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062. Sept. 4/17, 1970. St. Ioasaph of Belgorod

Dear Brother in Christ, Daniel,

Greetings in our Lord Jesus Christ! I’ll write a note while your letter is fresh, and while we’re paralyzed waiting for our generator to be repaired. We’re still kept busy enough on building projects, however!

Your letter was a joy to us, too. Sometimes I’m afraid we let the worldly side weigh a litde too heavy with us, and we start sliding toward despondency. The linotype is slow (so many things to watch for, and I proceed almost purely by trial and error; the books I have sometimes omit the most elementary things because, apparently, everybody is supposed to know them — but I don’t find out until I have lead squirting out and then have to find out what to do about it! Gleb took one look at the machine in operation, with its rumblings and groanings, the big arm slamming down from the back of the machine and (hopefully) returning with the type in one piece, and he retreated to the printing department. But I’m beginning to master the principles at last and am finally beginning to set type faster than we could by hand.) — the linotype is slow, the generator breaks down, paper doesn’t arrive, Post Office breathes down our neck to be more regular, etc. But this apparently is to be expected if the work is God-pleasing, and we take comfort from that.

We’ve finally heard about (but not from) Father Seraphim, from several sources. He left St. Tikhon’s just before their May-30 celebration, with Soviet hierarch present, and is now safely on Mt. Athos in the Skete of St. Elias. It will, however, be a miracle if he survives, as the conditions are most difficult — all old, feeble monks, and he alone is strong enough to serve and work. He told a seminarian who visited us two days ago that he likes it there, but he can’t keep it up if someone else doesn’t join him.

Several Canadian parishes have apparently left the Metropolia for the Synod, but I’m not too certain about the details. The Metropolia seems convinced that their autocephaly is a great success, but objectively I don’t think it could be considered so. Indications are no one will recognize it for a while except Finland and Iron Curtain Churches (and not all of them); the Exarchate churches in America met in August and, despite Nikodim’s attempts to persuade them, they voted unanimously to stay out of the Metropolia, some of them even preferring to join some other jurisdiction if necessary. So Moscow will have at least three bishops here all the same, with foreign titles — Mark of San Francisco becomes “of Ladoga.” Nikodim was quietly kept away from the canonization in Kodiak, but he visited the next week with Archbp. John Shahovskoy — and on Spruce Island they met our Fr. Michael Lightfoot — who wrote us that he was not allowed to serve on Spruce Island, and a seminarian was assigned to watch him and give the now-standard argument in some Metropolia circles (Alaska, for example): we know your bishops are the best, that you alone have monasteries and spiritual centers, that you preserve Orthodoxy better than anyone else — but why pick on everyone else and judge them? I hope our new article by Fr. Azkoul will make it clear that the Synod is “judging” no one, only calling on all to stand up with us for Orthodoxy. The response to this is close to zero so far, but I think there’s more below the surface than appears in broad daylight and before long there will be solidarity shown in a few places, but not many. The Greek Church (Athens), by the way, has protested so strongly to Athenagoras against Moscow giving Communion to Catholics that I don’t see how they can avoid breaking off Communion with Moscow now — and that from the “ecumenist” Archbp. Ieronymos — one senses he feels the pressure of the Old Calendarists, who are apparently getting stronger. Meanwhile, even though Athenagoras did not recognize the autocephaly, the Metropolia is clinging to him, and Fr. Meyendorff writes in the new Orthodox Church that anyone who does not recognize Athenagoras as a genuine Orthodox Patriarch is simply “outside the communion of world Orthodoxy.” And this at a time when Athenagoras is being driven to wilder and wilder statements (he’s afraid that Moscow will turn out to be more modernist that he, and thus will take over the leadership of “world Orthodoxy”!), and when a Greek Archpriest in America (Fr. Dombalis) has seriously called for the canonization of Athenagoras while alive!!!

Truly, the Orthodox way in our times is not easy, and more and more we begin to look to the time of martyrdom. Our new issue has two articles on the Catacomb Church in Russia, and the relevancy to our own situation already becomes visible. We are beginning a collection of statements from the Metropolia on the situation in the USSR today (“things there are changing, full churches, happy people,” etc.), and its service to the Communist cause is only too apparent — and this at a time when many documents exist concerning the actual situation there, some of them positively bloodcurdling — such as Anatoly Marchenko’s My Testimony, which Gleb just read, concerning the satanic tortures he has undergone just recently (and for smuggling the book out he was put back in concentration camp) where he indicates that treatment is getting worse, if that is possible! The writer A. Kuznetsov (who recently escaped) writes: “If you are a citizen of Soviet Russia, you automatically cannot be a 100-per-cent decent person”; and Marchenko writes that when he was in freedom he couldn’t bear to look at happy, successful people, knowing how they had to sell their souls (and often help out in torturing others) in order to achieve this status. But Bp. Theodosius of Alaska says he was surprised how well off and happy people were…

As I see it, there are two great gifts that God has given Orthodox people today: in the Soviet world, the difficult gift of suffering, which by God’s grace will probably be the salvation of Russia; and in the free world, the gift of freedom — to speak and witness the truth and tell what is going on. How poorly this gift is being used among us — and how soon, perhaps, it will be taken from us. While there is daylight, we must speak out.

But I am being carried away, and my short note is going over into worktime. Already we are getting cooler weather and the leaves are turning yellow, and winter promises to be earlier and harder than last year. Vladika Anthony paid us a surprise visit two days ago and served Liturgy — probably drawn to us by the relic of St. Mamas (on whose day he came) which Fr. Panteleimon gave us in August. The day of our tonsure is tentatively set for Oct. 14/27, if Deacon Nicholas can help us get a church built by that time — a small chapel about the size of our printshop.

We look forward to seeing you before long. Please keep in mind that you are welcome to come and share our life here at any time, for a short or long time. If you get here early enough, you can spend the winter, and take turns with us going for the mail on snowshoes! Pray for us — and pray also for Archbishop Leonty of Chile and his flock — a Marxist government is about to be installed, and the future is uncertain. Archbishop Leonty has already been in prison in the USSR and served Catacomb Liturgies there and knows well the character of these times.

With love in Christ our Saviour,

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