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269. May 12/25, 1979B St. Hermogenes of Moscow

Dear Barry,

May the blessing of our Lord be with you!

First of all—yes, you are welcome to come and visit with Dan on June 5-7, or whenever you can make it. I trust you know from Dan that we have “primitive” accommodations.

I will be glad to talk with you about confession. However, you should be encouraged to know that according to Orthodox Church rules there is no sin whatever that can prevent a man from becoming a monk—since the monastic state is supposed to be specifically one of repentance. Priesthood, of course, is something different, but even there, it is possible for a monk to be ordained priest after being divorced in the world and repenting his sins. But this is something you definitely should not think about for some time after becoming Orthodox—it will only cause you unnecessary temptations. God will show you what is right for you when the time comes.

Dan is right—don’t be too taken up by “fantasies.” But don’t entirely squash them, either— without dreams, we can’t live! May God grant your Ruben the grace to be baptized and find his place to be a fruitful Orthodox Christian. It is true, though, that our modern parishes would present a problem for him. Here in the monastery we are largely free of such problems; in fact, at various times we’ve had quite a collection of “misfits” staying here. God will provide the answer for Ruben also.

I hope you will be able to force yourself to finish your courses—you will be surprised how later some of the things which now seem so useless will turn out to have a use after all (even Kant and Skinner!).

May God grant you to continue with such freshness towards Orthodoxy as you felt when reading St. Symeon’s Homiliesl Be aware, however, that this will be possible only with sufferings; everything you need to deepen your faith will come with suffering—if you accept it with humility and submission to God’s will. It is not too difficult to become “exalted” by the richness and depth of our Orthodox Faith; but to temper this exaltation with humility and sobriety (which come through the right acceptance of sufferings) is not an easy thing. In so many of our Orthodox people today (especially converts) one can see a frightful thing: much talk about exalted truths and experiences of true Orthodoxy, but mixed with pride and a sense of one’s own importance for being “in” on something which most people don’t see (from this comes also the criticism against which you’ve already been warned). May God keep your heart soft and filled with love for Christ and your fellow man. If you will be able to have a spiritual father with whom you can confide the feelings of your heart, and can trust his judgment, all this will be easier for you—but if it’s pleasing to God for you to have such a spiritual father, it will come “naturally,” as all things do in spiritual life—with time, patience, suffering, and coming better to know yourself.

With love in Christ,
Unworthy Hieromonk Seraphim

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