Averkii and His Significance for the Universal Orthodox Church
Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose) Archbishop Averkii and His Significance
for the Universal Orthodox Church
Alas! His golden mouth is silenced.
Too often we Orthodox Christians are accustomed to neglect
great people in our midst, we are used to undervalue them
until they are gone. Even then we do not give them proper
credit and allow their importance and legacy to be forgotten.
Archbishop Averkii was one of the last spiritual giants of
the XX centurynot only a giant of the Russian Orthodox
Church Outside of Russia, or even of Russian Orthodoxy, but
of all of the Orthodox Church of the XX century.
He was born Alexander Pavlovich Taushev on 19 October (Orthodox
style; 1 November new style) 1906 to a noble family in the
city of Kazan. His father, a government official, traveled
throughout Russia as result of his service, and it gave the
young Alexander the opportunity to acquaint himself with the
heart of Holy Russiaher monasteries and holy sites.
Although Alexander left his homeland at an early age, his
memories of these holy places remained with him for the rest
of his days. From a tender age, Alexander was drawn to books
of a spiritual nature, such as Unseen Warfare, and from 7
or 8 he felt alienated from the average daily life and felt
a subconscious attraction for the monastic life.
During the civil war, with a heavy heart, the Taushev family
left their homeland. The family settled in the Bulgarian town
of Varna, where Alexander continued his education until 1926.
During these years, the greatest religious influence on him
were the local church and its pastor, Fr. Ioann Slunin.
Then, in 1925, a bishop arrived in Varna, who showed Alexander
the path his life would take. This was Archbishop Feofan Poltavsky--a
strict monk who led a prayerful life, and a theologian in
the true tradition of the Holy Fathers. After a meeting with
Vladyka Feofan, the young student developed a determined desire
for monasticism. With the blessing of Archbishop Feofan, Alexander
enrolled in the Theological School of Royal Sofia University,
which he graduated with flying colors in 1930, subsequently
going to Carpathian Russia with the intention of being tonsured
and serve the Russian Church. In 1931, Alexander was tonsured
and a year later was ordained a hieromonk and began to minister
to the local parishes and help the rector of St. Nicholas
Monastery near the town of Iza. Soon he was given the task
of editing the diocesan periodical and teaching catechism
in middle school.
When the Magyars occupied Carpathian Russia in 1940, Fr. Averkii
set off for Belgrade and served under the First Hierarch of
the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, Metropolitan
Anastassy (Gribanovsky). He taught pastoral theology and homiletics
at missionary-pastoral courses and read lectures for layment
on the spiritual life.
When the Synod of Bishops was transferred to Munich in 1945,
Fr. Averkii went also and continued to teach. In 1950, Fr.
Averkii was appointed President of the Missionary-Educational
Committee at the Synod of Bishops. In 1951 Archimandrite Averkii
arrived in America and was soon invited to the newly-formed
Holy Trinity Serminary to teach the New Testament, liturgics
and homiletics. In 1952 he was confirmed as rector of the
Holy Trinity Seminary, and in 1953 was was appointed ruling
bishop of the Syracuse-Holy Trinity Diocese. In 1960, after
the death of Archbishop Vitaly, he became the abbot of Holy
Trinity Monastery. Assuming all three roles, Vladyka Averkii
continued to teach the Orthodox flock until his death, both
future pastors at the Seminary (over 100 graduates had been
ordained over this time), as well as all those who read monastery
publications, the content of which excelled in their piousness
and strict theology. Vladyka Averkii's sermons were published
in the Monastery's Pravosavnaya Rus'. Among thebooks he wrote
were the textbooks Homiletics and Commentary on Holy Scripture
(in 2 volumes), his Sermons and Speeches and the life and
letters of his beloved abba, Archbishop Feofan.
All of Archbishop Averkii's written works contain one quality--love
for God's truth, a righteous zeal in the expression of this
love and the desperate call for all to follow it.
The fruitful stream with which his golden mouth issued the
sweet honey of the pure teaching of Orthodoxy, especially
in the final years of his life, to some degree hid from us
the rarity and even uniqueness of his teaching in our wicked
days. We were so accustomed to his fiery and bold words that
we did not notice that he was virtually the only bishop of
all the Orthodox Churches who so bravely and steadfastly defended
In the early years of the Church there were many holy fathers
who wrote in defense of Orthodoxy or against the multitude
of heresies, who, alone or in concert, attacked the Church.
But in our days, when Orthodox Christians are losing the "savor"
of Orthodoxy and almost all the Local Churches succumb to
the apostasy of our time, his voice was almost alone, which,
despite his physical ailments, continued to speak the truth
with power and force.
Indeed, in a time when our faith grows colder and colder,
he was the spokesman for and defender of Orthodoxy.
His view on the contemporary world, inspired by Holy Scripture
and the Holy Fathers of the Church, was always sober and precise.
Archbishop Averkii taught that we live in a century of apostasy--of
departure from true Christianity, when the "Mystery of
Lawlessness" enters the final stages of preparation for
the advent of the "man of sin," the Antichrist (II
Thess. 2,3). He particularly clearly traced the development
of apostasy from the time of the Roman Schism (1054) through
humanism, the Renaissance and Reformation, the French Revolution,
materialism and communism of the 19th c., reaching its apogee
with the bolshevik revolution of 1917. This revolution removed
the last barrier against the Mystery of Lawlessness and the
arrival of the Antichrist.
