Fr Seraphim gave this as an address to a group of college students in California around 1980. In many ways it summarizes all of Fr Seraphim’s writings (which is kind of impressive for only 50 pages). Fr Seraphim’s message is the human heart opens itself up to the truth of God—this is revelation. It is often when the Scriptures are expounded with the right interpretation—this is intensified in times of acute suffering.
Fr Seraphim gives many examples from the lives of the saints, most notably St John Maximovitch of Shanghai and San Francisco. St John’s life was one of humility and suffering and as a result God blessed him with miracle-working. More importantly for this story, he received revelation to appear to a woman (in the flesh) despite the fact that it was impossible by the laws of physics for him to do so. (Think of St Philip and the Ethiopian). Fr Seraphim then surmises that many of the disciples who traveled to Russia, southern Africa, and China did so by the same means that St Philip did in Acts.
Fr Seraphim warns his audience not to search for religious experiences, but for truth. As an example he gives the chilling story of St Niceta of the Kievan Caves. We accept that miracles and spiritual gifts are real, but we must test our religious experiences not by ourselves, and not even by our reading of the Bible, but by submitting it to the discipline and wisdom of the Church.
The end of the book is a Q and A session. Other reviewers and the editor were dismayed at the questions asked. They feared that the audience missed Fr Seraphim’s main point. The audience probably did miss it, but their questions do reveal that Fr Seraphim indeed “touched” something within their hearts. Fortunately for later readers, Fr Seraphim’s answers are very clear and short answers to difficult questions.
This book is one of those written with rare power. Fr Seraphim writes with the same message the book contains. It is like all of Fr Seraphim’s books: practical, urgent topics met with the wisdom of the ancient church. He is always serene and clear. Fr Seraphim’s life was one of suffering and seeking to acquire the mind of the Fathers. Doing so brought him “pain of heart,” as the Fathers would say. This pain of heart, this suffering, gifted him to speak to audiences such as these.