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057. August 5/18, 1970. Pre-Feast of the Transfiguration

Dear Brother in Christ, Daniel,

Here it is already a week since the great Church events of this year, and only now am I sitting down to try to tell you a little about them. I know how anxious you are to hear about them, but this will be only a brief sketch — we hope to have a fuller account with illustrations in our July-August Orthodox Word.

For us the great celebration began a month early, with the yearly Liturgy in Vladika Johns Sepulchre on the anniversary of his repose (June 19/July 2). Father Herman was commemorated then, too. Then, on the feast of Sts. Sergius and Herman of Valaam (June 29/July 11), Vladika Nektary came to us just after dawn and served Divine Liturgy. This, probably Father Herman’s namesday, was the beginning of daily litiyas for the repose of the about to be glorified Saint.

On the feastday of St. Seraphim (July 19/Aug. 1) Vladika Anthony made a surprise visit to us not long after dawn (together with Deacon Nicholas, who brought a beautiful small cupola he had made for our printshop), and served the third Liturgy in our outdoor chapel, followed by a panikhida for Fr. Herman and the first reading of the Ukase of Metr. Philaret which will be in our new OW.

The next week we expected Bp. Laurus, Gleb’s onetime instructor at the seminary, to visit us, and we hastily finished a small kellia we had begun some months ago — a lean-to, 8×8 ft., at the back door of our living cabin. He arrived Wednesday but stayed only a few hours and went right back. Thursday afternoon we left for San Francisco, and on Friday evening the chief services began. But first we received an appropriate tongue-lashing (good for humility!) from Vladika Anthony for the “18 bishops” we had predicted — we had this printed in the Russian press also. Alas, our information was not too reliable, and no more than 12 or so had really been expected, and several of these were unable to come owing to last-minute illness, urgent business, and the like, and only 5 attended after all, making the celebrations more modest but no less solemn for all that. Later Vladika Anthony thought he had been a little harsh on us and touchingly consoled us by telling us that with Patriarch Tikhon, Metropolitan Innocent, and the reposed bishops of San Francisco and Alaska there would indeed be at least 18 bishops spiritually present!

And indeed, for all these bishops and for everyone else connected with Father Herman, commemoration was made at the requiem services of Friday night and Saturday morning. We were especially pleased to hear the list of names end each time with Archimandrite Gerasim of Spruce Island (who was also mentioned in Vladika Anthony’s sermon on Saturday morning), since he suffered so much in his own lifetime from the local Alaska clergy, and from the other side was criticized by some of our Synodal people for what they thought was his failure to take a definite stand after 1946. But now, when the whole Church was gathered to canonize his beloved Father Herman, Fr. Gerasim too was there where he belonged. Fr. Panteleimon of Boston arrived for the Friday evening service, bringing with him relics of several saints, which were put out for veneration, as well as the icon which we sent you the other day, which was given out Saturday night to all present. In the afternoon Fr. Vladimir of Jordanville arrived, bringing a relic of St. Herman (a tooth which Fr. Gerasim had given him years before), which was placed in the icon Fr. Cyprian painted together with another relic — a piece of Fr. Herman’s coffin which Fr. Gerasim had given Bp. Andrew of Novo-Diveyevo.

On Saturday evening at 6 o’clock Metr. Philaret arrived and the final panikhida was served for Father Herman alone. And then the long-awaited service to our newly-glorified Saint began. After the choir sang 3 stichera of the Resurrection, the cliros choir of seminarians and clergy began — loud and clear — the stikhera to St. Herman: “Leap up, ye waters of Valaam.” Up to the last minute, Vladika Anthony hadn’t decided how much should be sung in English, and he finally decided to begin with the final two stichera on “Lord, I have cried.” But rather than the 3 or 4 feeble voices he perhaps expected, there was a veritable crowd of enthusiastic young English-singers, and he blessed us to add the “Glory” in English too, which we did, slowly and solemnly. Here, as throughout the service, all the “special melodies” were followed strictly, whether in Slavonic or English.

At the Litia there was a procession around the outside of the Cathedral, and the first commemoration was made of “St. Herman, Wonderworker of Alaska.” Before the polyeleos, Vladika Anthony gave an inspired sermon which set the tone for the entire celebration. St. Seraphim, our paschal Saint who greeted everyone with the words “Christ is risen,” had prophesied the exile of the Russian faithful. And now, in the midst of this exile, the faithful have come together to celebrate the memory of yet another paschal Saint — Saint Herman, who reposed amidst lighted candles and the reading of the Acts, in preparation for eternal Pascha. And therefore Vladika Anthony — who earlier, for seemingly obscure reasons, had instructed all clergy to bring white paschal vestments for the canonization — now ordered all in the cathedral to hold burning candles to greet the newly-glorified Saint as at the Easter service.

After the polyeleos, the Metropolitan unveiled the icon with the relics of St. Herman, and the assembled clergy (20-some priests — 32 on Sunday, 5 deacons, plus servers) thunderously sang the first triumphal Magnification of St. Herman, repeated first by the choir, then by the clergy, then by the seminarians on the cliros in English, then again by the clergy.

