The above warning was given to me when I first met Orthodoxy in 1986. Today [2009] it is even more perilous, even more difficult to find the Royal Path. For one thing there is a far greater abundance of misinformation. And many materials are missing, and other materials are being rapidly rewritten. For another thing there are fewer than ever guides remaining on the Royal Path, especially who speak English. Hopefully this website will be a place where Newcomers to the Faith can keep at least one foot on solid ground, while they are "exploring."

blog owner: Joanna Higginbotham


jurisdiction: ROCA under Vladyka Agafangel

who did not submit to the RocorMP union in 2007


03 September 2015

So, you want to be Orthodox?

Four years after encountering Orthodoxy, Craig Young, along with his wife Susan, decided they wanted to be Orthodox.  They had both been in the Roman Catholic church.  The year was 1970 and they were both in their mid-20s.  That year they attended Liturgy at the cathedral in San Francisco, and afterwards approached Archbishop Anthony and told him that they wanted to be Orthodox.   The Archbishop called for Fr. Seraphim (with Fr. Herman), who took the Youngs over to a bench and sat them down.  Craig Young reported later:

"The two men rained a barrage of questions on us:
'So, why do you want to be Orthodox?  Do you know what that means?  What's the difference between Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism?  Why do you want to join our Russian Church Abroad instead of some other jurisdiction?  Don't you know we are a small, persecuted Church living in exile?  Everybody hates us and makes fun of us.  Why do you want to join a Church like this?  Do you understand what really happens in the Divine Liturgy?'

Frankly, it was daunting.  Somehow we had thought we would be immediately welcomed with open arms, as though the Church had been waiting for us all these centuries; instead we were being given the third degree!" 

Letters p. 5

24 September 2014

About Fr. Seraphim by nun Theadelphi

This is the Introduction written by a nun for the book Letters by Fr. Seraphim.  She sees Fr. Seraphim from the perspective of a fellow-monastic – she sees him first as a monk.  She understands the inner life and struggle of monasticism, and recognizes Fr. Seraphim as one who truly took the yoke on his shoulders.

related post:  Book Review of Letters by Fr. Seraphim


With the publication of this volume of letters written from 1970 to 1982 by the late Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose) to Fr. Alexey Young, the reader is given a partial glimpse into a relationship between a spiritual father and son, as well as a record of the growth of a working partnership between two men actively involved in English-language missionary work in the Orthodox Church.

There would be no point in publishing these letters were they no more than a remembrance of times past, no more than the memento of a relationship that, however significant to those involved, has little to say to a reader who has never met either of these men.  In fact, these letters may help us discern and apply a number of important principles of the Orthodox Christian way of life.  They also show us that Orthodox missionary work is the fruit, not of abstract theorizing, but of practical, applied spiritual struggle.  Ranging across more than a decade, covering a wide variety of topics, these letters provide a record of Fr. Seraphim’s carefully thought-out approach to helping a new convert to Orthodoxy move from the first “baby steps” of his new life in Christ, through the development of a growing faith and maturity, toward greater stability of soul and a desire to share the treasures of the Faith with others.

There is a timely relevance to these letters, almost as though they had been written today.  Although Fr. Seraphim addresses specific issues and events occurring in Church life twenty and more years ago, he does so in a way that provides the reader with a serene and mature viewpoint — a truly Christian way of evaluating people and events from the objective standpoint of history and spiritual principles rather than the gossipy and passionate approach so often found in Church circles.  This invaluable quality makes his letters as instructive today as they were when they were written.

Born Eugene Rose in 1934 and raised in a Protestant family, Fr. Seraphim was from his youth intellectually gifted and philosophically inclined.  By the time he reached college, the young Eugene Rose had rejected the Christianity he had seen in his childhood, turning instead to science and philosophy.  During his student years, like many young people, he continued to search for the meaning of life — a search pursued with passion and even torment of soul.  His longing to know why we are born led him along many paths, including several painful dead ends: scientific rationalism, Chinese classicism, Zen Buddhism, nihilism, atheism, aestheticism, hedonism. 

After finishing his undergraduate degree, he enrolled as a graduate student in the department of Oriental Languages at the University of California/Berkeley, where he submitted his master’s thesis in 1961. 

During the early 1960s, he began attending Russian Orthodox church services and soon realized he was finally within reach of the spiritual harbor he had almost despaired of ever finding.  His conversion to Christ and to Orthodoxy was complete and unstinting.  The sincerity of his repentance was matched only by the strength of his determination to submit his whole being to the will of God and the mind of the Church.

