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“We have shared roots, and for this reason the Lord has brought us together.” An Interview with Archpriest Artemy Vladimirov

On Tuesday, March 9, 2010, on the feast of the 1st and 2nd Findings of the Head of St John the Baptist, Archpriest Artemy Vladimirov, rector of All Saints Church, formerly Novo-Alexeyevsky Monastery, in Krasnoe Selo, celebrated the Divine Liturgy in St George’s Church at the diocesan center in Howell, NJ, thereby completing his visit to the Eastern American Diocese. Upon completion of the Liturgy, Fr Artemy gave an interview to diocesan Media Office correspondent Reader Peter Lukianov, on his impressions of life in the Eastern American Diocese of the Russian Church Abroad. The text of the interview with Fr Artemy is available to our readers below.

- Father Artemy, you have completed your two-week visit to the Eastern American Diocese. What feelings are you experiencing as you head for the airport?

- A feeling that in English you would call bittersweet, that is, sweet sorrow. My soul is full of gratitude to the Lord God that the dream of my youth has come true. As a young man, for some reason I always worried for the fate of the Russian Diaspora, and always felt – this may sound strange – a great desire to be united in Christ to my fellow Russians abroad. And, twenty-something years later, the Lord God granted, through the prayers of St John of Shanghai, that the wish of my youth, one it seemed would never come to fruition, be fulfilled.

- You arrived in America on February 23rd at night, and the following morning you immediately went to the Synod of Bishops of the Church Abroad to meet with the First Hierarch, His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion, as well as His Grace Bishop Jerome. Tell us about this meeting, Father; what was your impression of the First Hierarch of the Church Abroad?

- As a man of the Church, and especially as a clergyman, I had to pay this visit in any case, but I’ll say this for myself – for me this was not a formality, not a desire to be noticed. No. I have long heard from my friends, among whom are many priests of the Russian Diaspora, that Metropolitan Hilarion is an uncannily sincere man, full of archpastoral love; an approachable man, uncomplicated, capable of speaking to anyone on his own level. And not only did these impressions turn out to be true, but to this day it surprises me how closely here, in the Diaspora, the bishops communicate with their children, the pastors, and how simple their intercourse, devoid of any bureaucratic formality. So I sometimes recall the pages of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, where one reads how the Apostle Paul and other pillars of the Church dealt with their parishioners and spiritual children quietly, gently, as a loving parent. For me, of course, it was obvious that the kind words said by His Eminence and the Vicar Bishop Jerome meant something more. The issue here is that, after the reunification, when, so to speak, all the bones of Russian Orthodoxy were put back into place, it was necessary to ensure that they be enveloped with flesh and blood. The two years since that triumphal service and the act restoring liturgical communion are especially meaningful now, when, face to face and heart to heart, we can open up to one another. And I felt that Metropolitan Hilarion’s blessing was truly the internal desire of all his children, his whole nurtured flock, to enter into wholehearted, living, and direct communion. And this feeling did not betray me.

- The day after your meeting with the Metropolitan, you miraculously traveled through a major snowstorm to Jordanville, to Holy Trinity Monastery. You were able to venerate the sacred icons and relics of the monastery and visit the grave of the ever-memorable Metropolitan Laurus. Tell us about your impressions of Holy Trinity Monastery.

