25 Years in an Eastern Orthodox Cult – How I Left the Cult – Where to Find Help Part 1 (Elizabeth Ann)

NOTE: This is a woman’s account of growing up in the Russian Orthodox/St. Herman of Alaska/Old Calendar church. For those unfamiliar with the background of this organization, Fr. Jonah Paffhausen wrote an article about the “Journey of the Holy Order of MANS / Christ the Saviour Brotherhood and the St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood into the Canonical Orthodox Church”:

Welcome. Please take a few moments to read a personal account of one family’s life after entering an Eastern Orthodox cult in America. This is a brief memoir about the serious consequences of blindly following a “spiritual father”, and what happened to a loving, normal family because of this. I also relate how it feels to be disowned by one’s own family for not being part of the cult. My hope is that this site will be of help to at least one other person coping with similar circumstances. I also hope it will serve as a warning to families: NEVER disown, abandon, or shun a person simply for believing differently.
Elizabeth Ann

St. Xenia of St. Petersburg, Fool-for-Christ
St. Xenia of St. Petersburg, Fool-for-Christ

I am a former “Russian Orthodox Abroad” member; my “identity” was Xenia of St.Petersburg, a woman whose life I was told mine own should resemble, according to God’s will. A frightening thought, if you know how this woman lived. I was forced into the church by my parents, kept in complete control throughout my teenage and young adult years, and finally escaped: first, in my mind and soul, and then physically. I still suffer some PTSD symptoms, common with cult withdrawal; however, I am finding the faith of my childhood, something simple and bright, which is the first light I have seen in a long, long time. My wish is that this blog will help ONE person, somewhere, to have the courage to speak out and perhaps even say all alone, “The Emperor has no clothes!” (Hans Christian Andersen).
View my complete profile
http://www.blogger.com/profile/13289117518609567601
CONVERSION AND MIND CONTROL TECHNIQUES
As you read the personal story of my family and how we came to be part of this cult, please refer to two excellent resources: The Watchtower Expositor: Cult or Cultic (by Craig Branch); and Combatting Mind Control (by psychologist and cult expert Steve Hassan.) http://www.watchman.org/articles/cults-alternative-religions/destructive-cults/ and http://www.watchman.org/articles/cults-alternative-religions/cult-or-cultic/

Craig Branch, Watchman Fellowship,  Apologetics Resource Center.
Craig Branch, Watchman Fellowship, Apologetics Resource Center.

CONVERSION TECHNIQUES (Craig Branch)

Below are ten techniques of unethical thought reform and mind control (I quote), with some examples of how these were used by the Orthodox cult.
1) Focus on felt needs & defects, with exaggerated promises of fulfillment.
It was drilled into us over and over that we were spiritually “sick”, that our whole “mind-set” and way of life were evil, and that we were damned if we didn’t accept the new baptism and join the church. We were promised unending love from the church, help in any crisis, and spiritual fathers who would get us past the “toll-houses” and save our souls after we died. We were promised to always be the “right believers” who were the “elite and the elect of God”, and who would play a large role in the conversion of others before the final Tribulation.

St Herman of Alaska Monastery Entrance
St Herman of Alaska Monastery Entrance

2) Rigid Control of Time and Activities
Required to attend more and more services; demanded to read lengthy prayer books at home throughout the day; pushed to do the “Hours”; taught by book “Way of the Pilgrim” to constantly chant the “Jesus Prayer” at all times, even in school.

The Way of a Pilgrim, A highly recommended book in the monasteries
The Way of a Pilgrim, A highly recommended book in the monasteries

3) Information Control
Not allowed to read newspapers, magazines, or non-religious books, especially during the time as “catechumens.” Told that all new movies and T.V. programs and T.V. news were “of the devil.” Given more and more Orthodox “patrisitic” ( holy fathers’) writings to read and re-read. Told to cut off family, which my mother did by way of letters.

Those who control the information control the person. In a mind control cult any information from outside the cult is considered evil, especially if it is opposing the cult. Members are told not to read it or believe it. Only information supplied by the cult is true.
Those who control the information control the person. In a mind control cult any information from outside the cult is considered evil, especially if it is opposing the cult. Members are told not to read it or believe it. Only information supplied by the cult is true.

4) Language Manipulation
Besides being taught to laugh at certain words such as “the Latins” or “the West”, we were taught an exclusive new vocabulary for “insiders”, some of which is put in bold print in the posts at right. Our new names were to replace our real names, forever. The lovely name “JESUS” was seldom used.

1984 Cartoon

5) Discouraging Critical, Rational Thought and Questions

Obvious contradictions and questions were greeted with either long, convoluted, and evasive explanations, or we were told that “you will understand later when you have become an adult in the faith. Just become like little children.” I was laughed at when I pointed out specific verses in the Bible, which I knew very well. I was even called “that Baptist girl” in a derogatory way. We were told during the second liturgy that clergy and priests must ALWAYS be obeyed, EVEN IF THEIR PERSONAL LIVES WERE NOT HOLY (i.e. they had murdered a person!) I quote Br. B. Now I add (“even if they have sodomized your child.”)

Human Understanding Process
Human Understanding Process

6) Instruction in Trance Induction Techniques

One of the first things taught to us: how to stand completely still, stare at the icons, and say “Lord Have Mercy” in five different languages, sometimes amounting to 120 phrases at a time. Again, “The Way of a Pilgrim” was to be memorized and internalized, to learn how to breathe properly and chant simultaneously. Continuous repetitions during Complines, Matins, and then Liturgy, while staring at the icons, made me go into a kind of half-sleep–still able to listen intently and remember things.

Covert Hypnosis Cult Induction
Covert Hypnosis Cult Induction

7) Confession Sessions (a powerful tool to manipulate, blackmail, and emotionally bond you to the priest; a depersonalization or stripping of yourself–submission to the group.)

As explained at left. Confessions would be labeled “good” or “bad”, depending on how much we could come up with and whether we started “weeping”. The priests put each person under an intense “grilling” session, delving into EVERY thought and action.

Cult_3

8) Guilt and Fear (Weapons used to maintain group/church loyalty, suppress questions and defections.)

As I have already said, FEAR was the most powerful tool which made us listen to and believe every lie we were told. The Antichrist was ALIVE and about to begin his prophesied ministry; “it was later than we thought”, and unseen demons were constantly around us. The realization of our immense sinfulness (which was never relieved) caused terrible guilt. Some of us were made to feel guilty about going to the bathroom, because our pure guardian angels would have to watch this. Thoughts of going to another church, or none at all, caused immense spontaneous guilt.

Guilt and Fear

9) Control of Sexuality and Intimacy

In this cult, all sexual desires, normal sex in marriage, and physical love in marriage was “impure” and part of the “fallen flesh.” So it was severely restricted to only certain times during the week and the year. All was to be confessed.

Guru Cover 1/99

10) Excessive Financial Obligations (a form of complete submission to God.)

The only place for tithes and donations was cultic Orthodox churches or monasteries (the one in Dog Canyon never was built.) Later on, in a Russian Abroad Church in Sunnyvale, CA, I was pushed to give my monthly wages to dubious causes, such as the “compound” which was to be built, with greenhouses and all.

The Gurus, the Young Man, and Elder Paisios (Eng)_

RECRUITMENT AND MIND CONTROL (Steve Hassan)

“…’mind control’ may be understood as a SYSTEM of influences that disrupts an individual’s identity (beliefs, behavior, thinking, and emotions) and replaces it with a new identity.” (p. 7, Combatting…)

“If deception, hypnosis, and other mind control techniques are used to recruit and control followers, then people’s rights are being infringed upon.” (p.37.)
Note: Steve Hassan’s FOUR COMPONENTS OF MIND CONTROL are best described and  connected with the Orthodox cults in the PSEUDO-PROPHET.org webpage. Personal family experiences are briefly recounted below:

Steve Hassan
Steve Hassan

1) BEHAVIOR CONTROL (includes control of environment: location, clothing, diet, sleep patterns, jobs, rituals..)

We learned to act like Br. B. and the other cult members. We learned how to fast, to celebrate feasts (on the proper old-Calendar days), how to cut off the outside world and even American holidays. (I LOVE AMERICA!!!–Elizabeth Ann.) We learned how to do all the prayer services; how to cross ourselves with three fingers, properly, at specific times during the day; how to
venerate icons. We learned how to speak, dress, etc.

