Letter Six of Fr. Clement Sederholm to His Father

Thank you, dearest father, for your kind letter of June 8. You write that since Pascha you have not been in the condition to write anything, and that you must postpone all your speculative problems. If you cannot write anything philosophical, then maybe it would be seemly, according to your circumstances and current mood, to write something in a religious and evangelical spirit. Some people who have this philosophic thinking spread it so far out that it deviates from the Gospel or incorrectly interprets it, which, of course, you disapprove.

I read the 95th number of the Moscow Register, and many others here read it with pleasure and brought it to me. Concerning the current danger to our fatherland, we are not at all indifferent; but we see in it not as much Polish intrigues as [Roman] Catholic hostility to “Eastern heresy,” as they call the Eastern Church.

Educated Poles, living in Russia, are almost impossible to distinguish from other educated people. They often forget even their language so it is hard to recognize a Pole in them. Catholics, however, with their Roman Catholic particularities, one can recognize anywhere. Their principal distinctive characteristic, as you know, is hatred of everything non-Catholic. If you sent me the book by Gaze[?] written against the Roman Catholic Church, I would read it with pleasure and return it, and, if you like, would inform you of the impressions it made on me.

In your letter of May 14 you write that you cannot agree that faith is higher than reason and that both of them are from God. Without a doubt reason is also from God, but as in faith so in reason there are well-known degrees. Firstly, there is fleshly reason (Rom. 8:5), which concerns itself with the material life and is directed only to the perfection of it. It makes various discoveries and invents, for example, rail roads, etc. It goes no further. Secondly, there is reason of a natural man (1 Cor. 2:14), which concerns itself with a pious, moral life and works itself up to acquire virtues. This degree of reason leads to faith; that is, the one who is reasonable understands what he must believe in and without a doubt accepts the Gospel of Christ.

From faith in God we proceed, as you correctly remarked, to life in God, and that is the true Christian teaching, when we, with firmness and without relaxation, strive towards a Christian life.

So, the one who believes and lives according to the teaching of Christ, by his many efforts, reaches the degree of a spiritual person. Then, as a natural man looks after himself and does not ignore the material life, with its cares and benefits, a spiritual man lives only in faith and according to faith, does not care for his body, places all his sorrows on the Lord, without fear dwells in deserts, and is not afraid of wild animals because he knows that they are creations of the common Creator: Upon the asp and basilisk shalt thou tread, and thou shalt trample upon the lion and dragon (Ps. 90:13) and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them (Mark 16:18). Spiritual reason, that is, reason of a spiritual man, illumined through faith, through the fulfilling of Christ’s commandments, and through the particular grace of those revelations of the Lord, understands and comprehends much of what not only the fleshly but also the natural man cannot understand or comprehend. And as every man, with his ordinary human reason, can comprehend much, much more so can the spiritual man look upon everything correctly, judge, and comprehend all; but he himself cannot be judged or comprehended by anyone (1 Cor. 2:15). Therefore, if reason in its intermediate degree, that is, when it concerns itself with the soul and leads us only to faith, and in its highest degree of growth through faith receives all its strength and illumination, then how can reason be placed higher than faith? This is just as if a public school was placed higher than a gymnasium, or even a university.

“The desire,” you say, “to give yourself an account as to how, what and why is probably from God.” Of course it is so. But the unmistakable way to that lies through faith and through life corresponding to the commandments of Christ. And the one who seeks another way and prematurely wants to learn the how and why is like a man who, not having gone to secondary school and not having studied, wants to comprehend mathematics or metaphysics with all their nuances. Such a man will never learn anything nor will comprehend anything. In exactly the same way that man will never reach his goal who, by his ordinary reason, wants to comprehend all that is comprehended by faith and, not only by faith, but also by the fulfilling of Christ’s commandments and the grace of God. Without a doubt, faith is subtler and more piercing than reason and gives man a higher and subtler understanding. Reason arises doubts and fear; faith gives hope. In the Christian Church there have been examples that, through faith, people did not burn in fire or did not drown in water. With only his own reason man cannot do that. The Lord said that signs will follow them that believe (Mark 16:17).

From all my heart I wish you all the best from God, Who abundantly can send us all that we ask of Him.

June 29, 1863

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