- Having never before been in this seemingly forgotten corner of the American countryside, I nonetheless knew much about Jordanville, because in our youth we read books sent by the monks here to Russia at great sacrifice for the glory of God, and for me the names of Professor Andreev and Archimandrite Konstantin (Zaytsev) are familiar ones, to say nothing of the works of the ever-memorable hierarch, Archbishop Averky (Taushev)… it is impossible to list all those who, burning with love for Orthodoxy, for the Motherland, devoted to them their life’s work, even at a time when the Cold War, it seemed, had forever separated Russia from her children. Of course, it was not without a troubled soul that I came to this snowy corner of Holy Russia. Perhaps the biggest impression I received was when I visited the main cathedral, with its marvelous icons and relics; and, of course, everything I saw when I visited the iconography studio and the seminary itself. I understood that forces foreign and inimical to Orthodoxy had not forced their way into the history of the Russian Diaspora. Here is preserved the inheritance between the past and present ages, the relics of Tsarist Russia carefully preserved, the sacred objects passed down from the first wave of the emigration, every detail of what I saw in the seminary; for instance, an oath of loyalty, still in the pre-Revolutionary orthography and in a beautiful frame, hanging in one of the classrooms. This is to say nothing of the photographs in which we see the lanterns of the Russian Diaspora, such ones as Metropolitan Philaret, who shared a name with our 19th Century hierarch, and Metropolitan Laurus who, as the spiritual co-brother of His Holiness, the Patriarch, departed this life, I believe, soon after performing the great work of the reunification, work that superseded human strength. In a word, this is Russian land, I smell Russia here, and one of the things I was overjoyed to see was that the students who came here from Moscow with the blessing of His Holiness the Patriarch not only entered the ranks of the student body here, but my impression was that they imbibed with their hearts and souls the rich traditions developed here over half a century, and it seems to me that young, fresh forces from Russia are now pouring into the Russian Diaspora, bringing with them a bright and gracious inclination to help develop Church life here; specifically aiding its preservation here, which was undoubtedly the testament and desire of our wise hierarchs who, overcoming the misgivings and even alienation of many of their parishioners, nevertheless performed that great breakthrough.

- Father Artemy, from the so-called "Diasporan Lavra," you were taken to the diocesan center at St George’s Church in the town of Howell, NJ, which is one of the smaller churches in our diocese. What were your impressions of church life in small parishes, and specifically this parish?

- For me, as a priest who has grown accustomed to peering directly into people’s hearts, it was especially pleasant to see in this certainly smaller parish so many mature young people, spiritually and truly convinced in the Truth of Orthodoxy. In Russia we especially worry for our youth. It is, so to say, a very dynamic demographic, young, fresh, but simultaneously so naive and liable to fall to the many various temptations –  it is so easy to knock young people away from their goal and rob them of their Russianness, that is, of their connection to their roots, without which the tree of the human soul cannot stand. And the conclusive contrast, the impression that struck me and stayed in my heart, was the Orthodoxy borne here, perhaps not without sorrows, from which the soul that loves the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will not depart. Perhaps here there are no dozens or hundreds of young people, but let us remember the Russian proverb: mal zolotnik, da dorog (literally: small is the gold coin, but valuable; figuratively: good things come in small packages). Our faith shines not in quantity, but in quality, and of course the home of the diocesan secretary Archpriest Serge Lukianov was for me a familiar habitation. Traveling for these two weeks both in Russian and, so to speak, American (that is, mostly converts to Orthodoxy) parishes and communities, my soul was comforted. I cannot compare myself to those written about in the Acts of the Apostles, but very close to me are the words brought forth by the Evangelist St Luke, telling of the journey of the Apostle Paul: And Paul rejoiced, seeing the brethren coming to meet him by the Three taverns and Appii Forum in Rome. Indeed, sometimes in Russia we get the idea, just as in the Russian Diaspora, that only here can you find the Lord, that here is preserved pure Orthodoxy. Consider how inappropriate it is of us in our narrow-mindedness to constrict the boundaries of the Almighty’s divine grace. In every place bless the Lord, O my soul! And as someone very wisely said, the Russian people found themselves not in exile, not scattered, but on an evangelical journey. And I see that, thanks to the heroic struggle of three generations of Russian people, beginning with the labors of His Holiness, Patriarch Tikhon and even before him, with St Herman of Alaska, the seeds of Orthodoxy have been so deeply planted in the American land, that we now see a united Orthodox world, in which we must be mutually draw close one to another, grow one into another, having long ago thrown off any ambition, any pretense, instead being mutually enriched and drawing from this intercourse that grace of love, without which the whole world is a foreign land, and the soul an altar without divinity.

- One of the main reasons for your visit to America was to take part in the Lenten Retreat and Pastoral Conference of the Eastern American Diocese, which took place at St John the Baptist Cathedral in Mayfield, PA. You had an opportunity to speak with members of the Synodal administration, with the monks of Holy Trinity Monastery, with parishioners of St George’s Church, and here you had an opportunity to converse with many pastors of the Eastern American Diocese. Tell us, father, what were your impressions of our pastors, and of the Lenten Retreat in general?

