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Blessed Father Seraphim: The Orthodox Must Avoid Fanaticism and Sectarianism and Stay United

Prophetic and Wise Words Which are So Very Relevant to Today's Church

Blessed Father Seraphim Rose has bequeathed much to the Church, not least of all his tireless witness to the royal path of the Fathers in the face of the general apostasy of our age and the particular heresy of our day, syncretistic ecumenism. In the following excerpt, from a letter her wrote on the feast of the translation of the relics of St. John Chrysostom, Jan 27/Feb. 9, 1977, Fr. Seraphim prophetically stresses the great need for Orthodox unity in the face of the challenge of the "Great and Holy Council":

"We pray that God will grant peace to his small flock, and that small differences of opinion will not destroy the unity of all who should be fighting against the real apostasy of our times—that represented by the frightful “Eighth Ecumenical Council,”* which seems to be drawing closer. In a way, we welcome this robber-council, for it will perhaps be so obviously anti-Orthodox that some will see it and withdraw from that ruinous path. That is another reason for the True Orthodox Christians to be not fanatical but moderate, holding a path of true Orthodoxy and not sectarianism in the face of such temptations."

There are several "take-aways" from these wise words of Fr. Seraphim:

  1. The unity of the Orthodox, those confessing faith in the "one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church," is precious and we must not allow lesser differences to divide us.

  2. The real challenge, what he calls "the real apostasy," of our day is syncretistic ecumenism and this is represented by the "Council" which is a robber-council.

  3. This false council is at once both a threat to the unity of the Church and an opportunity for many who have not seen or paid attention to this greatest of threats to see, understand and unite together in favor of Orthodoxy. This is precisely what we have seen happening since last January.

  4. In order to encourage this "awakening" and "unifying" it is very important for all Orthodox to avoid fanaticism and sectarianism in response to syncretistic ecumenism.

This last point is perhaps the most important point of all, for many do not give weight to the "temptation on the right" and thus easily fall into it. However, it matters little to the enemy of our salvation if he snares us on the left or on the right, for both are falls from the "royal path" of the Fathers. It requires much humility, reflection, and discernment for the struggler to remain on the royal path of discernment of spirits in this day and age, in which it is the "standard" for two options to be offered and both of them to be erroneous. We often hear that you must either be for the "Council" or against Church unity. Or, you are either with the "ecumenists" or a fanatic and zealous "not according to knowledge." However, these are false dichotomies. Those who speak this way are making the assumption that there are only two possible positions, both of them extreme. The question is posed in this way in order to force Orthodox Christians, who are naturally opponents of syncretistic ecumenism, into one of these two extreme positions -- both of which are not the royal path of the Fathers.

The simple answer is: we are following the Holy Fathers, we are in the Church and not innovators, and we will neither succumb to the extremism of fundamentalist ecumenism nor the trap of undiscerning zealotry, both of which work to undermine the unity of the Church.

May all sincere Orthodox take to heart the wise words of Blessed Father Seraphim and focus on Christ and Him Alone, working together with all who rightly believe and confess, in order to build up the Church and Her unity.

- Protopresbyter Peter Heers

*At the time, the organizers and commentators of the Council were referring to it in this manner.

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