Pastoral Guidance - Chapter 84 from Father Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works
by Hieromonk Damascene
Suffering is an indication of another Kingdom which we look to. If being Christian
meant being happy in this life, we wouldnt need the Kingdom of
Fr. Seraphim 
Orthodoxy cant be comfortable unless it is fake.
Fr. Seraphim 
Why do there seem to be so few miracles in our
days? It is because, believed Fr. Seraphim, there is so little pain of heart.
In a little handwritten note, hidden away and discovered many years after his death,
Fr. Seraphim crystallized into a few words the essence of a great truth for our
Pain of heart is the condition for spiritual growth and the manifestation
of Gods power. Healings, etc., occur to those in desperation, hearts pained
but still trusting and hoping in Gods help. This is when God acts. The absence
of miracles today (almost) indicates lack of this pain of heart in man and even
most Orthodox Christiansbound up with the growing cold of hearts
in the last times.
A proof of this statement can be seen in Fr. Seraphims own experience, out
of which it of course came. Had it not been Eugenes plea before that postcard
rack in San Francisco, coming from deep pain of heart, and Glebs similar plea
before the grave of St. Herman, that had led to the miracle of their meeting and
all that they were subsequently able to achieve? All the miracles that Fr. Seraphim
had witnessed in his own life, including those of the greatest miracle-worker Archbishop
John, had resulted from the prayers of hearts which did not shrink from the pain
When Fr. Seraphim was called upon to be a guide of souls, he would frequently remind
his spiritual children not to despair in the midst of suffering, but, in the words
of St. Mark the Ascetic, to endure pain of heart in the spirit of devotion.*
Most of these counsels remain only in the minds and hearts of his spiritual children,
but some have been preserved in writing: in the pastoral letters which Fr. Herman
gave him the obedience of saving in carbon copies.
In 1973, after Vladimir and Sylvia Andersons daughter Maggie died and was
buried on Noble Ridge, Fr. Seraphim wrote these words to Sylvia:
The aching thoughts of Maggie are naturalbut thats the side that belongs
to earth. Her soul is with God, and the trial which you underwent with her was Gods
visitation to you, and the proof that in everything that has been happening there
is something deeper than human logic and feelings can fathom.
Some people seem to have an easy and uncomplicated path in lifeor
so it seems from outside; while for others like you everything seems complicated
and difficult. Dont let that bother you. Actually, from the spiritual point
of view, those who really have an easy time are probably in danger!precisely
because without the element of suffering through whatever God sends, there is no
spiritual profit or advancement. God knows each of us better than we know ourselves,
and He sends what is needful for us, whatever we may think!
Maggies grave is a source of great joy for us. On the Tuesday after Pascha
week, when the dead are commemorated again for the first time, we went there and
sang, mingling the funeral hymns with Paschal hymns, then breaking and eating eggs,
symbols of the Resurrection, over the grave. Truly, the living and the dead are
one in Christ, and its only our blindness that makes us sometimes forget it!
A few years later, in a letter to a spiritual son who was suffering over his experience
of politics in the Church, Fr. Seraphim wrote:
About your trials: most of them are natural parts of life, and God allows several
of them to pile up because you are capable of bearing them. The numbness, which
comes chiefly from exposure to politics in a sacred place where they do not belong,
will pass. You must learn to suffer and bearbut do not view this as something
endless and dreary, here you are wrong: God sends many consolations,
and you will know them again. You must learn to find joy in the midst of increasing
doses of sorrow; thus you can save your soul and help others. 
To a man in England who was facing similar difficulties, Fr. Seraphim had these
words of counsel:
About you personally, of course, I cant give any definitive answer. However,
I do know that in spiritual life it is often precisely in seemingly impossible
conditions that one really begins to grow; then one has to become more sensitive,
think less of getting ones own will and ask what is Gods will, learn
to see a little deeper into the reality around oneand all this through suffering,
both ones own and that of others. 
