On the 100th Anniversary of Metropolitan Anastassy's Consecration to the Episcopate
From the Editors: Over the course of three decades (1936-1964), in extremely difficult times, His Eminence Metropolitan Anastassy directed the Russian Church Outside of Russia. This year, June 29/July 12 marks the 100 th Anniversary of Metropolitan Anastassy's consecration to the episcopate.
Blessed Metropolitan Anastassy, the second First Hierarch of the Russian Church Outside of Russia, was born Alexander Alekseevich Gribanovsky on August 6, 1873, on the feast of the Holy Transfiguration of the Lord, in the village of Bratka, Borisogleb District, Tambov Province, where first his grandfather (Karamzin) on his mother's side, and later his father, were priests. His father was named Alexei and his mother, Anna.
Nothing is known about his childhood. We know only that he was enrolled in a religious school, and that in 1893 he graduated from the Tambov Theological Seminary. As one of its top students, he was sent to the Moscow Theological Academy (MTA) on a state scholarship; at the time, serving for the fourth year as its rector was Archimandrite Anthony Khrapovitsky, later to be Metropolitan of Kiev and Galitch, and then, in exile, the President of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Church Outside of Russia. The Academy Inspector was Archimandrite Gregory (Borisoglebsky), and after him, Archimandrite Sergius (Stragorodsky), who later became Metropolitan of Nizhegorod. By that time, religious life at the MTA had already blossomed, following a long period of stagnation. At the time Alexander Gribanovsky was entering his 3 rd year at the Academy, Archimandrite Anthony, who had had differences with the new Metropolitan of Moscow, Metropolitan Sergius (Lyapidevsky; + 1898), was transferred and assigned as rector of the Kazan Theological Academy. His replacement was Archimandrite Arseny, later to also become a famous hierarch of the Russian Church – Archbishop of Novgorod; at the All-Russia Local Council of 1917, he was the second candidate proposed for the post of Patriarch, and later was a Confessor of the Faith during the years of persecution. The new rector under whom Alexander pursued his advanced studies had an orientation somewhat different from his predecessor.
Upon graduating from the MTA, Alexander stayed on as Assistant to the Inspector of the Academy, a post with which the best graduates staying on at the Academy usually began their scholarly careers. In April 1898, at the Tambov Monastery of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God, Bishop Alexander of Tambov tonsured Alexander Alexeevich Gribanovsky into monasticism, giving him the name Anastassy, in honor of Venerable St Anastassy of Sinai (commemorated by the Holy Church on April 20). On April 23, the same Hierarch ordained him a deacon, and soon thereafter, a hieromonk. In August of the same year, Archimandrite Arseny, then rector of the Moscow Theological Academy (and later Metropolitan of Novgorod) appointed him Assistant to the Inspector of the Academy, a post he held for two years.
Now a few words about the times during which the future First Hierarch of the Russian Church Outside of Russia lived.
For Russian society, the 1880s were years of so-called liberating reforms, but in the sphere of religion, they were unfortunately a time Metropolitan Anthony called a time of “seculatization of pastoral service.” It was a time of striving, in keeping with the general mood, to draw the Church and the life of the people closer together. However, in their daily lives, the Russian clergy did not accomplish that goal; instead, they began to lose their precious spiritual gifts. Society sought to free the Russian clergy of their so-called “Byzantism” – their backwardness, their lagging behind contemporary life. It wanted to liberate the people's pastors from their seclusion, and bring them closer to society and the people. Instead, a secular and bureaucratic element was introduced into the life of the clergy. As before, the greater part of the clergy remained apart from the moral concerns by which society lived. However, they began to occupy themselves increasingly with questions of property, and to display lamentable inattention to spiritual/moral concerns, becoming careless in performing church services, ignoring the fasts, being ashamed of their calling – expressed by cutting their hair, wearing secular cuffs and collars, and other secular features. Such trends affected monasticism as well: monasteries began to resemble some kind of private economic associations, in which even spiritual gifts were evaluated in terms of material property interests. Bishops became more and more like religious officials who administered dioceses as governors administer their provinces. Such trends could not help but affect the youth. The most capable and energetic youth left religious educational institutions in droves, turning instead to secular institutions. They rushed to gain acceptance at universities, business, veterinary, and military schools, or any other educational institution, as long as it allowed them to escape the religious milieu.
Such a lamentable tendency was a prelude to what blossomed during the years of revolution: the “Living Church,” notorious renovationism, public defrocking of clergy, and the religious opportunism that brought representatives of the clergy to collaborate with the theomachist regime.
Were such a lamentable trend to have triumphed in Russian religious life, one would have to consider the glory of the Russian Church to have come to an end, with no hope for its revival.
However, by God's mercy, that decadent manifestation was not the sole, or even the primary, manifestation of Russian religious life. There was another, perhaps more modest trend about which Blessed Metropolitan Anthony later said the following, “Whoever wants to become convinced of just how great a number of humble priests and hierarchs in the Orthodox world the Lord has enriched with the treasury of prayer, should ask the faithful people about such luminaries; if he does so, he will see that in each city, in each district, there are pastors always praying tearfully, with rapt tenderness. It is as if, during prayer, their spirit goes out of the body, and, in the words of the Psalmist (Psalms 118), like a flame, disappears in the heavens. And we well know that the strength of our Church, encompassing millions of hearts and minds, has these humble people of prayer as its foundation.”
It was out of this milieu that martyrs and confessors of the Christian Faith later came forth, and it is they who make up the glory, hope and beauty of the much-suffering Russian Church.
It was from among such humble Russian village clergy that Vladyka Anastassy came. Certainly, from childhood, when religion was in such a tragic state, he had mastered the gift of prayer that he breathed throughout his life.
In describing this period, it is useful to note two people related to the Gribanovsky family. The first is Bishop Michael of Tauride (+ 1896), whose died as a young man of tuberculosis. He was an old friend and colleague of Metropolitan Anthony at the St Petersburg Theological Academy, where Bishop Michael was a professor and inspector. In Metropolitan Anthony's opinion, the man possessed all of the wisdom of the world. There was not an anti-Christian book that Bishop Michael would not have already read and refuted. In his youth, he was Metropolitan Anthony's best friend and colleague in the revival of Russian religious life and in the re-establishing of the Patriarchate in Russia; to the end of his days, Vladyka Anthony would reminisce about him with tears of tenderness in his eyes. Chekhov described Bishop Michael in his tale “The Hierarch.”
