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“Joyful Light” and “Orthodox Patristic Wisdom”

I have made this page to answer some criticism put forth by two Ephraimites, Seraphim Larsen and Michele Sparrow, who make an attempt to rebut the information about St. Anthony’s that I have put forward on the Web.

Just to clarify, when I use the term “Ephraimite”, I am referring to anyone who is the spiritual child of either Ephraim himself, one of his disciples, or even a disciple of one of his disciples. This includes both clergy and laity.

After Seraphim and Michele’s blogs appeared on the Web, the first two pro-St. Anthony’s websites to link to them were the Brotherhood of St. Poimen’s website and Patrick Barnes’s website, These are, not coincidentally, the very two organizations that I mention on the home page of this website as being tied to St. Anthony’s by official affiliation (in other words, they either have a spiritual father there or are attached to a priest who has a spiritual father there).

The Brotherhood of St. Poimen’s website, referring to me, says:

“Subsequently (or concurrently) others who have known this individual and his peculiar past have come forth to reveal some very specific facts which have completely destroyed this person’s credibility.”

It’s interesting that they claim that my credibility is "completely destroyed" but then put up a link to two websites that specifically affirm that St. Anthony’s does in fact teach the very things that I claim they teach. I guess I’m confused as to how my credibility is "destroyed." Unless, of course, they’re referring to my "peculiar past." Interestingly, they came across information about my past through an Ephraimite whose own past is much more peculiar than my own, if you use their standards of judgment. They will only use these standards on me, however, and that's fine. It's up to them if they want to continue focusing on my character. For my part, I will not reciprocate their character-bashing with the same thing.

Their focusing on my character, rather than on what I reveal about what St. Anthony’s teaches, is a personal attack ad hominem. They reveal themselves when they say that my claims are discredited, but then link to sites that defend as valid the teachings I revealed. Obviously, to be discredited, the teachings I mentioned would have to have never been taught at St. Anthony’s. However, the teachings are proliferated at St. Anthony’s according to me, Seraphim Larsen, Michele Sparrow, and even Ephraim’s own writings. Our opinions about those teachings may differ, but they and I have concretely shown that St. Anthony’s does, in fact, teach exactly what I stated they teach.

The Brotherhood’s website further states that:

"We have never hidden the fact that we are avid supporters of traditional, authentic Orthodox Monasticism of the type that Elder Ephraim has brought to America"

I never said they hid that from anyone, although they STILL seem to be twisting the argument in that direction. I maintained that they hide the fact that their Brotherhood's name came from one of the monks at St. Anthony’s and that the founders of the Brotherhood have a spiritual father at St. Anthony's who blesses the Brotherhood and the content of the website, just as he privately blesses the work of some other Ephraimites to create a traditionalist Patristic institute, as long as they keep it "quiet." St. Anthony’s does not want to publicly be seen as dissenting from what the Bishops teach, even though plenty of the monks believe that the Bishops are "liberals" and "heretics", so they let other people do that work for them as long as they do not reveal that their spiritual father is directly blessing and encouraging their activities.

In case you haven’t seen Seraphim and Michele’s websites, they are:

Joyful Light (Seraphim Larsen)

Orthodox Patristic Wisdom (Michele Sparrow)


On his blog, Joyful Light, Seraphim Larsen begins his refutation with the statement:

"The first issue he raises is anti-Semiticism [sic]. He accuses Elder Ephraim and the Fathers at Saint Anthony's Monastery of being anti-Semites. Such a claim is absolutely unfounded."

After this, he gives the quote I mention from Ephraim’s book that talks about the Protocols, which is:

"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.'"
"Elder" Ephraim, A Call from the Holy Mountain, page 45

Seraphim then defends Ephraim’s attack of Zionism, and ends by saying:

"Thus, there is no foundation at all to the accusation that Elder Ephraim and/or the fathers at Saint Anthony's Monastery are racists or anti-Semites. This accusation simply has no basis."