In such a century, he writes: "To be a true Orthodox
Christian, ready unto death to maintain ones loyalty to Christ
the Savior, in our days is much more difficult that in the
first days of Christianity." At times overt, as, for
example, in the communist countries, the persecution of Christians
is now carefully hidden. "Under cover of this deceitful,
noble-looking exterior, which leads many astray, in actuality
everywhere there is the most severe covert persecution of
Christianity...This type of persecution is much more dangerous
and terrible than its previous form, for it threatens the
total evacuation of men's souls--spiritual death." Vladyka
Averkii often cites the words of St. Theophan the Recluse
on the final times: "Although the name of Christianity
will be heard everywhere, and everywhere churches and church
officials, all this will be for show--inside there will be
As to the manifestation of these words in our day, Archbishop
Averkii writes: "The Christian world is now a frightening,
joyless picture of the deepest religio-moral downfall."
The lure of worldly comfort and success alienates people from
God. "The servants of Antichrist more than anything else
attempt to completely crowd God out of the life of people,
so that, satisfied with their material contentment, they feel
no need to turn to God in prayer, do not remember God, and
if that is so, then that is the same as if He did not exist.
That is why the whole landscape of contemporary life of the
so-called 'free' countries, where there is no overt, bloody
persecutions of the faith, where the right of all to believe
as they will, 'as they wish,' is recognized, is the greater
danger to the soul of the Christian, for it nails them wholly
to this earth, making them forget about Heaven. All of contemporary
'culture,' directed entirely towards solely earthly goals,
and the devilish whirlpool of daily life, holds man in perpetual
fuss and distraction, within which there is not even the possibility
of descending into the depths of one's soul, and the spiritual
life in him gradually dies." All of contemporary life
on the social level is merely preparation for the advent of
the Antichrist: "All that is happening today at the highest
levels of religious, government and social life, ever since
our Orthodox Russia was turned to dust, is no more than the
strenuous effort on the part of the servants of the coming
Antichrist and his future kingdom." And this work is
being done by those who have betrayed Christ as well as those
who call themselves "Christians."
After Archbishop Averkii paints the dark picture of the present
and future, he calls on Orthodox Christians to fight against
the spirit of this world which lies in sin. "All those
who desire to preserve their loyalty to Christ the Savior,
must especially guard themselves against distraction by worldly
pleasures, against their seduction. It is extremely dangerous
to succumb to the desire to make a career for oneself, to
make a name for oneself, to attain power and influence in
society, to seek wealth, surrounding oneself with luxury and
For those who desire to struggle to retain one's faith, Archbishop
Averkii proposes a sober and inspiring path of confessorship:
"Now is the time to confess one's faith--in strength,
if need be, unto death, for one's Orthodox faith, which is
subjected everywhere to overt and covert attacks, oppression
and persecution on the part of the servants of the coming
Antichrist. We must be true Christians, and not succumb to
the spirit of the times, but make the Church the center of
our lives. Giving thanks to the Lord God for the existence
of our Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, not staining
ourselves with submission to the dark forces of Antichrist
that work in today's world, we must be true and dedicated
to the Church's children, we must be also her missionaries,
warriors for the true faith of Christ, surrounded by the heterodox
world and among the apostates and those who are now apostating."
We must conduct a consciously prayerful life, take our nourishment
from reading Holy Scripture and the works of the Holy Fathers
and draw strength from the mysteries of confession and communion.
Notwithstanding the deceptive promises of "progress,"
the path which lies before us is the path of suffering: "The
Lord clearly said that it is not 'progress' that awaits us
but greater and greater sorrow and suffering as a result of
the 'growth of lawlessness' and the 'impoverishment of love,'
and hat when He comes, He will barely find faith in the world
The power of true Christians in the forthcoming terrible times
is in the constant expectation of the Second Coming of Christ:
The spirit of perpetual vigilance for the Second Coming
of christ is the spirit of the first Christians, prayerfully
calling to the Lord Come, Lord Jesus! (Rev. 22:20).
And the opposite spirit is undoubtedly that of the Antichrist,
attempting in every way to distract Christians from thoughts
of the Second Coming of Christ and the following judgments.
Those succumbing to this spirit are subject to the danger
of not recognizing the Antichrist when he comes, and to fall
into his snare. This is the most horrifying aspect of contemporary
life, which is teeming with all kinds of seductions and temptations.
The servants of the Antichrist, as the Lord warned us, will
try to seduce even the chosen ones (Math. 24:24). This should
not depress us and lead us to despair, just the opposite:
look up, said the Lord Himself, and lift
your heads up, for the end is drawing near (Lk. 21:28).
Archbishop Averkii was able not only hearken to our intellectual
curiosity, but more importantly to our believing hearts. He
was an Orthodox scholar in the unbroken tradition of patristic
thought, which reached us from the days of the Holy Fathers,
and which he absorbed primarily from his own teachers, Feofan
of the 19th c. (the Recluse, +1894) and Feofan of the 20th
c. (Poltavsky, +1940). He was an irreproachable teacher of
Orthodox morality and spiritual life, and at the same time
an unexcelled theologian and patristic mentor for us.
In our sorrowful days there are few remaining saints. But
even if we do not see among us such strong and righteous people
as he, his teaching remains with us and may be a guiding light
in the darkening days, which he foresawdays when the
Church may have to escape to the desert, as did the Woman
in the Book of Revelations (ch. 12), the Church of the final
© Russkiy Pastyr No. 30/1998. This article was
the forword to the translation of Hieromonk Seraphim of the
works of Archbishop Averkii on the Book of Revelations. All
the quotes of Archbishop Averkii are taken from the book True
Orthodoxy and the Contemporary World.