• Gleb's Emphasis of the “Positive” and the “Negative” in Apologetics
  • Eugene's Reflection on His Early Orthodox Beliefs
  • The Influence of the Wilderness by Living in the Wilderness
  • Contours of Christianity
  • Comfort, Convenience and Satiety
  • Acquiring the Mind of the Fathers
  • Orthodoxy is a “Living Transmission” Not Scholarship
  • An Example of “Living Transmission” in Archbishop Averky
  • Orthodoxy is an Ascetic Faith
  • Creation, God and Modern Scientists
  • The Knowledge of Modern Science and the Knowledge of Adam
  • The Typicon and the Notion of Perfection
  • Where to Begin in Seeking out the Mind of the Fathers
  • The Orthodox View of the Non-Orthodox
  • Simplicity – Our Salvation
  • Prayer to Saints (A conversation of Fr. Seraphim's with a fellow traveler)
  • The Toll Houses
  • Today Compared to the Holy Fathers
  • St. Symeon's Theology is Empirical
  • The Empirical Theology of Archbishop John Maximovitch
  • Fr. Seraphim's Definition of Theology
  • Keep in Mind the Martyrs

Gleb's Emphasis of the “Positive” and the “Negative” in Apologetics

[Gleb] had, however, one major objection, which was that Eugene's book was too one-sided. At Jordanville he had expressed similar objection to Fr. Constantine's philosophy. Fr. Constantine, he knew, grasped the very essence of Orthodoxy, having been awakened to spiritual reality by Archbishop John and by Elder Ignatius, a holy man from Harbin, Manchuria. And yet, when Fr. Constantine spoke about Orthodoxy, it was as if he assumed that his listeners already knew what he did, that they were just as equipped with an Orthodox world view. He concentrated not on th Christian truth that had transformed his life, but on the apostasy that was now sweeping the whole world. A convert to Orthodoxy Christianity from Judaism, he was like Eugene in his belief that modern man first needed to realize why and how he had departed from the fullness of the Truth before he could return to it. Gleb, on the contrary, believed that that was starting at the wrong end of the problem. He maintained that, since people did not know the true Christ from Whom they have apostatized, all this talk about the apostasy would hold little or no meaning for them. Before anything else, he felt, they needed to have the fullness of Truth hit them square in the face. They needed to be exposed to the abundant sources of Orthodox experience – to Lives and writings of the saints, and especially of the ascetics of recent times.

Thus it was that, just as Gleb had argued with Fr. Constantine at Jordanville, so now he contended with Eugene. In hearing Eugene read to him from The Kingdom of Man and the Kingdom of God, he understood two things: first, that Eugene was a rebel by nature; and secondly, that he was a warrior of the mind, and needed to develop his heart more. There remained in him an element of past bitterness which, as Gleb saw, needed to be worked out with time.

“Why is the whole emphasis on the Kingdom of Man?” Gleb asked. “I'm already in it – I'm rotting in it. What about the Kingdom of God?!”

“Well,” responded Eugene, “for that we have the Scriptures and the writings of the Holy Fathers.”

“That's in the past,” Gleb said. “But doesn't the Kingdom of God exist simultaneously with the Kingdom of Man? The Kingdom of God is also going on, and we have to plug ourselves into it.” (p. 244-245)


Eugene's Reflection on His Early Orthodox Beliefs

Reflecting on his “lay sermons” years later, Eugene was to write: “I don't know who if anyone read them, and looking back on then now I find them, despite the 'feeling' I put into them, somewhat 'abstract,' the product of thinking that hadn't too much experience as yet either of Orthodox literature or Orthodox life. Still, for me they served an important function in my understanding and expression of various Orthodox questions and even in my Orthodox 'development,' and Vladika John 'pushed' that.” (p. 266-267)


The Influence of the Wilderness by Living in the Wilderness

“Our attention,” Fr. Herman writes, “gradually began to take in the life that directly surrounded us. We began to see reality as it is and not depend on human opinion. The sound of the wind, the changes of the weather, its influence on one's mood, the life of the forest animals and birds – it was as if even the breathing of the plants and trees now had significance. Peaceful ideas were sown. The eyes began to accustom themselves to seeing not just what was external and jumped out at them, but the essence of the matter. Although friends came with love and tried to help, they were actually more of a burden and right from the beginning made errors of simple judgment, worrying about the external aspect that passes and not seeing the essence. And with what joy was the heart filled when silence reigned again and much-speaking stillness.” (p. 444)