Thus began a remarkable living demonstration of the power of divine grace in human life.  The intellectual pride and intolerance, the anger and impatience, the emotional and psychological complicatedness that so often go hand-in-hand with such gifts as the young Eugene Rose displayed, were gradually corrected, healed, eased.  The Mother of God, to whom he developed a great devotion, helped strengthen his repentant spirit and encouraged his struggle.  When ill shortly after his conversion, he prayed ardently to her to grant him time to serve God.  No one who looks upon the remarkable body of work he left behind at his death can doubt that she heard his prayer.

While still a new convert, Eugene enrolled in the theological classes offered in San Francisco by Saint John Maximovitch.  As a reader at the cathedral, his piety was formed and developed by the cycle of Divine services into which he plunged his heart, mind, and soul, and he had ample opportunity to learn from the example and presence of Saint John himself, before the latter’s repose in 1966.  By 1966, Eugene was selling Orthodox books and icons from a small shop near the cathedral.  He and Gleb Podmoshensky (later named Fr. Herman in monastic tonsure), who were the first members of the Brotherhood of St. Herman, had begun an English-language missionary magazine, The Orthodox Word, making available lives of saints, patristic texts, and commentary on contemporary matters.  Their desire to move out of San Francisco to live a quiet “desert” life of prayer and labor was being realized as the correspondence published in this volume begins.

Once settled in the remote forests of northern California, near the small hamlet of Platina, Fr. Seraphim lived an intense life of prayer that nourished his work of translating and writing — work carried out amid much other labor.  Living with no electricity, running water, or telephones, even the simplest tasks required much time and effort, yet the very roughness of such a life lent a down-to-earth immediacy to all of his daily experiences.

Although the brothers had moved out of the city in search of quiet and solitude, over time they found themselves in the public eye to a degree they had neither anticipated not desired.  After Fr. Herman and Fr. Seraphim were ordained to the priesthood, they naturally became more visible than ever.  More people came to visit, more demands were made on their time, and Fr. Seraphim found himself increasingly involved in Church life and events outside his longed-for desert stillness.  From then until his death in 1982, his writing and translating work was conducted amid growing duties within the monastery and the English-language missions that sprang up around it, and under increasing pressure from some unhealthy factions within Church life in America.

Fr. Seraphim was not, by any stretch of imagination, a renegade who thought himself above the ties, realities, and obligations of church life.  He was from his conversion to his death a faithful son of the Russian Church Abroad.  While he was always receptive to all Orthodox Christians of good will and sincere heart, he was never a fanatic of any sort, and he found fanaticism in others sad and wearisome.  His own path was firmly linked to that of his first preceptors in the Faith, among them Saint John Maximovitch, Schema-Abbess Ariadna (of the Vladimir Mother of God Convent in San Francisco), and others.  Like Saint John, Fr. Seraphim was truly Orthodox and truly catholic, loving all that was best in each national Church, without making up some hodgepodge to suit his own taste. 

Obedient to lawful Church authority in the persons of his teachers in the Faith and his archpastors (including not least of all his immediate diocesan hierarch, the late Archbishop Anthony of San Francisco), Fr. Seraphim was always opposed to the creation of any factional or party spirit in church life.  He was keenly aware of the myriad dangers from the right and the left that surround the Christian struggler in our present age of spiritual enfeeblement and confusion, and constantly reminded others to keep to a middle or “royal” path in all things, trying always to keep solely to the line marked out by older, wiser guides, emphasizing the need for patience, balance, sobriety, humility, steadfastness, and deference to the counsel of trusted advisors.

During the first years of his Orthodox life, Fr. Seraphim had ample opportunity to see what it means wholly to subject oneself to Christ.  In Saint John Maximovitch he saw someone of whom it could truly be said that he no longer lived, but Christ lived in him.  In Abbess Ariadna, Archbishop Averky (of Holy Trinity Monastery), Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky, and others, he saw men and women who had truly become so imbued with a living spiritual tradition that it affected all they did and were.  He saw clearly that one who desires to walk the path of Christ cannot do so in company with rebellion, self-will, self-opinion, factionalism, condemnation of others, or any other impassioned notion to which the soul clings more tenaciously than to Christ.  His yardstick in such matters was a simple one: any impulse or action which feeds a spirit of calculation and cold-heartedness, and one‘s desire to be right, while weakening the feeling of self-reproach and repentance, is wrong, no matter how right it may appear logically.

