Home

 
 
 

 

“His Spiritual Signature and Guidance Are Subject to the Hand of God.”

On November 30, 2010, the 30th anniversary of the consecration to the episcopacy of His Eminence Archbishop Mark will be celebrated. He has just returned from the Holy Land and has visited several parishes, flew to Kiev for two days, only to return just in time for a Parish Council meeting of Munich’s Cathedral of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia. In December, Vladyka Mark will go to New York, then Moscow. In accordance with his insistent request, the celebration is to be modest, much more so than that of his 25th anniversary as bishop.

His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, will be in attendance. His Eminence Metropolitan Ilarion of Volokolamsk, President of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, is also expected. Thirty years has elapsed since November 30, 1980, when Vladyka Mark (Dr Arndt) was consecrated to the episcopacy. The German Diocese is defined by his spiritual signature, his guidance, which are subject to the Hand of God. He began his monastic journey on a hill in Wiesbaden at the Russian Church of St Elizabeth in 1975. Gradually he gathered a group of students, for whom he revealed the wholeness of the Orthodox Church. His spiritual fathers and guides were hieromonks and schema-monks: Seraphim, Seraphim, Nikolai and Nikodim, and Archimandrite Avel, who led their spiritual efforts on Mt Athos. The latter was the abbot of St Panteleimon Monastery, traveling to Russia in 1978 and not allowed to return to Athos, but able to establish a monastery based on the Athos rule in Ryazan oblast (Archimandrite Avel, Moscow 2008, pp 112-114). It was Fr Avel who blessed Archbishop Mark to assume the monastic life.

But one must mention Archimandrite Justin (Popovic), whom we must consider Vladyka Mark’s teacher, and whom the latter came to know when he began to study theology in Belgrade Theological School. In addition to Fr Justin, who was canonized a saint by the Serbian Orthodox Church in 2010, we should include the constellation of his students, now hierarchs—Metropolitan Amphilohije, Bishop Artemije, Bishop Afanasij, Bishop Irinej. The Serbian Orthodox Church is no less dear to Vladyka Mark than the Russian.  

As far as the Russian Church is concerned, Archbishop Mark began discussions with the diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate in Germany. They were held from 1993 to 1997, and laid the foundations for further dialog. At the same time, Vladyka Mark found himself in the center of an onerous conflict surrounding Russian holy sites between 1997-2000, as a result of the relationship between the post-Soviet state and the Church in Russia on one hand, and the protector of the holy sites of old Russia throughout the diaspora, especially in the Holy Land—the Russian Church Abroad. Archbishop Mark delved beneath the surface of this conflict. With his clear and focused perception, even in the face of resistance to the very thought of contact with the other side, he developed what led to a purely ecclesiastical resolution to the conflict, despite many moments of elevated tension. This was the Act of Canonical Communion.  

From 2004-2007, Archbishop Mark presided over the Commission on discussions with the Moscow Patriarchate, participating in the drafting of the Act on behalf of the Church Abroad.  

The Act of Canonical Communion bore ultimate witness to the indissoluble spiritual unity of the Russian Church over all those decades when it was externally divided. The Act was signed on May 17, 2007 by His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II and the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, Metropolitan Laurus, in Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow, after which a solemn Divine Liturgy was celebrated with the participation of two hundred clergymen from both sides, and over five thousand believers from the broadest scope of nations of the world. And the external division, which lasted for eight decades, finally came to an end.

Russia values this Orthodox hierarch, although he possesses not a drop of Russian blood, coming from an entirely different world, culturally speaking, yet able to unite the two worlds in his love for Christ.  

Many accompanied him in his life’s journey, people whom he prepared through his prayers. We will name only a few of them:  

His Grace Bishop Agapit of Stuttgart. Following the footsteps of his spiritual father, he helped infuse new life into the Monastery of St Job of Pochaev in Obermenzing near Munich. He established a print shop in the monastery, which bore fruit in its Vestnik Germanskoj Eparkhii [“Herald of the German Diocese”], published since 1981, prayer books, service and theology texts in Russian, German, and even English. Vladyka Agapit, born Alexander Gorachek, came to the monastic life in Wiesbaden, and has accompanied Vladyka Mark ever since. He spent a few recent months in Australia (soon after a bad car accident which he and Vladyka Mark suffered on a Stuttgart highway). The Orthodox calendar which then-Hieromonk Mark began to publish in Wiesbaden in 1976, with the aid of a typewriter and scissors, was then continued with the support of Stephan Talmatzky (now a doctor in Australia). Finally, it was developed in both desk-top and pocket versions by Novice Alexander, who then became archdeacon, hieromonk and finally Bishop Agapit.  

