NOTE: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, located in Harvard, IL, was founded in the fall of 1998. Geronda Ephraim sent a hieromonk from the Holy Archangels Monastery in Texas (Papa Pavlos) and two monks from St. Anthony’s Monastery in Arizona (Fr. Akakios and Fr. Theologos) to start the monastery. Fr. Akakios (Basil Mantjos), former bouncer at L’Amour East, in Elmhurst, Queens (http://www.helpchristopher.com/timeline.html), is the abbot of the monastery. He has one daughter and a grandchild. Papa Pavlos is the priest, father-confessor and tailor of the monastery. Fr. Theologos, of the athosinamerica.org website, returned to the world immediately after the 2007 Feast Day at St. Anthony’s Monastery. He is now happily married with 2 children.
HARVARD — For the second time in a year, a monastery of the Greek Orthodox church seeks to move to McHenry County to provide a home for monks and a place for pilgrims to seek solace.
The three monks of the Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox monastery would live in a farmhouse on 89 acres along Illinois Highway 173 a mile and half east of Harvard.
The monks have petitioned the McHenry County Zoning Board of Appeals to grant a conditional-use permit to allow construction of a 4,000-square-foot church and creation of a cemetery. The Zoning Board will hold a hearing on the petition at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in the McHenry County Government Center. The Alden Township Planning Commission will hold a special meeting on the matter Tuesday at 7:15 p.m. in the Township Garage , 16410 Illinois Highway 173.
“The plan is to allow the monks to live in the residence and take the existing barn, raze it and replace it with a church for pilgrims and friends of the monastery to visit,” said Thomas Zanck, the attorney representing the monks for the hearing.
The monastery would be under the auspices of the Chicago Greek Orthodox archdiocese and would be maintained through donations, said Father Akakios, one of the monks who would live there.
“The monastery is a place for penance and redemption,” Father Akakios said. “Part of a monk’s life, and part of our plan, is to beautify the area.”
Last fall, the McHenry County Board granted a permit for a Greek Orthodox monastery to be operated out of farm buildings along Nelson Road, west of Woodstock.
With their long black robes and flowing beards, the monks of the proposed Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Monastery say they wish to bring to McHenry County their traditions and a respite from the stresses of daily life.
The monastic lifestyle and the benefits of the proposed monastery were described during a hearing Wednesday before the McHenry County Zoning Board of Appeals. The board is considering a petition to allow the monks to construct and operate a church and cemetery on an 89-acre parcel along Illinois Highway 173, about 3 miles west of Harvard near the intersection with Shields Road.
“The visitors to the monastery are there for spiritual guidance from the fathers who live there,” said Trent Orfanos, a cardiologist from Crown Point, Ind., who is Greek Orthodox and supports the monastery. “They can answer various questions they have about religious and spiritual life. Some have likened a church as a hospital for the soul and the monastery as the intensive care unit. It’s a place you don’t go to very often.”
The plans include tearing down an existing barn and replacing it with a 4,600-square-foot church. But according to Father Akakios, the abbot of the monastery, those plans will materialize “when the Lord allows it.”
“We live on donations,” Father Akakios told the members of the Zoning Board. “When people start giving money for the church, we will build it.”
The Zoning Board heard about three hours of testimony from six witnesses during Wednesday’s hearing. The board is scheduled to vote April 27 on the petition.
Until the church is built, the monks would hold services in the basement of the single-family home, which would also serve as their residence.
If approved by the county, a facility would also be built to be used for overnight stays by up to 10 pilgrims.
The cemetery would be located in the southwest corner of the property and would be used only for burial of monks living at the monastery, Father Akakios said.
Alden Township Planning Commission member Don Mason said the commission voted Tuesday night to recommend the township board not object to the construction of the church building or a 2,000-square-foot assembly hall.
The commission was concerned about long-range plans that called for a larger number of rooms to be used by pilgrims, Mason said.
“If this is used as a monastery, fine, but monasteries come and go,” Mason said. “What is the new owner going to use this for? That’s not where our land-use plan sees any development.”
HARVARD — For the second time in a year, a monastery of the Greek Orthodox Church seeks to move to McHenry County to provide a home for monks and a place for pilgrims to seek solace.
The three monks of the Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox monastery would live in a farmhouse on 89 acres along Illinois Highway 173 a mile and half east of Harvard.
The monks have petitioned the McHenry County Zoning Board of Appeals to grant a conditional-use permit to allow construction of a 4,000-square-foot church and creation of a cemetery.
“The plan is to allow the monks to live in the residence and take the existing barn, raze it and replace it with a church for pilgrims and friends of the monastery to visit,” said Thomas Zanck, the attorney representing the monks for the hearing.
The monastery would be under the auspices of the Chicago Greek Orthodox archdiocese and would be maintained through donations, said Father Akakios, one of the monks who would live there.
“The monastery is a place for penance and redemption,” Father Akakios said. “Part of a monk’s life, and part of our plan, is to beautify the area.”
Last fall, the McHenry County Board granted a permit for a Greek Orthodox monastery to be operated out of farm buildings along Nelson Road, west of Woodstock.
With warm weather approaching, Father Akakios is thinking about the swimming pool in the front yard of his monastery, a former farmstead in northern McHenry County.
“The Greek Orthodox monks don’t swim,” he said. “We might put a fountain in the middle with flowers around.”
Next, he’ll move the chickens and a tomcat into new quarters from the barn, which will be razed and replaced with a church.
For now, the house on the property is where Akakios and Father Theologos. a fellow monk, say daily prayers. Its basement is their chapel, and their sleeping rooms are on the second floor.
Last month, the McHenry County Board gave permission to the Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Monastery to operate on 89 acres in rural Alden Township, making the county home to two such religious communities just 15 miles apart.
St. Athanasios the Great Greek Orthodox Monastery, west of Woodstock, opened in November.
“We’re happy at least that it’s not a factory there, or a disco or a casino. The more peaceful settings you have, the better it is for society,” said Father Nilos, a monk at St. Athanasios. “They, too, are just starting off, but we are the first pioneers here.”
Drastically declining numbers worldwide had edged Greek monks toward extinction 30 years ago, but a revival of faith breathed new life into ancient rituals.
About 15 Greek monastic communities have come to the U.S. since the late 1980s. The two in McHenry County are the only Greek Orthodox religious communities in Illinois. Although the two communities share a common heritage, they have traditionally been separated by their calendars.
St. Athanasios observes the Julian calendar. More commonly known as the Traditional calendar, it was enacted by Julius Caesar in 46 B.C. and remains the time line of choice for most branches of the Greek, Serbian and Russian Orthodox churches.
Holy Transfiguration follows the Gregorian calendar, also known as the New Style calendar, instituted in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII and gradually adopted by most Roman Catholic and Protestant nations, including the United States . Greece finally adopted it in 1924, but many Greek Orthodox have not.
“There aren’t really theological differences, just separate calendars,” says James Skedros, a dean at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Mass.
Indeed, 13 days is all that separates the Julian and Gregorian calendars. But greater divisions date back more than 500 years to the Great Schism, which severed ties between Orthodox and Roman Christianity. They contribute even today to unsteady relations between branches of Greek Orthodoxy.
Even so, common heritage and ethnic roots proved helpful recently when the St. Athanasios monks paid an impromptu social call on their new neighbors at Holy Transfiguration.
“It was a surprise, but I don’t think it was a rude surprise,” Nilos said. “Even though we have differences, we consider them neighbors.”
The visit lasted less than an hour, and traditional coffee was served.
“It is a bit unusual,” says Rev. Demetri Kantzavelos, chancellor of the Greek Orthodox Diocese of Chicago. “But to hear there’s been visits between these monks is a good thing. It builds fraternity. It builds understanding.”
Although Greek monasteries have multiplied in the U.S., their home base is Mt. Athos overlooking the Aegean Sea.
The first monastery was founded by Athanasios the Athonite in 963. Prior to the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453, as many as 40,000 monks lived on Mt. Athos. By the 1960s, there were only 1,000, but today, that number has rebounded to 2,000.
One thing all Greek monks seem to hold in equal reverence is Mt. Athos. While such sentiments may not heal centuries-old rifts, the newcomers in McHenry County seem willing to explore more mutual respect.
“They treated us nicely. They seemed to like our visit,” Nilos said.
“It was a pleasure, actually,” Akakios said. “To us, it is a blessing for people, for anybody, to stop by.”
The following article is taken from the Orthodox Observer, December 1997, p. 18.
FLORENCE, Ariz. . The Patriarchal plane lifted off the runway at Los Angeles International Airport under rainy skies on a late Monday morning, Nov. 10, one week before the end of His All Holiness’ pilgrimage to the United States. The chartered Boeing 727 turned eastward for the 630-mile leg to Mesa, Arizona’s third largest city, just east of Phoenix.
By Jim Golding
As the jet reached cruising altitude high above the Mojave Desert, and with most of his visit behind him, it seemed the right time to ask His All Holiness to reflect on his coast-to-coast odyssey. But it was not to be. After a brief, friendly greeting, his quick response to a request for a quick interview was to shake his head and utter two words “I’m exhausted.”
After giving more than 115 speeches at as many venues over a three-week period in more than a dozen cities from Boston to Los Angeles, and greeting countless thousands of people in so many varied settings, who wouldn’t be. And he still had much work ahead of him.
Throughout the flight Patriarch Bartholomew reviewed the speech he was to give that afternoon at the monastery with his second deacon, San Antonio native Tarasios (Peter Anton). It was 13 pages in length, all Greek.
It landed at a former air force base turned-community airport. The members of the entourage and local welcoming committee members entered the nearly dozen vehicles making up the motorcade and set out on the hour-and-a-half ride across the desert.
Merely viewing the miles of flat, sandy terrain dotted with saguaro cactus (the state ‘tree’), purple sagebrush and dry, barrens on, another 10 miles remained. The motorcade turned onto a dirt road and soon became immersed in a cloud of dust for a final half-mile before coming upon what can best be described as a miracle in the desert.
“Three years ago this was nothing but desert,” remarked Chris Ganos who with his wife, Judy, had volunteered to drive their van in the motorcade. Ganos was the architect who helped plan the complex that includes a church, dormitories for the 20 resident monks and a few guests, a dining hall and book store. The buildings resemble those of monasteries in Greece and are constructed of cement blocks topped with tile roofs. The monks painted over each block, originally a shade of gray, with a specially blended red that seems to fit in with nicely with the desert hues. There also is the feeling of a hacienda of the Spanish Southwest.
The monastery has electricity and water comes from a well some 500 feet deep. Until very recently, the only communications with the outside world was by cellular phone, but, through the efforts of Fr. Efraim of Mt. Athos, who was the driving force behind the establishment of the monastery, regular phone service was installed in October.
Arriving at the monastery on a very warm (temperature was in the 80s, but felt hotter), dry mid-afternoon, the Patriarchal party was greeted by the sight of more than 100 cars and buses on the unpaved parking area in front of the complex, many from as far away as Canada.
After a little more than an hour, the jet descended on final approach over the desert punctuated by scattered mountain ranges, large patches of irrigated fields and the oases of numerous housing tracts in the Phoenix suburbs’ mountains in the distance from the window of a comfortable van was enough to make one thirsty.
Arriving in the town of Florence, home of the Arizona State Prison, on State Highway 79 midway between Phoenix and Tucson.
Several hundred of the nearly 800 persons visiting that day came from Montreal, Toronto and other parts of Canada. Others came from various states including New York.
One couple, John and Joanna Pantanizopoulos of Knoxville, Tenn., came to visit their son, one of the monks.
Patriarch Bartholomew, joined by Archbishop Spyridon, and Bishop Anthony of San Francisco whose jurisdiction includes the monastery, conducted a doxology inside the small un-air-conditioned church that was filled to overflowing.
He followed the service with his 13- page speech addressed to the more than 100 monks and nuns who had made the pilgrimage from the nearly one dozen other monasteries in the United States.
[NOTE: This speech was highly critical of Elder Ephraim and the “opulence” of the monastery grounds. The Patriarch largely quoted from St. Symeon the New Theologian’s homilies on the monastic virtue of poverty and renunciation. Geronda Ephraim was very saddened by this homily as he had his monks (and nuns when they started arriving) working around the clock to prepare everything for this visit (i.e. gardening, gold gilding in the church, landscaping, last minute details inside the katholikon, etc.). So, essentially, all the effort that was made to beautify the property for this “historical visit” was dismissed as unmonastic and deviating from the monastic virtues.
The monastics felt slighted at the Patriarch’s obvious pokes at Elder Ephraim:
St. Symeon the New Theologian is one of Elder Ephraim’s favourite saints for a variety of reasons but primarily because, “through his blind obedience, he received the gift of theology, and there is only three saints who have been named ‘theologian’ in the orthodox church…”. Some of Geronda Ephraim’s monastics have hinted that Elder Ephraim will be the “fourth theologian once he is officially canonized.”
St. Symeon also started venerating and commemorating his elder as a saint long before the Church officially canonized him as such. Elder Ephraim uses this history to validate his own veneration and commemoration of his elder, Joseph the Hesychast, as the church as not officially declared him a saint; something the monasteries feel is politically motivated because if Bartholomew canonized him, then by default, Elder Ephraim and his apostolic mission would be validated by the Patriarchate.
So it would seem that the Patriarch took Elder Ephraim’s favourite saint and said, so to speak, “Look, don’t just cherry pick the quotes you like on absolute blind obedience and devotion to the spiritual father or that unordained monks can hear confessions, i.e. revelation of thoughts. Look at all of St. Symeon’s teachings because you’re ignoring the monastic virtue of obedience by living in such luxuriousness and pomp; you can’t have it both ways”.
This verbal chastisement from the Patriarch contained elements that were also sore spots for some of the earlier monastics in Geronda’s monasteries, especially those who revered Fr. Seraphim Rose and believed that the descriptions of St. Herman of Alaska Monastery (i.e. off the grid with no modern comforts or technology) should be the standard of contemporary monasticism in America. There has been a long-standing debate about the modernization and secularization of Mount Athos, however, America is not Greece. Geronda Ephraim’s mindset is much different, and even some modern-day Greek saints, like Geronda Porphyrios, didn’t see technological progress as an inherent evil fro orthodox Christians.
Elder Ephraim feels that in the modern age, because his monastics have given up so much more than their predecessors (i.e. modern comforts, social media, and other technology to a degree), and because they are said to be the last generation of monks before the world ends, economia with other things is okay. This is why his monastics are allowed air conditioning, ipods (only for ecclesiastical chants and orthodox sermons), spiritual movies (Остров, The Island, Mel Gibson’s The Passion of Christ, speeches by contemporary theologians or monastics, etc.), sumptuous foods and desserts, etc. Elder Ephraim’s main stance is, the last generation of monks were prophesied to be weak, useless and not gain much spiritual progress or accomplish ascetical feats but as along as everyone does absolute, blind obedience to him without murmuring or questioning or criticizing, they will be saved.
There was much analysis of the Patriarch’s visits for days to come. No one was impressed, everyone was offended. There was much criticism of the Patriarch’s hypocrisy since he is supposed to be, in essence, a monk and living a monastic lifestyle but living he is living the luxurious lifestyle he just criticized the monastery for. There was also talk about a supposed prophecy by St. Paisios the Hagiorite in which he told Bartholomew that, “He would be the one to betray Orthodoxy” and speculation on when he would unite Orthodoxy and Catholicism in a false union].
Meanwhile, hundreds more men, children, a very large number of women of various ages, scarves covering their heads, some with disabilities, waited for the service and homily to end in hopes of catching a glimpse of the Patriarch. A few of the silently busy monks walked quickly between the church and dining hall, to oversee preparations for the luncheon that was to follow.
After nearly two hours, His All Holiness and the other hierarchs emerged from the church and walked the few steps leading to the dining hall.
A short while later, the Patriarch departed for the ride back to the Mesa airport for the flight to the next stop on his itinerary, Stockton, Calif., and a doxology service at St. Basil Church.
Only one more major venue remained at the end of the week. Pittsburgh. But in the interim, Patriarch Bartholomew and most of his entourage spent four days in the mountains around Lake Tahoe as guests of Alex Spanos for a much-needed rest.
While I am by no means an “ephraimite,” ie one who follows the Elder blindly and worships him as a living saint, a major part of my Orthodox formation was received at St. Antony’s and was thoroughly patristic and not tainted at all by the conspiracy theories and baiting that this fellow has brought up.
[NOTE: Rotislav showed up in the late 90’s and helped the outside Fathers plant palm trees].
I would begin by saying that Mr. Smith has devoted his life to the study of Scripture and has made his decisions based on how he has understood it, some good, some bad. His approach has been diverse, based on RC bible study, friendships and contacts with Orthodox Jews and Rabbis, and a diverse association with Orthodox of all stripes. This is something for which he should be commended.
Now, I was there at St. Antony’s during the period in question and am well aware of Mr. Smith’s situation, as he was a friend of mine and a confidant. To begin with, Fr. Paisios told Mr. Smith to refrain from sexual relations after his CIVIL MARRIAGE at the Mesa Wedding Chapel UNTIL he was married in the Church. Fr. Paisios does not dissuade sex in marriage in regard to procreation, and his point of view mirrors that of St. Maximos the Confessor, the Kollyvades Fathers, and the best thought of Patristic Scholars of our day.
[NOTE: Under no circumstances does a Geronda give a blessing for any carnal unions that are not blessed through marriage in a canonical Orthodox Church. Furthermore, the rules and canons of the church forbid carnal unions before receiving Holy Communion and on fast days, thus Orthodox couples generally refrain from carnal unions during a large portion of the year (2x 40-day Lents, the Dormition Fast, Wednesdays and Fridays, etc.) Though it varies from Geronda to Geronda, and of course on the disposition of the spiritual child confessing, when a couple passes the child-rearing phase of their relationship, they are given the suggestion or advice that it might be better to cease having carnal relations. Of course, the general advice and suggestions of a spiritual father are essentially an obedience]
I never witnessed not one baptism at St. Antony’s. [NOTE: The baptisms at that time were done in secret, the church was locked, only the priest, the ecclesiastiko, godparent and person baptised were present. There was always a haste to empty the font afterwards and clean up the church so as not to raise suspicion. Hieromonk Gabriel and Father Hieronymos were two of the ekklesiastikoi at that time period. Because adult baptisms at the monasteries were forbidden by the Hierarchy during that time period—and priests were essentially at risk of being defrocked if caught—then it’s obvious that it wasn’t something for public spectacle. This problem was solved later on when a spiritual child of Geronda Paisios offered the creek on his property to be used for baptisms. In rare cases, one may be sent to Mount Athos to be baptized, in other cases, Mt. Athos is just a cover story to direct attention away from the monastery].
Mr. Smith kept on requesting to have his rule increased, not decreased. He frequently did things without the “blessings” he says he needed to obtain, such as getting married outside of the Church, quitting his job because he didn’t feel like working anymore and forcing his wife to do so, moving in with his mother in law, abandoning his apartment, abandoning his vocational training in carpentry and tile laying on the verge of making a career for himself, etc. These were all decisions Mr. Smith made AGAINST Elder Paisios’ advice and were quite the product of his own self-will. When his finances collapsed and his living situation worsened, HE SPECIFICALLY requested the aid of the monastery in Florence for himself and his wife, where they could “get things together living as BROTHER AND SISTER and UNTONSURED MONASTICS IN SEPARATE QUARTERS.” That didn’t seem to satisfy him, and he decided to move himself and his wife to FL to “avoid having his Nissan Pick Up repossessed, so that he could get some help from social services without having to work, and enjoy an occasional toke of marijuana.” Thereafter Mr. Smith disappeared.
[NOTE: As is the case with many a lay people that don’t follow the advice of their spiritual father—i.e. do blind obedience to everything he suggests or advises—when things start going wrong in their life it becomes a cautionary tale that can be used in homilies for other lay people, and in some cases, the monks. As it says in the Ladder: “It is possible to belittle those living in the world out of conceit; and it is also possible to disparage them behind their backs in order to avoid despair and to obtain hope.” The cautionary tales of lay peoples’ misfortunes and miseries are used as a tool to incite monastics to be more grateful that they are in a monastery and not in the world].
I worked planting trees at the monastery during the period in question. I worked almost daily with Elder Ephraim and had hours of contact with him. Fr. Paisios was at one time a spiritual director for me. What I was told to read by Elder Ephraim was St. John Cassian.
[NOTE: Elder Ephraim was outside with the tree fathers a lot and gave directions on where things would be planted. He even handed out Snowballs and other treats to the outside fathers; though this caused a conflict of conscience with some of the fathers as Geronda Paisios had forbidden his monks sugar and other sweets. This would also happen when Geronda Joseph—NY Abbot—would bring a cooler of Haagen Daaz bars for all the monks when Geronda Ephraim would give a talk in the Gerontikon].
He never spoke of “conspiracies”: his talks were wrote memory recitations on prayer, perseverence, love straight out of a Gerontikon. Yes, he did advise obedience, but he was quick to understand human failings and provide a word of love. His writings clearly reflect that, and what Mr. Smith has decontextualized is a travesty, for he is indicting Elder Ephraim for paraphrasing such luminaries as Pakhomios, St. John Klimakos, Abba Dorotheos, et al.
[NOTE: Elder Ephraim doesn’t really elaborate on conspiracies as he doesn’t spend a lot of time reading that kind of information. In the early days (70’s, etc.), those kind of books were quite common in Greece (i.e. Protocols, Zionism, Jewish conspiracy for world domination, Freemasonry, Antichrist, etc.). Almost the entire Holy Mountain has this mindset; it’s intertwined with their orthodox world-view.]
Moreover, I NEVER, NOT ONCE, saw Mr. Smith pick up a shovel to help planting a tree.
[NOTE: This was the common monastic insult for those monks and lay people who were lazy and tried to avoid planting trees. Some Sundays, even though it was a day of rest for the fathers, Elder Ephraim would come knocking on the fathers’ doors to plant trees and they asked lay people. Lay people don’t always want to help with the workload, though. Some monks and novices also tried to avoid this work by feigning illness. At that time, it became a standard for the monks that if they did not have a fever, they were ok and capable to work].
He NEVER had contact with the Elder. All of his “knowledge” of the Elder is SECOND HAND and STYLIZED.
[NOTE: Most knowledge of Elder Ephraim is second hand. Those who get a true glimpse of Elder Ephraim, are those he feels safe enough around to be himself and unwind—i.e. those who don’t scandalize easily and those who he allows to get somewhat close. This is usually his cell attendants, his monastic personal drivers, and some of the Gerondas and Gerondissas who are under him. Again, he also fragments the information he disseminates. Thus, he may say something to a Gerondissa. She may or may not share that with her nuns, or maybe just a couple. In turn she may share it with other monastics under Geronda Ephraim, or she may tell her nuns to keep it to themselves. If Elder Ephraim tells her not to mention what he said to anyone, it will remain with her to the grave, unless he says “until after I die.”].
Fr. Paisios never spoke politically with me.
[NOTE: Again, Rotislav is a lay person. Only monks really get to see Geronda Paisios shine when explaining how the Rothschilds seized the world economy, what the Masons or Zionists are doing, how chem-trails affect the monasteries, etc. Amongst monks, Geronda Paisios is known “to have tomorrow’s news today.” During this time period, Geronda Paisios had a short wave radio and would listen to various conspiracy rants. He would reiterate the information in casual talks among the fathers in the kitchenette of the monks’ quarters (lay people were not allowed in this section). At that time, there were cassette holders in the hallways of the monks’ quarters. The amount of “conspiracy theory” homilies in Greek—especially those involving the Antichrist or Book of Revelations—are countless. As well, many times Geronda Paisios may bring DVDs with various conspiracy/political information to the monasteries he visits and will give it to the Abbot/Abbess. Then, it’s up to the head if they allow their monastics to view it, or if they choose to reiterate the information on it. Once again, random lay people are not privy to these things].
He advised reading of the Philokalia, especially St. Hesykhios the Presbyter. The rule he customarily gives I received 3 ropes, not necessarily 300 knot–my rope was 150, to our Lord and one to the Panaghia. He adjusted prostrations accordingly and was flexible as far as the rule was concerned in regard to Holy Communion. Fr. Paisios was LENIENT in regard to attendance of church services and undrstood our human failings, eg allowing me to get to Matins by the Gospel, take rests during an Agripnia, etc. Nephon RECEIVED SUCH DISPENSATIONS. And this is TYPICAL OF FR PAISIOS’ METHODOLOGY. The commentary about the services and their length is quite interesting, as established Orthodox monasteries from Valaam to Trinity-St. Sergius to the Holy Mountain to St. Katherine’s to St. Savas to Jordanville, etc. FOLLOW THE SAME AND/OR SIMILAR order.
[NOTE: There is no catch all methodology for a spiritual father when dealing with lay people. There are common factors, and specific canons that have to be adhered to, but an elder is essentially dealing with numerous personalities and wills and in using the usual Church/Hospital—Spiritual Father/Doctor analogy, each illness requires a different treatment. A lay person cannot take their own personal experience and interactions with an elder and expect other people to have the exact same interactions and treatment. It really depends on the inner disposition of each person. This is the same with monastics to a certain degree].
I NEVER encountered ANY monk speaking of “murdering for the Elder,” but I did encounter how certain converts like Mr. Smith let themselves get carried away ON THEIR OWN.
[No monastic really talks about “murdering for the Elder,” but any serious monastic will attempt to cultivate an inner disposition of being willing to do anything whatsoever the Elder asks, no matter what it is, whether it is illogical, humiliating, even illegal. All the monasteries have their own stories of scandal cover-ups, white collar crime—which isn’t really considered a crime in the monasteries. It cannot be emphasized enough that when a monastic is given an obedience, the objective is not to question, examine, or judge the order given. A monastic must do this obedience unhesitatingly, with a good disposition, believing they will be judged on how they execute the obedience. A perfect example is Abraham. He never questioned God when ordered to sacrifice his son or the desert father who was ordered to throw his child into the river. Both were prevented before actually committing the murder. A monastic is to have this mindset—because the Elder may only be testing their obedience, loyalty and inner disposition. It should also be noted that an oral tradition and rule of the Holy Mountain is that the only time a monastic can be violent is if someone insults his Elder; a monastic is allowed to hit that person].
