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Chapter 25: Arrival in Jordanville

Father Gregory arrived in Jordanville and presented Archbishop Laurus, the abbot of the monastery and bishop of the diocese of Syracuse and Holy Trinity, of the Russian Church Abroad, with the release document signed by Bishop Constantine, Bishop of Boston, the diocese from which Fr. Gregory came. Quite amazed, and one may say pleased, at this surprise newcomer to the monastery, the archbishop warmly welcomed him into the monastery, gave him a room, and saw to it that he had all things necessary to paint icons and support himself. Father Gregory told Archbishop Laurus that he wanted to start skete life and was eventually looking to find a place in the wilderness, as did St. Nil of Sora, the famous Russian saint. The fathers at Holy Trinity received Fr. Gregory very warmly, for he was known to many of them in the brotherhood, if not in person, then by reputation. Archimandrite Vladimir, the monk in charge of the bookstore, took a special interest and care for the new member of the brotherhood.

One week later, after Fr. Gregory had settled down to the new routine of the monastery, one of the brothers ran to inform him that visitorshad come from the Boston monastery and were meeting with the archbishop. It was Fr. Isaac, with one of the satellite priests of the Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Fr. George Macris from Portland, Oregon, who was visiting the East Coast. A few hours after they departed Jordanville, Archbishop Laurus called Fr. Gregory to inform him of what had transpired. Father Isaac gave the archbishop a summary of how the Boston monastery looked upon the departure of Fr. Gregory. The archbishop said that Fr. Isaac relayed the message from Fr. Panteleimon that Fr. Gregory was a runaway monk, and that according to the canons, the archbishop should send him back with them to the monastery in Boston. Then the archbishop said that he opened the top drawer in his desk and pulled out the canonical letter of recommendation from Bishop Constantine, and said, “Not according to this letter.” When Fr. Isaac read the letter, not knowing that it had ever been written, he became very embarrassed and quietly left the archbishop‘s presence. When Fr. Gregory heard this, again he brought to mind the image of Pharaoh going after the children of Israel after he had permitted them to depart.

As time went on, Fr. Vladimir brought to Fr. Gregory‘s attention many options for the starting of a skete in the Church. One of them which seemed plausible was to establish a men‘s monastic skete by taking over the skete of St. Seraphim of Sarov in Moss Beach, California, if the bishop of the diocese would bless. This skete was inhabited by only one elder nun, the very sister of Metropolitan Philaret, and she had no help to maintain the skete‘s buildings and to make the candles for the diocese, which was her work since she was the sole inhabitant after the rest of the sisterhood departed. So, with the blessing of Fr. Vladimir and the permission of Vladyka Laurus, Fr. Gregory traveled to California and presented his letter of recommendation to Archbishop Anthony of San Francisco and Western America. This letter explained Fr. Gregory‘s purpose in traveling to the western diocese of the Russian Church Abroad.

At first, Archbishop Anthony was delighted and immediately introduced Fr. Gregory to his vicar bishop, Nektary of Seattle. Bishop Nektary was very pleased to see Fr. Gregory, because he also was a disciple of Archbishop Andrew. Both of them had come from Russia in difficult times and had their roots in the Monastery of Optina. The bishops gave hospitality to Fr. Gregory and bade him to stay at St. Tikhon‘s House, the very home and office of St. John Maximovitch. There he met Fr. Mitrophan, St. John‘s faithful priest from Shanghai. The bishops had to make a decision on Fr. Gregory‘s request and unbeknownst to him, Archbishop Anthony notified the monks at Platina. It was through a discussion with them that a decision was made that Fr. Gregory should go to Platina and meet with the abbot, Fr. Herman, and Fr. Seraphim.

When Fr. Gregory arrived at the monastery, he was immediately greeted by Fr. Seraphim, who asked him if he would like to accompany him on a short walk through the woods to see the scenery. Father Gregory followed Fr. Seraphim, who continuously drilled him with innumerable questions. Why did he leave Boston, what was the condition of the monastery in Boston, what were Fr. Gregory‘s intentions, and whatever else came into his mind. Father Gregory‘s trip there only lasted one day as he was traveling with pilgrims from San Francisco. The whole evening was taken up with Fr. Seraphim. The next morning, Fr. Herman gave a tour of the monastery buildings, those that had been built and those that had not been built! Father Herman did not spend much time with Fr. Gregory, as he was busy with other pilgrims.

Back in San Francisco the next day, Bishop Nektary informed Fr. Gregory that he was sent to Platina to obtain the evaluation of the two monks there, and that they recommended to the archbishop that Fr. Gregory go back to Jordanville or settle in some state where there is no Orthodox presence, such as the wilderness of Utah. They said, “We don‘t need another monastery in California!” When Fr. Gregory met the archbishop, he told him these exact words. Also, when the clergy of the cathedral, who were overjoyed that finally a monk of years of experience had come with the expectation of starting a true monastery in California, heard the archbishop‘s decision, they were beside themselves with frustration. Apparently, the fathers in Platina and their brand of monasticism had caused much scandal throughout the diocese in the past. Father Gregory, who had come to California to ascertain if this was God‘s will, on his part, was relieved that a decision had finally been made and made arrangements to return to the East Coast. His brother Richard obtained a ticket for him to fly back to Boston, because he did not want Fr. Gregory to be wearied by another trip back east by bus. The apparent drawback, which became immaterial, was that he had to land in Boston, and he would have his brother inconvenienced to drive him back to the monastery in Jordanville, New York.

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Last Updated: July 12, 2011