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Response From Someone Who Knew Me

Those of you who monitor the Indiana List may have noticed this link in discussion of Elder Ephraim and the Monastery of St. Antony in AZ:

http://gerondaephraim.tripod.com

While I am by no means an "ephraimite," ie one who follows the Elder blindly and worships him as a living saint, a major part of my Orthodox formation was received at St. Antony's and was thoroughly patristic and not tainted at all by the conspiracy theories and baiting that this fellow has brought up.

I would begin by saying that Mr. Smith has devoted his life to the study of Scripture and has made his decisions based on how he has understood it, some good, some bad. His approach has been diverse, based on RC bible study, friendships and contacts with Orthodox Jews and Rabbis, and a diverse association with Orthodox of all stripes. This is something for which he should be commended.

Now, I was there at St. Antony's during the period in question and am well aware of Mr. Smith's situation, as he was a friend of mine and a confidant. To begin with, Fr. Paisios told Mr. Smith to refrain from sexual relations after his CIVIL MARRIAGE at the Mesa Wedding Chapel UNTIL he was married in the Church. Fr. Paisios does not dissuade sex in marriage in regard to procreation, and his point of view mirrors that of St. Maximos the Confessor, the Kollyvades Fathers, and the best thought of Patristic Scholars of our day. I never witnessed not one baptism at St. Antony's. Mr. Smith kept on requesting to have his rule increased, not decreased. He frequently did things without the "blessings" he says he needed to obtain, such as getting married outside of the Church, quitting his job because he didn't feel like working anymore and forcing his wife to do so, moving in with his mother in law, abandoning his apartment, abandoning his vocational training in carpentry and tile laying on the verge of making a career for himself, etc. These were all decisions Mr. Smith made AGAINST the Elder's advice and were quite the product of his own self-will. When his finances collapsed and his living situation worsened, HE SPECIFICALLY requested the aid of the monastery in Florence for himself and his wife, where they could "get things together living as BROTHER AND SISTER and UNTONSURED MONASTICS IN SEPARATE QUARTERS." That didn't seem to satisfy him, and he decided to move himself and his wife to FL to "avoid having his Nissan Pick Up repossessed, so that he could get some help from social services without having to work, and enjoy an occasional toke of marijuana." Thereafter Mr. Smith disappeared.

I worked planting trees at the monastery for the year in question. I worked almost daily with Elder Ephraim and had hours of contact with him. Fr. Paisios was at one time a spiritual director for me. What I was told to read by Elder Ephraim was St. John Cassian. He never spoke of "conspiracies": his talks were wrote memory recitations on prayer, perseverence, love straight out of a Gerontikon. Yes, he did advise obedience, but he was quick to understand human failings and provide a word of love. His writings clearly reflect that, and what Mr. Smith has decontextualized is a travesty, for he is indicting Elder Ephraim for paraphrasing such luminaries as Pakhomios, St. John Klimakos, Abba Dorotheos, et al. Moreover, I NEVER, NOT ONCE, saw Mr. Smith pick up a shovel to help planting a tree. He NEVER had contact with the Elder. All of his "knowledge" of the Elder is SECOND HAND and STYLIZED. Fr. Paisios never spoke politically with me. He advised reading of the Philokalia, especially St. Hesychios the Presbyter. The rule he customarily gives I received 3 ropes, not necessarily 300 knot--my rope was 150, to our Lord and one to the Panaghia. He adjusted prostrations accordingly and was flexible as far as the rule was concerned in regard to Holy Communion. Fr. Paisios was LENIENT in regard to attendance of church services and undrstood our human failings, eg allowing me to get to Matins by the Gospel, take rests during an Agripnia, etc. Nephon RECEIVED SUCH DISPENSATIONS. And this is TYPICAL OF HIS METHODOLOGY. The commentary about the services and their length is quite interesting, as established Orthodox monasteries from Valaam to Trinity-St. Sergius to the Holy Mountain to St. Katherine's to St. Savas to Jordanville, etc. FOLLOW THE SAME AND/OR SIMILAR oder.

