• Archbishop John's Attraction was His Love
  • Obedience in Light of Law, Rules and Canons
  • One's Personal Responsibility as an Orthodox Believer
  • Contours of Christianity
  • Comfort, Convenience and Satiety
  • Orthodoxy is a “Living Transmission” Not Scholarship
  • Orthodoxy is an Ascetic Faith
  • Example of Orthodoxy's Difficulty
  • Orthodoxy Alone
  • No Prayer without Love and the Controlled Passions
  • Having the Faith Entails Sharing it and not Dialoging About it
  • How to be Orthodox
  • The “Principle” that Guides “Living Orthodoxy”
  • Education for Hearts and Souls, Not Always Minds
  • Simplicity – Our Salvation
  • Orthodoxy is Dynamic – There are no Formulas
  • Today Compared to the Holy Fathers
  • Keep in Mind the Martyrs
  • Responding to the Spiritually Zealous in Unexpected Ways
  • The Two Differing Types of Orthodoxy
  • An Overall Attitude for Today



Archbishop John's Attraction was His Love

Archbishop John needed to give Eugene few instructions and explanations. Eugene internalized the spiritual image of the Archbishop, whom he perceived as a reflection of Christ Himself; and he was to carry this image throughout his life as a source of guidance. In later years, when he beheld this image most clearly after long experience as a Christian, he was to write: “If you ask anyone who knew Archbishop John what it was that drew people to him – and still draws people who never knew him – the answer is always the same: he was overflowing with love; he sacrificed himself for his fellow men out of absolutely unselfish love for God and for them. This is why things were revealed to him which could not get through to other people and which he never could have known by natural means. He himself taught that, for all the 'mysticism' of out Orthodox Church that is found in the Lives of the Saints and the writings of the Holy Fathers, the truly Orthodox person always has both feet firmly on the ground, facing whatever situation is right in front of him. It is in accepting given situations, which require a loving heart, that one encounters God.” (p.200)


Obedience in Light of Law, Rules and Canons

“If by obedience, by faithfulness to the letter of the canons, or by any other good in itself, the spirit of a man is crushed and is extinguished, then there is something terribly wrong. Vladika Artemon has already accused us of a tendency to 'disobedience' and 'self-will' – and, while admitting that we are in all ways sinful, we can only say that in the present case these accusations are beside the point. Before such virtues have any meaning, they must have a place in a definite context, in a common task, in a fruitful work. Such a context would be, for example, ...an established working monastery such as Jordanville; in our case, the context is The Orthodox Word and our missionary printing labors, which for seven years now we have followed with great labor and sacrifice, in everything being obedient to the Church and to each other, so that never did one of us exercise his 'own will,' obeying rather each other and the common task that united us. Without this we would never have survived; but with this and the blessing of Vladika John we have survived this long and now called by the Church to expand our work and bing forth greater fruit.” (p. 418-419)


One's Personal Responsibility as an Orthodox Believer

Feeling their inadequacy and inexperience as editors of an Orthodox journal, however, the brothers wanted some kind of insurance against making errors. Knowing they could find no better safeguard than a living saint like Archbishop John, they asked him to carefully approve each issue before publication. They hoped this would also bring them into closer contact with him and thereby enhance their missionary endeavors. The outcome, however, was not what they expected.

When Gleb explained the contents of the first issue before printing it, Archbishop John approved without hesitation and emphatically said, “Print!” And when asked about subsequent issues, he approved before the brothers could even tell them what was in them!

Gleb was puzzled. Why didn't the Archbishop try to exercise the power of censorship, since the magazine was being published within his diocese? Gleb's consternation increased when, after the publication of the fifth issue, a reader became quite incensed at a certain article that Eugen had written. The article, in the “Orthodoxy in the Contemporary World” section, had been about Pope Paul IV's address before the United Nations, which we have recounted elsewhere. Expressing his indignation, the reader returned the issue with notes in the margins. Here was a magazine full of the treasures of the Orthodox Faith, and at the end of it one is faced with an article comparing the Pope to th Antichrist! Who did these “pipsqueak” editors think they were to make such outlandish statements about world-recognized spiritual leader?

Hurt by this bitter response, the brothers told Archbishop John what had happened. As Eugen looked on, Gleb asked the Archbishop, “Why didn't you check over this issue so we would have known before we printed it?!”

Having learned the contents of the article in question, the Archbishop looked keenly into Gleb's eye. “Didn't you attend the courses at the seminary?” he asked.

“Yes,” Gleb said.

“And didn't you complete them?”


“Did you have Archbishop Averky as your instructor?”


And weren't you taught that in times of trouble, each Christian is himself responsible for the fullness of Christianity? That each member of the Orthodox Church is responsible for the whole Church? (emphasis mine) And that today the Church has enemies and is persecuted from outside and within?”

“Yes, I was,” Gleb affirmed.

This, the Archbishop went on to tell the brothers, was why he deliberately did not censor their magazine. He wanted them to be responsible for what they printed; otherwise, they would not be following their own consciences, but just someone else's opinion. If they made mistakes, they would be the ones to answer for them before God, and would not be tempted to blame others. In times like these, he said, it is crucial for the preservation of Christianity that Orthodox workers be able to work for Christianity independently. It is praiseworthy when they do creative work waiting for instructions. (p. 281)


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)


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)


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)


Example of Orthodoxy's Difficulty

Alexey first came to the St. Herman Hermitage in 1971. While trying to find it he took a wrong road and got his car stuck. When he finally arrived on foot, Fr. Herman told him that his getting stuck was a good sign.

“Why?” asked Alexey.

“Because Orthodoxy is tough – you have to struggle for it.” (p. 480)


Orthodoxy Alone

“Don't mix Orthodoxy with anything else. If you want Orthodoxy, go into it deeply; if not, leave it alone and don't take anything from it – not icons or Jesus Prayer or anything else. (p. 582)


No Prayer without Love and the Controlled Passions

“In San Francisco there was a person who got on fire with the idea of the Jesus Prayer. He began adding prayer to prayer, and he finally came to, in the morning, 5,000. Right in the middle of the world, in the middle of the city, in the morning, before doing anything else, before eating, he was able to say 5,000 Jesus Prayers on the balcony, and he felt wonderfully refreshed and inspired. Then it happened one morning that somebody else came out right underneath the balcony and began busying himself and doing something while this person was saying his last thousand; and it so happened that this person was so put out by this that he ended up throwing dishes at him! How can you deal with a person occupying himself with the spiritual life, with the Jesus Prayer, when all of a sudden, while he is saying it, he is able to start throwing dishes? This means that inside of him the passions were free, because he had some kind of deceived idea or opinion that he knew what was right for him spiritually. He acted according to knowledge; and when the opportunity came, the passions came out. In this case it is more profitable not to say those 5,000 Jesus Prayers, but to do something else that is spiritual.” (p. 598)


Having the Faith Entails Sharing it and not Dialoging About it

In later years, when Fr. Seraphim was asked about the Orthodox attitude toward non-Christian religions, he replied that each person is responsible for what he is given: “Once you accept the revelation [of the Gospel], then of course you are much more responsible than anyone else. A person who accepts the revelation of God come in the flesh and then does not live according to it – he is much worse off than any pagan priest or the like.”

And yet, as Fr. Seraphim wrote in his book, “for the Christian who has been given God's Revelation, no “dialogue” is possible with those outside the Faith. Be ye not unequally yoked with unbelievers... What communion hath light with darkness... or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? (II Cor. 6:14-16) The Christian calling is rather to bring the light of Orthodox Christianity to them, even as St. Peter did to the God-fearing household of Cornelius the Centurion (Acts 10:38-48), in order to enlighten their darkness and join them to the chosen flock of Christ's Church.” (p. 641)


How to be Orthodox

This path, however, requires far more than just wearing robes, doing all the “right” monastic things, and thinking that thereby one is somehow “spiritual.” “Unfortunately,” Fr. Seraphim wrote, “the awareness of Orthodox monasticism and its ABC's remains largely, even now, an outward matter. There is still more talk of 'elders,' 'hesychasm,' and 'prelest' than fruitful monastic struggles themselves. Indeed, it is all too possible to accept all the outward marks of the purest and most exalted monastic tradition: absolute obedience to an elder, daily confession of thoughts, long church services or individual rule of Jesus Prayer and prostrations, frequent reception of Holy Communion, reading with understanding of the basic texts of spiritual life, and in doing all this to feel a deep psychological peace and ease – and at the same time to remain spiritually immature. It is possible to cover over the untreated passions within one by means of a facade or technique of 'correct' spirituality, without having true love for Christ and one's brother. The rationalism and coldness of heart of modern man in general make this perhaps the most insidious of the temptations of the monastic aspirant today. Orthodox monastic forms, true enough, are being planted in the West; but what about the heart of monasticism and Orthodox Christianity: repentance, humility, love for Christ our God and unquenchable thirst for His Kingdom?”