Likewise, the odious and obvious baiting here used to slander the Elder by mentioning the “Protocols,” the “Serbs and other jurisdictions,” “other secret monasteries,” the “Birchers,” etc. is nothing but innuendo. Now, there are people who visit the monastery who mention these things just as there are in MOST Orthodox Monasteries. The rumor mill they propagate is NOT the orientation of the monastery just as a “homosexual Orthodox activist” or “matthewite” attending say the OCA Washington DC Cathedral and involving himself in their community is NOT the orientation of the Cathedral.
[Considering Geronda Ephraim mentions the Protocols in his 1974 book A Call from the Holy Mountain (translated into English in 1991) as well as some of his earlier Greek cassette homilies—a language Rotislav didn’t understand at that time—how can one claim that even though he said it, he didn’t mean it?]
Neither Elder Ephraim, nor Elder Paisios EVER talked about politics. They felt it was something profane. Elder Ephraim was even troubled by greetings and communiques from the deposed king of Greece and current Greek politicians FOR HE DID NOT WANT TO GET INVOLVED.
[NOTE: Elder Ephraim only talks politics in certain situations. Geronda Paisios was told by Geronda Ephraim to lay off on talking conspiracy theories and politics to lay people, especially after the KVOA incident. Nowadays, one will only really hear these kind of conversations if he is a monastic and hangs out with the Abbots at a monastery feast day. Lay people don’t have the same privileges as monastics. Novices do not have the same privileges as rassaphores. Rassaphores do not have the same privileges as hieromonks. There is a hierarchy of knowledge and it is impenetrable by outsiders, novices and rassaphores. If one is allowed into this circle of knowledge by the Abbot or Abbess (and their second-in-commands) then they will know; if not, then they could be in a monastery for years and be clueless. Sometimes there are older monks or nuns “in the know” who lack the self-control to control their tongue. They may leak information they shouldn’t to other monastics or lay people. If this gets back to the Abbot or Abbess (because they may not always confess their transgression), there are usually huge penances meted out].
The “Protocols” were NEVER mentioned. As a matter of fact, a close supporter of the monastery, A. LIKOS, routinely denounced them as “forgeries, not worth talking about” when VISITORS brought them up. He is a spiritual son of the Elder and extremely close to him.
[NOTE: Athanasios Likos has been a spiritual child of Geronda Ephraim for decades. Again, he is as close to Geronda Ephraim as the Elder allows him to be. During that earlier time period, the monastics also had instructions to be careful around him because “he scandalizes easily and he repeats everything he sees or hears.” Pilgrims that scandalize easily and also talk a lot about everything are treated with a special care. They’re usually not exposed to too much, and the information they are allowed to hear, even though it may seem important and special to them, is usually nothing too important and something that if it is leaked wouldn’t come back to harm or damage the monastery. The Abbot or Abbess will usually forewarn their monastics when these sort of pilgrims plan to come to the monastery so they can be on their guard, as many times they like to probe the monastics for information. Though they are potentially very harmful, these sorts of pilgrims many times are useful to the monasteries—either financially, or through the help they give, or through connections they have, thus they’re kept around and tolerated. It should be noted that many lay people have experiences tailor-made for their own individual needs and short comings].
Lastly, I have witnessed Fr. Paisios and Elder Ephraim address their Bishops on bended knee and in full humility and obedience. They are Constantinople loyalists, and it is here where I have found my issue. Mr. Smith had no access to the books of the monastery and his knowledge of budgets, etc. is dubious at best. The monastery and Fr. Paisios provided them with the support they could. St. Antony’s is our American Optina and must treasured as such.
[NOTE: At that time, almost the entire monastery was banned from the office. Even if they knocked on the door because they needed something, the monastic would not be allowed to enter if he was not one of the few fathers with a blessing. At that time, it was basically Geronda Paisios, Fr. Silouanos, Fr. Chrysostomos, Akakios, Nektarios and Fr. Ilarion who had access to the office, as well as Irakles/Fr. Epifanios who later went to New York. Thus, David Smith would not know much about budgets other than basic things of a cost of a palm tree multiplied by however many were planted, or if he overheard other fathers talking about costs of certain projects].
In closing, Mr. Smith has issues, and I hope for him and his family he resolves them. He is gifted and could add to Orthodox learning. His biblical research into the Nazorite Vow, for instance, is astoundingly brilliant. He simply needs a rudder. Orthodoxy is not about joining civil rights movements and the like and their secular concerns. He needs to decide who he is once and for all and grow in that direction. Is he an Old Calendarist, an Antiochian, a Byzantine Catholic, a Hassidim wannabe, a Black Muslim sympathizer, a member of ROCOR , the Serbs, or the GOA?! “Yes” to the above question simply will not do. Such dissonant views definitely drive one to psychotropic drugs as mentioned when they are not reconciled. He is in need of our prayers, for he bears a heavy cross. I ask the forgiveness of all for bringing these things up and that people discount who am I in homage to the truth.
Pray for me, the unworthy sinner…
Rostislav Mikhailovich Malleev-Pokrovsky
PS Fr. Theologos is a friend of mine, and he is one of the most happy and ardent Orthodox Christians I have ever met. His ardour amongst Protestants would be seen AS LIVING A GODLY LIFE, but certain Orthodox and others use him to advance an agenda. At 18, he chose to become a monk. I wonder if certain people would be so alarmed at his ADULT life decision if he chose to be homosexual, become an atheist, or join a rock band. It is shameful what they are putting him through.
[Interestingly, Fr. Theologos returned home in 2007 right after the St. Anthony’s Monastery Feast Day. Instead of flying back to his monastery in Harvard, he had a ticket arranged to take him home to Tennessee. Now he is married with children. It should also be mentioned that in reality, monks don’t have “friends,” they’re suppose to be dead to the world. A monastic is required to show love to lay people, be polite, have a good disposition, speak respectively even if they have logismoi or character conflicts with the said individual. This does not mean, however, that the monastic is a “friend” or “buddy” of the lay person. Many times, a monastic will exhibit this behavior with lay people they don’t like—not that they’re suppose to have dispositions of dislike—but they force themselves to be nice and kind as it is their Christian duty. In some cases, an Abbot or Abbess may give an obedience to one of their monastics to work with a lay person or monastic whom they dislike or have thoughts against so they can overcome these passions and unchristian dispositions. A perfect example from this time period are the novices Athanasios (Fr. Makarios) and Ioannis (Hieromonk Ioannikios). Almost daily they were giving each other prostrationsduring Orthros and asking forgiveness for whatever they did or said to each other during their diakonimata. They had a character conflict].
PPS Isn’t it strange of the environment of compromise inaugurated into ROCOR by the Lebedeff camarilla is now manifesting itself by having new insurgent voices and their kit like “Indiana List” manifest anti-monasticism, anti-traditionalism, a let’s be modernist as fast as we can attitude. This, my friends, is why the compromise ROCOR made is so fatal, for they opened up the floodgates and they can’t stop the bleeding now. Moreover, the whole policy of guilt by accusation and innuendo WITHOUT the other side getting as much as a hearing, well, I hope we can appreciate the gravity of the situation, for it’s rolling down hill now. It wasn’t so much what they did, as it was the way they manifested it–MORAL RELATIVISM. Just like his mentor who left the port of Odessa in the middle of the night, ABANDONING his parishoners to the bolsheviks, this is what the Lebedeff camarilla is doing to the legacy of ROCOR and they are too ignorant or apathetic to do anything about it.
NOTE: The following is a segment from an Orthodox Christian debate about Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries. There are links at the end of the article for all the articles referenced.
Hello to All ~
Thanks for the links. Sorry, but I haven’t had a chance to check them out as yet, though I intend to. In the mean time, I’ve cut and pasted the passages from the links I originally posted that gave me pause to question what’s going on with Elder Ephraim. For the record, though, I regard or esteem him eminently worthy of double honour for his monastic labours. Sixteen monasteries in the North American wasteland is nothing short of miraculous, IMO.
However, I cannot deny that I’m deeply troubled by the number of hierarchs that obviously have a problem with him and his monasteries. Are these hierarchs working for the Adversary? They certainly seem to think Elder Ephraim might be!! What has the Elder done to offend so many Orthodox hierarchs, who clearly think he’s a great deceiver and manipulator?
The accusations made below, and I’m sure you’ll agree, are clearly of the most serious kind, and it troubles me deeply to see hierarchs utter them daringly or fearlessly! I will have to check all the links that have been posted to keep up-to-date on this matter. I am particularly interested to hear how Elder Ephraim’s spiritual father has addressed the matter. Does anyone know who that is and if he’s ever spoken out, at any time, in Elder Ephraim’s defense?
I must confess, though, that I am deeply biased toward Elder Ephraim. My first inclination is to discredit his enemies, and think them to suffer from strong delusions themselves. Nevertheless, I will reserve such judgment(s) for now, ’til I have time to look into the matter more fully. God grant us all spiritual discerment, in Christ!!
Excerpts from the Links In the Original Post:-
01 – “There is a wide spectrum of feelings about Ephraim, among both clergy and laity. On the extremes, some view him as God’s gift to Orthodox spirituality in America, while others see him as a cult leader who should return to Mt. Athos.” fromThe Ephraim Question
02 – “At its annual meeing in the year 2000, the Orthodox Christian Laity (OCL), heard a speaker on “Cult Mentality: A Threat to Individual Responsibility in the Church”. The speaker was Greta Larson, a co-founder of the web-site, “Protection of the Theotokos – A Site for Victims of Abuse in the Orthodox Church.” The site address is “pokrov. org”, and it contains other articles on cults. In her speech, Ms. Larson also referred to an article by Metropolitan Isaiah which warned about the dangers of blind obedience.” from Yes, Investigate the Monasteries
03 – “In 1998, Metropolitan Isaiah of the Denver diocese issued a protocol to his priests titled: “The Lord Does Not Want Slaves in His Kingdom”. He wrote in part:
“This spirit of blind obedience with the deadening of the free will is unfortunately being practiced among some of our people and even by some of our clergy. They will not do anything without first receiving a ‘blessing’ from their ‘spiritual father’. And if they have been convinced that the spiritual father is a walking saint, they will eat his unfinished food after the common meal and even consume other things which may have touched the spiritual father in some particular way. This is nothing more than idolatry. It puts God aside and constitutes the worship of His creature.”
He went on to say that: “It may be that some of our people, by following the monastic rule in the outside world, feel convinced that they are becoming more spiritual. However, they are sadly mistaken: for the monastic, as a novice, is willingly obedient in order to determine if he wishes to live the life of a monastic. Once he is accepted as a monk, he must resume the use of his free will in conforming to the way of life which he has chosen. The laity, on the other hand, cannot use the monastery or the spiritual elder as one uses a horoscope, not functioning unless they receive permission.”
He concluded with: “If there are members of the Diocese who have fallen into the error of negating their free will and being totally dependent on what their spiritual mentor instructs them to do, let them know that God does not want slaves in His Kingdom, but obedient children who constantly exercise their free will as sons and daughters of our Father in heaven.” from The Ephraim Question
04 – “When the new Metropolitan (Bishop) of the New Jersey diocese took office this spring, it was reported reliably that at his first meeting with the clergy, he announced that Ephraim and his followers were not welcome in the diocese and that the faithful should go to their own priests for confession. This diocese includes some 50 churches in five states. There has been no further confirmation or a denial of the Metropolitan’s statement. In the absence of any denials, one can assume there is some validity to the reports about the Synod’s concern and about the Metropolitan’s directive.
There was also the warning earlier this year from another bishop, Metropolitan Methodios of Boston. He was quoted by the Herald as saying: “Neither is there a place in Orthodoxy for radical fundamentalism, religious fanaticism or cult leaders disguised as Orthodox sages.” “Was he talking about the Ephraim situation? If not, who was he referring to?
Are these accidental words: fundamentalist and cult? Did the bishops wake up one fine day and decide to use them?” from The Ephraim Question
05 – “In the Greek-American paper, The National Herald, English Edition of April 5-6, 2003, it was reported that the Eparchial Synod of America, recently discussed “…the monasteries established all over the U.S. by the former abbot from Mt. Athos, Fr. Efraim. It has been said that some sort of fundamentalist movement with a cult philosophy has been advocated by the followers of Efraim, and is having an impact among the clergy and theology students at Holy Cross School of Theology.” from Yes, Investigate the Monasteries
06 – “One of the complaints voiced by some clergy and laity is that the Ephraimite confessors have focused on sexual matters. A member of a group visiting an Ephraimite monastery reported that the monk-confessor had a lengthy list of questions, most of them of a sexual nature, and gave severe penances even to married couples, with the penances being longer for the wives. In the evening, the men and women were separated to hear different speakers. The one who addressed the women berated them about being sinful, as women, and that their only virtue was in bearing children. If true, is this an example of the “fundamentalism” that has been referred to? In view of what has been learned these past two years about the clergy abuse problem , particularly in the Catholic church, the monks’ pre-occupation with sexual matters could indeed be seen as a form of sexual misconduct.” from The Ephraim Question
[Note: The sexual sins contained in the 38 Canons of St. John the Faster are the questions asked in confession:
07 – “I understand that Father Ephraim insists that a married couple must abstain from Holy Communion for a forty-day “purification” period after they have had sexual relations.” by Archbishop Lazar Puhalo, from Troubling Teachings
08 – “Sadly, in our day, perhaps more in North America than in Greece, but even in Greece, there has developed a new guru cult concept of “gerontes.” Alas, this cultish idea is actually cultivated by many self-styled and even acknowledged “elders.” Gerontes or elders, many of them self-appointed and self advertised, others acknowledged by monastic establishments, have begun to act and be looked upon like the Hindu gurus, and this may be linked in part to the all-encompassing New Age Movement. In English, we call this a “cult.” It means that people have begun to have a “proskynisis” [worship] for the “geronta,” that comes parlously close to idolatry, but often even passes over the border into real idolatry. This is a great danger for us in our time. One frequently encounters people who say with complete conviction, “my salvation depends on Father so and so, my geronta.” Archbishop Lazar Puhalo, from The Problem of Guru Cultism
09 – “Concerns about Efraim have been expressed for several years now. It is about time that there was an investigation. Because monasteries don’t have “parish councils” doesn’t mean that lay people should be kept in the dark about them, here in America or elsewhere. Some of the concerns about Efraim and his monasteries have to do with funding, with personality cults and with blind obedience and mind-control.” from Yes, Investigate the Monasteries
10 – “Fr. Ephraim who came to America under nefarious circumstances in the early 90’s first joined the Russian synod in exile after receiving a “directive” from God as he proclaimed at the time. However, when he was threatened by the Ecumenical Patriarchate that he would be defrocked, he received another “directive” from God and abandoned the Russians.” from Diocesan Clergy Refuse to Support the Archbishop
11 – “One should be reminded that in the past Fr. Ephraim has troubled the Greek Orthodox Church of America including the Ecumenical Patriarchate by the formation of religious organizations with his devotion to the Russian monks of the diaspora, according to the information he received as he claims from God. Later, he left the Russians and placed himself under the Greek Orthodox American Archdiocese. Nikos Pantanizopoulos, according to the interview with his father John, met Fr. Ephraim through their parish priest in Knoxville, Tennessee, a Fr. Carellas, who presently is in a convent in Saxonburg, Pennsylvania. When Niko’s parents advised him to enter the Holy Cross Theological Seminary and then to decide if he wants to become a priest, he answered them, “Fr. Carellas and Fr. Ephraim told him that the Holy Cross is inhabited by the devil” and they [Carellas and Ephraim] advised him to go to the St. Tikon Theological Seminary [Russian], as stated by Mr. Pantanizopoulos.” from He Became Ill
12 – “The Clergy Brotherhoods of the Detroit and Chicago Dioceses refused to throw their support behind Archbishop Spyridon in his effort to fight off open defiance by the five Metropolitans of the Eparchial Synod of America, by a significant part of the clergy and wide segments of the laity.” And: “In private conversations some priests expressed fears about the climate of divisiveness among the clergy which is fostered by the Archdiocese. Just last weekend the Archbishop visited Detroit and had spoken against the Eparchial Synod of the Metropolitans in front of both the clergy as well as the lay Parish officers (see article, page 3).” And again: “Fr. Ephraim has significant influence in the administration of the Archdiocese. The current Chancellor, Fr. George Passias, happens to be one of the Ephraim’s most loyal followers. Ephraim is also admired by the new President of the Theological School, Archimandrite Damaskinos Ganas, who, according to sources, wants to invite Fr. Ephraim to hear confessions from students.” from Diocesan Clergy Refuse to Support the Archbishop
13 – “Monks from the “army” of the mysterious Fr. Ephraim, the spiritual father of Fr. George Passias, the Chancellor of the Archdiocese, are participating in the pro-Spyridon campaign.” from Church Life In America Is Being Trivialized
14 – ” … all the rules that were stated about monks not interfering with the ministries of our parish have been broken in our parish.” from Monasticism vs. the Parish
15 – “A message that appeared on the Internet in 1999 may provide a clue or two. It was apparently from an Orthodox priest in Arizona, and said, in part:
“My situation has progressed with the mission group here and there is new pressure on me to be in a more ‘regular’ situation. Let me explain. There are about a dozen convert families here who float between all the ‘ethnic’ churches because they are zealous for traditional spirituality and get impatient with either the closed minded ethnic dominance or a ‘modernized’ and enemic version of Orthodoxy. So these people spend a lot of time at Fr. Ephraim’s monastery in Florence and take seriously the advice of their spiritual fathers there. They have committed themselves to starting a new mission parish that is traditional, not dominated by one ‘ethnic’ flavor, doesn’t have the old world parish politics, has services every day, does outreach to young people, helps bring new converts deeper into the church, etc., etc. They are withdrawing from the Greek, Antiochian, OCA and ROCOR churches to begin this new mission, and are doing it under the guidance of the monks at the monastery.” from The Ephraim Question
NOTE: The following account is a testimony from a young man who lived as a sub-novice in Arizona for six months. It was written on November 21, 2008 and is found on a forum called Ex-Christian.net. Nikos writes a little bit about Scott Nevins near the end. This blog has elucidated on some of Nikos’ words with “[Ed. Note].”
For anybody that has read my posts, I now have documented evidence of the mind bending that went on with my life, all after doing a simple Google search.
It seems that I was involved with a cult that has not only gained National attention but Global, extending especially back to Greece itself, Mt Athos in particular.
I was 6 months in residence at the monastery when I left, I decided not to become a novice despite the attempts of my Hieromonk and elder monks to convince me to leave the world, not because I didn’t believe their doctrine, I was about as convinced as anyone there of the beliefs, but because I wanted to marry, I wasn’t being healed of my depression or physical pain and because I think some deep part of me knew to run.
This is a video I found of St Anthony’s as they were being investigated, I knew Fr Nikos from seeing him around a lot but I was friends with and worked side by side with Fr Paul (Pavlos) who was conveniently re-named, while I was there, apparently the same time as a lot of inquiries were taking place, I did not know of the controversy nor the inquiries at the time, I believed we called him Father although he was not yet tonsured since he was so in step with the monastery, like an honorary title, when he was tonsured he was given a different name, as is custom, but I know it is to further the disassociation with the self in hindsight…On to the video, it is cut into two parts and i included the link to a webpage because it also exposes the monastery as a cult and was my initial source for the video…… http://pseudo-prophet.tripod.com/
Fr Paul, I decline to state his new name out of respect for his adult decision to become a Monk at St Anthony’s, became a quick friend to me due to his sincerity, his friendliness and the fact that before I became involved in the Eastern Orthodox Church I was training to become a Navy SEAL, and Fr Paul had asked for a discharge from the Navy while preparing to do the same thing, he had been a medal winning Swimmer in his high school and I think joined the Navy right afterwards….so we had common ground and that sparked many discussions as we labored in the blazing Arizona sun, planting trees for Jesus, intermittently reciting the Unceasing Prayer, Kyrie Iesou Xpiste Eleisov Me (Lord Jesus Christ Have Mercy On Me).
The other monk I do not know by face as its not fully bearded nor partly covered with a cassock in the picture shown, nor by name as that would have been changed (maybe I missed something)….I have my assumptions though, yet another close friend during my stay.
This is just an insight into my definition of cult mentality when I refer to myself on the forum here, I WAS THERE!!!!!! I lived the life.
I am going to continue to post as I find new information, as for know I would like to get the ball rolling.
This is tragic, truly tragic to learn, although the truth is what I want, and need. For the record,
I was told the Elder Ephraim was taught this by his spiritual Fr on Mt Athos, Father Joseph (Papou Josef) and that one time Fr Ephraim had been plagued with pride and was found beating himself mercilessly with “the cane” in his cell, or a small church on the mountain. The story goes that he was heard to be confessing his sinful pride, beating the shit out of himself while at the same time screaming at himself to “Stop…STOP”, he continued on and was purged of pride and it has never returned to him to this day.
I began to use this practice of caning myself while at the monastery, I continued with it a short while after returning home.
I was also told that martyrdom would be my only salvation unless I was a baptized Orthodox Christian following the standards perfectly, even then I was told martyrdom most likely awaited all of us Orthodox….and that the monks and nuns would be the first to be eradicated by the government and so on. And even then, after death I would be taken to 20 toll booths where I could still fall and be dragged to hell by demons. St John Climacus created an icon depicting the saints ascending the ladder to heaven, while being surrounded by flying demonic presences, being pulled down at different points by failing.
One story that haunted me mercilessly was that of a monk who had died, passed 19 of the tolls and when he had done this looked at Satan and exclaimed “I beat you, you were defeated by me” which resulted in his being cast into the lake of fire for failing the test of the 20th toll, the test of “Pride”.
A MONK!!!!!! Who had devoted his life to Christ and left the world, living a damned near sinless life and working out his salvation to the extreme, wasn’t even safe after death…which by the way, isn’t pretty either, at death your soul is ripped and cut from your body by angels or demons, a myth is that it is so horrible the virgin Mary prayed to her son that she be spared this torment and so was granted to be taken to heaven by Jesus himself as he fended off the harvesting angels (demons).
These are the thoughts I deal with daily, to remove them from their etched position in my mind and heart……years and years of this stuff and i am about 5 weeks out of the box, 5 weeks into de-conversion.
I wonder if any of you had gone this far into your cult? If so please leave a testimony on this thread.
Someone asked Nikos: “I watched one of the news videos, and they said there were “improper teachings” in the monastery, but I didn’t really get what they were referring to. Do you know what they meant with it?”
There are so many…let me add a few I was taught off the top of my head: • You’re abbot has become Christ for you, if you follow the abbot to the letter you fulfill your requirements as a Christian, if you have done anything wrong under the abbot’s guidance you will not be judged, he will
[Ed.Note: In essence, the only way a monk can err in obedience is by doing disobedience. Things that would be considered sins or criminal conduct, even ‘minor’ things like lying, white-collar crimes, etc. are not wrong if done under obedience. The elder is responsible for the order given; the monk is responsible and will be judged on whether he did it or not. Thus, an example of true discipleship is when a monastic does everything they are told without examining or questioning the command. This includes internally, as well. A disciple is obligated not to have any internal critical thinking or rationalization because these things are diametrically opposed to progress in the spiritual life.]. • If you disobey the abbot it is the same as disobeying god. • The more you dedicate your life to Christ, the more accountable you are for your sins, thereby raising the bar hourly of whether you will make it into heaven. • Married couples should live as brother and sister, only engaging in sexual intercourse for the purpose of conception, and having to confess the sexual act nevertheless as a “weakness of the flesh”.
[NOTE: Elder Ephraim has an Augustinian fronima regarding carnal relations. Augustine allows for two ways a person can have sex in marriage without sinning. The first is if the person is having sex not for pleasure, but to create a child. The other time Augustine explains one can have sex in marriage without sinning is if they are only having sex out of duty. Specifically, he is talking about a scenario where one spouse wants to have sex not specifically to have a child, but out of sexual desire. The spouse who wants sex in that scenario is sinning, but this is a minor sin. The spouse who only has duty sex however is not sinning. Given that Augustine says it is better to abstain even from pro-creative sex, unwanted sex for the sake of the marital debt is the only time a married person can not only not sin by having sex, but can also be doing what is best]. • The Aerial Toll Houses, after death you are ripped from your body to the astral plane and are questioned by demons for 2 days each at 20 levels, although this is a conceptual image of a spiritual teaching, it is basically 40 days worth of judgement, the 20 levels being the 7 deadly sins plus 13 extra variations. At anytime you may fail and be cast into the lake of fire. You DO NOT WANT TO GO TO THE ORTHODOX LAKE OF FIRE….it’s the revelation of St peter but worse. Therefore the Orthodox pray for 40-42 days after the death of a baptized Orthodox Christian to assist them in their ascent through the aerial toll houses. Many monks even are said to fail these judgements and be thrown to perdition.
• The Elder can levitate
[Ed.Note: Many stories are in circulation of children seeing the Elder walking in the air. As well, there is the story about the woman who went to stab him in the confessional and he was levitating so she couldn’t reach him].
• The Elder can read your thoughts
[Ed.Note: This is one of the main things that make new monks and nuns tremble around the Elder; especially if they’re having sinful thoughts]. • The Elder has reached Theoria and already been perfected, he walks as Christ on the earth (this is gleaned but not actually said)
[Ed.Note: This is not gleaned, it is outright said. The writer was only a sub-novice and would not have been privy to inner circle knowledge, unless an older monk blabbed things he shouldn’t have]. • The Elder can bi-locate in order to check on his monasteries in different parts of the world
[Ed. note: In 2006, Geronda Ephraim was giving a homily to lay people in the Trapeza at St. Anthony’s Monastery. While his explaining this ability to them, he stated, “I’ve already left twice to check on my monasteries while I was talking, and you didn’t even notice.” One Geronda stated, “Geronda isn’t omnipresent like God, but he’s almost like God. He sees and knows everything that happens in his monasteries. He’s watching us and protecting us.”]
• The Elder’s prayers can pretty much guarantee you entrance into heaven
[Ed.Note: Furthermore, for the monks, Geronda Ephraim talks about a vision where it was revealed that the monks and nuns who stay with him until the end will be saved. Of course, there is still the clause of doing blind obedience and the other monastic duties, but if a monk and nun remains in the monastery until death, he/she are pretty much guaranteed salvation]. • You must confess your thoughts. Whereas most Xtian teachings condemn behavior and make mention of lustful thoughts and prideful thoughts….at the monastery you are to confess your every thought, good or bad.
[Ed.Note: Elder Ephraim has repeatedly told the story from Agapios’ Salvation of Sinners about the nun who was virtuous and seemed holy. After she died she appeared to her Gerondissa and told her she was in hell because she didn’t confess a thought out of embarrassment]. • I was taught that the day the Roman Catholic Church was allowed to hold mass in Constantinople, the Theotokos (Virgin Mary) who had been protecting the city from the Turkish invasion, left and that is why Constantinople fell. • I was also taught that within the walls of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, where this occurred, there was a secret Liturgy going on hidden inside the walls, Turkish soldiers stormed in and as the sword was about to pierce the presiding Priest time was frozen in such a manner that special Orthodox who are completely gifted with the holy spirit have spiritually visited this room and seen over the centuries that there is a slight movement of the sword towards the priest, we were taught that when the sword strikes the priest time will unfreeze, this will be like the last martyr and this announces the reign of the Antichrist.
[Ed.Note: The marble king myth is not a teaching accepted or taught by the Orthodox Fathers. It originates in gnostic and apocryphal texts, and was taught to Geronda Ephraim by the bishop who ordained him. However, in some homilies, the Elder mentions he has seen it, or he gives updates on how far the sword is out of the sheath].
• Demons are everywhere, especially at the monasteries, since the world is already run by the devil.
[NOTE: Elder Ephraim claims he can see the demons walking openly among the people]. • I was told of a 3 month exorcism that took place and met the man who this was done to. I do not know if he was severely mentally disturbed during this time and brought back to sanity or what the hell happened because everybody backs up what they saw and heard, I am at a loss with this one, this was a biggie when I was there.
[NOTE: Broken telephone is a common trend in Elder Ephraim’s monastic communities. Essentially, a few monastics are sometimes called to hold an individual down during an exorcism but in general, exorcisms aren’t a “freakshow” where anyone can go watch out of curiosity or some pathetic attempt to validate their belief in demons. The monastics holding down the “demon-possessed” may witness some abnormal activities and share these details with other monastics. These monastics may then share it with lay people. Lay people talk about it with other monastics, or in the presence of other monastics, who may not be familiar with the incident. These stories get repeated and details of the narrative slowly start to change and become more fantastic. By the end, the stories are so far removed from the reality of events that they sound like fables: leg spasms become levitation; normal mucous emissions turn into abnormal, mutant neon colours that are “biologically impossible”; shifting a monk with their leg becomes lifted the monk off the ground with one leg; having a reaction when having relics (i.e. pieces of human bones or sometimes an entire human skull) crossed over their head turns into the demons were burning and tormenting the individual, etc. • I was taught that during this exorcism, many saints including Paul and Michael the Archangel joined in the exorcism fighting the demons within this man, but that the Elder’s Elder, from Mt Athos wielded the most power (no shit hah?). • Priests were “worldy” if they trimmed their beards • Women should be avoided as they caused the fall • Women are blessed by the theotokos as she brought the Savior into the world • Mirrors are forbidden
[Ed.Note: This stems from the teachings of St. Nikodemos On Guarding the Sense of Vision: “I beseech you, dear friend, have nothing to do with such vanity and condemnable pleasure. Have nothing to do with such mirrors. And if you happen to have them, please have them taken away as altogether improper for the Christian way of life.” This is why all the mirrors are covered in the monastery bathrooms. Also, monks or nuns who remove corners of this covering get huge canonas when they confess this sin-or if it is discovered first through the random cell searches the Abbot and Abbesses perform]. • Orthodox chanting and Classical music are only allowed (thank the lord I brought my Bach and Wagner) • Wake up is at 12 AM, you are to pray and meditate performing prostrations and.or work until the morning service begins at 3AM, Liturgy follows immediately lasting until 7-8 AM then there is breakfast and work, lunch (trapeza) is around noon, then work, there is church again at 3 or 4 until dinner around 630 then compline service until approx 730, 8PM-12AM is quiet time. • That’s about all I care to remember for now, I have to watch the video again, I thought it and the website offered more info. TBH, there is so much in Orthodoxy that most ExCs here wouldn’t even know due to lack of exposure that I am probably passing over what are considered to be small scale erroneous teachings to them but outrageous to a protestant or Catholic in the first place…..let me find some links and I will post them as I can, believe me when I say the followers of Elder Ephraim do a lot within the church to stop members of the Orthodox Church from speaking against him, and not many non-orthodox know anything about him or the monasteries. I believe I am moving forward and facing the past. I know my first few weeks of de-conversion, right when I started here on ExC I was very bitter and enraged, confused, frightened full of hatred and blame. I took a few days off from even talking about it, I think almost a week, which for me these days is a long time. I tried to find some peace, make some sense and decided to look towards solutions more than looking at the problems, I think I am doing well in widening the gap between the two. I also am finding moments where I feel a peace, just for a moment and I remember what life was like before Xtianity. And at other times I feel a sense of “now” that I can live with, it is my hope I can experience these moments for a longer duration. When I am in them I feel a distance from what I can only describe as living in a nightmare, and in those moments I feel the nightmare may be ending. I’m only a handful of weeks into the deprogramming state and its been a rough battle finding the proper information out there to help me as a guide, when you’ve thought one way about everything for so long, there’s nothing really to revert to, so I need a lot of outside stimuli.
So as far as leaving it all behind, I cannot learn from what I have been through and undo the thinking patterns I was taught, nor get out of it if I don’t know what I am getting “out of”, thus the search, the questions, the confusion.
I don’t hate the people at the monastery, in fact I have more love in my heaRt for the monks than anything, I don’t believe they know what is happening to them at all, and the ones that do realize or see what is going on are the ones stepping forward. I don’t want to blame them I want to see them for who they really are and the things they teach for what they really are.
They are of the nicest, caring, loveable humans I have ever met, and there is definitely a “presence” of some sort there at the monastery, it’s a very peaceful feeling, a loving feeling, it’s quite tangible, I don’t know how to describe it other than to say when I got there, I believed that to be “God”, and now that I don’t believe the same things I am hard pressed to define it, but whatever it is it is beautiful and they are a part of it.
Perhaps by a power or just the workings of nature they are rewarded for being such kind and loving people in spite of what they believe I do not know.
They have a leader and this leader was raised in Greece in a strong Orthodox home, I believe he went to live on the mountain of Monks at 19 and came to America in the early ’90s, he’s like 78 or so now, so he probably spent 40 years as an Athonite Monk, and they really have no outside influence except the select few daily visitors (all male) which are restrained by regulations not to discuss certain things anyway…so the man knows only this life, its like he’s in spiritual Flatland. He probably believes and practices what he preaches to the bone, but i am giving him the benefit of the doubt. The Orthodox Church has a pretty rigid hierarchy and he has people to answer to.
The abbot of the monastery is a different story, I felt he was very political rather than spiritual to be honest and he is one sharp tack so I wasn’t impressed by his evasive answers or his snobbery when I was in confession, but he did me no harm personally ever….that I know of.
[NOTE: Abbot Paisios is very political and at times he would get in trouble from Elder Ephraim who has repeatedly counselled him, “Stop talking about the Protocols, Zionists, Masons and New World Order”, etc. It’s not that Elder Ephraim believes these things are “theories”, he was attempting some damage control because the Abbot continued to discourse both laypeople and monastics on “Jewish Conspiracies” during the KVOA’s “Mystery Monastery” exposé in 2006. Though Elder Ephraim believes the Protocols of Zion is an authentic Jewish document and is being fulfilled with “mathematical precision”, he really doesn’t read that kind of material anymore and encourages his spiritual children to “focus on Christ’s plans, not the devil’s”. Contrarily, Abbot Paisios would often circulate various conspiracy books or periodicals to his monastics to read, anything from 9/11 being an US/Mossad operation to ISIS being a US-Israeli creation. At times, Abbot Paisios would also give homilies to some of his monks about the US Government fearing Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries and how they target the monastery properties specifically to spray chemicals on them from planes. This was also the “reason” he gave when many of his monastics became bedridden with Valley Fever. Apparently, the US Government sprayed something in the Sonora Desert and on the monastery because they knew Elder Ephraim was doing construction. This chemical was designed so that when the monastics were digging with shovels, the spore or whatever would be released and the monks would get sick. These kind of fear-mongering political sermons are usually ended with, “This is why we have to say the prayer unceasingly.”]
I guess what I am working through here is that I believe you are correct in that they are just as lost as I was, except the possibility of a couple of the elders, they are mostly all True Believers IMHO. So that is why these things need to be discussed and talked about, the controversies surrounding the monastery are also vehicles to bring these matters to the attention of the spiritual leaders of the Monastery and thus the “innocence” begins to wane and they become more and more accountable for their actions, so far there has been no change in the workings of the place, the last I heard while I was there was that when the Elder hears of people who denounce him or accuse him he claims that Christ will “Give me more crowns”….perhaps he is absolutely convinced and yet another pawn of this Religious structure……
Sorry for being so “long winded”, I have to really work through these things when I write of them and I want to be as accurate and open minded as possible because I want the truth and I share a responsibility to others reading this that I will not deceive them as well concerning these matters.
As for the positive things I took from the Monastery, the Byzantine Chanting is friggin’ awesome…the head Cantor was handpicked by the Elder and he is a master of sound, I used to refer to his singing as being “Not of this world” and I meant it, I would love to be able to find my St Anthony’s Vigil CD that they sell at the bookstore, it’s all in Ancient Greek, the words are written in English and Greek inside the jacket and if you don’t know Greek, it won’t indoctrinate you =)
Mind you this man is speaking for the entire Orthodox Church and he is not of the cloth, this isn’t Protestantism, this is the Orthodox Church, they go by the book, not going before the unbelievers, they try to keep everything “In-house”….I just found this youtube series and will be watching it and posting according to what I know, I know it will be a healthy way to separate the wheat from the chaff =) in my head
This may give you some insight into the “Don’t think, just follow” mindset of Orthodoxy, as far as I know they are the strongest proponents in Christianity concerning blind obedience to the Clergy, I’ve never seen anything like it in Christianity.
… Women have very strict dress codes in many of the churches, depending on the Priest or the Abbott if it’s a Monastery and I’ve kinda seen them treated as “necessary functions” in the human race, instead of well…women.
I was told by the Abbot of St Anthony’s Monastery that marriage was only necessary in order to create a way for me not to sin, absolutely bewildered by what I was hearing I said “If nobody had sex, the human race would end, in fact it would have ended before Christ could be born..IN FACT Christ’s mother wouldn’t have been born in order to bear Jesus, so I don’t understand”…I was told that the necessity for sexual relations occurred at the fall, when I asked “Then how could Adam and Eve be fruitful and multiply?” I was told that it would have been done without sexual intercourse. I said “How?” and I was kinda scoffed at and told “God is God, He can make a way for life to be reproduced without sexual relations, don’t ask me how, I don’t know how because we never made it that far so we have no way of knowing”……
I was like ….UHHHHHHH????
The Orthodox, like the Catholic Church allow no women to be clergy, only the exception of female monastics in higher ranks than the common nun, in any other case they are forbidden to teach.
Im sure there are exceptions as this is a worldwide organization but this is the general rule.
Men are over women, as Paul stated, they go by the book on that one.
And they are treated with respect, mind you, but there is a lot of unspoken rules and regulations concerning this, but here in America it pretty much remains unspoken, but the general answer you will get when asking about a woman’s status is that she is less than the man and that Woman brought sin upon the man.
Now the reason I put the statement about the Theotokos in Juxta-position to that is going to be something unknown to you unless you had been in these circles, so I apologize again for not being clear, like I said, I was in this so long I sometimes forget what is and isn’t “normal’ in mainline Xtianity.
Besides God, the Theotokos is THE MOST VENERATED SAINT, but they claim so much more knowledge and revelation about her…to be honest, this is the one part of discussing this that makes me uneasy, I always have and still do have love for the idea of Mary, and my daughter who passed away was named after her because of the love I was given for her while Catholic (Never confirmed, only went through Catechism partially), and then more so in Orthodoxy, she is probably the most overwhelming Archetype for me due to personal reasons.
In Orthodox Iconostasis you will always find Jesus, the Saint the building or site is named after and an icon of the Theotokos. And the emphasis about her is due, considering the belief that God brought salvation into the world through a human mother…they go into great detail about her life and how she was THE ONLY WOMAN who could have bore the Christ child, so in that sense you would get the impression that they see women as equals or even as greater like we see in some cultures and religious practices, but you don’t get that, you get the dirty, sinful, necessity of the woman in order to produce children.
I have never seen women treated cruelly though, it’s just an underlying atmosphere of women being less than men, and some off the wall shit from certain people that make them look like they almost shouldn’t exist….I’m guessing the Abbott had something in mind like that movie where Arnold was pregnant.…CREEPY.
Hope that clears that up…yes it is a contradiction.
I also saw in many cases where women were respected very much so it’s all about who’s doing the teaching and what church you are in…it’s not written in stone exactly, it’s one of those things you pick up when you’re amongst them. …In Orthodoxy you don’t get personal opinions on the true gospel, you join the Orthodox Church only if you swear to adhere to the teachings of the church, if you don’t believe their version of it then you don’t become a member, so I am guessing that you can have two improper views this way
An improper view within Orthodoxy being contradicted by the Monastery and Improper according to a personal belief of anybody that doesn’t believe the gospel according to the Monastery, but what is in question amongst the Orthodox who are saying this is former, the monastery is deviating from what the Orthodox church teaches, therefore if the Lady is orthodox, she has it within her stance as a baptized member of the Church to cite Canon law against the teachings of anybody within the church, in this case the Monastery.
… the Eyewitness news reporter “For the past 8 months, the Eyewitness News 4 investigators have been documenting several families claims of brainwashing and inappropriate teachings at St Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery…..” … she’s reporting on THE DOCUMENTATION OF SEVERAL FAMILIES CLAIMS OF BRAINWASHING AND INAPROPRIATE TEACHINGS AT ST ANTHONY’S GREEK ORTHODOX MONASTERY.
She’s reporting on the claims of the 3 families. She later stated that 3 families had come to them, 2 of which are Greek Orthodox, this would be the families of Nikos Pantanizopoulos and Paul Aleck.
The Orthodox families are part of the Church proper, so they can state that the teachings of the Monastery are inappropriate in both ways, any way that is dehumanizing to their child, and in the realest sense, inappropriate as determined by Orthodox Canon Law. The reporter never spoke for her own opinions, she is speaking on their behalf, and speaking OF THEM.
The other father, the non-Orthodox can certainly find out what Orthodox proper teaches and ascertain that his son is being taught inappropriate teachings according to the Orthodox church simply by speaking with clergy on the matter, and again, his son is beating the shit out of his thigh with a wooden stick for having imperfect thoughts, believing in the aerial toll houses where the demons are judging the souls of baptized Orthodox Xtians, being taught that the Elders of Sion are plotting against the Monastery and the Orthodox Church etc., etc.
Again, she isn’t taking a stance, she’s speaking on behalf of the families….Also, inappropriate isn’t judged by 30,000 denominations, the Orthodox Church doesn’t even consider Protestants to be Xtians, they consider them heretics, schismatics, a Protestant must go through Catechism and baptism, including an exorcism before becoming Orthodox, they believe that only the Orthodox Eucharist is truly the body and blood of Christ due to their sole claim of Apostolic Succession and their belief that the Holy Spirit doesn’t bless the Communion of the schismatic Roman Church, in their eyes the Protestants are completely lost and know nothing of the Gospel and need to find true salvation though the Orthodox Church, and the Roman Catholics were a Patriarchate until 1054 AD when the final blow, the Filioque clause was added to the Nicene Creed and the Patriarch of Rome and the Patriarch of Constantinople Ex-communicated each other, later the land of Rus was brought in to create the missing 5th Patriarchate and in their eyes Rome is worse than being a Protestant.
They don’t care about any gospel but the Orthodox gospel, anything they deem as inappropriate is deemed so by looking into their own Tradition and Teachings collected over the past 2000 years and if it is out of whack then it is labeled heresy and is worthy of ex-communication.
They are so strict and rigid for a reason, they are in no way like the Protestants who have now come up with 30,000 sects in 450 years. They don’t believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, they believe in the inerrancy of the Orthodox Church, in their eyes, the Xtians wrote the gospels and epistles, passed them through Apostolic succession until the council of Nicea and the Orthodox Church voted on the Canon of scripture, the Orthodox Church preserved it through the ages by copying manuscripts, spreading the gospel and by shedding the blood of the martyrs to preserve the faith, right on through the Great Schism with Rome in 1054, through the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, right up to this very day….There is no Sola Scriptura or Sola Fide, there is Ortodoxon Xristianon. BTW I just realized who Scott Nevins is, the non-Orthodox convert.
I was at the Monastery when he came back from Mt Athos, that’s when I met him. He was made a novice while I was there…holy shit..we sat for hours on end telling stories about the Xtian life and about becoming monks, he lost so much weight it was frightening during the 49 days of fasting in Lent, thats why they make special mention of his photographs. He took on this real brooding appearance, began to walk in a hunched posturing for humility or something, barely ate, shit he cut out tomatoes, potatoes and peppers because the man that was supposedly exorcised there for 3 months said that since those food belong to the nightshade family they are neuro-toxins, which they are, AT TRACE LEVELS, so he had to eat even less of the little food allowed for thos entering the novitiate or the rest of the monks AND it was during Great Lent with all the food regulations, he got real pale and gaunt, he was dragging his boots as he walked, none of us knew he was entering the novitiate, he kept that to himself, out of humility I guess….I never understood why he thought that. Then one day he was a Man In Black. Feel free to visit anytime, just call ahead to reserve a cell, ask for Pater Markellos, he’ll do you right up
Kyrie Iesou Xpiste Eleisov Me Eper Ayia Theotoke Soson Emas.
Click on the little doo wah ditty button on the left for a sample of their chanting, the best thing to come out of that place……. http://www.stanthony…y.org/index.php Tais tov tha criov sou roes….
Evloyisov, Nikos I was just checking this thread to find the Youtube link to my Home Church priest, see I had a home Church cult and then the Monastery, so I actually left 2 cults at the same time, one is Antiochian Orthodox and the other was the Greek Orthodox, they are both in communion so there was no qualms about me having the Ant. as my home base church and also become a Greek Orth. monk.
Back when things were real bad, while I was a catechumen the priest-monk told me not to seek medical care in certain instances, I was pushed away from seeing a psychiatrist or even any counselling. I was told that the Nous, the eye of the soul which is the power, the I in Greek understanding was energetically destroyed and fragmented, that Satan had 100% rights over me and that I COULD NOT become psychologically well until baptism, they dangled baptism over my head for more than 3 years, I was forced to confess many sins that were committed due to my physical and psychological imbalances then had the cure withheld from me, by telling me not to seek secular help as well as not baptizing me.
So I was basically being broken down on purpose.
It was officially confirmed that I needed an exorcism of my house, and my home priest never even got around to doing it, a priest in a neighboring city came by to perform the rituals. I was told by my priest-monk that the Elder of the monastery wanted me to be so spiritually strong that I could be sitting in my house with things flying around the room like in the movie Poltergeist, and sit without being affected and be able to repeat the Jesus prayer non-stop, I was told by my priest-monk that this was my spiritual goal. Therefore the exorcism was done by my request in secret at my home base.
So I was being told that on the one hand I was to become a spiritual warrior and NOT have the proper Orthodox exorcisms and cleansings and be immediately baptised to protect me…….then I was being told that I had absolutely no power to do so because of the condition of the Nous before baptism.
I was told all psychological problems were to be spiritually healed, yet I was denied the healing which is Exorcism of the Catechumen, denouncing Satan, having hands laid on, being baptized and born of the spirit immediately aligning the Nous, then receiving the “True Eucharist”, the body and blood of Christ which would absolve me of every single sin committed, all this on the day of baptism.
In fact talking about it now, my mind is saying “You are deceived, you are now in the dark, you were so close and you blew it….” That’s how powerful they made my becoming Orthodox seem to me.
For years I was enticed with what would happen at that event, how i would become alive from the dead.
I was told so many stories of miraculous baptisms, the Orthodox pride themselves concerning their spiritual powers…I was told numerous miracle stories about first communion, that the neophyte would experience total catharsis as well as euphoria, I was told that at baptism I would be absolutely in touch with god until the first sin committed after baptism, which would begin the cycle of sin/confession/absolution/communion. The stories of baptism are so amazing that many plan ahead to go and be alone somewhere for days and weeks after baptism in order to retain the full blown connection with God, pray for all their needs at this time and they would be answered, read books and know their meaning, read scripture and be instantly enlightened. I was to be baptized at the Monastery when the time came and was to spend weeks alone in my cell with pre picked books, audio tapes, CDs and food brought to me. As I have found out how much psychological damage was done to me now that I have learned what it was they were doing and teaching and how it affected me, I am trying to find a specialist in de-programming….to be honest, I am going to post this but I am sure i will have to EDIT a lot of it later today, I can actually feel my mind fighting itself and becoming confused.
I am willing to bet this entire post is fragmented and hard to follow…I can’t get my thoughts straight, the words aren’t coming out the way I would normally be able to.
I am going to post it as a testimony to the power of the brain washing and finish it up later, hopefully it made I have sent numerous emails to the monastery and have received no replies
As far as I know, they know nothing of my de-conversion, these attempts to contact them were made over the last year, I think that they somehow got wind of me telling my home priest to shine on and have labeled me a paraya (sp?).
I think I am going to get a professional involved as well as contact the media who have already looked into the problems there, I want some closure and I want my voice heard.
I want to be able to put this behind me and I can’t do that without making my story heard, they need to know and I need to know that they know. enough sense for you to understand how much control they had over me.
In 2011, a lay disciple of Geronda Ephraim, using the name zealot777, posted the following: “Saint Anthony’s Monastery is in perfectly good standing with the Greek Archdiocese and World Orthodoxy as a whole. There is nothing cultic about them. If they were operating in an independent fashion outside their jurisdiction, yet claiming to belong to it, then I might have some concerns. But everything they do is Orthodox. The author of this thread is probably just unfamiliar with the Orthodox ascetical lifestyle. I have visited the monastery twice. They’re wonderful people. That the author is now on psych meds, does not prove the monastery is to blame.”
Chikirin responded, “We are ex christians therefore we believe all of Christendom is a cult (at least I do any way)”
And a moderator reiterated the forum rules: “Christians are not allowed to evangelize or debate their beliefs in the Testimonies Forum. The Lions Den forum on this site is open for that. Please carefully read and respect the rules of this forum before posting in here” The forum is now locked.
NOTE: Rick Ross’ original website -rickross.com – is now defunct; it has been renamed “Cult Education Institute for the Study of Destructive Cults, Controversial Groups and Movements”. He has recently written a book entitled, Cults Inside Out: How People Get In and Can Get OutAlthough Rick Ross promotes himself as a professional “cult expert”, a review of his educational background shows that quite apart from being anti-Christian (he refers to Christians as “Bible bangers”) has no religious educational credentials whatsoever. To the contrary, his only formal education is a high school diploma. Self-aggrandizement and personal financial reward seem to be Ross’ primary motive for his attacks on Christians and members of other faiths. Public records reveal that Ross has been the subject of at least three arrests, including an attempted burglary, embezzlement of $100,000 worth of jewelry from a jewelry store, and kidnapping. Two of these arrests resulted in convictions. In the third, Ross’ co-conspirators plead guilty to lesser charges while Ross evaded being found guilty. Ross was sued civilly by the victim in the same kidnapping incident and was punished by the jury for over $3 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
May 1, 1999 Rick Ross P.O. Box 32906 Phoenix, AZ 85064-2906
Dear Mr. Ross,
We discovered your web site as we were browsing the “20-20” home page that recently discussed the Jim Roberts’ Group cult. Unlike the parents of those cult members, we think we know where our son Niko is — St. Anthony’s Monastery, Florence, Arizona (although we haven’t heard from him since he wrote a short letter in November 1998); we also know that every characteristic mentioned about a cult fits the description of monasteries and convents founded by this Greek Orthodox monk, Fr. Ephraim. We do not denounce monasteries or those adults who enter them; however we question the tactics, the process, the counseling that should precede such a choice, and the absence of including the family and looking at family vulnerabilities that would lead a young adult to choose this lifestyle. This specific charismatic monk incorporates every type of coercion used by all cults in cult literature: strict control of daily life, daily confession, isolation from family and friends, loading the language, etc.; followers claim he has levitated, and even that he has predicted the world will end in 60 years.
To read opposing opinions about this monk and the dangerous role he plays in the hierarchy of the Greek Orthodox Church, go to: www.voithia.org
If you need more details about Fr. Ephraim, you can contact Theodore Kalmoukos, a religious reporter with the National Herald (Ethnikos Kyrikas), a Greek newspaper published in the New York area.
Fr. Carellas claimed Fr. Ephraim as his spiritual father. During Fr. Carellas’ tenure at our church, he spoke of “super Orthodoxy,” a fiercely traditional cult-like pursuit of Christianity. His ideas were rejected by our parish, and as a result, Carellas was removed from our church by the Atlanta diocese bishop and re-located to a convent in Saxonburg, PA. Fr. Carellas, father of
our children, divorced his wife after he decided to become a priest. Before he became a priest, he was a mechanical engineer and served as an officer in the military.
When our son was 16 years old, we learned that our oldest daughter was HIV positive. All of our family drew closer to the church for comfort; however, Niko drew even closer because of his friendship with our priest (at the time) Father Carellas and his son, who was the same age and grade in school as Niko. Thinking Niko might enter the seminary to study to become a priest, we encouraged this close association with Fr. Carellas. As parents, we thought at the time that church was a safer place. Yet, we saw Niko slowly giving up his extensive comic book collection, taking down posters of his favorite music groups, reading only books (written by desert fathers, mostly of Russian Orthodox background) suggested by Fr. Carellas, and listening only to monastic chanting and classical music. We saw our son change from a happy person to a somber and judgmental individual. After only one year of college, he told us in April that he was going to become a monk and left our home in May 1996 when he was 18 years old. During Niko’s transformation, there was no attempt made by Fr. Carellas to include us in this monumental decision our son had made. We encouraged Niko to speak with Fr. Katinas, our new priest, but Niko said that Fr. Katinas was a “modernist” because he didn’t fit Fr. Carellas’ ultra-Orthodox beliefs. Our pleas, our tears, our logic did not sway him. He listened only to Frs. Carellas and Ephraim. That same year three young people from our small church in Knoxville entered an Ephraim-led monastery and convent (ages 18, 18, and 21) due to their vulnerability and Fr. Carellas’ indoctrination. [NOTE: This is a typical pattern for most lay people who have the desire to become monastics in one of Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries. This individual will continually strive to live monastically in the world. This is usually with a blessing and though this is a general pattern, each individual is groomed with instructions specific to them and their situation. Lay people under 18, usually in cases where the parents are anti-monastic or worldly, are carefully groomed to hide their intentions of becoming a monk or nun. In rare cases, Geronda Ephraim has allowed children as young as 12 to become monastics. Others are groomed to go to college or university so they can learn something and bring it to the monastery. Ironically, Niko’s pre-monastic behavioural patterns are counsels from a few different big saints in the orthodox church, whom John and JoAnn would celebrate yearly as regular church attendees (St. Basil the Great, St. John Chrysostom, St. John Climacus, etc.)].
Shortly after Niko entered the monastery, we begged him to come home to be at his oldest sister’s wedding. He refused, saying, “I’ll visit her on her death bed. I’ll see her in heaven.” His language is loaded with “If it’s God’s will.” When we asked him when he would know he was ready to become a monk, he said Father Ephraim would tell him. When we asked if God would tell him instead, he replied, “I am not worthy to speak to God. Only Fr. Ephraim and the elders are worthy enough to have a dialogue with God.” When we asked if he couldn’t serve God by working with people as Mother Teresa did, he said, “That’s just social work.” When we reminded him that Jesus did not escape from humanity but worked with people instead, he said, “Jesus had his calling. I have mine.” When we pleaded that he listen to us and give “the world” a chance, he said that we were his parents only in the physical sense–Fr. Ephraim was now his spiritual father and the only one to whom he need obey. [NOTE: Again, ironically, Niko is paraphrasing the teachings of saints who John and JoAnne would be celebrating and praising during church services if they were regularly attending.The two saints who wrote the main divine liturgies for the Orthodox Church–John Chrysostom and Basil the Great–have written monastic treatises which contain teachings and instructions that mirror many of the points in the “How to Recognize A Cult” list which was included on the 20/20 Homepage that inspired this letter.]
In addition to speaking with other church officials and the Metropolitan Sotirios of Toronto, Canada (who agreed Ephraim’s monasteries/convents and methods of collecting young and vulnerable adults is cultic), we have met twice with Patriarch Bartholomew asking for intervention with no result. In fact, at the second meeting with the Patriarch and in front of Niko, the Patriarch suggested Niko return home to check into his health problems. Niko later refused to even consider the idea. He said, “That was only a suggestion, not a command.”
After only one year and nine months, Niko was tonsured as a monk, rejected his baptismal and family name of Nikolaos, and took the name of Theologos. According to church tradition, the amount of time an individual serves as novice is three years. There was no warning or an invitation to attend the ceremony sent to us. Niko even said that it came as a surprise to him as well that he was to be tonsured on that day.
We have tried to involve the media in some way to help us expose this growing cult in the U.S. In October 1997, Ethnikos Kyrix (National Herald) published an article about our family’s despair. In June 1998, we contacted the Dateline tv show and spoke at length with an investigator, Jeff Pohlman (1-800-622-6397 ext. 6963), who promised to look into it. However, after only three days, he called back saying he’d contacted the Archdiocese with questions and was satisfied that our son was in an established monastery. This is like asking the wolf if he ate the lamb. Of course the wolf would deny it! The present Church leadership is in accord with the super-Orthodox approach and in disagreement with the majority of the Greek American laity. Please see www.voithia.org for more information. Although Mr. Pohlman did not reveal our name or exact details, he did tell us that the spokesman at the Archdiocese asked him, “Did that family in Tennessee ask you to investigate?”
We are asking, after due investigation on your part, if you would please list Ephraim’s name and his growing number of monasteries/convents to the list of suspected cults on your home page. We have names of other parents in the same situation as ours. Perhaps by your listing the Ephraim-led monasteries, other parents in similar circumstances would feel the courage to speak up. Our ultimate goal is to have our son return home. Should you need additional details from us, please contact us at home. Sincerely yours,
John & Jo Ann Pantanizopoulos Knoxville, TN
Editor’s Note: The relationship between monastic life and parish life in general, and the role of Fr. Ephraim in particular, continue to be controversial issues in our Church. Voithia’s recent coverage of this topic has included articles by U.S. hierarchs, clergy, and laity, by the Greek press, and our own stories.
To date neither Voithia nor GOAL has taken a position on this topic. A resolution on the subject was introduced at the GOAL national conference in March, 1998, but it was withdrawn due to a lack of consensus at the time.
The above letter was sent to Rick Ross, with a copy to GOAL, asking Mr. Ross to list Fr. Ephraim and his monasteries on his website as suspected cults. As of this writing Mr. Ross has not done so.
On May 5, 1997, The Orthodox Observer, in its “Tell Me Father” column, published an anonymous letter from a parishioner in Tennessee (the home state of Mr. and Mrs. Pantanizopoulos) to then-Fr. George, now Bishop George, Papaioannou, and his response. The full text of that column is reprinted below.
Last year I stayed at the monastery at Florence for six days. During that time I worked on the grounds under the direction of Father Theologos. He did not seem like he was brain washed or under mind control. For that matter during that time I did not witness any cult of Father Ephraim such as the excesses that have been reported on this news group.
I am sorry that Father Theologos’ decision has made his parents so sad. However, I am not entirely sure that their sorrow ought to be used as ammunition to attack Father Ephraim. I know that if any of my children wished to become monks it would make me very sad simply because I would get to see them so much less. However, this would not in any way imply that they had joined a cult.
I usually remain silent but I have some experience with Father Theologos. Last year, I stayed at St. Anthony’s for six days and during that time worked on the grounds with Father Theologos. At no time was there the appearance of brain washing. Further, during that period, Father Ephriam was staying at the monastery. At no time was there any of the outrageous cultic behavior that is constantly reported in this news group.
I know that if my children decide to become monks it will make me very sad. The reason is simple. I love them deeply and hope that I will get to grow old along with them and see their children. On the other hand, I pray I will not create a big fuss if they do.
I would like to clarify my testimony. I am not a monastic wannabe as are so many converts to Orthodoxy. On the whole my impression of the monastery was negative. I don’t think that monastic life tells lay people anything about how to live our lives and I did not get an impression of great holiness. (Of course, this probably has something to do with my own sinfulness.)
I am completely astonished about the big fuss about Father Ephraim. If you don’t want him as a teacher, don’t follow him. If others find his teaching edifying, why bother them?
Father Ephraim Visitor Comments
“I entered one of Fr. Ephraim’s monasteries, with the firm intention of staying to become a monastic. But I was shocked by some of what was being taught there, it just felt wrong. It seemed exactly like a cult! And once you’re in with Ephraim’s disciples, they may make it quite difficult for you to ever leave them. Thank you for bringing this more out into the open on your website. I think that the ‘Christ’ of the Epraimites is quite different from the loving Jesus Christ we know from our Orthodox parishes.”
“I only wish to express to you my concern that you have lumped Orthodox monasteries in with all manner of cults. Fr. Ephraim’s monasteries are entirely consistent with additional Orthodox monasticism. The fathers teach that one should die to the world and flee to the desert if one is called to the monastic life. One should be as a corpse in the hands of one’s spiritual father. If one’s parents oppose one’s entry into the monastic life, one should reject their pleas as demonic. Regardless of one’s acceptance of these views, they are traditional monasticism, and certainly not cult like.”
“I recently visited Holy Archangels Greek Orthodox Monastery in Texas, one of elder Ephraim’s very contoversial monasteries. Having completed about 60 hours of undergrad sociology, I have studied cults. I am also very well read on Orthodox monasticism, and I left because this place met more critera of a cult than of a monastery.”
“There is a ultra-Orthodox Ukraninan group in West Palm Beach Florida that in our opinion is a very dangerous cult group. They are connected with the Greek Orthodox Church. We have seen first-hand what they are doing it is totally non-Orthodox. This group gives Orthodox a bad name. Continue the great work that do, it is most needed.”
–A concerned Orthodox priest.
“Elder Ephraim’s monasteries’ are flush with cash and property, but when I was there a small group of teenagers, many of whom didn’t seem to have a well-defined intention of becoming monks, were doing the bulk of the hard manual labor (although the actual monks did contribute somewhat). The big thing that really made me nervous was that every single question I had was met by the same reply: “You’ll have to ask Geronda.” Geronda is a Greek term for abbot. Even very simple, non-esoteric questions such as “how often are you allowed to bath” were met with that same response. I’m nervous about the whole thing also because the monk running it refers to himself as the bishop of the monastery, which means he answers only to one man, who is almost never there, and who in turn answers to no one.
“A lot of the stuff they said down there was new to old monk-priests I talked to in my parish. If you understand that in Orthodoxy, nothing is new, this is frightening. The property is off in the middle of nowhere, and if something went wrong, it could go very wrong. It was a strange form of residence (over 3 months) free labor, and the talk was of Elder Ephraim rather than Jesus or “normal” Orthodox Christian topics.”
“I don’t think what Ephraim has are monasteries, but rather 13 small cults. This guy was [demoted (others say he ‘willingly stepped down’)] on Mount Athos and made to leave, but now is ‘marketed’ as a guru from the mountain. The abbot that I talked to didn’t seem to have much interest in the Philokalia (the monk’s handbook for hundreds of years) or any literature, but that relating to Ephraim.”
“Let me congratulate you–your site regarding Fr. Ephraim is terrific! And most unfortunately–very timely and necessary, I fear.”
NOTE: Niko left the monastic life a number of years ago. Shortly after he was tonsured, he was transferred from St. Anthony’s in Florence, AZ to Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Harvard, IL. After visiting St. Anthony’s Monastery on their feast day, instead of returning to Illinois, he took a plane back home to his parents. He eventually married and had children and is doing well for himself.
Questions for the Church
How the Monastery shows Characteristics of a Cult
What is healthy monasticism in the USA?
Update (October 1999)
When Niko was five years old, we decided he needed swimming lessons. At that time, we thought the best gifts parents could give was to teach their children to love reading, to learn a musical instrument to lift their spirits and enrich their lives, and to learn how to swim. The first two gifts would fill their inner souls; staying afloat would save their lives. When the YMCA offered tadpole classes, we enrolled our sweet-natured blonde son. During the lesson, parents could watch from a large glass window in a room looking down on the Olympic-sized swimming pool. Sometimes I took a book to read, but didn’t get far because I was always looking to see if Niko had made it across the pool holding onto the styrofoam float.
After being able to kick across holding onto the float, the instructor made the children swim to the float-always holding the float just inches from their finger tips. The instructor had her hands full one day as she led two swimmers across the pool teasing them by placing the float just inches from their strokes. As I glanced up from my book, I suddenly saw Niko sink under the water as the instructor was lifting up her second charge. In panic, I leapt to my feet and banged on the window to alert someone to save my son from drowning. I couldn’t speak or scream; they couldn’t hear me down there. Would I have had time to run downstairs, find the door to the showers and the pool? Could I break the glass so my screams could be heard? With my voice frozen, I could only beat on the glass and watch him struggling under water until the instructor glanced up at my thumping and then over to Niko. She lifted his arm, his head rose above the water, and on he swam.
Nikos is now 21 years old and a Greek Orthodox monk who goes by the name of Father Theologos. His father and I continue beating on the glass to save him, but no one has heard us. We feel our son, at a time in his life in which he was dealing with a transition from teen years to adulthood and with the sorrow of having an older sister diagnosed with a serious illness when he was 16, was unduly influenced to enter the monastic life since the age of 16. Our son is not alone. In the same year our son left, two other young people (ages 18 and 21) from our parish church in Knoxville, Tennessee entered a convent in Saxonburg, Pennsylvania and St. Anthony’s monastery in Florence, Arizona. Never were we included in assisting our son in making such a monumental decision. Niko told us in April and left in May 1996. We are concerned for many reasons that these monastic communities founded by Fr. Ephraim are part of a growing cult, a dark and confusing corner of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, a misdirected type of monasticism.
* Niko is the only son of four children, a brother to three sisters. He made us laugh with his impressions, his wry sense of humor, his sensitivity to others, and his kindness. When he first told us he was becoming a monk, I cried telling him that he would lose his wonderful sense of humor. “No, I won’t, Mama. I’ll be the funny monk!” But there is no place in Fr. Ephraim’s monasteries for humor or of seeing the funny quirks in life. Laughter is the result of the devil, Niko now tells us.
