Amal Dibo

The person who leaves us is more often than not the very person who gave us, in our eyes, ultimate value: the person to whom we truly mattered, the person who asserted our existence and our importance... A void is created, and this void should never he artificially filled with things which are unworthy of what they replace.

(Death & Bereavement, Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh, St Stephen's Press, 2002, p 26).

The title of my talk, "A Legacy for Renewal" is based on these words of Metropolitan Anthony. The void created by his departure can only be filled by more and more of the ethos, the values that we lived with him, and by more of his love which is now completely and definitely merged with the love of Christ.

It is certainly very moving for me to be standing here amongst your assembly in the "eternal presence" of Metropolitan Anthony.

It is also a very moving gesture of spiritual hospitality, and a deeply genuine act of generosity on your part to allow me, an Orthodox woman from Antioch, to witness in her own way to the legacy that Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh has left us. He gracefully welcomed me to live in faith in this Diocese some twenty-seven years ago, and you have gracefully acknowledged my presence among you today.

A legacy of welcome

The first element of Metropolitan Anthony's legacy is the open door, the open heart and consequently the hospitality with which I was received into this Diocese. It was Irina Kirillova who introduced me to the Cathedral in 1977; but I could have stayed there in the crowd, faceless and nameless, a "nobody" as it were, had it not been for the personal welcome that the Bishop offered me, simply and warmly. This welcome was the cornerstone on which would be built my spiritual growth, or at least that part of it which was nourished at Ennismore Gardens. This same welcome is what has nourished that little parish and made it into a diocese. It is the same welcome ■— as I understood later - that was offered to every member of the Diocese. I discovered that Metropolitan Anthony called every one of his flock by her or his name. He believed in the personal encounter that each one of us has with God, and he practised this with every one of us: he knew our names, he listened to each one of us with attention and respect. He spent the necessary time with the sinner to free him or her from guilt and set them free to "go and sin no more" as in confession. Likewise, he gave enough time for people to talk and to listen to him and be blessed by him to go and "teach the nations" as is the case with clergy and laity equally.

Metropolitan Anthony was not only concerned, but also committed, to reveal the face of God "who loves mankind", who recognises the faults as well as the gifts of each one, calling each one by name to witness to him as he sent Mary Magdalene at the dawn of Easter.

Metropolitan Anthony recognised the uniqueness of each person, as he writes:

There can be an infinite complex variety, not only in the ways in which we express our relationship with God, but an infinite variety in the way in which each one of us is related to God. (Worship in Secular Society, p. 129).

We retain from him here that this variety is essential for the wholesome richness of the Church.

How did Metropolitan Anthony manage his time to accommodate so many of us, along with the long times of silence and the hours of liturgy, his many talks and other more official duties as a Bishop?

The fact is that Metropolitan Anthony never ceased to be a priest, a High Priest, whose gift was to be close to each one and also detached: at the same time as close to each particular face of ours as he

was close to the universal face of the Father. The spiritual hospitality that he offered to each person in particular echoed vividly the attention Christ paid to every individual he met, as we read in the Gospels. The careful listening, the patient compassion, and the undivided attention Metropolitan Anthony offered to each person revealed the immense respect Christ has for the uniqueness of every one of us. Metropolitan Anthony had no ready-made, generalised, dogmatic guidance for us: he tailored a unique response to each particular need and led everyone to the threshold of the nuptial chamber, to the Liturgy, to the doorstep of the Kingdom. At that point he had the wise gift of withdrawing, leaving the person to continue his or her journey as an adult, guided only by the light of the Father's face and the love of the brothers and sisters.

The first characteristic of the legacy that Metropolitan Anthony leaves with us, then, is this: it is a legacy of welcome, of personal encounter with Christ, though guidance tailored to meet the uniqueness of each person. There was no dogmatic formula imposed on all in the same way. Because of this personalised attention we could tell that Metropolitan Anthony's God is the God of the living -"Alive is the God in front of whom I am standing!"

