Appeal of the Pastoral Conference of the Clergy of the
Diocese of Western America
We thank Thee, O Compassionate One, Who by the Cross
dost save our souls.
Sticheron at Lord, I have cried..., vespers of
Monday of the 4th Week of the Fast
We pastors, participants in the pastoral conference in the
city of San Francisco, have gathered together under the gracious
protection of the all-holy Theotokos, the Joy of all Who Sorrow,
and our great holy hierarch and Wonder-worker John of Shanghai
and San Francisco. We are glad of the possibility for close
spiritual fellowship with our archpastors and one another
in the task of building up the Church in the spirit of love,
unity and openness. In these days of the Holy Forty-day Fast,
when the most precious Cross is set forth for veneration,
we have been praying together, we have united around the holy
altar-table, we have shared our pastoral experiences, our
joys and fears. We are aware that we are remiss in thanking
the Lord for the rich mercies He has bestowed upon us. Expressing
our gratitude to the Lord for the gift of the priesthood He
has imparted to us, at the same time we also thank God, and
call upon the spiritual children entrusted to us to be thankful
to Him for the mercy of our being in the true Church of Christ.
How this warms and fills our hearts with joy!
During the course of the conference, we found the following
themes and questions to be particularly pertinent and topical:
1) We must never forget that the parish is a spiritual family.
The parish is not a democracy, not a dictatorship, but rather
a family. In this, the family of Christ, the spirit of love,
trust, openness and modesty must prevail. All those seeking
spiritual support will hasten to such a family. Many Americans,
including the clergy and flock of various modernist and pseudo-Orthodox
jurisdictions, as well as newly arrived Russians, are seeking
spiritually for that Church which is in this world but not
of this world. They are seeking in the Church for a bulwark,
they are searching for the pillar and ground of Truth, and
kindness, warmth, care and true spiritual concern from us.
Let us open for these people the doors of our hearts and the
doors of our churches. And let us not merely open the doors,
but extend our hand to them.
We are very much concerned with the question of the restoration
of piety among our parishioners. Saint John Chrysostom reminds
us that the Church was not established so that those who pray
in it may display their corruptible wealth, but to amass spiritual
riches. In particular, it is totally unacceptable for women
to approach the holy Chalice, Holy Communion, with lipstick
on their mouths and to leave traces of this lipstick on the
spoon and in the chalice; to do so is a profanation of what
is holy. We also call upon women to come to church with their
heads covered, as the holy Apostle Paul teaches us (I Cor.
2) We also consider that it is essential to dedicate special
effort and attention to our successors--our youth. They are
the future of our Church. We have already lost many of them--partly
because of acculturation and mixed marriages, partly through
our own fault. We must make every effort to draw the youth
to the Church, to the spiritual life. We call upon our children
and our youth to be, with us, members of the Holy Church,
to save themselves with us. The society in which we live has
become a society of despair. The youth senses this--they have
had little joy in the 20th century. True consolation is to
be found only in the Church. With particular joy and enthusiasm
we welcome the recent resolution of the Synod of Bishops of
the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia on the appointment
of a standing committee for the organization of annual Saint
Herman Youth Conferences--a necessary application of all possible
means for the spiritual elevation of our youth. With other
pastors, parishioners and the youth, we are prepared to work
toward the realization of this objective. It ought to be noted
that in parish life there is one terrible phenomenon which
often repels children and the young--parishioners constant
condemnation of one another, and the pastors and archpastors
of the Church. Let us combat this sin with all our strength.
3) During the course of the conference we remembered several
of our departed spiritual leaders. We remembered Metropolitan
Anthony, of whom Saint John wrote: Every Orthodox Christian,
whatever his nationality and from whatever country he hailed,
was close to him. To everyone who had need of him, he was
a good father and wise guide. Each one who approached him
for spiritual advice, he treated as his own spiritual kinsman...
We also remembered Metropolitan Anastasy, who often gathered
his clergy and the youth together, questioned them, listened
to them, and bolstered them spiritually. Of course, we also
remembered our Vladyka John. These holy hierarchs showed personal
care for their clergy, their flock, and especially the youth.