First of all, I never said the monks were racists or anti-Semites. I said that Ephraim's teachings are anti-Semitic. Second, my "accusation" of these teachings being anti-Semitic in origin and being propagated by the monastery is a statement of fact that I experienced firsthand and most certainly has a basis (besides my personal experience). I mentioned Ephraim’s quote because of his reference to the "notorious Protocols" (not because he mentions Zionists), which he legitimizes by quoting its contents as authentic. In his book, he doesn’t say that "the Protocols are evil, don’t listen to them", he doesn’t say that "the Protocols are a forgery", he says "the infamous Zionists greatly boast about this in their notorious ‘Protocols.’" This means that he believes that the Protocols are a valid document that provides proof of a conspiracy.

The Protocols of Zion are an anti-Semitic forgery, not an anti-Zionist forgery. When the Protocols were manufactured, groups of Zionists were not hunted down and killed, groups of Jews were.

As far as proof that the Protocols are anti-Semitic, a Russian court officially ruled that they were an anti-Semitic forgery:

The Anti-Defamation League calls the Protocols an anti-Semitic forgery:

The Protocols are a PROVEN forgery. Most of the text for this notoriously FALSE document comes from a French book entitled "Dialogues in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu" by Maurice Joly, whose work was a political satire that was directed against the French monarchy and had nothing to do with Jews. To read about the forgery of the Protocols and view a comparison of their contents next to "Dialogues in Hell", the work they were plagiarized from, visit:

An Orthodox writer also mentions the Protocols in a negative light (rather than justifying them like the Ephraimites):

"The Protocols of the Elders of Zion which were born in the depths of the tsarist police and then played there evil part in Nazi Germany appeared in our Church's shops amidst a whole variety of new Black Hundred literature. Not only some dreadful pamphlets about Jewish sacrifices of Christian babies can be easily found in St Petersburg, Moscow or Sergiev Posad but, what is more dangerous, some literature written by priests or monks containing a simple answer to the question, who is to blame for all the misfortunes of Russian history is also widespread."

Ephraim treats this anti-Semitic document as if it were legitimate. Ephraim’s followers claim that the Holy Spirit of God speaks to Ephraim. One of his sympathizers says plainly:

"Elder Ephraim has no need of putting forward credentials--he just has to say, as he does, that the Panaghia and Holy Spirit have guided me in what I have done. If it is not of Christ, it cannot stand, but if it be then none can stand against it."
(It’s in the post from Kollyvas (Rostislav) at the bottom of the page on the link provided)

Thus, they are saying (whether they realize it or not), that God wants people to believe in the Protocols since Ephraim supposedly speaks by the Spirit, and Ephraim says the Protocols are "notorious." But does God teach that we should believe hate-inspired forgeries? If Ephraim is the mouthpiece of God, then why doesn’t the Spirit of God enlighten him as to the reality behind them?

It’s interesting to note that since the quote from Ephraim’s book has been brought forward, a quote that apparently quite a few Ephraimites were unaware of, they are scrambling to downplay it by saying that it’s not anti-Semitic. Before the quote was produced, some people were trying to say that I was outright lying and that Ephraim would NEVER teach that the Protocols were legitimate:

"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."

"I suggest people keep copies of his post and the next time someone like this says Father Ephraim has anything to do with pushing the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, consider it a part of a general pathology."

Interestingly, once I was shown to be telling the truth, the next answer was that Ephraim must be ignorant of what he’s doing.

So, at first I was a liar (a liar who was "part of a general pathology", according to a Bishop), but then when I could show proof of what I was taught, and that proof came directly from Ephraim’s own words, they said I was making a claim that was "absolutely unfounded."

If it is so unfounded though, then my claim that anti-Jewish rhetoric was being propagated at St. Anthony’s Monastery wouldn’t be supported by Ephraimites themselves. A disciple of Fr. Paisios, apparently with the aim of justifying the Protocols, quotes from another monk who, like Ephraim, was also a disciple of Joseph the Hesychast. Part of the quote says:

"This is the beginning of these events, troublesome events, military ones...The movers and shakers of this evil are the Jews."

