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074. March 13/26, 1971. St. Nicephorus of Constant.

Dear Father in Christ Panteleimon,

Evlogeite! Thank you very much for your word of encouragement, and please forgive us for preserving such a long silence. We have been very busy printing, and not until last week has there been anything new regarding our status and relationship with Vladika Anthony. After writing you we decided to do nothing more until Vladika Anthony should make some written statement; and now that Statement has come.

Last Wednesday we received Vladika Anthony’s Ukase of Feb. 25/Mar. 10, apparently sent to all priests of the Diocese, which says in part: “A coenobitic monastery for men has been opened by us…. Headship of this new monastery has been taken by me upon myself” (in ink there is added in our copy — whether it is in the original or not we don’t know — “for the time being”); “for the regulation of the monastic life of the brethren, who may increase in number, by the present Ukase MONK HERMAN is appointed BLAGOCHINNY (one in charge of ‘good order’) of the monastery. The Blagochinny is responsible for the doings of the monastery immediately before me, as its Head…”; “the publication of the magazine The Orthodox Word…the brethren should now look upon as their monastic obedience… Concerning everything else additional instructions will be given to the Blagochinny.”

In a word, our worst fears are realized: Vladika Anthony has taken us over, and although so far he has not given us any “obedience” to which we object, it is clear that our work, blessed by Vladika John, has lost all independence and will now proceed solely on instructions from San Francisco. Clearly, if we are going to do anything about this intolerable situation we must begin to act now.

We have written — in English — a letter to Vladika Laurus (we will send you a Xerox copy next week when we go to Redding again), informing him that we do not accept this Ukase and have lost all trust in Vladika Anthony, and asking his advice on what to do to become independent of Vladika Anthony.

You will see our arguments in that letter; but to you we would like to say something more. To Vladika Laurus we did not mention any of the San Francisco clergy we mentioned to you in our last letter, fearing lest word of this might somehow get to Vladika Anthony and he would cause them trouble; for this reason we wish to fight entirely by ourselves, on the basis of our rights as an independent monastery, without raising any question as to the character or motives of Vladika Anthony.

But to you we speak frankly: Vladika Anthony, under the guise of outward correctness and good form, is a “quencher of the spirit.” Vladika Nektary was here last week, and he told us: “You are fortunate that you have someone to complain to; I have no one. But if you only knew what a gnawing frustration he instills in me….” Vladika Anthony is an excellent “peacemaker,” but he crushes every good initiative. Vladika Nektary wanted to do something about Alaska, travel there, etc. — but Vladika Anthony forbade it outright. We gave Fr. Alexei Poluektov the text — smuggled out of the Soviet Union by a Catacomb nun — of an akathist to St. Nina which apparently exists no where else in the free world; Vladika A. heard of it and exclaimed: “it must be approved,” and he took it and it was never seen again. Even the Service to St. John of Tobolsk — which Vladika John served for many years — was printed in Blagovestnik without Vladika As knowing of it, and he forbade the last part of it to be printed — on the grounds that it was never “approved.” Vladika A., when he first came to San Francisco, said he would continue everything started by Vladika John; but he forbade the Liturgy to be served in the Sepulchre more than once a year, and the people in the Archbishop John Society tell us that Vladika A. is not devoted to the memory of Vladika John and they feel he is a foreigner. Laurence Campbell, I believe, grasped exactly Vladika As psychology when he recently told us: Vladika A. does not encourage veneration of Vladika John because he still has many enemies and thus Vladika A. regards his memory as a divisive factor in his diocese. Vladika A. deliberately omits the name of Fr. Neketas Palassis from the Jordanville calender of clergy because, he told us in December, “we don’t want to irritate Athenagoras”! And a few weeks ago Deacon Nicholas Porshnikov visited us and told us straight: “Vladika A. has killed my spiritual life” — that, of course, is an exaggeration, because the Deacon himself should be doing something about it, but it has meaning when you contrast it with another statement he made to us several years ago: “Vladika John saved me; without his encouragement and pushing me to be a Deacon, I probably wouldn’t be in the Church at all today” — that is all the difference between a bishop who inspires and a bishop who stifles the soul under the form of external correctness.