Contours of Christianity

In The Orthodox Word Fr. Seraphim wrote: “Christianity in practice, and monasticism above all, is a matter of staying in one place and struggling with all one's heart for the Kingdom of Heaven. One may be called to do the work of God elsewhere, or may be moved about by unavoidable circumstances; but without the basic and profound desire to endure everything for God in one place without running away, one will scarcely be able to put down the roots required in order to bring forth spiritual fruits. Unfortunately, with the ease of modern communications one may even sit in one spot and still concern oneself with everything but the one thing needful – with everyone else's business, with all the church gossip, and not with the concentrated labor to save one's soul in this evil world.” (p. 450)


Comfort, Convenience and Satiety

“There is a certain opinion in the air,” Fr. Seraphim related, “that of course, when you come to church you must be warm, because you cannot think about church services and prepare yourself for Communion when you have to think about cold feet. People tell us this. 'It's a great drawback,' they say. 'You cannot go and have cold feet and expect any spirituality to come out.' This happens to be an opinion, and its totally off. The Holy Fathers have been living throughout the centuries in all kinds of conditions; and, though there is no deliberate plot of torturing oneself with cold feet – still, this is something which helps to make one a little more sober about the spiritual life, perhaps helps one to appreciate what one has, and not just take for granted that one is going to be comfortable and cozy and that's it.” (p. 453-454)


Acquiring the Mind of the Fathers

This comes over years by attentive reading of the Holy Fathers with a notebook, writing down those passages which seem most significant to us, studying them, finding how they apply to us, and, if need be, revising earlier views of them as we get a little deeper into them, finding what one Father says about something, what a second Father says about the same thing, and so on. There is no encyclopedia that will give you that. You cannot decide you want to find all about some one subject and begin reading the Holy Fathers. There are a few indexes in the writings of the Fathers, but you cannot simply go to a spiritual life in that way. You have to go at it a bit at a time, taking the teaching in as you are able to absorb it, going back over the same texts in later years, reabsorbing them, getting more, and gradually coming to find out how these spiritual texts apply to you. As a person does that, he discovers that every time he reads the same Holy Father he finds new things. He always goes deeper into it[...] (p. 457)


“The right approach [into the mind of the Fathers],” wrote Fr. Seraphim, “is found in the heart which tries to humble itself and simply knows that it is suffering, and that there somehow exists a higher truth which can not only help this suffering, but can bring it into a totally different dimension.” In the words of St. Mark the Ascetic: “Remembrance of God is pain of heart endured in the spirit of devotion. But he who forgets God becomes self-indulgent and insensitive.” This became the favorite Patristic quotation of Fr. Herman, who was later to say that he had learned the true meaning of pain of heart by being with and observing Fr. Seraphim. (p. 461)


“A man who does not express desire to link himself to the latest of the saints (in time) in all love and humility owing to a certain distrust of himself, will never be linked with the preceding saints and will not be admitted to their succession, even though he thinks he possesses all possible faith and love for God and for all His saints. He will be cast out of their midst, as one who refused to take humbly the place alloted to him by God before all time, and to link himself to that latest saint (in time) as God had disposed.” St. Symeon the New Theologian (Writings From the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart p. 135) quoted on p. 464


Orthodoxy is a “Living Transmission” Not Scholarship

As Fr. Seraphim stated, Fr. Schmemann was paving the way for a rootless Orthodoxy for new generations of Americans who “will not even know what they have lost.” He was seeking to build American Orthodoxy on the autonomous “theology” of modern scholars rather than on a living transmission of spiritual wisdom from holy bearers of the tradition. Fr. Seraphim knew from experience how vital that transmission was: without it he would never have entered the “heart of hearts,” the deeper dimension of Orthodox life for which it was worth giving up “all that is in the world.” Once this transmission was lost, it could not be restored.