Notice that the quote this Ephraimite uses does not say "the Zionists", it specifically says "the Jews." He then tries to justify these anti-Semitic statements by saying that:

"there is nothing in Fr. Ephraim's teachings that cannot be found in Greece or Russia or Serbia or any other place which has inherited an Orthodox view of the world and which might be attempting to follow the traditional mind of the Orthodox Church"

Surely, he is correct. Regarding the burning of a synagogue, Bishop Ambrose of Milan says:

"There is, then, no adequate cause for such a commotion, that the people should be so severely punished for the burning of a building, and much less since it is the burning of a synagogue, a home of unbelief, a house of impiety, a receptacle of folly, which God Himself has condemned."

But does this mean that because a hateful practice has never been officially condemned (even though it should be), it’s morally correct to teach such a thing? I don’t think so.

This same disciple of Fr. Paisios further states:

"The Holy Scriptures and the Orthodox Church are replete with a history, nay, tradition, of antipathal *attitudes* re: the Jews...even if the Church has rarely, if ever, acted politically in respect to these attitudes. The struggle has never been with Jewish genetics (which would indeed be racist) but with the attitude which exists (and first existed in a quite virulent and patricidal manner) within the Jewish heart and soul (which is a spiritual matter) in violent opposition to Christ. If the struggle was "racist", the Church would by now have denigrated and expunged the memories all of the Apostles and thousands of Jewish converts who have come to Orthodoxy over time."

If anti-Semitism is not being taught at St. Anthony’s then where did this man learn to make statements like the one above? His other posts are right on point with what St. Anthony’s teaches. In fact, he never argues that St. Anthony’s doesn’t teach the things I mentioned, he simply argues that what I mention isn’t wrong and that St. Anthony’s is justified in making those statements.

As you can see from his post, he has a confused notion of what prejudice is (as do all of the Orthodox I’ve heard from who justify the Protocols). He claims that his attitude is not "racist" (that is, dealing with the genetics of Jewish people), but rather follows an "Orthodox" tradition of a struggle against the "violent" Jewish opposition to Christ. However, anti-Semitism is not limited to genetics:


1. Hostility toward or prejudice against Jews or Judaism.
2. Discrimination against Jews.

Anti-Semitism can be racism or it can be a prejudice against the adherents of Judaism.

The last time I checked, I don’t recall ANY incidents of Jewish violence against Orthodox Christians in the United States. So where is this "violent" opposition that he is referring to and what need is there to promote a "tradition" of hatred? Even if we assume he’s talking about the violent opposition of the Jewish priestly class that led to Christ’s crucifixion, you still can’t call it Jewish opposition because plenty of Jews objected to Christ’s death (the Apostles and Christ’s hundreds of Jewish followers that the New Testament says thronged Him during His ministry, for instance). There is NO place in Christianity for the kind of statements about Jews (or anyone else) that Ephraim is making and apparently encouraging his followers to make.

The only reason to propagate the Protocols, like Ephraimites do, and like the Archdiocese allows the Ephraimites to, is if you honestly believe there is a conspiracy against Christianity by Zionists, which Ephraim seems to believe and it appears his followers do too.


One of the topics that both Joyful Light and Orthodox Patristic Wisdom fail to mention is the issue of re-baptism.

It is no secret that St. Anthony’s teaches that re-baptism is necessary for all converts including Roman Catholics. One of the books they sell to promote this teaching is the book entitled "I Confess One Baptism" by Fr. George Metallinos. This is one of the books Fr. Paisios gave to my mother-in-law before he re-baptized her.

My wife and I were re-baptized by Fr. Paisios, after which he told me to "take this with you to your grave."

