A Description of Us
St. Gerasimos of Jordan
To: Exarchate Clergy, Faithful, and Friends
From: Archbishop Chrysostomos
Evlogia Kyriou. May God bless you.
Have you seen the new directory of "True Orthodox Churches" at
http://trueorthodoxdirectory.blogspot.com/ I noticed your monastery and convent in Etna and your parishes and convent in Canada are not listed [yet].
This link has been sent to the monastery by at least ten people since yesterday. I knew nothing of its existence. I was surprised to see it. It seems to be quite an extensive enterprise and is nicely (handsomely) done. As for your specific questions, I will answer them in a series of reactions that I would like to enumerate in what I hope will be a logical progression of thoughts:
a) Our monastery and the nearby Convent of St. Elizabeth are in some respects almost like parishes, given the many pilgrims that we receive here. The parish of Sts. Cyprian and Justina is a tiny parish that simply serves the remnants of the once much larger Orthodox community in Etna, so in fact it is not the focus of pilgrimages here.
b) We have only two parishes and a convent in Canada. I presume that they were not included because the directory is for the United States.
c) Our Exarchate consists of a few large parishes and three reasonably large monastic communities (14, 12, and 8 monastics, respectively), as well as some very small parishes, including two parishes that are without clergy at the moment.
We are a Church in resistance, are interested in unimportance but authenticity, and place emphasis on quality (the maintenance of Holy Tradition and a charitable, inviting witness to the primacy of Orthodoxy) and not quantity.
Since we consider ourselves a resistance movement within the Orthodox Church, and not the Church itself, we have no need to justify our existence by exaggerating our numbers or importance. We are, moreover, an Exarchate of our Church in Greece: a mere outpost.
d) With regard to numbers, I must admit that I smiled at the patchwork of "True Orthodox" communities represented on the map of America (the U.S.) in this directory. In fact, many of these communities, which I have seen, are homes with an Icon corner and services of a private kind, bereft of any congregation. They are far short of even a private Chapel.
e) The majority of Old Calendarists are found, population-wise, in Romania and Bulgaria. In Greece, their numbers are about 1/4 of what most sources in America report and are dwindling precipitously because of extremism and other negative factors.
f) The only jurisdictions in this directory that are in communion with one another in the United States are our Holy Synod in Resistance and the communities of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, under Metropolitan Agafangel, that did not accept union with Moscow, in 2007. (Prior to that date we were also the only True Orthodox jurisdiction in the U.S. in communion with the ROCA.)
g) These two jurisdictions are also the only jurisdictions in communion with the majority of Old Calendarists, that is, those in Romania and Bulgaria.
h) When one reflects on points f) and g), the profile of a strong "True Orthodox" presence in America takes on the sad, but more factual, dimensions of disarray that describe the reality of the situation.
There are very significant ecclesiological, theological, and even canonical matters that separate our Synod in Resistance and the ROCA under Metropolitan Agafangel from these other groups, such that our definition of traditionalism and resistance is really quite different than the definition that might hold sway among these other jurisdictions.**
i) The desire to be important and appear strong is, as I have said, the opposite of what we desire. We desire to be faithful. Moreover, in so doing, like the man in Scripture who sent his servants out to the hedges and highways to collect guests for his banquet when his invited friends did not come, we work in difficult circumstances and with few people and resources.
As Metropolitan Cyprian has always told us, "We use the macaroni that we have on our shelves." In that realism, there is little room for fanciful shows of strength or arrogant claims to excellence and primacy of a worldly kind. We are that proverbial remnant that works in servitude at the core of the Church.
Some time ago, a young Greek student on the East Coast wrote to me about being ridiculed by his friends because he was an Old Calendarist. (He is one of many such youth who have written me and whom I have counselled about what they suffered in this way.) He told me of the feelings of inferiority that this produced in him and emotionally put forth the hurt that he had experienced.
I counselled him about his personal reactions to ridicule. But something that he conveyed to me remained with me. One particularly caustic comment was made to him by a schoolmate. I think that I can repeat it almost verbatim:
"You palaioemerologites [Old Calendarists, in low or demotic Greek] are poor and nobody likes you. Your priests are ugly, fat, and stupid. Who pays any attention to you? Nobody. You ought to dig a big hole and jump in it."
He was also, of course, called a schismatic and a heretic and not Orthodox: shorthand for the credentials so generously attributed to us to these days by our innovating Orthodox brethren.
I cannot remember the exact words that I used to reply to this particular barrage of "kind" adjectives, but in effect I told the young man that we are working towards Heaven, not Hollywoood, and that most of these accusations, except those of heresy and so forth, were in many cases quite true.
My advice to him was to measure himself by his honesty, his sincerity, his ability to endure such name-calling, his love for others (including his enemies) and his willingness to imitate Christ, Who was born, lived, and died in obscurity, Who has been mocked and ridiculed throughout the ages, and yet Whose effect on civilization (much to the chagrin of arrogant society) has endured for almost two thousand years.
It is in our faithful unimportance that we are uplifted to the status of gods by Grace, in humility that we boast, in poverty that we are enriched, and in scorn and ridicule that we find peace and spiritual solace.
Thus, I congratulate the person who worked so diligently on this directory, which is quite an accomplishment, while I emphasize to our own clergy and faithful that we are insignificant and should strive to continue being so. Again, if we are to boast, let it be in Christ and our precious Orthodoxy.**
*edited for ROCOR Refugees
**emphasis mine -jh