I NEVER encountered ANY monk speaking of "murdering for the Elder," but I did encounter how certain converts like Mr. Smith let themselves get carried away ON THEIR OWN. Likewise, the odious and obvious baiting here used to slander the Elder by mentioning the "Protocols," the "Serbs and other jurisdictions," "other secret monasteries," the "Birchers," etc. is nothing but innuendo. Now, there are people who visit the monastery who mention these things just as there are in MOST Orthodox Monasteries. The rumor mill they propagate is NOT the orientation of the monastery just as a "gay Orthodox activist" or "matthewite" attending say the OCA Washington DC Cathedral and involving himself in their community is NOT the orientation of the Cathedral. Neither Elder Ephraim, nor Elder Paisios EVER talked about politics. They felt it was something profane. Elder Ephraim was even troubled by greetings and communiques by the deposed king of Greece and current Greek politicians FOR HE DID NOT WANT TO GET INVOLVED. The "Protocols" were NEVER mentioned. As a matter of fact, a close supporter of the monastery, A. LIKOS, routinely denounced them as "forgeries, not worth talking about" when VISITORS brought them up. He is a spiritual son of the Elder and extremely close to him. Lastly, I have witnessed Fr. Paisios and Elder Ephraim address their Bishops on bended knee and in full humility and obedience. They are Constantinople loyalists, and it is here where I have found an issue on my own.

Mr. Smith had no access to the book keepers of the monastery and his knowledge of budgets, etc. is dubious at best. The monastery and Fr. Paisios provided them with the support they could. St. Antony's is our American Optina and must treasured as such.

In closing, Mr. Smith has issues, and I hope for him and his family he resolves them. He is gifted and could add to Orthodox learning. His biblical research into the Nazorite Vow, for instance, is astoundingly brilliant. He simply needs a rudder. Orthodoxy is not about joining civil rights movements and the like and their secular concerns. He needs to decide who he is once and for all and grow in that direction. Is he an Old Calendarist, an Antiochian, a Byzantine Catholic, a Hassidim wannabe, a Black Muslim sympathizer, a member of ROCOR , the Serbs, or the GOA?! "Yes" to the above question simply will not do. Such dissonant views definitely drive one to psychotropic drugs as mentioned when they are not reconciled. He is in need of our prayers, for he bears a heavy cross. I ask the forgiveness of all for bringing these things up and that people discount who am I in homage to the truth.

Pray for me, the unworthy sinner...
Rostislav Mikhailovich Malleev-Pokrovsky

PS Fr. Theologos is a friend of mine, and he is one of the most happy and ardent Orthodox Christians I have ever met. His ardour amongst Protestants would be seen AS LIVING A GODLY LIFE, but certain Orthodox and others use him to advance an agenda. At 18, he chose to become a monk. I wonder if certain people would be so alarmed at his ADULT life decision if he chose to be gay, become an atheist, or join a rock band. It is shameful what they are putting him through.

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My Response

With regard to Rostislav's post, there are many things to be said. Number one, although he put great effort into trying to destroy my personal credibility, he has still failed, along with the other "Ephraimites" who have spoken out against me, to address the issue of what was taught at St. Anthony's.

The second issue is, what is Rostislav's real name? Having known Rostislav personally, although he was NOT a confidant of mine as he claims to have been since I didn't trust him, I know for myself that he claims his real name was Rostislav Mikhailovich Zkarchuk, but his many aliases, including his most infamous one where he posed as a priest under the name Fr. Peter Mendicant, can be found all over the Web.

Rostislav (or Rosty, or Rusty, or Fr. Peter, or whatever he wants his name to be) writes:

"Now, I was there at St. Antony's during the period in question and am well aware of Mr. Smith's situation, as he was a friend of mine and a confidant."
Rostislav was there for SOME of the period in question, not all of it. In fact, his very next comment shows him to be totally ignorant of the details of my life, which is strange for someone who was a confidant.