Sociological Definition of a Cult
Sociological Definition of a Cult

2) THOUGHT CONTROL

Besides the new language, we learned “stop” wicked thoughts, or “blocking” techniques like chanting “Lord Have Mercy,” or the “Jesus Prayer” over and over, louder and louder. My parents and brothers still start to chant and talk “over a conversation”, which is VERY RUDE, if the person they are talking with questions their beliefs. We learned to feel the “unseen battle” and consider ourselves the “Church Militant”, as opposed to the “fallen outside world.”

thought-police-2 Constrict-Words-1984

3) EMOTIONAL CONTROL

Fear reigned supreme. Fear of other people not in the cult (almost the whole world! ), fear of imminent death, fear of the Apocalypse, fear of the living Antichrist, fear of PERSECUTION, fear of demons, fear of the consequences of leaving the cult–or questioning things like the “Holy Fire”. Oh, did I mention that ALL psychologists, counselors, and psychiatrists were trained in satanic methods? Fear of the world conspiracies. At one point, my parents were certain that our phones were always “bugged” by the government, because of our foreign friends!!
GUILT. About supposed “bad thoughts” and made-up sins. Confessions.

Behavior Control

4) INFORMATION CONTROL

As I describe at right: no worldly newspapers, TV news, non-religious books or magazines; even old friends and family were shunned in case they would “draw us away from the faith.” We never again saw a movie in a theater together as a family (except for ‘Pinocchio’, once). The “Orthodox America” (http://www.roca.org/OA/) paper gave modern movie reviews, which almost always were negative and  demonic. All questions had to be through the “spiritual fathers” or clergy. Rational, critical thinking was abandoned.

Key_Point_8

THREE STEPS TO GAIN MIND CONTROL

b-combatting_cult

(These are explained on pp. 67 -72 of Steve Hassan’s book, Combatting Mind Control. Here I briefly connect them with my own experience.)

1) UNFREEZING

As my family “died” to our “old selves” and old lives, we were broken down physically, mentally, and emotionally. Fasting, sleep deprivation, rigorous prayer schedules, confessions, lectures, and lack of contact with old friends and family did this. We believed our former lives had been ALL evil, wrong, and deluded. We were the most pitiable creatures on earth–spiritually fallen.

mind-control2

2) CHANGING

We were given our new baptisms, new names, and new identities, with life instructions. More reading material, more lectures, and complete compliance with the behaviors of the cult members were required. We were “re-taught”.

2000px-Ingsoc_logo_from_1984.svg

3) REFREEZING

After being completely divested of our old selves and old lives, then “taught” how to live the “truth”, we BECAME the new people. We were now part of the family! Immediately, we were told to form a “mission” church, to bring in more converts (and their checkbooks.)

Well, that is a brief overview of the initial cult experience as it related to our involvement with the Russian Orthodox/St. Herman of Alaska/Old Calendar church. It didn’t end there.

1984_EXPERIENCE01

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The “Myrrh-Weeping” Icon of Our Lady of New Sarov, Waco, Texas

NOTE: When the monks at Christ of the Hills Monastery (New Sarov) were arrested for pedophilia, investigators also learned through their interrogations that the “myrrh-streaming” icon which made the monastery a popular site of pilgrimage, was in fact a hoax designed by the monks under the guidance of their abbot, Fr. Benedict (Samuel A. Greene, Jr.).

The Abbot of New Sarov, Fr. Benedict Greene, confessed that the "weeping" icon was a sham.
The Abbot of New Sarov, Fr. Benedict Greene, confessed that the “weeping” icon was a sham.

On the day of the raid, Fr. Tikhon (Hugh Fallon) admitted to smoking marijuana and having sex with other monks. Fr. Tikhon also said the monastery’s weeping icon was a fake. Fr. Tikhon wrote, “The money that came into the monastery was largely because of this hoax.”

Fr. Tikhon also said the monastery’s weeping icon was a fake. Fr. Tikhon wrote, “The money that came into the monastery was largely because of this hoax.”
Fr. Tikhon also said the monastery’s weeping icon was a fake. Fr. Tikhon wrote, “The money that came into the monastery was largely because of this hoax.”

In 1983, an icon of the Christ child and his mother, Mary, was commissioned by the church, painted by a fellow monk in California, and delivered to New Sarov. Icons are an important part of life in the Orthodox faith. So the news on May 7, 1985, that the image of the Virgin Mary, or Theotokos, as she is known to those in the Orthodox, was reported to be weeping tears of myrrh, a fragrant oil, caused quite a stir. The icon is reported to have wept constantly until October of 1985 and has purportedly continued to weep occasionally since. Father Anthony, a brother at the monastery, says the tears average once a day, “But it’s up to God, [when the icon will cry].”

The “Myrrh Weeping Icon” of Our Lady of New Sarov
The “Myrrh Weeping Icon” of Our Lady of New Sarov

According to published Texas news reports, the abbot, Fr. Benedict Greene (a former real estate agent), gained notoriety for the fledgling mission through a slick marketing campaign in 1985.

It was aimed at promoting scented oil that allegedly began appearing beneath the eyes of a painting of the Virgin Mary. The campaign worked, and thousands of curious and desperate people from across the country flocked to Blanco, a town of about 1,100.

Also, money flowed into the monastery, which was operated by Ecumenical Monks Inc. Internal Revenue Service records showed $750,000 a year in donations in the 1990s, and the gift shop brought in about $100,000 a year. Those who donated were sent letters of thanks and cotton balls said to be soaked in the ”tears of myrrh.”

Fr. Benedict, a former salesman, orchestrated the weeping hoax.
Fr. Benedict, a former salesman, orchestrated the weeping hoax.

The abbot later admitted the “weeping” was a sham. The monks would put the tear drops on themselves, and then got all these people making donations trying to get some kind of miracle cure.
In 1999, one of the accused, Hierodeacon Pangratios Christley , wrote a book about the icon entitled Miracles of the Last Days, detailing stories of healings of cancer, arthritis, addictions, and even hemorrhoids.

In 1999, Fr. Pangratios Christley , wrote a book about the icon  detailing stories of healings of cancer, arthritis, addictions, and even hemorrhoids.
In 1999 a book about the icon detailing stories of healings was published.

[Note: Miracles In The Last Days is now available at Amazon.com through DMSGROUP Book Resellers. Recently acquired cache of over 3,000 new copies in case lots: http://newsarov.tripod.com/index_old.html ]
In 2002 book, Pilgrimage: From the Ganges to Graceland: an Encyclopedia, Volume 1, it states “Along the bottom of the case several cotton balls are placed to soak up the tears. Pilgrims and visitors may attend monastic services, chanted in English. Those who kiss the icon are blessed by the monk who is their guide, and he swabs the sign of the cross on the hands and forehead of the worshiper with tear-laden cotton balls. The monk then interprets the miracle within the framework of the Orthodox Church tenets and gives spiritual guidance. Monastery publications indicate that many tens of thousands have viewed the icon since the miracle of the tears and that many miracles have also happened.” (p. 109)
https://books.google.ca/books?id=YVYkrNhPMQkC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false

The icon has been mentioned in various non-Orthodox books as well.
The icon has been mentioned in various non-Orthodox books as well.

