Chapter 24: Father Gregory‘s Departure

Now with the repose of the holy hierarch Andrew of Novo-Dieyevo, Fr. Gregory felt somewhat abandoned, but as time would show, Vladyka Andrew‘s prayers were with him. Father Gregory had consolation from Bishop Constantine, who was adamantly in favor of Fr. Gregory‘s desire to start a monastery, and he could not fathom the reasoning of the abbot, for he would say, “Are we not the salt of the earth?” And he would say, “St. Sergios established forty monasteries from his lavra, and those forty established seventy others and filled the Russian land with holy habitations for monks.” The only plan that Fr. Gregory had was to ask for permission to leave every two months, whenever a feast day of the Virgin Mary came, because he trusted in her intercessions so very much. Time would pass, and with every request a denial was given. All the time, Fr. Gregory was praying to the Virgin Mary with the prayer, “Grant your blessing, O Most holy Mother of God.” And indeed, the Virgin Mary did comfort Fr. Gregory during this time, for the Kursk Root Icon came to Boston and visited the monastery, and it was deposited, yes, in Fr. Gregory‘s cell. This icon was the protectress of the Russian Church Abroad. It is one of the greatest wonderworking icons of Holy Russia, having been revealed on the feast day of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, on September 8, 1259. It was before this icon that St. Seraphim of Sarov was healed when he was a child.

She stayed there for about one week. Father Gregory was asked to take apart the riza, clean it, do some restoration work on the icon if possible, to put it back together again, and to photograph it, both with and without the riza. Father Gregory was the photographer in the monastery and he took great care to obtain the finest photograph possible, using a negative that was four inches by five inches for the best quality. This visitation was a great comfort to Fr. Gregory as he continued to pray, “Most Holy Mother of God, grant your blessing!” On another occasion, the monastery had purchased a Russian icon of the Virgin Mary, which is called “Assuage My Sorrows.” It was approximately two and a half feet tall. It had some damage and it was again deposited in Fr. Gregory‘s cell for restoration and photography. He saw this as a special blessing, since his prayer was continuously to the Virgin Mary, “Grant your blessing.” This was the only icon of the Virgin Mary in which she is blessing, holding her right hand the way Christ, a bishop, or a priest would hold his right hand in the holy icons, giving a blessing. He was sad to see this icon leave his cell, since his prayer was, “Grant your blessing,” and there she was, giving her blessing. To his surprise, when it was taken away, it was not placed in the sanctuary or on the wall, but it was placed on a shelf directly behind Fr. Gregory‘s place in the church. August was now approaching and the feast of the Virgin Mary‘s Dormition was also approaching. However, the monastery during this time was experiencing a lot of temptations that greatly vexed the abbot, and his irritation could not be hidden. Among the many unfortunate incidents that happened as the feast day of the Virgin Mary was approaching were the following.

Hooligans were attacking the property of the monastery at night. One night they destroyed the sign at the entrance road to the monastery, which Fr. Gregory had framed and mounted by the main street. Then, they came in further and defaced some of the property between the road and the monastery buildings. This all happened in the deep night. Then one night they approached the monastery buildings themselves and damaged the main doors to the building and drove away.

Father Benedict‘s departure was another incident which distressed the abbot to no end. He was a great schemamonk who one night completely threw off his monastic clothing in the woods and disappeared from the monastery. He was the ecclesiarch of the church who had been there not a few years, and his departure greatly sorrowed the abbot. It was very puzzling to many in the brotherhood.

Another incident was that of Fr. Nektarios, who was a Greek man and a great schemamonk. He wanted to leave the monastery because he felt he was being treated unfairly. He asked for a blessing to leave and be transferred to the Russian monastery in Jordanville. Because he had given so much real estate property in Greece to the monastery when he came, he was not denied. Also, he had a temper and was a strong person, and if he were denied, the elite Greeks in the monastery would be fearful of him. Therefore, before his face they told him he had a blessing. However,after he left, they publicly said he departed without their blessing.

Another incident was the disappearance of an icon of “Saints Peter and Paul Embracing,” which was painted on the Holy Mountain by an iconographic skete. This was another source of great irritation for the abbot.

Certainly all of these sorrowful events happening at the approach of the feast of the Dormition should have triggered in his mind how God punished Pharoah because of his refusal to release the children of Israel. The abbot knew that he was forcing Fr. Gregory to remain in the monastery in a way like the children of Israel were forced to remain in Egypt. Finally when the feast came, after all these events had occurred, Fr. Gregory again determined to ask the abbot for his permission to leave. Sorrowing that the abbot was suffering such grief from all the things, Fr. Gregory nonetheless had to ask on the feast day of the Dormition, and to his great relief, the abbot said, “OK, go, but don‘t you dare tell anybody that I gave you my blessing.” Father Gregory answered, “I was only told you would release me. I would never tell anybody that you blessed me,” and he left his room with great joy. He went to his room and began to pack his belongings. Then Fr. Isaac came to Fr. Gregory‘s room and asked him, “Where do you intend to go?” Father Gregory said, “I think probably to join Fr. John in Florida.” Isaac left and came back a few minutes later and said, “The elder thought you were going to Jordanville. If you intend to go to Fr. John, he will not permit you.” Father Gregory said, “Alright, then, Jordanville.” Father Isaac said, “OK.” The abbot after this left the monastery that day to his northern, oceanside skete, and Fr. Gregory did not see him again. Pharaoh had released the children of Israel at last, and now the new Pharaoh had finally released Fr. Gregory. It was the evening of August 23, the commemoration of the icon of the Virgin Mary called “Petrovskaya.”

The first thing that Fr. Gregory did was to notify Bishop Constantine to receive the necessary papers so as to be accepted into the diocese of Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York. Thus, all canonical order was followed. Next he telephoned his brother and told him that he had finally obtained permission to leave and pleaded with him for transportation to New York the day after next. He was seriously afraid that the abbot would change his mind, so he wanted to leave as quickly as possible. The following day gave Fr. Gregory enough time to pack and to say goodbye to the elderly people who were living at the monastery, who loved him greatly. That day came and he received a phone call from his brother saying that it would have to be delayed one more day because he was getting a shipment of goods on a large truck and there was no man at his store to unload with the driver. So the trip was delayed one more day. That morning, Richard and Fr. Stephen Fraser, a parish priest from St. Anne‘s Church in Boston of the Russian Church Abroad, accompanied Fr. Gregory from the monastery to Holy Trinity Monastery in New York. It was not but one hour into the trip when Fr. Gregory opened the calendar to see what feast day it was. To his shock and amazement, it was one year to the very day when Archbishop Andrew said that Fr. Gregory “will be released and leave the monastery.” It was to the very day, September 8th (August 26th Old Calendar), the feast of the Meeting of the Mother of God of Vladimir.


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