A Great Mystery

This was sent to Gail on the occasion of the 40th day of Elder Ephraim’s repose.  Elder Ephraim answers how he felt about coming to America and why he was sent.



  1. There has been much controversy on Elder Ephraim. There are devout followers of Elder Ephraim, those that don’t follow and those that just don’t know what to believe. He and his followers claim miracles and happenstance for building the first monastery in Arizona. Story’s circulated of illegal money, brainwashing, mysterious death of a young man, money shakedowns etc. I know personally of friends who have had both wonderful and not so wonderful experiences. I am not condemning Elder Ephraim, only stating his movement has brought controversy within the Orthodox churches in the United States.

    • George Costalas says

      Controversy as opposed to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese.  I owe my and my family’s wellbeing to Elder Ephraim.  It’s a shame that you never bothered to personally find out through your own experience. 

      • Since this is a very important subject,
        it may help us a lot if you write
        some more info about your experience.

    • Antiochene Son says

      St. John of San Francisco brought controversy within the church as well.  Being forced to choose between right and wrong, rather than go with the flow, always brings controversy.

    • Michael Bauman says

      Dionysia, there was nothing mysterious about the death of the young man. It was heartbreakingly tragic, as detailed on this site exhaustively at the time it happened. To dump on Elder Ephraim is uncalled for. The only testimony I have ever received from people who went to one of his monasteries was entirely positive.

      So an old song comes back to me: “Don’t believe all those lies, darlin’ just believe your eyes and look, look….”

      You can still go to one of his monasteries even though the Elder has reposed but go with an open heart and mind not one clouded by cynicism and doubt. Asking as did the Theotokos, “How can this be?”” Ask sincerely and you will receive your answer.

      However, if you cannot clear the doubt from you mind and heart, you have already received an answer, but that just means that like Zechariah, you must remain silent until the truth is revealed.

      • I think it is prudent during these perilous times to be like Gamaliel during Apostolic times:

        Acts 5:34-40 King James Version (KJV)

        34 Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space;

        35 And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men.

        36 For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought.

        37 After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed.

        38 And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought:

        39 But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.

  2. Joseph Lipper says

    There is a great temptation right now for people to turn their back against the Greek Archdiocese, and yes, even turn their back against their own faith. Yet it can only be by God’s own providence that Elder Ephraim was led to leave ROCOR and establish his monasteries within the Greek Archdiocese. I also personally know of one hermit monk, a real man of prayer, who tried to join ROCOR a few years ago, but he was quite surprised when God instead led him to join GOA. Yes, it’s a great mystery, but I believe God still has a plan for the Greek Archdiocese in America.

    • George Michalopulos says

      I don’t disagree with you at all, Joseph.

      • His plan might include a deep humbling. A ‘reset’ would be in order. Oh and better English settings. 

    • A greater temptation exists for the people of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese to turn their backs against the Orthodox Christian faith by by following their Archbishop and their Patriarch out of the Orthodox Church into communion with Rome.

      If their Patriarch has his way with them, this will occur within the next five years.

      From May 2014:
      “On his return from Jerusalem , where he met with Pope Francis at the Holy Sepulchre, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, has revealed an important appointment for unity between Catholics and Orthodox: a gathering at Nicaea in 2025, where the first real ecumenical council of the undivided Church was celebrated.“Speaking exclusively with AsiaNews, Bartholomew says that together with Pope Francis ‘we agreed to leave as a legacy to ourselves and our successors a gathering in Nicaea in 2025, to celebrate together, after 17 centuries , the first truly ecumenical synod, where the Creed was first promulgated.’”

    • RE: “…it’s a great mystery, but I believe God still has a plan for the Greek Archdiocese in America.”

      Joseph do you believe that your Patriarch’s plan (NICEA 2025!) is God’s plan?
      And do you and/or your hermit monk friend believe that the monasteries of the GOA are on board with your Patriarch’s plan for union with Rome?

      P.S. Where does GOA have a hermitage?

    • Indeed. But is it the same plan as Bartholomew and Elpidophorus have for it?

  3. It is my understanding that the Synod of the Archdiocese of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in America resisted Elder Ephraim’s vision to build monasteries in America and he sought help from ROCOR.  ROCOR was very gracious and supportive. As Elder Ephraim recalls: “I was received here [ROCOR] with great love and genuine understanding”.
    After that, Constantinople relinquished their objections. 

    • Mikhail,
      “After that, Constantinople relinquished their objections”. 
      Sure, for obvious reasons.

  4. Michael Bauman says

    Joseph……but they are soooooo irritating.

  5.  “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.”
    Elder Ephraim has just recently reposed and the testing of his works, his legacy has just begun.  
    It’s too soon for his devotees to tell others to just shut up and glorify him.
    The Lord will test and will reveal to us what sort of work this man has left behind.
    It’s not “cynicism and doubt” to wait and see. 

  6. There has been some goofiness come out of St. Anthony’s but I think this is much less due to the Holy Man than it is the persons who flock there and refuse to live a liturgical life in one of the MANY parishes in the Phoenix area.