Here is where the monasticism of ancient Gaul has much to teach the monks of these latter times. Newly born, wide-eyed and vibrant with its initial impulse, it rises above the smog of “spiritual calculation” and soars in the pure mountain air of Gospel simplicity. As Fr. Seraphim put it, “it is always close to its roots and aware of its aim, never bogged down in the letter of its disciplines and forms. Its freshness and directness are a great source of great inspiration even today.

“Finally, Orthodox monastic Gaul reveals to us how close true monasticism is to the Gospel. St. Gregory's Life of the Fathers is particularly insistent on this point: each of the lives begins with the Gospel, and each saint's deeds flow from it as their source. No matter what he describes in Orthodox Gaul – whether the painting of icons, the undertaking of ascetic labors, the veneration of a saint's relics – all is done for the love of Christ, and this is never forgotten.

“The monastic life, indeed, even in our times of feeble faith, is still above all the love of Christ, the Christian life par excellence, experienced with more patient sufferings and much pain. Even tody there are those who penetrate the secret of this paradise on earth – more often through humble sufferings than through outward 'correctness' – a paradise which worldly people can scarcely imagine.” (p. 673-674)

The “Principle” that Guides “Living Orthodoxy”

“If you wish to know the 'principle' on which Vladika Nektary (and others who practice living Orthodoxy) have acted, and which inspires even us poor ones just to go on under extremely difficult and unfavorable spiritual climate – it is the principle of catacombness, of nourishing in secret those sprouts of true Orthodoxy which are not being encouraged in Official Orthodox circles.” (p. 687)


Education for Hearts and Souls, Not Always Minds

For Fr. Seraphim, it was such a consolation to be able to transmit Orthodoxy to spiritually thirsty people that it mattered not how many there were or how “intelligent.” His concern was not to create “experts” in Orthodoxy. He was less concerned with what people's minds did with what he taught as with what their hearts and souls did with it. Thus, although his own mind could grasp things faster than just about anyone else's, he was exceedingly patient with “slow learners” who yet struggled to understand. (p. 746)


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)

Orthodoxy is Dynamic – There are no Formulas

Father Seraphim was never to complete his “Manual for Converts” project. The more he thought about and struggled with it, the more he became convinced that the very idea of a “manual” was wrong in this case. As he so often reiterated, there are no formulas in spiritual life. Christianity is not like Islam in promising salvation to those who follow the “regulations.” Christ gave no detailed “recipes,” but only gave the most awesome commandment of all: to love – even to love our enemies. (p. 787)


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)


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)


Responding to the Spiritually Zealous in Unexpected Ways

Not too many years ago a young monastic aspirant went to Mount Athos.  In talking with the venerable abbot of the monastery where he wished to stay, he told him, "Holy Father! My heart burns for the spiritual life, for asceticism, for unceasing communion with God, for obedience to an Elder. Instruct me, please, holy Father, that I may attain to spiritual advancement." Going to the bookshelf, the Abbot pulled down a copy of David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. "Read this, son," he said. "But Father!" objected the disturbed aspirant. "This is heterodox Victorian sentimentality, a product of the Western captivity! This isn't spiritual; it's not even Orthodox! I need writings which will teach me spirituality!" The Abbot smiled, saying, "Unless you first develop normal, human, Christian feelings and learn to view life as little Davey did-with simplicity, kindness, warmth, and forgiveness-then all the Orthodox 'spirituality' and Patristic writings will not only be of no help to you-they will turn you into a 'spiritual' monster and destroy your soul." (p. 894-895)


The Two Differing Types of Orthodoxy

In his times Fr. Seraphim discerned two principle types of Orthodoxy. The first is “slick” or “successful” Orthodoxy, the type that wins acclaim, acceptance and recognition for itself, which looks first of all to organization, officiality, and outward success.

The second type is “suffering Orthodoxy,” the kind that is looked down upon and persecuted by the world because it disregards the values of “slick” Orthodoxy. Though not as prominent as the “successful” type, suffering Orthodoxy is found in humble pockets all over the world. Fr. Seraphim wrote: “In the midst of sufferings and struggles of preserving and living by our precious Orthodox Faith in other parts of the world, let us put a resolve in our hearts – that we will be among the strugglers, no matter what the cost.”