Another person related to the Gribanovskis was Metropolitan Vladimir of Moscow, our first hieromartyr, who in 1898 replaced the late Metropolitan Sergius (Lyapidevsky) on the Moscow cathedra. Holy Hierarch Vladimir followed a remarkable path in life. He was the only hierarch in the history of the Russian Church to have ascended in succession the cathedras of Russia's capital cities – Moscow, St Petersburg, and Kiev – and in 1918 he completed his path of life on earth by accepting a hieromartyr's crown, as if using himself to reveal and open up the glory of the Russian Church. Once, at a festive gathering in Moscow back in 1913, Metropolitan Anthony, then Archbishop of Volyhna, described Holy Hierarch Vladimir as follows, “Meek and humble, seeking nothing for himself, just and honest, Vladyka Vladimir gradually and quietly went up the hierarchical ladder, and through his authority immediately ascended to the heights and attracted the hearts of religious and patriotic Russia in the days of general vacillation and betrayal (1904-1905); at a time few remained faithful to their duty and their oath and resolute in their defense of the Orthodox Church, Vladyka Metropolitan of Moscow was a shining example of a resolute and incorruptible guardian of the Church and Homeland… Yes, one could unhesitatingly rely on the just and truthful, determined, honest, Vladyka Vladimir, who would not on any account deceive or betray you, who would never betray the truth… These exalted qualities and character of our First Hierarch are too valuable in our time of wavering vacillation. The pearl is precious because it is rarely found….”
Those words, spoken five years before Holy Hierarch Vladimir had become a Hieromartyr, are likewise entirely applicable to our Vladyka Anastassy, for whom Hieromartyr Vladimir was for years both supervisor and director in his service in the Moscow Diocese.
Such was the grace-filled milieu in which the spiritually-gifted Metropolitan Anastassy grew up.
In 1900, Hieromonk Anastassy was appointed to be Inspector of the Bethany Theological Seminary near Holy Trinity St Sergius Lavra. In July 1901, after his predecessor Archimandrite Tryphon (Prince Turkestanov) was consecrated a bishop, he was elevated to the rank of Archimandrite. We have accounts of those years of Vladyka Anastassy's service, given by one of his students, the Serbian Bishop Vladimir, who spoke of his years of study in the Moscow Seminary as being the most glorious years of his life; he nurtured a touching reverence for Vladyka Anastassy, striving in all things to follow and emulate him.
After serving for five years in the Moscow Seminary, Archimandrite Anastassy was consecrated to the episcopate, to be Bishop of Serpukhov, vicar bishop for the Moscow Diocese. (Before him, Bishop Nikon had occupied that position; he was transferred to the Vologda Diocese and later was a member of the State Council). Archimandrite Anastassy's consecration as Bishop of Serpukhov took place on the Feast of the Pre-eminent Apostles Sts. Peter and Paul, 29 June 1906, in the Moscow Cathedral of the Dormition; his residence was the St Daniel Monastery, where his predecessor had also lived.
In accordance with tradition, at the rite of nomination, he was to give a speech. It was a remarkable presentation, in which he outlined with amazing power “the path of a true pastor of Christ” and in a burst of inspired foresight, predicted the bloody misfortunes that were actually to be visited upon the Russian Church in the years of Revolution. On that occasion, Vladyka Anastassy said “The time of persecution of those who serve the Church has not passed… Days are coming when we will once again see ‘insults, threats, looting and seizure of property…' ‘churches made red with blood, churches turned into cemeteries, and even perhaps nationwide sacrificing of presbyters and bishops,' as Holy Hierarch Gregory the Theologian had seen at one time.”
Among the newly-consecrated Bishop Anastassy's responsibilities as vicar for the Moscow Diocese were serving the appointed festal services in the great Dormition Cathedral, the Cathedral Church of Christ the Savior and many other Moscow churches and monasteries, visits to diocesan parishes as directed by the Metropolitan, being in charge of men's and women's religious educational institutions, overseeing the teaching of the Law of God in the secular schools in the Zamoskvorets Region, presiding over the Missionary Brotherhood of Metropolitan Peter, directing the work of the committee for organizing church festivities in connection with the glorification of Holy Hierarch St Hermogenes, the celebration on the 100 th Anniversary of the Battle of Borodino, and the 300 th Anniversary of the Romanov Dynasty, participating in charitable work of various church and social organizations, managing committees for readings for the workers and their publications, etc.
At some time in the past, it was customary that bishops served only on Great Feasts and parish patron feast days, while on ordinary occasions, ordinary Sundays, they would only be present in Church. However, the new trend required bishops to serve every Sunday, and in general to serve as often as possible. Vladyka Anastassy became a spiritual struggler in prayer. He was tireless in performing Divine Services. With countless receptions, countless parish feasts and celebrations, with Moscow's extensive occasions for hospitality, it would be easy, as they say, to dissipate one's talents, but Vladyka Anastassy was extremely strict with himself. In the noisy capital city he lived as if he were in the desert. He adopted an ascetic manner of life, refused to drink wine, ate just enough food to sustain life, and was extremely strict in observing the fasts. In this he was always an example for everyone.
The Most-reverend Bishop Anastassy labored as a vicar bishop for about 8 years, and, counting his years of schooling, had lived in Moscow for over 20 years. Naturally, his spiritual cast of mind was molded under the influence of Moscow's wonderful holy sites and holy objects and that great Hierarch of the Church of Russia, Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, who was the paradigm of a true struggler of piety, a true ascetic who had no personal life, one who lived only for God and the Church, glorified for the highest moral purity, spiritual power, and unquestionable authority, a brilliant figure, a giant of thought and speech, one who constituted a great social and moral force. Many of those qualities also came to be characteristic of Blessed Metropolitan Anastassy, First Hierarch of our Russian Church Abroad.
