Interview of Vladyka Theodore to the Journal "Tserkovnost" (1999).
Q. Holy Vladyko, I'll begin with a question traditionally asked in such conversations. Where and when were you born? What led you to the Russian Orthodox Church?
A. I was born in the South of Kuban, in stanitsa Otradnaya, in 1955, into a pious but not quite churchgoing family. We would keep icons at home and would observe the holidays, but my grandmother and her son, my father, were not particularly religious and observant. It was my great-grandmother who instilled love for the church into my mind. Since my parents were young, my grandmother and my grandfather were also young and still working; therefore, I spent my childhood with my great-grandmother. I remember she was very partial to churchgoing, and as best I can remember, I was always in church.
Our church was small; not a church, but rather a prayer house. Those who have been in Kuban can remember what the churches of Kuban looked like at that time. It was a hut which had a cross instead of a chimney, and that was a prayer house, which had everything for a service, like a church.
The wonderful thing was that in my early childhood I came across people who were called 'Tikhonovtsi' at our place. They didn't go to the official church, but they were Orthodox. They were Catacomb Christians. Some of our distant relatives on my great-grandmother's side, the nuns, also belonged to them. One of them belonged to that group of people, and another went to the official church. They would mention this 'conflict' in conversations. My grandmother also went to the official church. In my adolescence, those mothers taught me to read Slavonic, and one of them (Eudokia was her name in the world; then in monasticism she became nun Euvfalia) took me to churches in the vicinity. She was looking for a spiritual father for me, who could help me, and who didn't resemble the renewal priests who had entered MP after the war; there were lots of them in Kuban. A father was found for me: Father Protopriest Vasiliy. His appearance was priestly, which was also a rare occurrence then. He wore his hair and beard long, liked church services, and was a very pious person. At that church I was told: "Go there, pray, and the Lord will lead you, and show you the right way." What a wonderful thing - there was a church in honor of Ss. Tsar Constantine and Elena, and in Suzdal I also serve in the church of Ss. Tsar Constantine and Elena.
Then in 1972 I found myself in Makhachkala with Father Valentine (Rusantsov). And in the year 1973 I followed Father Valentine to Suzdal. I took monastic vows in 1976. All my spiritual life as a priest passed in Suzdal. Here the orders of subdeacon were conferred on me, I was made a monk also in Suzdal at the Church of the Kazan Icon; and at the same church I took the holy orders of hierodeacon, and of hieromonk, and of bishop.
Q. Vladyko, tell in more detail how your service as Vladyka, then Archimandrite Valentine, began in Suzdal. What were the conditions you found here upon your arrival?
A. I came to Vladyka Valentine, who served in Makhachkala then, and I remember how he was raised in the Stavropol Church of the Apostle Andrew, and then he found himself in Suzdal. In order to leave, Father Valentine had to receive a blessing from his spiritual father. His name was Father Seraphim (Smykov). There is a book, "Russia before the Second Advent." It tells about a priest, Archimandrite Seraphim, who kept the icon of Our Lady of Kazan. This was the very same Archimandrite Seraphim. His story went as follows. Once, he was in ROCOR under the omophor of Metropolitan Antonij Khrapovitskij, and at the time of the occupation he came from Serbia to Krasnodar. Then the Germans allowed the opening of many churches. Almost all of the churches which were open at the Soviet time in the European part of Russia, were opened under the Germans. His brother was the governor at that time. Father Archimandrite Seraphim took part in the inauguration of a church in Krasnodar at the time of the occupation. Services are held there even now. (Father Seraphim himself is now deceased.) Father Valentine esteemed Father Seraphim and applied to him for spiritual support. Father Seraphim made him a monk and gave Father Valentine a blessing to go to Suzdal and restore the church here.
I also came to Suzdal, to the church of Kazan, to act as a reader. You have to imagine the outlying districts of our Russia, and the psychology of a southerner. When we happened to see the churches and monasteries remaining at the center of Russia, we had the impression that the people were very pious, that almost all of them were believers, because there were so many churches there. We couldn't even imagine that those churches might be closed, and that they might be used as storehouses. We thought services were held in all the churches: one day in one church, another day in another. It was a shock for me. All of a sudden, there was a workshop in one church, a storehouse in another; and that was savage. In Suzdal there was a small church of Kazan. When I received the order to serve at the Cathedral of Kazan, I imagined a huge, magnificent church: the Cathedral of Kazan in Moscow, in Petrograd. How surprised I was when I found a tiny, lopsided church instead of a cathedral!
Q. Even smaller then the Cathedral of Tsar Constantine?
A. It is not smaller than Tsar Constantine's Cathedral; it is bigger; but it's a winter church - a chapel which was fit only for wintertime services.
But at the time when the churches were destroyed, it was used in winter and in summer. By the way, in summer it was very stuffy, very hot there; the church was very low. Its only advantage was that it was at the city center. All the life of the city was concentrated around it.
Q. Aren't we at the city center now?
A. Yes, we are also at the center, but it is a bit removed. And this was the market square; and by the way, on the market square, where the Church of Kazan was, and the summer Church of the Resurrection, now serves the Moscow Patriarchate. It is characteristic that on this square public prayer was said, during which the priest of Tsar Constantine's Temple read Patriarch Tikhon's anathema against atheists and theomachists. In short, all the Suzdal temples were closed then. In 1947 the Church of Kazan was opened and was proclaimed a cathedral.
How the career of Father Valentine passed here, he could tell himself. What I know was told by the late Eudokia Arsenievna Chelysheva; she acted as a precentor, and at the same time as a book-keeper of the temple. She had to carry all the load of church business; she fulfilled all the duties and those of the churchwarden too. This woman told how about 1970, even 1969, Metropolitan Nikodim (Rotov) came to show all these cities - Vladimir, Suzdal, Jurjev-Polskoj -- to show the beauty of Suzdal to Cardinal Johan Willerbrands. And the Cardinal allegedly said: "Shame on you; there are so many beautiful churches here; the city is so rich; why cannot you create a church here, befitting the magnitude of the Moscow Patriarchate? But the believers pray in this small Church of Kazan."
And then began the search for a person who could cope with his task. It was profitable for the government and, I might add, for the organs of government that supervised church life, because we could show society that we had freedom of faith, that we led a normal church life. However, it was still very hard to find a person to conduct this normal church life. Then they remembered Archimandrite Valentine, who served in Makhachkala. It was, I may say, a stronghold of Islam. He managed to reconstruct a church for his (Russian-language) flock. He managed to come to an agreement with the Father
Superior of the Antiokh church in Moscow, Archimandrite Makarij, and to bring a icon stand from Moscow which had been kept at the Antiokh church, and reconstruct the temple. And then Metropolitan Aleksij (Ridiger), present patriarch, and at that time the business manager of the Moscow Patriarchate, invited Archimandret Valentine and proposed to go to Suzdal to put aright church life, which, by the way, had fallen into decay. For almost three years after the death of the last Suzdal priest, Father Nikolaj Tsvetkov, there had been no regular priest. Although the parish was not that poor, it couldn't exist on its own, because Father Nikolaj had a house in Suzdal; and then, when he died, the priests from neighboring localities served at the parish. But unfortunately, those priests who came to Suzdal all those years visited it very seldom. The service was irregular, only on mayor holidays.
Sometimes it happened that there were not enough priests, and the believers came up to the church, and it was announced that the priest hadn't arrived that day. When Father Valentine came here before me, it was very distressing here. The church was dirty and miserable. Then I arrived in October, at the festival of the Protection. There was a novice Nikolaj here; now he is the priest of the Moscow Patriarchate. We had the burden of cleaning the church of loads of garbage and dirt.
It was a major effort to restore church recitation and singing. There had been people who'd been brought up being attached to temples, to monasteries; but when we came here, there were only a few left. There were only about six persons acting as a choir. But those people couldn't teach how to conduct a service more or less correctly; or maybe they didn't want to, because they were scared. Therefore, they didn't participate when Vladyka organized a choir of local folk, of parishioners. We had two choirs: on the right - professionals; on the left - our parishioners. Sometimes there were twenty or thirty people in the choir, Sometimes there were only three or four people in the church, but still a choir. The singing was simple, but nonetheless people came and copied the liturgy, the service. But it wasn't done openly, because it provoked a reaction from the local authorities at that time, who wanted, on the one hand, to have a functioning church here, showing that we have freedom here; but on the other hand, they didn't like our energetic activity.
We arrived at Lent; there were no children in the church, not a single schoolboy who received the Eucharist. It was very strange for me. With us in Kuban there were lots of kids at the days of the spring holidays. And here was no one. If a couple of kids came, they said that their parents took them there. The churchwarden said there was a regulation that the kids should be taken to Eucharist only by their parents. Of course, we couldn't cancel this at once, but gradually these bans were broken. They were simply forgotten.
Gradually we broke the ban regarding the Religious Procession. Here, for instance, the Religious Procession was allowed only twice a year: at the Bringing Out of the Shroud of Christ, and at Easter. But we began to perform the Religious Procession with the Shroud at Our Lady's Assumption.
What everyone sees here now, and what delights many people, is the way parish life is led, with the children, and the Sunday school, and the people. All this didn't come at once. 25 years were spent on that. The life wasn't settled at once; the children didn't come at once; and the people: it all didn't start all of a sudden. The fear here was so great that even I was surprised. It surprised me that only old women went to church. Not just elderly people, but very old women that were more than 70, more than 80. And if a man or a woman came, for instance, about fifty-five or even sixty years old, they looked young among those old women. And if a man of forty came, or about twenty-five, it was considered something exceptional. A woman sang in our choir, by name Marina. Once I went out of the temple, and a young woman asked me: "My aunt sings in the choir. Could you call her? I can't come into the church."