Indeed, during the last years of Fr. Seraphim’s life, temptations from the right abounded in church life, so that he began to speak of the “correctness disease,” which attacked many people, making them [imagine themselves to be] instant experts in theology, ecclesiology, canon law, and other exalted matters.

Long before others, Fr. Seraphim identified a profoundly dangerous problem, which he called “the great conflict of our times—the Orthodoxy of the head vs. the Orthodoxy of the heart.”  He never denied the existence of serious issues in contemporary church life, but he felt, with growing alarm, that something was wrong in many “answers” to these problems, as we see in these Letters.

At the same time, “zeal without knowledge" was not the only pitfall facing Orthodoxy in America.  Orthodox Christianity was then, as it remains now, a numerically small presence in American life, surrounded by other faiths and philosophies often either indifferent or actively hostile to traditional Orthodoxy.  The Orthodox immigrants who came to America in the first half of the twentieth century were mostly poor villagers from Russia, Eastern Europe, and Greece, eager to fit as quickly as possible into their new home.  Few of them were capable of explaining their faith to their American neighbors; fewer still realized that their desire to fit in to American culture could pose grave spiritual dangers.  The sense of Orthodox tradition was eroding.

During Fr. Seraphim’s lifetime, this loss of the “savor of Orthodoxy” inevitably affected much of church life here, and he rightly warned of this dangerous watering — down of the priceless inheritance of Orthodox faith.  In church architecture, pews, organs, and choir-robes replaced the traditional atmosphere of Orthodox worship with a hybrid of Catholic and Protestant fashions.  In seminary studies, fashionable “higher criticism” and liturgical innovation replaced the “outmoded” methods of traditional Orthodox seminary training, as professors and students caught up to trends already becoming passe in heterodox theology.  Clerical attire common in the Old World was deemed unsuitable for the American scene, and was replaced by almost-beardless priests wearing Roman collars.  Among many of the hierarchs and clergy, there existed an overtly anti-monastic spirit.  The list could go on.  These temptations from the left — from the spirit of the world and the Prince of this world — proliferated along with those from the right — of false zeal and correctness.

All of these factors together produced an often-unstable church life, which was prone to easy infection by passing fashions of heterodox spirituality, theology and sociology, and not readily inclined to find its remedy in the monastic, ascetic, patristic ethos that had for generations anchored Orthodox life in the Old World.

Therefore, in these letters, as in his other writings, Fr. Seraphim not only warns against “zeal without knowledge.”  He also speaks, sometimes quite sharply, against the false liberalism that is equally dangerous to the struggle for salvation. 

One cannot deny that the years since Fr. Seraphim’s death have seen these tendencies toward polarization, fragmentation, and factionalism get worse, not better, both here and abroad.  When reading these letters we are sobered and warned.

Throughout these letters, Fr. Seraphim emphasizes several themes he thought essential for anyone learning to live in Christ and that are certainly preliminary to bearing any fruit for Christ.  These are also the indispensable hallmarks of the “royal path” of moderation between all extremes—spiritual, personal, or historical.

He often speaks of the need for “more heart and less head.”  Life in Christ is not an intellectual pursuit, but a deep, often painful process of repentance and renewal.  Fr. Seraphim was himself a good example of a complicated intellectual who had found in Orthodoxy the key to unlocking an ardent but often tormented heart, and uniting the powers of mind and heart to fruitful spiritual work, first on himself and then also on others.

Orthodox Christianity must be a way of life.  It is not a Sunday morning religion that we can toss into a corner as we walk out the church doors at the end of the service.  It must encompass our whole way of looking at ourselves, our brother, our world, radically affecting our daily life.

Life in Christ may often be difficult, but it is not complicated.  Humble self-reproach, attention to one’s own sins, not judging one’s neighbor, faithful participation in Divine services, regular prayer, frequent Confession and reception of Holy Communion, reading the Scriptures and spiritual books — all these small, steady labors, all part of a traditional Orthodox life, will gradually effect deep changes of heart and mind.

There are no shortcuts.  “There is no ‘instant theosis’,” he writes.  “We must have resolve.” 

Life in Christ is a process of growth and change, nourished by Divine grace and based on repentance.  We must grow into the measure of Christ and become responsible children of the Church, not only receiving but capable and willing to give.

