This funny story happened to one of the most inspired preachers of the Russian Church Outside Russia, Archbishop Averkius (Taushev) who wrote a Handbook for the Study of the Holy Scripture of the New Testament, a Handbook on Homiletics, and many other books, in New York in the 1960s. He was the abbot of Holy Trinity Monastery and the dean of the Jordanville seminary at that time. I recently heard about this particular story from Archpriest Victor Potapov, the rector of St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Washington, D.C., who was studying under the archbishop around that time and knows the story firsthand.
Some time in the last days of December, when the West is celebrating Christmas, Vladyka Averkius and his cell attendant were in New York on business and took the subway. He suddenly noticed a grey-haired old man with a big beard at the opposite end of the carriage. Both men were dressed in cassocks, and of course, they caught each other’s attention.
Vladyka Averkius came up and asked the man, “Merry Christmas?” implying that that man was celebrating Christmas on that day. The man said, “No. Happy Santa Claus Day.”
It turned out that the coincidental companion of the archbishop was Archbishop Petros of the Greek Church, and he also celebrated Christmas according to the Julian calendar, that is, on January 7. Of course, he immediately recognized that the bishop who came to him was of the same faith. His answer showed his attitude towards the festive madness in which there are a lot of shiny showcases with the figures of merry Santas, a lot of noise and agitation, but which increasingly begs the question of what Christ has got to do with it.
That was how two bishops in the New York subway sensed some mutual connection from afar, got to know each other and became friends with a simple little joke. It seems to me that this case clearly shows how spiritually minded people can find each other even in the whirlpool of New York.
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds