Forgiveness and Reflection

January 13, 2016 Length: 16:55

Father Seraphim reflects on some of the content from his past podcasts, and asks for forgiveness because of the brief hiatus he took in posting new material.

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Transcript

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

It’s been close to two months since the last recording, and I want to begin by offering my apologies for this long break. I really should not have let that happen, but I have, and I want to ask for your forgiveness. I have received many emails from some of you, and I want to thank you for the kind and generous things you’ve said about these podcasts and about the things we publish on the monastery website. I truly, honestly appreciate those things, and at the same time they make me feel very guilty for this long break.

There were many things I’ve done in these two months, many things for the monastery. We have created an organization in the United States to support us in our fundraising. We have been working on a new website, which hopefully will be finished by the end of January. We have created a small online bookstore for the monastery. We’ve written a few booklets. Honestly, this was not wasted time, but I have been away for too long from recording these things, and I want to apologize for that.

There is a very good reason, beyond all of this, why I’ve stopped recording, and I think it is healthy for me, if not for anyone else, to tell you what that reason was. I went back and forth, considering whether I should talk to you about it, but I do believe that if I have something to offer, that is the honesty of my heart, and if I hide this from you, I would simply have to start—slowly but surely—faking these recordings. The previous recording, the last one I’ve done, the one before this, was in Paris, just a week after the bombings that happened there at the end of last year. In connection to those attacks, I said a few things concerning war and the use of guns and the idea of killing other people. I have received such horrible comments, and there was such a violent reaction against that podcast that I simply could not deal with it.

I don’t really know what to do with hatred or just pure, empty violence, even if it’s simply a matter of words or attitudes. I simply don’t know what to do with it; it has no space in my life. And it took me these two months to come to some sort of sense, to some sort of peace concerning this topic. Really there are very few things I care as much for as this topic. There is absolutely no reason—absolutely no reason why another human being could kill another one. Really, this is something I care for deeper than I had realized. Because what offended me, what scared me, following that reaction, was not so much that people could disagree with me or have a negative reaction to things I say. That happens all the time with my friends and with members of my family and with people in the parishes that I visit. I always have disagreements or arguments or…

But what paralyzed me was the reality, which I hadn’t grasped until then, the reality of the fact that there is a huge number of Christians in the world who truly believe that it is all right to kill a human being. I’m not discussing any reasons, any justifications for killing; I’m discussing pure killing, for any reason, any justification. All I can say is: Go back to Christ. Go back to the God of peace. Go back to Christ who is love. There is no argument to support murder in Christianity, at least not in a pure Orthodox Christianity. There is no such thing as “just war” in Orthodox Christianity. That is a Catholic invention, and it is deeply wrong. It is anti-Christian.

Now, this is the confession of my heart. This is not some sort of intellectual conclusion, not something I believe in, something I chose, something my mind created. This is not an opinion, mine or someone else’s. This is what I know in my heart to be the truth, and that is why this is a confession. You are listening to a confession, and you do with it whatever you want. In my heart, I know this is the truth; I know this is Christ. There is no way to life through murder, and the Orthodox Church, again, has kept that teaching as pure as possible by not creating any theory, any doctrine to justify war in any context. Many of those who wrote to me argued that there are various elders who supported war. Well, I say to you, before Christ and before those elders, that they are wrong. Even if a saint says so, he is wrong. Even if a bishop or a synod say so, they are wrong, for the very simple reason that Christ, who is the truth, and Christ’s Church, through its Tradition, say otherwise. Go back to the Christ in your heart, and look into the depth of Orthodoxy, beyond nationalism, beyond matters of state, beyond matters of borders. Go back to what Christianity is about, and you will find the same truth in your heart.

I know that intellectually we can conceive of all sorts of justifications for war and for violence and for murder. I know that there are all sorts of intellectual possibilities. I know that in theory, in abstract, there can be other answers, but I am not a theoretical being with a theoretical heart, and I’m not an abstract being with an abstract heart. I have only this heart, of flesh, and only this answer in this heart: Christ is love. He is the King of peace. And this is the answer I am giving you. We are real beings; we are not abstract beings with abstract hearts beating in our chests. The fact that there can be, from an intellectual perspective, ten or a hundred answers to one question does not change the fact that the truth is simply one, and that the name of that truth is Christ.

Look at Christ’s reaction when St. Peter wanted to protect him against the mob that came to get Christ and take him to Golgotha and then to the crucifixion. Look at Christ’s reaction to Peter’s attempt to save him. What else is there in this world or any other world, what else is there more valuable, more precious, than the Source of being himself, than Christ himself? And if he was against killing someone to protect that Source of life and being, what do you think would be his reaction when we justify war and murder today in the name of nationalism or instinctual family relations or any other reason?

Look. I have absolutely no intention and no interest to convince you. I don’t want to argue for this. This is a topic that does not need me to represent it or to fight for it. It doesn’t stand through me. This stands through Christ. I am simply called. I feel that very clearly in my heart. I am simply called to give witness for this truth. In the horrible world we live in today, what your reaction is to this confession, to this witness, is entirely up to you. In all honesty, it may have been wiser for me to simply drop it, because at the end of the day, because I’ve been very honest about it, the only reason I keep writing and I keep traveling and I keep recording these things is that I need your support to found the monastery on the Isle of Mull in the Hebrides, and I would probably get more support if I played along, if I only approached topics that I know would please you or at least I know would be safe, non-controversial in any way. I know that; I am aware of that, but if I did that, I would be lying to you. I would be faking, and I would also be lying to myself, and I would be betraying this calling I see and hear so clearly in my heart to give witness for peace and for love, for forgiveness and for humility. All else is a constructed reality; all else is a fake reality we and the world are building, because we cannot function in the simple but oh-so-difficult deep-down reality that Christ offered us.

I remember, I’ve told you in one of the first broadcasts, probably the very first one, that I can only address topics I feel are of genuine interest to myself or to some of you. I cannot answer theoretical questions, and this is perhaps the proof that I was not lying when I said that. I am not a professional speaker. I refuse to become a professional academic. I am not a professional fundraiser. I am horrible at any type of social interaction. I’m like a bear; I should be in my cave. I’m amazed people still want to talk to me and write to me and support me, but I can stand by the things I believe in, and I hope you can appreciate that. This is not some sort of talk show; this is me, giving witness to the things I hear in my heart. And as long as Christ’s words stand by that confession, and as long as the 2,000-year-long tradition of the Orthodox Church stand by that confession, I am all right, and I trust that Christ is all right with what I’m doing as well.

Well, that’s it, really. I wanted to ask for your forgiveness for the long break I have taken, and I wanted to clarify, not the question of violence and war, but the question of why I am recording these things. I do it for the monastery. Everything I do, I do for the monastery, but I shall never lie to you or fake what I feel in my heart to be the truth. Well, I promise the next podcasts are going to be more pleasant. Have a happy, blessed, love-filled, grace-filled year. Keep me and the monastery in your prayers, and please support us if you can.

Glory be to God in all things always. Amen.