Fr. Seraphim had similar things to say to a young man who was experiencing loneliness
in the world while at the same time yearning to serve God as a priest:
Fr. Dimitry Dudko has an answer for the new convert leading a lonely life in the
world (I think we read this at trapeza after you left): Enter as much as possible
into the Churchs spirit and way of thought and life
. Your loneliness,
while difficult to bear, is good, because only out of suffering comes spiritual
growth; it will pass as you get more and more into the Church spirit through continually
nourishing yourself with it. Daily reading, even if little, is very important in
About the priesthood: treasure the idea for now in your heart. The more experience
you have in life, and in suffering (I know you dont like that wordbut
even if you dont go out and seek suffering, at least be prepared to accept
what little God allows you, and accept it gladly)the better prepared you will
be for priesthood. 
To a young priest Fr. Seraphim wrote:
Do not be depressed that there are people rising up against you in your parish.
If everyone loved you, then I would say there is some trouble there, because you
are probably catering too much to people when giving pastoral advice. Christ was
also hated, and was crucified. Why should we expect everyone to suddenly love us,
if we are following in the steps of Christ? Just be careful that your pastoral conscience
is pure, and fear not hatred from others, but hatred within yourself. 
Fr. Seraphim did not reserve his counsels on suffering for those who happened to
be experiencing it. In 1979 he received a letter from a young man who was preparing
for baptism and was already on fire with Orthodox zeal. This young catechumen had
read a book which the Brotherhood had just printed and which Fr. Seraphim had sent
to him: St. Symeon the New Theologians The Sin of Adam, homilies on the fall
of man and his redemption through Jesus Christ. Toward the end of the book,
the man wrote, I found I was underlining nearly every sentence, and often
tears would come to my eyes; but such tears are the very ones which we entreat the
Mother of God to send us in our morning prayers. Such tears have a cleansing effect
upon the soul. This man was dreaming of gradually forming a small, semi-monastic
community in the city, and expressed hopes that his present roommate, a former street
person of Jewish background, would become an Orthodox Christian. His friend
D., however, warned him against being carried away by such dreams.
Here is what Fr. Seraphim wrote to the young catechumen:
D. is rightdont be too taken up by fantasies. But dont
entirely squash them, eitherwithout dreams, we cant live! May God grant
your Reuben the grace to be baptized and find his place to be a fruitful Orthodox
May God grant you to continue with such freshness towards Orthodoxy as you felt
with reading St. Symeons Homilies! Be aware, however, that this will be possible
only with sufferings; everything you need to deepen your faith will come with sufferingif
you accept it with humility and submission to Gods 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 the exalted
truths and experiences of true Orthodoxy, but mixed with pride and a sense of ones
own importance for being in on something which most people dont
see (from this comes also the criticism against which youve 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 youbut
if its pleasing to God for you to have such a spiritual father, it will come
naturally, as all things do in spiritual lifewith time, patience,
suffering, and coming better to know yourself. 
In another place Fr. Seraphim wrote: Indeed, how we all must learn and relearn
that our pretensions and ideas must be tested by reality and forged in suffering.
Fr. Seraphim was very concerned about those who used the riches of Orthodoxy, not
to struggle for righteousness, but precisely as a means to escape struggle. He was
acquainted with an unwed mother who, out of religious zeal, wanted to
give up responsibility for her children, putting them in other peoples homes.
About her Fr. Seraphim wrote:
If she is relieved of the problem of her children, her perdition is
. She is making a bad mistake in thinking that once she is
rid of her children she can then begin to think about a convent and
real spiritual lifebecause if we do not recognize that our spiritual
struggle begins right now with whatever God has given us (and all the more if we
ourselves have gotten into a difficult situation!), we will not begin the spiritual
life later, either. And so, if she only knew, her salvation could lie in her
suffering through the raising of her own children; but if she doesnt suffer
this through, then later when she thinks to be starting real spiritual life,
shell find she has nothing at all, and spiritual life which begins
after we are rid of present problems is only an abstraction. I think all this is
truebut the spiritual benefit of suffering through comes only
if one voluntarily accepts it. 
To the mother herself Fr. Seraphim wrote:
We realize that raising your [children] is very difficult for you. But that is the
cross God has given you, and I must tell you frankly that you can scarcely receive
your salvation in any other way than by trying your best to raise them up well.
Spiritual life begins when things seem absolutely hopelessthat
is when one learns to turn to God and not to our own feeble efforts and ideas. 
Following the teaching of the Holy Fathers, Fr.