"To begin with, Fr. Paisios told Mr. Smith to refrain from sexual relations after his CIVIL MARRIAGE at the Mesa Wedding Chapel UNTIL he was married in the Church."
I guess someone should call the Mesa Wedding Chapel and tell them I was married there. I'm sure they would be shocked. So would the restaurant where we ACTUALLY got married during our "civil" ceremony. And Fr. Paisios DID say to abstain from sexual relations around the time of my wedding, but once again Rostislav doesn't have his facts right. Fr. Paisios said to abstain from relations during the week between my Baptism and my Orthodox wedding. We were Baptized on January 31st and married one week later on February 6th. During that time Fr. Paisios stressed that any sexual activity after our "re-birth" in Baptism would be fornication until we were married in the Church. Our "civil" ceremony was considered to be illegitimate in the eyes of God since it wasn't done by the Church. The abstinence that I am referring to in my open letter came later.

"Fr. Paisios does not dissuade sex in marriage in regard to procreation, and his point of view mirrors that of St. Maximos the Confessor, the Kollyvades Fathers, and the best thought of Patristic Scholars of our day."
Apparently Rostislav didn't read my post where I explained that Fr. Paisios never directly pushed total abstinence but instead constantly reiterated that the goal of this life is to become a Saint and that no married Saint indulged in sexual relations. Either way, the theology that sexual intercourse is a direct result of the Fall and therefore something to be given up by those who want to live as Adam did before the Fall, is what is non-Orthodox and even Puritan. This teaching was given to the monks to encourage them to remain "chaste" and was usually also told to married disciples, but with the additional phrase that went something like, "Don't worry, God is merciful and gives economia to husbands and wives who want to live that way but can't."

"I never witnessed not one baptism at St. Antony's."
Whether Rostislav ever saw one or not, I did. And I have two witnesses who are willing to speak to the Bishops about their Baptisms, one of which occurred in the main Church, St. Nektarios Chapel, at St. Anthony's.

"Mr. Smith kept on requesting to have his rule increased, not decreased."
Explain that to the disciple of Fr. Paisios's who felt bad for me and tried to get my rule decreased and was ALSO not able to.

"He frequently did things without the "blessings" he says he needed to obtain, such as getting married outside of the Church, quitting his job because he didn't feel like working anymore and forcing his wife to do so, moving in with his mother in law, abandoning his apartment, abandoning his vocational training in carpentry and tile laying on the verge of making a career for himself, etc. These were all decisions Mr. Smith made AGAINST the Elder's advice and were quite the product of his own self-will."
It's interesting that I got married outside of the Church without a blessing from Fr. Paisios. I would ask Rostislav how I would get a blessing from Fr. Paisios to get married outside of the Church when I didn't know him them. Interesting. My wife was happy to find out that I forced her to quit her job. She didn't know that. And we had to move in with my mother-in-law when we got evicted from our apartment after our Checking and Savings was exhuausted on bills after having to quit the job that was kind enough to give us that option since they were going to fire us. While I had vocational training in carpentry, the "vocational training" in tile setting was simply the favor of a friend who paid me to help him while HE set tile. While I was in school full time it was my wife's job at Motorola that kept us going, until she got laid off when they moved many of their operations overseas. When she couldn't find a job after that, I had to get one. And since full time was the only option, school had to go. It was either eat and have a job, or go to school and starve. And for the record, I hate carpentry. That was yet another disastrous choice based on the Monastery's theology that a trade where you used your hands was more "blessed" than so-called women's work like being a secretary.