In that he was one who held Metropolitan Philaret in high regard, Vladyka Anastassy disagreed with the opinion held by Metropolitan Anthony, who criticized the “Philaret trend,” and who believed that material changes in Metropolitan Philaret's Theological teachings were needed. Metropolitan Anthony established a different trend in Russian religious life, which was represented by his students and followers; of course he treasured all of Metropolitan Philaret's positive attributes. By the way, Metropolitan Anthony's opinions with respect to Metropolitan Philaret did not at all prevent him from greatly valuing Vladyka Anastassy, or Divine Providence from uniting their lives in service to one single great work.
It must also be noted that that breadth of grace-filled love brought by Metropolitan Anthony into all aspects of Russian religious life could not help but have a great effect on Metropolitan Anastassy's personality and activities. Perhaps it was only internal humility and innate shyness that often made Vladyka Anastassy seem rather reserved.
In any case, with the development of spiritual life, one's personality also strikingly develops, and it would be futile to expect all of the spiritual strugglers in the Church to resemble one another. To the contrary, just as in nature each flower exudes its own particular aroma and shows forth its own particular blossoms, so in the garden of spiritual life each person possesses his own particular qualities.
Before the Great War itself, in May 1914, when The Very Most-reverend Makary was Metropolitan of Moscow, Bishop Anastassy was appointed to the independent See of Kholm and Lyublin, whose cathedra became vacant with the transfer of Archbishop Evlogy to the Volhyn Diocese. Only 1? months after his arrival in Kholm, World War I began, and that whole region was on the front lines. As a result, in addition to pursuing strictly diocesan matters, the Most-reverend Anastassy began to spend a significant part of his time in visiting the armed forces on the Southwestern Front. For that, he was awarded the Order of St Vladimir, 2 nd Level, and then an award which for a clergyman was quite unheard of, the Order of Righteous Great Prince Alexander Nevsky with swords, as stated in the official decree given to him “for excellent zealous service to God's Church and selfless and valiant activity in time of military operations.”
On October 24, 1914, while traveling along the front, the Holy Sovereign Emperor Nikolai Alexandrovitch visited Kholm. Bishop Anastassy welcomed the Sovereign in his Cathdral Church. In his welcoming speech, Vladyka described the times as follows, “Human speech is incapable of describing all of the misfortunes that the Lord has fated Kholm to endure in these days. ‘Your land is desolate, your cities burned with fire.' (Isaiah 1:7). Many of its sons, who had no weapons but a sickle and plough, accepted martyrdom at the hands of the enemy. Some of them were burned with fire, others buried alive, others wounded by enemy arrows, others died by the sword, mingling their blood with that of your valiant warriors, the blood with which the land of Kholm has been so abundantly watered. However, Kholmian Rus' does not regret those sacrifices, but rejoices that it could bring them to the altar of the Homeland, and that with God's help was able to remain faithful to you even unto death. Having recently experienced as it were the pain and labor of birth-giving, it showed the world new Susanins, worthy of a posterity of eternal memory. History will not forget the peasant Ivan Karavan, who endured torture 16 times for loudly saying in the face of the enemy, “I am ready to die for the Sovereign Nikolai Alexandrovich. I will not betray my Russian Tsar!” Also unforgettable is the spiritual struggle of another Orthodox peasant of Kholm: being put to death by the foe, he cried out, 'I am joyously ready to die for Holy Russia, in the hope that the Russian Tsar will eradicate his foes!' That example of true valor shocked even the coarse heart of his torturer. Afterwards, the Austrian commander told his soldiers, 'Learn to die like that for your Native Land.'”
In mid 1915, the course of military action forced the Most-reverend Anastassy and the diocesan administration to evacuate, leaving Kholm and going deep into Russia. Temporarily settling in the Chudov Monastery in Moscow, he often would go to Petrograd on business related to his scattered flock, and would visit refugees from Kholm who had been resettled in the provinces along the Volga and farther out, beyond the Urals. At the close of 1915, after Archbishop Platon of Kishinev, later Metropolitan of North America, had been appointed exarch to Georgia, Bishop Anastassy was transferred to the cathedra of the Kishinev Diocese. In 1916 he was elevated to the rank of Archbishop.
Soon a new Romanian front was opened, and Archbishop Anastassy once again found himself in close proximity to the theater of military operations. There as well he often visited military detachments to provide them with pastoral care and inspiration.
With the approach of the fateful year 1917, when almost all of progressive Russian society, including many clergymen, was caught up in revolutionary fervor, Archbishop Anastassy immediately recognized the revolutionary visage of Antichrist and resolutely stood up to defend the Faith of Christ's Church against any encroachment, whether upon the purity of the Faith or upon the age-old canonical structure of our Church.
In August 1917, he left Bessarabia for Moscow on the occasion of the convocation of the All-Russia Local Council. In addition to sharing with other bishops in the general work of the Council, he was chairman of the Council Management Department, and also chaired the committee for organizing the ceremonies of nomination and enthronement of the patriarch; His Holiness Tikhon was chosen Patriarch. He provided a detailed description of the entire glorious celebration in his article, “The nomination and enthronement of the His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon, his character and his work.” Characteristically, at his relatively young age (he was only 44 years of age), Archbishop Anastassy turned out to be one of the candidates for the patriarchate, receiving 77 votes of the 309 votes cast. This is clear evidence of just how much respect and authority he enjoyed. Despite the fact that the Kremlin had been seized by the Bolsheviks, the newly-elected Patriarch Tikhon's enthronement, whose organization and execution had been entrusted to Archbishop Anastassy, was carried out flawlessly.
The Very Most-reverend Anastassy remained in Moscow for several months, rendering quite substantial assistance to the Patriarch in organizing the new Ecclesiastical Authority according to the Ustav [By-laws] drawn up by the Council, and in March 1918 he was awarded the right to wear the diamond Cross on his klobuk. After the reorganization of the Supreme Ecclesiastical Authority, Archbishop Anastassy was chosen to be a member of both the Holy Synod and the Supreme Ecclesiastical Council.