Seraphim counseled people not to be quick to calculate and measure their own spiritual
state. In 1975 he wrote to an Orthodox convert:
Dont worry too much about how spiritually poor you areGod sees that,
but for you it is expected to trust in God and pray to Him as best you can, never
to fall into despair, and to struggle according to your strength. If you ever begin
to think you are spiritually well offthen you can know for sure
that you arent! True spiritual life, even on the most elementary level, is
always accompanied by suffering and difficulties. Therefore you should rejoice in
all your difficulties and sorrows. 
To another young man, who wanted to leave the Jordanville seminary because he felt
he was making no spiritual progress there, Fr. Seraphim wrote:
We understand very well your situation as you describe it in your letter. Of course,
what you say is correct as far as it goes. But you are allowing yourself
to make one basic mistake: you are making yourself the judge of your own spiritual
state. In your present state of knowledge and experience, you are not able to see
whether you need an aspirin or an operationso try to humble yourself a little
to the extent of seeing that you dont know what is best for you! But then
what is the answer? To find a stricter place? Not nowif you do you will probably
regret it; it is very doubtful that this will give you the spiritual growth that
you need and are looking for. Neither strictness nor freedom
is a guarantee of spiritual growth. Some people under freedom become
spiritually loose and never grow; but we have also seen those trained under relative
strictness who have also made no growth, but on the contrary have thought
that they have grown while actually falling into the diseases of vainglory and pride,
believing that their instructor was taking care of these problems for them. Under
both forms of life one must walk in fear of God and with discernment.
Your answerif I may be so bold as to tell youis to be patient, enduring
with good hope all the temptations that come your way, and withholding your judgment
as to whether you need an aspirin or an operationuntil you have acquired more
knowledge and experiencewhich is why you went to Jordanville in the first
place. Your opinion will be much more sound after several more years of seminary
and experience in an Orthodox community. You are too young in Orthodoxy to be evaluating
your spiritual growththat is actually a sign of your pride. Be patient, endure,
observe, learnand when the time comes there will come ways of testing your
real spiritual growth.
In a word, the temptation to leave Jordanville, after committing yourself to the
seminary and the life of a novice, seems to come from the devil on the right
sideto knock you off the path which will give you the best progress,
for a seemingly good and plausible reason. Do you remember how todays Saint,
Cyril of White Lake, thought that he would be more spiritually profited by sitting
in his quiet cell than by laboring in the noisy kitchen? And that it did not turn
out at all as his inexperienced judgment thought it would?13 Take that as your example
and warning when these thoughts come to you from the right side. The
noisy kitchen can give you much valuable spiritual experience, even
if it might not seem to at the time.
The feeling of emptiness, worldly vanity, helplessness against temptationswill
pass; but you should accept all this now as your cross, struggling according to
your strength, and not being so proud as to think that you should be above them.
Over the years Fr. Seraphim received letters from
Orthodox college students who were disillusioned by the lack of love of Truth in
the modern academic world. Like the seminarian of the above letter, sometimes they
wanted to abandon what they had begun. Fr. Seraphim, of course, could well sympathize
with them, having once been painfully disillusioned with the modern academic world
himself. But as in his other counsels, he encouraged the students to learn and grow
from what was placed right in front of them. In general, he would advise that they
finish their education, as he himself had done. To one student, who complained that
having to study the works of Immanuel Kant and B. F. Skinner was taking its spiritual
toll on him, Fr. Seraphim wrote:
I hope you will be able to force yourself to finish your coursesyou will be
surprised how later some of these things which now seem so useless will turn out
to have a use after all (even Kant and Skinner!). 
To another college student he sent this guidance:
College life will doubtless give you many temptations. But remember that learning
in itself is useful and can be used later in a Christian way. Try to avoid the idle
activities and temptations you will meet that serve no useful purpose, so that even
in a godless atmosphere you can redeem the time, as the Apostle Paul
says, and make maximum use of the opportunities you are given for learning. 
Echoing Christs words to take no thought for the morrow (Matt. 6:34), Fr.
Seraphim gave this advice to someone who was wondering what to do after he got his
Perhaps you do not know what next?
Get the degree first, and then
trust to God to open up the way. The political-economic situation in the 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 its 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 cant see the futurebut know this, that if you love God and His Orthodox
Church and your fellow manGod can and will use you.