The Living Faith

The second characteristic of his legacy is that it is a legacy for living. The author of Living Prayer is a medical doctor, a surgeon, tuned to the throbbing pulse of life. Alert, energetic and enthusiastic, Metropolitan Anthony did not tolerate us dragging our feet on our way to God. And although he was merciful, he had no tolerance for mediocrity or laziness. This was not simply a basic trait of his character, but rather the expression of his most spontaneous, yet well thought out and deeply rooted answer to the call of God, which he experienced always as a pressing call of love demanding an unconditional spontaneous answer on our part. His steps coming to meeting any one of us were hurried, sure and steady. This was not due to his military training, but was surely his determination to deliver the message he was made to carry to us, and to the world.

In his article, "Worship in a Secular Society", he writes:

We must have an awareness of the world in which we live. We do not see the world as material, inert and dead. For a believer the depth of the world that surrounds us, the depth of men and things... resides in its rootedness in the creative Word of God, in the fact that it has a destiny, that it is as vast potentially as God himself... We are aware that this world has a calling, a destiny, a vocation - - and we are responsible for the fulfilment of this vocation. The whole world has its destiny, not only Man, but Man is the key to the fulfilment of this destiny. Man stands at the threshold of the world of God and the world of objects. We are called to be the guide of all things towards their fulfilment. And when we fall away from God, forsake God, lose God, indeed the whole creation loses its guide and its way (p. 124).

Metropolitan Anthony lived this responsibility acutely and he goes on to say:

The world in which we live, is wild, it is in a dramatic state of disharmony, ugly, cruel, destructive ... but it will be restored when sobriety, clarity of mind, purity of heart, straightness of will, will be restored in Man, and when the freedom and the fulfilment of the children of God will be revealed, not only in Man, but in the harmony of all things... we are all responsible, but we have a great responsibility as Christians who know God's mind. Remember the definition which Amos gives of the prophet, of the one who speaks for God. He is the one to whom God reveals his thoughts. But this, which was the vocation of the few, is now the vocation of all Christians. Can we forget the words of Christ who says, "I no longer call you servants but friends, because the servant does not know the mind of his master, but I have told you all things". If we are so rich in knowledge given to us by God, then we have a heavier responsibility for all that is happening. And this responsibility God himself has accepted. He has taken responsibility for his act of creation when, He, having created Man, has not turned away from him in his Fall and has accepted solidarity with Man (p. 124)

This text highlights the main pillars on which our living faith and living prayer ought to be based. The aim of our living as Christians is stated clearly more than once in this same article: it is the fulfilment of each person and subsequently the fulfilment of the Kingdom. This fulfilment is based on two values: freedom and responsibility.

Rooted in the creative word of God, made aware by the knowledge that Christ has given us, freeing us thus from fear and from ignorance, we Christians have a heavier responsibility in the fulfilment of the Kingdom. This responsibility, we are invited to accept in solidarity with each other and with Christ. It is the responsibility of our "becoming", says Metropolitan Anthony, as "persons", as a "Church", as "the Kingdom to come". This understanding of our responsibility allows us to read the legacy of Metropolitan Anthony as an urgent command pressing towards a necessary and continuous renewal leading to the fulfilment of the Kingdom.


The third element of this legacy is the ministry of reconciliation: a reconciliation at many levels. The first level is that of the person him- or herself, a reconciliation between the body and the soul; the second level is that within the Church - - between clergy and the laity, between women and men, among the clergy themselves; and the third level is between the Church and the world, between the different Christian Churches, and most important of all, reconciliation within the Orthodox Church itself, between its various nationalities and the universal message of Orthodoxy.

At the personal level, Metropolitan Anthony has left us a rich language and a very pertinent approach to address the shattered human heart of today, the stressed nerves and the blurred vision of modern humanity, which is dissociated and fragmented. In an interview published in 1988 he said: "I don't know anything of metaphysical language. What we (the Orthodox) say about Christ is experiential".

