NEW YORK: May 18, 2008
Protopriest Serafim Gan: "He Was a Father to Us All"
The Personal Secretary of His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, Protopriest Serafim Gan, recounts the final days of Vladyka's life.
"We lost a remarkable person. This was a living saint with whom we could spend time with. On the other hand, we gained an intercessor in the other world," said Protopriest Serafim Gan, the Personal Secretary of the late Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus of Eastern America and New York, who died in Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY, at the age of 80.
He is certain that the ceremonial farewell to Metropolitan Laurus, scheduled to be held this Friday in Jordanville, will be a genuine celebration. "We received news of his sudden death with sorrow, we are all in shock," admitted the priest. According to him, Vladyka caught a cold, felt weak during his last divine service, and began to cough; yet no one expected his death. "This man was a true man of prayer, and he lived the life of the Church. He came to church with all the brethren, at 4:30 am, he would light candles… He inspired us not only by word but by example, with humility and love," remembered the First Hierarch's Secretary, who spent a great deal of time with him, especially in the last few years.
"Metropolitan Laurus spent the first week of Great Lent in prayer and divine services, reading edifying writings of the Holy Fathers and Teachers of the Church to the brethren and pilgrims. Last Friday, his last, he read the teachings of St Ephraim of Syria on love. "We intend to publish it," said Fr Serafim.
He was most impressed by the faith and modesty of Metropolitan Laurus. "He fully entrusted himself to God and deferred to His will. Everything, good and bad, he accepted as a gift from God and as directions from God," clarified Fr Serafim. "Vladyka was very strict with himself, but understanding with others, with a mere glance he would punish and humble us," added Fr Serafim.
He stressed that the late bishop ordained a great many priests who now serve in the US, Europe and Australia. "Vladyka knew each of us very well—we all studied here at the Seminary, within the walls of this monastery, he knew whom to assign where… He was a father to us all," said the priest of the Church Abroad. In his words, Metropolitan Laurus was also "an exceptionally humble person, a monk through and through," and thanks to this carried enormous authority, and was revered and loved throughout the Russian emigration. "Without him, it would have been impossible to even think of holding conversations with the ROC on reestablishing church unity," noted Fr Serafim. "He was able to overcome divisions and conflict with love," he added.
"It is, of course, too early" to speak of canonizing Metropolitan Laurus. "But when we entered the church yesterday, I had the sense that we were not venerating simply a dead man, but the relics of a righteous man, who offered the example of love and humbleness," said Fr Serafim.
The Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia died very peacefully, quietly, in his sleep, on the morning of the Triumph of Orthodoxy. One of the monks, standing beside the bier of Metropolitan Laurus, said Fr Serafim, spoke the following words: ""Before us lies the Triumph of Orthodoxy." "And this is true," added Fr Serafim.
The Head of the Press Service of the Moscow Patriarchate, Priest Vladimir Vigilyansky, answering questions for RIA Novosti on the possible glorification of the late Metropolitan Laurus as a saint, also noted that he does not dismiss this notion out of hand, but that "time must first pass." "People only confirm whom the Lord chooses as His servants. The memory of a person must withstand the passage of time, and prayers to him must be common among the people," stressed Fr Vladimir.