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Archbishop Anthony (Medvedev): A Monk Until His Last Breath

September 23, 2010, will mark the 10th anniversary of the repose of the remarkable archpastor, Archbishop Anthony (Medvedev) of Western America and San Francisco of blessed memory. He authored the divine services for the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia. Following are some memories of him gathered by Protopriest Peter Perekrestov. More can be found in Russian at the website Pravoslavie i Mir.

Metropolitan Laurus, Jordanville, NY, 2005

In connection with the anniversary of the repose of Archbishop Anthony of San Francisco and Western America of blessed memory, I would like to point out several characteristics of this most kind and earnest archpastors.

My first meeting with the future Archbishop Anthony was in Ladomirovo Monastery. As we know, Vladyka Anthony was tonsured at Milkovo Monastery in Yugoslavia, the same one where his two predecessors on the Western American cathedra were tonsured: Archbishop Tikhon and St John (Maximovich). Schema-Archimandrite Amvrosy was the Abbot at Milkovo. When he fell seriously ill, he handed Hieromonk Anthony over to the spiritual care of Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko). Fr Anthony had met Vladyka Vitaly during his consecration to the episcopacy in Belgrade and liked him right away. Fr Anthony was still a hierodeacon at the time. After Fr Amvrosy died, Hieromonk Anthony moved to Ladimorovo with us for the guidance of Vladyka Vitaly.

During the war, our brotherhood had to evacuate to Geneva. There, we worked, awaiting approval to move to the US. Fr Anthony then was charged with leading the kliros singing and editing the church calendar. He was a brilliant scholar of the Ustav and lived by divine services. I remember how he tried to introduce the Valaam chants he learned in Milkovo to our kliros singing.

With the blessing of the Rector of Geneva’s Elevation of the Cross Cathedral, Hieromonk Leonty (Bartoshevich), Fr Anthony took up pastoral work—he took confessions and ministered to the parishioners. I remember one family in which the husband and wife had a conflict over ecclesiastical questions. Fr Anthony took this to heart and began to visit the family and hold spiritual discussions with the spouses. Thanks to his empathetic pastoral love, he was able to bring the wife to reason and restored peace in the family.

The future Archbishop Anthony was very close in spirit to the Bartoshevich brothers, Fr Leonty and Fr Anthony, whom he knew from Yugoslavia. In Geneva, his spiritual father was Hegumen Filimon, originally from Valaam. He was also friends with the future Archimandrite Nektary, the spiritual father of Gethsemane Convent. During World War II, Hieromonk Anthony ministered to the soldiers of the Russian Freedom Army. His closest aide was his Psalm-reader, the future Fr Nektary. Vladyka Anthony’s friendship with him remained spiritually strong for the rest of their lives.

In November 1946, our brotherhood arrived in America and settled in Jordanville. At the monastery, in addition to kliros obedience, Fr Anthony milked cows, and sometimes fell asleep at the job. By the Nativity of Christ, Archbishop Vitaly, aware of his pastoral talents, sent him to the towns of Lakewood and Vladimir Hill [Jackson, NJ]. Later, Fr Anthony established and served at parishes in Lincoln, NE, Cleveland, OH, and Milwaukee, WI.

Archimandrite Anthony’s consecration to the episcopate and assignment to Melbourne occurred in 1956 at Holy Ascension Cathedral in the Bronx, NY. I was a hieromonk at the time. I remember approaching His Eminence Metropolitan Anastassy of blessed memory and he said to me in a kind voice: “Learn from this, learn…” I also remember that before his consecration, Archimandrite Anthony showed me a copy of the speech he was to read at his nomination and asked me “What do you think?” He was always eager for advice, and later, as an archpastor, continued to always seek counsel.

Archbishop Anthony, after speaking with Archbishop Averky, proposed my candidacy for the episcopate and Secretary of the Synod of Bishops. After I was consecrated, and until Archbishop Anthony’s death in 2000 we were both members of the Synod of Bishops and worked together. He was a very heartfelt and earnest person, and never did anything at all for his own benefit, only for the benefit of the Church and the glory of God. He had no personal life, only life in the Church, with Christ.

Archbishop Anthony would sometimes witness some troubling things at Synod. He would share his thoughts, write letters, but always using soft language and with frankness, with pain in his heart. When the question of glorifying the Holy New Martyrs of Russia arose, and especially of Royal Family, there was no unity within the episcopate. Vladyk Anthony was a peacemaker and always tried to reach a peaceful resolution for such questions.

I remember how Archbishop Anthony of Geneva was unhappy with the service composed for the Royal Passion-bearers. He felt that the text of the sticheron was too long, and the canon of the service did not address the Tsar-Martyr, but is a repentant appeal to the Lord God. The archpastor from Europe shared his thoughts with Vladyka Anthony and hoped that he would amend the service. And indeed, he composed a splendid general service to all the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia.

Archbishop Anthony of blessed memory, just as Metropolitan Anthony of blessed memory and St John (Maximovich) had a universal view of the Church. All three hierarchs ached for the Local Churches, for the persecuted Orthodox Christians, for the ecclesiastical divisions within the Russian Church. During sessions of the Synod of Bishops he always defended the interests of the Serbian Church. In this regard he was always especially supported by Archbishop Seraphim of Chicago, Archbishop Nikon of Washington DC and Archbishop Anthony of Geneva. Vladyka Anthony did not approve of any deviations by any of the Local Churches, especially those of the Constantinople Patriarchate, but felt that all Orthodox Christians must live in peace and unity.

Vladyka Anthony lived alone in San Francisco—he prepared all his food, cleaned up after himself. As a monk, he was formed by Schema-Archimandrite Amvrosy of Milkovo in the strict, old Russian school of monasticism and remained a representative of this until his last breath. I repeat, he did nothing for himself, only for God and the Church.

Vladyka Anthony was buried here in Holy Trinity Monastery, in the crypt behind the church. We miss him in the episcopacy, but I believe that he prays and cares for us.  

The Kindest of All Men
Nun Elizabeth (Sedova), Gethsemane

I came to know Archbishop Anthony in the winter of 1997, at Eleon Convent.

Vladyka Anthony told the sisters of our convent right away that this was his final visit to the Holy Land, that it was here that he was to make a very important decision. In a word, Archbishop Anthony came to pray and bid farewell to the Holy Land. For us, the nuns of Eleon Convent, the month spent with Vladyka Anthony at our monastery was a great consolation. I would like to bring up a few things I remember.

I recall the Nativity of Christ. After an unusually long and tiring day, the festive divine services, trapeza, trip to Bethlehem, we gathered at the residence of Mother Abbess for a holiday meal and the singing of carols. No matter how we tried, we simply could not sing with much energy. Vladyka Anthony was obviously very tired. Sometimes he would start to fall asleep at the table, which made Abbess Juliania stay alert. But every time Matushka would suggest he go rest, he categorically refused. Our starets archpastor stayed with us until the end, wishing to partake in the joy of the Nativity, the peace and warmth which the Lord gave us that day.

It was apparent that Vladyka loved divine services, and was infused with them. Even now I can see him distributing the antidoros after Divine Liturgy at Eleon. Vladyka is beaming, vested in white, his face shining and concentrated. “Glory to Thee, o God, glory to Thee,” he would say, and, not waiting for the Psalm-reader, begins to read the prayers of gratitude by heart. In each word, you heard power and gratitude. It was this power of gratitude that stunned me then. It seemed that Vladyka Anthony was thanking God for every moment of life. I remembered the words of the Apostle: “God’s power is made perfect in weakness.”

Nun Marina, Novice Tamara and I had the good fortune of accompanying Archbishop Anthony to Galilee. Vladyka very much wanted to visit Nazareth. A complete excursion to the holy sites of Galilee was too much for him. Sister Tamara and I tried our best to hold up the elderly Vladyka by his elbows. He always thanked us and called us his “subdeacons.” Sister Tamara, seeing my zeal, kept saying “don’t try so hard!” We were probably more of a bother to Vladyka than a help, but his love suffused us. In Nazareth, Vladyka prayed long and hard in the Church of the Annunciation of the Most-Holy Mother of God. Neither crowds nor noise, nor even his old age, could hinder his prayers.

We escorted Vladyka to his flight to America. It was almost midnight. It was raining hard, and pretty cold. The nuns from Eleon and Gethsemane stood at the entrance to the bishop’s quarters and do not disperse, no one was in any hurry. Everyone wanted a final blessing, though they already said their goodbyes. Monk Philaret, at the time still Monk Zosima, newly-tonsured by Archbishop Anthony, helped bring his luggage outside. I asked myself: “What is it that drew all these people to these doors, people of various nationalities, languages, backgrounds, ages? How could Vladyka Anthony become a father to us in such a short time?” Each of us felt--for why else would we be standing at the entrance to his cell at night, under the cold rain--that we are beloved by Vladyka, that he understood us, he warmed us with his heart. He had a kind word for each one of us, giving us something to remember him by. It seemed to me then that he was the kindest of all men I had ever met in my twenty years.

How sad that through my inexperience, I did not take full advantage of the guidance provided by Vladyka Anthony, I did not understand fully the loftiness of his spirit, but I continue to thank God for those days and hours that Vladyka was with us.