Archpriest Serge Kotar and his wife Maria had the good fortune to personally meet several ROCOR elders and ascetics of piety. Today they remember Archbishop Anthony (Medvedev, July 18, 1908-September 23, 2000).
Matushka Maria’s stories
How Vladyka Anthony came for our son’s birthday
I’ve already talked about how my family was under the spiritual care of St. John, both in Shanghai and San Francisco, and also about Bishop Nektary (Kontzevitch), whom I considered my grandfather when I was a child.
Now I’d like to share my memories of the wonderful archpastor and elder of the Russian Church Abroad, Archbishop Anthony (Medvedev).
Vladyka Anthony was tall, very lively, ascetic, quick, energetic, and always joyful. He really loved children. Fr. Serge and I have two children: our son Nicky and daughter Alix—Nicholas and Alexandra. We named them after the holy Royal Passion-Bearers.
Once, Vladyka Anthony came for our son’s birthday, and Nicky was playing with hsi cars and a toy fire truck. Vladyka sat down on the floor and started playing with his cars with him. He visited us often. The children really loved him. They’re grown now, raising our grandchildren. Nicky graduated from seminary in Jordanville and is now the choir director in the monastery.
The spiritual gifts of Vladyka Anthony
Vladyka Anthony, who could so easily sit and play cars with a child, was a true elder and man of prayer. But, of course, he hid his spiritual gifts. He hid his clairvoyance, for example.
One time I had some very serious spiritual concerns, and then in the presence of me and a few others, Vladyka started saying, as if by chance: “Sometimes people have such and such spiritual problems, and they must be dealt with in such and such a way.”
It was frightening for me in that moment. I realized that all my spiritual worries were open to him, but he didn’t want to let me know—he hid his clairvoyance out of modesty. These were very specific concerns, and it couldn’t have been a simple coincidence.
A few years later, I was again tormented by spiritual worries, but of a completely different nature. They were temptations. And again, in a small group, Vladyka Anthony casually remarked that sometimes people are tormented by such and such temptations, and this is how they should deal with them.
After Vladyka reposed, those who knew him began to write down their memories of him, and it turns out that many had the exact same stories: Seemingly by chance, Vladyka instructed them and gave them advice about how to behave in various difficult situations.
When you understand how the Lord reveals to His pastors the souls of their flocks, you are again and again convinced that He is with us every step of the way.
What was revealed to us about God’s providence in our recollections of Vladyka Anthony
The Lord is everywhere and always is. But, of course, we have to see this and give thanks to Him. I have friends who can see how the Lord is with them in all circumstances. Then there are others who have basically the same experiences, but who don’t see and don’t notice the providence of God. They say it’s all random.
This is God’s mercy—it’s not that we’re especially insightful so as to notice His providence in our lives, and there’s nothing to be proud of—it’s that the Lord is merciful to us, and He reveals it to us.
When a man has such a desire, when his heart is grateful, then probably the Lord reveals His providence and helps him see that He is near.
But I’ve gotten a little off-track. I just wanted to talk about what was revealed to us about God’s providence through our memories of Vladyka Anthony…
He was the embodiment of love
What else was Vladyka like? He was the embodiment of love. Even as an elderly hierarch, he could still make a prostration, asking forgiveness. He always took the blame upon himself. If people quarreled, he would get very concerned and try to reconcile everyone.
I remember once at dinner, Vladyka jokingly made a harmless remark to me. The next morning he called me and said he hadn’t slept all night, worrying that perhaps he had offended me with his words, and now he needed to see me right away to ask my forgiveness.
I was horrified and told him that it was a completely innocent joke, and that he absolutely didn’t need to apologize to me. When we saw each other, I could barely keep him from making a prostration to me.
L to R: Archpriest Stefan Pavlenko, Vladyka Laurus (Škurla), Vladyka Anthony (Medvedev), Vladyka Nektary (Kontzevitch), Archpriest Peter Perekrestov; Back row: the future Archpriest Serge and Matushka Maria
Vladyka’s modesty and humility
Vladyka Anthony led a very modest life. He was a bishop, but he never had any cell attendants, but did all his cooking and cleaning himself. He fed everyone who came to visit him, putting out a table full of food, and then he would wash the dishes himself. Do you know many other bishops like that?
Vladyka didn’t have a car or a driver. He didn’t speak English very well, and it’s unclear how he survived getting around on public transport among Americans. He was a schemamonk, but none of the parishioners knew that. They only found out about it later on.
Fr. Serge’s stories
Vladyka Anthony and the cat
Vladyka Anthony would come visit us when I was still serving as a deacon in the Joy of All Who Sorrow Cathedral. He really loved our children and would always bring them gifts. Matushka would be bustling about in the kitchen, preparing a meal.
I remember one time Vladyka sat down in our armchair. I left the room for a bit, and our hefty cat went and sat on the arm of the chair. He was huge and acted like the master of the apartment, totally feeling at home as he sprawled out on the arm of the chair, leaning on our elderly Vladyka with all his considerable weight.