No judgements, no condemnation, no dictatorship or authoritarianism was found in his leadership, yet Metropolitan Anthony was uncompromising, intransigent and sharply clear: he never dissembled or lied. His aim was to re-create the person in his or her entirety.

Reconciliation for him was not a compromise! He never accepted the lowest common denominator. Reconciliation meant for him the addition of the best in each and every thing and each and every person. This meaning of reconciliation included the promise of going beyond the simple compilation or addition of talents: it meant the pressing need for going beyond, going forward for renewal, until the fulfilment of the Kingdom.

As to the duality of the flesh and the soul, Metropolitan Anthony reminded us always that the Incarnation has taken all into Redemption.

What we affirm is that Word of God, God himself, has become flesh, that the fullness of the Godhead has abided in our midst in the flesh of a man, that it flesh of the incarnation representing the visible and tangible substance of all things created, has proved capable of being God - - bearing, filled with the Divine Presence, without being destroyed or ceasing to be itself (p. 125).

As for the duality of man and woman, Metropolitan Anthony referred to the "androgen" seen in Christ who is the complete human being, the ultimate image of any human being, both woman and man. He was totally free of sexism even to the point of daring to question the theological basis of an exclusively male priesthood, as in his introduction to Elizabeth Behr-Sigel's book, The Ministry of Women in the Church.

When asked to comment on the move to reinstitute the order of the deaconess in the Church, he replied to me and others: "No, if it is to make her a Church maid! The challenge is: what does it mean to be a deaconess today?"

Concerning the relation between the clergy and the laity, Metropolitan Anthony was "ideologically

deeply committed to the participation of the laity in the Church. He always talked hierarchically in terms of service rather than power. He set up a democratically elected assembly and council to run the affairs of Sourozh in Britain" (Andrew Walker, The Independent, 6 August 2003; reprinted in Sourozh 93, August 2003).

On this sensitive and essential equilibrium depends the future participation of believers in Christ, through the Church. Metropolitan Anthony had the necessary courage to address this issue and instituted a practice of integration of the laity and of women as active members in the life of the Church. This is a key aspect of his legacy and we are responsible for maintaining it according to the vision, the words, and the life of Christ, which are far more liberating in depth than anything the democratic world is proposing today in terms of equality, dignity and freedom.

The keynote that allowed Metropolitan Anthony be so advanced and liberated in his vision is found in the fact that he was free from lust and greed for worldly power, with all its games. We all know that in our societies, the male is powerful and is attached to his power — and so much more is the priest whose power is double, and hence the temptations inherent to this power are multiplied.

Metropolitan Anthony chose another power. This was very clear in the announcement he made on 19 May 2002, at the London Parish Assembly, about the experience and the life style of the Diocese of

Sourozh and its ethos developed over fifty-three years:

The particularities of the Diocese to me are in brief as follows: first of all it is a Diocese of people, the clergy of which, and the bishop of which, consider themselves as servants.

Quoting Father Sophrony, he said that the Church was a pyramid but a reversed pyramid. At the lowest point was the one person, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he saw the bishop at the rock bottom. The spirit of the Diocese is a spirit of service on the part of the clergy and a spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood on the part of the laity, not a hierarchical system. Metropolitan Anthony had such an inner power of love and trust with an acute sense of discernment that there was no room for a hierarchical power in his vision of the Church.

At the level of the duality between the Church and the world, Metropolitan Anthony wrote:

From the outside, the world is seen as transparent, filled with the Presence and dynamically moving towards its fulfilment, dynamically but not obligatory, dynamically but also at times tragically.

Metropolitan Anthony warns us against the easy solution of exiling ourselves and antagonising worldly society. We must be very careful, he says, not to imagine naively that we live in the world without being worldly at all. In fact the world is not only around us, the world is to a very great extent in us. We do belong unreservedly, perfectly, to the Kingdom of God, in the midst of a world, which is alien to us. Yet this contrast is false:

We are in a process of becoming, but we have not yet become, and the world around us is not simply the outer darkness of which the Gospel speaks. It is also a complex, extremely rich milieu in which God is active and which is often more aware — and more receptive to spiritual values than we are, blinded by our habits of mind and by ways we have inherited from the past.

