FROM: Priest Seraphim Holland, PO 37, McKinney TX 75070 TO: Ö Date: April 29/May 12, 2020, 4th Tuesday of Pascha
Dear in Christ Ö: Pra Chris Song †Phun Kun Cheeb Laow! ††Christ is risen! The first was Thai for ďChrist is risenĒ. It is very long. I have a catechumen who is native Thai. †Your letters are getting to me just fine. Iím not chancing writing you any paper letters. I suppose if I want to send you some services or something, Iíll just write them in paper letters and see whether or not they get to you. I would be interested in knowing if you got the Typica service and if it was useful to you. I sent all that in, I think, 2 J pay-letters.
Iím really sorry that youíre having a hard time. People donít understand that when they act in an evil way towards others it does not remove their pain. It actually increases it and prolongs it. The mystery is also the that when people act in an evil way towards us, we feel genuine pain and it might be prolonged pain, but if we experience this pain in a useful way, but this pain is actually salvific. It is impossible to purposefully give people pain and derive any benefit whatsoever. It is however, very possible to receive pain given from people in a useful way and have it lead to our healing. I believe that the pain that you are receiving the hands of angry and ignorant men, is exactly that sort of pain because of your reaction to it. Of course, you donít always have your ďAĒ game, and there might be times when you are upset, or lash out, or do other ďstupid human tricksĒ. You and I are not angels, to be without any passionate outbursts is only for the perfect. But you are struggling to pray for these men and to live in a Christian way regarding them, and I have no doubt whatsoever that the persecution that you endure will lead to your full redemption and healing.
It is a terrible thing to have a pain, to feel agony and have it provide no useful benefit whatsoever. Perhaps we can think of a person who has migraine headaches constantly. All they do is make it impossible for them to have a normal life during the time of the headache. But if a person breaks their leg and needs to learn how to walk again, the pain that they feel, which might even be more excruciating than a headache, will lead them to healing. If I could I would remove the pain that youíre feeling because of the mistreatment from your fellow man. Of course, they are your fellow man, also made in the image of God to obtain his likeness just like you and I are. I know that you know that. They donít know that.
As you well know, the pandemic goes on, to a destination that we do not yet know. It affects every aspect of our life right now. Iím sure itís making it very terrible in prison. Life is not terrible here, but psychologically and spiritually I find myself struggling. I want very much to write letters every day, but I donít end up doing that. Iíve really lost a lot of zip, not so much juice right now, but am trying to gain it back. By your prayers.
Last week, I was taking care of Owen, whom I also call ďO BoyĒ, and ĒO BOĒ, and of course, ďaxe-manĒ. Iím taking care of him on Thursdays and Fridays and they are the highlight of my week. It may be that Iíll start taking care of Monster at the end of May. Since Iím so terrible at writing letters lately, I started dictating a letter while I was pushing him on his swing. He has this swing that is a platform and he loves it. He has a puppy now, a blue heeler who is only seven weeks old. She is wonderful, and it is so much fun for them to play together. I really miss having a dog. With all my prison ministry travel, having a dog really didnít fit in my lifestyle. However, right now it would be easy to have a dog since Iím home all the time. Anyway, hereís the things that I wrote by dictation, with numerous corrections since the dictation sometimes gets things very weirdly wrong.
I am taking care of axe-man right now and swinging him as he is asleep. Itís hard to get him to go to sleep. So, I thought I would try to basically dictate some of a letter to all of you. To be honest with you, Iím kind of beat. Iím not physically beat, but Iím just pretty tired. Iím sure that the lockdown as long for you too. Of course, youíre locked in, but now youíre locked down also and many things about this ďshelter in placeĒ are not pleasant at all. It Feels like itís going on forever.
I have tried, as Iíve gotten older get a little smarter. I think I have a little bit. I love my grandchildren very much and especially love the opportunity to take care of axe-man and Monster. So now Iím taking care of X-Man on Thursdays and Fridays. Of course, every other week I would have been going to prison on Thursday but of course thatís out for quite some time. I had a talk with a chaplain yesterday that was pretty depressing. I think I will be very lucky if I get back into prison before August or even after August.
Among other things, there is one very weird and uncomfortable feeling that this pandemic has made me feel. I think it might be a feeling thatís familiar to you, and that is, you feel kind of disassociated, and you feel like everything is taking forever. Just today I saw Monster. I have not actually taking care of him by myself for almost three months. He doesnít treat me in the same way anymore. Of course, he loves me but Iím not all that special anymore. Now Owen is crazy about me. He calls me ďBuhĒ and literally if I leave the room he starts to cry and says ďbuhĒ over and over while reaching out his hands. Itís just wonderful to be able to take care of him. I feel that in taking care of him Iím doing something thatís permanent. I would like to think that he will learn things for me that will be a lifelong, and even eternal traits. Of course, I donít want him to learn the bad things that come from me. I was recently doing a few exercises out in the backyard, just standing up and moving around, and he was imitating me.