But Vladyka was an extremely tactful person. The cat was clearly in his way, but Vladyka was completely unable to simply push him off the armrest. He started gently blowing on the impudent cat’s face, hoping the cat would understand and jump to the floor himself, but apparently he enjoyed the air—it was as if we’d turned a fan on.
So when I came back, this is what I saw: Vladyka gently blowing on the cat, trying to drive it away, and the cat squinting with pleasure. This was a very cozy and touching moment that I can clearly recall.
Vladyka’s meekness and his care for people
Vladyka Anthony was so meek, so worried about disturbing anyone, that he never arrived anywhere early. I often drove him—he lived very modestly. He cooked and cleaned for himself. He never had a cell attendant.
I remember one time he and I were going to a parish about fifty minutes away. He fell asleep, and when he woke up, we were already just about pulling up to the church, where they were supposed to be waiting for us. He anxiously asked me:
“What time is it?”
“Quarter to one, Vladyka.”
“Oh, then stop quickly! We agreed to come at exactly one.”
“Vladyka, we’re already basically there!”
“No, stop. It’s not good to bother people ahead of time.”
So, we sat and waited for the appointed time, 100 yards from the church. At two minutes before one, we pulled out and arrived at the church at exactly one.
Vladyka Anthony the peacemaker
Vladyka tried to reconcile everyone. He would always find some way to justify even a guilty person in something. He would say the guilty person acted this way because of these circumstances, not because he’s a bad person. If there was any kind of misunderstanding, if Vladyka felt that he had offended someone, he would immediately ask forgiveness, regretting that he had neglected circumstances that led to misunderstandings and offenses, that he hadn’t anticipated all of this.
There was a story about a Greek priest who came to visit us. He was in ROCOR and had opened an Orthodox mission in Uganda. For some reason, Vladyka Anthony didn’t take a liking to him, and wasn’t as warm with him as he usually was with people. When he went home, he couldn’t sleep the whole night. He was worried, and in the morning he called us and said:
“I was wrong—he’s a very good man!”
How I was sitting and Vladyka was standing next to me
One time, when I was already a priest, Vladyka Anthony called me to come to his house and said:
“Someone complained to me about you and said this and that about you.”
I thought the accusation was unfair and started zealously defending and justifying myself. I was very hot-tempered in my youth, and it got out of hand this time.
Vladyka suddenly pulled a chair out from behind the table and calmly said to me:
“How can I sit down, Vladyka, if you’re standing?!”
And when I sat down he asked me:
“Well? Have you calmed down? Now, remember who you’re talking to…”
And sitting in front of him, the ruling hierarch of our diocese, my archpastor, I immediately came to my senses and immediately lost all my fire, so out of place next to this loving and humble elder.
Vladyka the unmercenary
I remember once Vladyka was in our Joy of All Who Sorrow Cathedral, going up the stairs to the balcony. There was a young couple there who had just recently come to America. They ran over to Vladyka and started telling him how they had no money, asking if he could help them.
Without thinking twice, Vladyka Anthony took his wallet out of his riassa pocket and gave them everything that was in it. It made the deepest impression on the young couple, and they told me about it later.
How Vladyka remembered every parishioner’s feast days
Vladyka had a wonderful memory: He remembered the name’s day and birthday of all the regular parishioners and would always call and congratulate them.
As I’ve already said, I often drove him. One time I was driving him and he suddenly said:
“We have to stop right away and find a phone booth!”
“I forgot to wish one of our parishioners a happy birthday, and it’s already nine at night!”
So we immediately went to look for a phone booth, and he got out and called them and wished them a happy birthday.
Do you need anything from me?
Vladyka was very modest—he never presented himself as an elder or spiritual father. He was clairvoyant and knew what was going on with someone—he knew their spiritual life, their temptations, and so on, but when he gave advice and instructions, it was as though by chance, so they wouldn’t realize his clairvoyance.
One time a certain priest had a very difficult spiritual experience, and he really wanted to confess and reveal it to Vladyka, but it was early in the morning, and he was embarrassed to disturb Vladyka so early. Suddenly there was a call—he picked up the phone, and it was Vladyka Anthony. And Vladyka said:
“Good morning! Do you need anything from me? Wouldn’t you like to ask me something?”
The priest that this happened to told me about it himself.
When he walked in, it was like the sun had shone on everyone
Vladyka was a large man, a little clumsy, and you couldn’t say he was externally handsome, but he simply shone—and everyone saw it.
Once we were having a choir conference in Seattle. It rains a lot there, and it can be very cloudy and gloomy. And one woman shared with me that she had spent three days at the conference, and it was all gloomy the whole time. Suddenly on the third day, a door opened and Vladyka Anthony walked in. And when he came in, it was as if the sun had shone on everyone, and everyone was suddenly in a better mood.
This woman had come from New York and barely knew Vladyka, but she remembered how much everyone cheered up and felt comforted when he came through the door.