Many of our parishioners will know Fr Dionysios (now Fr Seraphim) who was tonsured to the monastic ranks last Friday at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville. The story below is from the monastery website
On Friday March 27 2012 after the Matins service Riassaphore monks Laurence and Dionysios were tonsured to the Lesser Schema by Archimandrite Luke. At the end of Matins they entered the Altar were they received the blessing of the Abbot and then proceeded to venerate the holy icons. During the First Hour they put on white gowns as one does when they are to be baptized and when the service finished they were led by the hieromonks of the monastery to the middle of the Church were they prostrated themselves to the ground three times during which the choir sung the sessional hymn after the Third Ode of the Canon from the Prodigal Son “Thy fatherly embrace hasten to open to me, for like the prodigal have I spent my life. Disdain not a heart now impoverished O Savior, Who hast before Thine eyes the inexpressible riches of Thy mercies. For to Thee, O Lord, in compunction I cry: Father, I have sinned against Heaven, and before Thee”.
When they reached the front of the ambon the Abbot signaled them to get up and read the prayers of the tonsure and exchanged in a dialog questions and answers as to the purpose of coming to the monastic life. Below are some of the exchanges that took place:
Question: Why hast thou come hither, Brother, falling down before the Holy Altar and before this Holy Assembly?
Answer: I am desirous of the life of asceticism, Reverend Father.
Question: Of thine own willing mind comest thou unto the Lord?
Answer: Yes, God helping me, Reverend Father.
Question: Not by any necessity, or constraint?
Answer: No, Reverend Father.
Question: Dost thou renounce the world, and the things belonging to the world, according to the commandment of the Lord?
Answer: Yes, Reverend Father.
Question: Wilt thou endure all the strain tribulation belonging to the monastic life, for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake?
Answer: Yes, God helping me, Reverend Father.
Fr. Laurence was tonsured with the name of St John of St. Fransisco and and Fr. Dionysios received the name of St. Seraphim of Sarov. May our Lord help the newly tonsured monks to live steadfastly their monastic vocation by a “pure and virtuous life” so that their life becomes a light to the world.
Archimandrite Luke counseled the newly tonsured monks to become imitators of the lives of the saints whose names they received and to struggle in humility enduring all afflictions for the salvation of their souls. At the end of this very moving service everyone went up to the newly tonsured monastics and greeted them with the traditional greeting, “What is your name father?” to which they replied “sinful monk John and Seraphim” and all wished them many years and God’s blessing in their struggles.
Most Reverend Fellow Archpastors, Most Honorable Fathers, Brothers and Sisters!
With profoundly-heartfelt spiritual joy I greet all the faithful children of the Russian Church Abroad, spread all over the world like kernels of God’s wheat, with the great and salutary Feast of Christ’s Nativity! May the Lord send all of us this joy which saves the world. This gladness is the fruit of the struggle of faith, and stems from the triumph of the Incarnation, from God becoming man, from hearing the celestial doxology from the heavens above the city of Bethlehem.
During the celebratory days which follow the Feast we especially feel God’s love for us, sinners. For though mankind turned away from its Maker, the Creator became a creature; Almighty God came down from the heavens and became one of us. He is born a helpless Infant in a humble cave where livestock is herded in bad weather. God becomes man to arrange for a mystical encounter, to destroy the barrier between Heaven and earth which was wrought by man’s sin. This encounter must take place within our innermost selves and in our relationships with those in whom the image of God is reflected—our neighbors.
During these holy and joyful days each parish church becomes Bethlehem and the heart of every man becomes the cave. All over the world, God’s people fill our churches. But what takes place in the cave of the heart of each one of us when Christ and His Holy Family come knocking? Does our heart open? Does it receive the Lord and what does the Lord find inside? Let us contemplate this, dear fathers in Christ, brothers and sisters. Let us remember the words of Abba Makarios recorded in the book “Sayings Worth Remembering.”
Once, traveling across Egypt with a group of his brethren, Abba Makarios heard the words of a boy directed to his mother: “Dear Mother, a certain rich man loves me, but I hate him. Another man, a pauper, hates me, but I love him.” On hearing these words, Abba Makarios was surprised. The brethren asked him: “What do these words mean, and why have they amazed you so, father?” The elder answered them: “In truth, the Lord is wealthy and loves us, yet we do not want to obey Him. However, our enemy, the devil, is poor and hates us: yet we love his impurity.”
So, let us open wide our hearts and welcome the Son of God Who has come to earth. Let us add our voice to the doxology of the angels and worship Him with the magi. Let us rejoice in His love and mercy for us. Let each one of us, according to our meager strength, respond with love to His love. Let us find fulfillment in communion with Him. And let each of us exemplify a virtuous Christian life, thereby supporting our neighbor and showing him our heartfelt disposition.
God is with us with His grace and love for mankind always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
With love in Christ Who is born and a request for prayers,
Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York
First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
Andrew, the son of Jonah and brother of Peter, was born in Bethsaida and was a fisherman by trade. At first he was a disciple of St. John the Baptist, but when St. John pointed to the Lord Jesus, saying, Behold the Lamb of God! (John 1:36), Andrew left his first teacher and followed Christ. Then, Andrew brought his brother Peter to the Lord. Following the descent of the Holy Spirit, it fell by lot to the first apostle of Christ, St. Andrew, to preach the Gospel in Byzantium and Thrace, then in the lands along the Danube and in Russia around the Black Sea, and finally in Epirus, Greece and the Peloponnese, where he suffered. In Byzantium, he appointed St. Stachys as its first bishop; in Kiev, he planted a Cross on a high place and prophesied a bright Christian future for the Russian people; throughout Thrace, Epirus, Greece and the Peloponnese, he converted multitudes of people to the Faith and ordained bishops and priests for them. In the city of Patras, he performed many miracles in the name of Christ, and won many over to the Lord. Among the new faithful were the brother and wife of the Proconsul Aegeates. Angered at this, Aegeates subjected St. Andrew to torture and then crucified him. While the apostle of Christ was still alive on the cross, he gave beneficial instructions to the Christians who had gathered around. The people wanted to take him down from the cross but he refused to let them. Then the apostle prayed to God and an extraordinary light encompassed him. This brilliant illumination lasted for half an hour, and when it disappeared, the apostle gave up his holy soul to God. