"Temptation from the Right", Discernment, Disease of Correctness, Guide to Orthodox Life, Hieromonk Seraphim of Platina, Letters to His Family, Protopresbyter Peter Heers, Seraphim Rose, Sobriety, Spiritual Guidance
Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose) of Platina, 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. Don’t allow yourself to get stuck on the outward aspect of Orthodoxy — whether 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. Don’t have a hypercritical attitude. By this I don’t 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 deeper — the 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 West — but 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 won’t get in books and it can’t 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 practice — you 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 mind.
[LFSR to Barry, May 3, 1979.]
…more from Fr. Seraphim here