    I’ve heard stories from some priests who have visited Greece that the Greek Elders on Athos believe we have it backwards in the US. The Monasteries aren’t the center of Orthodoxy, they’re the motors that keep the parish’s moving. Unless there are zero parishes within a 50-100 mile radius, we should be spending most of our Saturday’s and Sunday’s at a parish and periodically visiting out Monasteries to recharge our spiritual batteries, not vice versa. By the way, St. Paisius in Safford, AZ is also a wonderful Monastery.

    A lot of spiritual illness comes with not having a healthy parish life.

    The Elder is a Holy Man. May his memory be eternal.

    • This is absolutely correct. Monasteries were never meant to serve as the local faithful’s parish church.  

      However, at least in America, they often do. Here in the Austin, Texas, area, many faithful use the wonderful Holy Archangels Monastery in Kendalia as their parish church. It is a lovely place with a wonderful brotherhood – but it ain’t no parish church and shouldn’t serve as one.
      I can understand as an “economia” the monastery leaders maybe allowing some faithful to use it as a parish church if the parishes in the area are so corrupt or bad (or if there aren’t any parishes around) – but here in central Texas that ain’t the case. 

      • Michael Bauman says

        Central Tx (et. al) What draws non-monastics to monasteries? Well, a lot of things but one crucial one that I have never seen discussed is a community of worship.

        It is possible to have a real community of worship in a parish, but quite difficult as it involves much more sharing of our lives with each other than is common in my experience that is why ethnic families often continue to be dominate in a parish where there are many converts.

        We converts still tend to American Individualism (a secular derivative of Protestant theology) which is enshrined in our politics as well. Human beings are made, literally, for community. The antipathy and lack of it in American culture is part of the dynamic of the positive attitude many folks have toward “socialism” ignorant as that is (they often have no idea what political socialism is and how destructive it is historically).

        Real freedom can only be experienced in a worshiping community centered on Jesus Christ.

        So in American consumer style, we tend to gravitate toward where it already is and consume it rather than doing the hard, dangerous and difficult work of actually bearing the burdens of our neighbors (the one’s next to us as we stand and sing praises to God during Divine Liturgy).

        I am horrible at it. Fortunately, my lovely God Loving wife, is not. She has been made an honorary Lebanese Sitti for Pete’s sake even though she is a blond, blue eyed, rodeoing, gun totin’ Kansas girl.

        It is not a competition! I hope and pray that as the monasteries take deeper root, stronger more fruitful parish communities will be born too. There is a natural synergy between the two. But, it takes time Where else do we non-monastics have a model for Orthodox community?

        • George Michalopulos says

          Michael, if I may use your comment to go off on tangent, I would like to say that when Gail and I visited your church a few weeks ago, we were struck by the vivid iconography. The entire Gospel, the Parables and even the life cycle of the Blessed Virgin were on vivid display.

          That cathedral is in my opinion, a modern day Hagia Sophia, an evangelistic tour-de-force in its own right.

          A return trip is to be in the offing.

          • Micahel Bauman says

            They are beautiful and instructive. Bishop Basil planned it that way and our board but into place a icon implementation plan. It has been faithfully followed since the beginning. New icons are added almost every year. The latest ones are in the nave which depict Mathew 25:31-46. The three mosaic icons out side on the front of Jesus, Mary and John the Baptist are modeled after ones in Hagia Sophia. Bp. Basil planned the spaces for them, but never expected that there would be funds for them in his lifetime. By God’s grace the funds came through.

            We are blessed in that we have people with money who like giving it to the parish without attribution because they love the Church. There is still “white space” to fill. Along the lowest levels will be icons depicting the life and martyrdom of St. George. Plus, the some of the white space seen in the pictures has been filled already.

            Many years ago I was giving a tour to a group of folks, one of whom was an older Methodist lady who came out of curiosity. After the formal tour was done, she asked me if she could stay a little longer to look at the icons on the iconostasis. I said, of course. Then she said, “My friends told me I would not like the icons. They were wrong. They are beau-ti-ful.” Said in a voice full of awe. She sat there quite a while as I remember.

            I am particularly fond of the “pillars of our community”. Icons of the Stylites Symeon and Daniel. At the end of every tour I gave from the solea. I pointed to the icons of St. Ignatius of Antioch on the chanter’s side and St. Raphael of Brooklyn on the choir side making the comment that those two men lived almost 2000 years apart but lived and taught the same faith and gave fully of themselves to care for their flocks.

            There are pictures and descriptions of all of the icons on our web site: https://a96d71da-ee01-4fc4-9a7f-9ea8758440e4.filesusr.com/ugd/332b6c_984781df43ad45eda97bd9762af2f0fe.pdf

            Their presence and beauty is quite something. My wife frequently tells the story of the first time she came into the Temple. She looked above the altar and saw Jesus Enthroned. He is depicted there just as she saw him when she was five years old and He came to comfort her as she was hiding from her abusive father. She always looked for Him in any church she attended and she never saw Him, until she came to St. George. She calls him in a deeply moving, 5 year old voice, “My Jesus”.

            They are genuine icons, full of life. It is a honor to be in their presence. It is a bit easier for this stiff-necked mongrel to be a bit more penitent as the least in my parish.

