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Chapter 22: The Second Visit with Archbishop Andrew

The appointed time was fixed: in two or three days they were to leave in the morning. It turned out to be the feast of the Holy Apostles Jason and Sosipater, and the next day was the commemoration of Archbishop Andrew‘s elder, St. Nectary of Optina the New-Martyr, who died in 1928 by the bolsheviks in Russia.

When that day arrived, Fr. Gregory came down, and to his surprise he was informed by Fr. Isaac that Fr. Panteleimon had changed his mind. He did not want to meet with the archbishop, but Fr. Isaac was appointed to go in his stead. The trip to Novo-Diveyevo in New York was uneventful. Father Isaac was the driver. Vladyka Andrew was expecting them, and a translator was there waiting. When they arrived, all got the blessing of the archbishop, and Fr. Gregory immediately asked for confession privately. The archbishop nodded his head yes, but then Fr. Isaac said, “No!”

Vladyka Andrew turned his head to look at Fr. Isaac in amazement and just looked at him for his impertinence and disrespect, especially to the Mystery of confession in the person of a bishop. Vladyka said nothing, but just looked at him, and then immediately, as if to justify himself, Fr. Isaac said, “I am under obedience by my abbot not to let Fr. Gregory talk to the archbishop by himself.”

At this point, the archbishop asked Fr. Isaac to leave. Father Isaac replied, “I am under obedience.”

Then Vladyka Andrew sighed and asked the translator to ask Fr. Gregory to step out of the room. Father Gregory left and waited. It wasn‘t five minutes and the door to the cell opened and Fr. Gregory was invited back. It was obvious that Fr. Isaac would not listen and was not persuaded to leave.

Father Gregory approached the archbishop and knelt down before him, and the archbishop then spoke the following words to him:

“1. For the present time, do not leave the monastery;

2. I do not permit you to go to Fr. Symeon;

3. Be lenient to the shortcomings of others;

4. I tell you the same words which the Elder Nektary, whom we celebrate tomorrow, told me: ‘become a priest!‘ I asked him, ‘How can someone like me, an animal, become a priest?‘ He said to me, ‘By the grace of God, you can become a priest.‘”

Then the archbishop leaned over from his chair and took hold of Fr. Gregory‘s right hand, and then reached over to the right where Fr. Isaac was standing and took hold of his hand and brought him down so both were on their knees. Then the archbishop, with his very weak and shaking hands, took hold of Fr. Isaac‘s pectoral cross, which he wore as a hieromonk of the Russian Church. Then he took Fr. Gregory‘s right hand and put it on the pectoral cross and then took Fr. Isaac‘s right hand and put it on top of Fr. Gregory‘s hand, and held them there, saying nothing out loud. Then the translator, somewhat confused at what the archbishop was doing, said in a low voice, “It must be like reconciliation.” The archbishop, saying nothing, released his hands and all received his blessing and departed.

Then the trip home started with Fr. Isaac‘s constant interpretation of all that the archbishop said, but his main point was Fr. Gregory should be obedient because the abbot was telling him the same thing that the archbishop was telling him, “Stay in the monastery and do not go to Fr. Symeon.” And this was repeated over and over again, saying, “We are your guides. We know what we are saying and we know what we are doing. We will guide you in the right way.”

As this was repeated, Fr. Gregory looked out the window and asked Fr. Isaac, “Where are we going?”

Father Isaac answered, “Back home to Boston.”

Father Gregory said, “If we‘re going back to Boston, why are we passing Yankee Stadium on our right?”

In absolute embarrassment for driving almost an hour in the wrong direction, Fr. Isaac turned around and headed north with not one more utterance about how he was a true guide.

The next day at the monastery, Fr. Gregory was summoned down to Fr. Panteleimon‘s room, who had just returned from his two-day visit to the monastery‘s oceanside “skete” in Maine. He wanted to explain the words of Vladyka, so that Fr. Gregory would “properly” understand what the archbishop had said to him.

He began to say that when the archbishop said, “For the present time, do not leave the monastery,” this meant for the present lifetime, do not leave the monastery. When the archbishop said, “I do not permit you to go to Fr. Symeon,” the abbot said, “This is what I was telling you all along. See, I was right.” At the archbishop‘s words, “Be lenient to the shortcomings of others,” the abbot did not even venture a comment, but when the archbishop said, “Become a priest!”, he said this means that we all have our duties in the monastery as being the royal priesthood; some serve at the altar, some are cooks, some are iconographers, so this is your priesthood, to be an iconographer here at the monastery.

Father Gregory listened to all of this patiently and said nothing other than, “Thank you.” When there was nothing left to say, he departed and marveled at the bizarre interpretation that was just given to him.

Archbishop Gregory
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Last Updated: July 12, 2011