Is there a clearer call for renewal than the call we can perceive in these words?

This last quotation ends with a sharp criticism of how we believers are often more faithful and attached to our worldly tradition than to the Word of God. This duality, Metropolitan Anthony resolved very simply. A long time ago, when I was received by him, I expressed my happiness to be admitted to the Russian Church. He corrected me saying: "The Orthodox Church in Great Britain!" I did not understand this twenty-seven years ago, but 1 realise today that jurisdictional territoriality has increasingly become a threatening disease undermining our Orthodox Churches all over the globe.

Once again, Metropolitan Anthony was ahead of his time, breathing into the Diocese the creative, genuine dynamics of openness and of belonging at the same time. We belong to the Church where we live here, today and now. This loyalty to the Incarnation of God in our reality is described by Irina Von Schlippe in a brief review of the history of Sourozh:

Sourozh grew organically, in response to a genuine demand: the children of Russian emigres who no longer spoke Russian and did not understand Church Slavonic needed a non-ethnic environment if they were to remain Orthodox, while the non-Russians found Orthodoxy in their own services and parishes. Metropolitan Anthony understood this and provided that the English language was introduced into the services, and of course translations and musical arrangements were commissioned. Publications in English were started; the first Eucharistic communities turned into parishes.

I would like to stress again and again the organic nature of Sourozh as a diocese: starting as a Russian emigre parish, serving those Russian exiles whom history had deposited in the UK, it was originally served and led by priests who came from the ranks of those emigres (Father Vladimir Theokritoff, Metropolitan Anthony, Father Michael Fortounatto). Then new priests were ordained from the ranks of those non-Russians who became our parishioners. The time seems to have come when the natural, organic development of the Diocese demands the ordination of new priests from the ranks of the newly arrived former citizens of the Soviet Union. If we are to continue developing we must do so in response to the needs of the people.


Before I come to conclude a subject that can never be concluded, a subject that will still go unfolding its meanings to us for much time to come I would like to summarise the main points of the legacy, and raise a few points regarding new forms of renewal that could possibly be considered in the future.

We who know Metropolitan Anthony are even more responsible than those who know him only through his writings. Having met him, we cannot be the same persons again. He touches our lives with a genuine charisma and an inspired vision leading us on the path to the inner Kingdom. The ethos of the legacy he left with us is:

Openness: he never preached Russian Orthodoxy in his life, but only Christ. His Diocese was
open to all, with its own practices and ideals, but firmly rooted in the life of the Holy Church,
welcoming in sobriety and service the Orthodox of all nations.

Freedom: free from the greed of power, free to serve and free from worldly tradition, this
Diocese, in Metropolitan Anthony's style, maintained a strict practice of ritual and liturgy in sobriety,
discipline and quietness. This freedom allowed us all to meet the compassion of Christ for all mankind
equally. No sexism, no worldly privileges, no nationalities could veil the free access to Christ.

Creativity: the secret of creativity was found in Metropolitan Anthony's commitment to the
revelation of the Word of God today; he nursed the dynamic life of the Church:

One becomes a member of it as long as one remains alive to its values. One cannot belong to it mechanically; one cannot stay in it mechanically. It is a dynamic situation, a society in which both human and divine, in which humanity is revealed in the humanity of Christ, and our humanity is grafted on that which is our vocation to possess a society at the heart of which God is Emmanuel: God with us.

I come now to renewal, and quote Metropolitan Anthony himself:

I would have loved to speak a great deal more than I can about the ways in which I believe one should think of a reform, or rather of the creation out of the depth of the Church's experience, not only of private personal worship, but also of liturgical

worship...We must remember that however dear and significant to us are classical and traditional ways in which we worship, they are not the only ways, that the Church has evolved them gradually, that it is an expression of its knowledge of God and its ability to express and convey it and also to express the feelings and attitudes of mind and soul which this knowledge of God awakens. But from generation to generation new ways can be legitimately evolved: they possess newness but are genuine as the others are.

