Eleanor Sutter in commemoration of metropolitan Anthony

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 Metropolitan Anthony. 

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 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.


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