Below are some of the accounts of events and miracles surrounding the icon that were in circulation until the scandal broke out:
In New Sarov, a small monastic community just outside of Blanco, Texas, made up of Christ of the Hills Monastery and the attached Convent, an icon of the Vladimir type which had been written in 1983 by an Orthodox monk in California began to weep tears of myrrh on 24 April 1985 (7 May by the Russian calender). The icon wept continuously until October of the Russian year, and since then, according to a monk at the monastery, has continued to weep intermittently almost every day. The icon can, however go for up to two weeks without weeping. 24 April has since then been celebrated as the icon’s Feast Day, and all pilgrims, regardless of Faith, are welcomed at the monastery and annointed with Our Lady’s tears. The weeping icon is discussed in the book Miracles in the Last Days, which is now under preparation.
Christ of the Hills Monastery had dedicated a website entiteld The Weeping Icon: The Mother of God Icon of New Sarov (http://www.alaska.net/~scamper/weepindex.html now defunct). See especially the website’s exclusive “A Miracle for Baby Sara.”
https://web.archive.org/web/19990902034922/http://www.alaska.net/~scamper/weepage6.html

Blanco icon2

New Sarov Pamphlet on the “Myrrh-Streaming” Icon
The Monastery published a pamphlet on the icon distributed widely, available below.
Shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary. N. d. Blanco, Texas: n. p. (This is a pamphlet available from Christ of the Hills Russian Orthodox Monastery.)
Shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary. N. d. Blanco, Texas: n. p. (This is a pamphlet pinned to the Shrine’s souvenir pins available for sale at Christ of the Hills Russian Orthodox Monastery. It is not identical to the other pamphlet of the same name, though it contains excerpts from that pamphlet.)
http://www.oocities.org/mabeherec/shrine.html (Complete pamphlet)

Blanco TXBLAweepmary_mckee

JOURNAL: RUSSiAN MONKS AND A WEEPiNG iCON
The monks at New Sarov send out tears of myrrh from the icon absorbed in cotton balls to any in need who write to the above address, as well as to all pilgrims who visit the shrine and attend the tour. Enlosed with the tear were instructions for its use in annointing the sick.
On 1 June 1998, the pageholder visited the icon of Our Lady of New Sarov, although I did not witness the icon weep. My journal entry was printed in the June 1998 issue of State of unBeing, and is available below, although I have corrected two places where I did not exchange the handle of SoB writer Crux Ansata for his real name, and I have added links and otherwise made the file appropriate for hypertext. The original article as printed is available in SoB No. 47:

https://web.archive.org/web/20001211161300/http://www.apoculpro.org/SoB/sob47.html#ART4

Inside the church of Christ the Hills Monastery, TX.
Inside the church of Christ the Hills Monastery, TX.

“Make straight the way of the Lord” The weeping icon at Christ of the Hills by Bette Stockbauer
Our Lady of New Sarov is discussed on the “Images and Icons” page of The Miracles Page, run by the publishers of the magazine Share International. Bette Stockbauer of Share International also visited the shrine and interviewed Fr. Pangratios, a monk there. Her article and interview is online as follows:
http://www.diewunderseite.de/statuen/blanco.htm

Fr. Pangratios (Walter) Christley, author of Miracles in the Last Days.
Fr. Pangratios (Walter) Christley, author of Miracles in the Last Days.

Jean-Pierre De Wilde: The Weeping Icon
The icon is also often covered in the local media.
…The account by another who visited the icon and saw it weep is as follows:
http://jeanpierre.tripod.com/WEEPING1.HTM

The “Myrrh Weeping Icon” of Our Lady of New Sarov
The “Myrrh Weeping Icon” of Our Lady of New Sarov

24 April 1985 (7 May by the Russian calender), the anniversary of the first weeping of the icon, has been named the icon’s Feast Day, and this day is regularly celbrated at the monastery. In 1997 the monks at Christ of the Hills’ daughter monastery at Boscobel, Wisconsin, joined the monks at Christ of the Hills to celebrate the first weeping’s twelfth anniversary. This was later reported in the monastery’s newsletter, as follows:
“12th Anniversary of the Weeping Icon.” 1997, August. The Christ of the Hills Monastery Chronicle, the newsletter of Christ of the Hills Monastery, vol. 23, no. 1, pgs. 2-3.
http://www.oocities.org/mabeherec/anniv12.html

Fr. Benedict Greene smiling with children at Christ the Hills Monastery.
Fr. Benedict Greene smiling with children at Christ the Hills Monastery.

Also see:
http://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/10998
http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php?topic=11419.10;imode
http://tribes.tribe.net/eb5f7908-cda1-40f9-9648-e8b00b84292f/photos/0b944d29-6710-4416-bb94-9e3e25cf2548

Blanco Monks Charged

Blanco nsmap

Fr. Panteleimon Metropoulos’ (MA) Relationship with Elder Joseph the Hesychast and his Disciples:

NOTE: Although Fr. Panteleimon Metropoulos is not a part of Geronda Ephraim’s family, there are many overlaps between the two lineages, not to mention Fr. Panteleimon claims to have been a disciple of Elder Joseph the Hesychast.

Fr. Panteleimon Metropoulos.
Fr. Panteleimon Metropoulos.

Brief chronology of Fr. Panteleimon’s relationship with Elder Joseph the Hesychast and his disciples

• 1956: When Fr. Panteleimon was 21-years-old, he met Elder Joseph in 1956 and the newly tonsured rassaphore monk stayed with the Elder for 2 weeks at New Skete. From that point on, Fr. Panteleimon started calling himself a disciple of Elder Joseph (before visiting the Elder, he was a disciple of the abbot of St. Panteleimon’s Monastery, Mt Athos, where he was tonsured). It is uncertain if the fathers at New Skete knew that Fr. Panteleimon was under the authority of the abbot of St. Panteleimon’s Monastery and thus technically stealing a monk. The fathers say that Elder Joseph encouraged Fr. Panteleimon to leave the Holy Mountain.

Fr. Panteleimon visited him for about two weeks in 1956.
Fr. Panteleimon visited him for about two weeks in 1956.

• 1958: Fr. Panteleimon returned to the USA, a 22-year-old self-made “elder,” a new “disciple” of the Elder Joseph, and with the title of a monk and a new name “Fr. Panteleimon.” It is also believed Bishop Athenagoras Kokkinakis, dean of Holy Cross Seminary in Brookline, MA, ordained him to the diaconate.

Bishop Athenagoras Kokkinakis is believed to have ordained Fr. Panteleimon a deacon.
Bishop Athenagoras Kokkinakis is believed to have ordained Fr. Panteleimon a deacon.

• 1958: During this period Fr. Panteleimon received a letter from the Elder Joseph. The Elder Joseph exhorted him in this letter to pursue the virtue of purity. He talks about purity more than once and tries also to encourage the young man to love God first in his life. Only 3 of Elder Joseph’s monks started monasteries (Frs. Haralambos, Ephraim, and Joseph the Younger); these three monks lived with Elder Joseph for many years and were under blind obedience to him. What makes Fr. Panteleimon somewhat unique is the fact that he started a monastery, but was only a disciple of Fr. Joseph via having visited for two weeks, not as the others who lived with him for many years. Fr. Panteleimon states that Elder Joseph gave him a blessing to start a monastery.

Fr. Panteleimon Metropoulos called himself an elder in his early 20's.
Fr. Panteleimon Metropoulos called himself an elder in his early 20’s.

• 1959: Fr. Panteleimon wrote a letter to Elder Joseph informing him on his intention to return. Elder Joseph replied in April and told him not to come to Mount Athos. The Elder Joseph reposed on the feast of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary on August 28/15, 1959.

 The millionaire Pateras family from Athens was a benefactor to the fathers of New Skete.
The millionaire Pateras family from Athens was a benefactor to the fathers of New Skete.

• 1961: Fr. Panteleimon visits the Holy Mountain, and since the Pateras family from Athens was a benefactor to the fathers of New Skete, Fr. Panteleimon was directed by those fathers to extend their gratefulness to this family, and thus he became associated with them. (Note this is the same family that would later be involved in the Christine H. Coryell scandal: https://scottnevinssuicide.wordpress.com/2014/12/29/mother-evgeniki-myrtidiotissa-christine-h-coryell-newspaper-articles-from-1968/ .)

Holy Transfiguration Monastery/Brookline
Holy Transfiguration Monastery/Brookline

• 1962: Richard Stockton of Harvard University and former professor of Holy Cross Seminary was convinced by Panteleimon to purchase a house in Jamaica Plain, MA. The house became Holy Transfiguration Monastery. The young monk, Panteleimon, in his 20s, calling himself an Elder, found that people had difficulties being obedient to him who had never spent even one year under obedience himself.

In 1963, Fr. Panteleimon was tonsured a great-schema monk at New Skete by Elder Arsenios, the co-struggler of Elder Joseph the Hesychast.
In 1963, Fr. Panteleimon was tonsured a great-schema monk at New Skete by Elder Arsenios, the co-struggler of Elder Joseph the Hesychast.