Metropolitan Anthony's focus in these words is on worship, and it is a challenge for us to understand the urgency of such reform and move on, not only deeply rooted in Christ but also listening to our youngsters yearning to God in a world that seems to be increasingly godless. 1 can almost hear him say: "If our children are not in church today, what is the value of our worship?"

What do we know of God? What about our ability to express and convey him to others? This is the test of living prayer.

Metropolitan Anthony has been called to rest, so that it is for all of us together and for each one of us, to rest no more.

For Metropolitan Anthony, every moment is a moment of incarnation: today is the day.

Do we know how many hymns and liturgical chants start with the word "Today", asserting the imminence of Redemption? Take only the feast of the Pentecost and count them!

A few questions may awaken our creativity to discover new forms of Orthodox presence in the world today.

  1. How can we keep the spirit of rootedness and openness in the Diocese? How can we receive
    newcomers wholeheartedly in the spirit of service yet with a firm sobriety, and make them aware of
    the experience and life of the Diocese, inviting them to share in the procession towards the fulfilment
    of the Kingdom?

  2. Can we think of a new style of confession where brothers and sisters in Christ lead one another
    to recognise their weaknesses and support each other in the healing process?

  3. Why can married priests not become bishops unless they are widowed or unless the wife
    retreats to a convent? This is no dogma, only practice and tradition!

  4. What does it mean to be a deaconess today? The priests are overworked, while in our Church
    women have limited responsibilities. Today women in the world are becoming increasingly partners in
    the worldly society. Why can they be professionals in the world while they are still prevented from
    professing the Orthodox faith even though capable of doing so?

  5. What new forms should be developed to bear witness to the rehabilitation that Jesus provided
    for women through his birth, his life and his Resurrection?

  6. Is the world losing the sense of God? Metropolitan Anthony said: "The loss of the sense of
    God, the acute awareness of the world, are both and should equally be the concern of the Church".

  7. How can we keep the oneness among us, the oneness so dear to Christ's heart as it was his last
    wish? "Father, let them be one as You and I are one?" Yet how can we acknowledge the unique and
    distinctive contribution of each one of us, no matter how small, and integrate it into the life of the
    Church today?

These are but few and simple questions among so many that can re-vitalise the presence of Orthodoxy in the world today. Many of them, and others, have been addressed by Metropolitan Anthony. If, like him, we are deeply rooted in the Church's teaching and in the living Word of God, we will be led by the Holy Spirit, the love of God for us, and the prayers of Metropolitan Anthony to the right answers.

The legacy we receive from him is a legacy of openness: to others, to sinners and to newcomers from outside Orthodoxy, as well as from other Orthodox traditions. For that we need to be strong in Christ, not stubborn or closed in our cultural traditions. We need to pray to him to help us to become free from our confining traditions, personal ambitions and local boundaries. Metropolitan Anthony had the gift of discernment. It is a specific gift of the Holy Spirit; he knew how to recognise what is eternal and what is ephemeral, what is essential and what accidental, focusing on the one, without neglecting the other. His eyes never blinked. They were fixed and focused on the essential, but his ears were open to hear the cries of those who were suffering. His main concern was to make the universal eternal essential love of God for mankind relevant to us, to all, today and now.

Metropolitan Anthony sustained the word of God as a bishop is meant to do, not only by preaching and receiving people in the Orthodox life, but mainly by being himself a living Orthodox. He was blessed because there was virtually no gap between what he said and taught and what he lived. In the end of our life we shall be judged by this gap. For now can the fisherman and the theologian be judged equally? The only measure is this gap between their knowledge, their awareness on one hand, and their commitment and loyalty on the other. We are even more responsible, since we have been made more aware because of the words Metropolitan Anthony spoke to us.

Perhaps if we also "mind the gap" between what we have heard and known and how we really live and express life and faith, could we then be also inspirational and charismatic leaders towards the full destiny of the world and the Church, the fullness of the Kingdom of God?

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