Excerpt from Hieromonk Damascene’s talk on the 30th Anniversary of the Repose of Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose), Sept. 2, 2012, at the St. Herman of Alaska Monastery:
With Abbot Hilarion’s blessing, I would like to say some words that we feel are important to say on this day.
As many of you know, this monastery was founded with the blessing of Archbishop Anthony of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia in 1969, and Fr. Seraphim lived all of his Orthodox life as a faithful and obedient member of the Russian Church Outside Russia. In all the years this monastery has been in existence, today is the first day that a First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia has visited our monastery. During Fr. Seraphim’s lifetime, there was talk that the then-First Hierarch, His Eminence Metropolitan Philaret, would be coming to visit. Fr. Seraphim, with the help of other brothers, even built the Tsar’s Room – now a chapel dedicated to the Russian Royal Martyrs – as a room to properly receive the Metropolitan. But for logistical reasons, Metropolitan Philaret was unable to attend at that time, and the Metropolitan-receiving room did not fulfill its original purpose.
After Fr. Seraphim’s repose, it was not just logistical reasons that prevented the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Outside Russia from coming here. The reasons are painful to relate, but we feel that we should talk about them, and that the appropriate time is precisely today, on Fr. Seraphim’s 30th anniversary, when a First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad is here for the first time.
Within a year after Fr. Seraphim’s repose, our then-Abbot, Fr. Herman, went into schism from his ruling hierarch, Archbishop Anthony, from the Russian Church Abroad, and from the entire Orthodox Church. Those of us who remained here followed him in that schism. Moreover, to justify this schism, Fr. Herman engaged in a campaign to discredit Archbishop Anthony and the good name of the Russian Church Abroad, and we, who wrongly believed he was being unjustly persecuted, followed him in this, too. Of all of us, I was the worst culprit, because in the first biography of Fr. Seraphim, Not of This World, I included a subtext which attempted to justify Fr. Herman’s break from his Archbishop and the Russian Church Abroad.
For seventeen years our brotherhood wandered in the wilderness, but by the Grace of God we finally saw the light: We understood that Fr. Herman had not been unjustly persecuted, and that it was in fact we who had unjustly attacked the good name of Archbishop Anthony and the Russian Church Abroad. Together with this, we realized that, contrary to the false ecclesiology we had been led to believe, we were in fact outside the canonical boundaries of the Church. We realized that no schism from the Church is justified, and that we had to find our way back home to the Church.
Thanks be to God, this realization occurred while Archbishop Anthony of blessed memory was still alive, though he was then sick and near to death. After Fr. Herman had stepped down as abbot, our next abbot, Fr. Gerasim, and I went to San Francisco to personally apologize to Archbishop Anthony. Archbishop Anthony wasn’t able to receive us in person due to his failing condition, but he received our apology via His Eminence Archbishop Kyrill. Shortly thereafter, when Archbishop Anthony’s friend Bishop Jovan, our first bishop in the Serbian Orthodox Church, asked Archbishop Anthony’s blessing to receive us into the Serbian Orthodox Church, Archbishop Anthony graciously gave his blessing, adding, emphatically, “Do whatever you can to save their souls!”
Also, by God’s mercy, we were able to apologize via letter to the then-First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus of blessed memory. Finally, we were able to apologize in print, first by publishing a revised version of Fr. Seraphim’s biography with the faults that marred the first version removed, and then by publishing an apology and retraction in The Orthodox Word.
However, it’s not until today that we have had the opportunity to apologize, in person and at a public event, to the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad for our sins against the Russian Church Abroad. Your Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion, we express our deep and heartfelt repentance for these sins, and ask forgiveness from you and from all who have been hurt by our words and actions.
This has not been a pleasant topic to talk about, but, as I said, we feel it is a necessary one. We were delivered by God from our wandering in the wilderness, but we still bear wounds from that time, for which we still seek healing from God, and we realize that others outside our monastery bear those wounds, as well. May our Lord help to find further healing, and may He help us to go further on the path to salvation in repentance and in thankfulness to Him for His merciful Providence.