In Memory of Archbishop Sergii (Petrov) of Chernomorsk and
Novorossiisk (on the 70th Anniversary of His Death)
This year marks
the 70th anniversary of the repose of Archbishop Sergii (Petrov)
of Chernomorsk and Novorossiisk (+1935), who is commemorated every
day during divine liturgy at the lower church of St Sergius of Radonezh
at the Synod of Bishops along with the names of all the reposed
hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
Sergii, was born Stefan Alekseevich Petrov on January 30, 1864 in
Aksai stanitsa (Cossack village), of Donskoy oblast. Thanks to the
example set by his parents, he revered the clerical service. It
seemed to him the most desirable path, and he saw it in its ideal
forms and images. It was with this attitude that he enrolled in
Donskoy Seminary, which he graduated in 1886.
studies at the seminary, he had a spiritual crisis, and those pure,
holy intentions with which his heart burned in his younger days
were abandoned, and he decided once and for all to reject serving
the Church. But, since his spiritual troubled continued, he decided
to move to Tomsk, where his uncle, who was the Bishop of Tomsk,
lived, in the hope that under his guidance he could work on perfecting
himself and free himself of the spiritual depression. But his hopes
were not satisfied; despair filled his soul. He suffered, it seemed,
endlessly. But this tribulation of his faith did not last long.
Once, in one of those joyless moments, when he felt moral solitude,
when the whole universe seemed to him a bleak desert, he suddenly
remembered, accidentally and vaguely, first the melody of a church
prayer, then the words: "Put not your trust in princes, nor
in the son of man" (Ps 145:3). These holy words lifted his
thoughts from earth to Heaven, and like a ray of light broke through
into his darkened soul with new, joyful meaning. His heart found
a need for God. This was a watershed moment in his life, and his
spiritual rebirth began.
While his soul
was undergoing a renewal, which poured joy, peace and consolation
into him, an external event occurred which also echoed in his inner
Some of the
most active missionaries from Altai had come to Tomsk; they seemed
to him to be unlike the mere mortals he had previously met. A sort
of profound respect arose in him for these people and for their
holy labors. Their stories touched within his soul the desire to
spread the Word of God among the people of Altai. He then began
to think of monasticism, and to dedicate his whole life to God.
He moved from
Tomsk to Moscow, where he joined Moscow University's Historical-Philological
Department, which he finished in 1890 with a 1st-degree diploma.
studies at the University, he continued to struggle with his old,
inner self. He finally decided to devote himself to God. With this
in mind, he audited several courses on missionary work at Kazan
Theological Academy, and then joined the Altai Mission.
In 1892, he
was tonsured a monk, and on November 7 of that year, he was ordained
hieromonk and appointed to the Kirghiz Mission.
12, 1899, he was consecrated bishop of Biisk, Vicar of the Tomsk
Diocese. The consecration was performed in the stavropighial church
of the Tomsk See; it was performed by Bishop Makarii of Tomsk and
Barnaul, Bishop Mefodii of Zabaikal and Nerchensk and Bishop Innokentii
of Priamursk and Blagoveshchensk. Then, Bishop Sergii, in January
1901, assumed the Omsk and Semipalatinsk Cathedra; from September
6 1903 he was Bishop of Kovensk, Vicar of the Lithuanian Diocese;
from January 25, 1907, he became Bishop of Novomirgorodsky, Vicar
of Kherson Diocese; from December 22, 1913, he was Bishop of Sukhumsk,
then Bishop of Chernomorsk and Novorossiisk.
After the evacuation
to Constantinople, Vladyka Sergii traveled to Serbia under the Supreme
Ecclesiastical Authority abroad, where he took up residence at Privina
Glava Monastery. The last few years of his life were very much eased
by the kind attitude towards him of the Superior of the monastery,
Hieromonk Savva, whom Vladyka often remembered with profound gratitude.
from poor health, from 1934 Vladyka began to visibly falter: from
the Nativity of Christ on, he could no longer leave the monastery
buildings, either to go outside or even to church; he began preparing
for Holy Unction. He spent his time on an armchair reading Holy
Scripture. He would often say: "So, I lived my life thinking
that I knew Holy Scripture. A now, the more I read, the more I find
something new, and more beautiful. Before, I did not notice everything.
What lofty and inimitable poetry!"
himself for death and often said that he fears it and constantly
prays to the Lord that He sent it to him "without sickness,
without shame and in peace," without agony or mortal suffering.
a broad education, speaking many foreign tongues, he was interested
in world events to the end, especially that which concerned our
Homeland. He spoke ill of no man, and if he ever spoke critically
of anyone, he would grimace painfully and stop himself; "Remember
the words of the Lover of Mankind: 'judge not, lest ye be judged.'"
Two days before
his death, Vladyka felt much stronger. His temperature dropped to
normal. He began making plans for the future, wishing in May to
visit the Nis Towers for his health. On his last evening on earth,
a splendid article by Archbishop Anastassy (Gribanovsky +1965) of
Kishinev was read to him, published in Tserkovnaya zhizn' (Church
He was moved
to tears. He then remembered his parents with elation and sorrow,
parents he had lost at an early age, he remembered his Aksai stanitsa,
its gardens, the Quiet Don River, which at times flooded tens of
acres under the Aksaisk hills, the blue panorama of the steppes.
"Oh, my holy Homeland, what heart does not tremble that blesses
you?" Then he read from memory the poems of Pushkin and several
dozen of the final lines of the "The Sinner" by Count
A.K. Tolstoy. He had a sparkling memory which did not abandon him
to the last.
On the morning
of January 11/24, 1935, at about 6:30, his loud, confident voice
was heard: standing in the hallway near his cell, he conversed with
the monastery boiler-man. About an hour later, a startled monastery
worker found him dead.
was performed on January 12/25 by Archbishop Anastassy of Kishinev
and Archbishop Feofan of Kursk along with Russian and Serbian clergymen
who arrived in large numbers from Belgrade and elsewhere. With the
blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Varnava of Serbia, the burial
was performed inside the churchyard near the wall of the monastery.
On the anniversary
of his death, pannikhidas will be performed in parishes of our Church,
and especially where daily liturgies are performed. Let us join
the many prayers of the clergymen and parishioners of those abroad
as well as those in Altai for the repose of the soul of Archbishop
Sergii, and may we try to delve into the history of the Russian
Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, our rich heritage, in order to
worthily honor the memory of him and our other bishops, the founders
of the part of the All-Russian Local Church located abroad.