Meanwhile, soon after returning to his diocesan seat in Kharkov, Metropolitan Anthony had been chosen Metropolitan of Kiev, and his pious Kharkov flock announced to him that the only person it was willing to elect was the bishop he indicated as worthy of occupying the Kharkov cathedra. It is noteworthy that Metropolitan Anthony did not point to any of his co-workers or persons of like mind who wanted to occupy that Episcopal throne, but rather to someone relatively distant from him, Archbishop Anthony, who he considered was most worthy of that cathedra. His flock immediately elected Vladyka Anastassy, Archbishop of Kharkov and Akhtyra. While the course of events prevented those proposals from coming to fruition, it pleased the Lord to unite forever the destinies of those two hierarchs in another way.
In October 1918, with His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon's blessing, he left Moscow for Odessa, in hopes of reestablishing relations with Bessarabia, which had been taken by the Romanians. It turned out to be impossible for him to return to Kishinev, in light of the intensive campaign of Romanization undertaken by the Romanian government, and especially following the categorical demand made by the Romanian ecclesiastical and civil authorities to have the Church break its canonical subordination to the Russian Church, and together with the Kishinev Diocese, to join the Romanian Church. This was something Patriarch Tikhon could in no way agree to, and something that was equally unacceptable to Archbishop Anastassy, who did not wish to break canonical ties with the Mother Church. Rather than choosing to live in a peaceful, safe place in a materially better state, he chose the life of exile, first amid the raging waves of revolutionary chaos, and later—together with many thousands of Orthodox Russians forced to leave their land—far beyond the bounds of his homeland, across the Ocean, in America.
In 1919, with situation in southern Russia becoming perilous, Archbishop Anastassy was forced to leave Odessa for Constantinople. He returned to Russia for a short time, visiting Rostov and Novocherkassk, where he made contact with the Supreme Ecclesiastical Authority headed by Metropolitan Anthony, carried out several assignments given him, and in 1920 once again left through Odessa for Constantinople, where he had been directed to administer the Russian Orthodox communities in the Constantinople District. The number of such Russian communities rose sharply following the great emigration of Russian people not wishing to remain in their homeland under the yoke of the Soviet regime. In Constantinople, Archbishop Anastassy chaired the Russian Committee, which encompassed up to 35 organizations. There he developed a wide range of fruitful pastoral activities among the Russian refugees, who numbered up to 175, 000 people.
In 1921, at the direction of the Supreme Ecclesiastical Authority, which had moved from southern Russia first to Constantinople and then to Yugoslavia, Archbishop Anastassy visited Mt Athos and the Holy Land, in order to familiarize himself with the state of Russian Athonite monasteries after the War, and especially, with the state of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem, whose economic activities had been completely interrupted by the perturbations of war, leaving their mark on the internal life of the Russian convents in Palestine.
In Palestine, Vladyka Anastassy confirmed and established the legal status of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission, and carried out renovations of Russian churches including: the majestic cathedral at the Mission, the churches of the monastery on the Mount of Olives, at the Oak of Mambre, the Church of Empress Alexandra, and in the Gorny Monastery and in Hebron. He acquired a plot of land on the banks of the River Jordan, to which there would be a particularly inspiring Procession of the Cross for the Blessing of the Waters on the River Jordan. Adding to the already existing women's monasteries, the Gorny and Mount of Olives Convents, new women's communities were established: Gethsemane, Jaffa, and the Bethany School, with a staff of 15 teachers. The number of nuns increased, with a precious number of young women who were highly educated and cultured workers. A common rule of life in the monasteries was established, approximately 100 people were tonsured, and beautifully ordered Divine Services came into practice in the churches. In short, a wise and practiced hand gave religious life to that precious institution in the Holy Land.
Moreover, here Archbishop Anastassy rendered a historical service to the Church of Jerusalem, which is so dear to the Russian heart as the “Mother Church,” and “God's Abode.” At the time, Patriarch Damian, a venerable friend of Russia, was head of the Church of Jerusalem. However, several war-related circumstances brought about disorder in the hierarchical administration. Not a single bishop remained with the Patriarch. Vladyka Anastassy helped Patriarch Damian consecrate new bishops and thus re-establish a hierarchical administration in Jerusalem.
In November 1921, as administrator of the Russian Orthodox communities of the Constantinople District, Archbishop Anastassy participated in the first All-Diaspora Church Council, held in Sremski-Karlovtsy (then in the Kingdom of the Serb-Croats and Serbs). He chaired the Department of Religious Revival.
In 1923, as a representative of the Russian Church, Archbishop Anastassy attended the so-called “Pan-Orthodox Congress,” convened in Constantinople by Patriarch Meletios. Questions considered at that “Congress” included introduction of the new calendar, re-married clergy, a married episcopate, abridging of Divine Services, doing away with the fasts, and simplification of clerical attire. Archbishop Anastassy courageously raised his voice to speak out against each of these innovations, innovations whose aim was to overthrow the holy canons, pious traditions and customs sanctified in our Holy Church over the ages, and, consequently, to pervert the spirit of Holy Orthodoxy. Soon thereafter, that “Congress” fell into disarray. One can see its significance from Document ¹ 1356, dated 8/21 October, 1923, and sent on behalf of the Patriarch of Antioch to Metropolitan Anthony. On hearing Metropolitan Antony's epistle regarding the Congress, the Council of the Antiochian Church wrote, “all of the Most-reverend brethren, members of the Council, shared our amazement at the profound respect Your Eminence had for the Holy Canons of the Holy Church and your unshakeable resolve to preserve them inviolate... We have no doubt that Your Eminence, renowned for fervent zeal for unity of the Holy Church, will continue to strive to apply your efforts and authority toward confirming its structure to the glory of God.”