A disciple of Fr. Paisios states clearly on the Indiana List that he was told to lie about having been baptized as a Lutheran if he were to be asked:

"When I was baptized, I told my bishop that I had never been baptized before. This was the truth. And I did not consider it lying. The action which my father, who is a Lutheran pastor, peformed on me as infant I understand to be aspersion, which is different from baptism. If I was asked by the hierach if I had received aspersion by a protestant, I would have answered yes. But he didn't ask. And if he would have said I couldn't be baptized, I would have gone to the Holy Mountain. This is what my spiritual father, who catechized me, wanted me to do. And even "if" doing so was wrong, it was blessed by my spiritual father, and is something which I won't have to answer for. This is the beauty of obedience, and something which those who do not practice it will never understand."

The Marriage Bed

Michele Sparrow, on her blog entitled Orthodox Patristic Wisdom, makes this peculiar statement:

"Also, in regard to the this statement of David's: "and he was adamant that no saint ever had a sexual life." To this I would humbly like to say only a few things. I have read many lives of the saints, married, monastic, martyred, etc. and have never read any married saints stories where it was hailed that they had a sexual life. Not one. In fact, I have read the opposite: that they were hailed for their virginity."

She has probably not heard of any married saints having a normal sexual life because she is no doubt being taught the same thing that I was.

I mentioned before, as you can see in Michele’s quotation of my words, that I was taught that no saint ever had a sexual life. Later on, I was to find out that this was not true. I found a book called "Marriage As a Path to Holiness" by Fr. David and Mary Ford ( and read about many married saints that had sexual lives. Their book, by the way, draws from the lives of saints that were compiled by an Athonite monk who also declares that plenty of married saints had sexual lives.

The reality is that many Orthodox saints had a healthy sexual life, as you can see from this advertisement for the book "Married Saints of the Church" in Orthodox America:

"But the reader who finds joy in the marriage bed need not feel rebuked by these examples of intra-marital abstinence. There are many cases of saints who lived a more typical married life, as evidenced by the large and happy families they produced. Saints Basil the Elder and Emelia begat nine children, among them Saints Basil the Great of Caesarea and Gregory of Nyssa. Small wonder that Saint Gregory the Theologian declared their marriage a "union of souls and bodies." And Saints Joachim and Anna were rewarded, not rebuffed, by God in their repeated efforts to conceive; they were made grandparents to our All-loving Saviour."

I hope Michele buys either "Marriage As a Path to Holiness" or the book "Married Saints of the Church" so that she can see for herself that she is mistaken, and that there ARE saints who have enjoyed both conjugal union with their spouses, and sanctifying communion with God through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

"Voluntary" Obedience of the Monks

In an answer to Fr. John Whiteford on the Orthodox Indiana List, I quoted from one of the monks at St. Anthony’s who had explained to me that their obedience to Geronda was voluntary. According to the monk, they didn’t HAVE to be obedient, but if they wanted the blessing involved with the obedience they were given then they would do what they were asked. Michele contradicts what I was told by the monk and states:

"The monks at St. Anthony's have placed themselves under Geronda Ephraim, a holy elder, and are under 100 percent obedience to him. This is true for monks on Mount Athos as well. They do not possess wills of their own."

According to her, the monks "do not possess will of their own", which means they are controlled 100% by Ephraim. This certainly answers the question as to whether Ephraim has absolute rule over his monks and her statement entirely supports what the parents have been saying about how their children are manipulated from the time they enter the novitiate at St. Anthony’s (sometimes before).

According to their children, their mail is opened and read by other monks, they are not allowed access to the Internet (take the case of Fr. Theologos’s website for example. It is run by a layperson who does all the work since Fr. Theologos is not allowed on the Internet), their conversations are limited, etc. Some of these things, like limiting who they are allowed to talk to and so forth, is typical in a monastic novitiate, but filtering mail and restricting access to information for the entire monastic life of a monk under "obedience" are the trademarks of a cult, not a monastery.

This control that Ephraim has appears to be very strict and is evident in the fact that some of the monks have threatened their parents with leaving the country if they kept up their "persecution" of Ephraim.

Sanctity as the Goal of Christian Life

Michele implies that I do not believe that sanctity is the goal of this life. She states:

"Another of David's quotes: "Fr. Paisios didn’t really push it directly, but reiterated to me constantly that the goal of this life was to become a saint." This statement seems to be reason enough to question all the other things David says. His implication is that this is not the case, to become a saint, that is. What Orthodox Christian would believe that our life is meant for anything else?"