Fr. Seraphim saw clearly the problems of contemporary man. Even more clearly he saw that the answers to those problems lie in God and that no obstacle is too great to be overcome by the mercy and grace of our loving Father in Heaven.

Prayer, ascetic labors, and experience gave Fr. Seraphim a solid faith in the Providence of God, and he never became too bogged down in passing matters.  He constantly reminded everyone that life passes quickly, that nothing worldly abides after death, and that we must always keep our chief goal in life — the Kingdom of Heaven — squarely in view.  His own life on earth was short — a mere forty-eight years — but once he gave his heart to God, he lived only for Him and worked tirelessly that others might find the same Truth Whom he had come to love.

Fr. Seraphim’s hope and prayer for all who read this book may be expressed in the words he once wrote to a tiny, unknown mission in Northern California, where a handful of people gathered daily in a homemade chapel to read the Divine services together:

May the joy of our Risen Saviour be abundantly with you on these bright and radiant days of Pascha, and may you ever preserve the grace which you have received as a free gift from Him!  Let no temptation overcome you, no darkness cloud your path, and no trial come upon you, in which you do not immediately turn to Christ our All-Merciful God, Who has trampled upon death and abolished the power of the devil.  Remain in Christ’s grace and He will guide you all to salvation.  Remember the end of your life, the never-setting Day of Christ’s Kingdom, and you will know why you are alive, and what you are striving for.

Christ is Risen!

Schema-nun Theadelphi 
H.M. of Apostle Paul

Son of ROCOR

About Fr. Seraphim

Since Fr. Seraphim's death different people have been writing about him saying he was like this or like that.  The dead can no longer speak for themselves, the survivors often project their own thinking onto the departed one.  People see what they want to see, – it is our human tendency – and they speculate: 'oh, if he were alive he would want this', or 'if he were here he would do that'.

Our task is to try our best to see Fr. Seraphim as he really was.  I submit that Fr. Alexey Young and Fr. Damascene, who have done most of the talking about Fr. Seraphim, both see Fr. Seraphim through their own perspectives.  The fact that today both of them are in world-orthodoxy shows their perspectives are limited.  The way to see Fr. Seraphim as he really was is to read what he wrote, let him speak for himself – without censoring him, without reinterpreting him, without taking anything out of context.

To understand Fr. Seraphim in regards to jurisdictions we need to trace his path from the beginning.  Fr. Seraphim started in ROCOR under the wing of St. John Maximovitch who imparted to him a deep understanding of ROCOR and a deep loyalty to ROCOR.  From the beginning of his Orthodox life, Fr. Seraphim saw everything from the perspective of a solid hardcore member of ROCOR up to when God found him worthy to be he buried in ROCOR.

He shared his experience, his path in Orthodoxy, step-by-step in his Orthodox Word magazines.  He shared what gave him spiritual strength (lives of saints, writings of Holy Fathers, services), and he shared his practical application of the Orthodox mindset to the times, history, prophesy, current events, church politics, and contemporary issues.  Fr. Seraphim left a trail that can be seen in the "Tables of Contents" of his Orthodox Word magazines:

Looking at the "Tables of Contents" as a whole, we see that Fr. Seraphim served a well-balanced palette of quality reading materials.  Nothing necessary was lacking.  Lives of different types of saints (confessors, ascetics, fools), prophesy, holy fathers, teachers, church news with commentary, synodal and hierarchal epistles, Church services.

In issue #3, May 1965, we see already Fr. Seraphim includes an English summary & explanation of the "First Statement of Metropolitan Philaret on the American Metropolia".  (American Metropolia a.k.a. OCA.)  In issue #7, January 1966, Fr. Seraphim translates from Russian, Metropolitan Philaret's "Appeal to the Ecumenical Patriarch, Athenagoras".  Included in this issue is a translation of an article by a Greek monk on the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  Many other such articles continue to be published throughout the later magazines.  For example, in issue #35, November 1970 Fr. Seraphim translates an article by a highly regarded Jordanville seminary instructor on world-orthodoxy titled, "Renovated Orthodoxy".

Following his path we see that first Fr. Seraphim examined world-orthodoxy which is a catch-all for: apostasy, renovationism, and modernity (such as the new calendar).  The phenomenon of world-orthodoxy was something outside of ROCOR.  It is inside Orthodoxy, but outside of ROCOR.  A good summary is described well enough in the chapter "Renovationism" in NoTW.

