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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Convert Pitfalls: Obstacles In the Orthodox Mission Today


Fr. Seraphim Rose of Platina, himself a convert to Orthodoxy, was once asked to compose a "Manual for Orthodox Converts". In his notes for such a manual, he jotted down the following "convert pitfalls", or what he called "obstacles in the Orthodox mission today":

A. Trusting oneself, samost.

Remedy: sober distrust of oneself, taking counsel of others wiser, guidance from Holy Fathers.

B. Academic approach - overly intellectual, involved, uncommitted, abstract, unreal. Bound up with A. also.

C. Not keeping the secret of the Kingdom, gossip, publicity. Overemphasis on outward side of mission, success. Danger of creating empty shell, form of mission without substance.

Remedy: concentrate on spiritual life, keep out of limelight, stay uninvolved from passionate disputes.

D. "Spiritual Experiences".

Symptoms: feverish excitement, always something "tremendous" happening - the blood is boiling. Inflated vocabulary, indicates puffed up instead of humble. Sources in Protestantism, and in one's own opinions "picked up" in the air.

Remedy: sober distrust of oneself, constant grounding of Holy Fathers and Lives of Saints, counsel.

E. Discouragement, giving up - "Quenched" syndrome.

Cause: overemphasis on outward side, public opinion, etc.

Remedy: emphasis on inward, spiritual struggle, lack of concern for outward success, mindfulness of whom we are followers of (Christ crucified but triumphant).

F. A double axe: broadness on one hand, narrowness on the other.


In another place Fr. Seraphim wrote of the spirit of criticism that often enters converts today:

"My priest (or parish) does everything right - other priests (or parishes) don't." "My priest does everything wrong: others are better." "My monastery is not according to the Holy Fathers or canons, but that monastery over there is perfect, everything according to the Holy Fathers."

Such attitudes are spiritually extremely dangerous. The person holding them is invariably in grave spiritual danger himself, and by uttering his mistaken, self-centered words he spreads the poison of rationalist criticism to others in the Church.

From Not of This World: The Life and Teachings of Fr. Seraphim Rose, pp. 781-82.
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