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233. July 29/Aug. 11, 1976 St. Bogolep of Cherny-Yar

Dear Alexey,

Greetings in our Lord Jesus Christ.

We expect to be here all the time for the next several weeks, and will be expecting you sometime in this period. And Phanourios too. I would not have a difficult time choosing between Reno and Etna, but of course one’s heart has to be in it.

We have heard nothing from Fr. Neketas and frankly have no hope that he will have the slightest willingness to see things differently. He has “group security” of a very powerful kind, and it would take a tremendous shock to jolt him out of it, not just an “apostasy” from people whose Orthodoxy he seems to have been doubting for some time anyway. I suspect that this article gave him just the opportunity he needed to “know for sure” that we are not reliable. We’ve received no “open letter” either, and in fact we never received the one that was promised on the Western Saints—we’re piling so many obligations on their letter-writers! Things are probably further complicated by the fact that in our correspondence with Fr. Alexis of Boston concerning Andrew Bond (which on our side consisted only of a few brief notes which “hinted” rather than said anything controversial, but on their side was a barrage meant to convince us of the absolute rightness of Fr. Panteleimon, including his private letters to Archbishop Averky and Archbishop Anthony—which shocked us and probably did more than anything else to make us see what he is), we inadvertently hit a “sick point” of Fr. Alexis’, and in his hasty reply (in the absence of Fr. P.) he very clearly revealed a deep spiritual insecurity which I don’t think would have passed Fr. Panteleimon’s censorship. Well, we’ll have to wait and see what comes from them. But it is already clear that we have passed “out of fashion” in that circle, and our labors at least for a while will have less visible support than in the past. This is sad, because in these last ten years or so it is obvious that a real interest and desire has been aroused in America in the real Orthodoxy, and this using it for a party line will only do harm to the real Orthodox mission.

By the way, in reading Prosper of Aquitaine’s attack on St. Cassian (which is not really an offensive work, just narrow) I am distinctly reminded of the Boston school and its “open letters”! His objection to Cassian is: “We’ve squashed Pelagius through Augustine, and here you are trying to tell us that things aren’t as simple as Augustine thinks either! Whose side are you on? Isn’t it all perfectly logical and clear? You’re really a crypto-Pelagianist!” Substitute “ecumenism” for “Pelagianism”—and you may have the next “open letter” of Boston!

We’ve received some new talks of Fr. Dimitry Dudko—and he really does have much of what is necessary not only in the Soviet Union, but here also. He speaks to the point against making “popes” out of our bishops and spiritual fathers, of everyone thinking for himself instead of leaving it to others. His is one of the soundest and freshest voices in Orthodoxy today (despite some “theoretical” errors), and gives great hope for the future of Orthodoxy in Russia. With this in mind, we must be “open” rather than “closed” with regard to the Moscow Patriarchate. The whole question of ecumenism and apostasy cannot be placed simply on the canonical-dogmatic-formal level, but must be viewed first spiritually. Fr. Dimitry also speaks forcefully against letting a purely formal approach to the canons bind us spiritually and actually strangle church life—thus allowing the Protestants to take over with their fresher approach. It’s obvious that Fr. Panteleimon’s approach has nothing to say to Russia today.

Barbara is well and is writing a letter to her mother. Of course, it is a little “dangerous” (politically) for her to remain so long close to us. “Officially,” if there is any question, our position in regard to her is: we are moderating her enthusiasm by giving her a little taste of wilderness life while restraining her from just going off to the woods by herself. Fr. Herman has blessed her to be totally by herself for no more than three days at a time, and we knew where she was. God knows what will come of her desire for the desert, but we don’t want to quench it or apply a “formula” to it either. As things have worked out, we are totally alone during this part of the summer, so there are no younger ones to suffer unnecessary temptations by her nearness. Historically (as we know from 19th-century Russian example) those who encourage such “crazy ones” usually end up being persecuted themselves, but that is already nothing new!

Hopefully we will be able to give you at last our new OW (Vladika John issue), which has suffered numerous delays, including a week lost due to generator repairs (not serious, but we have no electrician). Fortunately, with God’s help I became enough of an “electrician” myself so that when the generator began acting up a few days after we got it back I was able to remember that it was the “points” that were replaced this time, and remembering what “points” look like in an automobile, I looked all over the generator until I found them under a special cap—and discovered that the screw holding them to the machine had come loose, thus saving a trip to town. That was rather a consolation!

With love in Christ,
Seraphim, monk

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