Eulogy for Fr. Anthony Karbo

Upon the Falling Asleep of Archpriest Anthony Karbo
Archbishop Benjamin of San Francisco and the West
March 22, 2024

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

It has been a long service and I promise not to tax your attention very long.  How and where to begin to sum up even a tiny bit of Fr. Anthony’s legacy and priesthood?

I remember my first encounter with him and Matushka Elizabeth about 36 years ago.  They came to Holy Virgin Mary Cathedral in Los Angeles, my home parish, with a baby in arms while he was a student at Fuller Theological Seminary.  We sat in my apartment and spoke, as one often does with those inquiring about the Orthodox Faith, and as he did hundreds of times in turn with others who would inquire of him.  He was a serious, upright young man who in a relatively short period of time to go to St. Tikhon Seminary, where he studied Orthodox theology.  Neither of us had an inkling of what lay ahead of us.

Upon graduating, he and Matushka returned to the Diocese of the West and were assigned here in Colorado Springs, to what was then a struggling little parish.  It was a young mission that had been planted by Fr. John Schreiber in the capitol of Eganvelical Protestantism.  They had purchased this property and built the small church which still stands here on Chestnut Street.  It was not a parish without problems.  However, with God’s help the parish began to turn around and grow.  I think part of Fr. Anthony’s success was due to the fact he “spoke Evangelical”.  Given his background, he was able to translate the ancient Christian Church in terms that Americans from this largely Evangelical community could understand.  I remember he went to Focus on the Family about once a week to have lunch and meet people.  He was so successful, that eventually he was asked not to come after the administration there noticed some of their number were becoming Orthodox!  This did not slow down or phase Fr. Anthony one bit.  He was a missionary at his core.  Looking at the clergy present, there are simply so many who are here in part because of Fr. Anthony.

He was always looking to do something more to advance the Kingdom of God.  We had several discussions where he pushed me to allow him to go to someplace else to open another mission:  Alaska, Hawaii, Montana… I told him his wife would kill the both of us if she had to pull up stakes and start all over again.  There is a story from the Desert Fathers about a monk who came to the Abba and wanted to go elsewhere.  He was given the obedience of taking a seedling and transplanting it again and again.  When he saw the Abba after having done this for a time, the Abba asked him how the plant was doing.  The frustrated young monk said it was dying because it did not have a chance to grow roots.  Then the Abba said:  so it is with us when we move from place to place and do not grow deep roots.  I believe this temple and the one on the other side of town are witness to the deep and profound roots Fr. Anthony and his family put down here in the Springs.

About two years ago when it became clear Father’s cancer would not be stopped and that he would go through a Golgotha of his own.  I told Fr. Anthony he had one last great lesson to teach us all:  how to die a Christian death.  He bore his cross with courage and like a Christian should.

If you have a heavy heart and are grieving, that is OK.  We weep for those we love and who have loved us.  One hears from time to time:  “Oh, you should not cry.  He is in a better place.”  But Christ God Himself wept at the death of his friend Lazarus.  And the Rabbis say that God weeps at the death of every human being.  So, don’t be afraid to weep.  You can also hear it said among some Christian groups:  “Oh, that is not Fr. Anthony.  He is with the Lord!  That is just a shell.”  I ask you them who is that there in our midst?!  You see to be a human being is to be a soul infleshed, that is a soul wrapped in a physical body.  Angels do not have bodies.  The tragedy of death is that the union of soul and body is torn asunder!  That is why Christ died a real human death, and rose from the dead as a real human person, his body and spirit united again.  Fr. Anthony’s body is as much Fr. Anthony as is his soul which awaits the last day when it will receive a new body.

Some of you may wonder why it is that his face is covered.  It is covered with an aer.  The same cloth that covers the holy gifts at the Liturgy.  It was placed over the deacon Anthony when he was ordained to the priesthood.  He was the last gift the Church presented to God on that day.  And so today, when we, the church,  return him to God, the same aer is placed over him.

I won’t go through a list of his accomplishments, you all know them better than I.  On the last day, when he stands before the throne of God with the hundreds of the sheep he has pastored, he can say:  “Here I am Lord, I and the children you have entrusted to me.”  And I am sure he will hear these words:  “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.”