Next along Fr. Seraphim's path, in the early 1970s, he encounters the super-correct disease.  Fr. Seraphim recognized that the super-correct disease is the flip side of world-orthodoxy (renovationism).  Like 2 sides to the same coin.  World-orthodoxy and super-correct are really the same disease, but opposite manifestations of it.  Unlike world-orthodoxy which was outside of ROCOR (OCA, Antiochians, etc.), the super-correctness Fr. Seraphim encountered was inside ROCOR.  Fr. Seraphim, being a loyal son of ROCOR, seeing super-correctness inside his own jurisdiction, was more greatly disturbed by it.  Because of this there is much material against the super-correct.  Another reason more materials appear against the super-correct disease is because materials against renovationism (offensive to world-orthodoxy today) have since been suppressed by Platina.  This gives a false impression, and contributes to the false presentation of Fr. Seraphim's true teachings.

World-orthodox try to tell us that Fr. Seraphim later rejected his earlier criticisms of world-orthodoxy.  But this is not so.  Fr. Seraphim taught we must stick to the Royal Path which is above both the diseases of renovationism and super-correctness.  Over and over in many different ways he said that we must soften our hearts without weakening our stand against the apostasy of world-orthodoxy.  Fr. Seraphim did regret not giving emphasis to the necessity to include the "heart" aspect when defending the Church against renovationism, but he always remained strong against world-orthodoxy.  A person who looks carefully at what Fr. Seraphim said, truly wanting to know what he actually said, will see this.  And looking carefully we can see that Fr. Seraphim's use of the word "heart" was not a sentimental type of love, but rather a love for truth and an understanding of what the Church is – that She is the bearer and care-taker of the truth.  She is, as the Theotokos, called "Mother", who bears the person Truth.

This understanding is lacking in both world-orthodoxy and in the schisms.  They are outside the Church, so they do not experience it and only have a vague idea of the Church.

22 September 2014

Letters by Fr. Seraphim

Book Review 
by Joanna

Was Fr. Seraphim headed towards world-orthodoxy before he died?
An examination of the book Letters by Fr. Seraphim

Letters by Fr. Seraphim is a collection of letters written by Fr. Seraphim to Fr. Alexey Young during the years 1970 to 1982.   Fr. Alexey Young, in 2001, compiled the letters and published them with his added introduction and explanatory notes.  After Fr. Seraphim's death, Fr. Alexey Young had lost all sense of direction.  Somehow he got the idea that it was o.k. to join world-orthodoxy, and ended up joining the Antiochians.  He eventually returned to ROCOR, published this book, and then left again for world-orthodoxy, joining a new calendar Greek monastery in Ohio sometime before the ROCOR-MP union.  

What does that action say about Fr. Seraphim, when his spiritual son and fellow-priest joins world-orthodoxy?  World-orthodox defenders have used this action to justify their memberships in world-orthodoxy.  And they often, in their arguing of their case, point to the book, Letters by Fr. Seraphim.   Fr. Alexey's fall into world-orthodoxy needs to be contrasted and balanced out by the larger number percentage-wise of Fr. Seraphim's close associates who went to the opposite extreme and joined the super-correct groups.  One is Fr. Seraphim's godfather, Dimitri Langeron, who today is with ROCiE (Paris, Fr. Benjamin Zhoukoff).  Another is Fr. Lawrence Williams (2009†) who died as a full member of RTOC, (even so, his children had him buried by Platina).

We can not follow either of these extremes or consider them examples of what Fr. Seraphim taught.  Neither can we look to Platina for an example.  After Fr. Seraphim's death Platina left ROCOR, something Fr. Seraphim would never do.  Fr. Herman sent Fr. Damascene to the MP to be ordained to the priesthood, something Fr. Seraphim would never do.  Platina was vigante with no bishop for well over a decade before joining world-orthodoxy (never repenting, never returning to ROCOR).  Next, after Platina officially joined world-orthodoxy, they started rewriting/censoring/withholding Fr. Seraphim's materials to conceal the fact that Fr. Seraphim would surely disapprove of their course.

So what do we do?  Who do we trust?  Who do we follow?  We can still follow Fr. Seraphim.  But we have to look carefully, very carefully, at what Fr. Seraphim said and be absolutely certain we are understanding him in context.  And we can't let a world-orthodox or super-correct or other-wise confused person interpret him for us. 