Itís wonderful to be able to see the boys growing up. O Bo is getting a lot friskier, and saying more words but his language is still pretty simple, although I can talk to him in normal sentences and he understands much of what I say. Monster, on the other hand is so active verbally. Heís just over to about five months older than Owen, and talks in complete sentences often times. †He has gotten some Toy Story things, and whenever he runs, he holds out his hands and pretends he has wings so he is buzz and he is flying!
Iíve been telling the parish a lot about how to react to this pandemic. So many people are upset about conspiracy theories, of which some are likely true. The behavior of our politicians is abominable and China is certainly abominable and thereís concerns about a lot of things. And somebodyís going to get rich on the vaccine. None of that matters for us personally. None of us can make any difference on a global scale. The only thing we can really change is ourselves, and we have a tough time just doing that. Itís impossible to make changes in ourselves if we are distracted. Itís hard enough when we are concentrating.
We can pray, and we can obtain peace in our hearts. And thatís the most important thing about this pandemic. Many of you have been actually locked down because of this pandemic. Iím sure that TDCJ overreacting, cuz thatís kind of what they do. And Iím sure theyíre also inconsistent and doing stuff thatís unsafe as well as safe, because well, itís the government. What does all that matter? What matters is that we have peace in our hearts. What matters is that we donít allow ourselves to get overrun with anger towards the government or China or politicians or whatever.
I did a YouTube video about something like this and I mentioned two prominent priestsí videos as I didnít appreciate their emphasis, and oh my goodness, I got wiped out by the comments. Iím just tired of people being angry and being anxious. Iím tired of people focusing on things they cannot change. Iím tired of people waving flags and talking about the government persecuting us. We will definitely know when the government persecutes us. This is not the time. Iím also tired of people being experts upon viruses. They seem to know everything about them. Some of these people that are going on about churches not being open are not leaving their homes. There is a disconnect.
To be honest with you, full disclosure, I feel anxiety. Iím worried about how my people are going to be when they come out of this. But worrying about it doesnít really do a whole lot of good. Iíve got to pray also and I am trying to do that, and I am making some progress.
We have a good Governor, at least better than a lot of other ones, and heís allowing churches to open now. Our Bishop is allowing us also so that we have basically about 25% capacity in the church. We have to distance people and stuff like that but weíre at a number now where we can have 25 people in the church, as well as servers and singers. The church is a mess right now, on this day of the 12, because the interior north wall was taken out. Now we have almost 50% more space taking up what was our hall, because we now have a separate building just a block down, which will use for eating, and teaching. We just got an occupancy permit for it, and are still doing some renovations, but itís basically ready to go. Of some interest to some people perhaps is that the upstairs could be used for apartments.
Fr Nicholas and I are serving liturgy all together three times a week. I serve every Wednesday and then we rotate who serves Saturday and who serves Sunday. Heís overworked because heís a teacher and teaching people online is very difficult, especially for a laboratory science. Heís a physics teacher. Both of us are tired, but being able to celebrate three services a week allows theoretically three sets of 30 people to go. †Of course, people are what they are, and everybody wants Sunday and everybody (well, not really everybody) wants an advantage. Weíre asking if a person goes to liturgy on a given day, that they should not go the other days of the week unless thereís room available. We have a sign-up sheet thatís from some software on the internet and every Sunday we make available the services for the following week. Most people understand and some people donít. Itís always that way isnít it?
What else can I tell you why Iím trying to make dual use of my time? Iím basically using one hand to swing Owen who is asleep on the swing. And then Iím speaking into my laptop or my notepad to write you a letter. Itís always my intention to write several letters a day, and usually that intention does not happen. We have grandchildren at home all the time now and they have school and sometimes they help to help with that. To be honest with you Iím not very good at it or consistent with it. People in parishes often donít understand that that a priest is a human too, which means he has problems as well.
That is the end of my dictation. Owen mustíve woken up.
Letís see if I can answer anything else it is in your letter. I did get a letter that you mailed to me earlier. I should try to answer that one also you mentioned that it was mailed on Ö, and I have a letter that was postmarked on Ö. So, I am answering your later letter first, the one dated 5-5. The other one dated 5-3 is much shorter. Answering two letters in one letter might be a world record for me.
You are in a real pickle regarding the Ö attacks and the practices of ďsafe prisonsĒ. Of course, they will punish you more or less by locking you up to keep you ďsafeĒ. I canít tell you what I would do. I am praying for you, my poor prayers. I believe youíre saying that it might be less safe if you go off with the safe prisons people. Truly prison seems to be like Alice in Wonderland. Everything is opposite.
