Saturday, June 23, 2012
Vol. 2 Issue 6
№ 2 (6)
A lecture given by Hegumena Aleksandra (Chernyavskaya), the abbess of the St. John of Shanghai Convent in the village of Egorovka, Ukraine, at the second annual conference “ROCA’s Paths in Today’s World” held on August 23-26, 2011, at the Archangel Michael Cathedral in Odessa.
Our Bishops, Examples of Service.
All the bishops of the Church Abroad whom I will discuss today and with whom I was personally well acquainted all shared the same viewpoint. They all grieved deeply over the tragedy of 1917 in Russia and considered the scourge to be God’s punishment for the Russian people’s abandonment of the faith. All our bishops were committed monarchists. All of them believed in the rebirth of Russia and the mighty mission of the Russian people – to be bearers of God.
They considered the mission of the Church Abroad to be the spiritual nourishment of the multitudes of the Russian diaspora, as well as the preaching of Orthodoxy throughout the world. Likewise in regard to church services and the duties of pastors, all the bishops were of one mind in all major matters. They scrupulously followed the guidelines set down by the Synod and Typicon in liturgical practice. The conducting of the services, the ektenias, and the prayers – all were done identically. Prayers and supplications in ektenias that were added were done in strict accordance with the decisions of the Synod. The clergy did not exhibit willfulness or independence regarding prayers and ektenias.
Since every person is an individual, each one of the bishops that I will discuss had their own approach and their own personal style in the conducting of church services. It is such aspects that I will consider in my lecture.
Bishop Vitaly (Ustinov)
I became acquainted with Bishop Vitaly after the death of Bishop Philaret. He was separated from his parents when he was ten years old and ended up with other emigres in Yugoslavia, where he attended a cadet academy. A year later his mother was found. When he was 13, the future bishop lived in France where he graduated from a Jesuit college.
Even though the future bishop lived among the French, he remained a true Russian patriot. The abbot of the college where he studied was very fond of his student and did not constrain his faith and gave him assignments on religious topics connected with Russia (on the works of Pushkin, Dostoevsky). Bishop Vitaly loved Russia with all his soul. He said this regarding Russians, “A Russian is either a pig and animal or a saint.” He believed in the ideal of monarchism as well as the idea of a rebirth of mighty Russia. In sermons, he spoke with great passion about the better qualities of the Russian soul.
Bishop Vitaly went to bed early and would arise at two in the morning to pray and read the midnight office. While living in the Synod building, he observed as much of a monastic life as he could. Bishop Vitaly did not have a good musical ear. Nevertheless, he and all the other first hierarchs before him greatly enjoyed when regular services were conducted in a decorous and beautiful manner and with a full choir. He never missed services. Similarly to all our other first hierarchs, he did not tolerate willfulness, disregard or rudeness.
Bishop Vitaly aroused in people a particular love of Russia and the faith of the revival of the true Orthodox faith. Speaking of the Russian emigration at the time, he said, “The castoffs are coming here, while the Russian soul is an Orthodox soul.” This opinion by Bishop Vitaly led me to go to Russia.
Another trait is shared by all the bishops of whom I will speak today. None of them ever complained about being ill or tired. They considered them to be God’s blessings, which need to be endured and not imposed on those around them. Whenever asked about his health, Bishop Vitaly always answered with a smile, “Fantastic!”
(to be continued)
His memory is from generation to generation...
On the fifth anniversary of the repose of the Most Blessed Metropolitan Vitaly.
Protodeacon German Ivanov-Trinadzty
At each panikhida, we sing “His memory is from generation to generation.” But will many remember the ever-memorable Metropolitan Vitaly in their prayers on this Sunday (October 25, 2006, - ed.) the very day of the fifth anniversary of his passing?
The faithful sons of the Church Abroad will undoubtedly remember and exalt him in fervent prayers of thanksgiving.
The perpetrators of the betrayal, on the contrary, having finally stifled the voice of their conscience through persistent, constant falsehood, have henceforth directed their gaze and their thoughts in a completely different direction and do not wish to remember the past. They have begun to live a new life. It is possible that some among them, at the recollection of their deeds, experience the agonizing torment of conscience, that little voice of God that is put into each person, and, like Boris Godunov who shouted, "Keep away, keep away, child," they try to sweep aside the still recent past, but the face of the profaned Metropolitan and the memory of their iniquities from time to time do not give them rest.
And there is a third category of people: the mass of those who, on account of weakness, on account of spiritual negligence, in observance of “obedience” followed the betrayers and thereby think that they do not bear responsibility or guilt for what has happened, in which they are profoundly mistaken. Let them not lull their conscience; they too, though perhaps to a lesser extent, have also betrayed the Metropolitan and have betrayed their Fathers and their past.
Metropolitan Vitaly was the last link connecting us to the real Russia. He was the last hierarch in the world who was born in Tsarist Russia and who remembered how, as a ten year old boy together with the valiant White Army, he left forever the shores of Russia, which he kept in his heart throughout his long life. He was the last representative of those giants of spirit who created the special image of the Church Abroad that could not be compared with anything else. He was, as Metropolitan Agafangel once wrote, an “icon of the Church Abroad”.
The fate of the reposed Metropolitan is in many ways similar to the fate of the Holy Tsar-Martyr. Indeed, just like him, he could say, “All around are treachery and cowardice and deceit.” Just as till now there is a “huge mass of monarchists” who denounce the Sovereign as allegedly not being in any way a victim, but the very first initiator of the revolution and of the collapse of Russia since he abdicated the throne – yes, there are such cranks! – so too there are people without a conscience who assert that the Metropolitan himself was guilty in the breakdown of the Church Abroad and that it was necessary to “remove” him from the office of First Hierarch in order to save the Church, just as it was necessary to “remove” the Sovereign in order to save Russia. The same falsehood comes through both there and here. The First Hierarch and the Tsar are also not presidents of republics; they are not appointed directors of enterprises for a fixed period – they are the bearers of a special charism, and they are not “removed” as not being needed anymore. They remain on the Throne until the moment when the Lord calls them to Himself. But when, through force or deceit, they are forced to step down from the Throne, that is the vilest overthrow and a revolution, as took place in February, 1917, and as occurred 10 years ago in 2001. Such overthrows cannot be blessed ones, since the driving force in these iniquities is always the same – treachery, wherein the devil serves as an advocate.
No one will dispute that Metropolitan Vitaly, by virtue of his advanced age and memory loss, could not sin and make mistakes, especially when he was intentionally led into error and his physical weaknesses were taken advantage of. But until his last breath, he remained faithful to the Idea, was unbending in defense of the Truth and uncompromising toward evil. The reposed Metropolitan bore a heavy cross during the last years of his earthly life; but like the Sovereign, he bore it completely without complaint. No one ever heard a single word of complaint, reproach or thirst for revenge. Not once. Without complaint, with the greatest humility, he endured both mockery and attempts on his life. The only thing that he said was “ANATHEMA” three times to his tormentor, the unworthy “bishop” Mikhail Donskov, who to this day by his presence defiles our Cathedral of the Exaltation of the Cross in Geneva.
The merciful Lord called him to Himself six months before the union with the MP. And so his eyes did not see that greatest infamy, which was committed by those whom, in the majority of cases, he himself had elevated to the hierarchal rank, seeing in them worthy defenders of the foundations of the Church Abroad. With bodily eyes he did not see, but with spiritual eyes he saw everything. And these emotional experiences were for him undoubtedly much more painful than physical ones.
By forgiving all and through the submission to destiny and the will of God – let is not be afraid to say – he was raised to sainthood.
Let everyone think about this. There is still time for repentance. Metropolitan Vitaly was an “icon” and a "guide". He showed and continues to show to each one the path of honor and truth, the path delineated by his three marvelous predecessors, Metropolitans Anthony, Anastasy and Philaret. But will Christian conscience, or simply ordinary courage, be sufficient for each one of us, who does not want to finally resemble the despicable “Februarists,” in order to stand firmly on this path?
Memory eternal, dear Vladyka Metropolitan!