For a long time I refused to read Letters by Fr. Seraphim just for this reason.  I'm not going to let somebody, not even Fr. Alexey Young, tell me that Fr. Seraphim was headed for world-orthodoxy before he died.  Apparently this is the impression given to many readers, especially those seeking to justify joining world-orthodoxy, seeking the benefits of the conveniences and fellowship offered by world-orthodoxy.  The conclusion made by these readers of Letters by Fr. Seraphim is that Fr. Seraphim started out as a hard-hearted super-correct, but then as he grew in the Faith his heart softened causing him to accept world-orthodoxy.  

Yes, Fr. Seraphim's heart did soften.  The Church promises to soften the hearts of those who love Her.  But this "softening" was not towards world-orthodoxy, but rather towards the sheep who were stuck in it.  As his love for Orthodox people (and particularly converts as he) deepened, so did his sorrow over their plight.

Isn't this how saints are born (spiritually)?  Out of love they grieve over the world, over people's sins and separation from God and His Church.  This heart-felt sorrow causes them to pray fervently, to labor even harder to encourage people to wake out of their "slumber".

We can see the true Father Seraphim in his letters, – that he was not headed towards world-orthodoxy – despite the book's direction to the contrary.  The letters themselves are taken out of context.  Fr. Seraphim statements have been further taken out of context and misused.  I want to examine a few of these statements and put them back into the context of the whole of Fr. Seraphim's teachings and his life.

pages 152 – 154

See what Fr. Seraphim wrote in his letter dated Jan 28/Feb 10, 1976.  This letter concerns a super-correct convert who had come to the west coast from Boston months earlier.  The content is immaterial to my complaint.  Fr. Alexey adds his explanatory note to this letter on the bottom of page 154.  Most of the note is relevant to the letter, but then the last sentence Fr. Alexey adds: This, however, has nothing whatever to do with the sectarian and extremely legalistic mindset of those few who deny the existence of grace in the New Calendar jurisdictions.

The first question is, if what Fr. Seraphim is saying has nothing to do with those who deny the existence of grace in the New Calendar jurisdictions, then why bring it up at all?  It opens up another can of worms that is only remotely connected to what Fr. Seraphim was saying.  Secondly, and worse, where it is placed and the way it is worded gives the impression to the casual reader that it is a very bad thing to say that there is no grace in the new calendar jurisdictions.  Bad to say it, and bad to think it.  It is true that the super-correct have a fatal legalistic mentality.  And it is true that the super-correct assert (quite obnoxiously) that the new calendar churches have no grace.  So, then what happens next is the reader, whether he has fully understood Fr. Seraphim's letter or not, quickly makes a mental note never to believe such a bad thing, that only fanatics believe such a thing.  This causes a premise to be set for the reader as he continues reading, and, maybe not so subconsciously, he deduces there is grace in the new calendar churches.

The beef the super-correct have with us (ROCA) was the same then as it is today: that we refuse to declare the new calendar jurisdictions to be graceless.  They want us to make an official declaration.  But we will not do so.  Why not? Because, first of all, it is not our place to do so.  And second, it is not always true.  There have been manifestations of grace in the new calendar jurisdictions.  The manifestations of grace in world-orthodox jurisdictions are increasingly infrequent and ever-weaker, but we can't say absolutely utterly "non-existent" or impossible.  We can say so about the Roman Catholic church, but not about the new calendar jurisdictions at this time.  It is not accurate to assume that anyone who says the new calendar jurisdictions have no grace is a sectarian with a legalistic mindset.  The reality is that a number of our own ROCA bishops have expressed this exact opinion even back in the 1970s.  But these are opinions that were contained within the synod and comprised a necessary part of the synodal as a whole.

pages 166 – 170

This letter is dated "Third Day of Trinity, 1976" (June 2/15).  Make sure not to take the letter out of context; Fr. Seraphim continues writing about his ongoing struggle with the Boston super-correct mentality.  How do people come to the conclusion that it is o.k. to join world-orthodox by reading Letters by Fr. Seraphim?  This letter holds at least two clues:

Fr. Seraphim starts out this letter reporting on his most recent exasperations over the Boston super-correct mentality.  

... They feel themselves so strong and sassy now... doubtless they are already furious with us for revealing to the world in our new Orthodox Word magazine that we have not broken off communion with all the Orthodox Churches.   