            When you are here next, I will have to show you our Chapel of the Unmercenary Healers. The iconography is wonderful there as well with icons of St. Herman, St. Silouan and others.

            God is good.

            • Gail Sheppard says

              It is indeed beautiful.

              • George Michalopulos says

                Michael, it’s hard for me to enunciate which of these icons are the better ones, i.e. which ones are one’s favorites. However, in your narthex, on the westernmost walls are six frescoes from Jesus’ sermon on the Last Judgment in which Jesus is shown as a prisoner, as a beggar, as a prisoner, etc, with the implication being as you leave liturgy, are you going to feed the poor, clothe the naked, visit the sick, etc?

                In my opinion, every Orthodox Church throughout the world should have these icons plastered on the western walls of their narthexes.

                • Michael Bauman says

                  They each reach out and grab you from time to time. The icons of St. Ignatius and St. Raphael have a small relic of each saint embedded in the icon as do several of the icons in the Chapel.

                  I love the dome too. I also appreciate the way in which the entire Nicene Creed is laid out. From the Panacrator in the dome, surrounded by the Six-winged Seraphs and the Prophets of old, to the Icon of the Nativity, to the icon of His Crucifixion, burial and the Harrowing of Hell, to the icon of the Ascension above the altar to Jesus Enthroned with Mary, the Theothokos, John the Forerunner, the Litrugists, Great Marytrs and Ascetics. Back to the Four Apostles around the base of the dome, to us.

                  “This is the faith that established the universe…”

                  Two things of note on the outside: Our sign says simply: St. George Orthodox Christian Cathedral and the dome was originally going to be taller, but we are in the flight path to McConnell AFB so it had to be truncated a bit.

                  I also think it significant that such a witness is in the very heart of our country.

                  (I had/have nothing to do with its being there BTW and there is a strong endowment being funded to maintain it in the future).

                  • George Michalopulos says

                    That’s interesting! Yes, the fact that Wichita is smack-dab in the middle of the Lower 48 means something.

            • Alitheia 1875 says

              The icon of the Mystical Supper correctly shows the Disciples without halos, which is not always the case. Whereas, the icon of Pentecost correctly shows them with halos. Also, the blessed Fotis Kontoglou always signed his icons. Usually it is the monastic tradition not to sign icons.

              • Michael Bauman says

                Alitheia, our icons are done by monastics as noted. They are painted on canvass at the monastery. They are brought here, glued on and a great deal of additional painting is done so that they appear to be emminating from the walls unless you are quite close up.  
                Our icon plan has been in place and followed since 1990.  

  7. Diakovos and Central TX: Are you both saying that these monastery “groupies” (for want of a more apt ortho-descriptor), persons who make the monasteries their home-parish, who keep themselves separate from a local parish church, are somehow harmful to the legacy (read:the monasteries) of Elder Ephraim?
    Aren’t these persons the monasteries’ material bread and butter?
    And aren’t these persons the ones that Elpidophoros and the GOA Mets want to wrangle into buttering their own dry toasts?

  8. It is natural historically for cities and towns to grow up around remote monasteries and for monasteries to serve as the spiritual heart of a community.  This has occurred with monasteries in Russia, Greece, and even in Ireland in the early centuries of Christianity.  People have similarly relocated to be closer to monasteries in America as well, and this phenomenon is not limited only to Elder Ephraim’s monasteries.  If attending services at the monasteries encourages a person to draw closer to God, surrounded by others who are seeking the same thing, why is that a bad thing?  Some of us have belonged to parishes that are mostly institutions for maintaining cultural and ethnic identity; where things like the lives of saints, fasting, confession, prayer, and spiritual life are not spoken about and where it is hard to attend services without being scandalized.  Some of us attended parishes where priests regularly said heretical things in sermons, and where catechism teachers would teach our children yoga or promote their secular political ideologies.  Some of us, when visiting monasteries, feel much more edified, not only by the grace, prayers, and commitment of the monastics; but also by the other families who are also trying to prioritize the spiritual life and raise their children in a traditional Orthodox manner.  There is nothing “unnatural” about this.  Many of the laity flock to the monasteries and are eager to fund them because they have received spiritual healing , help in overcoming sins, and help with major problems in life, that they just didn’t receive in their parish life.  The thousands of people who flew from different parts of the world to honor Elder Ephraim at his funeral is a testimony to the life changing impact that he had on countless people.  If people look at his monasteries and see something “strange” or “unnatural”, this is not due to the monasteries but to the unnatural or untraditional manner of much of Orthodox parish life in America.  As St. Anthony said, ““A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him, saying, ‘You are mad; you are not like us.’”