"Why can't you come in?"
"Well, they'll see and punish me."
I was surprised that a woman could be punished just for going into the church - all the city knowing it - and calling his aunt. But times have changed since then.
Q. And how would you explain such a difference in the perception of church and church life in Kuban and here?
A. On the one hand, this is the North. I suppose a man in the North is more reserved in his emotions. Southerners are Southerners. This can be observed in their character. On the other hand, Suzdal as the city of churches, and the entire region, the provinces of Vladimir and Pskov, as the stronghold of Orthodoxy, were paid particular attention according to a special order, if I am not mistaken. It was an order, as a matter of fact, to carry on a total struggle against the Church: "against the religious superstitions and survivals," as they put it. As a matter of fact, right after the proclamation of the separation between Church and State, Church persecution began. The priests were just put into jail; it was a special administrative exile. That is, if you were a priest, you should serve your three or four years. But the people of Suzdal didn't give up right away. There were rebellions here. Of course, they were a kind of a half-silent protest. To raise a riot, openly, with shooting, with murders - of course, there were no things like that here. It can be explained from this point of view too.
Then, it's a well-known fact that the past war somehow made the Russian people wake up from atheism. And in Kuban there were bloody battles, occupation, hunger, in the thirties and in the fifties. As the Russian saying goes: "The more sorrow, the closer to God." It can also explain that.
There are various ways to explain why in Kuban people are more religious, and in the North they seem to be less religious. They are not less religious; they just don't show it, and they are more reserved in expressing their faith then people in Kuban.
Q. What were the relationships with the authorities in the seventies and eighties?
A. Well, it is hard to say. They were different. They were quite complicated. For instance, Vladyka Valentine always showed his independence.
For example, it was expressed thus. Vladyka saw that the aforementioned Eudokia Arsenievna was compiling a list of parishioners. He asked her:
"What are you doing, Eudokia Arsenievna?"
"I am making a list for the secretary of the executive committee. She wants me to submit a list of those baptized by us. Tomorrow I have to give the list of the baptized to the commissioner."
"To the commissioner? Tell him that the Rector of the church didn't give you permission."
It was the first such quarrel with the authorities. Vl. Valentine had a conversation with the commissioner. I know that I was already there when he went to see that commissioner.
And there was another incident. Probably you know that in Suzdal a lot of holy saints lived their holy lives. It shocked us that they were hardly commemorated in Suzdal, as, for instance, St. Serge of Radonezh is commemorated in Sergijev Posad; or rather, he was commemorated, but it was not emphasized. Even the icons were tiny and dusty. And then Father Valentine gave a blessing to commemorate the saints of Suzdal solemnly. A big icon was found, an icon-case was made, and Akathists were read before it. Then we ventured further: we went to the Temple of the Resurrection, took a part of the relic, fixed it into the icon, and began to say a moleben. And the commission came and delivered a special censure: "Why do you popularize the saints of Suzdal? Why do you spread religious fanaticism?" And they insisted that we give the part of the relic back. But providently, we had fixed the relic in such a way that it couldn't be taken out, and we won it.
The second quarrel happened because we had hung bells in the Church of Kazan, in the side-chapel of the Archangel Michael, and began to ring them.
Now, the Church of Kazan had a bell tower, but it belonged to the museum, to the Temple of the Resurrection, and there was an exhibition of wooden architecture and also of embroidery. Therefore, the bell tower, although it had a bell, was out of reach. We hung a bell, and began to ring it; and can you imagine the reaction? It was a bit noisy in the church, but suddenly our old ladies took alarm: "Listen, the bell is ringing!" And suddenly the noise quieted down. And, hearing that jarring bell, our reserved old Russian women began to cry. They remembered what bells we used to have, and what Russia used to be. And in three days (I don't know if there was some informer in the church, or what), Father Archimandrite Valentine was invited to Vladimir at the reception of the commissioner, and the latter said: "Don't do that.
Why do you arrange all that bell thing? You began those Akathists, you began this and that..." The only thing that saved us was that we could say that foreigners always came to our city. They would say:
"Do you ring bells?"
"We are not allowed to; which means we have no freedom."
Q. So, did the foreigners protect you?
A. Yes, as a matter of fact, they did protect us in a sense. But there were many people in the Moscow Patriarchate who could have used the foreigners! But they didn't. They didn't care; they came, said a word, and went away. But we wanted to do something for the Church. That's why we taught children to sing Christmas carols. Foreigners arrived at Christmas, and the children just sang to them.
Then our kids were invited by foreigners to sing. Now they are on the right choir of thirty, those kids, and they come, remembering those times. That was the beginning.
And then we had a conflict with the Moscow Patriarchate. After Vladyka Valentine resigned, we managed to find the personal file of Vladyka Valentine (unfortunately, we had no photocopy machine then, so we couldn't copy it), and read that Archimandrite Valentine had used the foreigners visiting the city of Suzdal to involve minors in religious ceremonies. It is interesting that this was in his file, which was kept at the patriarchal office. But if we'd had the opportunity to make a photocopy, as now in every office, then we could've copied the comments written by the "guides" of those very foreigners.
Q. Vladyko, how could you characterize those representatives of the Moscow
Patriarchate that came then to Suzdal, and first of all, the bishops of Suzdal and Vladimir? In particular, Vladyka Serapion of MP seems to be a "legendary" person.
A. You know, if I say something bad about them, it will be unfair on my part, because I didn't interfere with this business. Father Valentine told me: "If you don't want to be stained, if you want to keep your faith, don't get involved in it." Therefore I have nothing to say. There were many rumors, but I always ignored them. And we had a saying, a prayer: "Our Holy Lady, save me from the fire and storm, and from the archbishop's house."
When archbishops came, they served here: in particular, Archbishop Vladimir (Kotlyarov). I may say that his tendency to renovation (his particular pride) already showed itself at that time. For instance, he used to come to serve here on the second day of Christmas, but once it happened that he couldn't come. And he came at the feast day of Saint Basil the Great, when we celebrate New Year. It is not quite canonical, but in any case it is blessed by the tradition of two centuries. Father Vladimit said:
"Most Reverend, today we happen to have the New Year's celebration, so serve after the Liturgy and bless the people."
And he answered:
"And what for? We've already had the New Year's Liturgy two weeks ago."
"That's our tradition."
"Well, what for?"
But then he tempered justice with mercy and said, "All right, we'll serve".
But after that his response was the following. When we finished the Liturgy we sang "Many Years" to him, and he addressed us, wishing us a happy New Year this way: "Of course, it's your custom, but it is wrong. New Year should be on another day, but I wish you a happy New Year, if you want it."
About Vladyka Serapion: of course, things happened. His unbalanced character showed itself. He was very hot-tempered. His good side was that he always served very solemnly. The singing was very harmonious, there were many clerics and subdeacons, but all this was external. I can say nothing of the inside. He didn't care about that. He did everything for show, for it to be nice and pleasant.
There were not really clashes, but some conflicts between the parish of Father Valentine and Vl. Serapion, because all the foreign delegations that passed through Suzdal were welcomed.
And I should say, we were glad to welcome all the guests: not only because of personal contacts, but also because of the chance to ask somebody for relaxation of the restrictions for the sake of the foreigners.
We could arrange a solemn religious procession to the Jordan river to sanctify water, or a procession around the temple. When we left the temple of Kazan for Tsar Constantine's, then we arranged many religious processions.
For instance, there was an incident the following year, when there were no foreigners any longer, but still we went on a religious procession.
"Why did you go?"
"Because we went last year."
"But the foreigners were here last year!"
"And what do you want? What if the foreigners come and ask, 'Do you go here often?' 'No, only when you come here.' So what should we do?"
"All right, then."
It was the same with the bells. The bells rang in our church. Then there was a limit for the church ringing, ten minutes. Now we can ring for an hour, but then the bells were a big joy for us. To ring for a full ten minutes over half of the city, over the city center! What a joy that was! But then they got used to this ringing, and when the bell rings, it is as though it had always been so, as though it had always been allowed. But in the years 1976 - 1977, when we opened the church, and already in 1978 the church bell rang, then the people would stop and watch, and listen to the bell ringing, and rushed to the sound of the bell in multitudes to listen. Well, by now it has become an integral part of the city of Suzdal.
What else can I say? I've already said that there were clashes with the authorities of MP, because the foreign delegations were to be paid for. They were to get money. The bishopric was proud to receive guests, but they didn't like to settle the accounts. On the other hand, when the guests arrived, they billed large sums of money. But it began when Vladyko Valentine, still archimandrite then, was to sign all those accounts. Or, for instance, after the patriarch Nikolaj of Alexandria had visited Suzdal - he was accompanied by guests - they billed a very big sum of money. How was it that the patriarch, a diabetic, could eat so much and spend so much money? Vladyka Valentine has lots of records about this "writing off expenses."
But the point was that Vladyka Valentine refused to write reports or denunciations. "Denunciations" is our figure of speech, of course. It is the so-called "Report on the foreigners' visit." There is a special book for such reports.
I came across a remarkable article from a very strange source: the article on the Suzdal case published in the "Moscow Church Herald" in 1990 (by journalist Eugenij Komarov, if I am not mistaken). The article is remarkable first of all because the author gave it away against his own will. There were literally a few paragraphs dedicated to citations, according to which a shrewd person could understand unambiguously what a hard struggle we had. It said that in this year, Archimandrite Valentine asked the archbishop to relieve him of all the works; in this year, he asked to be relieved of foreign delegations; in this year "human powers reached their limit."