... the more moderate position of our bishops will now come to seem intolerable to those who think "logically".
... zealotry is empty and even harmful.
... The "right wing" of Orthodoxy will probably be divided into many small jurisdictions in the future, most of them anathematizing and fighting with the others.

See these words of strife in the above: "furious", "intolerable", "empty", "harmful", "fighting".

Next in his letter Fr. Seraphim spends more than a page talking about how to stay on the royal path and avoid super-correct mentality.  Just before the conclusion of his letter he mentions that he had some feedback from two world-orthodox American Greek priests on the Orthodox Word issue #66.  My copy of Letters is used, I purchased it online from Amazon.  The previous owner had underlined some words in this next part I'm copying here below:

... As for our Metropolitan Philaret issue (OW #66), the little response so far has been mostly favorable.  Frs. Panteleimon and Neketas (Boston super-correct) are conspicuously silent, but we did hear from two Greek-American priests.  Their letters were sincere and without bad feeling, but they are obviously extremely naive about what the Synod believes, and they simply have no idea that there can be any such thing as a temptation on the right side....

See these words of peace in contrast: " favorable," "sincere," "without bad feeling", "naive".

So what does the casual reader of Letters by Fr. Seraphim conclude after reading this letter?  Everything bad is said about the super-correct and everything nice and 'good feeling' is said about the world-orthodox.  Naivité is a virtue because naive people are sincere and without bad feeling, unlike the super-correct who are strict, threatening, war-like, demanding, and angry.    

So, for one thing we have in this letter the contrast between the hard-heartedness of the super-correct and the gentle "child-like" ignorance of the world-orthodox.  Add to this contrast the next statement statement (also taken out of context) contained in the above quote where Fr. Seraphim writes:  ...we (ROCOR) have not broken off communion with all the Orthodox Churches...  This statement taken out of context can give the casual reader the idea that Fr. Seraphim's jurisdiction was in communion with mostly everyone in those days, or that it is never necessary to break communion, and that we are adamant about not doing what the super-correct expect we should do.  

Towards the end of 1975 Constantinople issued a now infamous statement announcing firmly their clearly stated ecumenical policy and the aims of the whole hierarchy of Constantinople.  In the Orthodox Word (January-February 1976, issue #66) Fr. Seraphim included Metropolitan Philaret's December 6/19, 1975 epistle written in response to that publication of the Church of Constantinople titled: "The Thyateira Confession".  The Boston super-correct were demanding that ROCOR anathematize Constantinople and all the Churches participating with it.  But instead of instantly breaking communion with all of the newly-avowed ecumenists and officially anathematizing all of them, our Metropolitan first wanted to try again to call them back as brothers, and to even start to grieve their loss which he had seen coming and tried so hard to prevent with his previous "Sorrowful Epistles".  

This was not shown in the book Letters by Fr. Seraphim.  The casual reader of Letters is not given the benefit of knowing what Fr. Seraphim wrote to us.  All he sees here is what Fr. Seraphim wrote to Fr. Alexey.  What Fr. Seraphim wrote to us for our benefit was a 3-page introduction to Metropolitan Philaret's epistle which he published in The Orthodox Word magazine issue #66.  Here is the concluding paragraph of that introduction: 

For over ten years now the voice of Metropolitan Philaret has resounded unwearyingly in a succession of letters of protest and warning to Orthodox hierarchs, particularly of the Patriarch of Constantinople, and in two "Sorrowful Epistles" addressed to the world-wide Orthodox episcopate.  The present letter is a kind of third sorrowful epistle to all the Orthodox bishops, occasioned by the first Orthodox-ecumentist "confession," which makes much more definite the errors which had been perhaps only "tendencies" up to now.  It should be noted that, despite the shocking lack of response by Orthodox hierarchs to his earlier "Sorrowful Epistles," the resent epistle is still addressed to "the Orthodox hierarchs," "the hierarchs of God," letting them know that it is the least of their brothers who is addressing them, not in order to call them names or make a public spectacle of them, but in order to call them back to Orthodoxy before they have departed from it entirely, without any hope of return.  It should also be noted that there is no trace whatever of the light-mindedness and mockery which mar some of the otherwise welcome anti-ecumenical writings of our day, especially in the English language. this is a document of the utmost seriousness, a humble yet firm entreaty to abandon a ruinous path of error, a document whose solemn tone exactly matches the gravity of its content, proceeding from the age-old wisdom and experience of Patristic Orthodoxy in standing in the truth and opposing error.  May it be read and it message heeded!

