Orthodox America

New Bishop for South America   

A Brief Biography

Bishop Alexander (Mileant) was born in 1938, in Odessa. His father disappeared at the front during the Second World War, and the family, in order to escape the communist oppression, fled to the West. They lived in Prague, then Rome, before settling in Buenos Aires, where, after his elementary education, Alexander completed a seven-year course at a technical school specializing in electronics. He worked as a draftsman in several companies and enrolled in the University of Buenos Aires. From the age of eight, Alexander served as an acolyte, developing a close relationship with Archbishop Afanassy. The archbishop had an extensive library and, for better than three years, gave Alexander systematic instruction in theology. Desiring to read the Holy Fathers in the original, Alexander proceded to study first modern then ancient Greek. In the fall of 1963, Alexander entered Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville, graduating in 1967 with a Bachelor of Theology degree. In 1966 he was ordained to the diaconate by Archbishop Averky. A year later, Metropolitan Philaret ordained him to the priesthood and assigned him to the Church of the Holy Protection in Los Angeles. While serving as rector, Fr. Alexander furthered his education, receiving, in 1978, a bachelor's degree in electonics; then his master's in the same field and, finally, in 1983, an Engineering degree in telecommunications from the University of Southern California. With this speciality he worked as an engineer for NASA. This secular occupation gave Fr. Alexander an opportunity to specialize in computers, which in turn assisted him in producing a wealth of missionary leaflets. To date, more than 200 leaflets have been compiled - in Russian, English and Spanish. Available in both printed and electronic form (www.fatheralexander.org), the leaflets treat a range of subjects: Orthodox faith and Christian life; commentaries on Scripture; explanations of prayers, services, and church feasts; lives of saints, and patristic teachings. More recent leaflets have concentrated on apologetics, defending the Faith against various cults and sects. Beginning in 1990, quantities of leaflets have been sent all over the former Soviet Union, as well as to other countries. As bishop of South America, Vladika Alexander will no doubt continue and expand his missionary activity.

In accordance with a resolution of the Sobor of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, on the eve of the Feast of Ascension, 14/27 May, 1998, Archimandrite Alexander Mileant was elected Bishop of Buenos Aires and South America. During the festal Liturgy the next morning, the rite of consecration was performed by Archbishop Anthony of Western America and San Francisco, Archbishop Laurus of Syracuse and Holy Trinity Monastery, Bishop Agafangel of Simferopol and the Crimea, Bishop Mitrofan of Boston, and Bishop Gabriel of Manhattan. At his election, the bishop-elect gave the following address:

Your Eminence, respected archpastors:

First of all, I should like to thank the Chief Hierarch of our Church Abroad, Metropolitan Vitaly, and all you honorable bishops for having summoned me to become a bearer of apostolic grace in the episcopal rank. I consider it a great miracle of God's mercy and all-mighty power that, in spite of all the persecution and machinations that the enemy of mankind has raised against the Church on her historical path, Christ's truth and the apostolic grace of the priesthood have been preserved to this day, and are handed down successively from one bishop to another, like the Holy Fire at Pascha in Jerusalem.

The present occasion reminds me of my ordination to the priesthood, which was performed in this very church by his Eminence Metropolitan Philaret, thirty-one years ago. Being much younger then, full of strength and enthusiasm, I would doubtless have laid out before you an extensive program of useful measures. Now, however, with my strength and health no longer what they used to be, I have no choice but to concentrate on what is most important. And it seems to me that this is where the Lord has led me over the past ten years of my pastoral service: to compile and disseminate spiritual literature among Russian people.

We live in the so-called information age, when even the average person spends a good part of his life amassing all sorts of knowledge. About the Christian Faith, however-this wondrous teaching that enlightens the human mind and gives meaning to life - the overwhelming majority of Russians have only the vaguest and most conflicting information. Many have no idea how rich it is, how far it surpasses any and everything preached by sectarians or adherents of Eastern confessions.

And so there lies upon us, ministers of the Word, the sacred mission of carrying to all the light of the pure, life-giving and animating teaching of Christ, which we have inherited from the holy Apostles. While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be children of light, said the Lord (John 12:36). To believe in the light means not only to agree with the objective truthfulness of the Gospel teaching, but to believe in its all-conquering power.

For this reason, it is sad to see how much attention our religious publications devote to all sorts of "news," to church scandals, repeatedly criticizing this or that hierarch and spreading tales of all kinds of "faults" and "wrong-doings"; and how relatively little attention they devote to explaining the luminous teaching of the Saviour. All of this negativity can hardly be expected to attract anyone to the Church. By this I do not mean that we must completely ignore the evil around us, or that we must not warn the faithful against modern forms of apostasy, and other deviations from the Faith. We must warn them, but in so doing we must maintain an essential balance. On this point we find wonderful examples in both the Gospels and the Epistles, where needed rebuke never obscures the general content. They are shadows, as it were, that serve only to heighten bright figures. Likewise, it appears to me that, following the established apostolic model, we must concentrate on what is most important and essential and try to attract by presenting what is edifying, inspiring and elevating, rather than by beating with severe incriminations. We must believe in the conquering power of truth and love, for he that is not against us is for us (Luke 9:50).

It is not as though we lack the wherewithal to attract: by revealing the truths of the Faith and Christianity's high calling, by demonstrating Orthodoxy's superiority over sectarian and Eastern deceptions, by acquainting people with the content of Holy Scripture; by providing explanations of prayers, church services and church feasts; by presenting examples from the lives of saints and select teachings of the Holy Fathers, etc. Of course, in preparing such literature, we must take into consideration the intellectual level and spiritual needs of the contemporary reader. It is important, furthermore, that such instructional literature be disseminated gratis in every church, especially today, when our parishes are filling up with people who have been raised in the spiritually suffocating conditions of an aggressive materialism. Our sacred duty is to return to Christ His erring, spiritually starving sheep! In making this appeal, I realize that the idea of active missionary work is foreign to many Orthodox and that, as a rule, parishes do not allocate funds for spiritual literature. However, to refuse expenditures on what will attract new parishioners is the same as for a store to refuse to buy merchandise because it costs money. I am convinced that in spiritually instructing the faithful, in making them more convinced Orthodox, we shall secure the future of our parishes.

Fortunately, we have no shortage of educated and committed pastors able to write. We have only to join our forces and direct tham to a single goal. If I am able to contribute at least something to this holy task, I can desire nothing better. I ask your holy prayers and blessings!

Translated from Pravoslavnaya Rus, #10, 1998.

To our new bishop: Eis polla eti, Despota!