• 1963: During a visit to the Holy Mountain, Fr. Panteleimon was tonsured a great-schema monk at New Skete by Elder Arsenios, the co-struggler of the Elder Joseph. The Church however, ordains that a man should remain a novice for three years of testing before he is tonsured into the Great Schema. The Fathers on the Holy Mountain made use of economia in this case since they tonsured someone they really did not know, except for the fact that he was a disciple of the Elder Joseph by correspondence.

Elder Arsenios and the Fathers of New Skete. John Adondakis (Fr. Isaac of Brookline, MA) is on bottom right.
Elder Arsenios and the Fathers of New Skete. John Adondakis (Fr. Isaac of Brookline, MA) is on bottom right.

• 1964: Around this time, the young 29-year-old monk was ordained a priest. It is said that the millionaire abbess, Mother Maria Pateras, paid Metropolitan Vasilios of the Jerusalem Patriarchate—one one of the many bishops of the Jerusalem Patriarchate who lived with a concubine—to ordain Fr. Panteleimon a priest.

Mother Maria Pateras paid Metropolitan Vasilios of the Jerusalem Patriarchate to ordain Deacon Panteleimon a priest.
Mother Maria Pateras paid Metropolitan Vasilios of the Jerusalem Patriarchate to ordain Deacon Panteleimon a priest.

• 1965: Up until 1965, Holy Transfiguration Monastery was under the Greek Archdiocese. It would most likely have stayed that way for years to come had not the fathers of the Holy Mountain strongly recommended that the monastery be taken to the Russian Church Abroad, under the confessing bishops of that Church. The young “elder” did not have the spiritual discernment to make this move on his own. It was only when they, the monks of New Skete and St. Paul’s Monastery told him that if he did not leave the Greek Archdiocese, they would sever whatever connection they had with him.

• 1967: Fr. Panteleimon was caught and arrested for smuggling while attempting to return from a visit to Greece. He was incarcerated and the abbess, Maria Pateras, used her influence to have him transferred to her home under house arrest. Shortly afterwards, he obtained his passport and Abbess Maria immediately bought him a ticket for the next plane to Boston.

The Russian Convent in Lesna, France, where Father Panteliemon was caught attempting to steal a portion of their relics.
The Russian Convent in Lesna, France, where Father Panteliemon was caught attempting to steal a portion of their relics.

• It should be noted that almost all the relics that are at Holy Transfiguration Monastery have been smuggled out of Greece. These relics and reliquaries came from the Holy Mountain and more specifically from the monastery of St. Panteleimon. The Russian monks there at that time, when they understood that Fr. Panteleimon was in the Russian Church Abroad, gave him many relics to smuggle from the Holy Mountain and smuggle out of Greece to America.

Geronda Ephraim calls Fr. Panteleimon Metropoulos a spiritual brother in a homily.
Geronda Ephraim calls Fr. Panteleimon Metropoulos a spiritual brother in a homily.

Geronda Ephraim mentions in a cassette homily On the Old and New Calendar that he had visited Fr. Panteleimon Metropoulos in Boston and talked with him:

“…And I, with Fr. Panteleimon, who is in Boston, America. Namely, Fr. Aresenios, the little old man that we have today, as you know, is the next after Elder Joseph, he took as a great schema, and I read as the chaplain in the skete where we were. Fr. Panteleimon removes the ordination of deacon by Athengoras of Thyatira. You know, the one who left history as a non-Orthodox in London—he was the first bishop in Boston and afterwards became bishop of Thyatira, England. Then, Fr. Panteleimon came as a deacon and we co-liturgized below. In the meantime, Fr. Panteleimon was with the New Calendarist Thyatira when he was in Boston, with the church of Iakovos. Then he became a priest in Jerusalem, by the Jerusalem Church, which is perfectly understood to be with the entire Church and is not with the Old Calendarists. He received the ordination from there, too right from both sides. But now he believes that there is no salvation nor…well, to us it is clear I believe it.

When I asked him then, “Father, are you with the Old Calendarists?”

He told me, “No. I’m neither with the Old Calendarists or the New Calendarists.”

Anyway, he has his own firm line and he says that there is no salvation except on his onw side, and he doesn’t commune or confess to people of the New Calendar. Of course, this happened in front of me and no one can tell me that I am wrong. When I went to Boston and went to his monastery, these things happened in front of me and I know them. Certainly, we are spiritual brothers and we have love, etc., but we utterly disagree in these respects. My own geronda told him, amongst other things, that, just as you believe him to be a saint and you have his holy relics and you do miracles with the relic of Geronda, so our Geronda died in the Church, we are ordained by the Bishop, who was in the Church and even then when we were ordained, we commemorated the Ecumenical Patriarch—who was Athengoras then—and Geronda was sanctified in the Church. Now how can we say that this Church, which sanctified Geronda, is heretical? It is terrible! …Better with the error of the calendar in the Church than to become a super-Orthodox and be found outside of the Church by dogmatizing that the mysteries are invalid and men are not saved…”

Geronda Ephraim calls Fr. Panteleimon  Metropoulos  a spiritual brother in a homily.
Geronda Ephraim calls Fr. Panteleimon Metropoulos a spiritual brother in a homily.

• It should also be noted that there are some interesting similarities in the founding of Greek monasteries in America. Almost 3 years after Fr. Panteleimon started a monastery in Massachusetts (1962), he left the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and joined ROCOR (1965). Almost 3 years after Geronda Ephraim started a monastery in Pennsylvania (1989), he left the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese [and Ecumenical Patriarchate] and joined ROCOR (1991); though he returned to the EP/GOA less than a year later. Almost 20 years after joining ROCOR, Fr. Panteleimon broke communion with all churches and started his own exclusive church. Almost 25 years after leaving ROCOR, there is serious talk among Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries of breaking communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the GOA. Fr. Panteleimon was caught stealing relics from a monastery in Europe that he would have brought back to display in his own monastery. Geronda Ephraim was not caught stealing relics from a monastery in Europe (i.e. Elder Joseph’s skull from Filotheou Monastery, etc.) to bring back for display at his own monastery.

The monks of Mount Athos have recently released a 130 page document concerning Ecumenism:

https://lessonsfromamonastery.wordpress.com/2014/12/15/athonite-fathers-release-important-and-timely-70-page-document/

https://lessonsfromamonastery.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/cf80ceb5cf81ceb9cebfceb4ceb9cebacf8c-ceb1ceb3ceafcebfcf85-cf8ccf81cebfcf85cf82-pdf.pdf

SOURCES:

A Brief Biography of Fr. Panteleiomon Metropoluos: http://www.hocna.info/FrPanteliemonBiography-Part1.shtml

• Geronda Ephraim of Arizona, Concerning the Old and New Calendar:

Audio: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHgtM4KizXM

Text: http://www.impantokratoros.gr/7DAC5285.el.aspx

Elder Joseph encouraged Fr. Panteleimon to go to America, Elder Arsenios gave him the great schema...
Elder Joseph encouraged Fr. Panteleimon to go to America, Elder Arsenios gave him the great schema…

Arsenios Death to the world

Are the Ephraimite Monasteries a legitimate Athonite Monastic Witness? (Dr. George Stevens, 1998)

A debate about Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries from an Orthodox forum in 1998.

The Charter referred to in the GOA press release giving Athonite autonomy to the Ephrimite monasteries is an attempt to copy the famous Holy Mountain Charter which was written on a goat skin and is the governing document of the 20 ruling monasteries on the Holy Mountain. The Archdiocese is attempting to assert that it is establishing an Athonite presence here. It has been my prayer for many, many years that this would happen. Yet I do not believe that such is the case now with this current effort. Lets examine why.

First of all, the Athonite charter which gives Athos autonomy and places the Holy Mountain directly under the EP, also establishes a synod of 20 Abbotts to rule over the monasteries by a democratic conciliar system of governance which is common to Orthodoxy. Not any one Abbott is under obedience to any other and each is free to vote his conscience in all matters. This is why they are called Abbotts, (hegumenie). Rule is through consensus with an occasional intervention by the EP. When the Abbotts combine to issue a united statement from the Holy Mountain, the whole Orthodox Church takes notice, no
matter what branch or Patriarchate it is.