Then there is Protopriest Nikolai Artemoff (ordained to the priesthood by then-Bishop Mark in 1981).  He joined then-Archimandrite Mark in Wiesbaden and accompanied him these long years. Protopriest Nikolai serves at our Cathedral during Vladyka Mark’s absence. His sermons are posted on the official website in Russian and German and he celebrates Liturgy in German.  

Hegumen Evfimij (Logvinoff) worked as a lay restorer in the Grabar Studios, which has now been restored as Marfo-Mariinsky Convent, founded by Holy New Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth. He came to Munich, became a novice, then a hieromonk, and now conducts daily services at the monastery. He has maintained intensive correspondence with believers in Russia for two decades, and represents the monastery at conferences in Russia, where he reads lectures.  

Monk Philaret (Labi), born and raised in France, took over the publishing work when then-Father Agapit was consecrated to the bishopric. Without the quiet, organized work of this laborer in the harvest-fields of the Lord, much of what we have in the German Diocese would be simply impossible—no books, no Vestnik, neither of the calendar editions. He spends hours every day on the kliros, singing to the glory of God. And he is joined by younger monastic brethren… 

We should remember the ordinations performed by Vladyka Mark for the spiritual nourishment of Orthodox people in various cities and countries: we should mention that under the spiritual guidance of Vladyka Mark, a convent has been established near Munich, entrusted to Nun Maria (Sidiropoulou), which is closely bound to Gethsemane Convent, for it is no accident that Vladyka Mark was appointed Overseer of the monasteries of the Russian Church Abroad in the Holy Land in 1997.  

Worth mentioning here is the senior priest of our diocese: Protopriest Dimitrij Ignatjeff, who has preserved active ties with Vladyka Mark over these years. Both Ignatjeffs, father and son, Fr Leonid and Fr Dimitrij, knew the young student Michael Arndt when he came to know the Orthodox Church. Under Fr Dimitrij’s guidance, and that of Mrs Melchers, Frankfurt hosted the “Paschal Seminars.” Here the young Hieromonk Mark read theological lectures. A result of these seminars was that the speeches by renowned theologians grew into a series of books, “Encounter with Orthodoxy,” published by the Munich monastery between 1987-1990. The monastery also published a series of German-language translations of divine services by Fr Dimitrij: these include the entire First Week of Great Lent, Passion Week and Pascha. 

Today, the Commission of the Orthodox Church in Germany (now called the Hierarch’s Conference) appointed a group to address questions relating to the new translation of the Divine Liturgy. This text is included in the new publication of the German Prayer Book (2010). But this is not the last project—more corrections, translations and work are needed.  

This is only a brief outline of the work of our archbishop, whose residence is in the monastery in Munich (where he tries to spend more time). He is entrusted not only with the parishes of the Russian Church Abroad in Germany, but in Austria, England and Ireland, Denmark, where parish and monastic life is developing under his guidance. We will only mention his frequent trips to Russia (and the US and Holy Land), his participation in various committees connected with the rebirth of conciliar church life after the Local Council of 2009 and preparations for the next Local Council; more can be read in Vestnik, where there is at least a brief description of each trip.  

One notices the influence of St Justin in the sermons of Archbishop Mark, explanations of the New Testament which Vladyka Mark has been translating into German for many years (see Bote der deutschen Diozese). He has participated in their translation into Russian as well (see Vestnik). In addition, he uses as an example the works of St Philaret (Drozdov) of Moscow, to whom Vladyka Mark wished to devote his doctoral thesis many years ago. But as this effort switched to ecclesiastical purposes, the work turned into a series of lectures (see the Orthodox Seminar of 2009 and others). Metropolitan Philaret made great contributions to the life of the Russian Church of the 19th century, and to the development of the Russian language. Archbishop Mark lives in service to the Holy Church together with both his teachers and his students.  

Vladyka Mark’s sermons, which he prepares carefully, following the example of St Philaret of Moscow, are read in Russian in Munich’s cathedral, are simultaneously translated into German in a special area. But in the monastery, Vladyka Mark hosts a course in Orthodox dogmatics, which he reads in German, and once a month he organizes meetings with German-speaking families of our parish.

And so on November 30, 2010, we celebrate 30 years since the consecration to the episcopacy of Vladyka Mark. Though the celebration will be modest, the Munich Cathedral has recently been renovated, painted white inside and out, the newly-cleaned chandeliers glisten, and we await our guests. At the same time, as we look upon Vladyka Mark, we remember that he is then to travel to New York, Moscow and Frankfurt-Wiesbaden, our Cathedral will host the “Orthodox Open Seminar” on December 26-28, immediately followed by our Diocesan Conference on December 28-29, at which all of our clergymen, wardens and treasurers will participate, along with other church figures. Much remains in Vladyka Mark’s schedule before the Nativity and New Year’s… and much afterwards.