The thing that Fr. Paisios didn’t really push overtly (except on one or two occasions) was the idea that I personally had to be sexually abstinent in my marriage. He typically pushed my marital celibacy indirectly by constantly reiterating that sainthood is the goal of this life and then stating that no saint had a sexual life. Looking back at how I divided the paragraph that Michele quoted from (which was originally joined with the one above it), it does leave room for someone who is not reading attentively to come to the same conclusion that Michele mistakenly did. That was my fault and the paragraph is now corrected.

On the subject of marital celibacy, I have shown above that what I was taught was false and that there are definitely saints who had a sexual life in their marriage. But, just to reiterate, you can read the following quote below and then purchase the book it refers to if you would like to read the evidence for yourself:

"But the reader who finds joy in the marriage bed need not feel rebuked by these examples of intra-marital abstinence. There are many cases of saints who lived a more typical married life, as evidenced by the large and happy families they produced. Saints Basil the Elder and Emelia begat nine children, among them Saints Basil the Great of Caesarea and Gregory of Nyssa. Small wonder that Saint Gregory the Theologian declared their marriage a "union of souls and bodies." And Saints Joachim and Anna were rewarded, not rebuffed, by God in their repeated efforts to conceive; they were made grandparents to our All-loving Saviour."


Michele defends the practice of self-flagellation and states:

"It seems necessary here to point out that the use of self-flagellation is certainly not just found in Elder Ephraim's book. Countless saints have used various forms of self mortification."

I don’t suppose it’s necessary to note this, but for those who are not aware, many saints, before the church officially outlawed it, also castrated themselves. Does that make it right?

Many people keep bringing to my attention the fact that my patron saint, Nephon the Ascetic Bishop, also flagellated himself, as if I had not read his book for myself. St. Nephon, however, did not impose this discipline on others and it was something that he personally felt was necessary for himself only.

Ephraim tells people to do it in his book with NO accompanying statement warning readers not to embark on the practice. In fact, the only accompanying statement in the passage is one that justifies self-flagellation by citing the many saints who practiced it:

"Force yourself to be humble, and when you see thoughts of pride, lay hold of a whip and start lashing yourself."
†The Elder is not referring to masochism, but suggests counteracting sinful inclinations with physical pain. Similar techniques were used by Sts. Benedict, Epiphanios, Nephon, and many other saints.
"Elder" Ephraim, Counsels from the Holy Mountain, page 231

Fr. Paisios certainly commanded me to practice this and gave me the direction to get a piece of electrical cord that was about as thick as his pinky and whip myself with it.

I gave the practice up after a while because it felt very strange to be whipping myself and hoping to get something spiritual out of it (in fact, it reminded me WAY too much of the Roman Catholic "piety" that I had renounced when I joined Orthodoxy). Michele claims that I didn’t use the practice long enough:

"As for David Smith saying "I kept this practice for a while, but it never worked..." St. Nephon struggled with carnal temptations and would strike himself in this manner for 14 years. Certainly then it is not something that happens overnight."

For all those who read this page, if you feel that to get closer to God you must flagellate yourself, then I guess you’ve go to do what you’ve got to do. Since I can’t find ONE SINGLE instance of this in the Bible*, I’m going to utilize my Biblical examples and stick with prayer and fasting.

*1 Corinthians 9:27, in which St. Paul says, "But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway", doesn’t count. The phrase "keep under", which is the word "upopiazo" in Greek, means:

3. fig. treat roughly, torment, maltreat 1 Cor 9:27.
Shorter Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, F. Wilbur Gingrich, The University of Chicago Press, 1957, page 226

The "fig." in the beginning of the definition means "figurative." In other words, St. Paul did not literally beat himself.

Keeping the Faith Free From Innovation

Michele states in the beginning of her blog:

"It is a conviction that comes from a desire to live according to the traditions of our Church, to not let it be watered down or altered in any way."