It does not require much imagination to see what will happen to us if we accept Vladika As “coup” over us. All our “peculiarities” as an independent monastic institution will be abolished. Already when Vladika A. serves here he forbids mentioning “Orthodox Kings” in the troparion to the Cross; “the Synod has approved another text” — but Vladika John left us another tradition which almost no one but us is keeping; our right to follow the Spruce Island tradition of celebrating a second feast to St. Herman on Nov. 15 will doubtless be abolished as an example of “self-will”; if Vlad. A. ever becomes aware of how much we are “irritating Athenagoras” in The Orthodox Word, that will have to be censured out; any special veneration of Vladika John, especially in Russian, will be blocked as too “controversial”; etc., etc., etc. If we give one inch in the beginning, we will end with a completely soulless and pointless “obedience” which has no ability to inspire anyone else. Lev and Vasya are returning to America in May and will probably come here — frankly, we think they fit here, and they seem to have no other place, and their spirits could well be quenched and their service to the Church wiped out if they don’t find their place; but do you thing Vladika A. could understand that, or care? Laurence Campbell visited us last weekend and told us of the uninspired and uninspiring condition of church life in the midst of the city; and we were horrified most of all that souls are thirsting and perishing and almost no one cares; even the clergy and shepherds are minding their own business or “establishing monasteries” (by force!) for the glory of the diocese without even seeing these perishing souls. We are content to let the world bury its dead; but Vladika John gave us a spark and a mission, and we will be faithful to that even to death.

As you see, we speak to you with absolute frankness. Our eyes have been opened, and we are absolutely resolved not to fall into the hands of a man who only wants to use us for his grandiose external plans. We are acting with great sorrow and heaviness of heart, with all love and pity for our Archbishop, but with unflinching resolve.

Since our last letter to you we have become much calmer and much firmer. All the events of Christmas are of minor importance beside the main issue: are we to continue independent, in the tradition and with the blessing of Vladika John, or do we become the slaves of someone who thinks only of the Church’s outward prosperity and success and probably thinks he is assuring us a good “career” in the Church? In spite of everything, we will follow Vladika John, and if need be we will flee completely to the wilderness or become “fools” in order to remain faithful to Vladika John.

In these last months we have been very conscious of how close God is to us. On Feb. 1 we finished the Canonization issue with Daniel Olson’s help (another one who fits very well with us but would wither away under Vladika A.!), and no sooner had we returned from delivering the issue to the Post Office and seeing off Daniel, then immediately our truck broke down and would not move an inch. We thanked God and began carrying water a half mile from a newly-discovered spring (not on our property) and carrying mail, groceries, and gasoline up hill from town on foot — very difficult, but good for us. Then, in the middle of the new OW, our generator broke, and Fr. Herman for the first time heard me fall close to despondency: “maybe what we’re doing is not right, after all” — but in 24 hours Deacon Nicholas arrived with two mechanics (without knowing about our desperate plight), fixed our truck enough to take it back to San Francisco for major repairs, and left us another truck on which we took the generator to be repaired, and just now mailed the new OW. But then again in Redding the Post Office inspectors discovered a technicality according to which we cannot have a 2nd Class Mailing Permit unless we open an office in Redding; but this has resulted now in a change whereby we will mail here in Platina instead of Redding (assuming everything is approved by the Post Office bureaucrats). And then last Wednesday we received Vladika As Ukase — but in 24 hours Vladika Nektary arrived with the Kursk Icon, which he allowed us to carry around our mountain, and we received Holy Communion from the Reserved Gifts.

Therefore, in spite of our troubles, we are bold and joyful; for truly God and His saints are with us.

Our next step will depend on Vladika Laurus’ practical advice as to what we should do next. We hope to speak at length with Vladika Nektary when he comes to celebrate Liturgy for us in the next week or so, and also with our Starets, Archimandrite Spyridon, who wants to serve on Annunciation (or, we hope, Pascha itself), and then we will act. We will probably call you after receiving a reply from Vladika Laurus.

Please forgive our frankness; but we are sure you understand the spirit in which this is written. How we wish we could talk to you. So much has happened in this last year, and so much has become clearer — by the prayers of St. Herman and Vladika John, we are sure. Pray for us,> dear Father. Enclosed is a question sheet on manuscripts, which we hope you will be able to answer.

With love in Christ our Saviour.

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