But human powers were always near the limit. What he had to endure then! We were the junior clergy, though I've become senior in the clergy of Suzdal since then. Father Irinarkh is junior, Father Joann is even more junior; but they were not yet here at that time, and I was the junior. And we, Father Arsenij and the late Father Hilarion and I -- Vladyka Serapion tried to involve us. He asked us, "Why, Valentine (he simply didn't call us "father"), don't your clergy take part in the reception of the foreigners? Why don't they accompany them?"
Sometimes I happened to hear what those priests were saying when receiving foreigners. I would've spoken better. But he said, "It is very dangerous. I can arrange it for you. But I advise you not to become stained. You'll be broken, and in the end you'll become an informer." And those accompanying priests looked at our clergy as though we were narrow-minded fanatics who could only cook on the stove, treat the foreigners to food in pots: that's how they saw us. In any case, when we served the pots and cooked the food, we could hear their talk and see their behaviour, and it saved us from joining them. We were like priest-servants that were, by the way, not paid. We were never paid for cooking, for washing the dishes, for standing by the stove. It was done for the sake of God, for the sake of the soul, for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven. No, we didn't complain; we were satisfied with serving in church, with ringing bells, with going for religious processions; we could deal with people, with kids. It was very helpful for us.
But little by little, it became more and more annoying. I should emphasize that those archbishops, whether Vladyka Nikolaj or Vladyka Serapion, did realise that Vladyka Valentine, then Archimandret Valentine, had become a famous person. We received guests; we were on TV. And that somehow gave him special privileges. Although they tried to show their discontent in any way possible, to show their archepiscopal power by shouting, or by an order, or, for example, by not giving us church-plate, not giving us calendars, some icons, candles were not given in time - all that was unpleasant, but not fatal. For us and for the parish it was like a mosquito sting - scratch it, and it's gone. But when they began to demand reports from Archbishop Valentine (Mischuk), it became more complicated.
Q. And what was the reason for that? The affair began in 1989, during perestroika. In Moscow they were saying that communists were to be shot, etc. But here in Suzdal this affair began at the second half of 1989.
A. If you go into the church of Kazan now, into the cathedral, you'll be able to come up to any priest and ask him, "How long have you been serving here?" and "Do you know Vladyka Valentine well?" And few of them will answer in the positive, because Vladyka has always shown his independence, has never groveled before anyone. When Vladyka was an archimandrite, when we came to the cathedral in Vladimir, I was asked, "Who is this?" I answered, "Valentin of Suzdal." And everyone rushed to get a blessing, everyone. But when, having served in this Patriarchy for thirty years, he told the truth and named names, then he became bad, of course. And now the priests abuse him, speak ill of him. I even said to one of them, "If you think that you are a good father, come over to us, and we'll see who you really are."
But I want to go back to why all this has happened. It happened to the foreigners again, to the foreign delegations, and it began shortly before the thousandth anniversary of the Baptizing of Russia. It became known that the lands of Vladimir and Suzdal would join in the chain of the official festivals. It was the same in the year 1913 at the 300th anniversary of the House of Romanov, when Suzdal joined, as they used to say then, the list of the tsar's cities, which were related to the history of Russia. It was the same when Suzdal joined that chain of cities, where the official festivals took place. And a lot of guests were expected to come. That's why it was important to find a person to be put in charge of the guests, who could be useful to the authorities. Vladyka Valentine was such a person, very reliable, who could run that business, because the others were not quite suited for that.
But Vladyka Valentine wouldn't write reports, denunciations, and all that. And one day he was summoned to come to the Vladimir militia, but he didn't come back. A whole day passed, and late at night Zhenya Kiseliov, our driver, brought him back. Father was not himself; he was sick. And then Zhenya told us that he had been called to the militia and kept there from ten o'clock. From the militia he had been taken to the building across the street.
And then I asked Vladyka, "Are you in trouble?"
"You shouldn't know that."
Only in 1994 did Vladyka tell how they had tried to scare him, to accuse him of breaking the clerical oath and the monastic vows. What can a monk be accused of? That is, of all the mortal sins. "If you don't sign, we'll put you in jail." Vladyka refused; yet, he conducted that thousandth anniversary. There seemed to be no better-suited person. He was made responsible for the reception of the guests.
And then the commissioner was replaced. In his place, that of Adolf Vasilievich, they appointed Anatolij Ignatievich Shibaev from the KGB. But Vladyka didn't know that he was from the KGB, and when they told him, he stopped reporting to him. Then Archbishop Valentine (Mischuk) said to him, "Why don't you report to the commissioner?" He answered, "I am not going to the commissioner; if I go there, it's the same as going to the KGB. I can't see him." And churchwardens made all the reports. There was a secret agreement that although the clergy were officially considered separated from church life, in such parishes with many young people the churchwarden was required to report to the commissioner with the Father Superior. But instead of the Father Superior we would send Mother Sofia. Vladyka refused to see him. He saw him only on neutral territory, not in his office.
We were to celebrate the thousandth anniversary of the Baptism of Russia, and we were required to get confirmation from the authorities for the meetings and arrivals. That was a big mess. As a witness I can say that we really did everything. That was an opportunity for the people to show up in church. We hung the bells and worked purely unselfishly, for free. Then they gave us different icons, crosses for sale. But we gave them away for free, and Archbishop Valentine (Mischuk) even reproached us, telling us that we should've sold them, because we needed money. Of course we needed money, and the church needed money; but on the other hand, the believers had always been giving money. At the thousandth jubilee they were entitled to get a present from the church, some badge or an icon. Our singers were given the Testament, the Bible - at least those who did their best.
But Vladyka Mischuk was so weak-willed, I even don't know what to say. I witnessed a conversation between protopriest Georgij (Gorbachuk) and our vladyka. When Gorbachuk was talking, Vl. Valentine (Mischuk) said, "Yes, right you are, you talk sense." And suddenly the archbishop interrupted Father Valentine and said, "No, I don't agree with what the previous one said. It is you who talks sense. Let them do as you say." And nobody understood what opinion the archbishop had. He agreed with what was previously said, and with the opposite.
It is very hard to say whether it was an action planned by the KGB, or it was an action of Archbishop Valentine (Mischuk) himself. I tend to think that most probably because perestroika began here, different archives were raised little by little. Everyone was busy with politics, and I think that as such it was an independent action of Archbishop Valentine (Mischuk) himself. And therefore he disappeared. He is not an old archbishop, after all; he is not so old as, for instance, the Bishop of Orenburg or the Metropolitan of Nizhnij Novgorod. Vl. Valentine (Mischuk) is a young archbishop, although "young" is a relative expression.
Metropolitan Vladimir is even older, but he still serves.
But no one knows where Vl. Valentine (Mischuk) is now. That is, I suppose they didn't forgive him for what had happened here in Suzdal.
But the choice was made. And it was made by the community, and by the church. Though they said that it was a "rabble," they referred to the Apostles' rules for accusation. But our believers did everything purely canonically. The believers gathered and went together.
I witnessed the following. We came with Father Joann and Father Irinarkh; we'd been called to come. Vladyka Valentine was in the hospital with diabetes then. The Synod of the Moscow Patriarchy didn't believe it; they thought that he had gone to the hospital as they did when they found it expedient.
Metropolitan Aleksij (Ridiger) of Tallinn and Estonia used to fall ill and go to the hospital at once when he had some problems with the Synod. While he was in the hospital, the synod quarreled, and when he was discharged, it was already over, and all the synod were at odds with each other.
Metropolitan Aleksij always said, "You know that I've never had enemies; I don't, and I won't ever have them." Of course he had no enemies, because he never said yes or no. Now he speaks in the same way. When you listen to his speech, it's hard to understand anything. He seems to talk at length and beautifully, and for a very long time, but you can't report the speech of the patriarch, because you can't remember it. And when the old women would go out, they would say:
"That was a good sermon, so long, and so moving!"
"And what did he talk about?"
"Oh, I don't know, I don't remember. But I know it was very good."
It's all the same.
Q. Was there any possibility, any hope to begin the retreat, to reconcile everyone again?
A. I think that there was no chance for such a hope, and do you know why? Because there is a Russian saying: "A raven won't peck out the eye of another raven." And here at the Patriarchy they said to us: "We can't allow the believers to win. We understand that the bishop in Suzdal was wrong; we understand that everything is wrong; but you as priests should understand that if we make a concession for your old women, then crowds will flock here to Russia." That is, it was evidently the senior clergy's solidarity. Everyone whom I knew in our Vladimir eparchy blamed him, and we had to settle this when the minor clergy were summoned to the Synod. Because when Father Valentine was dismissed, we just went and applied for retirement from the staff. And our requests were satisfied. Because if Vladyka were transferred to another post, then he needed a reason for that; but we did it without any reason. He was a diabetic; he was in the hospital. But Father Irinarkh and Father Archdeacon and I wrote applications, and our request was granted.
When the believers guarded the parish for three months and wouldn't let any of the clergy in, the Patriarchy even cancelled the Nativity Liturgy. At the festival of the heophany, the believers were left without sanctified water, and at Theophany Eve they were left without it too.
Q. That was because the commissioner prohibited Father Irinarkh from serving?
A. No. A funny incident happened. The secretary of the executive office, Tamara Anatolievna, called and said, "I allow you to serve; welcome." Who is that Tamara Anatolievna? Is she a Synod member? Then the commissioner called and said that he had agreed with the patriarchy that Father Irinarkh was allowed to serve and to sanctify the water. But if he had served, then they would've told him: "Who is that commissioner? It is not the commissioner who is in charge here; it is the archbishop." In the long run, instead of Jordan, our old women found themselves near the building of the executive committee and said: "You have taken our father away, so sanctify the water for us." And the chairman of the committee said: "Mothers, you must be joking!"