What is developing in the United States is completely different and foriegn. You have a number of monasteries that all have been founded by one man. The Abbotts of these monasteries are all under absolute monastic obedience to that one man. There is no Athonite system of ruling monasteries with Abbotts who are free to vote their consciences in conciliarity. The charter effectively removes all checks and balances from the American Diocesan Bishops over them and places them only answerable to the Archbishop, whom has shown himself to be an obvious problem or the EP who isn’t here to discern what is really happening and obviously reluctant to intervene in anything here even if he is informed
and does understand.

Finally we come to the issue of the person in which all this authority is being given, Fr. Ephriem. This is a man that left the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and joined ROCOR for a time. He only returned to the GOA after being threatened with excommunication by the EP. There have been serious allegations in the press as to the circumstances of his leaving the Holy Mountain. It has been said that the man was ejected as an abbot from the Holy Mountain and removed by police on moral conduct grounds. I have no way of verifying this statement and this is why I haven’t written about it in the past. However the situation is becoming so crucial now that we can no longer keep silent about it in ignorance. I’ve heard it from enough clergy and laity that the Holy Mountain itself must issue a statement to clarify the circumstances of Fr. Ephraim’s departure.

I call upon the Holy Communities of the Holy Mountain, indeed the Holy Synod of the ruling 20 monasteries, to put to rest this issue once and for all. If there are problems with Fr. Ephriem formerly Abbot of Philotheou and his ministry, if he was ejected from the Holy Mountain, they must reveal this for the sake of the Church in America and her faithful. If on the other hand, he is being maligned for political reasons and he is an innocent man, and perhaps a living saint establishing a genuine Athonite presence in America, then they need to come out and endorse the man’s ministry as an Athonite monastic witness, in the tradition of the historical witness of Philotheou. Silence on this issue will only continue to breed confusion. This is the only way that this man’s ministry can be trusted in the United States. I call on the Gerondas in Christ to speak the truth on this issue and possibly prevent a psuedo-monastic like tax-exempt money-moving cult from growing and spreading. I further call on them, if the man is not an authentic representative of the Athonite Orthodox witness, to look into sending us two or three. As the Abbot of Gergoriou, ( a Monastery on the Holy Mountain) once told me, it is the single greatest spiritual need of the Americas.”

In Christ,

Dr. George Stevens

Dr. George Stevens
Dr. George Stevens

The remainder of the debate can be found here:

A Call from the Holy Mountain (Elder Ephraim of Philotheou)

Elder Ephraim’s joining ROCOR brought about one of the first translations of his work into English; thus making his teachings available to the English-speaking world of the West. Though the translation was done by someone who doesn’t speak English as their first language, this book was a best seller.

One can find a free pdf copy of this classic here:

In 1991, the year Elder Ephraim joined ROCOR, A Call From the Holy Mountain was translated into English by St. Sarov Press, Blanco, TX (this Monastery would later shut down due to a huge sex scandal; the abbot later committed suicide in jail). The first page states, “Printed with the blessing of His Grace Bishop HILARION, Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.”

Bishop Hilarion.
Bishop Hilarion.

The original text is a 1974 publication which the Elder wrote shortly after transplanting his synodeia to Philotheou Monastery on Mount Athos. It was written as an invitation for people to become monastics. At the end, Geronda Ephraim talks about the Antichrist, Ecumenism, Zionism and the Protocols. This would come to bite him later:

“…This pan-heretical alchemy [i.e. Ecumenism] is being inspired through the so-called World Council of Churches. We think that the term is not true to the fact, for it does not concern a World Council of Churches but a World Council of Will Worship. The only god to demand a tribute of worship there will be the fallen Beelzebub who through his representative amongst men, the Antichrist, will try to substitute his own will for the faith and worship of the true God. For in Ecumenism there is no personal God; for consistent ecumenists the doctrine of the Trinitarian God is utterly rejectable.

It is well known that the devil-instigated Zionism is coordinating two insidious operations both within and without the Church aspiring to one and the same end; to destroy the fortress known as Orthodoxy.

The cover of Arch. Haralambos Vasilopoulos'
The cover of Arch. Haralambos Vasilopoulos’ “Jewish Masonry Unmasked.” This book was also removed from monastery bookstores after the KVOA news story.

Papists, Protestants, Jehovah Witnesses, Freemasons, Unionists, Ecumenists and any other “root of bitterness” — all these have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast. These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for He is Lord of Lords, and King of Kings: and they that are with Him are called, and chosen, and faithful.” (pp. 42-44).

Of course, though the book itself is not about Zionism, the Elder does speak of the Protocols as a legitimate document, something that was very common among Greek Orthodox ecclesiastical writers and preachers during the 70’s, especially on Mount Athos . Geronda Ephraim’s statement is almost a direct quote from the writings of Archimandrite Haralambos Vasilopoulos who wrote extensively about Zionism, the Protocols, Freemasonry, the Vatican, Ecumenism and the Antichrist:

Geronda Ephraim has recanted his belief in the Protocols as a legitimate document.
Geronda Ephraim has recanted his belief in the Protocols as a legitimate document.

During the first few years of St. Anthony’s Monastery, when Vladimir/Fr. Symeon worked in the bookstore, A Call from the Holy Mountain was on the bookshelves. Most of Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries sold this book as well, at least until Counsels from the Holy Mountain was published. Around that time, St. Anthony’s stopped selling the book and Fr. Symeon stated that Geronda Paisios didn’t want it in the bookstore because Geronda Ephraim never gave a blessing for it to be translated. Keep in mind, though, that when this book was translated, Geronda Ephraim was in ROCOR and his Bishop was Hilarion, whom he was in obedience to as his hierarch. This same Bishop Hilarion, who didn’t need a blessing from his subordinate (Geronda Ephraim) gave his blessing for the book to be translated. Furthermore, the Greek edition had been out of print for years, and there were only so many copies published. Where did the Bishop get a copy of this rare booklet?

So while St. Anthony’s boycotted this book, the other monasteries still sold it. In 1999, a huge sex scandal of homosexual child molestation at the ROCOR monastery in Blanco, TX was made public, they also had a fake weeping icon that the monks rigged. After this, it looked really bad that Geronda Ephraim’s name was on a booklet published by this monastery. Some of the other monasteries sold photocopies of this booklet afterwards, but most distanced themselves from the association.

Now after the KVOA news story broke, Fr. Markellos was working in the bookstore, and the story changed to “Geronda Ephraim never even wrote the book.” However, he did, the writing style is the same and there was only one abbot named Ephraim at Philotheou who was a disciple of Elder Joseph the Cave-dweller.

Fr. Markellos worked in St. Anthony's Bookstore in the mid-2000s.
Fr. Markellos worked in St. Anthony’s Bookstore in the mid-2000s.

After the KVOA scandal, Geronda Ephraim sent an obedience to all his monasteries to pull any books that speak about Zionsim or the Protocols from their bookstores. And this was done. The obedience was given to all monks and nuns to respond with, “We don’t believe those kind of things” (i.e. Protocols, conspiracy theories, new world order, etc.), if asked by pilgrims. David Smith was explained off as someone with a lot of psychological problems who didn’t do obedience and became deluded and now the demons were using him to attack Geronda.

Ecumenism without a Mask. A 1972 book which explains the Protocols as the blueprint for destroying the Orthodox Church and the Zionist plan for Jewish world domination. This book was removed from the monasteries' bookstores after the KVOA expose.
Ecumenism without a Mask. A 1972 book which explains the Protocols as the blueprint for destroying the Orthodox Church and the Zionist plan for Jewish world domination. This book was removed from the monasteries’ bookstores after the KVOA expose.

It is said that at the New York monastery, Geronda Joseph made his monks pull all the garbage bags from the bin and go through each one carefully to look for a piece of paper that could potentially vindicate Geronda Paisios. Apparently, David Smith and written an apology but had sent it to St. Nektarios Monastery. Geronda Joseph didn’t know David Smith and threw it out thinking it was meaningless. The paper was never found.

NOTE: Archimandrite Haralambos Vasilopoulos wrote many books on conspiracy theories. He wrote about the Protocols being a legitimate document. He wrote that blood libel was true. He wrote that the “age old dream of the Jews was world domination.” He wrote that Zionists created Masonry, Theosophy, Chiliasm, Ecumenism, etc., as instruments to destroy the Church and help them obtain a world government to lord it over the nations. His books, though written in Greek, would contain photocopies of neo-Nazi literature in English (publications from The Cross and the Flag, Women’s Voice, etc.).One such book, Theosophy Unveiled, has been translated into English:

Also, though most of the books have been removed from the bookshelves, one can still order mp3s containing similar content about the Protocols being a legitimate blueprint for Jewish world domination and the destruction of Christianity, etc. from St. Anthony’s (as well as other monasteries).