There ensued an unfavorable shift in the Ecumenical Patriarch's attitude toward the Russian Church and toward Patriarch Tikhon. The Patriarch of Constantinople forbade in the Russian parishes of Constantinople from mentioning Patriarch Tikhon's name, and forbade any contact with the Russian Synod of Bishops Outside of Russia. As a consequence, after Pascha 1924, Archbishop Anastassy was forced to leave Constantinople and to go through France to Bulgaria, where he took part in the consecration of the St Alexander Nevsky Cathedra in Sofia, and then to move to Yugoslavia, to take part in the next meeting of the Council of Bishops. At the direction of that Council, he left for Jerusalem to oversee the work of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem. He first visited London, for talks with representatives of the British government, which had the mandate to administer Palestine. He arrived in the Holy Land in December 1924, and remained there for 10 years, going each year to the Council of Bishops in Sremski-Karlovtsy, and also sometimes going to Syria to visit Patriarch Gregory VII and his successor Patriarch Alexander.
Likewise, from there he would go to France for talks with Metropolitan Evlogy, following his withdrawal from the jurisdiction of our Council of Bishops. From Palestine, he made a pilgrimage to Sinai, where Archbishop Porphyry was rector.
During the Council of 1935, Archbishop Anastassy took part in a meeting specifically scheduled by the Serbian Patriarch Varnava with the aim of re-establishing unity within the Russian Church Outside of Russia. Delegates also included Metropolitans Evlogy and Feofil, and Bishop Dimitry (Voznesensky), who represented the Far Eastern District. The Temporary Statute for administration of the Russian Church Outside of Russia was worked out at that meeting.
It was then that Archbishop Anastassy was elevated to the rank of Metropolitan and permanently assigned to Sremski Karlovtsy as assistant to Blessed Metropolitan Anthony, who was ill, and who always placed great demands on a true hierarch. He felt that a hierarch of God must possess virginal purity, be a true monk, and must have from early youth possessed of a highly-developed sense of duty and responsibility, who must be a tireless man of prayer, and one ready to lay down his life for the Holy Church. A hierarch's purpose did not rest in being a highly-placed church supervisor, but rather, in leading people by personal example in the work of saving their souls, in bringing them to Christ, to the eternal Pastor. Searching for such a successor, Metropolitan Antony had already made his choice Archbishop Anastassy while he was Bishop of Kharkov; he later re-affirmed it as President of the Synod of Bishops.
On August 10, 1936, Metropolitan Anthony reposed. By the time the bishops gathered for the Council convened on that occasion, there could no longer be any doubt about the selection of the one most worthy to be selected as his successor. Vladyka Metropolitan Anastassy was unanimously chosen to be President of the Synod of Bishops and of the Council of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
Metropolitan Anastassy's first undertaking was to reorganize our Russian Church Abroad, dividing it into 4 metropolitan districts – the Near Eastern, Far Eastern, West European, and North American Districts. Later, during World War II, a fifth District, the Central European District, was added.
In August 1938, Metropolitan Anastassy accomplished a second great undertaking: under his chairmanship, the Second All-Diaspora Council was held in Sermski Karlovtsy, with participation of bishops, clergy, and laity. The Council proceedings were published in book form.
The Synod of Bishops moved from Sremski Karlovtsy to Belgrade, as did its chairman, Metropolitan Anastassy, who at the same time was ruling diocesan bishop of the Russian parish communities in Yugoslavia. There, at ¹ 20 Krunsk Street, on a street well known to the Russians of Belgrade, and near the Russian Holy Trinity Church that was de facto his cathedral church, he also spent the early years of World War II. During the War the Germans occupied Belgrade and all of Yugoslavia.
As an example of strict monastic way of life, every day Vladyka Metropolitan Anastassy would attend the Divine Litrugy at Holy Trinity Church, and would be busy with church matters until late at night. On all Sundays and Feast Days, he himself celebrated Divine Services and always gave the homily. His audience would be caught up in his homilies, especially by their particularly artistic style, subtle, polished treatment of the subject matter, and overall, multi-faceted profundity.
As one who valued true science and scholarly learning, especially, of course, in the field of theology, Vladyka Metropolitan Anastassy assembled around him the finest learned intellects and society figures and the most enlightened servants of the Church. He would have them meet with him in his lodgings on Krunsk Street, and at the Synod of Bishops he created a special Scholarly Committee, chaired by Archbishop Tikhon (Lyaschenko), a Master of Theology and former Inspector of the Kiev Theological Academy.
By his personal example, Vladyka Anastassy inspired many of his co-workers, and as a result. Russian Belgrade had a quite intense religious life. Thus, at the Russian House, there were missionary courses on the struggle against atheism, meetings of the religious/nationalist youth clubs (named in honor of the Equal to the Apostles and Great Prince St Vladimir), religious/moral readings and discussions twice a week, and periodically, various celebrations in connection with church jubilee celebrations. Despite the multitude of church-related concerns, Vladyka would find the time to join in all of these activities, often coming to the meetings, giving instruction, and in spirit was part of all of these spiritually fruitful endeavors.
When World War II began (6 April, 1941), Vladyka Metropolitan Anastassy shared with his flock in Belgrade all of its horrors and extensive shortages. The unexpected bombing of Belgrade on 6 April, 1941, which quickly decided Yugoslavia's fate, made such a staggering impression that the capital was totally abandoned both by government agencies and by the general populace, who fled many dozens of kilometers in indescribable panic. Amid the complete devastation, it was only in the life of the Russian Church of Belgrade that there were no substantial changes: the appointed services continued to go on as scheduled, and priests continued to take the Holy Gifts about the city, bidding farewell to the mortally wounded and serving moleben prayer services in various places of refuge. During the attack, Metropolitan Anastassy remained on his Bishop's Throne in the Altar, and the appointed clergy served a moleben before the miraculous Kursk-Root Icon of "the Sign" of the Mother of God. And this was despite the fact that five bombs fell right next to our church, that the neighboring Serbian Church of St Mark was burned to the ground, and that at the very wall of the church a pile of logs ignited by one of the bombs blazed for two days. During an especially intense bombardment the next day, on 25 March/7 April, the Feast of the Annunciation, Vladyka Metropolitan was at the Divine Liturgy being served by one of the priests in the cellar of the Russian House, for the multitude of Russian people taking refuge there. That Liturgy, served in a setting reminiscent of the early Christian catacombs, became permanently imprinted in the memories of all those who communed there. With Vladyka Metropolitan's blessing, and in view of the clear danger of imminent death, there was a general confession, after which everyone, about 300 people, received Holy Communion.
