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Meeting of brethren of the Lavra and schema-archimandrite Gabriel (Bunge)

иеромонах Иннокентий

In frames of the pilgrimage over the holy places of Ukraine, the eminent Swiss theologian and patrologist, schema-archimandrite Gabriel met with the brethren of the Holy Dormition Kiev-Caves Lavra.

The honored guest was introduced by archimandrite Ambrose (Macar), the prior of the saint Ambrose (Ambrosius) Mediolanensis Church of Milan. Father Ambrose spoke of the life story of schema-archimandrite Gabriel, also mentioning that father Gabriel struggled for the cause of God for 36 years in the mountains of Switzerland. Father Gabriel is the prior of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross monastery in the city of Lugano.

Schema-archimandrite Gabriel is the author of numerous books on monasticism, and is the father for many spiritual children.

The talk began with the questions of the Lavra brethren, who were most of all interested in the life of father Gabriel in the mountains. Father told how his life and learning of the Orthodox tradition and Orthodox monasticism began.

“In 1961, I came to know Orthodoxy in Greece for the first time,” – said father Gabriel, – “by then I had already been in the Benedictines monastery (the Catholic order), and virtually half of the brethren of our monastery were adherent to the Eastern liturgical tradition. This monastery tended towards becoming the bridge between East and West. I learned a lot and read the holy fathers’ works. With the blessing of my spiritual father, in the 1980s, I became a hermit and by now I’ve been living in a skete placed 900 meters above the sea. I aspired to live the way the ancient fathers did, I wrote and published books to point the people in the West that we all need to get back to our roots. From the very beginning I understood that West separated from East. Even many hierarchs of the Roman Catholic Church turned to the teaching of the fathers of the Eastern Church, but anyway the Roman Church followed its separate path”.

In 2010, father Gabriel (Bunge) was accepted to fold of the Orthodox Church, but according to his words, he has always been Orthodox by spirit and always aspired to the Orthodoxy in the Sacraments.

“I had one leg in the East and another in the West. For many years I wanted to visit the Kiev-Caves Lavra and to adore  the relics of the venerables in the Caves, and to pray to them. Once I got a cross carrying the relics of the twelve saints of the Caves in an antiquarian shop. Their names were written there. The cross was dated 1791. The way the cross appeared in the West is questionable, but the sanctuary in it was not of the essence for the workers of the shop. Now the cross stands on my table, and every day I pray to the saints of the Caves. Now I am genuinely happy that I have an opportunity to visit the Kiev-Caves Lavra”.

In response to the question on the perspectives of uniting the Eastern and the Western Churches, father Gabriel emphasized that “…there is no theological sense in the dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholics should return. My teacher, a professor, who became father Benedict later, understood many issues, but did nothing. The Orthodox Church saves the Liturgy and the monastic tradition, whereas the Roman Catholic Church rather tends to Protestantism then to returning to the Orthodoxy now. The real dilemma of the separation is not the difference, but inconsistency. The Greek and the Roman cultures were different in the 1st Century, but still consistent”.

Father Gabriel also drew attention to the crucial issue – the part monasticism takes in the contemporary world: “faithful people expect the answers to the spiritual, not national or political, questions from monks. Monks are dissociated from this world, they live their own life, and it differs from the life in the world. Such life helps acquire not the worldly wisdom, and this is namely what people expect. Many come to me and expect an answer and I have to tell them what should be done and what should not”.

Speaking of the direction monasticism should develop within, be it hermitic or sociable, schema-archimandrite Gabriel explained: “monasticism did not begin with the sociable tradition. First monks were hermits, but they always had a teacher. Both ways are good. All depends on how God calls. There is place for everyone in the Church and God saves all of us not separately, but altogether!”

In conclusion of the meeting, archimandrite Anthony, the rural dean of the Kiev-Caves Lavra, expressed gratitude to father Gabriel that father found time and answered current questions. Archimandrite Anthony extended greetings from metropolitan Pavel, the Vicegerent of the monastery, whereupon a joint photo was taken as mementos of the meeting.

Photo by hierodeacons Isaacius (Ponomarev) and Peter (Abramov)

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