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256. Oct. 18/31, 1978 Holy Apostle Luke

Your Grace, dear Vladika Laurus,

Bless!

Thank you for your letters and the copy of Fr. Levs letter (which I am returning with this). Fr. Lev sent us none of the letters exchanged in this controversy, and we were sent a copy of his letter and Br. Isaac s reply by someone else. In general, Fr. Lev has not been in contact with us for over a year, I think, and his last letters to us were so strange and irrational that we did not even try to answer them. Some time ago he sent a letter to Alexey Young violently disagreeing with several of our articles (especially the article on Prof. Andreyev, for some reason) and saying that we, together with other “Russians,” are in serious error and are making an “occult cult of 19th-century Russia.” He has not tried to write us politely and charitably expressing his disagreement with us about these things; I think this is because his disagreement is primarily emotional and not theological, despite what he says about it.

Fr. Lev has long impressed us as being quite unbalanced emotionally; even Fr. Neketas has had trouble with him in this regard, even though he supports Fr. Lev’s publications because they express the Boston “party-line.” But we also do not have a high opinion of him as a “theologian.” Several years ago Fr. Panteleimon of Boston told me that Fr. Lev apparently does not understand Russian very well; he simply re-works the translations of his friend Vassily, but is not able to translate for himself. I believe his knowledge of theology is of the same kind; he takes the ideas of someone else (mostly Fr. Panteleimon) and expresses them in his own way, thereby shining in the reflected “glory” of Fr. Panteleimon, as it were, but he himself is not a theological thinker, and sometimes he makes astonishing errors, as in his recent letters on the state of souls after death. In general, I think he is like a “barometer” of the opinions of our “Greek convert” wing: some of the things which Fr. Panteleimon, Fr. Neketas, and others believe but would not say except within their own “party,” Fr. Lev speaks out for everyone to hear.

What disturbs us most about the statements of Fr. Lev (and our “Greeks” in general) is not as much the opinions he expresses as the exalted, superior tone in which he expresses them, reflected in the name-calling he and our Greeks indulge in—accusing the rest of us (“Russians”) of being under “Western influence,” being “naive” and “untheological,” believing in “moral fables,” etc. This seems to us not a theological spirit at all, but just intellectual conceit.

I don’t think Fr. Lev will be satisfied with any answer to his outrageous protests against the traditional Orthodox teaching on life after death. Some of the points he raises are treated in our articles on “The Soul After Death”—but not in a controversial way; most of the rest of these articles will be simply the teaching of Bishop Ignaty Brianchaninov, especially on the “Toll-houses,” and I think the subject is clearly enough presented by him to satisfy everyone except Fr. Lev and other “reformers.”

Fr. Gregory of Boston visited us lately, and left a bad impression on us also. For him monasticism seems to be some kind of “formula,” but without love or any real idea of struggle. The “training” that Fr. Panteleimon gives his monks seems to be bound up with a cold, calculating self-centeredness—far from the real monastic spirit as we understand it. Fr. George Cheremetiev also visited us— and, just the contrary, we felt very close to him. He also, just like we, finds that Fr. Dimitry Dudko has just the right spirit for us today. Fr. Gregory wants to start a monastery in California, but both our bishops are against it, and Fr. Herman spoke very sharply with him against it.

We are in contact with some people in the Old Calendar jurisdiction of Archbishop Auxentios in America (and Greece also), and they are horrified to learn that our Sobor of Bishops has “broken communion” with them. Is this really true? There are many good people with them, who are closer to our Russian spirit than Fr. Panteleimon (even though their bishops may sometimes act irresponsibly) and it would be heartbreaking if we were to abandon them now.

We are very grateful for your concern for us, and ask your prayers for us. Besides our printing, we now serve several mission points in California and Oregon with Divine Liturgy once every month or two. In a few days, God willing, we will be sending our book “Blessed Paisius Velichkovsky” to the binder, after several years of printing (this is the book Br. Macarius [was] working on last summer when he stayed with us).

With love and respect in Christ,

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