Exactly one week later, on Lazarus Saturday, the Germans entered the utterly devastated and desolate city, and difficult years began for the Russian emigres in Yugoslavia. Together with his Belgrade flock, Vladyka Metropolitan placidly endured famine, cold and all manner of constraints and deprivations, various troubles at the hands of the occupying German authorities and the consequences of antagonistic attitudes, fueled by Communist propaganda, held by a significant part of the Serbian population
Soon after Yugoslavia's occupation by German forces, Gestapo officers conducted a thorough search of Vladyka Metropolitan Anastassy's quarters, and then confiscated the records of the Synod of Bishops. However, they had to recognize that Vladyka, a true Archpastor of the Church of Christ, was far divorced from any kind of politics, and they left him in peace. Some time later, they attempted to turn Vladyka's authority to their own purposes by inviting him to make an appeal to the Russian people to collaborate with the Germans in their campaign against the Bolsheviks. Despite the fact that at the beginning of the War, many Russians trusted the Germans, Vladyka Metropolitan courageously declined their proposal. He considered the goals of the German policy toward Russia questionable, and felt that he had no right to make such an appeal.
In no way did Vladyka Metropolitan ever display any kind of extremism. He always behaved as befits the dignity of a true hierarch of God. In London, Patriarch Gabriel of Serbia presented several church/social societies important evidence with respect to Metropolitan Anastassy's behavior, by emphasizing that Metropolitan Anastassy showed great wisdom and tact in the presence of the Germans, and that he was subjected to a number of searches, as the Germans did not trust him.
In September 1941, Russian patriots hoped that the hour to liberate the Russian people from Bolshevism's bloody yoke was at hand. Vladyka Metropolitan gave his blessing for them to form a Russian Corps. However, the Germans did not allow that Corps to take part in military operations on the Eastern Front, but left it in Yugoslavia as a force to defend against local Communist gangs.
When the War caused the Soviet regime to wake up to its critical situation, they decided, for purposes of self defense, to place their reliance on the religious and nationalistic feelings of the Russian people. In Moscow on 8 September, 1943, a Council made up of 18 surviving Russian bishops chose Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky) to be Patriarch. At the time, many naive Russian people were inclined to joyously welcome that event. Then, on 21 October, 1943, Vladyka Metropolitan convened a meeting of 8 of the bishops abroad. They delineated the absolutely non-canonical nature of that election, and consequently determined that it would be impossible to recognize that Metropolitan Sergius was legitimately Patriarch.
On Pascha of 1944, almost daily Anglo-American bombing raids over Belgrade began, inflicting many casualties. Despite the fact that his life was clearly in danger, Vladyka Metropolitan made no change in his way of life. He continued to serve and to preach on all Sundays and feast days, to visit the wounded, to bury those who had been killed, to comfort the devastated and impoverished, and to carefully inquire as to whether anyone of his flock had been brought to harm. He inspired the clergy to make the rounds of their parishioners' homes with the miraculous Icon of "the Sign" of the Mother of God on a daily basis. A great number of truly miraculous events were recorded.
In September 1944, when Soviet forces were already approaching Belgrade, the vast majority of its Russian residents fled to Vienna. Metropolitan Anastassy and the entire Synod of Bishops were also evacuated there. In Vienna as well, he continued to celebrate Divine Services in our two churches – the old Embassy Church and the new house church – literally under bombardment and in the midst of blazing fires. Here as well the miraculous Icon made the rounds of Russian people's homes and places of refuge, and even to those of some Austrians who showed the utmost respect for our Holy Icon. As a result, some clearly miraculous signs ensued.
From Vienna, Vladyka Metropolitan and the entire Synod moved first to Carlsbad, and then, in the Summer of 1945, after the War had ended, to Munich, Germany, which for a time became a great center of Russian religious and social life. There were 14 parishes in Munich and its environs, and in many places, there was a very active religious life, with Divine Services held daily. Already in Munich in the Summer of 1945, Vladyka Metropolitan Anastassy, joined by Metropolitan Seraphim, consecrated Archimandrite Alexander (Lovchenko), rector of a Munich parish, to the episcopate as Bishop of Kissingen, Vicar Bishop for the German Diocese.
Wishing to reestablish ties, severed by war, between the several parts of the Russian Church Outside of Russia and the Council of Bishops, Vladyka Metropolitan managed to get permission to travel to Switzerland. From Geneva, he quickly established written communication with all of the countries where there were church communities under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. In doing so, he greatly strengthened the formerly shaky organization of our Church Abroad.
Vladyka Metropolitan remained in Switzerland for about 7 months. During that time, together with Bishop Hieronymos, who had come from America, he performed two consecrations to the episcopate: Archimandrite Seraphim (Ivanov) to be Bishop of Santiago, and Archimandrite Nathaniel, to be Bishop of Brussels and Western Europe.
He returned to Munich in time for Pascha, 1946 , and soon thereafter, on 23 April, convened a Council of Bishops Abroad. Participants also included bishops of the Autonomous Ukrainian and Byelorussian Church, with the same rights as representatives of other districts. Fifteen bishops appeared in person at that Council, while the others, from distant lands, presented their concerns and expressed their opinions with respect to items on the agenda, in writing. Already at that time, the Council had decided to mark Metropolitan Anastassy's approaching jubilee – the 50 th Anniversary of priestly service, the 40 th Anniversary of his consecration to the Episcopate, and the 10 th Anniversary of his becoming the head of the Russian Church Abroad – by conferring on him the title “Blessed,” together with the right to wear two Panagias and the Cross. However Vladyka Metropolitan categorically refused all of those honors, and rejected plans to celebrate his jubilee, on the grounds that “now is not the time to celebrate.”
Vladyka remained faithful to himself: In Munich, that important jubilee was celebrated… without its guest of honor, who hid himself away in the quiet monastery to keep from being feted.
