I arrived in London in July 1982 from Zaire (now Democratic
Republic of Congo) for a three-year posting at the U.S. Embassy.
On my first day in town, wandering around on foot late into the
summer evening, I found myself standing in front of the
Cathedral of the Assumption and All Saints in Ennismore Gardens.
I wasn't Orthodox then, but I made a mental note of where it was.
At Christmastime, Steven Carter, an Englishman I had met,
invited me to come hear his choir, at that same church.
Being present at that service was my first encounter with
I asked Steven whether he thought I could audition for the choir.
He checked, and told me to phone the choirmaster, Rev. Michael
Fortounatto. So I joined the choir, and had the great privilege
of hearing Metropolitan Anthony's sermons every week and
attending his retreats. There was always someone there
with a tape recorder. Later his talks would be transcribed
and eventually published in one or another of his many books.
My memories of Metropolitan Anthony's sermons and retreats flow
into an overall impression, with very few details standing out.
I remember his letting us know that the quest we were on would
not be easy, and would require "surrender." I remember
that his answers to questions were full of compassion and common
sense, and often surprising. For example, when asked about
the Church's objection to cremation (because one's body should
return to the earth whole in anticipation of the Resurrection),
he replied with a twinkle in his eye that he had no doubt it was
within God's power to resurrect even ashes.
Another overall impression has to do with the way the people in
the Church treated one another: with great kindness and
gentleness. I have no doubt that this was a reflection of
Metropolitan Anthony's teaching.
Metropolitan Anthony had an extremely magnetic personality.
He combined great depth of spiritual understanding with a gentle,
sparkling sense of humor. People were always seeking
private meetings with him.
For me, as an outsider, these private meetings were something
mysterious. I knew Патч-панели и кроссы для СКС в Москве
about the Russian Orthodox tradition of
consulting a "starets" (an extremely holy, wise and virtuous
elder), and the tradition of attaching oneself to a spiritual
director, apart from one's local parish priest. But I had
no idea exactly what one talked about in these meetings.
One friend of mine, a great admirer of Metropolitan Anthony and
a member of the Church of England who was extremely drawn to
Orthodoxy, asked Father Anthony to be her spiritual director.
He advised her to seek an elder in her own church, and even
offered to help her find the right person. Later on during
my time in London, I remember hearing that Metropolitan Anthony
had given up private meetings. I was never told why.
Perhaps the tide became too overwhelming, or too distracting
from his other duties.
I remember the first time I went to see Metropolitan Anthony.
Alas, I barely recall the details. I rang the church bell and
waited. The door was opened by Metropolitan Anthony
himself, dressed in Russian peasant garb -- pants tucked into
high boots, a long shirt secured with a belt. He had been
busy cleaning the church, where he actually lived -- a duty he
had assigned to himself.
We talked about our lives. He asked me the names of my
family members so that he could pray for them. It occurred
to me that, since he was a monk, once he was gone there might
not remain anyone among the living to pray for his family
members, so I asked him whether he had any family members I
could pray for. He gave me the names of his parents Boris
and Ksenia, his grandmother Olga, and his spiritual mentor,
Father Afanasii. I remember that he was very familiar and
completely unassuming in his manner, as though we were members
of the same family. He had the gift of probing gently to
find out what was in your heart, and sending you away with a
feeling of being encouraged.
"Eleanor ("Lioubov") Sutter is a native of New York City.
She retired from the U.S. Foreign Service in 2002.