* Our son left home in May 1996 to stay a few weeks at a convent led by Fr. Carellas in Saxonburg, Pennsylvania before his trip to Arizona. We spoke on the phone several times and each time, Niko told us that the departure date had changed because he needed to be at the monastery at the same time as Ephraim. Each time he changed his departure date, he had to pay a $50 fine to the airlines. When I told him that the cost was adding up and asked him would he jump off a cliff if Fr. Ephraim asked him, he replied seriously, “Yes, of course I would!”
* After only one year and nine months as a novice, Niko was suddenly tonsured as a monk on April 30, 1998. Normally, three years from the time such young people enter the monastery first as novices, they take their vows and become monks. When we asked our son when he would know he was ready to take his vows to become a monk, he told us that Fr. Ephraim would tell him. When we responded with, “Won’t God tell you?” he told us that he is unworthy to speak to God; only Fr. Ephraim and the elders are worthy enough to have a dialogue with God.
* When we tried to contrast Niko’s isolation from the world to the life of Jesus who embraced the world by working with people in preaching, healing, and showing compassion, just as Mother Teresa has done, Niko responded with “that (Mother Teresa’s work) was just social work. Jesus had his calling; I have mine.”
* We encouraged Niko to consider becoming a priest instead of a monk and to use his talents working with people. We told him we would pay for his education at the Holy Cross Seminary in Brookline, Massachusetts, the only Greek Orthodox seminary in North America. He refused saying that Frs. Carellas and Ephraim said that the seminary was full of satan.
* After our interview with a reporter was published in The National Herald (Ethnikos Kyrix), a Greek language newspaper published in New York, we received many phone calls from distraught parents and friends of novices in Fr. Ephraim’s communities. We urged them to write letters and speak out, but they are fearful of going public with their family sorrows.
* Secrecy is paramount when a young man or woman leaves to enter a monastery or convent. Our son was told by Fr. Carellas to tell no one except his immediate family, and that only one month before he left our home. Niko left without telling his best friend, his aunts, uncles, grandmothers, even our current parish priest. The excuse was that if he told people, they might try to talk him out of becoming a monk, and then the devil would win.
* Fr. Ephraim has been known to have fought the devil who knocked on his door disguised as a goat. This goat attacked him, but the monk physically fought him off!
* Novice nuns have been known to wash this monk’s feet and drink the wash water because they and his followers think the man is a saint. He does nothing to discourage this sentiment.
* Fr. Ephraim has predicted that the world will end in 60 years.
* Fr. Ephraim was forced out of Canada because of the same recruiting tactics he is getting away with in the U.S.
* Divided families, divorces, and marital disharmony are the results of this monk’s teachings. We know that he has encouraged married couples to refrain from sexual intercourse and to live as brother and sister.
* Since entry into the monastery, our son has suffered from GERD, gastro-esophageal reflux disease. Before entry, Niko was never sick and had never suffered any stomach ailments. The novices are told that suffering is good and makes an individual a stronger Orthodox Christian. When he was in high school, he was the star dancer in our parish’s Greek Festival. The other dancers called him “Air Niko,” and he told us that he lived for Greek dancing. Now he keeps his eyes down rarely looking at us directly. He is a very thin, bowed 21 year-old young man.
* Following numerous letters (with responses few and far between) to bishops, the Archbishop, and the Patriarch, we finally were able to meet with Patriarch Bartholomew twice during his recent U.S. tour, once in October (1997) in Atlanta and once at the monastery in November (1997) in the presence of our son and several bishops. We asked that Niko be allowed to go home so we could have him checked by our family doctor. They all agreed it was acceptable; however, Niko later told us it was only a suggestion, not a command. Niko said that unless Ephraim told him to go, he would not leave the monastery. He would ignore the Patriarch’s suggestion.
* Niko does not ask about his family, his sisters, his cousins, his grandmothers. To do so, he says, is to ask about the world which he shuns. He refused to return home for his oldest sister’s wedding. He refused to listen to his 13 year-old sister’s song she wrote and sang for him on an audio tape, because music was from the devil. Christmases, Easters, and other holidays come and go each year without a phone call or a thank you note for the packages we send him. His letters to us have virtually stopped.
* A “spiritual elitism” surrounds the followers of Ephraim. Even in our parish church, a group of his followers defend him, saying “he has the power of discernment.” When I, Niko’s mother, stood up at our parish’s general assembly asking for some support in investigating this anomaly of losing three young people from our church to Fr. Ephraim’s monasticism, I was ridiculed and attacked by several of his ardent followers, told to mind my own business, and be glad my son was becoming a monk.
* St. Anthony’s monastery in Florence, Arizona is a brand new community in the desert, built of only the best materials. During our November 1997 visit that coincided with the Patriarch’s visit, we overheard one man say that it was indeed “more like a Hilton resort, than a monastery.” Our son told us that as soon as it is complete, it will become a convent, and the monks will move on to build yet another monastery, perhaps in New York. During our November visit to the monastery, we spoke with a member of the Patriarch’s entourage. When we told him why we were there, he said that he understood our concerns: “this spiritual dependence is totally unnecessary and is getting out of hand. Someone needs to get a hold of this situation and provide a solution to it.” The same member, who is also a priest, said that he and his wife were uncomfortable that their own son, who was with them that day, could come this close to such an unhealthy environment.
We ask these questions we hope someone will be able to answer:
Who is funding Fr. Ephraim’s movements?
What is the charity Fr. Ephraim’s monks perform?
Under whose supervision do his activities fall?
What are the names of the novices and monks in Fr. Ephraim’s monasteries and how do their families feel about their sons or daughters being in them?
How many other families are suffering as we are?
Does the Greek Orthodox Church have any procedures in place to assist individuals in looking at monasticism in a balanced way?
What regulations, if any, govern these activities?
Are any statistics available on the spread of Greek Orthodox monasticism in the U.S.?
What is “healthy” monasticism in the USA in contrast with Fr. Ephraim’s communities?
Is the goal of the present Greek Orthodox Church leadership to divide families or to unite them by any possible means?
Note: We have asked the church these questions, but we have received no answers. We have been patient long enough in dealing with the Church’s hierarchy and speaking out publicly to get our son out of a psychologically abusive and spiritually dependent environment. We feel as if we have had a death in our family without a funeral. We miss our son! Although the church has gained one monk (our son), the remaining five members of our family have become estranged from the church.
Here are just a few of the characteristics of a cult, and they all match what we’ve seen and what we’ve read from our son’s letters:
** Control of the environment of their recruits: In this monastery, recruits are physically separated from the society. Any books, movies or testimonies of ex-members of the group are to be avoided. We have asked our son to talk to a former nun; he has refused. Like cults, the novices and monks follow a rigid routine of sleep deprivation, limited diet, work, and controlled reading. Niko’s young sister wrote a song and recorded it on a tape. When we tried to play it for him during our visit with him, Niko said he was not allowed to hear music, even a simple song his sister wrote from her heart and recorded on an audio cassette.
** Demand for purity: In this monastery, the world is depicted as black and white with little room for making personal decisions based on a trained conscience. People and organizations are pictured as either good or evil, depending on their relationship to the ideology of the group. We asked our son if he knew that Mother Teresa had died. He told us she was a Catholic, a heretic, and her good works were just “social work.” When we reminded him that Jesus also did this type of “social work” with the people, Niko told us again that we were “talking idly.” He also said that “Jesus had his calling. I have mine.”
** Confession: In this monastery, serious sins are to be confessed immediately. Becoming a monk would be the result of regular confessions. From these confessions, Fr. Ephraim determines when Niko or any novice will be ready to become a monk. Information derived from the confession is used to make the novice feel powerless, more guilty, fearful and ultimately in need of the monastery and the leader’s goodness. This confession can be used to get the novice to re-write his or her personal history so as to reject the past life, making it seem illogical for the novice to want to return to his or her former life of family and friends.
** Sacred Science: In this monastery, the ideology is too “sacred” to call into question, and a reverence is demanded for the leadership. In the eyes of the monks and novices, Fr. Ephraim appears as the absolute truth with no contradictions. When we asked our son how he would know he was ready to become a monk, he told us that Fr. Ephraim would tell him. We asked, “Why doesn’t God tell you this?” He replied that he was not worthy to speak with God; only Fr. Ephraim and the elders are worthy to have a dialogue with God. Upon a visit to the convent in Saxonburg, PA, Fr. Ephraim told our 13-year old daughter and other children present that the world would end in 60 years. How convenient that Fr. Ephraim won’t be around in 60 years, and will not be confronted for his false prophecy!
* Mystical Manipulation: In this monastery, novices have come to believe that they are actually “choosing” this life. If outsiders, even his parents, say Niko has been brainwashed or tricked, he repeats “I have chosen this voluntarily.” This statement was made even in the presence of the Patriarch and other Bishops in November 1997 at the Monastery of St. Anthony. Novices and monks thrive on this myth of voluntarism, insisting time and again that no member is being held against his or her will. Recruits are told that God is ever-present in the workings of the organization. If a person leaves for any reason, he/she is told that accidents or ill-will may befall them and that is attributed always to God’s punishment on them. We have a former nun’s testimony on this.
* Loading the Language: In this monastery, there is frequent use of “thought-terminating cliches,” expressions or words that are designed to end the conversation or controversy. Our son, when asked a difficult question for him to answer, will end the conversation with the statement “This is idle talk.” When we asked our son why he came to the monastery, he said it was God’s will.
* Doctrine over Person: In this monastery, the person is only valuable insomuch as he/she conforms to the role models of the cult (or monastery). Personal history and experiences are ignored. During our visit or phone calls, Niko never asks about friends, relatives, his sisters, or our lives. Only the lives and experiences of monks are true for him. Accomplishments of former monks are repeated to these novices, although none of their fantastic (monastic) experiences can be verified. For example, Niko and his sister were awestruck from the story told them at the convent in Saxonburg about Fr. Ephraim’s fight with Satan who appeared at his cell door in the form of a goat!
* Dispensing of Existence: In this monastery, they decide who has the right to exist and who does not. The leaders decide which books are accurate and which are biased. Families are cut off. Niko has not written to us since December 1998. In December 1997, he wrote us a note that he would not come home as advised by the Patriarch during our meeting with the Patriarch in November 1997. We wanted Niko to be cared for by our physician for his GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease). Our son said that only if Fr. Ephraim blesses his visit home would he have followed the Patriarch’s suggestion. We have written letters, called him on the phone, and visited him several times but always when we initiated the communication. All of these characteristics describe and document the similarities between monasteries administered by Fr. Ephraim and cults as they are known and defined by experts.In closing, we have come to the conclusion that people in the Church’s hierarchy will not do anything to save our son from the hands of such monastics. They appear to fall under no one’s jurisdiction or regulation. However, as soon as Fr. Ephraim’s type of monasticism is classified as a CULT in this country, we may then be able to save our son.
Remember most cults are defined as a splinter of “first generation religions.” We hope this classification will be recognized by the Greek Orthodox clergy and laity as well as the media soon. Young people in transition and facing big decisions about life, such as college, career, and choice of spouse, etc., are easy targets for cult recruiters. Our main issues here are that our son was too young (only 18 years old when he entered the monastery), he was indoctrinated beginning at age 16 by our former parish priest who never involved us in the process, our son had no theological education and is presently not in good health. He never suffered from any illness before. The Greek Orthodox Church has no specific guidelines for proselytizing potential novices.We love our son very, very much, and we will continue to beat on the glass wall to save our son from drowning in a cult led by this monk.
**What is healthy monasticism in the USA?
In our opinion, monastics should have a good theological education, be of a mature age, and should make their choice after careful counseling with their priest and their family. Individuals that best fit the mold of monks should be the clergy. Such individuals have already made this choice to follow Christ’s footsteps and have the theological background needed. Monasteries should be the place for one to retreat from the world for a short period of time to meditate, pray, and discuss religion with others (i.e. in the form of a sabbatical from their everyday life) and then return to the world refreshed. Was this not Christ’s way? The expenditures for building such monasteries should be the responsibility of the Church (Patriarchate) and be run by the Church. Under no condition should a monastery be run by individuals such as the elder Ephraim. Such spiritual dependence at any level can only be cultic with disastrous results.
Our son became a monk in April 1998, one year and nine months after entering the St. Anthony’s Monastery as a novice when he was 18 years old. At the age of 20, he became Pater Theologos. In his short note to us, he said even he was surprised when he discovered that he was to take his vows on that day. Since that note, we have received only one other short note to us. Then, in the summer of 1999, we accidentally read on the internet a Chicago Tribune article dated June 2, 1999, “Monks Turn Farm Into Monastery.” The reporter mentioned two monks: Frs. Akakios and Theologos. Wondering if our son could actually be in another monastery, we called the monastery and heard the voice on the answering machine. We knew it was our son Niko. We later sent him a birthday card and called again, leaving a message on the monastery answering machine. Still no letter, no phone call. Since then, we have discovered that Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Harvard, Illinois (northwest of Chicago) recently held a fund-raising banquet with about 600 attending paying $50 for a chicken dinner. A visitor told us that a tall thin young monk wearing glasses was there. He was not introduced and did not speak with any of the attendees. Our son, the one who told us so many times he lived to dance the Greek hasapiko and Kalamatiano is now the quiet monk isolating himself in obedience to the monk Ephraim.