"No," they said. "Sanctify our water!"
Singing, with gonfalons, with icons, with buckets! That was funny. I didn't participate in it; people told me about it.
Q. And how did Vladyka feel at that time?
A. Vladyka felt very ill. He was then in the hospital with diabetes, in a diabetic coma that had happened because of nervous illness. He was taken to the hospital at once. And at the request of the patriarchy a commission would come to see if he was really ill, or if he was pretending; if that riot had been organized by the clergy or just by the old women.
They even forgot: they couldn't even understand that ordinary people were more honest than those who were supposed to teach them to be honest. They in the patriarchy got used to considering people to be rabble. The preachers of kindness and mercy turned out to be dishonest people. And even non-churchgoing people asked me: "How can you live in that church? You have a real outrage there. We can go into our boss' office, whack the table with our fist, and say a Russian cuss-word. And you can't do even that. Where is your holiness, where are your values?"
People sustained hope until the last moment. And that was when Archbishop Kutepov came; he is archbishop of Alma-Ata now. He must have been the chairman of the economic management of the Moscow Patriarchy. He came and brought a whole folder: "Here it is; Archimandrite Valentine submitted a request this year, and that year. So it appears that if I write a request, I can be dismissed after fifteen years." But that time he didn't write it!
Then it happened that the believers wanted to see the archbishop. I'll jump to the end of the story here. They went to Vladimir. And the archbishop escaped from them; fled across the square. There was a woman, who has died recently, by name Lydia. She fell on her knees before him, and that very Archbishop Valentine (Mischuk) jumped over her, like a vaulting buck - you know, like on the sports equipment in schools -- and escaped from the people. Then Komarov wrote in his article that the believers had come with sticks and bludgeons. But why did he flee? If they had beaten him, he would've shown his injuries. They would've been like a martyr's injuries. "Look, the believers have beaten me! I suffered for truth, for cleanliness, for my holy orders as a bishop!" But he ran away.
It was the commemoration day of St. Nicholas, and he had read the Gospel, where it says: "I will smite the shepherd and the sheep will shall be dispersed." And it all happened in the same way - he escaped, but stumbled, right into a puddle.
And the priests echo the lie about people having brought bludgeons, for the sake of obedience.
When they came to check on affairs, I was in the church. The scandal happened at the entrance of the church. We had been in the church with Father Justinian; then we went into the apse and talked there. Then Father Dmitrij Netsvetaev, who was supposed to take the place of Vladyka Valentine, wrote that our presenter, Nun Sofia, assaulted him and wanted to beat him, and that Archimandrite Justinian witnessed it. I asked him, "Father, you were not present there. You were with me in the church, and then in the apse. You just couldn't have seen that!" And he spoke about obedience. This is the actual obedience of the Moscow Patriarchy: to slander, to pay a dirty trick on somebody.
Q. And how did the notorious Synod meeting go off?
A. We were summoned to the Synod then. It seemed they just wanted to scare us. But I should say we were not very scared. Still, of course, we were anxious, because it was a Holy Synod; we were among the upper crust, you see. We arrived in Moscow, at Chisty Str. 5. We were anxious, and, from habit, we went to see Vladyka. Aleksej, the Synod secretary who'd become bishop, we visited, and he received us, and admonished us with such fatherly care. And the believers - I still have no idea how they knew; but anyhow, they came by bus.
Q. Somebody had ordered a bus, hadn't they?
A. Somebody had ordered a bus. Of course, the believers were not allowed to come in; nobody went out, nobody came up to them, and they stood there from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. We were luckier because we were sitting, not standing. And Metropolitan Vladimir (Sabodan) received us. We had a conversation, and he said, "Write a request that you want to be forgiven and come back to your parish." I said I would call Father Valentine, who was in the hospital. Father Valentine said, "Go ahead, write." We wrote the request to be appointed to the parish before the situation cleared up. But Vladyka Aleksej asked us to refrain from preaching. But I said:
"Our parishioners are used to our sermons. What if I don't read my sermon, but, for instance, a sermon of St. Basil the Great or St. Theodore the Studite?"
"Welcome, preach, but don't say anything yourself."
Of course, I read the sermons of Saint Theodore the Studite, concerning how they, the Orthodox, had left the monastery, persecuted by the heretics; also, the sermon of Saint Basil the Great. His speech, very long, was separated into 4 parts, for forty martyrs, and it all was almost the same there. The sermon helped; the believers became stronger.
We could see already that dealing with the Patriarchy was useless. Then we decided to apply to the ROCOR. We made the decision ourselves, without revealing it to the believers, so as not to make the believers worry. But they themselves asked, "Where should we go?" And we said to our parishioners, "Will you stay with us or not?" And they asked, "Are you betraying us? Are you going without us? Fathers, will you stay with us, or will you betray us and go?" We said, "We'll be on your side. We either retire from the staff and stay in Suzdal as fathers not on the staff, or - it's up to you to decide."
Then we organized a meeting. It was not done secretly, as Mr. Komarov reported in one of his articles. He wrote that the church doors had been closed, and that the believers hadn't been let in and out of the temple until they had signed the refusal to join Metropolitan Vitaly. He didn't even ask how many people had been there at our meeting. He fancied he saw about a dozen. But dozens of people were there; the doors wouldn't have stopped them.
Were we sorry for quitting the Patriarchy? But they had shown their true colors. Had we still been vegetating, everything would've been quiet and peaceful. But when they showed their true colors, we were horrified. Why did it happen? What was that? And the next question: What was the reason? But the reason was not only the human factor, as we say it, but deeper - in betrayal. Everyone there was supposed to commit betrayal: a little one, or a major one, but the point was - they should commit betrayal. When they took Vladyka, a sick man, to court, they demanded that he renounce his parishioners. They even said, "We know that Archbishop Michuk is making a mistake, but we can't let the archbishop be abased and bring you back. Submit to the archbishop's will; go to Pokrov, and in a couple of months you'll be made a bishop, and you'll be left in peace." But he said, "I can't humiliate people. They are human beings - how can I?" And Metropolitan Kirill (Gundiaev) replied, "They are not people; they are rabble. You are turning church ethics upside down." And Vladyka came and told us, "This is the situation, I don't see any way out. I'd always had doubts, but that was the last straw. That Synod is godless; the people there are godless, and no perestroika and no promises can teach them. We should leave and find a canonical way out."
Q. Could the authorities interfere with your relationship with the Synod of ROCOR?
A. I think it was too late; because fathers from Siberia applied to them, but they refused them.
And then they received us. Very quickly, and very warmly. Then, when the years had changed Vladyka Vitaly, he fell under the influence, and this was the result.
But I may say that the ROCOR was not free, because when we retired, the political situation was as follows. In a very big country called the USSR, the global process of perestroika began. Sensational materials were published. Then Kharabakh began. In general, everything was somehow prepared; everyone was interested - at least foreign countries were interested - in making the country weaker, because they were afraid of it, afraid of the power of the Soviet Union. And we seemed to "fit in" then.
But then everything changed at once. Instead of there being one big country called the CIS, there were Russia, the Republic of Ukraine, Belarus: separation. The friendship between Russia and America began. Yeltsin went abroad. Bush came to Russia, warmer relationships were established, mutual compliments were paid, and we didn't "fit in." At first some people thought that if we had left the Patriarchy, we were supposed to miss it; that we were offended, and if they patted us on the back, we'd come back at once.
But Vladyka always said that we had quit the Patriarchy on principle, and they didn't like it. That's why we realized soon that we somehow didn't fit in.
I had an acquaintance who found himself in the MP's Monastery of St. John the Theologian. He wrote us a letter. He was devoted to the ROCOR, and he wrote: "Archbishop Laurus visited us and met our Father Superior; we showed him everything. He was interested in our authorities' opinion of you. You can imagine how they have described you."
Imagine if, before coming over to the ROCOR, we were to apply to the OCA to get their advice - if we should do that or not, and to get a recommendation from every foreign bishop. But they in the ROCOR consider it natural for some reason. They ask the Patriarchy.
And the following incident happened. When Vladyka Laurus decided to go to Russia - travel then was not so easy as it is now - Vladyka Valentine was asked to draw up the papers for Vladyka Laurus. The visa was granted, and everything was ready. But, if the eparchy management invites a bishop, then he should be received by a bishop or by eparchy representatives. They told us, "Vladyka will arrive in a couple of days, but we don't know on which flight. We'll tell you." A day passed. Two days passed. We phoned to America: "Yes, they departed yesterday. Did you meet them, by the way?" "No." We phoned to Vladyka Lazar in Moscow. He said, "I know, he was supposed to come, but he didn't show up." We called Vladyka Veniamin: "You know, he's already arrived, but we don't know where he is." But it turned out he was right here, in the Vladimir region; he stayed in the village of Dvinskoje, in the house of a priest from the Moscow Patriarchy. The priests of the Moscow Patriarchy had met him; they had shown him around Moscow; they showed him everything. He came to the territory of the Suzdal-Vladimir Eparchy of the ROCOR. He stayed in the village next to the village where our church was. Father Arsenij served there, and Vladyka Laurus stayed in the house of the priest, who announced from the ambon: "Don't go to Sanino. Dissidents serve there. They are godless." And so on. In the house of that man, Father Superior Palladij, lived the very right-hand man of Metropolitan Vitaly. And when he went away, Father Arsenij said, "I didn't need his hundred dollars," and let it pass. But the people who were there said, "You see, your American archbishop contributed a hundred dollars to our parish." And every evening they showed him around the Vladimir region; they showed him monasteries and cloisters. He passed by the church that was subordinate to the ROCOR. Archbishop Laurus didn't see Father Arsenij, didn't even say a service, and didn't say a Liturgy. And when he had traveled over half the province, he came to us. And Father Palladij of the MP appeared brazenly on the threshold and said, "I've brought Vladyka Laurus." And that was after a whole week. We didn't know how to find him. It was we who had invited him, after all.