Only stay in contact with fellow Orthodox strugglers (they do exist). 
In some of Fr. Seraphims pastoral letters
we also find guidance on the struggle against fleshly
sins. To one person he wrote:
About carnal warfare when bodily labors are impossible or difficult, St. Abba Barsanuphius
says: Flee quickly to the Prayer of Jesus, and you will find repose;
pray ceaselessly, saying, Lord Jesus Christ, deliver me from shameful passions.**
To another person, who was lamenting over his own weakness and was ashamed to mention
sexual falls to a parish priest in confession, Fr. Seraphim exhorted:
Do not be afraid to confess the fleshly sins. Do you think you are so holy? God
allows you to fall in order to humble you. Get up and walk in fear and trembling.
Struggle against them, but do not despair, no matter what happens. Strength in Orthodox
firmness comes very gradually; what you do every day helps build it up; and if you
fall, humility and self-awareness build it up. 
And to yet another person:
Your battle with demonic fornication is not as unusual as you may think.
This passion has become very strong in our evil timesthe air is saturated
with it; and the demons take advantage of this to attack you in a very vulnerable
spot. Every battle with passions also involves demons, who give almost unnoticeable
suggestions to trigger the passions and otherwise cooperate in arousing
them. But human imagination also enters in here, and it is unwise to distinguish
exactly where our passions and imagination leave off and demonic activity beginsyou
should just continue fighting.
That the demons attack you in dreams is a sign of progressit means they are
retreating, seeing that you are resisting conscious sin. God allows this so that
you will continue fighting. Often this demon goes away altogether for a while, and
one can have a false sense of security that one is above this passion;
but all the Holy Fathers warn that one cannot consider this passion conquered before
the grave. Continue your struggle and take refuge in humility, seeing what base
sins you are capable of and how you are lost without the constant help of God Who
calls you to a life above these sins. 
It can be seen from these letters that Fr. Seraphim was gentle and encouraging with
those of his spiritual children who were truly struggling with sexual sin. With
those who were giving in to such sin and then justifying and rationalizing it, however,
Fr. Seraphim took a different approach altogether. In the following letter, to a
young man who was leading unwary souls into unnatural sexual sin while thinking
to evangelize them, Fr. Seraphim did not mince words:
My child, you are deceiving yourself and going the way of perdition. I will not
be falsely kind and hide this fact from you. You talk about helping
others, but you are leading them to perdition.
Do you know that by preaching
the Faith to and then sinning with him, you have inoculated
him against Christ? And now you think you are going to save ?
Wake up, my child, if you still can. You have detected a distance between
us that you do not understand. That is the distance you yourself have placed by
choosing your own way and rejecting everyone who has tried to guide you. It is the
same distance which later on, or even now, you will feel with Vladika
Nektary and with all true Orthodox Christians, and then with Holy Orthodoxy itself.
You justify yourself to yourself with the argument that you are somehow special.
Your human problems are too much for you and must be allowed to develop themselves
out before you can really choose Christ. No, my child, you are not speciala
thousand crazy converts have already gone that way, and you are joining
Forgive my harsh words. I speak them because I really love you and do not wish you
to be lost. I do not cease to pray for my erring child.
I will gladly suffer
with you and for you, but it will do you no good unless you give up your own understanding
of how to live.
This last weekend we were visited by a zealous priest from the East Coast. What
a deep fellow-feeling between us, based on commitment and zeal and deep sufferingto
all of which you will remain a stranger as long as you trust yourself.
May God save you from perdition.
I am praying for the unenlightened . Do not deceive him further.
Fr. Seraphims Patristic understanding of
the place of sex in the creation, which we have discussed earlier, enabled
him to help others put sex in the proper perspective. To one of his spiritual children,
who was married and had children, he wrote:
The widespread confusion on this whole issue seems to come from a failure to understand
the real Orthodox teaching on sexualityit is not holy, but neither
is it evil. The Lives of Saints alone, without any Patristic treatises, should teach
us the Orthodox position: that sexual union, while blessed by the Church and fulfilling
a commandment of the Creator, is still a part of mans animal nature and is,
in fallen humanity, inevitably bound up with sin. This should not shock us if we
stop to think that such a necessary thing as eating is also almost invariably bound
up with sinwho of us is perfectly continent in food and drink, the thorough
master of his belly? Sin is not a category of specific acts such that, if we refrain
from them, we become sinlessbut rather a kind of web which ensnares
us and from which we can never really get free in this life. The more deeply one
lives Orthodoxy, the more sinful he feels himself to bebecause he sees more
clearly this web with which his life is intertwined; the person, thus, who commits
fewer sins feels himself to be more sinful than one who commits more!
