Bishop Peter (Lukianov) of Cleveland

"Such are Our First Hierarchs, Such is Our Church Abroad"

From the Editors: On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the death of Metropolitan Anastassy of blessed memory, we offer our readers a sermon delivered by then-Hegumen Peter (Lukianov) at Holy Trinity Monastery Cathedral in Jordanville on May 9/22 1995, when he was the Dean of Holy Trinity Seminary, on the 30th anniversary of Metropolitan Anastassy's death.

Christ is Risen!

There are phenomena in the history of the Church which do not lose their meaning, even when they cease to exist themselves. For instance, there was Byzantium, with its glorious capital, Constantinople, which the Slavic peoples justly called Tsargrad [the "Royal City"].

Byzantium ceased to exist long ago, and its capital, Constantinople, has been under the Turkish yoke for over 500 years now. But despite this, how much these names—Byzantium, Constantinople—say to the Orthodox heart, to the Russian heart; Byzantium with its Ecumenical Councils and the warriors of Holy Orthodoxy, one of whom, St Nicholas, we commemorate today; Constantinople, its Cathedral of Hagia Sophia, the Divine Wisdom. How much these names alone speak to us: Constantine the Great, Empress Helen, St John Chrysostom, Patriarch Photius and others; they mean so much for us Russians, that the wisest of our women, Grand Duchess Olga, was baptized in Constantinople.

All this is because Byzantium was not only a state, and Constantinople not only a city. Both Byzantium and Constantinople represented, and still represent, an ideal; they were and continue to be symbols of the blossoming and grandeur of Christianity.

Lately we have heard a great deal of criticism of our Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, but this does not trouble us. This is because the Russian Church Abroad is not simply some grouping of Russian ÎmigrÎs. The Russian Orthodox Church is first of all a Church; the Russian Church Abroad is a specific ideology; the Russian Church Abroad is a symbol. And this idea, this symbol, has already entered into the annals of the history of the Church.

Just as the glorious names of Constantine the Great, St John Chrysostom and many others are inseparable from Byzantium, so the names of the glorious founders and first hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad are inseparable from her: Metropolitans Anthony and Anastassy of blessed memory.

Today we mark the thirtieth anniversary of the death of Metropolitan Anastassy.

Apostle Paul writes: remember thy elders. Heeding the call of the great apostle, today we also prayerfully, and with thanks to God, remember our late bishop.

Alexander Gribanovsky, the future Metropolitan Anastassy, was born in 1873 on the Transfiguration of the Lord in Tambov guberniya in the family of a humble country priest, Fr Alexei and Matushka Anna. Vladyka Anastassy remained humble throughout his life. One can say that he is a contemporary of ours, but we know little of his childhood. We know that he studied in the Tambov religious schools and finished Moscow Theological Academy, where he was a student of Metropolitan Anthony.

In 1898, Archbishop Alexander of Tambov tonsures Alexander Gribanovsky as a monk with the name Anastassy, in honor of St Anastasius of Sinai, and three days later, on the feast day of St George the Great Martyr, ordains him a hierodeacon. From this day on the clerical service of Vladyka Anastassy begins, which will continue no less than 67 years, of which 59 were as a bishop.

The consecration of Vladyka into the episcopacy was held in 1906, on the feast day of SS Peter and Paul, at Uspensky Cathedral in Moscow (I recall how Metropolitan Anastassy, during the celebration of his 50th anniversary as bishop in California, he recounted this event. He remembered Moscow, he remembered how a special place was set aside for his mother in Uspensky Cathedral).

As Vicar to Holy New Martyr Metropolitan Vladimir, Vladyka Anastassy was already renowned as an eloquent preacher. While still a young bishop, he is given the honor of delivering a sermon during the glorification of Holy Martyr Ermogen, Patriarch of Moscow.

In Moscow, Bishop Anastassy becomes acquainted with New Martyr Grand Duchess Elizaveta Feodorovna. Vladyka later honors her memory with a sermon.

The troubles in Russia find Archbishop Anastassy in Bessarabia, where despite pressure from the emergent separatists, he remains loyal to the Russian Church, for which he must leave Kishinev and move to Constantinople. He then spends 10 years in Jerusalem, and then he goes to Belgrade, where, after the death of Metropolitan Anthony in 1936, he becomes his successor (with us today is Archimandrite Mefodii from the Holy Land with us; Fr Mefodii was ordained hierodeacon by Vladyka Anastassy at the very Life-bearing Sepulcher of the Lord).

Metropolitan Anastassy manned the helm of the Russian Church Abroad wisely for 29 years, through terrible storms and travels. We feel that it is a particular honor that Vladyka, even during his lifetime, chose our monastery as the place of his eternal rest, requesting that he be laid to rest beside his beloved Vladyka Tikhon (Archbishop of Western America and San Francisco, who died in 1963). We believe that our late bishop, standing before the Divine Throne, prays for us now, for his flock abroad.

Such are our First Hierarchs, such is our Russian Church Abroad. Amen.

Pravoslavnaya Rus', 1995