  9.  RE: “If attending services at the monasteries encourages a person to draw closer to God, surrounded by others who are seeking the same thing, why is that a bad thing?”
    To borrow a famous Laconic saying: “If.”
    You are right to point out these good things, just as right as Dionysia, Diavolos, and Central TX were right to point out the sad not so good things (“controversies”) have also become part of the package.
    If attending these monasteries causes these pilgrims to see themselves separate and somehow higher spiritually than than the poor schlubs toiling in a mere parish church…
    If these  lay spiritual children of these monasteries see their blind obedience to their Elder as a shortcut to heaven instead of say, living out the “commandments of the Gospels” (cf. St. Ignaty Brianchaninov)…
    If the many, many women who inundate the mens monasteries become the reason why the “Avaton” of Mount Athos is in place…
    What “if” indeed?
    The history of the Church records the fall of some monasteries in order to teach us not to repeat the same mistakes e.g. the fall of a monastery because it became focused on hospitality rather than the real work of monks; following their hierarchs into heresy and schism; pride; contact with women…
    Let’s not make these mistakes again, nor assume that anyone who is still alive and struggling spiritually against the Enemy and the world is exempt from falling.
    The icon of the Ladder of Divine Ascent shows us that those who have risen the highest can also have the greatest of falls.
    So let’s be sober minded about such things.

    • Joseph Lipper says

      Parish life is tough, and I’m sure monastic life is tough also.  Battling it out in parish councils often takes a strong stomach, and I’m sure monastic life is at least as difficult and probably much more so.  Yet people who attend monasteries as their regular home parish are neither actually committing to the burden of monasticism, nor are they committing to the burden of regular parish life with parish councils, etc.

      • Gail Sheppard says

        I must have missed something here: is there something salvific about battling it out with a parish council or “burdening oneself” with monasticism? You can “die to yourself” (or not) in any setting.

        • Joseph Lipper says

          Gail, in monastery parishes, there is no parish council, and there shouldn’t be either.  The burden of the parish is on the monastery and the Abbot.  This is fine as long as the monastery is able to function, but it doesn’t represent a normal and healthy model of parish life.  
          It’s good and healthy for people to be involved in their parish councils, that is as long as they are obedient to their priest and bishop.  It takes a lot of work to keep a parish going, and yes, I believe that’s salvific just like monasticism.

          • Gail Sheppard says

            I see your point, Joseph, . . . sort of. I understand the authority of the bishop but isn’t it true that any authority a priest has is through his bishop? In other words (I’m asking), how much authority does a priest have in and of himself?

            • Joseph Lipper says

              Gail, yes, that’s exactly what I mean.  A priest is supposed to be obedient to his bishop, and his authority comes from the bishop.

            • Monk James Silver says

              Occasionally, the bishops are mistaken, even as a group, and it takes priests and deacons and monastics and the laity, all working together, to put them right again, and get them to steer The Church rightly.  
              This has happened several times in our history, and we shouldn’t be afraid of its happening now or again in the future, since our Lord Jesus Christ promised to be always with us, His Church, and that ‘the gates of Haides will not overcome it.’ 

      • Monk James Silver says

        What an astonishingly judgemental and rash opinion you offer here, Mr Lipper.
        You are in no position to know why some people regularly attend services at monasteries, nor to know how such people are regarded by the nuns and monks whose hospitality they enjoy.
        What you clearly seem to feel is a ‘burden’ to your fellow Christians is, rather, a joy to most of us and a great blessing of service in love.
        In any event, this ‘burden’ notion of yours might go a long way toward explaining your unusual, even distorted view of Orthodox Christian ecclesiology.

        • On spot, Monk James!

        • My experience from visiting monasteries that also function as bustling parishes with lots of children, etc., is that the monks were very hospitable, patient, and showed a lot of love to everyone.
          I’m sure they are happy to share the grace they have; that’s certainly the impression I have had and I am very happy for that.

      • George Michalopulos says

        Joseph, that’s a good point you bring out.  I believe that laymen can “bear the burden” of the monastic life by volunteering their resources to the monastery.  That’s kind of what they do anyway when they attend parishes.
        Honestly though, the reason that laymen attend the monasteries IMHO is because serving on the parish councils or putting up with them can be arduous.

        • Joseph Lipper says

          George, I’m all in favor of people visiting and supporting monasteries.  If they don’t want to be a monk though, then I would hope that people would come back and help grow their home parishes, or possibly even start new parishes.  

          • Joseph,___I would partly agree with you that we certainly do not want to overflow monasteries with laity so as to make them the same as our parishes in the cities.
            I am not an expert in listing the important differences but I am sure:
            A monastery must be a monastery, not a parish church. 

            • Ioannis,
              …which is the reason why ROCOR established a parish church about five miles from Holy Cross Hermitage.

              • Joseph Lipper says

                Very admirable.  That’s a bishop protecting the monastery right there.

                • Yes, Joseph,
                  That Bishop protects the monastery  AND the parish.

                  • Matthew Panchisin says

                    Protecting from what? One another? Mr. Lipper that would be a rather divisive bishop you endorse again.

                    I do not believe that Metropolitan Hilarion is endorsing your latest fiasco, your papist minded cloistering ideas.

                    • Joseph Lipper says

                      Maybe it was Metropolitan Vitaly? I know Metropolitan Laurus visited there before he reposed. Whoever it was, I’m inclined to believe he knew exactly what he was doing. Holy Cross Hermitage is a wonderful and thriving monastery, and it’s obvious that having a regular parish close by hasn’t hurt it one bit. If anything, this situation has probably helped both the monastery and the parish.