As a case in point, not twenty miles from [Fr. Schmemann's] home in New York live Fr. Adrian, that link with the Optina Elders and a clairvoyant spiritual guide himself, who was very open-minded with regard to thinkers like Fr. Schmemann. Although Fr. Schmemann knew about him, he chose to receive his wisdom from modern institutes instead. (p. 471)


An Example of “Living Transmission” in Archbishop Averky

After Archbishop John's death, Fr. Seraphim's own guide to the Holy Fathers had been Archbishop Averky, to whom Archbishop John had once told the brothers to turn whenever they had questions. “Archbishop Averky,” Fr. Seraphim wrote, “is in the genuine Patristic tradition as few other living Orthodox fathers. A disciple of the great 20th -century theologian and holy hierarch, Archbishop Theophan of Poltava, Archbishop Averky is a bearer and transmitter, in a direct and unbroken line of Orthodox theologians, of the genuine patristic doctrine which is in danger of being eclipsed by today's generation of Western-educated proud 'young-theologians.' In recent years his voice has resounded and thundered as never before... as he strives to give the true Orthodox teaching to Orthodox Christians who are rapidly losing the salt of Orthodoxy.” (p. 472)


Orthodoxy is an Ascetic Faith

As Archbishop Averky had said, “Orthodoxy is an ascetic faith that calls to ascetic labor in the name of the uprooting of sinful passions and the implanting of Christian virtue.” And according to the teaching of St. John Climacus and other Holy Fathers, one must conquer the passions before even attempting to theologize.

In almost every issue of The Orthodox Word, the fathers presented the Life of an ascetic laborer, a true knower of God. They knew that, more than anything else, it was love for the ascetics themselves that inspired one to podvig. Fr. Seraphim did not see this love for ascetics coming from the journals of the new theologians. “And without love for saints,” he wrote, “one's Orthodoxy is crippled and one's sense of direction is off – for they are the examples one has to follow.” (p. 474)


Creation, God and Modern Scientists

[Fr. Seraphim] showed that all the Fathers taught that the first man Adam and likewise the first creatures “appeared in a way different from all their descendants”: they appeared not by natural generation but by the word of God....

“The doctrine of evolution attempts to understand the mysteries of God's creation by means of natural knowledge and worldly philosophy, not even allowing the possibility that there is something in these mysteries which places them beyond its capabilities of knowing: while the book of Genesis is an account of God's creation as seen in Divine vision by the God-seer Moses, and this vision is confirmed also by the experience of later Holy Fathers....

“I believe that modern science in most cases knows more than St. Basil, St. John Chrysostom, St. Ephraim, and other Fathers about the properties of fishes and such specific facts; no one will deny this. But who knows more about the way in which God acts: modern science, which is not even sure that God exists, and in any case tries to explain everything without Him; or these God-bearing Holy Fathers?” (p. 518-519)


The Knowledge of Modern Science and the Knowledge of Adam

“The state of Adam and the first-created world,” Fre Seraphim wrote, “has been placed forever beyond the knowledge of science and by the barrier of Adam's transgression, which changed the very nature of Adam and the creation, and indeed the very nature of knowledge itself. Modern science knows only what it observes and what may be reasonably inferred from observation.... The true knowledge of Adam and the first-created world – as much as is useful for us to know – is accessible only in God's revelation and in the Divine vision of the saints.” (p. 519)


The Typicon and the Notion of Perfection

Despite Fr. Seraphim's great love fro the Divine Services and his consequent study of their Typicon (rule), he never strove to become perfectly adept in Typicon “correctness.” He had seen too many cases of people who get so caught up in the technical aspect of the services that they forget to pray, or – even worse – totally lose their spiritual peace during services because they see others doing it “wrong.” Fr. Herman jokingly called such people “Typicon chewers.” (p. 576)


Where to Begin in Seeking out the Mind of the Fathers

To practice love, trust, and life according to the Holy Fathers in the small circle where one is – there seems to be no other way to solve the 'spiritual crisis' of today which expresses itself in absence of oneness of soul and mind. If one finds the mind of the Fathers, then one will be at one with the others who find it also. This is much better than just following what so-and-so says, taking on faith that he is somehow infallible. But how difficult it seems to find the mind of the Fathers! How many disagreements there are with others equally sincere! Or is this because we have not searched long or deeply enough?” (p. 695)


