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Metropolitan Anthony as a Teacher of Pastorship


A report given by Protopresbyter G. Grabbe (now Bishop Gregory of Manhattan) at the solemn convocation in memory of Metropolitan Anthony on 18/31 March 1963 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Sign, in New York City.

Great people are multifaceted. Even if we read and hear stories which cast light on various aspects of the teaching and activity of Metropolitan Anthony, they cannot, in spite of all the richness of their content, exhaust everything that can be said of this remarkable hierarch.

It was suggested that today I should speak of him as a teacher of pastorship. This, it would seem, is a very definite and, perhaps, limited theme. However, when I began to think of what exactly should be said about it, I saw that it could fill a whole book with its content, even though the articles of Metropolitan Anthony published on subjects in this field are relatively few. Only a small portion of his lectures on pastoral theology were written down by his students and saw the light of day. His most remarkable essay "Confession," which he himself wrote down, during the time he was in Polish captivity, from what he could remember of his lectures, has been published. He also wrote a certain number of articles in this field. But this, of course, does not exhaust our material: Vladyka Anthony was not only a professor of pastoral theology; he was himself a pastor and an archpastor. The duties of a teacher are not at all limited to writing alone, for pastorship is not only a science, it is also an art. Therefore, in discussing Metropolitan Anthony as a teacher of pastorship, we have to keep in mind his pastoral labors as well.

Metropolitan Anthony showed me much love and trust, having drawn me near to himself even before he called me to the service of the Church, in 1931, as his closest associate. I was therefore able to be a direct observer of his pastoral work. For a number of years I was almost a daily participant in his talks, listening to his profound and brilliant opinions. I never afterwards met a person who would so simply and candidly share his thoughts with others. When speaking with young people, he was devoid of the least hint of superiority. On the contrary, he was inclined to "render great deference to" the person with whom he was talking. In this his humility was apparent, which was what so attracted the hearts of people to him. His letters to me, at that time a young man of twenty-six, so far from his level of experience and knowledge, were full of expressions which made it seem that he was writing to one of his peers. Such disregard of his superiority was characteristic of him, as an observer of the Beatitude about the poor in spirit. In those of his talks which not only I, but many others had occasion to hear (for example Vladyka Nikon, who is here present), there was nothing but sincerity (although concerning myself, at least, this flattering appreciation of my letters and articles was doubtless exaggerated many times over).

In 1930, he wrote to one young author, a child, one may say, in comparison to him, a great master, concisely, vividly and expressively setting forth his thoughts: "I would envy your talent in uniting fulness of exposition with liveliness of content; I would envy it, if envy were not a deadly sin." This in itself was a form of praise and encouragement used frequently by him to warm the spirit and encourage young people to further labor.

But in all this, what was important was that Vladyka was gladdened by the truth which he saw in our articles and, making himself poor in spirit, applied to us an objectively incorrect criterion, disproportionately disparaging himself and exalting us.

This characteristic of humility and self-deprecation was manifest throughout the pastoral activity of Metropolitan Anthony.

In his highly original speech upon his nomination to the episcopacy, he begins by pointing out the vainglory and self-confidence so usual among those who enter upon the path of a new, higher ministry. "It is apparently characteristic," he said, "for every person called to a lofty, holy service to survey mentally the lot which lies before him and to outline beforehand in his heart and in an eloquent speech all those good and wise undertakings which are crowded in his imagination."

How natural it would be to expect from a man, one might even say a genius endowed with many gifts and overflowing with enterprise and brilliance, a fiery speech about new ways and methods of archpastoral work.

But we find nothing of the sort in the speech of Metropolitan Anthony upon his nomination.

He recalls the ardor of the Apostle Peter and how the Lord humbled him until He had raised him to a high level of perfection. "That which a natural ardor of spirit could not accomplish," said Vladyka, "was accomplished by the grace of the Divine Spirit, finding a place for Himself in a heart cleansed through repentance, adorned with faith, strengthened by humility."

"What happened with the Supreme Apostle," he continued, "is a rule of the life which operates in all of God's servants. It is not in daring plans, nor in bold imagination that their power is disclosed, but in the very denial of their natural strength does the power of God find a place."

Vladyka Anthony pointed out that the spiritual gaze of the worker who is newly called into the Lord's field, "should not be directed far away, but rather within himself; not into the future, but on the present: "Give us this day... And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.'"

In his speech upon assuming the direction of the diocese of Ufa, Metropolitan Anthony developed this thought in even greater detail. He spoke of the fact that pastoral service, and especially that of the successors of apostolic authority—the hierarchs—consists mainly of internal work: he pointed out that by means of compassionate love the pastor should experience in his soul the moral life, the moral struggle of his flock; that he should put all the joy of his life in the rising to spiritual perfection of the people entrusted to his leadership, and that he should grieve and pray over their sins as if they were his own.

Here Vladyka stated the reservation that the external activity of ruling a diocese is also necessary for a bishop, but that it will be worthwhile only if this external work is a manifestation of the internal activity which is the essence of the pastoral ministry.

While heading another diocese, that of Volyn', Metropolitan Anthony returns to this topic in a series of letters to the pastors there. "If we want to keep by us the sheep for which we are answerable to God, we must uphold their esteem for the clergy and their faith in divinely transmitted grace not only by the authority of our rank, but also by our personal qualities." He reminded the clergy that "the qualities of prayerfulness and skill in teaching" required of them "by the people—and by the law of God are not external qualities and are obtained only insofar as we ourselves practice the interior spiritual life, i.e., struggle with the passions, force ourselves to private prayer, read the Word of God and the holy fathers, humble our hearts and confide our sins to our spiritual father. The teaching role of the priest lies not in eloquence, nor in external learnedness, nor is it in these that the influence of his preaching and of his admonitions in general consists, but in the extent to which he himself has acquired grace-filled contrition and zeal for God and for salvation."

Thus, the first instruction which Metropolitan Anthony gave to pastors is to work on oneself and to acquire a grace-filled closeness to God.

Such a lofty understanding of pastoral service automatically poses the question of who is called to it.

Vladyka Anthony often summoned people who felt uncertainty about their suitability for such a ministry.

He persuaded me personally to this service in a series of letters when, in spite of my studies in theology, I still had not considered it in the least.

One of the most worthy pastors in the diocese of Volyn' told me that after he finished the seminary, there arose a great doubt in his mind over becoming a priest. Metropolitan Anthony somehow found out about this, and called him to his quarters, talked with him for almost the whole night, and finally convinced him to travel the path of pastorship. Vladyka turned out to be right: from one who was not previously conscious of his calling, there came a splendid "good shepherd."

On the other hand, Vladyka sometimes treated with a certain mistrust that internal call, of which some seeking the priesthood spoke to him.

Metropolitan Anthony was a man of profound spiritual sobriety and was very watchful for any self-delusion. He considered that "the voice of God" felt in one's heart is often nothing other than the fruit of self-delusion. He wrote: "We think that this voice may be sensed only by that candidate who has been designated beforehand by the Church. The self-appraisal, the state of mind of the person preparing for the priesthood, should have scant significance" (Vol. II, p. 184).

Being wary of self-delusion in those who felt themselves called to the priesthood, and in general warning us ever, in the name of spiritual sobriety, against too great a trust in one's own inner voice, Metropolitan Anthony then called future pastors to a careful preparation of themselves for so lofty a ministry.

Metropolitan Anthony saw the principal portion of pastoral theology "not at all in the enumeration of the individual, official functions of the priest, but in pastoral asceticism, that is, in a detailed and clear, theologically based exposition: 1) of the very origin of this pastoral spirit (disposition); 2) of its further development and ultimate results; and, finally, 3) its manifestation in activity" (Letters to Pastors on Some Perplexing Aspects of Pastoral Work, 2nd ed., Kazan: 1898, pp. 17-18).

The lectures of Metropolitan Anthony and his articles on pastoral theology introduced a new current into this discipline. In his course of lectures which appeared in print in 1957, Archimandrite Kiprian (Kern) calls them "a real event in the history of this science." He justifiably writes that Metropolitan Anthony, then a young archimandrite, "truly brought about a flourishing in the history of the Russian seminary in general and in that of pastoral theology in particular" (Orthodox Pastoral Ministry, Paris: 1957, p. 13).

He continued to inspire this "spring" even after he left his professor's chair. As a bishop, he continued to teach the science and art of pastorship to the clergy subject to him, for, as he maintained, it was not simply a science, but instruction in living.

If, on the one hand, Metropolitan Anthony indicated the same sources of the science of pastoral theology that one can find in manuals published before his own, on the other hand, he joined the principles of living pastoral experience to those of a theoretical textbook.

He pointed out that book learning alone is not sufficient, that life must be studied directly. Following in the steps of the well-known spiritual writer Sturdza, Vladyka pointed out the importance for pastoral experience of visiting the sick and being present at deathbeds. He said that in these cases "one day is more beneficial for the pastor than a whole decade of hook learning" (Pastoral Theology, Harbin: 1935, pp. 39-40).

Prayer is of fundamental importance in pastorship. Metropolitan Anthony calls it "the chief means for receiving spiritual gifts." The pastor, in his words, by means of extensive struggle must foster within himself the element of prayer—the ability to be lifted up to heaven, into the world beyond the grave, and to be, so to speak, at home there" (ibid., p. 41).

It must be said that these words were, without a doubt, applicable to Vladyka himself. He had a remarkable knowledge of the lives of the saints and, hearing his comments on them, one would think that he was speaking of his own good and close friends.

His instructions to pastors are full of directions in the province of prayer. Here we should not fail to mention his remarkable article, "A Letter to a Priest about Prayer." In this article he gives in concise form an abundance of practical advice, which is important for every Christian.

But Viadyka Anthony looked very soberly on the task of the parish priest. Though he himself was a man of prayer and an ascetic, a great believer in monasticism who brought many young people to the monastic way, Metropolitan Anthony understood that before the parish priest lie such practical pastoral concerns that he cannot always tear himself away from them for the sake of any personal struggle of prayer of a monastic nature.

In view of the failure of some persons with the best intentions to "fit in" as pastors, Metropolitan Anthony points to people who look on pastoral service not as "a spiritual union of the pastor with his flock, but as a struggle of obedience in the sense of the mere fulfillment of certain obligations and rules without the acquisition of the pastoral spirit." In his words, such people, "with all the value of their moral qualities, are oppressive to their flock, are bureaucrats." Metropolitan Anthony notes that Chrysostom was right, when he said that many desert-dwellers who have acquired higher contemplation can turn out to be completely useless and unfit when placed on the lampstand of the pastorate. Viadyka warned parish priests that they would not achieve their goal if they limited themselves by giving themselves over completely to the guidance of contemporary "books on asceticism." With all their undoubted merits, he wrote, they hardly give one all that is wished for, but only half, i.e., they open the way to purity, to knowledge of God, but not to the point where the soul becomes sensitive to the spiritual needs of one's neighbor." Vladyka, of course, wanted the married clergy to know and read the ascetic works of the Fathers, but he added that, among "the married clergy, the spirit of pastorship is learned more from their family life, or through direct association with their parishioners and people of good life, than by means of extensive reading."

For a better understanding of the problems of the modern-day flock, Metropolitan Anthony wanted pastors to be acquainted with literature, which portrays man's experience, his feelings, temptations, falls and recoveries from falls in contemporary circumstances. It is therefore one of the most important sources of knowledge of the human soul, which is so important for healing it.

For this reason, Vladyka himself had an interest in secular literature and knew it well. He made a particularly detailed study of Pushkin and Dostoyevsky.

He considered all of this to be very important material for the pastor.

After the struggle of prayer, Metropolitan Anthony accorded special significance in pastoral work to confession.

He pointed out that the conversation between two people in confession is quite an exceptional phenomenon. "All conversations which are carried on between people outside of confession, especially at the present time, have as their goal the concealing of shortcomings and the display of often non-existent qualities." In confession, people talk about sins to which they would never admit under other circumstances, even at knifepoint."

Metropolitan Anthony spoke on this subject with particular love, for he himself was not a theoretician, but a man of action. It was in confession more than at any other time that the compassionate love so dear to his heart could find expression.