Q. When did it happen?
A. I don't remember; we can check this in the Pravoslavnaja Rus; about 1993, because they didn't hide their report on the visit to Russia at all. He wrote that he had stayed in the beautiful Russian village of Dvinskoje, with Father Superior Palladij. We had been here and there. We said:
"Vladyko, we want to show you the cathedral in Vladimir."
"Thank you, dear; they've already shown me everything. I've been in Vladimir, and in Kirzhach, and in Murom. So, I've been everywhere, thanks." That is how he came to visit the bishop of Suzdal.
Of course we were still rationalizing: they are foreigners, after all; it's hard for them to understand how serious our contradictions are, and they've gotten lost:
Then archbishop Lavr said a liturgy here. It was the commemoration day of Saint First-martyr Stefan - the first week of the Dormition fast, maybe, August the second or the third. He preached in Nicholas' church. Our mother superior Serafima, a catacomb Christian, said, "I didn't know what to think, how to understand it, how to behave." He delivered a sermon about archdeacon Stefan, then began talking about the Moscow Patriarchate, that we shouldn't criticize, that we should pray and forgive. Then we went to the Suzdal Cathedral of the Resurrection; a priest from the Moscow Patriarchate, Father Alexander, met us at the entrance. Vladyka Lavr went into the sanctuary and kissed the altar, and we just stood there. He was the Secretary of the Synod, after all. Everything seemed strange to us. It's not that we don't respect the altar. If they had said something about separation, we couldn't talk, and Metropolitan Anastasij didn't allow talking even in private. That didn't mean we should fight or anything, but we should refrain from actions of this kind.
And then he began to incite Vladyka Valentine to raise the question to dissmiss Metr. Vitalij.
Q. So it involved such intrigue?
A. Yes. He said that. Vladyka Valentine replied to him, "I don't understand the standpoint of Metr. Vitalij in many respects, but you have to admit that what you do is unfair."
Q. But what was unusual in the standpoint of Metr. Vitalij?
A. Well, some of his contradictory orders. I should find all the documents and check it: For instance, he gave contradictory orders without having cancelled the previous order, then issued another order. It was impossible to understand. Then it turned out that he hadn't written it, but someone else, who had used his fax machine: We are backward; now we have it, but then, when we had passed on, I heard about such a thing as fax machine, though I had never set eyes on it. And then it turned out that the orders we had received, and the precious signature that we cherished, had been just a facsimile. And some woman, a secretary, had written and sealed them, and we fulfilled them as the orders of the metropolitan himself.
Q. How good was the relationship with the other Russian bishops, with Vl. Lazar, Veniamin? I've been told that the relationship was exceptionally difficult:
A. We didn't show any special consideration either to Lazar or to Veniamine over here in Suzdal.
At one time a father came here - Protodeacon German Ivanov the Thirteenth. He told us he had never seen such kind hospitality, as he saw here with us. We had never isolated foreigners from our parishioners. They could provide humanitarian support, they could stay in the houses of our believers: On the contrary, we welcomed such communication. We wanted them to communicate more, to experience our mood, and to help - if they were so strong in the Orthodox faith, they should've warned our parishioners not to join the Patriarchate of Moscow. But they said to our believers, "Oh, you're lucky to be here. For us, it's worse than here." And our believers ran to me, horrified:
- What's up?
- You see, Mr. Krotov told us, when he brought humanitarian support from America, that over there it is much worse than here: "You are lucky. Such things happen here. At the monastery in Jordanville the monks behave disgracefully, so why are our monks of Trinity-St.Serge Lavra worse, when they do that? So all this mess began. Of course it was strange to hear that.
And I suppose that the reason for the cold attitude was that Vladyka Lazar was a bit jealous. I think so. And coming back to Father German: he said that when he had been in Suzdal, he had never heard anything ill of Vladyka Lazar. On the contrary, everyone said, "He is a real Vladyka, he is, he has such a churchly face, he is so inspired, so devoted." But when I came to Petersburg, everyone was criticizing Vladyka Valentine.
But I can't say anything bad of Vladyka Lazar.
I met Vladyka Veniamin in America, where we went for a Synod meeting. I can say nothing bad of him either. And good: I'm not sure. The only thing which I can say for sure - once we had a conversation, we said that we should fight for the Church to be registered, to build churches, to paint domes. He said, "What troubles you've got; it's just a fuss. It's beyond my understanding. With us its different: in a hut we serve a liturgy, then we break our fast, then we stay and sing Christmas songs - this is spiritual. But you have a fuss here." And so on. How can we talk about revival? If they gather in huts:
I was in the catacombs. We had been invited by the mothers and Mother Superior Serafima to visit her parishioners. Of course the times had changed; there was no more persecution; everything was all right. On what had they lived in the catacombs? I would get up, would be given something to eat and to drink; they had everything. Then the singers and I would say a service. The churchwarden, the church council: they had their own community. There would gather about forty men. We would pray, drink tea and go our separate ways. It was all quiet and peaceful, everyone dispersed...
And over here, now we get an electricity bill, now a gas bill, we solve some problems: economic, or administrative, or with the Sunday School. Before all this began, even when the others had only plans for such schools, we had already organized them. At the first Sunday School we had 250 kids; it was popular then. Now the birth rate has gone lower, though. Now we have about 50-60 kids a year, but still:
Q. Tell me, Vladyko: how did it happen that Vladyka Valentine established such a close and warm relationship with the late Vladyka Gregory (Grabbe) of eternal memory?
A. I can't say anything about this, because it happened in America. I think it happened when Vladyka Valentine went there in 1991, and the problems of the church life organization in Russia were solved: Vladyka stayed in America for three months. But Vladyka Lazar and Vladyka Veniamin wouldn't come. Vladyka said, "I'll wait for them for sure, because we Russian archbishops should necessarily meet in America and talk." There was an incident where Vladyka Lazar himself wrote a petition to ordain Vladyka Valentine, but then Lazar refused, saying: "No, it was unwarranted, without my approval, I've been against it." Vladyka Valentine decided to clear this problem up. And he stayed there to await their arrival. It was then that they established such a warm relationship with Vladyka Gregory.
And then, when I'd taken the orders of archimandrite, they invited us, and I was present there too: We had meetings with Vladyka Gregory. They were unforgettable: Of course, every active person has ill-wishers. Vladyka Gregory had plenty of them. Somebody even told me, "Look, you don't know this Grabbe, he is this and that:" I had already talked to him and didn't take notice of those attacks. Because if Vladyka Grabbe is so bad, and you are so good, then show what you're worth. When Vladyka Grabbe was there, everything was canonically right there. But when Vladyka Grabbe left, the authority of the Foreign Church (ROCA) both in Russia and abroad was shaken.
My personal meetings with Vladyka Gregory left a lasting impression. His wisdom and his sagacity astonished me. I don't know what he was like 40 years ago, 20 years ago, but what I saw and heard spoke for itself.
Q. Vladyko, tell also about the events that followed. What caused such strange or even savage activity on the part of Vladyka Varnava? Was it purely his idea, or had somebody advised him?
A. Of course, it is better to ask Vladyka Varnava himself. The human heart is a mystery. But our first impression of Vladyka Varnava was very positive, most respectful. He came here in winter; I can't remember the year. He came on the eve of the festival of St. Seraphim of Sarov, in December: He came from France where it was warm; here it was very cold; we gave him clothes; he served here with the rank of an archbishop. We spent some days in a hospitable environment. He said that he came here as a representative of the Synod. He said: "I'll be in Moscow. I've told Vladyka about my meetings. I'll inform you about everything, and before going to France I'll visit you." He went to Moscow. Averianov and maybe Usachiov met him there. We don't know what they told him. In any case, he didn't phone. We phoned him, and he talked to us very dryly. Then he went to France. When he returned, his, so to say, vagaries with the court and with "Pamjat" (fascist organization) began, and so on. I don't even know what to say. For instance, I've read an allegation that he was an agent when he went to the USSR; that he'd been recruited. But I think that he was too credulous. And he began to support all those accusations and slanders that were brought against Vladyka Valentine.
Q. What accusations do you mean? There seemed to be some scandal, and moreover, uncanonicity.
A. Vladyka used to have a spiritual child - Rudolf Shtilmark, the writer. He wrote novels, stories of adventures. "The Heir from Calcutta"; maybe you've heard of it. I don't know how he met Vladyka Valentine. I just know that he came here to Suzdal and visited Vladyka more than once. Then he had an upheaval in his family, and he left the family. And it was his elder son who wrote this libel.
Q. Was it the eldest son from the first marriage?
A. Yes. That libel was made public at once. Though, even if it was serious, it was not permissible to do that, according to the canons. They should've summoned the witnesses to speak seriously. Because even if the believers accuse a bishop, they should be more than three. Not a hostile person from another organization, which, by the way, defamed the Church Abroad then. Those were people who called Metropolitan Vitalij a half-crazy old man. And they accepted that denunciation. Of course, it was what Archbishop Mark was fighting for.