                  • Establishing a skete, Metropolitan Hilarion-Style (ROCOR)

              • Monk James Silver says

                Is there a parish church within five miles of the Jordanville monastery?
                It’s likely that establishing a parish that close to Holy Cross in West Virginia might be due to reasons other than those so far suggested here, so it might be perilous for us to speculate as to why some people attend services at monasteries rather than parish churches.
                And —  in case nobody noticed — such situations are not limited to the ROCOR.

                • Joseph Lipper says

                  Monk James, I will never forget what happened at the monastery in Blanco, TX. The Abbot of that monastery wrote a popular Orthodox book encouraging families to bring their children to the monastery. The sad story we all know now is that he was abusing children as a pedophile, and he later committed suicide. That monastery doesn’t exist anymore.

                  • Monk James Silver says

                    That  group at Blanco TX was not an Orthodox Christian monastery, Mr Lipper.   It was a fraud from top to bottom, run by evil men, liars who preyed on gullible people.  May the Lord have mercy on them and on their vistims..
                    The tragedy of Blanco is not at all representative of The Church or of its monastic institutions.  We need to concern ourselves with true and legitimate monasteries, and accept the reality that it is occasionally a good thing, maybe even a necessity, for the laity to attend services there.  There are  many reasons for this possibility, all of which deserve our understanding and respect.

                    • Gail Sheppard says

                      I hate to disagree with you, Father, but Christ of the Hills Brotherhood (COTH) in Blanco, TX was indeed an Orthodox monastery at different intervals, first under ROCOR and later under Archbishop Lazar, who had been deposed by ROCOR and was under the now-defunct UOC-KP (Filaret (Denysenko). This, of course, was before he joined the OCA who knew all about this when they let him in.

                      Pokrov, a resource for the survivors of abuse in the Orthodox Church, has this to say about Lazar: “After the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) took back its antimens from Christ of the Hills Monastery (COTH) in Blanco, Texas, it was reported that the group was received into the UOC-KP by Puhalo. However, the archbishop has maintained that he received the monastics conditionally, with the exception of Father Benedict Greene and Father Jeremiah Hitt, who had been suspended by ROCOR, and when the monastics failed to fulfill the necessary conditions, he severed the connection.” [I find it interesting that Lazar calls out the fact that these two well-known pedophiles were suspended by ROCOR but does not call out the fact that before COTH, he had also been deposed by ROCOR.]

                      I was surprised to see Pokrov had written anything at all because I went round and round with Melanie Sokoda, years ago, about failing to feature Lazar on their website. I had provided her with the announcement Lazar had put on the Internet saying COTH had gone under his omorphor. It took Pokrov many years to post anything and they are still not providing the full truth, as far as I’m concerned. https://www.pokrov.org/?s=lazar&submit.x=14&submit.y=15

                      Archbishop Lazar told me that not only did he know about Greene, but it was under one of his directives that Greene was placed in a trailer outside the monastery walls. He also told me because the monastery failed to follow his directives to curtail their activities that he left. There were 5 monastics affiliated with that monastery who were implicated in molesting children. Greene and Hitt were only 2 of them.

                      When I asked Lazar, directly, how he could leave COTH without notifying the authorities that the monastery was using a fake weeping icon to lure potential victims (his real crime, IMO), he didn’t have much to say.

                      I wonder how many children were molested between the time he left and when the authorities were first made aware of all of those molestations years later. Considering the recidivism rate with this kind of behavior, my guess is it was a lot.

                      Lazar didn’t think it was worthy of repenting, as he only had this to say to the OCA when they took him in: “I wish to express my sincere regret and repentance for my years of involvement in Orthodox Church bodies outside the Canonical Orthodox Church. While my long involvement with schismatic bodies such as the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, the Greek Old Calendarist bodies and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kiev, was well-intentioned and motivated by a love of Orthodoxy, it was an error. I deeply regret this error and sincerely repent for it.”

                      Nothing about failing to notify the authorities of a pedophile ring.

                    • Fair enough, Gail, but I think you missed the subtle point that Father James was making.

                    • Gail Sheppard says

                      Which was?

                    • That, despite being administratively part of an Orthodox Christian diocese, it was never an Orthodox Christian monastery.

                      They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

                    • Gail Sheppard says

                      Unfortunately, there are more than one or two unChristian Orthodox monasteries who have been tied to the canonical Church; many within recent memory.

                  • George MichalopuloS says

                    Of course what happened at Blanco was a travesty. But that’s like saying children shouldn’t ride bicycles because some fall off and skin their knees. Discernment is crucial in all things when it comes to children.

                    • Michael Bauman says

                      Existentially, the Church is a mess, always has been a mess and likely always will be a mess. “He that is without sin, cast the first stone”.

                      “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” That does not say, “You all repent, I’m good.”

                    • Gail Sheppard says

                      Although this particular mess is dangerously close to mirroring the mess in 1054. The Pope, as recently as within the last 6 months, is still saying he and Bartholomew are on track to unite in 2025.

                      This is why I wish the OCA was not allowing the GOA to tell the good folks in our jurisdiction, via the GOA’s website, that they’re working toward concelebration with the GOA. They can meet with the GOA but statements like this, as well as statements saying they support the GOA in their position with the State Department, are scaring folks and they’re talking about escape plans.