This is an interesting claim that a lot of fundamentalists make.

One of the first times I doubted the very belief that I used to share with Michele, that St. Anthony’s (or “traditional” Orthodoxy, or “traditionalist” Orthodoxy, or “Old Calendarist” Orthodoxy, etc., they ALL make the same claim) was merely passing on the unchanged Orthodox doctrine that has always been believed by all Orthodox Christians at all times in all places, was ironically at a visit to one of Ephraim’s monasteries. In a discussion about the iconostasis, one of the monks related that their had been no iconostasis in early Christian churches. I was very intrigued by this. If you tried to build an Orthodox church nowadays without an iconostasis you would either be laughed at or thoroughly condemned. Orthodox history is clear, though:

"Ancient churches had no iconostasis; only a low barrier that divided the sanctuary from the rest of the church so that the former remained “transparent”. The iconostasis appeared gradually: at first it was one-tiered, then later, multi-tiered, the latter becoming especially widespread in ancient Russia."

"Originally, the iconostasis was no more than a low rail or stand decorated with Christian symbols and/or icons. Throughout the centuries though it became more ornate. Around the 14th century, the iconostasis was raised, boasting numerous icons. This is the style of iconostasis that is most prevalent throughout the Orthodox world today."

After that, I found out that most of the fasting practices (except for Pascha) that modern Orthodox "traditionalists" are so adamant about didn’t exist for the first 1,000 years of Orthodoxy either.

"In the centuries following the time of the Didache the Feast of the Resurrection of the Lord - Pascha - was observed with at first a forty hour fast, then a week long fast and then a forty day fast - known to us as Great Lent. This forty-day fast was generally well established in the fourth century but was observed differently in different places."

"The rules of fasting that are current in the Church generally reflect the monastic practices that developed in the Middle Ages from the variety of customs that the historian Socrates mentions."

Old Calendarist Orthodox and New Calendarist Orthodox have shed blood over whether or not 13 days (!!!) makes a difference in the Christian calendar. That’s one argument that I have always found to be extremely ignorant. The original calendar of the Christian church was neither the Old Calendar nor the New Calendar, it was the Hebrew Calendar. The "Old Calendar", also known as the Julian Calendar, was not used until the 4th Century:

"The "OLD STYLE" JULIAN CALENDAR dates from AD. 325. By the fourth century the Spring Equinox was arriving on March 21st on the "Original" Julian Calendar. When the First Ecumenical Council met in Nicea in 325 to settle the date for celebrating Pascha, the Church adopted the "Original" Julian Calendar and ruled that Pascha shall be observed on the first Sunday, after the first full moon, after the Spring Equinox on March 21st, and independent of the Jewish Passover."

The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is a shortened version of St. Basil’s Liturgy, which is a shortened version of St. James’s Liturgy, which is the original Liturgy of the Orthodox Church. This means that even the Liturgy was amended and changed over the years:

"The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is a shortened form of the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil. Both are related to the earlier Divine Liturgy of St. James of Jerusalem, which is traditionally attributed to the first bishop of Jerusalem, James the Just (not to be confused with James, brother of Saint John the Evangelist), and which is celebrated once a year on his feast day."

It’s ironic to me, in light of the above things that I have mentioned, that there are Orthodox Christians who claim to be keeping Orthodoxy "pure" and "free from innovation" when the very form of Orthodoxy that they adhere to has itself undergone many innovations and changes. It took 1,000 years for an iconostasis and a fasting regimen to be universalized in Orthodoxy, the calendar has been changed, and the Liturgy was chopped and amended. These are just some of the changes that Orthodoxy has undergone over the centuries.

Modern "traditionalists", therefore, are NOT keeping the Apostolic form of Orthodoxy as they claim after all. They are simply blowing smoke and misleading people who do not research the history and the facts for themselves.

The fact is that within Orthodoxy there has always been room for growth. Positive growth does not have to be seen in the light of fundamentalist rhetoric that labels it "innovation" and "heresy", but can instead be seen for the good that it is.