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220. June 2/15, 1976 Third Day of Trinity

Dear Alexey,

We greet you on the Feast and pray this finds you well and in good spirits before your long pilgrimage.

The events and revelations of recent months have driven us to some sober thoughts, in particular about the future. In reading the new Boston epistle to Metr. Anthony Bloom (which is, of course, mostly “correct,” as usual, but wrong in tone), only one thought stands out: this is a rehearsal for a very similar epistle to our own bishops! They feel themselves so strong and “sassy” now that it is obviously only a matter of time before they weary of the “incorrectness” and “inconsistency” of our bishops in not breaking off communion formally with all the Orthodox Churches. Doubtless they are already furious with us for revealing to the world in our new Orthodox Word that we have not broken with them—we will just have to get an Open Letter for that! “Zealotry” is definitely in the air now, has even become the fashion in the English-speaking wing of our Church, and the more moderate position of our bishops will now come to seem intolerable to those who think “logically.” All of which raises questions for us: where do we stand now? Where do we go from here?

We cannot follow the line of “Boston Orthodoxy”—which is actually a kind of right wing of “Parisian Orthodoxy”—a “reformed” Orthodoxy which happens to be mosdy “correct,” but is actually just as much outside the tradition of Orthodoxy as is Paris, just as much the creation of human logic. A terrible temptation for our times—but most of the converts will probably be drawn into it. The rest of us will remain with our “simple” and “unsophisticated” and “theologically inept” Russian bishops. We fear that all our articles about “zealotry” in the past years have helped to produce a monster! For the future we will have to emphasize the “feel” of Orthodoxy, without which zealotry is empty and even harmful.

The “right wing” of Orthodoxy will probably be divided into many small “jurisdictions” in future, most of them anathematizing and fighting with the others. If only our Russian Church Abroad can stay whole and on a sound path, not inclining to the “left” as a reaction against the “zealot” wing—it will be enough for us. We must keep up the living contact with the older Russian clergy, even if some of them may seem to us a little too “liberal”—otherwise we will become lost in the “zealot” jungle which is growing up around us! First of all, of course, our instructors must be the giants of that older generation: Vladika John, Vladika Averky, and those like them. Vladika Nektary is the most precious of that generation remaining to us—may God preserve him yet for many years! Vladika Laurus is also very precious to us—because, despite perhaps some “theoretical” shortcomings, he has several invaluable qualities: simplicity, honesty, “unpoliticalness” (despite being in the center of the Synod!), and being a litde “not of this world.” The Boston party hates him and laughs at him—but for all their “wisdom” and money, they will never have those qualities he has. By the way, Vladika Laurus was just elected Abbot at Jordanville; may God preserve him for many years and give him wisdom!

We who wish to remain in the true tradition of Orthodoxy will have to be zealous and firm in our Orthodoxy without being fanatics, and without presuming to teach our bishops what they should do. Above all we must strive to preserve the true fragrance of Orthodoxy, being at least a little “not of this world,” detached from all the cares and politics even of the Church, nourishing ourselves on the other-worldly food the Church gives us in such abundance. Elder Macarius well says in a letter (in his Life which we have just published—the copies arrived Saturday from Taiwan): “Fanaticism limits a man’s way of thinking, but true faith gives him freedom. This freedom is revealed by the firmness of a man in all possible cases of happiness and unhappiness.” That freedom is the sign of our Orthodoxy; that is precisely why the “Josephites” separated from Sergius in 1927: not for “incorrect ecclesiology” or violation of canons, but because he deprived the Church of the thing most precious to her: her internal freedom. But to see this one must have the savor of Orthodoxy—let us not lose it!

Please pray for us in the weeks ahead, and especially on the day of Vladika John’s repose (especially during the Liturgy in the Sepulchre, between 6 and 8 a.m. our time). We feel very crucial times ahead for us and our whole Church, and we want to ask Vladika John very fervently now just what we should do, how we should proceed. By his prayers may we stay on the right path and stay firm in the midst of the temptations ahead!

With love in Christ our Saviour,
Seraphim, monk

P.s. Greetings to Susan on her approaching namesday!

P.p.s. We will be very interested in your impressions of your meeting with Andrew Bond. Perhaps you will have a chance to meet some other converts there too. There is Father Yves in London, and also a Hierodeacon Nikan Wilkans with a chapel of St. Alban somewhere. Of course you will have to be careful not to “take sides” in the argument there! We have written a letter to Andrew expressing approval of his anti-fanaticism and trying to console him for the “Boston encyclical” he received; but one would like to be friendly with the “zealots” also, hoping that they will not fall into a “party line.” We are not fanatically against the “rebaptism” of those who insist on it, in cases where the bishop approves—but this should not be allowed to set a fanatical “tone” to our Orthodoxy, which is what shocked Andrew.

David arrived last night, and God willing will be helping us in our impossible task to finish our two publications before July 2. Frankly, we have been “putting him off” as long as possible, knowing that only great eagerness will be able to endure—not any superhuman struggles, but just the daily unglamorous round of monastic life.

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