Suffering Orthodoxy is burning with an inspiration which makes it not afraid to take chances. “Enduring pain of heart in the spirit of devotion,” it reaches out to the pain of mankind. “Being filled with the Gospel teaching and trying to live by it, “Fr. Seraphim said, “we should have love and compassion for the miserable humanity of our days. Probably never have people been more unhappy than the people of our days, even with all the outward conveniences and gadgets our society provides us with. People are suffering and dying for the lack of God – and we can help give God to them. The love of many has truly grown cold in our days – but let us not be cold. As long as Christ sends His grace and warms our hearts, we do not need to be cold.”

When the institution of the Church falls (in the words of St. Ignatius Brianchaninov) terribly and suddenly, suffering Orthodoxy alone will remain. New Martyr Bishop Damascene saw this in the years right after the Russian Revolution, when, beholding the darkness enveloping his land and indeed the whole world, he called for the building of an invisible “City of God” that does not necessarily depend on official channels. In a passage translated by Fr. Seraphim for Russia's Catacomb Saints, this Martyr wrote: “Without many words, without loud phrases, create first a small nucleus of a few people who are striving towards Christ, who are ready to begin the realization of the evangelical ideal in their lives. Unite yourselves for grace-given guidance around one of the worthy pastors, and let everyone separately and all together prepare themselves for yet greater service to Christ.... Just a few people united in such a life already makes up a small Church, the Body of Christ, in which the Spirit and Love of Christ dwell.”

Fr. Seraphim ended the last talk of his life with the words of the modern-day Romanian confessor of suffering Orthodoxy, Fr. George Calciu, about what it really means to be a member of the Orthodox Church, the true body of Christ:

“The Church of Christ is alive and free. In her we move and have our being, through Christ Who is her Head. In Him we have full freedom. In the Church we learn of truth and the truth will set us free (John 8:32). You are in Christ's Church whenever you uplift someone bent down in sorrow, or when you give alms to the poor, and visit the sick. You are in Christ's Church when you cry out: 'Lord, help me.' You are in Christ's Church when you are good and patient, when you refuse to get angry at your brother, even if he has wounded your feelings. You are in Christ's Church when you pray: 'Lord, forgive him.' When you work honestly at your job, returning home weary in the the evening but with a smile upon your lips; when you repay evil with love – you are in Christ's Church. Do you not see, therefore, young friend, how close the Church of Christ is? You are Peter and God is building His Church upon you. You are the rock of His Church against which nothing can prevail.... Let us build churches with our faith, churches which no human power can pull down, a church whose foundation is Christ.... Feel for your brother alongside you. Never ask: 'Who is he?' Rather say: 'He is no stranger; he is my brother. He is the Church of Christ just as I am.'”

“With such a call in our hearts,” Fr. Seraphim concluded, “let us begin really to belong to the Church of Christ, the Orthodox Church. Outward membership is not enough; something must move within us that makes us different from the world around us, even if that world calls itself 'Christian' or even 'Orthodox.'... If we truly live the Orthodox world view, our Faith will survive the shocks ahead of us and be a source of inspiration and salvation for those who will still be seeking Christ even amidst the shipwreck of humanity which has already begun today.” (929-931)


An Overall Attitude for Today

Our attitude, beginning right now, must be down-to-earth and normal. That is, it must be pplied to real circumstances of our life, not a product of fantasy and escapism and refusal to face the often unpleasant facts of the world around us. An Orthodoxy that is too exalted and too much in the clouds belongs in a hothouse and is incapable of helping us in our daily life, let alone saying anything for the salvation of those around us. Our world is quite cruel and wounds souls with its harshness; we need to respond first of all with down-to-earth Christian love and understanding, leaving accounts of hesychasm and advanced forms of prayer to those capable of receiving them. (940)


“Your heart has not brought you to where there radiated the gleam of majestic divine services, where there were heard intricate melodies, from where there were preached learned sermons. Into a poor and tiny church each one of you has come, and each in his own time has perceived the truth of the way of the ancient Holy Fathers.... With that self-denial have you given up your youthful years, your years of strength and zeal and your years of tranquil old age, for the building of your temples in this repentant family of ours....

By other paths has the bridegroom led His Bride, the Church. Having Himself partaken of the cup of death. He now offers Her the rejuvenating torments of the cross.”

New Martyr Fr. Sergius Mechiev (999-1000)



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