Letter to prisoners.

Catechumen service explained

Exorcisms, Renunciations, Affirmations, The creed


Sept 11/23


[ A letter written when on a spiritual retreat on a ranch in Indian Creek, Almost heaven, West Texas... I am preparing several men for baptism. Important information about the Catechumen service, the exorcisms. Why the Creed is important. Our disposition determines everything.]


Dear in Christ brothers:


I am at a ranch in Indian Creek,  TX,  right on the Colorado  River (pond at this moment).  It is near Brownwood,  about 1.5 hours West and a little N of Gatesville. I unexpectedly  had some time after going to prison,  and I took it.  I have been road hard and put away wet. Being in the TX  woods,  and seeing deer and maybe some pigs,  and seeing the stars "hearing" the quiet and praying on the bluff overlooking the river is a good tonic.

Horse Killer Cactus. At Indian Creek, Texas. https://www.orthodox.net//images/indian-river-retreat-2015-09-10-cactus.jpg

I will run the Hills every day,  hike all over,  drive the four wheeler mini pickup all over,  spy on deer,  and pray and read in the quiet. I will, of course, look for and mark my beloved "horse killer" cactus (I have put rings of rock around dozens of fine specimens). I will of course pray for all of you,  and my parishioners and many more.  I appreciate your prayers. I seem to need getaway time more often.  I would like to have more endurance.


It's kinda  funny.  My getaway time is to pray in the woods and have solitude.  The world wants to go to Vegas. If I were kidnapped  and taken to Vegas,  I would need a retreat to recover from all the nonsense.

Turkeys right outside the cabin. Indian Creek, TX https://www.orthodox.net//images/indian-river-retreat-2015-09-01-turkeys.jpg

Man!  A flock of turkeys came right up to the cabin.  I got some pictures. I was thinking today,  as I walked in the woods and saw about 8 deer  that I have never seen turkeys on this ranch,  and here they are!


I was sorry to miss so many of you today. I learned some very good news today,  and you will know of it when we meet again. 


Unfortunately,  I must go to our Diocesan  Assembly the 2nd week of October.  The next scheduled time is the 4th week of October.  I will see if the chaplain will let me come next week (a fifth Wednesday,  when I normally do not go to prison). I will try to let you know.


Three of you have made it clear you want to be catechumens and eventually  get baptized. Billy told me today,  plus Howard and Brian H.  If anyone else also wants to make this commitment,  please tell me and don't  be sore with me if I left you out.  I am writing from memory on my phone,  and my notes are at home.


I want you all to read the Creed every day.  You should try to memorize it. It is in the morning prayers,  and other places,  in the prayer book. It begins:  "I believe in one God,  the Father Almighty..."

Russians call this statement of Faith "Ver-ooo-yoo" because this means  "(I)  believe".  This is a way we refer to many hymns,  by their first word or beginning phrase.


I will teach about the creed as fast as possible,  tell you about the catechumen service,  then perform it.  In a seasonal time,  you will be baptized.


Catechumen,  btw,   means "learner". The catechumen service  is hard core.  It demands a serious commitment from you,  and solemn promises. It consists of basically three parts.


Exorcism Prayers


At the beginning,  I read the exorcism  prayers over you. We do not believe you are possessed,  but you are under the influence of the demons.  They are foul and tricky,  and they never sleep. Since the time they rejected the love of God,  they are filled with hate for us. We are God's beloved,  and He will eventually,  when we are ready,  show Himself completely  to us,  and we will know Him and be in Union with Him.


Even the Holy Angels cannot achieve this.  The angels that love God rejoice for us,  and aid us in many ways,  as God commands them.  They ***freely and easily*** follow His commands with pleasure.  We poor ones do not follow His commands as freely  and easily.  Some commands we foolish ones do not follow either because of ignorance,  or worse,  stubbornness and laziness,  and others we try to follow,  but our will is weak,  and still others,  we follow,  but only with great and sometimes  exhausting effort.


Another definition of Salvation: Freedom


In the Kingdom,  we will easily do good,  and never even struggle against  bad,  just like the good angels. This is the freedom Christ speaks of when He says "in that day,  ye shall be free indeed"[1].

Christianity is the gaining of this freedom. We are able to accomplish this task after baptism,  after which we become "a new creature". God sets us free from the law of sin and death. We are responsible to cooperate with His grace,  and struggle against sin. 


It does not matter if some of your sins are too big for you.  All God requires is struggle,  and desire  and He will give us all sufficient  grace and everything needful.


This,  btw,  is our understanding of works.  We are not saved by any works we do,  and neither are we saved if we do not struggle to do works. Nobody who refuses to repent is saved.  Repentance is to "change ones mind"  and struggle against sin. For some sins,  we will be completely victorious,  even in this life. Other sins we may never fully conquer.




The most important factor is our disposition.  Do we struggle against sin? Do we promise, as the Psalmist David sings  (and we sing in every day's evening Vesper service) ,  to not "make excuse with excuses in sins"?


This is a process. If you have "sticky" sins,  beg God to help you have the desire and,  of course,  the strength, to fight them.  Most of the time our sins are "sticky" is because we lack full desire to fight them,  and also firm faith. Never excuse your sin.  Fight! Fight! Fight! And you will be saved.


Back to the exorcism prayers.  They are long and very strong prayers against all machinations of the Devil. Do not be proud and think that the Devil cannot fool you or hurt you.  He is much more intelligent than you,  and he never sleeps. He is powerless against love  and humility,  and of course,  faith grounded on these virtues. These are your only useful weapons against them.  I will discuss them with you soon.




The second part of the service is the "renunciations".  You will turn to the West,  the symbolic place of the Devil  (since the Lord,  the Dayspring of the East,  is associated with the East,  and He will come again from the East),  and be asked three times: "Dost thou renounce Satan, and all his works, and all his angels, and all his service, and all his pride?" You answer loudly each time "I do".


Then we blow and spit upon him ( in some churches,  such as ours,  we actually go outside and spit on the ground).


The Affirmations


Then follows the "affirmations".  We face to the East and you are asked a question three times: "Dost thou unite Thyself unto Christ"? You answer  "I do".


Then follows a series repeated three times,  a kind of mega affirmation,  where you recite the Nicene Creed  in its entirety  each time. This is very important.  First,  you must know and understand  the Creed.  Second,  you are proclaiming your faith and making solemn promises before God,  the angels  and men,  and the entire church.


The service  then ends after a few more prayers,  said by the priest. We will  go over this in detail.

I wanted to send you something.  I am way behind in letter writing,  do consider this a promissory  note for the rest.


God bless you and help you in all things!


This is being sent Thursday  morning,  because I could not get a signal last night! 



Priest Seraphim Holland 2015     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas


This article is at:





New Journal entries, homilies, etc. are on our BLOG: https://www.orthodox.net//redeemingthetime

Articles Archive: https://www.orthodox.net//articles

Journal Archive: https://www.orthodox.net//journal

Blog posts & local parish news are posted to our email list. Go to here: http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church to join.

Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL of the article. This content belongs to the author. We would love to hear from you with comments! (seraphim@orthodox.net)


[1] John 8:36  If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.