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124. Passion Tuesday, 1973 [Apr. 11/24]

Dear Brother in Christ, Alexey,

Greetings in our Lord Jesus Christ, in Whom rejoice always! We received your new letter with the sad news, and in the same mail installment no. 2 of Fr. Neketas’ displeasure, for which I’m afraid you have given him cause (he hadn’t received our first letter yet.). We’ve written him a new letter making clear our own connection with the Shroud article, but also shocking him anew by saying we regard the Shroud as “extremely likely” genuine. In his letter he doesn’t mention a single point that we didn’t already give you as an objection to printing Sarah’s article the way it is — see what happens when you trust yourself? I’m afraid what will happen is just what we told you — that Sarahs Latinisms will just give ammunition to those who are violently against the Shroud and make it more difficult for Orthodox to accept it. Also, it gives all the “proof” needed for anyone disposed to believe that you are hopelessly in bondage to your Latin background. You should not have sent it out!!!

Well, that being said, what is done is done, and spiritually it could be quite good for you if you don’t now act like a “crazy convert” (as I’m sure some are expecting you to). In strongest fashion we now urge you: DO NOT ENTER INTO ANY ARGUMENT WHATEVER WITH ANYONE OVER EVOLUTION OR THE SHROUD AT THIS TIME. If someone wants to provoke you into an argument, give him a reply such as you gave to Fr. Ephraim’s letter, BUT DO NOT ARGUE. No letters to bishops or anyone else either! The dust is too thick and arguing will only make it thicker, no matter who is right or wrong, and it will be spiritually very harmful for you. Don’t even think about these two subjects until the dust settles, if you can help it.

Concerning the issue of evolution — yes, your question about “heresy” is a semantic question, about which I hope to speak more in detail a little later — no time right now. The issue is a little complex, which explains why some people don’t seem to grasp it, but is also a danger point in that violent arguments can take place between people who aren’t even talking about the same aspect of “evolution.” I’m going to ask Fr. Neketas to tell us exactly what Kalomiros said about some kind of “evolution” of which he “approves,” so we won’t be at all uncertain about this.

Do not be upset about this whole furor; learn humility from this trial, but do not think of abandoning Nikodemos, go right ahead with the next issue as if nothing had happened and don’t even hint at anything there.

Always and ever regard yourself as a struggler and learner, and beware of thinking you know the whole answer on anything. We frankly think you are wrong that the case for the Shroud is secure just because of the scientific evidence — science simply cannot give that kind of secure knowledge. More emphasis must be placed on evidence of its tradition in the Church.

Pray for us. May Christ our God grant you to meet His Resurrection with joy and peace and in His grace.

With love in Christ,
Seraphim, monk

P.s. You are correct that the “Holy Family” is not an Orthodox icon or idea. The Latins in this have overemphasized the earthly side, while the Orthodox see clearly that this is not a family at all — a Virgin Mother and a seeming father who is only the guardian of Her virginity, and a Child Who is God! The Mother of God is often depicted rather as an Abbess, but never in any way as an ordinary mother or part of the earthly institution, the family.

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