The Fathers state specifically, by the way, that Adam and Eve did not have sexual
union (nor, of course, eat meat) in Paradise. I believe Thomas Aquinas says that
they didwhich would accord with the Roman Catholic doctrine of human nature.
All of this should one day be written out and printed, with abundant illustrations
from the Holy Fathers and Lives of Saintstogether with the whole question
of sexualityabortion, natural and unnatural sins, pornography, homosexuality,
etc. With Scriptural and Patristic sources, this could be done carefully and without
offensiveness, but clearly.
Enough on this subject; you are correct, by the way, that it is better for such
things to be printed by laymen than monks! 
Again drawing from the Holy Fathers, Fr. Seraphim counseled his spiritual children
not to trust in or get carried away by their imagination, especially in prayer.
Fr. Alexey Young recalls how, when he was still a Roman Catholic preparing to become
Orthodox, he was given an important lesson by Fr. Seraphim: I asked Fr. Seraphim
about meditation, which my wife and I, still under the influence of our Roman Catholic
background, had made part of our regular routine of morning prayer. We did not yet
realize that the Orthodox understanding of meditation is quite different from the
Western Christian view. In conversation, Fr. Seraphim explained that the use of
imagination in Western spiritual systems of meditationviz., while saying the
Rosary, reciting the Stations of the Cross, or doing the Spiritual Exercises of
Ignatius of Loyola, etc.was not compatible with Orthodox spirituality and
was forbidden because imagination came into use only after the fall of Adam and
Eve; it is one of the lowest functions of the soul and the favorite playground of
the devil, who can and does use human imagination in order to deceive and mislead
even well-meaning people. 
In a similar way, Fr. Seraphim warned against placing absolute trust in emotions.
Fr. Alexey Young remembers when Fathers Seraphim and Herman visited the chapel in
Etna for the first time: The fathers, seeing how moved we were [by the service],
cautioned us not to let our emotions get too caught up by the beauty of the service,
explaining to us that emotions, like imagination, are a function of fallen human
nature and must therefore be treated with great caution. ....
We have seen how Fr. Seraphim, having grown in
Orthodox Christianity until his Faith was the substance of his entire being, counseled
people not to try to prove their Orthodoxy by bashing others. To an
Orthodox catechumen he wrote:
As you prepare for Baptism, I would give you several words of advice:
1. Dont allow yourself to get stuck on the outward aspect of Orthodoxywhether
the splendid Church services (the high church to which you were drawn
as a child), the outward discipline (fasts, prostrations, etc.), being correct
according to the canons, etc. All these things are good and helpful, but if one
overemphasizes them one will enter into troubles and trials. You are coming to Orthodoxy
to receive Christ, and this you should never forget.
2. Dont have a hypercritical attitude. By this I dont mean to give up
your intellect and discernment, but rather to place them in obedience to a believing
heart (heart meaning not mere feeling, but something much
deeperthe organ that knows God). Some converts, alas, think they are very
smart, and they use Orthodoxy as a means for feeling superior to the
non-Orthodox and sometimes even to Orthodox of other jurisdictions. Orthodox theology,
of course, is much deeper and makes much better sense than the erroneous theologies
of the modern Westbut our basic attitude towards it must be one of humility
and not pride. Converts who pride themselves on knowing better than
Catholics and Protestants often end by knowing better than their own
parish priest, bishop, and finally the Fathers and the whole Church!
3. Remember that your survival as an Orthodox Christian will depend very much on
your contact with the living tradition of Orthodoxy. This is something you wont
get in books and it cant be defined for you. If your attitude is humble and
without hypercriticism, if you place Christ first in your heart, and try to lead
a normal life according to Orthodox discipline and practiceyou will obtain
this contact. Alas, most Orthodox jurisdictions today
are losing this contact
out of simple worldliness. But there is also a temptation on the right side
which proceeds from the same hypercriticism I just mentioned. The traditionalist
(Old Calendar) Church in Greece today is in chaos because of this, one jurisdiction
fighting and anathematizing another over canonical correctness and losing
sight of the whole tradition over hyper-fine points.