Now, see what you can see by putting things back into their context about Fr. Seraphim's true thinking about world-orthodoxy. 

page  227 

One more example:  A letter dated Nov 22/Dec 5, 1981.

Enclosed is a copy of Fr. (  )'s statement of separation from our Church.  Now, it seems, the sorry fruits of "super-correctness" are coming out.  One wonders how long Fr. Panteleimon will continue to inspire such acts without taking the jump himself?

In any case, it is a sad thing, but it makes our duty all the clearer; we have to preach even more strongly the true apostolic, missionary Orthodoxy and help to keep as many of our zealous convert priests as possible.  Orthodox America began its existence at just the right moment, and now it should be even more of a uniting voice for the true Orthodox fervor of our Church.

We, of course, are already guilty of many of the "sins" with which Fr. (  ) castigates out Church – worst of all (I suppose), the giving of Communion to New Calendarists.  I can see how each priest should be free to do as he thinks best on this question, but for us, I see that we must open ourselves to all the Orthodox who aren't being helped by their own bishops and priests. .... 

This, as Fr. Seraphim said, is the worst of all.  Here is confirmed the rumor everyone has heard that Fr. Seraphim communed New Calendarists towards the end of his life.  And here we have it straight from the horse's mouth – it is so.  Here to the casual reader is proof that it is o.k. to join world-orthodoxy.

First of all, know this background: that basically the policy in ROCOR is not to commune new calendarists.  But, and this is a big but, most bishops will give many of their priests the right to take each case individually.  It is the priest who has to answer to God for any misuse of the Mysteries.  The priest has a duty to each soul, and a duty to God at the same time.  In this circumstance the priest needs to discern if withholding the Mysteries will unnecessarily deprive the soul, or if administering Communion will harm the soul.

... I see that we must open ourselves to all the Orthodox who aren't being helped by their own bishops ...

Fr. Seraphim here says that "we" (probably meaning he, Fr. Herman, and maybe Fr. Alexey also) must always choose to help Orthodox people get what they are not getting from their own bishops.  He is not saying that he communes New Calendarists because it does not matter since on a higher level we are all one big happy ecumenical family anyway.

... I see that we must open ourselves to all the Orthodox who aren't being helped by their own bishops ...

He is not saying he has to help prepare Orthodox people for end times by teaching them about Antichrist, which their own bishops are neglecting.  He is not saying he has to help give Orthodox people the full experience of the church services, which their own bishops are abbreviating.

What is he saying?  Stop breathing for a minute and realize what he is saying.  

... I see that we must open ourselves to all the Orthodox who aren't being helped by their own bishops ...

He is saying he has to give the Body & Blood to Orthodox people who are not getting the Body & Blood from their own bishops.  Read between the lines – in there is a glimpse of the Royal Path.


Can we see how both an unprepared reading or a casual reading of Letters can give the wrong impression?  Fr. Seraphim did not write these letters to us.  He wrote them to his fellow-priest and fellow-writer/publisher, who was also suffering at the hands of the super-correct.  How Fr. Alexey got the message that it is o.k. to join world-orthodoxy, I don't know.  I can only guess that maybe he was fooled by the idea to "work from within".

In conclusion:
1. The letters were never meant for general readership, and certainly not meant for newcomers to the Faith.  Some of the thoughts are obviously very private.
2. The book was published and presented by one very good-hearted but very mixed up priest who ended up in world-orthodoxy.
3. The whole book is taken out of context.  If anyone must read Letters by Fr. Seraphim, then first they should read the first 101 issues of Fr. Seraphim's Orthodox Word magazines.  (The issues that come after that are not Fr. Seraphim's, they are Platina's.)

Platina would have done much better to make available Fr. Seraphim's back issues of The Orthodox Word, instead of withholding the very materials Fr. Seraphim's labored so hard to give us who come after him. Instead, what does Platina do?  They do this: 

reference: Orthodox Word #66
If you have trouble viewing or downloading, let me know.

10 September 2014

How to Write the Calendar Date

Fr. Seraphim always dated his letters writing the Church date, slash, and then the civil date.


Memorial Day
May 18/31

Independence Day
June 21/July 4

Thanksgiving Day this year
November 14/27, 2014

You might see it done with the civil date coming before the Church date.   This is a modern idea that some are doing, and, yes, it is confusing.

Related post: