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Letter of Lesna Monastery sisters concerning their passage under the jurisdiction of the True Orthodox Church of Russia

Dear in Christ friends and benefactors of our monastery! Christ is Risen!

We wish to inform you that as of the feast of Mid-Pentecost, 19.04/02.05.2007, our monastery will be under the jurisdiction of the True Orthodox Church of Russia. Beginning on Tuesday evening with the Vespers of the feast, we will His Grace, the Most Reverend Archbishop Tikhon, Archbishop of Omsk and Siberia, as our ruling hierarch.Many of you knowour unwillingness to accept the pending union of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Church Abroad and of our reluctance to follow that path. Our decision was not made lightly. We gave it much thought, sought the advice of many, prayed hard and wept throughout this troubled time.

Sincerely and from the bottom of our hearts we thank our many, many friends and well wishers, from many different jurisdictions, holding the most varied opinions and headed in various directions, for the assistance that they have offered and for the support that they have voiced as we struggled to come to the right decision in choosing a new path for our monastery.We understand that not everyone will agree with us, but we ask you to believe that we have acted according to our conscience, and that we felt we could not decide otherwise without betraying our past, our heavenly protectors, our instructors and the sisters who have gone before us.We do not press anyone to follow us, we do not condemn anyone, nor consider them to be "without grace" or "outside the Church". Our times are very complicated and treacherous and it is truly difficult to come to a decision and to discern the best way without being swayed by one’s passions.We do not feel that we have the right to condemn anyone that has come to different conclusions in these matters.The great majority of our sisters support our decision. We will not force anyone to comply with it.And we will assist those sisters that decide otherwise to find homes with other monastic communities.

Some of you have expressed doubts about various jurisdictions, pointing out the weaknesses, mistakes or faults of certain hierarchs.We wish to clarify that we did not choose hierarchs that we liked personally, but the Church body and path that we felt best preserved and perpetuated the teachings and traditions of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.

Along with the rumours of our refusal to accept union with the Moscow Patriarchate, there has been much talk over the past few months of an imminent move by our monastery to Russia.It is true that since the appearance in Russia of parishes of the Church Abroad, and once sisters from the former Soviet bloc countries began entering our community, we had hoped to found a dependant monastic community there and undertook several steps in that direction.This is something our abbesses had prayed and hoped for, consciously preserving our monastery as a largely Russian-speaking community, with services in Church Slavonic and the traditions of pre-revolutionary Russian monasticism.We do hope eventually to start at least a small skete in Russia.On the other hand, we are well aware of all of the risks and dangers involved in doing business and even just plain living in contemporary Russia, especially for inexperienced foreigners, and we have no intention of dropping everything in Provemont and forcibly transporting our sisters to some unknown destination.We intend to continue our monastic life within the walls of our presentmonastery according to our strength and financial possibilities.

Many of you know of the complications with the legal status and ownership of our property.The church, houses and land in Provemont officially belong to the so-called "Association of Friends" of the monastery, comprised of clergy and laity from many different jurisdictions; in short, of everyone except the sisters of the monastery. It is entirely possible that our adherance to the True Orthodox Church of Russia will lead to claims on our property, to legal action, to inter-jurisdictional squabbling and financial difficulties.Many lawyers and notaries have assured us on numerous occasions that, as the monastery has been paying the property tax on this real estate for many years in it’s own name and from it’s own funds, and has maintained the estate at it’s own expense, with virtually no help from the hierarchy of the Church Abroad, it de facto belongs to us and that it is impossible to evict us.Nevertheless, our uncertain situation worries the sisters, and we ask for your prayers and support.

Ever since its foundation ina largely non-Orthodox area on the borders of the Russian Empire, our monastery has been open to all that seek God and the Truth, and such, God willing, it shall always remain.All pilgrims to our miracle-working Icon of the Mother of God of Lesna or wishing to venerate our many other spiritual treasures will always be welcome, and we will accomodate them as best we can according to our means and our monastic rules.In questions regarding participation in our liturgical life and in the Sacraments we will be guided by the instructions of our hierarchs.

Our life will undoubtably change to some degree in these new circumstances.We do not know if we will be able to continue celebrating the Divine Liturgy daily, as for now only Hieromonk Evfimy (Trofimov) is remaining with us.We hope to continue celebrating the entire cycle of services, but we will have to take into account a smaller community and the necessity of providing for ourselves.Financially the monastery is managing, but donations have always been a great help, and we have no idea as to what sort of assistance we can rely on in the future.When the nuns in San Francisco seperated themselves from the Church Abroad they were accused of taking funds that were intended for a monastery specifically of the Church Abroad.We dare to hope that you have made your donations with the intent of supporting our monastic life regardless of what jurisdiction we were under.

We humbly ask your prayers for us as we embark on this new path.Metropolitan Philaret, who considered Lesna his summer home, left us the words "…that which ye have already hold fast…" (Rev. 2:25) as his last testament, and such is our intention.The recently reposed Metropolitan Vitaly, who twice convened Church Councils at our monastery, ended his days in exile and poverty, and we do not fear a similar fate.Our sense of the unceasing protection of the Most Holy Mother of God, St. John of Kronstadt’s letter preserved here, promising not to abandon our monastery, the appearance of St. John of Shanghai to the guardian of his chapel in San Francisco, reminding him that Lesna needed help, and the recent news that the remains of our foundress, Abbess Catherine, were discovered incorrupt, fill us with hope and strengthen our faith in the prayers and intercession on our behalf in heaven.And we ask your prayers for us sinners.

With profound gratitude and always with love in Christ,

Abbess Macrina and sisters


Mid Pentecost


Lesna Convent of the Most-Holy Mother of God
Provemont, France

The Convent was established in 1885 at the behest of Archbishop Leontii of Warsaw. The first abbess came to Lesna from Moscow along with five nuns. In 1889 the monastic community was reorganized into a general monastery and had town churches in St. Petersburg, Kholma, Warsaw and Yalta. The nuns taught children and the Convent became a center of Orthodoxy outside of Russia. The Royal Family visited the Convent twice. St. Amvrosii of Optina and St. John of Kronstadt were supporters of the Convent. In 1915, the Convent was evacuated into the depths of Russia—all 500 nunsand over 600 others. In 1917, at the invitation of then-Bishop Anastassy (Gribanovsky), the Convent moved to the Kishinev Diocese, and then to Yugoslavia, to Khopovo. From Khopovo, in 1950, the nuns of the Convent left for France (first to Fourquet, then to Provemont), where they remain to this day. In France, the Convent was frequently visited by St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco the Miracle-worker. The Mother Superior of the convent is Abbess Makrina. The main holy object of the convent is the Lesna Icon of the Mother of God. There also are the relics of St. Afanasii of Brest. The nuns bear a multitude of obediences: singing, cleaning, gardening, candle-making, icon-painting, a bookstore, and also warmly greet many visiting pilgrims.

1, rue du Moulin
Provemont, 27150 Etrepagny, FRANCE
Tel: 33 (2) 32 55 82 66; fax: 33 (2) 32 27 31 75

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