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.

105. June 12/25, 1972

Dear Fr. Neketas,

Evlogeite! Thank you for the Xerox of the letter of the man in Texas — we are sending him a few things. We are always grateful for your Xeroxes, even if we may not always mention them.

Please forgive us, but here are some more observations on a sad trend!

We visited San Francisco on Friday (June 10/23) to attend Liturgy in Vladika John’s Sepulchre; because June 19/July 2 falls on Sunday this year, Vladika Anthony decided to have the one Liturgy that he allows each year on Vladika John’s namesday instead. This is a little strange, as once before when July 2 fell on Sunday there was a Liturgy — without a panikhida following, since it was Sunday, but nonetheless there was a Liturgy to mark the anniversary. Rumor has it, and it’s quite plausible, that Vlad. Anthony was acting on advice of the cathedral clergy, who have been opposed to veneration of Vladika John from the first, and used the excuse of its being Sunday to obliterate the “competition” this year.

Being ourselves somewhat upset in general over the sad direction in which Russian Orthodoxy Abroad seems to be going, this seemingly small transference of the day of Vladika Johns veneration led us into further reflections. It is now 6 years since Vladika Johns repose. The spark of Orthodoxy in the Russian diaspora has continued to decline in those years — and yet here is a God-given fuel to ignite and spread the spark! We thought: why such efforts to limit veneration of an obvious wonderworker and saint for our times? Why not more than one Liturgy a year in his Sepulchre (as there was before Vladika Anthony came, when Vlad. Nektary was temporary ruling bishop)? Why are not regular pilgrimages arranged?

Well, of course there are some definite reasons why not, and these were confirmed for us by our visit to Vlad. Anthony after the Liturgy. He spent most of the time pointing out 3 or 4 places in our Russian Life of Vladika John which people had complained about. Well, it’s true that these points could have been expressed or presented better; but in back of these somewhat technical points, we sensed that — just as you mentioned when speaking to Vlad. Vitaly — that we weren’t speaking the same language, that Vlad. Anthony was somehow just pushing aside the main point about Vlad. John. He kept saying: the whole thing is too fresh, too controversial; we always wait at least 50 years before talking about sanctity (by which time, of course, our Russians will have forgotten) etc. At this Fr. Herman finally had to say: But Vladika John is a saint, a wonderworker! Vladika Anthony’s reply: Well, you and I can talk like this among ourselves, but not in public! We left feeling that our ruling hierarch had given us the advice (although he hadn’t expressed it in so many words): Your devotion and love are commendable, but don’t be so enthusiastic, not so much zeal, don’t make Vlad. John such a hero, let his small group of venerators keep it pretty much to themselves.

What to say? We don’t judge Vlad. Anthony. Obviously he is in an unenviable position and subject to many pressures and responsible for keeping peace among a difficult flock; and we can think of a bishop or two who probably wouldn’t have allowed a Liturgy ever to be served in the Sepulchre. But this is the path to the dying out of Orthodoxy, making it something “non-controversial” and not at all attractive to the younger generation. It’s precisely the Orthodox “heroism” of someone like Vladika John that can inflame the youth with fervor for Orthodoxy; but in San Francisco it’s obvious that the veneration of Vladika John is going to be allowed to die out if possible.

We left completely discouraged about the possibility of presenting the “Orthodox Word” to Russians. It just happens that a number of the needful topics today are “controversial,” but are we therefore supposed to sit back and let the kill-spirits triumph and dampen everyone’s spirits? We dread to think of where we would be now if The Orthodox Word had been appearing in Russian all these years — in fact, there aren’t many bishops besides Vladika John who would have encouraged us. In our early issues when we began to get complaints about being so outspoken about Athenagoras, about comparing the Pope to Antichrist, etc., we went to Vladika John in some doubt — perhaps we really shouldn’t be so outspoken? But glory be to God, Vladika John fully supported us and blessed us to continue in the same spirit.

June 18/July 1, 1972
Martyr Leontius

The new Logos arrived, revealing the latest stage of Fr. Eusebius’ pitiful march into sectarianism. Hopefully he is becoming so absurd that only a few will follow him so far; but who knows?

The same issue has Fr. Michael Azkoul’s actual attack on Fr. George Lewis. Are we out of step, or do we correctly diagnose a completely wrong attitude there? One may question the effectiveness of some of Fr. George’s observations, because those who are not already sympathetic to what he’s saying will try to dismiss it as being in the nature of a “personal attack.” But there’s no hint of innuendo or slander — everything he says is true and symptomatic. Certainly it is no secret that Metropolia bishops eat meat (we used to know a cook at St. Tikhon’s, who prepared meat even — to our surprise — for Shakhovskoy) and that no one expects them not to; and this really reveals their attitude toward podvig and church tradition. But unfortunately the Metropolia mentality is such that if they found even one of our monks eating meat it would offset their whole Sobor of Bishops and justify their calling us “pharisees” for bringing up the issue.

Fr. Michael seems to be writing from a point of view “above” the whole battle (and indeed, writing for a Protestant charismatic journal). No one in his right mind, surely, wants “peace” with the Metropolia now — unless, of course, there were a miracle and the Metropolia would confess and repent of its autocephaly, modernism, laxness, and everything else. And from the Synod side the controversy has been on a high level. Official statements have been very restrained and if anything understated; and unofficial statements such as Fr. George’s and yours have correctly grasped the main points and zealously pursued them. This is not a “jurisdictional” dispute; it is a case of galloping, apostasy vs. preserving oneself from it and awakening others to it. The soundest Synod opinion has always said: thank God the Metropolia has left, the unsound member has been cut off and will thus not affect the rest of us. We are simply baffled and cannot understand with what Fr. Michael wants to make “peace”? This doesn’t seem to be the “fighting” Orthodoxy we need today.

But even high circles are indifferent to the “fighting” Orthodoxy that we want. It sometimes occurs to us that we are really all “fools” who are doing the fighting; hopelessly outnumbered, we march into battle with the full expectation of being cut down — if not from in front, then from behind, which is worse. But glory be to God, let us fight while it is day and we have the chance; truly it is not for an earthly kingdom that we are fighting, and if we have to stop for “politics” we are not going to do much fighting. We are very much inspired by the new “Catacomb” documents which we will start setting up next week — which give probably the best insight yet into true Orthodox life in the USSR, with sharp observations on the use of “obedience” and “humility” for political ends. These weapons are used not only in the USSR!

We are being visited this weekend by Vladika Derugin, a young zealot of Orthodoxy (who is responsible for the note in the Talantov articles about opinion in Russia about the autocephaly — we gave somehow a misleading impression that he is from the Metropolia, but he is not, even though most of his family is and he’s even related to Shahovskoy). He’s written a good reply to Shahovskoy’s underhanded article on Solzhenitsyn’s Lenten Letter, where Shahovskoy by flattering it attempts to neutralize. Hopefully this letter will appear in some Russian newspapers. Unfortunately almost all the Russian newspapers are rotten. The best one is the weekly Nasha Strana in Argentina, which is the only one to print the Talantov manuscripts which we sent in Russian to several newspapers. Its monarchist, but on a rather high ideological level, and the only newspaper that dares to be openly for the Church Abroad.

We look forward to your visit, and will welcome whoever comes with you! (Melchisedek [Russell] mentioned he also might want to come then.) We have a couple more cots this year and can put up whoever comes, somehow. We have twin fawns and hot weather right now.

Please pray for us.

With love in Christ,
Seraphim, monk

Download PDF