You yourself have had enough experience in life to avoid these temptations, which
are actually those of the young and inexperienced; but it is good to keep them in
A few years before he died, Fr. Seraphim received a letter from an African-American
woman who, as a catechumen learning about Orthodoxy, was struggling to understand
the uncharitable attitude that some Orthodox Christians showed to those outside
the Church, an attitude which reminded her of how her own people had been treated.
I am deeply troubled, this woman wrote, as to how Orthodoxy views
what the world would call Western Christians, i.e., Protestants and Roman Catholics.
I have read many articles by many Orthodox writers, and a few use words like Papists,
etc., which I find deeply disturbing and quite offensive. I find them offensive
because as a person of a race which has been subjected to much name-calling I despise
and do not wish to adopt the habit of name-calling myself. Even heretic
Where do I stand with my friends and relatives? They do not know about Orthodoxy
or they do not understand it. Yet they believe in and worship Christ.
to treat my friends and relatives as if they have no God, no Christ?
I call them Christians, but just ones who do not know the true Church?
When I ask this question, I cannot help but think of St. Innocent of Alaska
as he visited the Franciscan monasteries in California. He remained thoroughly Orthodox
yet he treated the priests he met there with kindness and charity and not name-calling.
This, I hope, is what Orthodoxy says about how one should treat other Christians.
This womans quandary was actually fairly common to people coming into the
Orthodox Faith. Now nearing the end of his short life and having thrown off his
youthful bitterness, Fr. Seraphim answered as follows:
I was happy to receive your letterhappy not because you are confused about
the question that troubles you, but because your attitude reveals that in the truth
of Orthodoxy to which you are drawn you wish to find room also for a loving, compassionate
attitude to those outside the Orthodox Faith.
I firmly believe that this is indeed what Orthodoxy teaches
I will set forth briefly what I believe to be the Orthodox attitude towards non-Orthodox
1. Orthodoxy is the Church founded by Christ for the salvation of mankind, and therefore
we should guard with our life the purity of its teaching and our own faithfulness
to it. In the Orthodox Church alone is grace given through the sacraments (most
other churches dont even claim to have sacraments in any serious sense). The
Orthodox Church alone is the Body of Christ, and if salvation is difficult enough
within the Orthodox Church, how much more difficult must it be outside the Church!
2. However, it is not for us to define the state of those who are outside the Orthodox
Church. If God wishes to grant salvation to some who are Christians in the best
way they know, but without ever knowing the Orthodox Churchthat is up to Him,
not us. But when He does this, it is outside the normal way that He established
for salvationwhich is in the Church, as a part of the Body of Christ. I myself
can accept the experience of Protestants being born-again in Christ;
I have met people who have changed their lives entirely through meeting Christ,
and I cannot deny their experience just because they are not Orthodox. I call these
people subjective or beginning Christians. But until they
are united to the Orthodox Church they cannot have the fullness of Christianity,
they cannot be objectively Christian as belonging to the Body of Christ and receiving
the grace of the sacraments. I think this is why there are so many sects among themthey
begin the Christian life with a genuine conversion to Christ, but they cannot continue
the Christian life in the right way until they are united to the Orthodox Church,
and they therefore substitute their own opinions and subjective experiences for
the Churchs teaching and sacraments.
About those Christians who are outside the Orthodox Church, therefore, I would say:
they do not yet have the full truthperhaps it just hasnt been revealed
to them yet, or perhaps it is our fault for not living and teaching the Orthodox
Faith in a way they can understand. With such people we cannot be one in the Faith,
but there is no reason why we should regard them as totally estranged or as equal
to pagans (although we should not be hostile to pagans eitherthey also havent
yet seen the truth!). It is true that many of the non-Orthodox hymns contain a teaching
or at least an emphasis that is wrongespecially the idea that when one is
saved he does not need to do anything more because Christ has done it
all. This idea prevents people from seeing the truth of Orthodoxy which emphasizes
the idea of struggling for ones salvation even after Christ has given it to
us, as St. Paul says: Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling [Phil.