After the War ended, Vladyka Metropolitan's focused his principal attention on helping the Orthodox Russian people leave devastated Germany and organize a normal church life in their new places of residence. A whole series of new diocesan seats in various countries came into being, and gradually, bishops who as the result of the War had gathered together in West Germany, were assigned to the newly-established cathedras.
In September 1950, Metropolitan Anastassy undertook a journey to the West European Diocese, where he took two important actions: In Geneva on 11/24 September, he consecrated Archimandrite Leonty (Bartoshevich) to be Bishop of the Geneva Vicariate, and in Brussels on 18 September/1 October, he consecrated the newly-erected church as a memorial to the Tsar-Martyr and to all Russian people killed in the time of troubles. He returned to Germany, and on 25 September/8 October consecrated the new Church of Christ's Resurrection, in Frankfurt.
In 1948, increasing numbers of people began their migration to the United States, in North America, and many began to ask Vladyka Metropolitan and the Synod of Bishops to move there as well. Such requests also came to Vladyka from America, where recently (in 1946), an unfortunate schism had occurred following the so called “Cleveland Council.” At first Vladyka Metropolitan hesitated. However, Munich was emptying out more and more; refugee camps and their churches were gradually being closed. Ultimately, Vladyka, the First Hierarch, decided to go where the greater part of his flock had already gone, to where he was urgently being asked to move.
Vladyka Metropolitan Anastassy left for America on 10/23 November, 1950. The next day, he arrived at the airport in New York, and was festively met at the Ascension Cathedral Chruch.
On 12/25 November, the day after his arrival, Vladyka Metropolitan went to the Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, where he celebrated the solemn consecration of the just-completed stone monastery Church of the Holy Trinity. Eleven hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia personally took part in that ceremony.
It was here that, for the first time in the existence of the Russian Church Abroad, Vladyka performed the rite of preparation and blessing of Holy Myrrh, which our Church had previously received from the Orthodox Churches of Serbia and Constantinople.
Vladyka Metropolitan's residence in America became the Synodal Metochion , “The New Root Hermitage” in Mahopac, a half-hour's drive from New York City. It had been established on an estate donated by the well-known Russian philanthropist, Prince S.S. Belosselsky-Belozersky.
Vladyka Metropolitan Anastassy's arrival in the United States of America coincided with the schismatic “council” of the American Metropolia, at which Archbishop Leonty was elected to succeed the recently-reposed Metropolitan Theophilus. Our First Hierarch displayed extreme humility in appealing to the hierarchs of that Metropolia for peace and unity. The meeting called to that end produced no results. The hierarchs of the American Metropolia not only did not want to re-establish the unity with the Russian Church Abroad that they had disrupted, but also deepened the division caused at the Cleveland Council by undertaking a series of non-canonical actions, even including receiving suspended clergy.
Meanwhile, more and more Russian people were coming to America from Europe and Asia. With their arrival, there came into being approximately 100 new parishes that wanted to remain under the jurisdiction of our Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. In churches of the Metropolia, the recent arrivals were put off by the commemoration of the Patriarch during Divine Services, by the presence of red flags and benches in the churches, not to mention many other things that were directly contrary to age-old Orthodox piety.
Construction of new permanent churches began, and despite his extremely advanced age, Vladyka Metropolitan Anastassy began to take frequent trips to serve in parishes, and to tirelessly preach and appear at various religious celebrations and meetings, at which he would amaze everyone with the exception freshness of his intellect and the clarity of his ideas.
He performed a number of consecrations to the Episcopate:
1) Archimandrite Anthony (Sinkevitch) to be Bishop of Los Angeles — 6/19 August 1951;
2) Archimandrite Averky (Taushev) to be Bishop of Syracuse and Holy Trinity — 12/25 May 1953;
3) Archpriest Theodore Raevsky, tonsured into monasticism with the name Savva, to be Bishop of Melbourne — 11/ 24 January 1954;
4) Archimandrite Anthony (Medvedev) to be Bishop of Melbourne — 5/18 November 1956;
5) Archimandrite Savva (Saratchevitch) to be Bishop of Edmonton — 15/28 September 1958;
6) Abbot Nektary (Kontsevitch) to be Bishop of Seattle — 26 February/11 March 1962.
In February 1952 Metropolitan Anastassy moved to New York City. A small building at 312 West 77 th St was purchased to serve as his residence.
In the fall of 1953, Vldayka Metropolitan convened the second Council of Bishops to be held on USA soil, with sixteen hierarchs taking part.
The festive opening ceremony was held at the Holy Trinity Monastery, and the plenary sessions were subsequently held at the New Kursk-Root Hermitage.
Thereafter, Councils of Bishops were convened every three years (in 1956, 1959 and 1962).
Already in 1951, Vladyka Metropolitan had traveled across the North American Continent, to California. He took with him the Miraculous Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God, the Holy Icon so cherished by the entire Russian diaspora. Vladyka's first journey to the West was truly a triumphal procession. It was to be repeated annually. Vladyka would spend the winters in New York, and a significant part of the summers in San Francisco. On that account, in 1953 a Synodal Metochion was established near San Francisco, in Burlingame, with a house church dedicated to All Saints in the Russian Land.
Vladyka Metropolitan would spend the greater part of the year in New York, in his residence on 77 th Street, where there was a house church dedicated to the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God. It became established tradition that from that headquarters, he would go out to be the chief celebrant at many extremely well-attended and beautiful religious celebrations. Among them, it is essential to include the following:
The Day of the Holy Trinity, patron feast day of Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY;
The general celebration commemorating the Baptism of Rus' and the Equal-to-the-Apostles Great Prince Vladimir, on the so-called “Vladimir Hill” at Rova Farms, NJ;
The feast of the Dormition of the Most-holy Theotokos, 15/28 August — patron feast day of the Novo-Diveevo Convent;
Commemoration of the Glorification of St Job of Pochaev, celebrated in Holy Trinity Monastery on 28 August /10 September;
The Feast in honor of the “Sign” Icon of the Mother of God, the Miraculous Kursk-Root Icon, celebrated in the New Kursk-Root Hermitage on the Feast of the Nativity of the Most-holy Theotokos, 8/21 September; and
The patron feast day of the Church of the “Sign” Icon of the Mother of God, 27 November/10 December.
