Chapter 17: Father Gregory‘s First Meeting with Archbishop Andrew

It should be noted that Fr. Gregory never met Archbishop Andrew in Novo-Diveyevo. Whenever he would ask to accompany those from Holy Transfiguration Monastery who would travel to specifically speak with Archbishop Andrew, and to receive his blessing, he would be denied. Travelers from the monastery to visit the spiritually enlightened elder would be as frequent as once a month. For twelve years Fr. Gregory would wonder why he had never seen the spiritual father of the monastery, who was gifted with foreknowledge, given the fact that all the other monks and even novices had visited him to receive his blessing. He would be told, “We need you to work on the icons. This is a very important gift that you have.”

One time when guests at the monastery were arranging a trip to visit Archbishop Andrew, Fr. Gregory asked Fr. Isaac in a passing moment, “Why don‘t I go along with the guests to see Archbishop Andrew?” Fr. Isaac immediately answered in a casual way as he was walking by, “You cannot go to see Archbishop Andrew by yourself.” That statement in itself was a cause of bewilderment to Fr. Gregory, which he would eventually come to understand later.

Father Symeon traveled to Jordanville and waited for the opportunity to catch a ride to Spring Valley, New York. Weeks passed, but there was no one traveling that way. At this time, Fr. Panteleimon came into Fr. Gregory‘s room and said, “Next week we‘re going to New York City so you can photograph an old Russian icon for sale in one of the shops in Manhattan.” (Father Gregory was the monastery photographer.) He also said, “We‘ll be having lunch at the Synod headquarters.” Father Gregory asked, “Will we see Archbishop Andrew on the way home?” He said, “Yes.” Then the heart rate of Fr. Gregory increased, along with his blood pressure, because of all the times he had wanted to meet this holy man, it was going to be accomplished the first and only time that Fr. Gregory in his monastic life had not disclosed his inner thoughts to his abbot.

At the appointed time, Fr. Gregory, Fr. Mamas, the abbot, and the Russian man who was called John went on the trip to New York City. In all the years that Fr. Gregory desired and waited to see Archbishop Andrew, he never imagined that when he finally had the opportunity that he would have any hesitation. Now, however, because of the agreement with Fr. Symeon which was not known to the abbot, Fr. Gregory hesitated in his heart to meet the archbishop because he knew he was gifted with divine foreknowledge and all he would have to say to Fr. Gregory was “What are you planning?”, or just to look at him and say “Tell us what is in your heart?”, or anything similar to this which would reveal that Fr. Gregory was hiding something for the first time in his monastic life. This was no small incident, but since it was an endeavor to seek God‘s will and it was only involving those who are spiritual fathers of the monastery, he justified it in his heart that this was not a grievous endeavor. Nevertheless, it was still embarrassing to him that for one time he had hidden something from his abbot. Father Gregory was sending up intense prayer to the merciful God throughout the drive to Spring Valley. He was praying that the archbishop would not reveal anything at the present time.

They went to the antique shop to photograph the icon which they had intended to photograph and then drove to the Synod headquarters on 93rd Street. There they were offered lunch with the Grabbe family. Protopresbyter George Grabbe and his family provided the meal. After the meal they proceeded to go home by way of Novo-Diveyvo Convent, the residence of Archbishop Andrew, dedicated to the Dormition of the Virgin Mary.

Now Fr. Gregory started to get nervous. How was he going to meet the archbishop? He had determined that he was going to be as quiet and as invisible as possible and just wait when there was an opportunity to present the question to the archbishop by Fr. Symeon who was planning to come to speak openly with Archbishop Andrew at a later time. So when they entered into the convent they immediately went to the small cottage where Archbishop Andrew had his cell and his bedroom, and where he was being taken care of by his cell attendants. The archbishop was approaching the end of his long life, and he was very sick towards the last part of his life and had to have assistance in going to bed and to get onto the chair which was next to the bed. He was taking blood thinners for his heart.

When they entered the room, Fr. Gregory wanted to be as inconspicuous as possible. He let them all enter in first to get the archbishop‘s blessing, and then he came in to receive his blessing and retreated as far back as possible, but the room which contained both his bed and his chair was not very large at all. The other guests and the translator were on either side of the Archbishop‘s chair and they were seated on each side.

To Fr. Gregory‘s dismay, the only place that he could retreat to was to stand at the entrance to his room which was unavoidably directly in front of him. Throughout the entire visit the archbishop was right in front of Fr. Gregory, and Fr. Gregory was right in front of him. There was no place to go, neither the right nor the left. He had to remain in that position. The archbishop looked at Fr. Gregory throughout the whole visit. He would not turn his face to the right or to the left, but his face was directed only on Fr. Gregory, even when he was talking to the others. As could be understood, Fr. Gregory melted and was exceedingly nervous, wondering if the archbishop was going to say anything. Five, ten, and twenty minutes passed and the archbishop would be staring only at Fr. Gregory, even when answering the questions of others. After a long time the archbishop asked, “What does Fr. Gregory do at the monastery?” He was told that Fr. Gregory paints icons and that one of his reproduction icons of St. Andrew the Apostle was on the wall over the archbishop‘s head. The archbishop continued to be intently staring at Fr. Gregory and he then said this was very good and that Fr. Gregory should not stop painting. Father Gregory remained silent and prayed that he would not ask any more questions! Finally Fr. Panteleimon asked for confession, while Fr. Mamas remained to translate. At this moment Fr. Gregory saw the opportunity to disappear. He eagerly left the room and went to the opposite room which happened to be the archbishop‘s cell.


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