The veneration of the icon and relics by the multitude of faithful took up the rest of the service, while Gleb and I read the canons — one troparion of each canticle to St. Herman in English. The lauds were sung in Slavonic and English, “O Most glorious wonder” being sung most rousingly by the seminarians in both languages. Everyone was inspired with a genuine paschal feeling, and Fr. Nicholas Dombrovsky emphasized this the next morning in his sermon at the early Liturgy by calling the celebration a second “Pascha in the summertime,” occurring just 67 years and 8 days after the first such “Pascha,” St. Seraphim’s canonization, of which the Saint had prophesied in those words. After the evening service the American converts (of whom there were between 50 and 100 present) lined up to receive confession from Fr. Panteleimon, which lasted until 2 a.m.

On Sunday the whole day was one long church service, beginning with the early Liturgy at 7 and the blessing of the water at 8:30 (into which some water from Father Hermans spring was poured). The final prayer was read at 4 in the afternoon, and Fr. Panteleimon, who spent the time between 4 and the evening service in Archbishop Johns Sepulchre, could truthfully tell a group of Greeks to whom he spoke at 9 p.m. — “I came to church at 8 this morning and just got out now — glory be to God!”

The Liturgy proceeded slowly and solemnly. At the Entrance with the Gospel, the icon with relics was carried around the altar table — but not by the two oldest priests, who lifted it up at first, but by Archimandrites Panteleimon and Cyprian, as representing the monastic clergy at this monastic celebration. Vladika Anthony insisted on this understanding of the celebration and enforced it throughout. Before the Communion — in which it seemed the whole church participated — the seminarians sang stikhera in Slavonic and English.

During the moleben there was a procession around the church with the icon and relics, followed by “Many years” sung for the hierarchs, Fr. Panteleimon, Archimandrite Panteleimon of Jordanville — it was surely significant that this monastic festival should coincide with the namesday of the founders of our two leading monasteries in this country! — and for our Brotherhood. The Brotherhood, now of St. Herman, was also presented by Metr. Philaret with a Gramota from the Synod of Bishops, the text of which says perhaps as much about the Synod as it does about us. If anyone doubts that the Synod has missionary interest, the Gramota calls us to be “a missionary brotherhood, in lively contact with Americans seeking instruction.” And it sets forth our future too: “You are establishing a place for an endeavor of prayer and labor.” Indeed, within the next days or weeks, God willing, we will both be tonsured monks here, and then our real life’s labor will begin!

At the conclusion of the services the rite of the “Panagia” was celebrated: all clergy and servers walking in procession to the dining room below, singing the troparion to St. Herman. At the trapeza there were no speeches, but rather a monastic atmosphere of silence (not, unfortunately, fully observed by all!) while the life of St. Herman was read, mostly by Vladika Anthony.

In the evening, following the Vigil to the Smolensk Mother of God, a panikhida was served for Metr. Anthony Khrapovitsky. Again, how appropriate that this feast of the whole of Russia Abroad should occur on the eve of the repose of the founder of the Russian Church Abroad. Afterwards we went with Fr. Panteleimon to hear him talk to a small Pan-Orthodox meeting, composed mostly of Greeks who are extremely upset about the direction the Greek Church is taking, but are wary of following the “Russians.” Fr. Panteleimon answered their questions and gave an excellent talk on the difference between the abstract approach to Orthodoxy — academic discussions of what Orthodoxy is, definitions of “spirituality,” etc. — and the concrete approach, built up of all those things which are widely considered today as [un] important or old-fashioned — beards, cassocks, absence of pews and organs, daily morning and evening prayers, fasting.

On Monday morning after Divine Liturgy there was another moleben to St. Herman, and then a general panikhida in Vladika Johns Sepulchre, first by Fr. Vladimir in Slavonic, then by Fr. Panteleimon in Greek; and at the conclusion of this, as if summing up the whole paschal feeling of these days, Fr. Panteleimon greeted all in Russian with: Christos voskrese! to which all enthusiastically responded: Voistinu voskrese!

We arrived back home only after midnight on Monday, after seeing Fr. Panteleimon off with Fr. Neketas Palassis and Fr. Ephrem for Seattle, and the next day our great feast continued into a third day when Frs. Cyprian and Vladimir with Deacon Nicholas and four seminarians arrived to spend the day. Fr. Vladimir carried the icon with relics of St. Herman completely around our land, giving us yet another blessing of our Patron Saint. Later in the day Fr. Alexy Poluektov arrived to begin putting us back in a working spirit by starting to put our linotype into operation; he stayed 3 days. On Wednesday Fr. Elias Armistead stopped by on his way back to Alaska and spent the night.

