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246. June 16/29,1977 St. Tikhon of Kaluga

Your Grace, Dear Vladika Nektary,

Bless us!

On your visit to us in April you informed us that you had been assigned, by the Sobor of Bishops and Archbishop Anthony, the duty of raising with us a question regarding our St. Herman Calendar, namely the commemorations (in italics) of recent hierarchs, ascetics, and martyrs, in accordance with the decree of the Synod of Bishops of Sept. 29/Oct. 12, 1976 (no. 873), that “in the Calendar they should note the dates of death of various hierarchs and ascetics not by their own judgment alone, but in agreement with the general ecclesiastical attitude of our Church.”

We were very glad in reading the decree of the Synod, to see that the Hierarchs have noticed and valued our labors in the compiling and printing of the St. Herman Calendar, and in particular our inclusion of the dates of death of various hierarchs and ascetics. This latter feature, incidentally, has been one of the most popular features of the Calendar, there have been very many comments on it, and we know that our priests serve pannikhidas for a number of the hierarchs and ascetics mentioned there, and in some places every single one of these names is commemorated at every Liturgy. Further, there has never been a single unfavorable comment from anyone regarding our inclusion of these names, which has persuaded us that the idea itself of including these names is indeed “in agreement with the general ecclesiastical attitude of our Church.” This idea is not original with us but was taken from the Diocesan Bulletin of the Diocese of Shanghai when our Archbishop John was there. In the Calendar of this Bulletin such names were included (after the listing of the saints of the day) as the Royal Martyrs (July 4), Archbishop Meletius of Kharkov (Feb. 12), St. Herman of Alaska (Dec. 13— this was long before his canonization), and Metropolitan Peter Mogila (Dec. 31).

In the selection of names to be commemorated, we have also tried to act not “by our own judgment alone,” but have asked counsel of bishops, priests, and theologically educated laymen of our Church. In general we have followed the principles laid down by Bishop Nikodim of Belgorod in his 14-volume standard pre-Revolutionary work on “uncanonized saints,” Ascetics of Piety of 18th and 19th Century Russia·, in fact, almost all of the names we have included from before the 20th century come from this book. As for the names of 20th century hierarchs and ascetics, we have included only a few of those renowned for ascetic life or missionary labors, as well as obvious miracle-workers. We have made a deliberate attempt to avoid “prejudice,” and thus we did not include the name even of Archbishop Tikhon of San Francisco, despite our love for him and respect for his ascetic life, for fear of being thought partial to “local bishops,” and we have not included the names of any recendy- deceased bishops with whom we had close personal relations.

With one exception (to be discussed below), we have never received a single complaint about our selection of 20th-century hierarchs and ascetics, and this has been a sign to us that our listing of these was also in accord with “the general ecclesiastical attitude of our Church.” Indeed, many people have told us that the most impressive and inspiring part of the Calendar is precisely this list of 20th- century hierarchs and ascetics of holy life—something which, especially to non-Russians (for whom the Calendar is chiefly intended) provides an impressive proof that the Russian Church is still alive and not simple a dead “fossil” that lives only in its past grandeur, with no spiritual vitality in our own times or in the Diaspora.

The one “complaint” we have received concerns the name of Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky. After our first St. Herman Calendar came out in 1972, Fr. George Grabbe wrote us a letter expressing his satisfaction with the Calendar, and especially with our listing of recent hierarchs and ascetics; however, he noted that the name of Metropolitan Anthony was missing. Later our own Archbishop Anthony made the same observation to us. We corrected this omission in the next Calendar, but since we were a little uncertain whether Metropolitan Anthony belonged in the category of “ascetics of piety” or would have been included in the volumes of Bishop Nikodim (if he had lived and continued them), we placed his name separately (together with several other names) in the Introduction to the Calendar, as “ecclesiastical figures of great historical importance” for whom panikhidas also should be served, and we distinguished them there from the “uncanonized saints” (that is, “ascetics of piety”) whose names were included under their days of repose. This distinction, together with the phrase “uncanonized saints,” has perhaps caused some of the bishops to think that we are “canonizing saints” or acting solely under our own personal judgment. To avoid such a misunderstanding we will avoid in future the phrase “uncanonized saints” and state in the Introduction to the Calendar simply that the names in italics are those of church figures of holy life or historical significance for whom it is appropriate to serve requiem or memorial services. If the bishops believe it to be appropriate, we can add the name of Metropolitan Anthony to the Calendar under the date of his repose (July 28).

On your visit to us you told us that Vladika Anthony had suggested that we simply exclude all post-1920 hierarchs (except for Vladika John) so as to avoid controversy over those who have been “left out.” But we should repeat here that, apart from Metropolitan Anthony (and a few requests to put in the name of Archbishop Tikhon) we have not received a single comment about any name that has been left out of the Calendar. This to us is a clear sign that this listing is in accordance with the “general ecclesiastical attitude of our Church.”

Further, such an act (omitting all post-1920 hierarchs) would be something immediately noticeable and would cause numerous comments, criticisms, and perplexity: “Why, after six years, are these names now left out? Is there perhaps some suspicion of their Orthodoxy? Or perhaps the hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia are of dubious canonicity?” etc. etc. At the present time we have no problem with those who have been “left out”; but if we were to delete these names now, there would be much comment, especially among Americans and Greeks, unfavorable to our Synod of Bishops.

This brings me to a final and very important point with regard to this question; this concerns, not what “others” might think of us, but a problem within our own Russian Church Outside of Russia.

Of the young people in our Church, especially those who take active part in church life, Americans and Greeks, together with Russians who speak English as their first language, are now coming to be the majority. It is to them that our publications are chiefly directed. More and more these young people—and now even some of the young Russian priests—are coming under the influence of Father Panteleimon of Boston, and more and more they are coming under a certain impression that everything “Greek” is something good and Orthodox, whereas “Russian” things are not as good or Orthodox, or are even un-Orthodox. Some of these people write and speak to us, and we know how they are thinking: “The Greeks are strict, while the Russians are lax; the Greeks are zealous, the Russians are lukewarm; everyone is talking about how the Russians are not strong enough about ecumenism,” etc. We try to answer these people and make them understand things in a less one-sided manner, and in our publications, especially The Orthodox Word, we make a special effort to present Russian Orthodoxy at its best and to defend the position of our Metropolitan and Bishops. Perhaps you do not know that before our introductory article to Metropolitan Philarets epistle on the “Thyateira Confession” (Jan-Feb. 1976), many Greeks and Americans, even priests, believed that our Synod regarded the other Orthodox jurisdictions as without grace. And now our Brotherhood has become known among the Greeks and Americans for “defending the Russian bishops” and speaking against the fanaticism into which some of the followers of Fr. Panteleimon have fallen.

We ourselves have friendly relations with Fr. Panteleimon and we believe that the “fanatical” movement in our Church can be overcome; but to do this, it is essential that the prestige of Russian Orthodoxy be as high as possible—and in particular that everything holy and sound and truly Orthodox that is Russian should be made known to counteract the unbalanced “Grecophilism” that is dominant among so many young people. In these circumstances, if we hide our Russian hierarchs and ascetics of the recent past, it will only encourage those who believe that the “Russians” have nothing good; but worse, if we were to remove their names from the Calendar, it would amount to a totally unnecessary attack against what should be the boast of our Russian Orthodoxy in the 20th century; in the minds of the young Americans, Greeks, and Russians who read our Calendar, this would be a definite blow against the prestige of Russian Orthodoxy and our Russian Church Outside of Russia. These hierarchs, ascetics, and martyrs are a proof that our Russian Orthodoxy is still in the ancient tradition of Orthodoxy and still produces spiritual fruits. And after all, there is no question whatever of our “canonizing” them—we are only supplying these names so that Orthodox Christians might pray for the repose of the souls of those who have labored for Christ and His Church in our times, following the counsel of the Apostle: “Remember your instructors, who have spoken unto you the word of God.” (Hebrews 13:7).

One final point: lest it be thought that the inclusion of such names in Orthodox calendars is something rare, we would direct the attention of our bishops to the more complete calendars of the non-Russian Churches, In particular, the complete Calendar of the Greek Church edited by monks of Mt. Athos includes the names of very many righteous men who are not in the calendar of saints; these are included at the end of each day’s listing, just like our list; these names are within parentheses, while ours are in italics. Thus our listing, while not being an “innovation” even among Russian calendars, is fully in accord with the existing practice in other Orthodox calendars today.

From all that has been said above, we firmly believe that our practice of listing Orthodox hierarchs, ascetics, and martyrs of recent times in our St. Herman Calendar, clearly separating them from the calendar of saints by means of italic letters, and listing them solely for the purpose of encouraging prayer for the repose of their souls, is not only “in agreement with the general ecclesiastical attitude of our Church,” as our bishops wish, but is also a part of our duty in obedience to the full Sobor of our Bishops who declared in their “Epistle to the God-Beloved Flock of the Diaspora” in 1976 that the “one thing needful” for us today is “the direction of the whole life of our flock according to a strictly churchly, strictly Orthodox path—in other words, making the Church the center of life.” To increase the prayer of the faithful far our reposed instructors and exemplars in the Faith we regard as an important part of “making the Church the center of life,” and we believe that our bishops will not think differently.


Since writing the draft of this letter, you visited us and brought us further information that Vladika Seraphim of Chicago had raised at the Synod the question of Peter the Aleut Martyr, who is mentioned in our Calendar together with St. Herman, and whose icon has now been painted and reproduced by Holy Transfiguration Monastery and widely distributed. Concerning this we would like to say the following:

1. It is true that the only historical notice of the Aleut Martyr Peter is in the Life of St. Herman of Alaska. But we should note that the person who brought St. Herman the information concerning his martyrs death was himself a man of the highest integrity, first as Governor of Alaska, and later as a monk of righteous life who influenced almost his whole family to follow him into monasticism (Simeon Yanovsky, Schema-monk Sergius), and the person who proclaimed him Saint was none other than St. Herman himself: It should be noted that very often in the past this much has already been sufficient for the acknowledgement of sanctity in the Orthodox Church; among many saints canonized on as little information as this we may mention St. Mary of Egypt, whose life is known to us only from the account of the Monk Zossimas, and whose name was entered among the saints owing to the trust of St. Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, for Zossimas’ words. The reform spirit in recent Roman Catholicism, which has begun to “throw out of the Calendar” such saints, because supposedly “we don’t know whether they ever existed”—is totally foreign to our Orthodoxy, which is characterized rather by faith and trust in those who hand down the lives of saints, especially if they be of righteous and holy life themselves, as is certainly true in the case of the Aleut Martyr Peter and the one who “canonized” him, St. Herman.

2. In blessing the publication of The Orthodox Word, Archbishop John wrote the following words for publication·. “By the prayers of the Aleut Martyr Peter, who suffered martyrdom in San Francisco.” By doing this he certainly gave his blessing for the veneration of the Aleut Martyr Peter, at least in the Western American Diocese where he suffered martyrdom.

3. In the service to St. Herman of Alaska, which was given its final form by Bishop (then Hegoumen) Alypy and officially approved by the Synod of Bishops in 1970, the following troparion occurs in the Canon (Canticle 6): “Aleut Peter’s confession and martyrs blood, О Saint, have sanctified and crowned thine and thy co-evangelizers’ labors, and at his strong faith and patience thou wert amazed. Wherefore, following thee, let us cry out: Holy New Martyr Peter, pray to God for us.” Thus, the Synod of Bishops of our Russian Church Outside of Russia has officially approved the invocation of the Aleut Martyr Peter as a saint.

4. In the Service to St. Herman of Alaska composed by the Liturgical Commission of the “Orthodox Church in America” (American Metropolia) under the chairmanship of Father Alexander Schmemann and officially approved by the “Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America,” a troparion of similar content occurs in the Canon (Canticle 6), also ending with St. Herman’s words: “Holy New Martyr Peter, pray to God for us.” This Service was published at about the same time as our Service to St. Herman, and it does not seem that there was any copying from our Service; rather, the idea seems to have occurred naturally and independently to the Liturgical Commission of the Metropolia. Thus, the Synod of a second Orthodox Church (with which our Synod is not in communion, but the grace of whose Mysteries we do not deny) has given official approval to the invocation of Aleut Martyr Peter as a saint.

5. On the foundation of all this, a popular veneration of the Aleut Martyr Peter has grown up especially among our young Americans and Greeks (but also Russians). We know of at least five icons that have been painted of him, and there is scarcely a convert to our Church who does not have veneration for him. Never have we heard of any argument or dispute regarding this.

In view of all this: that the Aleut Martyr Peter was invoked as a saint by St. Herman of Alaska; that Archbishop John Maximovitch called publicly on his prayers; that our Synod of. Bishops gave official approval to a Service containing an invocation of St. Peter as a saint; and that the Synod of the American Metropolia did likewise; and that he is popularly venerated as a saint, with no dispute arising because of this; and finally, in yiew of the fact that the veneration of martyrs has always been accepted in the Orthodox Church with a minimum of official investigation, the very fact of their martyrdom already testifying to their sanctity—we did not believe that there was any controversy or dispute whatever involving the placing of the name of the Aleut Martyr Peter in the Orthodox Calendar. But even so, we were careful to place of the name of the Aleut Martyr Peter in our St. Herman Calendar only with the qualifying words: “who is mentioned in the Service to St. Herman,” thus showing that we were trusting not our own judgment, but were relying on the judgment of the Church Authority (the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Church Outside of Russia) which officially approved the Service.