"When his finances collapsed and his living situation worsened, HE SPECIFICALLY requested the aid of the monastery in Florence for himself and his wife, where they could "get things together living as BROTHER AND SISTER and UNTONSURED MONASTICS IN SEPARATE QUARTERS." That didn't seem to satisfy him, and he decided to move himself and his wife to FL to "avoid having his Nissan Pick Up repossessed, so that he could get some help from social services without having to work, and enjoy an occasional toke of marijuana." Thereafter Mr. Smith disappeared.
Funny how Rostislav claims I SPECIFICALLY requested the aid of the monastery and then doesn't state SPECIFICALLY what they did as a result of that request. Probably because the answer is NOTHING. He's referring to the time during our abstinence when I DID request to live at or near the monastery (which a lot of people do), but that never came about. Mostly because there were no jobs for my wife and I in Florence at the time and we would have had no way of supporting ourselves. Unlike Rostislav and his former cronies, I can't call mommy and daddy to wire me money when I'm in trouble because as I stated in previous posts, my mother was HOMELESS at the time. As far as why I moved to Florida, Fr. Paisios himself knows what happened with that. He was there when he said no all those times and finally conceded to my wife saying that I just needed to get it off my chest and go. And the Florida welfare system I'm sure would be surprised to find out that I collected welfare and smoked marijuana all day. I think the people who would be most surprised would be the people at the job I had in North Florida. I know how upset they were when I'd come to work stoned every day and sitting at my desk counting all my welfare money instead of working. Lastly, it's hard to "disappear" when you leave a forwarding address with the post office and give your friends and your spiritual father your new address and telephone number. I disappeared to Rostislav because he had secluded himself in Mesa with his new wife after a falling out with just about everyone he used to speak with, including me.

"Fr. Paisios was at one time a spiritual director for me."
I wonder what he's referring to here. Does he mean when he was still a disciple of Fr. Gregory and Fr. Paisios occasionally gave him advice, or does he mean after he caused so much trouble that Fr. Gregory was ordered to drop him as a spiritual child? I can't be sure. Maybe Rostislav's friend J. Gabriel Haake can help us out. Gabriel Haake is the alias of one of Rostislav's former friends, by the way.
Gabriel Haake's post on the identity of Rostislav's spiritual father

"What I was told to read by Elder Ephraim was St. John Cassian. He never spoke of "conspiracies": his talks were wrote memory recitations on prayer, perseverence, love straight out of a Gerontikon."
"Likewise, the odious and obvious baiting here used to slander the Elder by mentioning the "Protocols," the "Serbs and other jurisdictions," "other secret monasteries," the "Birchers," etc. is nothing but innuendo."
Perhaps Rostislav was unaware that as he was writing these lines, someone on the Indiana List who supports St. Anthony's was writing something different. Here is a link to two of the posts:
The "Elder" writes about the Protocols

Exact quote from the "Elder's" book
"It is well known that the devil-instigated Zionism is coordinating two insidious operations both within and without the Church aspiring to one and the same end; to destroy the fortress known as Orthodoxy [p.43].... One Sunday, a preacher delivered a sermon on 'love your enemies.' On the Sunday after, he spoke against alcohol addiction - about the havoc it wrought among the Christian peoples. Incidentally, the infamous Zionists greatly boast about this in their notorious 'Protocols.' When the preacher, then, referred to drinking and described its effects as mortal foes, one of the 'smart' listeners who, by the way, are never missing, stopped him short and said: 'Father, didn't you say last Sunday to love your enemies?' The preacher calmly answered, 'I told you to love them. I didn't say you should swallow them.'"
A Call from the Holy Mountain, New Sarov Press, pages 45-46

"Moreover, I NEVER, NOT ONCE, saw Mr. Smith pick up a shovel to help planting a tree."
He probably never saw me help out in the kitchen either.

The list goes on. Rostislav's "rebuttal" or whatever you want to call it is fraught with lies and the inablility to address the problem at hand, which is the teachings that St. Anthony's calls "Orthodox" and the way those teachings have been used to break up marriages, as Fr. Anthony Coniaris put it, and break up families, as the grieving parents of some of the monks can tell you. If St. Anthony's is such a righteous and holy haven for "living Saints" then why don't they have the decency to comfort the parents who they say "can't accept" their child's decision to become a monk? And why is it that they keep insisting that the parents have a problem with their child becoming a monk, when the parents have insisted from the beginning that it is their children's strange behavior in light of the bizarre teachings they are receiving that concerns them, and NOT their desire to become a monk or a nun? After ten years, they STILL don't seem to understand that it is their teachings and their claims that are coming into question, not monastic life in general.