2:12]. But almost all of the religious Christmas carols are all right, and they
are sung by Orthodox Christians in America (some of them in even the strictest monasteries!).
The word heretic (as we say in our article
on Fr. Dimitry Dudko) is indeed used too frequently nowadays. It has a definite
meaning and function, to distinguish new teachings from the Orthodox teaching; but
few of the non-Orthodox Christians today are consciously heretics, and
it really does no good to call them that.
In the end, I think, Fr. Dimitry Dudkos attitude is the correct one: We should
view the non-Orthodox as people to whom Orthodoxy has not yet been revealed, as
people who are potentially Orthodox (if only we ourselves would give them a better
example!). There is no reason why we cannot call them Christians and be on good
terms with them, recognize that we have at least our faith in Christ in common,
and live in peace especially with our own families. St. Innocents attitude
to the Roman Catholics in California is a good example for us. A harsh, polemical
attitude is called for only when the non-Orthodox are trying to take away our flocks
or change our teaching.
As for prejudicesthese belong to people, not the Church. Orthodoxy does not
require you to accept any prejudices or opinions about other races, nations, etc.
To those people who wrote to the St. Herman Monastery
hoping to find God-bearing Elders who could guide them by the enlightenment of the
Holy Spirit, Fr. Seraphim had to inform them that this kind of guidance is
not given to our timesand frankly, we in our weakness and corruption and sins
do not deserve it.
To our times is given a more humble kind of spiritual life, which Bishop Ignatius
Brianchaninov in his excellent book The Arena calls life by counselthat
is, life according to the commandments of God as learned in the Holy Scripture and
Holy Fathers and helped by those who are elder and more experienced. A starets
can give commands; but a counselor gives advice, which you must test
in experience. 
Although, as some of the previous letters indicate, Fr. Seraphim could take a stern
tone when he felt someone was in serious spiritual danger, he scrupulously avoided
overstepping the bounds of his spiritual authority. One of his spiritual daughters,
Agafia Prince, recalls that he didnt want to have control over people
and that under his guidance she felt a wonderful freedom.  Fr. Vladimir
Anderson likewise recalls: Fr. Seraphim was extremely humble, brilliant though
He didnt come out with guru-type advice. Those who asked him
for advice were led more to find the solution to their problems themselves through
his gentle guidance rather than to follow declarations or commands. 
Fr. Alexey Young corroborates these observations: One of the most striking
aspects of Fr. Seraphims guidance was, first of all, his utter disinterest
in controlling me or anyone else. Unlike some others, he did not play guru or give
orders (he had spiritual children, not disciples). I asked for his opinion and he
gave itfranklybut always he left the final decision up to me. This meant
that I was bound to make mistakes, but he knew that I would learn from the consequences
of those mistakes. Also, whenever he felt the need to criticize something, he always
balanced it with something positive, so that one did not feel somehow destroyed
or discouraged about ones work. This is an indication of spiritual health
as opposed to the cult-like behavior of those who always think they know better.
Elsewhere Fr. Alexey writes that Fr. Seraphim
warned against what he
called guru-ism, which is the temptation to treat certain people in
authority as gurus or startsi (elders). This danger frightened him very much, for
he saw a basic flaw in the American character: a flaw which leads some individualswhether
parish priests or monasticsto claim a spiritual authority that is not truly
and authentically theirs because they themselves have not been purified and transformed
by repentance, and which leads others to seek out false elders, giving their free
will and control over even the most basic details of their lives to them. Fr. Seraphim
repeatedly pointed out that real elders are extremely rare, that we do not deserve
such spiritual guides and would not know how to treat them even if we did have them
in our midst.
As a counselor or spiritual father, Fr. Seraphim
relied on his experience in the monastery and on his reading of the Holy Fathers.
Most importantly, he drew upon the grace he had acquired through his own pain
of heart endured in the spirit of devotion. This may not have made him a God-bearing
Elder, but it did make him able to inspire others to take up their interior
crosses, beginning the lifelong good fight (I Tim. 6:12) of Christian struggle whose
results will be seen by all at the General Resurrection.