- I would very much like to share the experiences of my visit with my brothers in Russia, because I consider precious the very possibility to hold a general pastoral conference, particularly during Great Lent. Relatively recently, we also resurrected the tradition of holding pastoral gatherings, conferences, especially now, when His Holiness Patriarch Kyrill, has called upon us to be part of the dynamic of parish life and life in the Church in general. Nonetheless I will note the deep inner meaning of these 2-3 days, when the bishops of the Church prayed together with the pastors at the long Great Lenten services, when the pastors themselves read and sang and confessed and preached, and the church itself was filled primarily by priests; after all, many more than 100 people gathered for this conference. And, you know, despite the fact that it was a weekday and the service was a quiet one, not loud, it had a Paschal joy that overcame the hearts of all the praying pastors, who without exception partook of the Holy Mysteries; I can see how internally meaningful this event was for all of us. As far as talking with other priests, I will say several words as a humble guest. It was pleasant for me to see that the pastors with whom I spoke, and not only the Russian ones, wonderfully fluent in their native tongue, but also the natural born Americans, gave me the impression of principled priests, living the principles of their calling and ruminating on the complicated issues of pastoral life. You see, our conference expanded beyond its set boundaries and continued deep into the night, when the stars shone in the firmament, as we gathered around in little circles in our comfortable hotel and could not part ways; that was how important it was for us to compare our pastoral observations; for me it was especially joyful to hear, for instance, the stories of one of the most honored clerics of the diocese, the renowned Archpriest George Larin, who surprised me with his child-like concern, tenderness, and even fervor in discussing seemingly abstract issues. He worries so for people’s souls that, speaking of social sins, of things that stain our life, in Russia as well as in America, be it abortions or the erosion of morality, his face reddened as a child’s would and, looking at us relatively young priests, attempted to imbue us with his pastoral zeal, but especially his co-suffering with modern man. I won’t lie, this memory stuck with me. The second thing I would like to say is what I mentioned earlier, the abbreviated distance between the hierarchs and the pastors. Of course, there is logic in this, because the Russian Diaspora is an archipelago of salvation amidst a new planet and world far removed from Christian morality. Naturally, the result is a desire to rally one to another. Russia is great and unbounded, and sometimes it seems to us that every church is filled with thousands of people. They gather for the most meaningful events in the Russian Diaspora, but believe this: when I was invited at lunch to sit between Metropolitan Hilarion and the two vicar bishops and we talked as if among equals, I felt unaccustomed, while pastors of the Russian Diaspora approached Their Graces with their varying complex issues; I would very much like for this warmth of intercommunication to be reflected on the flock in Russia, not only on the pastors but also on the pastured. And now in Russia, where more and more relatively young Patriarchal vicar bishops are appearing, at least in the capital, we hope that the Soviet epoch will take with it into oblivion this disconnect between the archpastors and pastors, and we, following the example of the Russian Diaspora, will have an opportunity for frequent, informal and therefore truly trusting and inspirational intercourse with our father bishops.

- Father Artemy, how specifically do pastoral conferences abroad differ from pastoral conferences in Russia?

- There are, of course, more points of similarity, but I especially appreciated and was impressed by how well thought-out the 2-3 day conference was. And I cannot omit the historic event that was our visit to one of the first Orthodox monasteries in America, St Tikhon of Zadonsk Monastery, founded by His Holiness, Patriarch Tikhon. There we were graciously welcomed by the abbot, Fr Sergius (Bowyer), and conversed with priests of the American Autocephalous Church. I was told that the luncheon we had there was the first instance of such a brotherly, lively, and direct relations between our Churches. In this sense, I was a witness to the fact that the Russian Diaspora, the Russian Church Abroad, is not only not in some forced isolation, but there is in fact an on-going rallying of the Orthodox forces of the American continent, and I think that our pastoral conference, of which I was an unworthy participant, contributed its own weighty mite to this movement. That is, this was truly an event of inter-Church magnitude, with far-reaching effects beneficial to the future of Orthodoxy in America.

- From Mayfield, accompanied by Holy Cross Monastery resident Hieromonk Alexander (Frizzell), you visited one of the biggest cathedrals of the Eastern American Diocese, St John the Baptist Cathedral in Washington, DC, and spent some time in the capital of the United States. What were your impressions of St John the Baptist Cathedral and of Washington in general?

