• How Archbishop John Blessed the Brothers for their Labors
  • One's Personal Responsibility as an Orthodox Believer
  • Obedience in Light of Law, Rules and Canons
  • Reading Requirements at Platina
  • The Jesus Prayer in Platina
  • The Use of the “Optina 500”
  • Free Books from Optina


How Archbishop John Blessed the Brothers for their Labors

The first step the new Brotherhood took was to ask Archbishop John;s blessing upon its labors. When the Archbishop heard about the brother's proposal for a bookstore, he was careful to make them understand that the success of their work depended not on his blessing, but rather on their own effort and on God. Thus, in response to Glebs request for his archepiscopal approval, he simply wrote:


Dear Gleb,

Your intention is clearly good and the cause is good. You must exert all your effort for its realization. I am asking God for His almighty help. If it pleasing to God, then it will go forward. May the Lord bless you.

With love,

Archbishop John

August 28, 1963

St. Moses the Ethiopian and St. Job of Pochaev (p. 259)


One's Personal Responsibility as an Orthodox Believer

Feeling their inadequacy and inexperience as editors of an Orthodox journal, however, the brothers wanted some kind of insurance against making errors. Knowing they could find no better safeguard than a living saint like Archbishop John, they asked him to carefully approve each issue before publication. They hoped this would also bring them into closer contact with him and thereby enhance their missionary endeavors. The outcome, however, was not what they expected.

When Gleb explained the contents of the first issue before printing it, Archbishop John approved without hesitation and emphatically said, “Print!” And when asked about subsequent issues, he approved before the brothers could even tell them what was in them!

Gleb was puzzled. Why didn't the Archbishop try to exercise the power of censorship, since the magazine was being published within his diocese? Gleb's consternation increased when, after the publication of the fifth issue, a reader became quite incensed at a certain article that Eugen had written. The article, in the “Orthodoxy in the Contemporary World” section, had been about Pope Paul IV's address before the United Nations, which we have recounted elsewhere. Expressing his indignation, the reader returned the issue with notes in the margins. Here was a magazine full of the treasures of the Orthodox Faith, and at the end of it one is faced with an article comparing the Pope to th Antichrist! Who did these “pipsqueak” editors think they were to make such outlandish statements about world-recognized spiritual leader?

Hurt by this bitter response, the brothers told Archbishop John what had happened. As Eugen looked on, Gleb asked the Archbishop, “Why didn't you check over this issue so we would have known before we printed it?!”

Having learned the contents of the article in question, the Archbishop looked keenly into Gleb's eye. “Didn't you attend the courses at the seminary?” he asked.

“Yes,” Gleb said.

“And didn't you complete them?”


“Did you have Archbishop Averky as your instructor?”


And weren't you taught that in times of trouble, each Christian is himself responsible for the fullness of Christianity? That each member of the Orthodox Church is responsible for the whole Church? (emphasis mine) And that today the Church has enemies and is persecuted from outside and within?”

“Yes, I was,” Gleb affirmed.

This, the Archbishop went on to tell the brothers, was why he deliberately did not censor their magazine. He wanted them to be responsible for what they printed; otherwise, they would not be following their own consciences, but just someone else's opinion. If they made mistakes, they would be the ones to answer for them before God, and would not be tempted to blame others. In times like these, he said, it is crucial for the preservation of Christianity that Orthodox workers be able to work for Christianity independently. It is praiseworthy when they do creative work waiting for instructions. (p. 281)


Obedience in Light of Law, Rules and Canons

“If by obedience, by faithfulness to the letter of the canons, or by any other good in itself, the spirit of a man is crushed and is extinguished, then there is something terribly wrong. Vladika Artemon has already accused us of a tendency to 'disobedience' and 'self-will' – and, while admitting that we are in all ways sinful, we can only say that in the present case these accusations are beside the point. Before such virtues have any meaning, they must have a place in a definite context, in a common task, in a fruitful work. Such a context would be, for example, ...an established working monastery such as Jordanville; in our case, the context is The Orthodox Word and our missionary printing labors, which for seven years now we have followed with great labor and sacrifice, in everything being obedient to the Church and to each other, so that never did one of us exercise his 'own will,' obeying rather each other and the common task that united us. Without this we would never have survived; but with this and the blessing of Vladika John we have survived this long and now called by the Church to expand our work and bing forth greater fruit.” (p. 418-419)

Reading Requirements at Platina

The books read in church were all of monastic inspiration: The Lausaic History, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, the Spiritual Counsels of Abba Dorotheos, and the account of St. Pachomius and his disciples (found in The Paradise of the Fathers). According to tradition, the Homilies of St. Ephraim the Syrian were also to be red during the services, but since no English translation was available, the fathers substituted a classic text of Western Orthodoxy, the Dialogues of St. Gregory the Great. For their private spiritual reading, the brothers read such books as Unseen Warfare, the Institutes of St. John Cassian, the Rule of St. Pachomius, and The Northern Thebaid. Fr. Seraphim, as we have seen, tried to reread Blessed Augustine's Confessions every Lent, in addition to other books. (p. 568)


The Jesus Prayer in Platina

Outside the Church services, Fr. Seraphim would strive to remember God by saying the Jesus Prayer throughout the day, whether while working, resting, or taking a walk. The brothers were reminded to do likewise. From the very beginning of the skete's existence, Fathers Serphim and Herman had instituted the traditional monastic practice of saying the Jesus Prayer aloud whenever entering a room. This practice had been followed by the monks on ancient times in order to foil the tricks of the demons, who were know to enter the cells of desert-dwellers without warning. (p. 574)


The Use of the “Optina 500”

We have already mentioned that Fathers Seraphim and Herman, in the tradition of Bishop Nektary, carried out the private “ Optina Five-Hundred” cell-rule of prayer in addition to the regular Church services. This consisted of: 300 Jesus Prayers, 100 prayers to the Mother of God, 50 to one's Guardian Angel, and 50 to All Saints. (p. 574)


Free Books from Optina

There had been a tradition in Optina, instituted by Abbot Moses (+1862), that whenever a spiritual book was published by the monastery, a copy would be sent free to each monastery in Russia. At Fr. Seraphim's insistence the St. Herman Brotherhood did the same, sending a free copy of all its Russian books to Russian Orthodox monasteries throughout the world. (p. 623)

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