Q. Was the individual attitude of Vladyka Mark to Vladyka Valentine more personal or more of principle?
A. It is hard to say. I used to think so before, but after all those events of the last decade have happened, I suppose that Mark was that very Trojan Horse. Because when he came to Suzdal, he didn't like it here. He didn't like anything here at all. I don't remember well now, but he was always discontented. He spent half a day, then one more day, and in the evening he was taken away. There had been not a single minute that he hadn't been lecturing us for something: we serve wrong, we sing wrong, we pray wrong - everything is wrong here. It was hard to understand. Then there were the priests of the Moscow Patriarchate. And in order to show that he always acted canonically, he gave orders to turn them all out of the church: we don't have communion, and they can't go to litia and stay in the church. But: finally he allowed them to vest themselves. At least he had shown us how he supposedly cared about the purity of the Church.
When the orders of a deacon were conferred on Father Innokentij, he was to be given a service-book after the ceremony. The priest said, "Give a service-book to Vladyka." And they gave him the service-book of the Moscow Patriarchate. He took it disgustedly with two fingers and said, "Take this trash away from me. Give me a real service-book." And they gave him a service-book published before the revolution. "This is a real service-book. Only this one should be used."
And then he spent the whole day discussing with the Siberians how one should be baptized - whether through submerging or through pouring, and what is legal, and what is not. And he went away.
But we should've realized that from the very beginning he showed discontent. And he always expressed that discontent. For example, he was displeased that Vladyka Valentine had golden teeth. He didn't like it at all.
And when he came, he announced at once that Archimandrite Valentine lived in a luxurious house. I've showed this house to you; Father Irinarkh lives there now. It impressed him as a mansion, but seven persons lived there.
And when another priest from Australia came here, Father Mikhail Protopopov, he was horrified and said: "How can you live in such conditions? Why don't you have a shower bath? Why can't I take a shower every day?" We didn't have a shower here; we had a shower room by the church. We went to the church when we needed, because we didn't have such a convenience at home. He kept complaining that it was a house where only savages could live. But Vladyka Mark said that was a mansion. Vladyka Valentine said to Father Mikhail, "Tell this to Mark the Holy; he thinks we live in a palace." Nonetheless, Vladyka Mark has a mansion in Munich much bigger than our house. And he accuses us of living in excessive luxury. Then he didn't like our carpets, our cut-glass ware, our portraits: all this turned out to be a big crime. But none of them had the idea that all those portraits and carpets had been given by people; we had never bought them. And the furniture of this wonderful house where we are sitting now in this big library - this has been done not by our money, but by the money sacrificed by people for us to conduct eparchial management, to provide a center where they could come, and an office.
Then there was his letter to a priest. That letter was intercepted and distributed in the churches of the Kaliningrad region. Mark had written there, in black and white, that Archimandrite Valentine was a wolf in sheep's clothing.
Q. Judging by what you've said, it could be assumed that Vladyka Mark is the bitterest enemy of the Patriarchate and so on; but he's turned out to be its best friend.
A. The first thing that made us think doubtfully of Vladyka Mark was the following little incident. Pravoslavnaya Beseda came out, and the first issues were published. Like all the ecclesiastical things that appeared after the "stagnation," it was provocative, and it sold out. The editions of the Moscow Patriarchate used to contain something useful too. And when we subscribed to Pravoslavnaya Beseda, at the rear of the magazine was the reception of the Montreal icon of Our Lady, and how it was accepted by Vladyka Mark. It astonished us that he had doings with the Moscow Patriarchate, which condemned the Church Abroad as schismatic. And that the photo of Mark, the Bishop of the Church Abroad, with the Montreal icon was published in a patriarchal magazine - that was something incredible. But then everything was made clear. All that happened; all that schism was on his conscience. When I left the Synod, I said, "If the schism happens, it will be on the conscience of Archbishop Mark and Bishop Evtikhij. This is their handiwork."
Q. I've always wanted to ask about the Lesna Council. Why did Vladyka Valentin go there? Why did he need all that reconciliation, if in two months all the same would begin anew? I know that many people advised him not to go.
A. First of all, I also advised him so. But Vladyka said he had to go. We needed unity; we needed joint action. The conditions made him go.
What was taking place there? It happened that he was taken to hospital in a grave condition. At that time Vladyka Lazar was together with us too. And I phoned there and talked to the nuns, who told me about everything that was happening.
What happened? It happened that the Council recognized our ordinations. The Council worked out some decisions, some resolutions. Vladyka Valentine didn't agree with them in all respects. And as he was in the hospital, Bishop Hilarion visited him. Vladyka said that they should change some points in the (Lesna) Act, or else they would be negatively received in Russia. And Vladyka Hilarion promised: "You just sign it; we'll edit it before it is published, and we'll change it according to your requests."
Q. First of all concerning the borders of the eparchies?
A. I don't remember; they're all published in our magazine. I should look them up and see.
Vladyka Hilarion promised to correct everything. Vladyka would never have signed that document. I imagine they put strong pressure on him. Some of the nuns told me that they were practicing blackmail; that they wanted to deprive him of his order; that is, they used the letter of that man again [son of Shtilmark]. I don't know how it happened. The only thing I know is that he came back completely ill. He had undergone a heart operation.
When they came, and wrote those items, they convened a spiritual court. We didn't want the schism. We were recognized, and we were satisfied. The Metropolitan himself said that a miracle had happened by the will of God; the Church became one; and he saw St. John Maximovitch there, who gave an order to make everything united - even this happened. I didn't hear personally from the Metropolitan that he saw John Maximovitch, but the people who were there, and those who had come from America, from France, reported that Vladyka Metropolitan had said so and called for unity.
When Vladyka Evtikhij came here, I think that he acted according to a provisionally thought-out plan. He understood perfectly that those items would cause a negative reaction among the clergy. It is one thing that they had been accepted abroad, but it's a different thing when they were accepted in Russia. Why did the Russians leave: not all of them, but some of the parishes? They left for ideological reasons. They discerned any lie, any intrigue.
And a kind of a skirmish happened here; cries of discontent were heard. And Vladyka Evtikhij used those cries; he recorded them on tape. What he recorded, how he juggled with it, I don't know. But I know that any recording can be somehow adjusted, reassembled. The Metropolitan said: "Did the believers shout so?" "Those were not the believers; it was the rabble that shouted!"
And those words - "It was the rabble that shouted" -were like a slap in the face. Because this had happened here: when the believers thirsted for the bishop to come and to listen to them, the bishop said, "I wouldn't talk to this rabble." And then this incident recurred almost literally:
The metropolitan wrote a message when we were accepted, to the effect that those sybarites of the Moscow Patriarchate, who called themselves archpastors, had dared to call God's Church, God's people, a "rabble." And as a matter of fact, it happened that the Metropolitan himself pronounced those words. And that was like stinging slaps in my face.
The only thing that I think should've been done at the Synod, was to tell him everything to his face. But Vladyka Valentine said that our business was obedience, to be more silent and to listen more. I was obedient, and I didn't say anything, though I wanted to.
And when, in my presence, Mark said that Valentine was a traitor, the second Hitler, all the Synod almost clapped their hands. Nobody said, "How dare you humiliate your brother and call him a traitor and Hitler!"
And then I happened to stay in the apartment of Vladyka Hilarion on a landing upstairs, and Vladyka Agafangel stayed in the cell that had been occupied by Vladyka Hilarion before. Vladyka Gregory (Grabbe) lived in those rooms for some time, and when Vladyka Gregory left, the rooms stood empty for a while; then they were taken by the secretary, and then Vladyka Hilarion moved there, and so he let me have one room. And in his former cell lived Vladyka Agafangel.
And when we went downstairs for the Midnight Office at five o'clock, we prayed, and then left. There was a break between the Midnight Office and eight o'clock. On the landing downstairs was the metropolitan's cell. And there were Mark and Evtikhij, who had written the case of our ban, our interdict, and they discussed how to punish us, what to forbid. And I wasn't eavesdropping there. I couldn't close my ears. I heard it all. They were three. The metropolitan said:
- Why should we ban them?
- No, we should ban them, we should dismiss them; they've violated this and that. Here he stands between them - poor Metropolitan.
Q. Vladyka, didn't you want to come up?
A. Yes, very much, but I understood it was useless in such a situation. I even told Vladyka Agafangel that I wanted to leave. But Vladyka Agafangel was indignant, of course: "I'll do this, and I'll go there, and we'll show you; we'll tell them everything."
When we received all those bans, we showed them to Vladyka Gregory. Vladyka Gregory read them and clutched his head: what a violation of the laws, what a violation of the Council's resolutions! It had never happened in the history of the Orthodox Church that the Council had made a decision and the Synod abolished it. That is, not just broke it, but also banned everyone.
Q. That is, you were called there to be approved, but you were banned instead?
A. Yes, to be approved. But this is what happened instead. I made an attempt. I exaggerated slightly when I told you that I was silent. No, I wasn't completely silent. I was trying to say something. And I was there and saw everything that happened. On the right sat that very Mark, on the left was Evtikhij, and they had a kind of a cross-examination. They must've taught him when he'd been in NTS or maybe when the KGB had his chief in Petersburg and had used this cross-examination, and he decided to apply it to me. I couldn't catch up. The Metropolitan was dozing. And Vladyka Antonij of San Francisco was also dozing. And there was one more Vladyka; I don't remember now; maybe he wasn't there. They were all sitting indifferently. It seemed to me they were all sleeping. And when I began to explain, Mark interrupted me. I began to answer, to explain to him. I'd hardly finished talking when I was interrupted by that Evtikhij.
Q. Did Evtikhij have the right to speak? He wasn't a member of the Synod after all.
A. Yes, he had. He was already a bishop. His opinion is taken into consideration. He was in the highest esteem. He was the most real and devoted:
And then the Metropolitan woke up, clutched his head and cried: "My God, it's disgraceful! It's scandalous!"