- As far as the city is concerned, it is no surprise that it is often referred to as one of the greenest capital cities in the world – this is definitely the case. I envied some of the denizens of Washington, who live in small houses instead of the multi-apartment monstrosities that are currently being thrown up in other cities. Investigating the attractions of the American capital, aside from the White House, which appears rather humble in size and is devoid of garishness, I was struck by the wealth of national museums where, I would like to add, entry on weekends is free for all. How good it would be for us in Russia to return to this good European tradition, because acquainting the people with their nation’s riches and treasures is the primary concern of the powers that be. I will not hide the fact that, looking upon the departmental buildings of Washington, I noticed the imperial image the city projects, and in my mind I kept returning to Russia. We are currently accused of an imperialist mindset, with the accusers attempting to deconstruct Russia at the earliest opportunity, saying that the Russian people is not a democratically inclined people, and maintaining all the time that Russia is but a "federation," which must dissipate as soon as possible into separate and disparate fiefdoms. No, brothers – let us learn from the American states, of which each has its own laws and traditions. Let us similarly develop an imperial mindset, keeping in mind moreover that we are an Orthodox Christian civilization, an Orthodox world, and as His Holiness, the Patriarch, says, we are one: Great, Little, and White Russia, and does not the fate of the world depend on the degree of our unity? This is why my visit to Washington was of great use, though I will admit that the deepest, warmest mark of the trip to the capital was made by the church.

I consider that, more than everything else, the Church of St John the Baptist entered my heart; it is the child of worthy pastors, the successor to whom is Archpriest Victor Potapov. We know him, remember and love him from his enlightening broadcasts on "Voice of America" dedicated to Orthodoxy, but I myself have been acquainted with him for several decades now, although here in Russian America is the first time I have enjoyed brotherly intercourse with him. And, you know, you barely enter this church, and it warms your heart – thanks to what? Perhaps to the wonderful iconography on the walls, done in the ancient school, which even in Russia not every church possesses; perhaps it is the abundance of holy relics, which create the indescribable atmosphere of an Orthodox temple; but I think that that especial love with which the rector, piece by piece, builds his parish. I won’t go into great detail about what I saw in the altar, although only in the Kremlin Armoury can you find such a wealth of ancient chalices and crosses, gathered here and perhaps passed on to Father by generations of long-reposed priests. They say that in the whole region, the whole diocese, Fr Victor Potapov’s choir and its antiphonal singing is renowned. Even the multitude of parishioners necessitates the serving of two Divine Liturgies on Sundays, an earlier one in English and a later one in Slavonic, which of course speaks to the qualities of this man not only as a museum collector, but as a collector and fisher of men’s souls. Of course, it is desirable that a real Russian cultural center might be formed in Washington; their property is not very large, but Father shared with me his dream; a large property is for sale belonging to a Greek church, and awaits benefactors willing to buy it. Of course, the capital, Washington, is worthy of the creation of such a multipurpose, multifaceted Russian Diasporan center.

- Father Artemy, when you were in Washington, I believe you also had the opportunity to meet with the Head Scoutmaster of St George Pathfinders of America, Alexey T. Zacharin. How would you evaluate the role of youth organizations abroad, namely St George Pathfinders?

- Over the course of two days I enjoyed the hospitality of the servant of God Alexey, who combines in himself the warmth of Orthodox piety and a military bearing and, knowing very well how many generations of Russian youth abroad, having attended the summer camps and joined the scouting organizations, both developed valiant prowess and fortified themselves in their loyalty to bygone ages, strengthening themselves in the faith, of course I consider wonderful the desire to restore the activities of these organizations on Russian soil, as well. All the more so, since it is clear to every pedagogue in Russia, I among them, that to rob the youth of an opportunity to unite and instead subject them to the influence of the street is ruinous. Today we are truly in need of these organizations, which would come and replace the atheist organizations of the past, the infamous Pioneers and Komsomol, in at least imparting upon our youth some unity and presenting them with an ideology. In this sense Russian scouts, vityazi ("knights"), and so forth, are united beneath the sign of the Three-Bar Cross. And of course it would be beneficial for this movement to grow in Russia; with that let us learn the lesson that these organizations have and foster a close-knit relationship with the Church. After all, the Protectress of the Russian Diaspora, the Kursk Root Icon, was, so to speak, a witness to the oath taken by the leaders of the scouting organization in their struggle to unify the youth and inspire it with an ideal. We have also drawn quite enough lessons from alienating ourselves from the Mother Church to hope today of uniting our youth outside of a living dialogue with Christ the Savior and His grace, outside of the living mysteries of the Church. God grant that these beneficial forces that are being taken up both abroad and in Russia may truly bring forth good fruit, with the blessing of our holy hierarchy. Meanwhile, may the youth spend their time off, their summer vacations, not only communing with the beauty of nature and living a healthy lifestyle outdoors, but drawing their unity from the noble work of restoring churches and monasteries, which, as it turns out, is the driving force behind the scouting organization. Mr. Zacharin showed me pictures of the monastery on the island of Konevets, where under his guidance Russian youth now travel, combining both pleasure and wholesome activity in their prayerful and laborious work.

- Father, as I’m sure you are aware after your visit, the Eastern American Diocese is one of the largest diocese in the Church Abroad. And it is interesting how the Diocese itself is laid out. That is, all of the states which make up the Eastern American Diocese are quite different one from another. For instance, the North varies vastly from the South in lifestyle. And so, having visited Jordanville in the North, from Washington you went to the south of our Diocese, and there you were able to visit a real American (in the fullest sense of the word) village, Middlebrook, where most of the parishioners are converts, having left the Protestant faith, and the majority, if not all, speak only English. How would you evaluate the role of these converts, how were you greeted in this parish, and what were your impressions of it?

- This was, in a sense, a separate milestone of my two-week odyssey, my wanderings about America, which we who live in Russia did not know, do not know, and cannot know. The only thing we know is the book Tom Sawyer, and the atmosphere of the little American towns where Huckleberry Finn played his pranks, where the amazing adventures of mischievous American boys took place; there you will find both puritanical morals and a kind of geniality and openness. And so, I was truly given an opportunity to visit the American interior, and we conversed in English with these notorious "converts," though I must say that their eyes, hearts, and smiles spoke of the fact that God’s Spirit breathes wherever It wishes. And it was a pleasant revelation for me, because in Moscow I have heard murmurs of late to the effect that the Russian Church Abroad is not particularly open to newcomers, doesn’t particularly strive to do missionary work amongst the native population of America, zealously and vigilantly defending its national identity. In the meantime, anyone familiar with Christian culture can see where this vigilant guardianship of the Armenian or Coptic ethnos carries with it some dangerous tendencies. I was relieved to see weighty proof that the modern Russian Diaspora, as befits the bearers of the Christian Gospel, not only sees no sense in such isolation, but to the contrary, as a grapevine, attempts to expand its reach. I am sure that despite all of the expected complications, – after all, it is not at all easy to adapt to the fullness of the Orthodox worldview having spent 15 years in the captivity of Quakers, Huguenots, Methodists, or some kind of alleged Jehovah’s "Witnesses;" despite all the difficulties, I think that the acquisition by the Russian Church of new members from among natural born Americans is a joyous occurrence with a great deal of potential for the future; we can feel the new wine being poured into old wineskins, we can feel the human soul being renewed in our native Orthodoxy, and for me as an educator and teacher of Russian language and literature and as one having a command of the English language, it was especially interesting to observe this "bilingual situation" – the coexistence of English and Slavonic, forming an organic alloy, especially during the divine services, where without wounding one another these languages enter the tapestry of the service and truly the troparia, sticheras, and litanies take turns, in so doing distributing love. Natural born Americans feel themselves not to be outsiders; they feel as though they have entered their own church,that everything here is open for them, and they can absorb everything into their minds and reasoning by way of English-language hymns. On the other hand, we do not feel that modernism reigns here, that here roots are artificially torn up, that the soil has been dispersed here. Instead we taste the sweet fruit of our native Russian Orthodoxy. And I wish that such care for Church Slavonic to modern Russian speech could be manifested by us in Russia, because, I admit, as a champion of Russian philology, I am grieved to hear that some of our priests, who don’t know English, feel Church Slavonic to be a burden, and consider modifying to their always unfortunate fashion the poetic ligature of our Church Slavonic liturgical language, which makes them foreigners in Russia, as well as non-Russian people, when they come to America and find a respectful attitude toward Russian and Church culture in natural born Americans.