The following are excerpts from the A12 Commentary on the Apocalypse by Fr. Athanasios Mitilinaios. It can be purchased in mp3 or book format from St. Anthony’s Monastery (as well as most of Elder Ephraim’s monasteries):

DVD: http://www.stanthonysmonastery.org/ccp7/index.php?app=ecom&ns=prodshow&ref=1AM01

Book: http://www.stanthonysmonastery.org/ccp7/index.php?app=ecom&ns=prodshow&ref=3HOMILIES_ON_REVEL

Rev. 2:9 – I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.

“…Since these Jews failed to believe in Christ and became witnesses of the great advancement of the Christian nations, while they seemed to abide under a certain curse, they became extremely jealous and vindictive against the Christian nations.

The Lord prophesies this jealousy in the Parable of the Prodigal Son with the attitude, or psychology, of the older son. This older son represents the Jews who became very jealous when they saw the younger son welcomed, embraced and justified by the Father. The Prodigal Son represents the nations that distanced themselves from the true God and were losing the salvation of their souls—the great inheritance—to sin and idolatry. Now, God calls the nations.

Remember the historical evidence of this when Paul spoke to the Jews in Jerusalem and told them God sent him to the nations. As soon as the word ‘nations’ came out of his mouth, they were demonized, throwing soil in the air, ripping their clothes, and yelling to the Roman centurions, “Kill him!”…

The older son’s psychology towards the younger continues to work itself out in history. We see this in the lives of the Apostles. The Jews persecuted Paul everywhere he went. They conspired to kill him. These are the deeds of the unbelieving Jews, full of spite, guile, and murderous attempts…

Do you see the mindset of the Jews back then? In reality, they were demonized against the church; they were possessed by a murderous jealousy against the Christians…

The Jews created the Zionist Movement in order to deal with this frustration [i.e. that their Messiah has not come], which is nothing more than an attempt to take back their rights, punish the nations under the foot of which they were humbled as Hebrews of the diaspora, to hold their heads over the nations and to dominate all these nations…

This is a terrible reality. This is a very dark power with many tentacles which have spread out and embraces the entire world with the sole purpose to subdue and infiltrate the Christian nations mainly. My friends, these are not myths, this is not anti-Semitism, and we are not being prejudiced here…

Let us not forget that Chiliasm (Jehovah’s Witnesses), Freemasonry and Ecumenism are the works of Zionism and they are on their way to grip the entire world…

The Zionists have succeeded in fighting the Christians from within, to turn the Christians against one another, their faith and their own countries, etc.

The fact is, these people infiltrate the political systems of every nation and attempt to hold the economy of these nations in their hands—the stock markets, the government, the press and mass communications… The greatest newspapers of the world are in the hands of the Jews and they offer the news exactly how they want. This is the way they lord it over the nations and this can be seen very clearly in the Protocols of the Wise of Zion, a book published last century. By reading the content of the Protocols, one can easily see that their objectives and schemes against the nations have been fully revealed and met.

The Synagogue of Satan is the most appropriate description of these people because Satan is the one behind this synagogue. If one goes along with Satan, he becomes Satan.”

NOTE: The entire Apocalypse Series by Fr. Athansios is filled with many homilies that speak about International Zionism, Jewish Conspiracies, Blood Libel, Freemasonry, New World Order, and conspiracy theories in general. Though many Greek Orthodox Christians do not share these views, and some official leaders have spoken out publicly against such views (i.e. in the case of Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus’ anti-Semitic tirade in 2010, or in 2011/12 when Greek Orthodox priests were blessing the offices of the neo-Nazi group Golden Dawn), the views expressed above are held by many contemporary Greek and Athonite Elders and subsequently passed on to their disciples, both monastics and lay persons. Fr. Athansios Mitilinaios is considered the ‘New Chrysostom’ in both the spiritual and monastic circles of Greece. He is hailed as the most Patristic-minded and accurate commentator on scripture of the 20th century.

Elder Ephraim on the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (Orthodox Tradition, 1992)

In a bizarre series of events last year [1991], the Abbot of the Monastery of Philotheou on Mt. Athos, Archimandrite Ephraim, left the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, joined the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, and then subsequently returned to the jurisdiction of Constantinople. While there are conflicting reports about his reasons for doing this, and while his actions have confused and disappointed a number of people, Father Ephraim’s sojourn in the ROCA has left us with a very interesting statement about that Church. 1 Forced to confront polemical and hostile voices from the Greek New Calendarists when he joined the Russian Church Abroad, Father Ephraim wrote a short note on the validity of that Church. Since the Bishops of the Russian Church Abroad Consecrated Bishops for us Old Calendarists when our last Hierarch in Greece reposed, his comments about the validity of their Church are of special importance to us—even more so, since they come from an adherent of the Ecumenical Patriarchate who was compelled by unusual circumstances to speak objectively and truthfully about the ROCA. Such objectivity and truthfulness are rare commodities, indeed, among the modernists, who have so compromised themselves by political self-interest and the demands of the ecumenical movement. We have translated Father Ephraim’s comments from the original Greek text, which was distributed by Father Ephraim last year in the United States.

Geronda Ephraim of Arizona giving a blessing.
In 1991, Geronda Ephraim said the Panagia informed him during prayer to leave the EP and  join ROCOR. Less than a year later, Geronda Ephraim stated that the Panagia informed him in prayer to leave ROCOR and go back with the EP.

My View of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad

Apostolic Succession

The Apostolic Succession of the Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad cannot be impugned, since all of the present Bishops hold canonical Consecrations from the Bishops of the pre-Revolutionary era and their successors.

Canonicity

Canonicity (i.e., a local Church’s total conformity to the Holy Canons in its constitution and administrative functioning) is a rare commodity in nearly all of the Patriarchates and the autocephalous Churches today. The synodal system has been seriously weakened by diverse incursions from within and without, and there appears everywhere a move towards despotism among the major Hierarchs or local Synods. Were we to but begin with an examination of canonical impediments to the Priesthood and so on, I do not believe that we would occasion to find absolute canonicity anywhere. I can only say that the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad constitutes an exception to the foregoing, on account of its strict devotion to the Holy Canons and its freedom from the bonds of every worldly power. In response to the allegations which many have made against this Church’s ostensibly uncanonical status as a self-governing Church body, these observations can be made:

Patriarch Tikhon, foreseeing a bleak future for the Russian Church, issued a decree to the Bishops outside Soviet Russia, granting them the right to organize self-governing synodal bodies. Despite this, the exiled Russian Hierarchs, having lived in an atmosphere of utmost loyalty to the law and obedience under the Tsar, insisted, during their first few years of exile, on maintaining contact with their base (Patriarch Tikhon and his successors) and to seek from there approval for their more momentous decisions at least—though this was difficult under their circumstances at the time (persecutions, banishments, etc.). This communion was abruptly cut off by the capitulation of the locum tenens and later Patriarch Tikhon (Stragorodsky)* in his infamous declaration—something totally unacceptable to the Bishops in exile—, assuring the full submission of the Church to the atheist regime and ordering the faithful to show full obedience to and pray for the Soviet authorities. In my opinion, this rupture in communion was justified by the Canons, which provide for the cessation of all commemoration of the first Hierarch of a local Church in the event that he preaches heretical teachings; for Marxism is not only a political system, but entails a secular worldview, indeed a heresy.

St. Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow and Confessor, 1925
St. Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow and Confessor, 1925

The present Bishops of the ROCA, because of their isolation from the other Orthodox Churches, hearken back with genuine spiritual reverence to these events, directives, contacts, etc., which demonstrate the lawful and canonical establishment of their ecclesiastical body.

The most compelling argument in support of the canonicity of the ROCA, one insufficiently emphasized with regard to this issue, is that at the outset the Ecumenical Patriarch and all of the other local Churches maintained good relations with the Synod in Exile, which contained within her bosom, it is worthy of note, the “elite” of the Russian Hierarchs and theologians. Men of the stature of Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of Kiev, who made a lasting impression with his memorable homilies at the Athens Cathedral and who cannot be likened to the low level of our own [Greek New Calendarist] Hierarchs, evoked respect and de facto recognition from everyone.

The position of the Ecumenical Patriarchate with regard to the ROCA radically changed after the First Pan-Orthodox Conference in 1923, when the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad at the time, Metropolitan Anastassy,** distinguished himself as a leading personality by his resistance to the innovations of the acknowledged Mason Meletios Metaxakis.2 Things were somewhat more improved under the successors of Metaxakis, until the end of World War II and a full break in relations, when Soviet external political forces began, by various means, to urge all of the Orthodox Churches to cease communion with the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad and to recognize only the Patriarch of Moscow, who was fully under the control of Soviet political forces and whom these forces used to serve their own ends. The Patriarch of Moscow took the isolation of the ROCA as an opportunity to establish relations with the other Patriarchates and autocephalous Churches: “Either they or we.” Thus for political reasons and out of self-interest, but also for ideological reasons, as we have seen, the Phanar cut off all official relations with the Synod in Exile and, in imitation thereof, so did most of the other local Churches, except for the Churches of Jerusalem and Serbia, which have maintained semi-formal relations with the ROCA to this day.

Patriarch Meletius (Metaxakis)  was known under No. 44 in the Masonic lodge ‘Harmony’, as stated by the Masonic publication ‘Pythagore – Equerre’ (vol. 4, part 7 - 8, 1935).
Patriarch Meletius (Metaxakis) was known under No. 44 in the Masonic lodge ‘Harmony’, as stated by the Masonic publication ‘Pythagore – Equerre’ (vol. 4, part 7 – 8, 1935).

The isolation of the ROCA from the other local Churches—albeit, not a complete isolation (the Blessed Justin [Popovich] and his disciples and the present Patriarch of Serbia have been well disposed toward the ROCA)—can in no way be taken as evidence of doubt about the canonicity of this local Church, since many similar examples can be found in Church history.

Endnotes

1. According to Fr. Germanos Pontikas of St. Nektarios Monastery, “Because Archbishop was refusing him entry into the United States to see his spiritual children, Geronda Ephraim had to flex his muscles, so to speak…And it worked.” (Homily to visitors in the bookstore).

2. According to the literature that was sold in the monasteries before the KVOA exposé, “The Grand Lodge of Greece official Famous Masons list reveals these patriarchs, bishops and others to be among their members, if false it would have been corrected by now: Ecumenical Patriarch Joachim III, Patriarch of Alexandria Photius (George Peroglou), Ecumenical Patriarch Meletius (Manuel Metaxakis), Ecumenical Patriarch Basil III, Patriarch of Jerusalem Benedict (Basil Papadopoulos), Metropolitan of Paronaxia Cherubim (Anninos), Metropolitan of Trebizond, later Archbishop of Athens Chrysanthus (Charilaus Philippides), Prince of Greece Andrew, Prince of Greece Christopher, King of Greece George II, Politician John Kapodistrias (Komis) first ruler of Greece, Politician John Metaxas (Prime Minister).”

* He means, of course, Patriarch Sergius.

** This is an error. Metropolitan Anastassy was not, at the time, First Hierarch of the exiled Bishops.

From Orthodox Tradition, VOL. IX, NO. 1, pp. 17-18.

Who is the Real Elder Ephraim? (Anonymous Author, 1998)

The following article was written by an anonymous author in defense of Geronda Ephraim of Arizona. It appeared in a Christian forum on December 12, 1998.

Elder Ephraim is the spiritual son of the great and saintly Athonite ascetic Elder Joseph the Hesychast and Cave-dweller, who reposed in 1959 and is in the process of being glorified by the Patriarch of Constantinople. Elder Joseph’s story is incredible in itself. The book “Monastic Wisdom” which contains his writings on the spiritual life, the Jesus Prayer, etc. has just been translated from the Greek by the monks at St. Anthony’s Monastery in Arizona. They are now working on the life of Elder Joseph the Hesychast. I have venerated his fragrant relics, have seen icons of him in Greece, and have read hymns written to him (translated into English by Fr. Seraphim of St. Paul’s on Athos who I believe is now the Dikaios at St. Gregory Palamas in OH).  Of course, being the spiritual son of a Saint doesn’t necessarily mean anything, so here is a little about Elder Ephraim:

Fr. Seraphim Dedes, St. Gregory Palamas Monastery in Ohio.
Fr. Seraphim Dedes, St. Gregory Palamas Monastery in Ohio.

Elder Ephraim’s mother (who became Great-Schema nun Theophano) raised her family to fear and love the Lord and His Holy Church. Elder Ephraim answered the calling to become a monk, so he sought the great ascetic at the time, Elder Joseph, and his co-struggler Elder Arsenios. Elder Joseph knew Elder Ephraim by name (Johnny at the time) when he first met him on the Holy Mountain. “Johnny” never met the Elder before, nor did anyone know he was going to visit him. The Elder Joseph prophesied great things would happen because of “little Johnny”, now Elder Ephraim. Elder Ephraim lived from that day on with Elder Joseph and his synodia until the day of Elder Joseph’s death (August 15, 1959). So for 12 years, Elder Ephraim lived the hesychastic life under complete obedience to Elder Joseph. He lived several more years as an ascetic and then he became the abbot of Philotheou monastery and brought the cenobitic life back to it.

Geronda Ephraim's mother, Nun Theophano, holding a piece of the nail from the Cross, at Holy Archangel Michael Monastery, Thassos (a dependency of Philotheou Monastery).
Geronda Ephraim’s mother, Nun Theophano, holding a piece of the nail from the Cross, at Holy Archangel Michael Monastery, Thassos (a dependency of Philotheou Monastery).

If you visit some of the monasteries or talk to some people, you will hear of incredible stories of how they lived. For example, the monks were not allowed to talk during Lent and were severely disciplined if they did. Elder Joseph never used Elder Ephraim’s name when he talked to him (to keep him humble since it was clear that his spiritual progress was amazing). He would call him “Hey you!”, “Hey monk!” but behind his back he had great things to say about him. The lived a truly hesychastic life, having daily vigils of the Jesus Prayer that lasted 8 hours in solitude.

As Elder Joseph has told many people before his death, Elder Ephraim was considered the most obedient of Elder Joseph’s monks and because of this has received tremendous grace and spiritual gifts. This becomes apparent once you meet him and spend some time with him, rather than listening to what others have to say. Several of Elder Joseph’s monks became great abbots of Athonite monasteries, and greatly contributed to its spiritual renewal.

Elder Ephraim has been known for decades in Greece. His name is not new there. He is a very well respected and revered Athonite spiritual father. He was for many years the abbot of Philotheou Monastery on Mount Athos, as well as the spiritual father of several of the other monasteries there. He has established monasteries outside of Athos under his spiritual direction, both male and female, and renewed and renovated some very old and abandoned monasteries. He was informed while in prayer one night to establish Athonite monasteries in the U.S. and just like St. Kosmas of Aitolos (who is from the same monastery as Elder Ephraim, Philotheou) he humbly undertook the mission to leave the monastery for the good of the Church and to help us.

Schema-Monks in obedience to Geronda Ephraim on Mount Athos, 1984.
Schema-Monks in obedience to Geronda Ephraim on Mount Athos, 1984.

Elder Ephraim of Katunakia, also a spiritual son of Elder Joseph, said about his spiritual brother Ephraim “he is much, much greater than I!” before he reposed over a year ago.  He was considered a very holy ascetic on Athos who is believed to have attained theosis, so let’s just say his opinion means something. Elder Porfirios of blessed memory prophesied over a decade ago, that Elder Ephraim would establish monasteries in the U.S., before it was even a thought. The list can go on for a while as to who believes in the holiness of Elder Ephraim and his mission here in the U.S.  Of course, this will rub many people the wrong way, especially non-traditional clergy and laypeople.  The monasteries are mirrors to our souls and perhaps we do not like what we see. Perhaps there is also spiritual envy from other monastics who were not able to do what the Elder has done.

In his letter to the Ecumenical Patriarch, Geronda Ephraim writes that, “he prayed with hot tears streaming down his face, and the Theotokos directed him to leave the EP, and join ROCOR.” to return to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
In his letter to the Ecumenical Patriarch, Geronda Ephraim writes that, “he prayed with hot tears streaming down his face, and the Theotokos directed him to leave the EP, and join ROCOR.”

