On Strictness

Hieromonk Seraphim Rose 1934-1982

They have built a church career for themselves on a false but attractive premise: that the chief danger to the Church today is lack of strictness. No—the chief danger is something much deeper—the loss of the savor of Orthodoxy, a movement in which they themselves are participating, even in their ‘strictness’…  ‘Strictness’ will not save us if we don’t have any more the feeling and taste of Orthodoxy. (Father Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works, p. 532)

A few years ago one of these groups cut off communion with our Russian Church Abroad because our bishops refused to declare that all other Orthodox Churches are without grace; this group now declares that it alone has grace, only it is Orthodox. Recently this group has attracted some converts from our Russian Church Abroad, and we should be aware that this attitude is a danger to some of our American and European converts: with our calculating, rationalistic minds it is very easy to think we are being zealous and strict, when actually we are chiefly indulging our passion for self-righteousness. (Orthodoxy Facing the 1980s)

Their ‘strictness’, forces them to become so involved in church politics that spiritual questions become quite secondary. I know for myself that if I would have to sit down and think out for myself exactly which shade of ‘zealotry’ is the ‘correct’ one today—I will lose all peace of mind and be constantly preoccupied with questions of breaking communion, of how this will seem to others, of ‘what will the Greeks think’ (and which Greeks?), and ‘what will the Metropolitan think?’ And I will not have time or inclination to become inspired by the wilderness, by the Holy Fathers, by the marvelous saints of ancient and modern times who lived in a higher world. In our times especially, it is not possible to be entirely detached from these questions, but let us place first things first. (Life and Works, Chap. 63)