And now, after all this celebration, we are about to start, God willing, a more productive phase of missionary work. Our linotype is operating, and as soon as type and lead arrive (any day) we will begin our new issue. We are beginning a new series on “Documents of the Catacomb Church,” as ignorance on this subject seems almost complete in America, and such ignorance is one. reason why the Metropolia so easily fell into the autocephaly trap. Fr. David Black writes us concerning Bishop Germogen as a “catacomb bishop” — which shows that he is totally unaware of the Church crisis of 1927, when the “Sergianists” seized control over the majority of bishops with aid of the Secret Police. We, of course, sympathize with Bishop Germogen, but all the same he remains a “Sergianist.”) But too, this is partly our fault, for there is very little in English on the whole question, and one of the secret blessings of the autocephaly is that now this and other important questions will be fully presented in English. How many will yet be awakened by this remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, the future of the autocephaly is uncertain. Those remaining in the Metropolia have apparently accepted it entirely and try to pass it off at a great success, but from the outside it is obvious that not all is well. Constantinople and the Patriarchal Romanian parishes in America have made a definite stand against it, and not a single parish of the Moscow Exarchate in America or Canada has joined it, and in fact Moscow has sent a new bishop and two priests from the Soviet Union to Canada. For the indefinite future it seems likely that only Moscow will recognize the autocephaly which it granted itself, which will obviously place the Metropolia in greater dependence on its “Mother” — which is perhaps the way it was planned. Bp. Theodosius of Sitka has, to our great disappointment, entered whole-heartedly into the Soviet spirit. He has reported that in the USSR he found “smiling, happy faces”; if some complain about the government there, so do Americans about their government! Of course, he says nothing about prison camps, persecutions, Catacomb Church, Boris Talantov, the 10,000 churches closed in the last 10 years — in a word, our worst fears about what would happen to Metropolia clergy seem already to be coming into reality. The psychological and spiritual price of the autocephaly is tremendous. And in the Aug. 10 New York Times Bp. Theodosius is quoted as saying, “Father Herman was a hippy”! This is sacrilege! St. Herman is our recourse and defense in the face of the evils of these times, of which hippyism is only one misguided symptom, but to mix his holy name with those very evils…! I had better not say any more. At best, this is just another sign of the ecclesiastical immaturity of the new autocephalous Church; another sign of it is the Metropolia’s “service” to St. Herman — a product of embarrassing illiteracy which, the way it is written, cannot even be performed properly, as it omits several Theotokia. It has a “velichaem” in place of “yblazhaem,” inserts the Beatitudes into every troparion of the canon (whether this is just plain ignorance or an attempt at novelty is difficult to say), includes several errors of fact about St. Herman, confuses a service with polyeleos with an ordinary weekday service, has at least one inadmissible “ecumenical” troparion in the canon, etc. Typographically it is not printed but poorly mimeographed. (This is the Slavonic service; we haven’t seen the English, which is supposedly the original.) We showed it to Fr. Vladimir and he was astonished and could only say: “Why such poverty?” The answer is clear: immaturity. And now, rather than learn from those who do know better (frankly, a quite acceptable service could easily have been written in Moscow, but the Metropolia is spiritually “independent” now from Moscow, and dependent only politically), the autocephalous Church proclaims its “maturity” to the world, thereby closing itself off from the source of genuine ecclesiastical wisdom and maturity. This is all very sad to those of us who do not at all want to enter into rivalry with the Metropolia, but would hope to grow with her in genuine Church consciousness until American Orthodoxy might one day in truth enter its Orthodox maturity. Now, alas, the Metropolia, an unripe fruit, has been untimely plucked, and who will be able to put it back in its place? We are sorry most of all for the young and inexperienced who are being led by their heads down an unfruitful path…away from Orthodoxy entirely. Seemingly it is God’s will to isolate the tree of genuine American Orthodoxy so that it will bring forth genuine, even if perhaps not many, fruits. Already those like Fr. Panteleimon, Fr. Neketas Palassis, and others who are single-mindedly cultivating real Orthodoxy, are being dismissed as “troublemakers,” “narrow-minded fanatics,” and the rest. God grant us all the strength and patience to bear all for His Holy Name and Truth!

I’ve been writing for 3 days and must stop at last! I hope this gives you something to fill a little of the 3 bleak months to follow. We hope to hear from you soon, and especially to hear your impressions of Orthodox (and even non-Orthodox!) Australia. Our prayers are with you. Gleb sends his greetings.

With love in Christ our Saviour,

P.s. A note that probably will not appear (at least not in full) in the OW. Two weeks before the canonization our Vladika Anthony flew to Kodiak to obtain a blessing at Fr. Herman’s relics. He went incognito, without panagia or any outward sign of his rank, although when he found the church closed he did answer Fr. Macarius Targonsky’s question as to who he was. Under his ryassa he wore cuffs and epitrachelion and while making the rounds of the church and altar he sang a panikhida in a whisper, ending with “Eternal Memory” at the relics of St. Herman. He told us that this was what was done by Orthodox clergy at the tomb of St. John the Merciful when it was in the hands of the Catholics. Thus our statement about the relics of St. Herman being like St. Nicholas’ was verified by the action of this true hierarch of the Church. Undoubtedly Bp. Theodosius who seems to want to please everyone, would have welcomed Vladika Anthony and allowed him to serve freely, but from our side the conscience does not allow this — a seemingly fine but very important point. It was precisely the lack of such a conscience, of such a sensitivity for real Orthodoxy, that led the Metropolia hierarchs to their downfall. God preserve us all in His True Faith!

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