And he wouldn't listen.
Then Antonij of San Francisco woke up. He was said to be a schema-monk, to be so spiritually reasonable. But he didn't respond. Maybe the Metropolitan had some nervous fit, or maybe he had been driven to it:
He kept saying one thing and another: "I've heard those voices, I've heard those cries:" In any case, the same cries were coming from the side of the German eparchy. Only when at the last Synod the Metropolitan dismissed Mark from all posts, and the German eparchy made noise, then metropolitan Vitalij heard the German eparchy at once, maybe because it was closer.
He used to say that Varnava was also our own man. And he even happened to say: "You know, don't abuse Vladyka Varnava; he is a young man yet; he is inexperienced." And then he looked at us. It must've occurred to him that if Vladyka Varnava was a young man, then we were supposed to be boys, weren't we? And he said so: "Well, you know, he was a priest; he couldn't learn; he had no experience. If he hadn't, and you forgive him such canonical mistakes, then why can't you forgive us?" Moreover, Vladyka had written: "I request correction." And if the metropolitan and the bishops had wanted peace, they could've written such a petition: The R. Reverend Vladyka Lazar and Vladyka Valentine, and the fraternity! It's all decided; we beg of you to submit to God's will and acknowledge it. We can't change it. As Pilate said: "I have written what I have written."
They found a catch. They'd been looking for an excuse to ban us, because we stood in the way of their union with the Moscow Patriarchate. And later it turned out at the meeting of Archbishop Mark with the patriarch, that Mark, as a matter of fact, had raised the question about the deposition and about the banning here.
And when the Patriarch said to Mark that they also had to ban Lazar and Veniamin, Mark said: "Well, Lazar is a sick man, bad-tempered and harmless, and Veniamin is the same."
- And Evtikhij?
- And Evtikhij is my own man.
We all, Vladyka Valentine and the rest, happened to stand in the way of the Moscow Patriarchate, in the view of that same Vladyka Mark.
And then it began; it all came to the surface at once. And also his letter to Artsymovich. Then it became known, or in any event a journalist, Natalya Babasyan, said: "I got the letter of Archbishop Mark at the department of church relations in Moscow, at the MP. Archbishop Lazar was the first who made noise about this information leak, and we followed." Moreover, we also had people -- I should call them secret Nikodims at the Patriarchate -- who said, "They've sent it themselves."
When we were banned, we didn't have all those papers yet. The MP had them already. They were already being read in all the eparchies, in all the parishes. As soon as they were passed, they were already distributed. They wanted to please the Moscow Patriarchate: "Look, we are in such solidarity with you."
And so, in the context of these events, I remember how Pilate was reconciled with Herod. It was the day when they humiliated Christ. And when the Moscow Patriarchate was reconciled with the Church Abroad, it was the day when they banned the Russian bishops. And the Council, where they talked about peace: If also Metropolitan Vitalij and their Synod wanted revival:
But their last actions, the actions of Mark also, when he -- without the consent of the Synod, without archbishops' and metropolitan's consent -- met the patriarch twice, when he was in Munich, and everywhere. All this movement in his eparchy, where all his flock rushed to the Moscow Patriarchate, where they all want unity, they show their real worth. The leader is utterly incapable. At the time of his ruling he couldn't give them spiritual support, couldn't hold them to the basics of Orthodoxy.
Q. Vladyka, since the time when the separation of the Russian Church from the Church Abroad happened, have they made no attempts at reconciliation?
A. No, they haven't.
Q. And no personal attempts of that very metropolitan Vitalij?
A. Well, Vladyka was in hospital, and everyone knew perfectly well that it was the consequence of the synod in the Lesna Convent, where they'd hurt him. They didn't even think of it.
In general they showed that Russia for them had been left at the level of the beginning of the century, that they had created the image of Russia in past sandals, that is, in holy simplicity, and they were left with it - Russia in past sandals, spiritual nation, the crusaders.
This showed itself clearly when I was in England, with Vladimir Eduardovich Moss. He showed me the letter of Father Alexander Lebedev. And it was about those portraits that Vladyka Valentine had. But they hadn't been ordered by Vladyka Valentine; I hadn't ordered them either. They had been given by the person who had painted them - a famous artist, Boris Birger. He had many expositions; and another artist had also painted a picture, and his wife had embroidered it, and they gave it to us, even with a settlement. And I think that was not a crime that he kept those presents. What was he supposed to do - throw them away?
And it offended Father A. Lebedev that Vladyka has a telephone, that Vladyka has a fax, that Vladyka Valentine had everything. But as a matter of fact, who gave all this to Vladyka Valentine? You, foreigners, gave it. When Vladyka was in America, he was given a telephone, and a computer, and a photocopy machine he brought from there; he brought everything from there. It was you who gave it. Was he supposed to do like Vladyka Lazar, who brought certain sums of money and support from there, bought a house, and still hasn't got a cathedral? They have a cathedral in Odessa, but it is Vladyka Agafangel's work, not Vladyka Lazar's.
Q. Generally speaking, Vladyka Agafangel seems to be a very active person.
A. Yes, in this respect I have nothing to say. And if it weren't for Vladyka Agafangel, Vladyka Lazar would also have it all in disorder like Vladyka Veniamin.
Q. Why did Vladyka Agafangel leave us at this time?
A. I think that Vladyka Agafangel needed recognition, by fair means of foul, the end justified the means. But before leaving he wrote a letter, to the effect that he couldn't do anything; the flock was against him. He submitted to the ban and stayed with the flock, as you stay with your flock, and I stay with mine. I'm sorry. He wrote such letters to the Synod for us. In any case, this time he was more or less fair.
On the other hand, when we've passed, I become more and more sure that if a man begins to speak rapidly, to complain, and leaves in such a rage, he will necessarily calm down and betray. We have had so many priests like that; they left rending the air with shouts that the Moscow Patriarchate was damned, that it was this and that -- and then they went back and they served there. There even was an incident like this. There was a priest, Father Vasilij Romanov. Initially, his mother incited him to come over to us, but then the mother "recognized" that we were "schismatic," so she brought him back, and now she writes letters urging us to repent and come back to the Moscow Patriarchate. I wrote her in reply that we were not dogs that return to their own vomit. She answered: "So you call your beneficial life and church vomit? God won't forgive you for that."
But that is their point of view.
In any case, they complained of the Moscow Patriarchate more than others; they even sent us some pop-song, maybe it was a song by Vysotskij, about goats - so that was supposed to be a song about the MP. But it turned out that they liked those goats more than our sheep here.
And there are a lot of such priests.
Take, for example, the case of priest Father Oleg Stenyaev. When he was in Kyjbyshev, and we served there, he said a sermon: "I am the priest of the Russian Orthodox Free Church, and I call you to swear allegiance to this Church. You all will stay in the Orthodox Church and promise to follow it canonically." All the believers in the church cried: "Yes, we will stay, we promise, we kiss the Cross."
But without notice, he secretly went back to Moscow, and we heard a rumor that he had gone over to the MP.
What sermons he delivers there! He seems to be a good public speaker to me. But those sermons are worth a pin, if he is so unstable. Moreover, I've seen him make an auto-da-fe of books; this is not a good idea at all.
Q. Tell me, everyone has the impression that just after the quarrel with the foreign synod and, literally, up to the year when all that business with the re-registration and with the festival of the Czar Martyrs began - there was some kind of silence. What happened in 1996-1997? Foreign actions, major ones, were few.
A. But what do we need celebrated events for?
Q. It's just interesting, what was going on.
A. You know, life was going on. Churches were opened, communities were formed, children learned God's Law, people knew about our Church, we had a small but still functioning publishing house. We wished we'd had a better publishing house, and better support, and so on, but we did what we could; we worked, that's all I can say.
We didn't anathematize anyone, but we said what we ought to. If we left the MP, because they were violating everything that they could, then why should we stay in the Church Abroad, which does what even the Moscow Patriarchate doesn't do? How can they behave like that?
But from my point of view, for instance, things are going in a slightly different way.
The history is important, because when, for example, at the time of heresy there were bishop-heretics among patriarchs, they were dismissed by patriarchs. When Orthodox tsars came, they dismissed patriarch-heretics. And how can it be that the Metropolitan is true, and all the rest are apostates? How can a church be like that?
That is to say the same things they say in the Moscow Patriarchate. The point is that when I was still in the MP, our mothers said to me: "While patriarch Alexij I Simanskij is in charge, there won't be any unification with Catholics; we'll be all one, because only patriarch Alexij holds them all back; all the rest are apostates. He is among enemies that only want to betray Orthodoxy." Patriarch Alexij Simanskij died; patriarch Pimen arrived. All the same: the Patriarch of Constantinople is this, another patriarch is that; but no, while there is our Pimen, it won't happen. Now Patriarch Alexij II has come. And it is the same old story. While we have Patriarch Alexij, there should be a single church, there should be Orthodoxy, because patriarch Alexij controls it. All those ecumenists, all those modernists, they all are this and that, but it is Patriarch Alexij who holds it all together. But note his biography: Did he change as soon as he put on the head gear of a patriarch?
If a patriarch excused apostasy, in the words of his first, so to say, inaugural speech, then we acted according to the Apostle Paul: we didn't give an occasion to those who were looking for it.
All our saints of God - they did nothing but gave an occasion. Saint George the Trophy Bearer went and exposed Emperor Diocletian. Why did he disturb Diocletian? He could've lived attached to the palace, peacefully propagating Christianity, and would've reached not merely the age of thirty or twenty-three, but sixty or eighty. Metropolitan Philip of Moscow gave an "occasion" to the legal Orthodox tsar.