I am of course concerned about your Ö and your medical problems. May God preserve you! Your first letter says that people want your pills. What they understand is those pills are going to do anything except get their nose dusty. It must be hard to live in an environment where people are always so stupid. I like your sense of ethics also. I learned a lot from it. Itís good to see, because to be honest with you, I talk to people in prison all the time, and not everybody gets a sense of ethics. I get demoralized about that, but you are a light to me.
I ran out of stuff. Iíll try to move onto the next thing, if not if I can get it done. May God bless you and help you in all things. This letter will be mailed approximately 6:00 PM 5/12/2020
"Today You Will Open the Temple!" Here's a wonderful story that happened in Samarkand...
George, a teacher by profession, sang in the choir at the St. George's Church in Samarkand. He also told a striking story, which happened during the years of Khrushchev's power during the service of Archimandrite Seraphim (Saturov). This priest, who was born in Perm, was repressed and served 10 years, he was already an old man was sick, barely able to walk. With his warmth, he attracted a lot of young people to the temple. Many began to be baptized. When the kegebashniki saw that the youth went to the temple, they quickly found a reason to close the temple. Father was forbidden to serve. There was no service in the temple, but secretly it was carried out at night, two or three people gathered and he served.
It's been two years since the temple was closed. The temple's feast of St. George the Victorious was approaching. All parishioners were lamenting that there would be no service on this day. And the authorities have already determined that a good kindergarten will be here with seven apartments, and the temple room is spacious, for sauna, bakery, dining room, a large area, a well, two oaks. It became clear to everyone that the temple will soon end.
But on the eve of May 6, something came up. At that time Father was preparing for the feast in his cell, reading the canons, and Mother Julia, his cell attendant, an exiled nun, was sweeping in the church yard. Suddenly she saw the gates of the church fence open, and two riding officers on white horses enter. One was older than the other. The first one looked so majestic, handsome, clever. He jumps off the horse and, addressing a nun by her name, gives her the reins: "Mother Julia, hold the horse's reins. I am going to Father Seraphim." She fell to her knees, all in awe. - Oh, dear, your horse is strong, I will not hold it!" and raised her arms as if she were giving up on him. Then the officer gave the reins to his aide and, without asking anything, went straight to Father Seraphim's cell. He saw him kneeling before the icons and told him overwhelmingly: "Father Seraphim, get ready for service, the temple will be opened today!" Father rebuffed: "What kind of officer are you, where did he come from?" And his words are such strong, heroic words. And the voice is beautiful, powerful - pure baritone, and the word is power, just like an order! And suddenly the priest realized that it was Great Martyr George himself. He looked out the window, both riders deftly took off on horses and rode, only sparks from under their hooves could be seen! And they went after Father Seraphim directly to the executive committee of the city of Samarkand.
Great Martyr George left his adjutant at the entrance with the horses, and he entered the executive committee, bypassing the policemen. They only met him with eyes, but not a word to him, did not ask who and where. George Pobedonosets - right on the second floor, past the secretary, who also became numb. Without asking anyone anything, he opens the door to the office of the chairman of the executive committee and, calling him by his name, says: "Today the church of Great Martyr George will be opened! Otherwise you will be punished without pardon."
The chairman of the executive committee was frightened by the appearance of an unprecedented officer and his words: "Otherwise you will be punished without pardon!" And he turns around and leaves. The chairman wanted to ask him a question: "Who are you, where are you from?" But he couldn't come to his senses from the extraordinary power of an order given by a stranger. He looked out the window and he was already in the saddle with an unusual ease and only sparks from under the hooves could be seen. In fear, the official picks up the phone, calls the Ombudsman for Religious Affairs: " Urgently send the messenger to the temple of the Great Martyr George! To immediately open the temple! And write the order after." There was no time even to write the order such a fear took him! The Commissioner immediately sent his assistant to the temple. After 15 minutes, he was with Father Seraphim.: "Open the temple, serve freely!"
The next day, the chairman of the executive committee arrived by car to Father Seraphim: ďIs there any boss over you?Ē- But what about? There is. - Can I see his photo? Father brings him a photograph of Bishop Tashkent with his mitre. ďNo, not that one! Do you have anyone even higher? I met your boss yesterday, like an officer. With such authority, he ordered that the temple be opened urgently, otherwise, he says, I will be punished without pardon! Itís immediately obvious that he was your boss."
Tears flowed from the priest, he could not utter words. He just brought out the old icon of the Great Martyr George riding a white horse. The chairman of the executive committee looked at the icon. "That's him!!! I met him yesterday!" and also wept.