
Of course, there are sections of the book that are outdated, because there have been new scientific findings on the origin of the universe, and new historical documents and artifacts have been discovered since the time of the book’s writing. Still, Fr Seraphim’s textbook is today the only one that covers all the aspects of Orthodox teaching and church life.
In order that every person who strives towards God, who remembers his Christian roots and who wishes to understand the spiritual history of his earthly Fatherland could easily find the foundations of his spiritual heritage, the Moscow Patriarchate is issuing Fr Seraphim’s book, updated to reflect contemporary traditions in divine services.
Despite having been written a half a century ago, the Law of God has retained its significance today, because it covers the most important and eternal thing—God, what came before us and what will happen after we end our earthly wandering, acquire the Kingdom of Heaven, prepared for us before the creation of the world.
We hope that this edition of the Law of God will be a firm staff for the reader seeking to grow in God, an important basis for learning the history of the Old and New Testaments, the foundations of the faith and divine services of the Russian Orthodox Church, and that it will help the reader acquire consolation and grace.
Protopriest Seraphim Slobodskoy
Fr Seraphim Slobodskoy was born in 1912 near Penza, Russia, to the family of the rector of a village church, who was repressed at the end of the 1930’s. The future pastor grew up close to the church. After finishing middle school, he received training in art and worked as an artist in Moscow. During World War II, he fought in a lishentsy battalion [formed of soldiers deprived of the right to vote in the Soviet Union, being deemed “enemies of the people”], was captured by the Germans and found himself in Munich after the war.
In 1951, Seraphim was ordained to the priesthood and soon became the second priest at Holy Father’s Church in New York City. A short time later, he was transferred to Holy Virgin Protection Church in Nyack, NY.
During the war, Seraphim Alexeevich had the idea of building a church should God allow him to survive . Protection Church, which the batiushka built in Nyack, was the manifestation of this dream. Fr Seraphim labored tirelessly over its construction, not only as an administrator but as a common laborer, laying cement blocks, hauling wheelbarrows, etc.
Fr Seraphim rarely went on vacation and spent his free time teaching children, and was the spiritual father of a Russian Orthodox summer camp.
Witnessing the spiritual starvation of the post-war Russian emigration, especially among its younger generation, many of whom had grown up in the Soviet regime, deprived of any religious education, Fr Seraphim took upon himself the task of writing a textbook on the Law of God. Having little free time, Fr Seraphim wrote at night. The hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia had a high opinion of his efforts, for which he was immediately awarded the kamilavka and gold cross. Today his book is renowned not only in the emigration but in Russia.
His tireless labors affected Fr Seraphim’s health, and on November 5, 1971, he departed into eternity. Archbishop Averky (Taushev, +1976), despite being gravely ill himself, forced himself to personally escort the priest into eternity by conducting the funeral services. The service, held in Holy Virgin Protection Church, lasted four hours, and in addition to Vladyka Averky, 18 priests served.