The following abbreviations have been used in these Notes:
FSR—Fr. Seraphim Rose
LER—Letter of Eugene Rose
LFSR—Letter of Fr. Seraphim Rose
JER—Philosophical Journal of Eugene Rose, 1960-62
OW—The Orthodox Word
SHB—St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, Platina, California
CSHB—Chronicle of the St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, written by Eugene/Fr. Seraphim
Letter, Journal and Chronicle dates are according to the civil calendar, except
where a Church feast day is indicated, in which case both the Church (Julian or
“Old” Calendar) and civil (Gregorian or “New” Calendar) dates are given.
Most of the letters of Fr. Seraphim cited in this book were preserved in carbon
copy by Fr. Seraphim himself; some were sent by their recipients to the author for
publication in this book. In some of the references to letters the names of the
recipients have been abbreviated, and in others the names have been omitted altogether
in order to protect the privacy of living persons.
The book Letters from Fr. Seraphim by Fr. Alexey Young includes many letters
that were not preserved by Fr. Seraphim in carbon copy. When we have quoted these
letters directly from this book, references to the book have been given.
* See full quote on p. 471 in the book.
** This is from the passages that Fr. Seraphim selected and translated from the
book of Saints Barsanuphius adn John, published after Fr. Seraphim’s repose under
the title Guidance Toward Spiritual Life.
In this article, Fr. Seraphim wrote: “Among Western converts to Orthodoxy ... there
is indeed a temptation to speak too freely of ‘heresy’ and ‘heretics’, and to make
the errors of the non-Orthodox an excuse for certain pharisaic smugness about our
own ‘Orthodoxy’. Even when it is worded in a theologically correct manner, this
attitude is spiritually wrong and helps to drive away from the Orthodox
Church many who would otherwise be attracted to it.” (“In Defense
of Fr. Dimitri Dudko”, The Orthodox Word, no. 2 , p. 131.).
1. Notes of FSR, with the heading “Talk on Suffering Orthodoxy.”
2. Notes of FSR.
3. LFSR to Sylvia Anderson, May 21, 1973.
4. LFSR to ———, Oct. 21, 1975.
5. LFSR to Andrew Bond, April 4, 1978.
6. LFSR to Paul Bartlett, Dec. 10, 1975.
7. Priest Vladimir Derugin, Ieromonakh Serafim: ukhod pravednika (Hieromonk
Seraphim: the passing away of a righteous one), p. 10 (in Russian).
8. LFSR to ———, May 25, 1979.
9. LFSR to Alexey Young, Jan. 20, 1975.
10. LFSR to ———, Sept. 16, 1974; LFSR to ———, Jan. 20, 1975.
11. LFSR to ———, March 1975.
12. LFSR to Phanourios Ingram, Nov. 20, 1975.
13. See The Northern Thebaid, p. 50; revised edition, p. 54.
14. LFSR to ———, June 22, 1976.
15. LFSR to Barry, May 25, 1979.
16. LFSR to Nicholas Eastman, Sept. 5, 1972.
17. LFSR to Luke Walmsley, July 7, 1974.
18. LFSR to ———, July 24, 1974.
19. LFSR to ———, June 23, 1976.
20. LFSR to ———, March 20, 1979.
21. LFSR to ———, Aug. 6, 1974.
22. LFSR to ———, March 25, 1975.
23. Fr. Alexey Young, Letters from Fr. Seraphim, pp. 12-13.
24. Ibid., p. 104.
25. LFSR to Fr. ———, June 6, 1979.
26. LFSR to Barry, May 3, 1979.
27. LFSR to ———, Nov. 27, 1980.
28. LFSR to Nicholas, Aug. 23, 1976.
29. Informal talk by Agafia Prince at the St. Herman Monastery on the 20th anniversary
of Fr. Seraphim’s repose (Sept. 2, 2002).
30. Interview of Fr. Vladimir Anderson by Russkiy Pastyr’, 1999.
31. Fr. Alexey Young, Letters from Fr. Seraphim, p. 35.
32. Fr. Alexey Young, “The Royal Path of the Righteous Hieromonk Seraphim of Platina,”
Orthodox America, no. 167 (2002), p. 12.
From Father Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works (Platina, CA:
St. Herman Press), pp. 843-852. Copyright 2003 by the St. Herman of Alaska
Brotherhood, Platina, California. Used with permission.