Despite his extremely advanced age, and for the good of the Church, Vladyka Metropolitan did not at all spare himself. On the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God, 1955, as Vladyka Metropolitan was on his way to serve at Novo Diveevo, he was in an automobile accident. It was a miracle that our First Hierarch and the other passengers survived. However, while all of the others were taken to the hospital, Vladyka would not even allow himself to be taken there. Instead, he continued on to Novo Diveevo, where he served a moleben after Liturgy. Following his customary practice, before serving the moleben, he gave a quite instructive homily, in which he took the occasion of his mishap to draw an instructive lesson. Afterwards, Vladyka Metropolitan had to spend a long time recuperating before he could again serve the Divine Liturgy.
On learning that the 50 th Anniversary of Vladyka Anastassy's service as a Hierarch was approaching (29 June/12 July 1956), his faithful flock decided to form a special Jubilee Committee to properly organize an event to celebrate the guest of honor. As he had in Munich in 1948, Vladyka decisively refused to bless the work of that committee.
Nonetheless, throughout the entire Russian Diaspora, celebration of such a rare and important Jubilee was marked by festive Divine Services and Jubilee gatherings, but without the personal attendance of its guest of honor, who, as he had before, declined to be feted.
To our First Hierarch's great sorrow, the last years of his life were greatly darkened by events in his beloved California – troubles encountered by the Church in connection with the building of the new San Francisco Cathedral of Our Lady Joy of All Who Sorrow. Yet soon, through the efforts of Holy Hierarch John (Maximovitch + 1966 ), all of the difficulties were gradually resolved. Vladyka became more and more ill and infirm, and even was checked into a hospital for evaluation. Subsequently, his illnesses worsened to such an extent that he could no longer walk without assistance.
Apparently sensing that he would no longer be able to carry on the administration of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, he announced to the assembled hierarchs that he had decided to retire, and he proposed that a replacement be chosen.
At the Council of Bishops convened for that purpose on Mid-Pentecost, 14/27 May, 1964, Bishop Philaret (Voznesensky) of Brisbane was chosen to be the new First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, and Vladyka Metropolitan Anastassy went into retirement, after receiving, by unanimous decision of the members of the Council, the title “His Eminence,” with the right two wear two Panagias , together with the Cross, an honor he had previously resolutely declined.
The Glorification of Holy Righteous Wonderworker, St John of Kronstadt, which took place at that same Council, brought great joy to Blessed Vladyka Anasstasy. However, soon thereafter, Vladyka began to gradually decline, and in the evening on 9/22 May, 1965, surrounded by those who revered him, he reposed in the Lord. He reposed in his residence in the house at 75 East 93rd Street, at the corner of Park Avenue, the house recently given to the Synod by the noted benefactor S.Ya. Semenenko. It was in that house that, in the closing years of his life, the Synodal Cathedral Church of the “Sign” Icon of the Mother of God was established.
The rite of vesting the body of the deceased in hierarchical vestments was performed by Most Reverend Nektary, Bishop of Seattle, who was present at the time of his repose.
In view of the First Hierarch's repose, the Diocesan Council scheduled for the next day, Sunday 10/23 May, was postponed, and everyone came to the Synodal Cathedral, where, with Metropolitan Philaret as chief celebrant, the Hierarchical Cathedral Rite Divine Liturgy was celebrated. Throughout the day, a series of pannikhidas was served by clergy of our Church, as well as those of other Orthodox Churches. In an unceasing current, Gospels were read over the coffin, pannikhidas alternated with the daily divine services, and people approached to say goodbye to their beloved Archpastor.
At the requiem Liturgy on Monday, 11/24 May, Metropolitan Philaret was principal celebrant, with 10 hierarchs and 16 priests concelebrating. The funeral service followed the Liturgy. Eleven Hierarchs, over forty priests and ten deacons from all parts of America took part. Two choirs sang at the Funeral: the Cathedral Synodal Choir and the Holy Trinity Monastery and Seminary Choir. The final Prayer of Absolution was read by Archbishop Averky, who had long been the late Metropolitan Anastassy's spiritual director.
After the Funeral Service, the body, accompanied by most of the participants in the Funeral, left for Holy Trinity Monastery, where a place of rest for Metropolitan Anastassy had long-since been prepared under the Altar, next to the tomb of Archbishop Tikhon of Western America and San Francisco.
In the evening, the Cathedral Rite of the pannikhida was served before the coffin, and the next day, Tuesday, 12/25 May, Metropolitan Philaret served a requiem Divine Liturgy, followed by a pannikhida and a procession with the body three times around the Monastery Church of the Holy Trinity. Finally, the body of the First Hierarch was lowered onto the stone resting place next to the coffin of Archbishop Tikhon, whom the late Vladyka Metropolitan had respected and greatly valued.
To guide the ship of the Church across such a stormy sea—World War II and the years that followed it—was a truly enormous accomplishment, an accomplishment worthy of great admiration and recognition. It was in that accomplishment that Blessed Metropolitan Anastassy's God-given wisdom was manifest. Of course, the great power of his spiritual authority helped. After all, in addition to possessing his personal qualities, he was by right of seniority and position, the true First Hierarch of All Russia. However, the main thing was all of the remarkable personal gifts and capacities Metropolitan Anastassy possessed. First and foremost was God-given wisdom or, to put it another way, grace, holy wisdom, something inherent in Vladyka in all its profound fullness.
A combination of constant tender gentleness and an unyielding resolve when required by the interests of the Church, patient, charming attention to everyone—even to the most insignificant person—uncommon theological erudition, an exceptional memory, disarming tact, the ability to investigate and get to the bottom of any religious or political situation, an unquestioned gift of foresight, even clairvoyance, and many other qualities, made up that grace-filled wisdom.
With the departure of His Eminence Metropolitan Anastassy, there departed from us, the children of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, the last representative of the host of hierarchs of pre-Revolutionary Russia, and at the same time, the last remaining member of the Holy Synod of the Church of Russia.
Translation by Protodeacon Leonid Mickle