Disclaimer: In some of our articles, especially under the Modern Issues section, we present readers with challenging issues to examine, reflect upon and research. The material is neither supported nor rejected by us, and no one is responsible for its content, other than the original source. Therefore readers are requested not to make any complaints, but to take time to reflect on the material from an Orthodox perspective.

086. July 7/20, 1971. St. Thomas of Melea

Dear Father in Christ, Panteleimon,

On looking over our file of letters to you since our “crisis” began in January, I note that we have sent you a “progress report” about every two months; and another one is now due! And so I send you this brief report, even though there is very little if any change in our situation, in order to keep you informed and, for our own benefit, to bring everything out in a “confession” so it will not lie hidden within us and later, taken too much for granted by us, cause some kind of trouble. This, by the way, is the exact opposite of the principle by which Vladika Anthony operates: keep everything hidden, do not let a person know how he stands, and then operate suddenly so as to catch him by surprise so you can do with him whatever you want. This we find to be spiritual poison, which only produces bitterness and resentment, which are pointless and fruitless.

After our last letter to you we heard from San Francisco that Vladika Anthony knew or suspected our attitude toward him, and that he was resolved not to lose his reputation of “peacemaker” for our sakes, and so he would not touch us for the time being. Perhaps Vlad. Nektary advised him not to be so hard on us, or perhaps he just guessed at our feelings. At any rate, we received a striking confirmation of this diagnosis very soon. On the Feast of the Ascension, when we were still unable to travel to San Francisco because of our truck, we were astonished when shortly after dawn who should arrive but Vladika Anthony himself! He acted as though it were the most natural thing in the world for an Archbishop not to be serving in his own Cathedral on such a feast day (Vladika Nektary served there), and told us he had wanted to come to us after Pascha but only now got the opportunity. We of course were quite nervous, but resolved to place all our hope in God, and His saints, to accept gratefully the spiritual gifts of Divine Liturgy and Holy Communion, and then see what God would send us — we rather hoped that we would finally “have it out” with Vladika and bring everything into the open.

After Liturgy Vladika said we would have no reading at Trapeza, as we had “much to talk about.” After some small talk, the Russian who had driven Vladika retired to rest, and we waited to see what Vladika would say. To our great astonishment we found that he was just as tense and nervous as we were — and that he didn’t say anything at all! He asked about our service on Pascha, without expressing any disapproval of the fact that we didn’t try harder to get to San Francisco then; he told us about the service at Fort Ross the next week without even suggesting that we come to “be seen”; and said not a word about “obedience,” “prelest,” or anything of the sort!

After Vladika himself retired to rest for a while (to my kellia, where Fr. Herman had placed in a conspicuous place a small card with the text in Russian, to inspire us: “Stavropigialny missionary Brotherhood of St. Job of Pochaev — Vladika Vitaly”), Fr. Herman and I consulted: we decided he had indeed come as a “peacemaker,” and that if he himself does not raise any issues we also should say nothing, following Vlad. Laurus’ advice not to do anything rash but simply to continue acting independently. After resting, Vladika briefly looked at our printshop, where he made the offhand comment (with a nervous laugh) that perhaps he had offended us in the past? — to which we said nothing at all. And he left.

Nonetheless, with this visit our situation did not change in the least; only a “cease-fire” had been declared, as it were. We simply continued our independent printing activities expecting war to break out again when we finished our Russian Life of Vladika John, which we issued as published by the Brotherhood of St. Herman of Alaska” — which Vladika had supposedly abolished! We left San Francisco on the same day we came, and Vladika Anthony had time only to read the text hurriedly before we left, and obviously he had not yet “digested” it thoroughly. To our surprise, in principle he did not seem opposed to it, did not even protest that he hadn’t been informed in advance, and about the text he only wondered “what will people in the Kazan church think?” (Here is the life of a saint of universal significance, a patron saint of the Russian Diaspora — and he wonders what the local trouble-makers might think! That surely reveals something about restriction to a narrow, “diocesan” outlook, to say the least!) But we fully expect some later repercussions, and do not expect the “ceasefire” to last indefinitely!

So you see, we have “peace” for a while, and we continue to operate independently; but the basic unhealthy situation remains unchanged. How long it will be before the next battle breaks out we do not know, but we suspect it will not be until after the Sobor of Bishops in Sept., at which Vladika will doubtless wish to present himself as “head” of a peaceful and flourishing monastery. We remain at our battle stations, but we follow the advice of Vladikas Laurus and Nektary not to do anything rash and to wait until we are provoked into action. Meanwhile we will shortly send a new letter to Vladika Laurus and see if he has any further advice. Our present idea is to wait until Vladika Anthony makes some new attack against our independence, and then to present him with an outspoken letter, full of respect and love but very firm, telling him what we will not do. We are convinced that he will listen only to strong words and actions; meek requests he will simply ignore or crush. We are quite certain that he will fight long and hard against a stavropignialny monastery in his Diocese (Matushka Ariadna has that status, and he can’t do a thing with her!), and that he would never have permitted it if we had asked for it explicitly before our tonsure; doubtless he will finally grant it, if at all, only to avoid a scandal. If only he could be made to see that as independent we will be his best friends, whereas as his crushed slaves we would be only his secret enemies! Our resolve to be unflinchingly firm is only reinforced by seeing Vladika Nektary — who, facing death, finds his most difficult trial is to accept spiritually Vladika Anthony’s unjust and condescending treatment of him, not allowing bitterness to creep in. Vladika Nektary chose the path of meekness; but we cannot afford that! We are only sad that we ourselves cause Vladika Nektary sorrow because we would not become his disciples when he himself wanted to establish a monastery — but we realized then that that would be the end of our independent mission of the printed word, and we hate to think of the position we would now be in if we had agreed to follow him out of politeness or pity. We do not regret that we have faithfully followed the words of St. John Cassian: “Flee women and bishops!”

We regretfully come to the conclusion that in the San Francisco Archdiocese, under the present leadership, there is simply no room for monks; they can exist and flourish only independently of that lead leadership, as Abbess Ariadna does. Vladika Anthony’s relentless (but apparently unintentional — that’s just the way he operates) persecution of his monks is emphasized by his visit to Vladika Nektary in the hospital, where he so upset the sick and dying man that the nurse had to make him leave” (He was apparently chastising him for opening a parish in Portland without his knowledge — he needn’t worry, that parish seems to be in the process of closing itself down, and almost certainly will do so without Vladika Nektary.)

There you have our situation, up to date. If we do not hear from you on our manuscript questions, we will call you within the next 3 weeks or so. Our summer has been mercifully cool until the last few days, but now the heat has begun in earnest and both of us are suffering from it. Pray for us, dear Father!

With love in Christ our Saviour,
Seraphim, monk

P.s. A bad sign — word reaches us from S.F, that laymen (whom we know) close to Vlad. Anthony are spreading the story that we are in “prelest,” have no one in charge of us, etc. Why doesn’t the ruling hierarch tell us his “suspicions” instead of laymen?

Download PDF