And he went on in the same spirit, saying: "Yes, the Church refused support, because the authorities have been against it. But we don't show reverence for the icon of Our Lady Imperial, because the conditions are wrong. That's right, we agree. What do we do it for? For the sake of what? We've followed the apostle's advice: don't give an occasion to those who were looking for it." These are his words. They were so hard to read.
And about that ecumenism. They meet over there, but as a result all those Christian martyrs turned out to be real provocateurs. Why don't they go together to the temple of Zeus or Aphrodite and make a sacrifice there? But no, they've smashed idols here, and destroyed altars there - they were hooligans, they gave an occasion. Martyr Theodore the Tyros - he was the real hooligan. He went and burnt the temple of the goddess Kibela, but he was made a saint. There was no "feeling of Christian compassion," no feeling of "ecumenical unity." Why do they venerate the saints and follow their example? All they need now is to sing "We magnify you." That's their point of view.
Q. Let's now turn to another point. Now there are quite many groups that describe themselves like this: "We are catacombniks, we are the real catacomb church, we are the only canonical church, everyone should obey us." And at the same time they say of our Russian Church: "Those are from the Patriarchate, they are not capable of anything, they don't have any relationship with the catacomb Church." And at the same time, as far as I know, our relationship with the catacomb Church is quite strong. What can you say about it?
A. Well, what can I say. If a person is stubborn... They have two tendencies. Provocative organization, where people are deceived by the KGB, or they are people who have fallen into a state of spiritual arrogance. That's because, say, we are so bad, we left the Patriarchate: Usually when such conversations begin, I think that it's a complete waste of time, and there is no point in it. Time will tell. Time will dot the "i's". And the activities of Archbishop Mark, and the activities of Bishop Varnava, and all the Synod of the Foreign Church: time will reveal it to our children.
When Vladyka Lazar said that, for example, catacomb bishop Antonij Golynskij was a false bishop, a false catacombnik, a false- and so on : And now the data have come out that prove that he is still quite a canonical bishop. There are some dark spots in his biography, though. Once he laid retired, then he denied this and that, then he came back, then he went over to the MP, then he left it. But what then? He was a canonical hierarch. It's hard to say. I don't want to justify myself. Even if I say, "Dear brothers and sisters, look at me, I am not bad, I am very good, look how kind I am, I can do something" - that is, I should justify myself. Welcome - we don't impose ourselves, we don't do it:
I had the occasion to read in the papers about Archbishop Amvrosij von Sivers, a duke of Ostezia, that is, a nobleman. But if a man had really been of noble Ostezian stock, then he wouldn't have written in such a dirty language as he did: like a drunken boor in a pub. He would've chosen other words and would've said what he wanted to say, if he'd really been of noble Ostezian stock . On the other hand, he states that, for instance, Archbishop Valentine is an officer of the KGB. As far as I know, the KGB guards its real agents. If von Sivers knew that Archbishop Valentine is an officer, he knew it confidentially from the people who work there, and with whom he himself sympathizes, or at least with whom he collaborates. That's because the KGB won't reveal such information to anyone but its own people.
Q. How many catacombniks by birth who, so to speak, act openly, do you have under your jurisdiction?
A. In Vyatka, for example, there is such a father. Vladyka Serafim has catacomb communities. But we don't interfere with their life; we don't impose some directions or circulars on them, or require them to register their parishes. If they are used to praying that way, let them pray. They are used to that way of life. Why should we upset it? In tsarist Russia there were so many monasteries, so many convents. Each monastery had its own regulations. However, those regulations didn't affect the unity of Church. All the same, if a certain community doesn't have a registration, it won't prevent unity.
What can be said about the others?
Q. How many bishops do you have now?
A. Vladyka Valentine, Bishop Fiodor, Bishop Serafim, Bishop Ilarion in Ukraine, one more vladyka:
Q. Is it that a catacomb vladyka?
A. I think that Vladyka Valentin, who performed that ordination, would be better to speak about it. This vladyka doesn't hide his omophorion, but at the same time he's not going to show it. For those who need his spiritual support, he is available. He says he's not hiding, but at the same time he doesn't want to emphasize it unnecessarily.
Q. Was the bishop's throne of Kazan left without a bishop?
A.Yes, the bishop's throne of Kazan and of Tula as well.
Q. Apart from the church business, you are in charge of work about the eparchy. What is specific about eparchal life? What hardships and problems come up?
A. Eparchal life has its own peculiarities. There are all kinds of situations, but whatever happens should concern canonical issues first of all. sa the Faith. When the elderly Agafon was asked:
- Are you a fornicator?
- Yes, I am a fornicator.
- Are you a glutton?
- Yes, I am a glutton.
- Are you a heretic?
- No, I am not.
A man should keep the right Faith. But all the weaknesses - they can be called a human factor, as they used to be called. The human factor is always present. But we must overcome weakness with love; we must keep our creed, our beliefs. If we say we believe in the Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, we should know what "catholic" is, what "apostolic" is, and lead our life according to these principles.
In the eparchy, each father serves in his own parish. Thank God, we get no serious canonical complaints. Maybe there are some nuances, but they don't concern the basics.
Q. But in the cases of Rev. Arsenij and Alexander the canons were applied at once and very strictly:
A. Well, in the bishop's case- yes. Because a bishop is the eye of the Church. It's all very complicated. And what happened to Vladyka Arsenij and Vladyka Alexander, happened of their own will. Although Vladyka Arsenij tried to come here, and he came, but instead of saying "sorry" and admitting his mistakes, he started saying that it was all our own fault.
It happened unexpectedly with Vladyka Alexander. And the reason was, that first of all he wanted to have Archimandrite Piotr (Kucher), who had come over to us, in his eparchy. And he insisted on it quite aggressively. Vladyka Alexander has a big plot of land, with the possibility to arrange it and form a big monastery. But the spiritual life in his eparchy was very weak. Because he had bought a big plot of land, he had bought cars, all this created an illusion of some activity. If he could do it in the village, he could do it in Kazan too. He was made a bishop, and we began to receive complaints. It was about his treatment of priests - he humiliated them. I witnessed that. I talked to him, drew his attention to it, but he said it was all right. Nun Elisabeth was disappointed and left permanently. It developed that Vladyka Alexander was prosecuted, but he didn't submit and went over to the uncanonical jurisdiction.
Q. In Suzdal there is a wonderful Sunday School. Could you tell about it in more detail? Enough of those complicated juridical questions:
A. Being a Sunday School teacher, I am always glad to talk about it, though it is stretching the definition to call myself a teacher. I think that a man who comes to teach should have some education. We didn't get this education. If I could go back ten years, I would conduct my first lessons differently, in view of the experience of those years. It was very complicated, because, you see, we were teaching our flock. The flock consisted of old women who had already been in Church. They already knew what they came for; they knew how to pray. We already had our own church language. It was intelligible only to our old women. But then we had to talk to kids. Of course, in the first years, 1990-92, it was very hard. We had to read a lot in pedagogy and child psychology. And it was very hard. Now it's a bit easier.
But now the kids are different. They are not like they were ten years ago. They've become more developed, more bold and impudent. I may even say, more spoiled. They've grown up early thanks to television and the mass media, if I may call these things growing up. Those kids were quiet, though developed in their own way; these kids are really adult; they think in an adult way. But nevertheless, children's kindness and quick wits haven't changed, and meanwhile, they've got more imagination. For instance, a boy was saying a lesson in God's Law, about what God was saying when Jesus Christ was baptized. He remembered the first words: "You, my beloved son". And he forgot what was next. I asked, "What is next?" He scratched his head and said, "Take care not to get puffed up." What could I say then? Of course, all the class laughed. I didn't scold him, but said calmly that if he didn't know such things, then it was better to keep quiet; that he mustn't play such tricks with the Holy Scripture. Such are our kids.
But it would be better and much more effective if it was done together with the family. Our kids' parents are a majority; they are very thankful, and they see that kids benefit from that. They even say that they are not worried if their kids are late, because they are either at Sunday school, or in the church, or at service. And they come now and then. Mostly mothers come, of course, to look at their kids. Fathers come very seldom, but mothers do come, not always though. But they all are thankful that their kids don't hang around in the streets. The kids have grown up able to read Church Slavonic. And what can they learn in the streets?
And if the parents were interested, they would check homework, they would come themselves. But it happens that they are busy during the day, and afterward they come. And I always know that the kids will find a place. I always say that nobody forces them. And in high school nobody will ask you what grades you've had at Sunday school. But still they go.
On Sunday children could go to some attraction; they could watch a video. But from two to three they have lessons in God's Law, from three to four they sing, and from four they are at service. And before the great festivals -- Christmas, Epiphany, the Nativity of the Mother of God, the Elevation of the Cross - they sing the service. Of course, it's hard for them to sing the entire service, but they hold on. And on Holy Friday we organize a special service for them, the carrying out of the Plaschanitsa. And at four o'clock we organize a service where they sing Sticheras themselves. The priests serve, but they read themselves, and read the Six Psalms themselves. The grown-ups come if they wish to, but there are mostly kids. At the Carrying out of the Plaschanitsa they sing statias, and they stand up for a three-hour service, poor things.
Q. Vladyko, what would you like to wish all the readers of our magazine?
A. I can say in the words of the holy Saint Ambrose of Optina,: "Live, don't grieve, don't offend anyone, don't bother anyone, and my compliments to everyone." But one should find the truth to save one's soul. Orthodox Christians are those who glorify God rightly. And if we glorify God rightly, then God will show mercy on us and won't deprive us of His help. In order to save our souls, we must by necessity hold to the Truth.
Recorded by Egor Holmogoro