                      There is no reason things like this need to be said aloud unless, of course, the OCA leadership is trying to break it to us slowly that they are softening toward a plan with Bartholomew. Even IF Bartholomew agreed to recognize the OCA’s autocephalous status, or grant another one, and unite everyone in North America under the OCA, he could take us all to Rome in 2025.

                      Any relationship under Bartholomew is dangerous and it is a relationship that many in the OCA do not and will not want.

                      Fortunately, we are seeing some escape hatches open up from other jurisdictions and not just the ones we typically see in the US. We have options and if the OCA keeps scaring people, we’re going to start seeing people bail sooner rather than later.

  10. Matthew Panchisin says

    Dear Ioannis,

    You have mention,
     “I am not an expert in listing the important differences but I am sure: A monastery must be a monastery, not a parish church.”
    I would not recommend that you or Mr. Lipper issue fallen advise to Bishop Longin of New Gracanica Monastery/Parish to follow or Patriarchs Kirill and Irinej. Perhaps for correction purposes email the nuns in Jerusalem about the constant flow of Orthodox Church members (parishioners) gathering at the monasteries there from the entire diaspora. You and as well as or rather as sick as Mr. Lipper can email the schismatic ‘bishops” and they will agree with you.
     When a bishop who is originally a monk from the monastery moves to his cathedral (Parish) what do you think happens? Is there a natural synergy that way?
    Once again we have seen how the divisive ethos and often expressed erroneous notions of Mr. Lipper can spread, dividing the Church, even to Jerusalem which is “the Mother of all the Churches”.
    It is sad to see so many comments from people that have no idea of what they are talking about on George’s blog where he has enshrined “freedom of speech”.

    • Dear Matthew,
      “It is sad to see so many comments from people that have no idea of what they are talking about on George’s blog where he has enshrined “freedom of speech”.
      You are right , in a way.
      I am no expert in anything. I grow older, learning all the time.
      I certainly appreciate if you tell me when I am wrong, because I can learn something.
      The problem is how can George or anybody decide who may send comments and who may not.
      Most of the people are unknown to him. Must we send our cv’s?
      Even that will not help, because people with the best cv’s may write the most unchristian things.
      At the end of the day, I think, the important thing is that everybody here should write his honest opinion (in a polite way). Even if such an opinion is completely wrong, it is a good lesson for the rest of us to draw useful conclusions about current society.
      And people like you who know better, can correct the rest of us. 

    • Matthew: “It is sad to see so many comments from people
      that have no idea of what they are talking about…”
      As Sturgeon’s Law asserts: “Ninety percent of everything is cr*p.”
      If you were only to read stuff that you know makes sense,
      you would have a very restricted reading list – and miss much.
      “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world
      to confound the wise” [1 Cor, 1:27].

    • Michael Bauman says

      Well, Mr. Panchisin, I give you my word that if I post something you know to be incorrect, even absurd let me know in a polite and specific way and that will give me the chance to learn and repent of my ignorance.

      Thank you,

  11. “A monastery must be a monastery, not a parish church.”
    I wonder where such opinions come from.  Since ancient times, laity have flocked to monasteries to attend services.  Where in all of the stories of saints, the writings of the Fathers, the lives of contemporary elders who guided and advised the laity, do we find such a quote or sentiment?  Wherever we are, we should be cultivating prayer, struggling against the passions, and cultivating the virtues.  Some laypeople find more inspiration and support for the spiritual life by attending services at monasteries.  There is nothing inherently salvific or spiritually beneficial to serving on parish councils or “participating in the life of a parish”.  If a person cares about their faith and about making progress in the spiritual life, it is very natural and good to want to surround yourself with similar people.  It shouldn’t be a surprise that there are typically a higher percentage of such people who attend services in a monastery compared to a parish.  One can attend services at a monastery without, however, looking down on those who don’t.  If our parishes had better priests and offered better guidance and encouragement in the spiritual life, some who attend the monasteries might be more inclined to attend such a parish.  All that matters is holiness and purity of heart, and a person must examine whether the parish they are in and the priest they have supports them towards this end or not. 

    • George Michalopulos says

      if it weren’t for the monasteries in and around Cpole during the Iconoclast heresy, the people wouldn’t have been able to worship in an Orthodox manner.

    • Monk James Silver says

      Sometimes there just isn’t a parish church within reasonable traveling distance of the places where some Orthodox Christians find themselves living for one or another good reason, but there is a monastery closer, one which they can visit much more frequently.
      It would be a great sin to forbid the laity to attend services at the monastery in such circumstances, but there are other good reasons, too.
      This is not an all-or-nothing situation, all black-and-white with absolutely clear borders.  As an example, we should remember that some monasteries are without priests, and that the nuns and monks regularly attend services in a local parish, especially the Divine Liturgy and on major holy days.
      We should be kind and generous here rather than act as strict enforcers of imaginary rules.  When in doubt, ask the bishop.

      • Joseph Lipper says

        Monk James, yes, there are always such circumstances.  However, I can also appreciate when a bishop is encouraging families not to consider a monastery as their home parish.  It doesn’t necessarily mean the bishop is attacking anyone.  A bishop may very wisely do this to protect both a normal parish life for the family, and also for the strength and integrity of the monastery.  