Metropolitan Anthony's work "Confession" is one of the most precious pearls among his writings. In it are clearly revealed his lofty personal characteristics, and especially his heart, which was full of love for the repentant sinner. This love, united with spiritual experience, allowed the metropolitan to set forth in his lectures on pastoral theology directions on how to edify in confession people of various dispositions and from various stations in this life. These directions are profound and practical, embracing almost all types of sin and indicating in all cases how to treat them at their very roots.

Such deep, practical instructions are not found in any other manual, and this book should be a reference guide for every spiritual father.

But if Metropolitan Anthony appears in these writings chiefly as a loving director of the spiritual life, on the other hand he was not at all a stranger to the art of administration.

I have on more than one occasion heard the one-sided appraisal of him, that he was far from being an administrator, but this is a profound mistake!

Indeed, Metropolitan Anthony did put prayer and spiritual activity in first place for the pastor, but he never forgot that he was ordained to shepherd Christ's flock, and, with all his goodness, he sometimes resorted to strict measures.

Thus, soon after his assignment to Volyn', he dismissed the secretary of the consistory, who was not worthy of his confidence. In a letter to the pastors of the Church in Volyn' in 1912, referring to the fact that in some parishes the peasants, under the influence of the revolutionary movement, had declared that the Church was theirs and that the Church's money was theirs, had stopped paying their assessments for diocesan needs, and here and there had even locked the church doors against priests they did not like, Metropolitan Anthony wrote: "Of course, we did not hesitate to take the strictest measures in combating such revolts in the parishes: we sealed up the churches that had been locked against their priests, pending the repentance of the parishioners; we cut the instigators off from Communion for a year or more; we attached rebellious parishes to neighboring priests, and so forth."

If in his letters Metropolitan Anthony tried to raise the spiritual level of the clergy subject to him and gave advice on how to carry on their pastoral work, the resolutions he promulgated in the diocese of Volyn' reveal in him an attentive administrator as well.

I think that this latter characteristic has remained unnoticed on the part of many because his image as dogmatist, a teacher of piety and a person of exceptional goodness overshadows the other aspects of his administrative activity.

Published as a separate booklet, Metropolitan Anthony's resolutions for the diocese of Volyn' set forth in detail not only a series of strict instructions concerning liturgics and the fitting splendor of services and the orderly administration of the Church, but also deal with the proper running of parishes in the absence of their priests, on the significance of clerical lands, on the building of churches without technical supervision, instructions to the assistant deans, etc.

He had a fine knowledge of the techniques of church government, but he alleviated the dryness of administration with his love and fatherly indulgence.

I have already mentioned what tremendous importance Metropolitan Anthony attached to the presence of compassionate love in the pastor. He considered it one of those gifts which are strengthened and warmed in the pastor not only by his will and disposition, but also by the gift of grace imparted to him at ordination.

He himself had this gift in abundance. It was manifested in him at an early age and even more when he had achieved maturity.

Vladyka's door was open to all. His apartment was always filled with students, with whom he held endless talks, taking time from his current work and often talking for a long time with one of them, in order to arouse his religious feelings and set him on the path of repentance and moral awakening.

Who can count all the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Heaven who owe the salvation of their souls to the pastoral love of Metropolitan Anthony?
Pastoral service is difficult, responsible and, like every art, requires talent, knowledge and work.

Great artists have compiled handbooks, have given instructions to their pupils, have shown them the various techniques of their art, but by no means were the pupils always able to emulate them in full measure.

The example of Metropolitan Anthony stands before us as a colossus of pastorship, as a real genius, a great expert in the realm of the human soul.

He no longer instructs us by the living word of his lips, now closed in death. But his salvific discourse has not ceased. Through the example of his life and from the pages of his works, his teaching on pastoral service flows and will flow in an uninterrupted stream.

From Orthodox Life, Vol. 31, No. 5 (Sept.-Oct., 1981), pp. 37-43. Translated by Seraphim F. Englehardt from The Church and her Teaching in Life, by Protopresbvter C. Grabbe, Vol. II (Montreal: 1970) pp. 117-128.