- There has been a definite rebirth in the south of our Diocese over the course of the last ten years: new churches are being opened, and hundreds of people are converting to Orthodoxy. And for the spiritual nourishment of these new parishes, Holy Cross then-Hermitage was opened several years ago. This hermitage was founded by monks – all American converts to Orthodoxy, having nothing in common with Russian culture, other than their faith. Over a very short period of time, a self-sufficient monastery has risen up, one of the largest monasteries in our Diocese. Over the last year it has served as the permanent residence of our diocesan vicar bishop, His Grace George, Bishop of Mayfield. You had an opportunity to visit this monastery and participate in the blessing of a new cross, which was placed on the location of the monastery’s future cathedral. Tell us, Father, what were your impressions of this monastery?

- Of course, I am not an unbiased witness, because the very beauty of this natural oasis cannot fail to inspire even the most accidental tourist who stumbles upon it. What then can you say for an Orthodox pilgrim? We Muscovites miss untouched nature, clean land, an open sky, the twinkling of stars in the night sky. Even in the best preserved corners of the Moscow countryside, we would never see wild deer that come out to meet you, attentively watching and looking at you, never expecting from you any trickery or threat. And, of course, the opportunity to carry on a conversation with a raccoon or watch eagles circle above your head is already a revelation. An even bigger revelation is the spiritual atmosphere of the Monastery of the Holy Cross… I am not completely in agreement with you regarding the monks, these natural born Americans, that they know nothing of Russian culture; they know no less than our own. The thing is that the great saints of the Russian land are near and dear to them, beloved spiritual teachers of monasticism: St Sergius, St. Seraphim of Sarov, St John of Kronstadt – this is Holy Russia, which has taken our American brothers into her fold. Listening in on the quiet, moving singing of the monastery choir, I regretted the fact that my choir conductor and my choristers could not hear firsthand how to sing the hymns of Great Lent so spiritually, without any pressure or counting on some external effect. Of course, like priest, like flock, and while by the rules of asceticism I cannot praise the thriving Bishop George, a natural born American, nevertheless all you have to do it look at his comely grey hair, or especially if you see the spark in his kind eyes, his smile, and you immediately feel yourself not in unfamiliar Virginia, but in your own home, so does the fatherly warmth of Vladyka’s intercourse with you both rehabilitate and acclimate, transforming you from a guest into a native of the monastery. I was honored, over the course of two hours, to carry on a conversation with the brethren of and pilgrims to the monastery on prayer, on the prayerful life of a Christian. I cannot vouch for the quality of my English, but the greatly pious silence that accompanied my monologue, and then the questions relating to the very substance of the prayerful life of a Christian, bore witness to the fact that our conversation was realized, and was aided in so doing by the grace of God.

- Father, what future do you foresee for this monastery, which is of great importance to the diocese?

- I think that this monastery is going to make its own future, and judging by the fact that it has grown from nothing into a well-organized monastery, and judging by the cross which we blessed in hopes that the Lord God will send the means and will help erect a church large enough for all of the residents of and pilgrims to the monastery to fit inside comfortably. I would like to conclude my impressions of this quiet monastery with the joyous, optimistic words of Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin: "I greet you, young and unknown tribe!"[1]

- Father, the Church Abroad, especially here in America, has a very important role in that it gives spiritual nourishment to our compatriots living outside the borders of the homeland. The time of the Communist yoke very negatively affected the spirit of the Russian person: many people have not been "churched," do not know our Church rites and customs. And so the Church Abroad tries to gather all of these sheep into one herd. What practical advice can you give our pastors regarding newcomers from Russia?

- First, as a priest I know that God reveals Himself to many of them during their resettlement, in a foreign land. For some reason it was the case that, back in their own house, so to speak, they avoided going to church. But as they find themselves in faraway land, they feel an irresistible urge and step over the threshold of the church, perhaps seeking Russian speech, or desiring to enter into conversation with their fellows in fortune or in misfortune. It is in that manner that the Lord God, by His grace, enters into their souls. I would like, first and foremost, to thank the priests of the Church Abroad for the patience and lenience with which they open their fatherly embrace to our compatriots, not asking them right away what their convictions are, but accepting the poor in faith, without any glossing over. Second, you noted yourself the complicated psychology of modern man; the personalities of such emigres are complicated things, comprised of many ingredients. And so it falls to these priests, these "knowers of souls," to combine affability with caution, an ability to preserve a certain distance, while at the same time skillfully attracting the soul with a smile, with a kind word, which even a domesticated animal requires. How much more so, then, do those people need it, who for a time or for all time have lost their living connection to the land of their birth?

What else can I say? I think that many of our priests, born and raised in America, should not shy away from sharing with newcomer parishioners from Russia in that culture that is just now being reborn. I do not mean Orthodox culture or Russian culture generally; I mean a culture of personal behavior, what the French call le bon ton, that is, well-mannered behavior. Unfortunately, post-Soviet youth were raised in a very difficult time, when the victories of socialism were lost and the new capitalist era could still give them nothing but the aggressive influence of the street and "mass media" with its rotting effects on the soul. Here in America, having been in the homes of "hereditary" priests, many of whom take pride in their blood relation to great names and dynasties, in the clergy, in the nobility; being in these homes, I noticed for myself the special warmth of the hearth, the special culture of upbringing in the home, the very Russian treatment of guests, selfless, hospitable, taking into account neither time nor cost; in a word, everything we call the Russian spirit. And it is not lost on us that they share this spirit with us, the denizens of post-Soviet Russia, today, because we do not remain indifferent to these currents of love, recalling the memory of our grandfathers and grandmothers, who carried the same spirit, and in so doing we complete each other’s mutual insufficiencies, combining our hearts and souls, thereby creating one Russian world (on which many peoples and tribes and nations today rely) amongst ourselves, that we may glorify our God, who entrusted to us the precious deposit of Holy Orthodoxy.

- After May 17, 2007, when the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion took place, a new era began for the Russian Church Abroad. And now, almost three years hence, some both in the Diaspora and in Russia think that a so-called Diasporan Russia does not exist, that Diasporan Russia is but a mere idea. Some say that if you want to feel Diasporan Russia, you must dig somewhere in the archives of Holy Trinity Monastery, as if this is all in the past. And some think that the Church Abroad is unnecessary, because now that we have all united, we are one church. What do you think – did you experience the feeling of a genuine Diasporan Russia during your visits, and how would you evaluate the role of the Church Abroad in the future?

- I think that this is the voice either of the envious, or of ill-wishers, or of those people who for one reason or another could not worthily evaluate the momentous events that took place, the reunification of the Russian Church Abroad with the Moscow Patriarchate, and for this reason, talking nonsense due to lack of any abundance of graciousness or nobility, wind up on the wayside of Church history. The thing is that, for me, as a native Muscovite, as a philologist, that is, a person well-acquainted with Russian culture, the contribution of the Russian Diaspora to our lives, to the life of Russia today, is perfectly clear to me. And I have in mind not only church relics or the priceless artifacts in archives or museums, but the continuity of generations from the last century to the present. Conversing here over the course of two weeks with the youth, brought up under the wings of the Russian Diaspora, I see that these young men and women are truly the children of their fathers, and they, taking up the baton of Russian Orthodoxy, hold it as a candle, not unwillingly, not forced, but like the wise virgins of the Gospel parable, awaiting the arrival of their Bridegroom. We already spoke about how the bases of Russian life in Russia are being undermined and eroded. You will not meet a person who can express himself in literary, scholarly Russian. Today our youth in Russia, excuse me, have difficulty understanding Pushkin! He appears unreadable to the Vandals and Neanderthals of the 21st Century. As for what concerns the thoughts of Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin on patriotic history, if you recall what our poet wrote: there is no history he would rather have. And his famous "Poltava," his many poems, truly bear witness to the greatness of the Russian spirit, fostered by Orthodoxy, not a listless spirit, not a droopy or sorrowful spirit, but one filled with a kind of internal, triumphant power. The principal service rendered by the Russian Diaspora and the Russian Church Abroad lies in the fact that America, like Europe before it, became acquainted with the Russian Church, and entered into it, in the form of the best of its sons. And to say today that Metropolitan Laurus completed his task and that he can rest, that today the Russian Church Abroad is departing into oblivion, – this is, I think, an rather unfortunate line of thought, which of course we could understand coming from the mouths of Dzerzhinsky or Soros, but not those who have our blood running in their veins, the blood of Fyodor Dostoevsky, General Mikhail Kutuzov, or the Righteous St John of Kronstadt. And so for me the following thought is especially dear: certainly we are different, we are not very similar in likeness one to another, but we have shared roots, and for this reason the Lord has brought us together, to realize the mystical distribution of love. As they say, let us rejoice in what we have. Let Russia today give new momentum to the Russian Diaspora. As Metropolitan Laurus of blessed repose correctly noted, we grieve at the schisms and the departure from the Church of the Monastery in Lesna, or of other individual parishes; at the same time, however, we now have Valaam and the Solovetsky Islands, Trinity-St Sergius Lavra and Pochaev, and it barely bears mentioning what the possibility of visiting Diveevo and serving in that appanage of the Mother of God means for the Russian Diaspora, or the great meaning for us, the inhabitants of Russia, the great Protectress of the Russian Diaspora, the Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God; perhaps the video documentary of Her visit expresses it better than any words, stirring and bringing to tears even the hardiest of men. Then you can see with your own eyes the marvelous miracle of our national unity. As Patriarch Alexey of blessed repose said, and I believe these words to be prophetic: by reuniting the two pieces of the Russian church we end the Russian Civil War, the senseless division into "White" and "Red." The so-called "Reds" have long ago been whitened by sufferings in Christ, and the so-called "Whites" have been cleansed by the blood of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I think today our strength is in our unity, and in our great fortune we will show the other great nations, including the far-flung United States of America, that in our peaceful existence and in the high-flying banner of Orthodoxy is the future not only of Russia, but the seeds of peace not only in Europe, but through the entire world.

- What advice would you give to the next generation of the Russian Church Abroad, namely the youth about which you so lovingly spoke earlier? What would you say to our future pastors, matushkas, and monastics of the Church Abroad?

- I will say what I traditional say to the youth of Moscow, St Petersburg, Tambov, and Omsk: there is no need to be embarrassed by the gifts of innocence and purity. But it is proper to deservingly gauge those natural virtues that we receive from the Lord God, from nature, from birth, and protect, defend, the purity of our spiritual and physical strengths, in defiance of death and to the ruin of the winds of the enemy. In order for the bud of the human soul to blossom, one must successfully pass through the zone of turbulence, the transitional age and the formation of a personality that accompanies youth. I would like first and foremost to wish our Russian-American Orthodox youth this spiritual fortitude, the ability to overcome, conquer, and if possible completely avoid the temptations of the subculture, avoid falling into the virtual abyss of the "Underground," instead taking firm steps across the hospitable American land, which for us is expressed in the warm and wonderful conjunction "Russian America."

- Father, with all our heart we thank His Holiness the Patriarch for his blessing for this trip. We know that on Great Tuesday His Holiness will visit you in your parish. We ask on behalf of the whole of the Eastern American diocese that you make not one, but three full prostrations before His Holiness, thanking him for this opportunity. And we also thank you, dear Father, for your kind words, for your heart, for your eyes, and for your talks with the clergy of our diocese. With all our heart, thank you, Fr Artemy.

- And I solemnly swear (not for nothing was I in the pioneers as a youth, where we had to give our solemn oath) to make three prostrations in the presence of His Holiness, the Patriarch. I ask only that he not consider this to be some foolishness for Christ, insisting that I be sent to some far-off woodland parish for expressing these feelings. But I will absolutely make these three venerations from Orthodox Russian America, and I believe that His Holiness will, so to speak, hear the beating of your hearts and the pulse of the pious blood of his parishioners. For now it is no accident that in the furthermost parishes of Alaska, Oklahoma, and Florida, during the divine services alongside the name of Metropolitan Hilarion, even before his name, the name of His Holiness Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, is proclaimed.

Amen! 

[1] From the poem “I have visited again...” (1835) by A.S. Pushkin (1799-1837). The poet writes of the mature pines by his home of old, and of the smaller, younger pines growing around them:

   I greet you, young/ And unknown tribe! I’ll not see/ Your mighty upward thrust of years to come/ When you will overtop these friends of mine/ And shield their ancient summits from the gaze/ Of passersby. (45-50)

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