        • Monk James Silver says

          History, especially the history of the advance of civilization in Russia, does not support your thesis, Mr Lipper.  I noticed that you ignored my question as to why there are no parishes within five miles of the Jordanville monastery, if the Holy Cross monastery and its nearby parish n West Virginia so perfectly illustrated your point.
          Revisiting the history of the founding of cities in the vast unpopulated areas outside of the well defended  ‘Golden Ring’ to which the people of Kievan Rus had fled to escape the Tatars, we find that monks, either alone or with a few companions, set up hermitages in the wilderness.  There were no parishes there.
          As the reputation of the holiness of some of these monks came to be known, the laity began to make pilgrimages to those hermitages to seek spiritual direction which they apparently were unable to find in their cities.  The hermitages grew into larger communities.  Still no parishes.
          But not everyone who visited the monasteries felt called to monastic life, even if their visits became more frequent, and roads were put in.  Some people decided to build homes for themselves near the monasteries.  Eventually, entire families began to live near the monasteries and they attended services there.  No parishes yet.
          For various reasons, it became advisable for these groups of laity to organize themselves into villages and towns with the usual civil structures (regular delivery of mail, police, etc., and it was only then that it became desirable for them to ask the local (he might have been 500 miles away!)  bishop for a priest and establish a parish.
          As can be clearly seen from the examples of Pochaev and Sergiev Posad, and all he monasteries which house the many great miraculous ikons as well as the relics of the saints all over Russia even now, there is no tension between the monasteries and the parishes which grew up around them.  Any good history of Russia, especially of the country’s religious life will amply attest this phenomenon. (Billington’s The Icon and the Axe comes to mind, as well as Zernov’s The Russians and Their Church.)
          But that was Russia, and I adduce this history only as an illustration of a general tendency in Orthodox Christianity.  Apart from Athos, this pattern has been repeated all over the world.  Yet even in Greece, some people relocate to cities near the Athonite border so that they (the men, at least) can take advantage of visiting the Holy Mountain at every possible opportunity. 

          In our own time and place, the wilderness which surrounds many of our monasteries is not natural but cultural, and people come to the monks and nuns for the same reasons as ever, finding spiritual relief there which is not available in the non-Orthodox, altogether non-Christian circumstances of their lives.  If such blessings are not available in their parishes, this might indicate some sort of spiritual deficit there.  A lack of regular confession in a parish is usually a sign of an unhealthy spiritual life, and this must be addressed and resolved, not ignored with a ‘business as usual’ attitude.
          Altogether, I suspect that you are —  in your own way —  somehow affected by the anti-monastic attitudes which have long afflicted the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and even the Antiochian Archdiocese, although Bishop Basil of Wichita is bucking the trend there.  Father Ephraim and his blessed work have made it clear that the laity want and need a monastic presence here, in spite of the GOA’s official and ungracious resistance to the growth of monastic life in America.  This seems to be softening a little, God bless them.
          Perhaps it’s time for you to abandon this false and unhelpful notion of yours, and develop a relationship with the good people at one of the monasteries.

          • Joseph Lipper says

            Monk James, I believe Holy Cross Hermitage was founded shortly after the fiasco in Blanco, TX, and perhaps that might explain the bishop’s designation of having a separate parish near the monastery. As for Jordanville, there’s a resident bishop, and the monastery and seminary are considered protected by him. St. Tikhon’s has tended to function in similar way. Although, I would point out that from it’s early history it had a separate parish church on it’s property which unfortunately burned down in the 1920’s. It was never rebuilt, perhaps due to lack of funding. Nevertheless, St. Tikhon’s from the beginning was closely connected with the nearby St. John’s parish in Mayfield, as well as the other parishes in the valley. It seems natural to me that monasteries would try to foster good relations with the local parishes for their mutual benefit and protection, and not to purposefully become parishes in and of themselves.

            I also suspect there’s good reason why monasteries are sometimes intentionally located in very remote and difficult to come by places. That was the original intent of the Desert Fathers, and of monasteries in places like Meteora, Mt. Athos, and Skellig Michael. St. Sergius of Radonezh intentionally set up his monastery in the remote wilderness. St. Herman settled on Spruce Island. The pattern rather seems to be of monastics seeking something separate from a normal parish life.

            • Solitary Priest says

              Holy Cross was founded by Hieromonk Kallistos( Pazalos) shortly after he was tonsured a monk on Sept 11, 1986, I believe. Fr. Kallistos had come into ROCOR from the Serbs about five years earlier. There was an existing ROCOR parish there in Missouri, but without a church building. The parish is St. John Chrysostom. In the next few years, then Fr. Constantine built up the parish before his monastic tonsure. The church stands today in House Springs, Missouri. It was Fr. Kallistos’s plan to have the Brotherhood spin off from the parish. Sometime after Fr. Kallistos died in 1992, the property in West Virginia was acquired. 

          • George Michalopulos says

            Monk James, I can attest to the fact that as far as St Antony of the Desert is concerned, a thriving population of Orthodox Christians (Greeks, Russians, Ukrainians, etc.) have gobbled up territory nearby and set up homesteads nearby. They do this in order to take advantage of the schedule of services that the monastery provides.

