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Chapter 13: Archimandrite Cyprian of Fili

On one occasion, the monastery received two visitors from Greece. Both of their names were Cyprian. One was the elder of the younger one. The younger one was ill, so he came to Boston to go to the hospitals to find a remedy for his sickness. Father Panteleimon wasted no time in bringing the guests up to the icon studio. There he would exhibit his authority as an elder over his obedient iconographer.

When he came up to the icon studio, Fr. Gregory was in the process of finishing an icon of the Pillars of Orthodoxy, the first icon that was ever made of the three saints all in the same icon: Saints Photios the Great, Gregory Palamas and Mark of Ephesos. Previously it was decided by the abbot that St. Gregory Palamas should be put in the middle of the two saints since he is universally acknowledged by the Holy Church with a special feast day, the second Sunday of the Great Fast.

When Fr. Panteleimon brought in the young Abbot Cyprian (who would become the future schismatic and heresiarch), who was just starting his monastery in Fili, near Athens, he started to criticize the work. The criticism centered not on the work itself, but the fact that St. Gregory Palamas was in the center. He began yelling at Fr. Gregory because of his supposed disobedience in painting St. Gregory in the middle rather than St. Photios, saying, “Did you put St. Gregory in the middle because he is your patron saint?” All this left the young Abbot Cyprian in amazement. He wanted to take the icon home to Greece since Fr. Panteleimon did not like it. He was denied. Father Gregory knew well what Fr. Panteleimon was doing and just meekly asked for forgiveness and asked what he should do with the icon. To his surprise, Fr. Panteleimon said, “Burn it!” Father Gregory asked, “Did you say ‘Burn it!‘?” He answered sternly in the affirmative, saying, “Go and Burn it!” Father Gregory left immediately with the icon to go downstairs to the little furnace, and there he burned it.

This young Abbot Cyprian, a future heresiarch, knew just a little bit of English. It was obvious that he was observing Fr. Panteleimon‘s every move and was shocked. The following morning, at about 2:30 AM, after the Liturgy had been completed, and Fr. Gregory had just lain down to take his evening rest, he heard a knock on his door. It was the visiting Abbot Cyprian, and he motioned with his finger to his mouth to speak quietly, for he did not want the other three monks on the floor to hear him. Father Gregory nodded his head and motioning with his hands asked what did he want? He pointed to Fr. Gregory and said, “Come to my monastery in Greece and you can paint in peace and quiet” (he used the term hesychia). Father Gregory nodded his head, acknowledging that he understood what he meant, and closed the door slowly on him.

Firstly, Fr. Gregory looked upon this as thievery, but knowing his abbot‘s disposition, he did not dare tell him before this Abbot Cyprian left or else there would have been a very big scene. Second of all, Fr. Gregory had already settled it in his heart that he was never going break his monastic vows. It was only after Cyprian had left that Fr. Gregory mentioned to his abbot that he was “asked” to go to Greece and to abandon his monastery in the United States, so that he could paint in peace at Cyprian‘s monastery. Panteleimon reacted with absolute silence.

On another occasion when the abbot brought a guest to view the icons which Fr. Gregory was painting, he again displayed his displeasure by anger. The guest, Panagiotes, afterwards wrote a letter to Fr. Gregory‘s brother, his fellow parishioner, stating how impressed he was with the meekness and forbearance of Fr. Gregory, how he never got angry, never showed that he was hurt, and never raised his voice, or answered back and remained so meek during what seemed to him a completely unreasonable and illogical rampage over an insignificant color that was used on an icon.

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Last Updated: July 12, 2011