And now, after giving our “defense” of ourselves, we would like to add a word, based on what we feel to be the reason why some of our hierarchs have raised these questions.

Evidently, these hierarchs feel that there is danger of “zeal not according to knowledge” and relying on one’s own judgment, especially among the younger clergy, and that it should be kept in mind by those who labor for the Church that it is the bishops who are the ultimate authority with regard to such questions as the placing of the names of saints in the Calendar. We would like our bishops to know that we agree entirely with them in this·, and in fact, in the past we have had several arguments with some of our younger clergy on precisely this point. I will give only one example, one that concerns precisely our St. Herman Calendar.

After our first St. Herman Calendar-was published in 1971, one of the younger Greek priests in our Church protested to us that the names of Blessed Augustine (June 16) and Blessed Constantine XII, last of the Byzantine Emperors (May 30), should be deleted from our Calendar because “they are not saints and were only placed in the Russian Calendar owing to Western influence.” We replied to this priest that it was not within our authority to delete names from the Calendar, nor to add names on our own authority, but that such a thing required the approval of the bishops; and since the names of Blessed Augustine and Blessed Emperor Constantine were in the standard Russian Calendars which were our primary sources, they would have to remain in the Calendar until the Russian bishops should order them deleted.

Then, for our own information, we conducted research on this question. Concerning Blessed Augustine, we discovered that his name is included in all Russian and Greek Calendars, that our Synod approved the Service to him, and that throughout the history of the Orthodox Church he has always been regarded as a Holy Father and a Saint in West and East alike, even though his errors have been criticized. Therefore, there can be no question of his right to be in the Calendar, and this young priests objection was based on his own ignorance.

Concerning the second name, that of the Blessed Emperor Constantine, we did not have at hand the materials necessary for an investigation of our own, and therefore we appealed to Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, both to Hieromonk Ioannikios, who would have the time to make such an investigation, and to Archbishop Averky for an authoritative judgement on the question. Fr. Ioannikios found that the name of Blessed Constantine does indeed appear in the best Russian Calendar sources (such as the Calendar of Bishop Sergius), and Archbishop Averky gave as his judgement that his name should by all means remain in the Calendar.

I give this information in order to show on what principles we have acted in compiling our St. Herman Calendar and in settling any disputed questions with regard to it. We can assure you that we have always tried to act in accordance with the “general ecclesiastical attitude” of our Church and not “by our own judgment alone.” Even in our listing of commemorations in italics, where we have made our own selection (since this is not a part of the official calendar of saints, but a separate listing), we have made a deliberate attempt (as we have noted above) not to choose names solely out of our own “zeal,” but on the basis of the principles set forth in the Ascetics of Piety of Bishop Nikodim, and on the common church opinion.

We ourselves have had several disagreements with Fr. Panteleimon and some of this followers over the “zeal not according to knowledge” which they have occasionally shown. Sometimes this “zeal” can be dangerous, indeed, especially when it introduces general discord into the Church over such questions of church discipline as “rebaptism,” etc. But we have found, from our experience among young Americans, Greeks, and Russians, that their zeal for glorifying saints, even if it sometimes goes beyond what our Synod of Bishops has officially approved or what we ourselves would print, still is not a cause of controversy or dispute; those who disapprove this “zeal” simply can dismiss it as the “personal opinion of the Greeks” which is not obligatory for anyone else. This “zeal” is pursued out of love for saints and righteous ones, and therefore even when it might seem a little excessive, it can surely be forgiven, and we ourselves would fear to criticize or restrain it for fear of arousing totally unnecessary disputes in the Church, and above all for fear of sinning against these righteous ones themselves. When the general level of church piety is so low, and ordinary Orthodox people give so little veneration or heed even to canonized saints, would not our discouragement of any genuine piety toward saints and righteous ones be indeed a sin?

I only hope that these explanations have been sufficient to clear up any questions that may have arisen in regard to our St. Herman Calendar, and in particular with regard to our listing in italics of the ascetics of piety of recent centuries.

Asking your blessing and prayers,

With love and respect in Christ,
Unworthy Hieromonk Seraphim
By assignment from the Superior,
Hieromonk Herman

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