The Orthodox View of the Non-Orthodox

A few years before he died, Fr. Seraphim received a letter from an African-American woman who, as a catechumen learning about Orthodoxy, was struggling to understand the uncharitable that some Orthodox Christians showed to those outside the Church, an attitude which reminded her of how her own people had been treated. “I am deeply troubled,” this woman wrote, “as to how Orthodoxy views what the world would call Western Christians, i.e., Protestants and Roman Catholics. I have read many articles by many Orthodox writers, and a few use words like 'Papists,' etc., which I find deeply disturbing and quite offensive. I find them offensive because as a person of a race which has been subjected to much name-calling I despise and do not wish to adopt the habit of name-calling myself. Even 'heretic' disturbs me...

“Where do I stand with my friends and relatives? They do now know about Orthodoxy or they do not understand it. Yet they believe in and worship Christ.... Am I to treat my friends and relatives as if they have no God, no Christ?... Or can I call them Christians, but just ones who do not know the true Church?

“When I ask this question, I cannot help but think of St. Innocent of Alaska as he visited the Franciscan monasteries in California. He remained thoroughly Orthodox yet he treated the priests he met there with kindness and charity and not name-calling. This, I hope, is what Orthodoxy says about how one should treat other Christians.”

This woman's quandary was actually fairly common to people coming into the Orthodox faith. Now nearing the end of his short life and having thrown off his youthful bitterness, Fr. Seraphim answered as follows:

“I was happy to receive your letter – happy not because you are confused about the question that troubles you, but because your attitude reveals that in the truth of Orthodoxy to which you are drawn you wish to find room also for a loving, compassionate attitude to those outside the Orthodox faith.

“I firmly believe that this is indeed what Orthodoxy teaches....

“The word “heretic” (as we say in our article on Father Dimitry Dudko) is indeed used too frequently nowadays. It has a definite meaning and function, to distinguish new teaching from the Orthodox teaching; but few of the non-Orthodox Christians today are consciously 'heretics,' and it really does no good to call them that.

“In the end, I think, Fr. Dimitry Dudko's attitude is the correct one: We should view the non-Orthodox as people to whom Orthodoxy has not yet been revealed, as people who are potentially Orthodox (if only we ourselves would give them a better example!). There is no reason why we cannot call them Christians and be on good terms with them, recognize that we have at least our faith in Christ in common, and live in peace especially with our own families. St. Innocent's attitude to the Roman Catholics in California is a good example for us. A harsh, polemical attitude is called for only when the non-Orthodox are trying to take away our flocks or change our teachings.” (p. 757-758)


Simplicity – Our Salvation

“The one thing that can save us is simplicity. It can be ours if in our hearts we pray to God to make us simple; if we just do not think ourselves so wise; if, when it comes to a question like, 'Can we paint an icon of God the Father?' we do not come up with a quick answer and say, 'Oh, of course it's this way – it says so in such and such Sobor[council], number so and so.' Either we, knowing that we are right, have to excommunicate everyone, in which case we will go off the deep end, or else we have to stop and think, 'Well, I guess I don't know too much.' The more we have this second attitude, the more we will be protected from spiritual dangers.” (p. 775)


“Accept simply the Faith you receive from your fathers. If there is a simple-hearted priest you happen to be in connection with, give thanks to God. Consider that, because you are so complex, intellectual and moody, you can learn a great deal from such simplicity. The more you 'get your own wings' in Orthodoxy by reading more, being exposed to more and having more contact with Orthodox people, the more you will begin to be able to 'feel your way' in the whole realm of Orthodoxy, and begin to see that there are many wise things which in the beginning you might have thought were not so wise. Even if the people involved in these things are not consciously wise, nevertheless God is guiding the Church. We know that He is with the Church until the end, and therefore there is no reason to go off the deep end, to fall into apostasy and heresy. If we follow the simple path – distrusting our own wisdom, doing the best we can yet realizing that our mind, without warmth of the heart, is a very weak tool – then an Orthodox philosophy of life will begin to be formed in us.” (p. 775)