Following the book of the Proverbs of Solomon, they sought
counsel: There is salvation in much counsel. The
clergy and believers felt themselves to be a vital, real part
of our Church. The grace-filled unity and trust which are
so important for the edifying work of the Church, and which
are shown, and must be shown, to be one of the characteristics
of our Church Abroad, were palpable. When there is no counsel,
when there is no trust, no personal concern and unity in the
fold of the Church, the life of the Church suffers, and distrust,
alienation, misunderstanding, a waning of zeal, and depression
appear. We call all true cooperatation in the Church.
4) Speaking of our spiritual leaders, we cannot remain silent
about our Mother, our Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
The path of our slandered, misunderstood, isolated Church
has been thorny. But thorny also was the path of those martyrs
who suffered for the Faith at the hands of the Latins. The
betrayal which took place four hundred years ago at Brest-Litovsk
not only continues to this day, but is intensifying, drawing
the local Orthodox Churches toward a new union with Rome.
Thorny also was the path of the holy new-martyrs of Russia,
who shed their blood for the confession of the right Faith.
Thorny likewise was the path of those exiled for the Orthodox
Faith. We cannot forget their blood, their faith, their principles,
their zeal, their piety. We must stand firmly in the Faith,
in the Truth. During difficult times, during periods of flux,
it is a firm stand in the Truth which draws people: purity
of faith leads to true joy. It is essential to preserve the
spiritual heritage of our Church.
5) Our spiritual guides repeatedly warned (and continue to
warn) us against the apostasy, the moral disintegration, the
spiritual desolation, which are taking place around us. Once
we allow our spirit to flag because of this and various parish
difficulties (and this may happen without our even being aware
of it), we forget the greatest of Christian virtues--hope.
We forget the words of the Lord: Fear not, little flock,
for it is your Fathers good pleasure to give you the
kingdom (Lk. 12: 32). Despite all the difficulties and
all the darkness of todays world, we must hold joy and
hope in our heart, for our Faith is a triumphal Faith. Have
we lost our inner certainty that the Church will conquer?
The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church (Mt.
16: 18). Yes, we live in a world mired in sin, yet has not
the holy Apostle Paul told us: where sin abounded, grace
did much more abound (Rom. 5: 20)? A clear example of
this is the city of San Francisco, in which many are sunk
in the filth of vile lust, in the perversion of Gods
image in man--yet in this same city has appeared to the whole
world the greatest consolation and mercy: the incorrupt remains
of Saint John! No, we shall not lose heart. We shall live
in hope and transmit this spirit of hope to our youth. And
with hope there will also be joy, which we also often forget.
Has not the Apostle Peter commanded us to rejoice with joy
unspeakable (I Pet. 1: 8)? This joy we should also pass on
to our youth.
6) The life of the venerable Basil the New contains the account
of how he prayed that the Lord reveal to him the fate of his
deceased disciple, Theodora. And the Lord answered the prayer
of the saint. Appearing to him in a dream, Theodora recounted
her passage through the way-stations of sloth, avarice, lust,
pride, deceit... It is noteworthy that the final way-station
before the entrance into the kingdom of heaven was that of
hard-heartedness and lack of charity. If we successfully complete
a great many struggles, yet lack charity, entry into the kingdom
of heaven will be denied us. At the Dread Judgment, the final
sentence will be that pronounced upon lack of charity. We,
the pastors of the Church of Christ, are called especially
to show charity towards the members of our flock; and, at
the same time, the souls entrusted to us must show charity
toward one another. But to ourselves personally we must show
greater strictness, we must expect more.
Work with the youth, the mutual building up of the Church,
the rooting in us of hope, joy and charity, faithfulness to
the ideology and spiritual heritage of the Church Abroad,
the restoration of piety, the extending of our hands to all
who seek and desire salvation, and inexpressible gratitude
to the Lord for everything--this is what we have been speaking
of in our conference, this is what we have experienced and
what we are aiming for. We are deeply convinced that, following
this path, toward these goals, our Church life will become
more vibrant, more edifying, more fruitful. Despite the fact
that more effort, more prayer, more zeal for the Lord are
demanded of the pastors, we feel a certain excitement and
a fresh flow of spiritual strength. We wanted to share this
with our brethren in the other dioceses, with our parishioners
and our beloved youth, in the hope that the spark kindled
today, by the relics of Saint John, will spread, burst forth,
and be transformed into the flame of faith, love and hope.
Archbishop Anthony, Bishop Kyrill, and Conference Participants
Wednesday of Mid-Lent, 1996
San Francisco, California