            So yes, the Russian model which you describe is alive and well, at least in Arizona.

  12. Matthew Panchisin says

    Dear Joseph,

    “the original intent of the Desert Fathers”

    Since the Desert Fathers embrace Christ expressing the blessed joy of hospitality from the heart as Father James has mentioned, I don’t see why on earth Orthodox Monastics living the Angelic life would want to be totally  isolated or separate(d) from us struggling Orthodox Christians (parishioners) who are also made in the image and likeness God.

    I think it is a matter theological coherency.

    • A brother asked Mathois, ‘If I go to live in such-and-such a place, what do you suggest I do there?’ He said, ‘If you live there, don’t try to make a reputation for yourself on some pretext…This is the sort of thing that creates a bubble of reputation, and afterwards you will suffer from crowds. When people hear that sort of thing they flock there.’
      Syncletica said, ‘An open treasury is quickly spent; any virtue will be lost if it is published abroad and is known about everywhere. If you put wax in front of a fire it melts; and if you pour vain praises on the soul it goes soft and weak in seeking goodness.’
      She also said, ‘The same thing cannot at once be seed and a full-grown bush. So men with a worldly reputation cannot bear heavenly fruit.’

    • Abba  Nilus  said, “The   arrows of  the   enemy cannot  touch  one  who loves quietness; but he who moves about in a crowd will often be wounded.” 

  13. Still it is undeniable that we, from the world bring danger and temptation to monks.  
    With this knowledge in hand, we should be mindful of supporting monastics in their work but keeping ourselves separate so as not to become obstacles or worse.
    Our Church teaches this, though  many, both monastics and laity in these days don’t practice.
    For examples: 
    From the Sayings of the Desert Fathers
    One hermit visited another hermit and said during their conversation, ‘I’m dead to the world.’ The other said, ‘Don’t be so confident until you have actually died. You may say about yourself that you are dead, but Satan is not dead.’
    A hermit said, ‘Do not give to or receive anything from worldly people. Take no notice of women. Do not remain long in the company of a boy.’
    Once Abraham, the disciple of Sisois, said to him, ‘Abba, you are now old. Let us go into the world for a short time.’ Sisois said to him: ‘Yes, provided that we go where there are no women.’ The disciple said, ‘Where is there a place that is without women except the desert?’ Sisois said, ‘Then let me stay in the desert.’
    Isaac from the Thebaid said to his brothers, ‘Do not bring boys here. Boys were the reason why four monasteries in Scetis were deserted.’
    [Makarios] told the brothers about the devastation of Scetis. He said, ‘When you see cells built beside the swamp know that the desolation of Scetis is near; when you see trees planted there know that it is at the door; when you see boys there take your sheepskins and go away.’
    From St. Seraphim of Sarov
    One should especially keep oneself away from the society of the feminine sex; for just as a wax candle, even though unlit, will melt when placed amongst burning candles, so the heart of a monk will imperceptibly weaken from conversation with women. Concerning this St Isidore of Pelusium explains thus: “If there are some conversations that corrupt good habits, then they are the ones that are conducted with women, even if these be quite decent, because they can secretly corrupt the inward man by means of bad thoughts; and even though the body be clean, the soul nevertheless will be defiled. Is there anything more solid than a rock? Or, thin, what is softer than water or drops of water? Nevertheless, the unceasing action of one element overpowers the other. Thus, if one almost unconquerable substance can be conquered by something which is nothing in comparison with it, and it suffers and is distracted, then can it be that the easily wavering human will, from the continuousness of the action, will not be defeated or corrupted?

  14. Matthew Panchisin says

    Dear Ioan,

    If you have some spare time do read the conversation of St. Seraphim with Nicholas Motovilov for contextual and summation purposes.

    • The context of the sayings of the Desert Fathers and Mother, and the quotation from St. Seraphim of Sarov: There can be a deleterious effect on the work of monastics when they are swarmed by crowds of laypersons.
      We should be on guard against this.

      • Matthew Panchisin says

        Dear Ioan,

        They can always call the sweet nuns in Jerusalem for advise on their constant good works with the constant crowds of Orthodox laypersons, the school etc.

        Even the most austere of the ascetics, the stylites like our venerable and God-bearing Father Symeon the Stylite (c. 390-459) welcomed many people keeping in mind the incarnation and resurrection of Our Lord and Savior Jesus.
        Thank you for the book recommendation and have a blessed fast.

        • Matthew you seem focused on what pilgrims can get from monastics.

          My posts hopefully serve to remind pilgrims of what they might take away from them.

  15. Thanks,Matthew.  I’ve read it.  For my part, let me recommend to you: Sayings of the Desert Fathers translated by Benedicta Ward and The Spiritual Meadow by John Moschos.

  16. These pillars (one pun intended) of the Church had a unique ministry for which they prepared with long years of struggle AWAY FROM the world, away from the prying eyes and demands of the maddening crowds.  

    The developing  Simeons, Seraphims, Syncleticas, Matronas…not to mention Anthonys, Makarioss and Mary of Egypts of today need no less.

  17. matthewpanchisin says