Prayer to Saints (A conversation of Fr. Seraphim's with a fellow traveler)

He is going to San Francisco to go deeper into this cult and look for whatever else he can find spiritually. I warned him about going astray spiritually, told him a little about us and Archbishop John and told him to go to Vladika John's Sepulchre and to ask his help to find the right way. He said: “Why should I ask someone else when I can talk to God?” I replied: “Because he's closer to God than you are and can help you.” I invited him to visit us and gave him the last two Orthodox Words I had: on Andreyev, and the 1978 Pilgrimage. (p. 805)


The Toll Houses

Here Fr. Seraphim, knowing the rationalist emphasis on the “literal” meaning of texts and the “realistic” or this-worldly understanding of events described in Scripture and Lives of Saints, had to speak some words of caution. Quoting from Orthodox writers both ancient and modern, he indicated how the teaching on the “toll-houses” should be regarded: “No one aware of Orthodox teaching would say that the toll-houses are not 'real,' are not actually experienced by the soul after death. But we must keep in mind that these experiences occur not in our crudely material world; that both time and space, while obviously present, are quite different from our earthly concepts of time and space; and that accounts of these experiences in earthly language invariably fall short of the reality. Anyone who is at home in the kind of Orthodox literature which describes after-death reality will normally know how to distinguish between the spiritual realities described there and the incidental details which may sometimes be expressed in symbolic or imaginative language. Thus, of course, there are no visible 'houses' or 'booths' in the air where 'taxes' are collected, and where there is mention of 'scrolls' or writing implements whereby sins are recorded, or 'scales' by which virtues are weighed, or 'gold' by which 'debts' re paid – in all such cases we may properly understand these images to be figurative or interpretive devices used to express the spiritual reality which the soul faces at the time.” As an angel instructed St. Macarius of Alexandria when he had just begun telling him about the toll-houses: “Accept earthly things here as the weakest kind of depiction of heavenly things.” (p. 829)


Today Compared to the Holy Fathers

We, the last Christians, are not worthy of the inheritance which they (the Holy Fathers) have left us... we quote the great Fathers but we do not have their spirit ourselves. (p. 848)


St. Symeon's Theology is Empirical

St. Symeon was well qualified to give the teaching on the beginning and end of all things, having been granted such access to the Creator's Mind as to be ranked among the three Saints in the entire history of the Church who are called by the exalted title of “Theologian.” Indicating this in his introduction, Fr. Seraphim asked:

How does St. Symeon give us the teaching which is authentically Christian, and not a mere result of speculation and guessing?

St. Symeon speaks from divine revelation. First, his basis is always scriptural – but we are astonished tosee a depth of meaning in his use of scriptural quotations which we would never have seen by ourselves. And this is because, second, he speaks from personal experience. (p. 851)


The Empirical Theology of Archbishop John Maximovitch

For Fr. Seraphim the authority of [The Orthodox Veneration of the Mother of God] by Archbishop John was similar to that of St. Symeon's homilies, since Archbishop John himself had direct mystical contact with the Mother of God. (p. 852)


Fr. Serphim's Definition of Theology

Theology is not primarily a matter of arguments. Criticisms, proofs, and disproofs; it is first of all men's word about God, in accordance with the Divinely revealed teaching of Orthodoxy. Therefore, its first purpose is always to inspire, to warm the heart, to lift one above the petty preoccupations of earth in order to glimpse the Divine beginning and end of all things so as to give one energy and encouragement to struggle towards God and our heavenly homeland. This is certainly the meaning and spirit of the theology of Orthodoxy's three pre-eminent “Theologians”: St. John the Theologian, St. Gregory Nazianzen, and St. Symeon the New Theologian; they, one may say, have set the tone for Orthodox theology, and this remains the tone and the task of theology even in our cold-hearted and analytical age. (p. 855)


Keep in Mind the Martyrs

If a man be not crowned (with martyrdom), let him take care not to be far distant from those who are. - Blessed Clement of Alexandria (+223) (p. 856)


Make a Free Website with Yola.