Elder Ephraim has overcome great obstacles in establishing monasteries here in the U.S. The EP, Archbishop Iakovos, and most of the bishops at the time were adamantly opposed to him even visiting the U.S. to hear confessions, let alone to establish monasteries.  In 1991 he left the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which he called “the proponents of ecumenism and the enemies of monasticism”, to retreat into the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.1 ROCA received him with love and open arms. Following this action, the Patriarchate, the Greek Government (for political reasons), the Holy Mountain (who did not want a schism on the Holy Mountain) and the Archdiocese all violently attacked Elder Ephraim saying that he would be deposed, he was a traitor, etc. They also threatened to revoke his green card so that he could no longer come to the U.S. to see his spiritual children.  To prevent division in the Church, (since he had many followers who were willing to leave the EP for ROCA), he humbly returned to the Patriarchate who then allowed him to start the monasteries.2 As a side note, he still has an excellent relationship with ROCA and its hierarchy, whom he considers to be a canonical synod. There are several monks in the monasteries that were allowed by ROCA to transfer to Elder Ephraim’s monasteries, and many clergy and laypeople attend the services there. There are also some monks from other Orthodox jurisdictions who were given the blessing of their bishop and abbot to join one of Elder Ephraim’s brotherhoods.3

Geronda Ephraim also stated that the Theotokos informed him during his prayer to return to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Geronda Ephraim also stated that the Theotokos informed him during his prayer to return to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

There are now 16 monasteries (counting ones that will officially be opened soon), in the US and Canada: California, 2 in Pennsylvania, 2 in Florida, 2 in North Carolina, 2 in the Chicago area, Texas, Arizona, Washington, Michigan,2 in Canada, and soon one in NY. All of the abbots are either American or Canadian, including one convert.4 The abesses are from his monasteries in Greece, but are trying very hard to learn English (which all now know) Most of the nuns and monks are Americans, and many are converts.5 The services all follow the Athonite Typicon, so they are in Greek.

Hieromonk Chrysostomos, the convert mentioned, was abbot of Panagia Vlahernon in Florida when this article was written (1998).
Hieromonk Chrysostomos, was the convert abbot of Panagia Vlahernon (FL)

In such few years, against the persecution of much of the hierarchy and people, a simple, poor monk, whose only education is that of the Desert, has done for us here in America what we have been thirsting for. I can understand why some of this is difficult for us here in America. We are not used to this. But we should remember that we are a young church here in America and we have a lot to learn from our experienced older brothers and sisters.

Anything you may hear coming from the Elder or his monasteries is traditional Orthodoxy. Nothing is new or made up.6 The Fathers of Church have taught it, contemporary holy Elders around the world have taught it – it is Orthodoxy. Whether the U.S. is ready for it is another story, but we certainly need it.

St. Anthony's Feast Day, January 17, 1997.
St. Anthony’s Feast Day, January 17, 1997.

After Elder Ephraim’s repose (may it be 50 years from now),7 little by little we will all learn more details of his struggles, his blessed life, his miracles, etc. Until then, if you do not know him, meet him. Why would you base your judgement on what others have to say? My father, a typical stubborn Greek man, who vowed never to fast nor confess to a priest, melted like wax upon meeting the Elder and confessed to him his sins and now follows the fasts to the best of his ability and is in a totally different mindset. While visiting the Holy Mountain this past summer, when any monk heard that he was from the U.S. they would ask him, “How is Geronda Ephraim? You better take good care of him there! You don’t know what you have!” And this was not from monasteries under the Elder’s spiritual direction. Don’t expect a “Joint Statement of the 20 Ruling Monasteries of Mount Athos on Elder Ephraim of Philotheou”. This is not how Athos operates.8 The Elder’s work speaks for itself. So the does the fact that no other Athonite has been able to do what he has done.

Do any of you notice how the Elder never defends himself? He never says anything about those that are persecuting him.9 I have asked him about this and his humble reply is “Don’t worry, pray for them. It isn’t their fault, they do not know.” Go and meet the man. Spend some time at any of the monasteries. Talk to the abbot or abbess.  The monasteries are for all of us. Just like you cannot explain to anyone the beauty of Orthodoxy and the worship unless you experience it, the same applies here. Come and see.

I don’t normally read this newsgroup, but after hearing of what was going on, I decided to say something. If anyone replies to this, I will not see it unless you email me personally.

If anyone is interested, there is are series of tapes by Constantine Zalalas called “Elder Joseph the Hesychast – The Grandfather of Greek-American Monasticism”.10 It describes the life and teachings of Elder Joseph based on what some of his monastic spiritual children have said and written. Included are some stories about Elder Ephraim. You can pick them up at some of the monasteries or I would be willing to copy them (I have permission) and send them to anyone (for free). Email me if you are sincerely interested.

Forgive me for any errors that I may have reported. This is all based on my personal recollection and knowledge. I am by no means an authority on this.

God bless!

NOTES:

1) In his letter to the Ecumenical Patriarch, Geronda Ephraim writes that, “he prayed with hot tears streaming down his face, and the Theotokos directed him to leave the EP, and join ROCOR.”

2) Geronda Ephraim stated that the Theotokos informed him during his prayer to return to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

3) In 1997, Hieromonk Gregory came from St. Tikhon’s Monastery (OCA) with a man named Vladimir, who was later tonsured and given the name Symeon. Geronda Ephraim initially told the monks, that Hieromonk Gregory was a sanctified man. Geronda Ephraim gave him 3 simple obediences: “Don’t sleep during the Church services, come to the Church services on time and no more exorcisms.” Hieromonk Gregory did not obey and continued to perform exorcisms. He eventually left the monastery and his departure was used as a cautionary tale about the importance of obedience. Fr. Symeon later returned to the world.

4) Geronda Paisios (AZ) is from Vancouver, BC; Geronda Dositheos (TX) is from Toronto, ON; Geronda Joseph (MI) is from Montreal, QC; Geronda Nektarios (NC) is from Toronto, ON; Geronda Akkakios, (IL) is from New York; Geronda Joseph (NY) is from Thessaloniki, Greece; and the convert, Hieromonk Chrysostomos was abbot at the first property of Panagia Vlahernon in Fairfield, FL, at the time this was written (’98)

5) A large number of the monks and nuns are actually Canadian. When this was written (98), some monasteries were all Canadian (i.e. NC), or almost all Canadian (NY except for two monks), etc.

6) A lot of political theories which circulate in the monasteries which don’t have anything to do for Orthodoxy. In 1998/99, many monks had Valley Fever, and many more would succumb to it. This was attributed to government planes spraying the monasteries with chemicals. The monks were also not allowed to get vaccines due to the secret toxins put in them. Only non-fluoride toothpaste was bought for the monks. Coffeemate was like “chemical warfare,’ same goes with sugar, aspartame, and other sweeteners.

7) Interesting that he mentions the Elder Porphyrios prophecy about monasteries, but not the prophecy that Geronda Ephraim would die when he was 90. The latter was circling among lay disciples since the early 90s.

8) This was a big topic in the mid-late 90s. Who is Geronda Ephraim’s spiritual Father? Who does he answer to? And more specifically, did Mount Athos bless him, or is there a statement from the monasteries, etc. Essentially, the 4 monasteries that are under obedience to him (Philotheou, Karakallou, Xeropotamou, and Konstamonitou), plus the 2 monasteries under obedience to his spiritual brothers (Dionysiou and Vatopaidi), as well as the monasteries of his close spiritual companions, Abbots Aimilianos, Parthenios and George (Simonospetras, St. Paul’s and Gregoriou) would’ve vouched for him.

9) Lay people don’t get to hear the things monks do. Geronda Ephraim is much different with his monks. But this also has a hierarchy so to speak. Novices are kept out of the loop for the most part, unless an older monk idle talks about things he doesn’t have a blessing to talk about. Tonsured rassaphore monks are more privy to information that novices and lay people will never hear. But there is also an inner circle of the hieromonks, abbots, abbesses, and trusted monks who have been with Geronda for years, who hear things that others will never hear, and they also talk amongst themselves at feast days and exchange information, stories, etc.

10) http://saintnicodemos.org/about.php