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157. June 24/July 7, 1974. Nativity of St. John the Forerunner

Dear Brother in Christ, Luke [Walmsley],
Rejoice in our Lord Jesus Christ!

This will be brief, as our summer season is on and we are busier that ever — 19 pilgrims in one day! Still, we thank God, as so far all our pilgrims come for spiritual reasons and there are no “tourists.”

Even though you did not finish your last letter to us, the gist of it is clear. The want of spiritual guides, as indeed of Orthodox Christians who just care about others, is acute. Do you have the Arena of Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov? If not I’ll try to get you a copy. Although it’s written for monks, it applies to everyone who wants to lead a serious Orthodox life in today’s conditions. We are no longer given the way of obedience to a Staretz, he says (even though he wrote when there were remarkable Startsi living); our present way of Orthodox life must be according to the Holy Scriptures and Holy Fathers and by counsel from living Orthodox Christians (i.e., those who give advice but not commands). You will have to be a wise bee, storing up whatever counsels you can get, and not ceasing to read Scriptures and Fathers, whose teaching is for all times, even if applied differently in different times. It would not be bad for you to keep a spiritual diary (if you don’t already), putting there your spiritual questionings and struggles, and also answers and light you get from Orthodox sources. The difficulty of your situation is for the good — those who have never been in hopeless situations have little to give others.

Perhaps you do not know “what next”? — after you get your degree? Get the degree first, and then trust in God to open the way. The political-economic situation in U.S., as evidently everywhere in the West, is rapidly deteriorating. Worse, the church situation becomes very bad (your situation is not unique!). In San Francisco suddenly some parishes are becoming empty, as the old priests die and there are no young ones to replace them; and it’s doubtful if more than a few see the cause: that Orthodoxy has too long been “taken for granted,” and it does not preserve itself “automatically”! But all of this only prepares us for catacomb times when our opportunities are perhaps greater than ever. We can’t see the future — but know this, that if you love God and His Orthodox Church and your fellow men — God can and will use you. Only Stay in contact with fellow Orthodox strugglers (they do exist).

Blessed Archbishop John is with us. We attended Liturgy in his Sepulchre on June 19/July 2, and Fr. Mitrophan gave a marvelous sermon, to wit that what a shame for us Russians to be lukewarm about a genuine wonderworker of our times, when the Greeks have printed his icon and venerate him as a saint!

Forgive the haste. Have you heard of Hieromonk Eulogius (a convert) and several parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate in Italy who want to come to our Synod (Milan, I think)? By the way, have you read Gulag or anything recent of Solzhenitsyn? — very important, a voice of truth. We’re sending you a copy of Gulag, by air. Pray for us, and write.

With love in Christ our Saviour,
Seraphim, monk

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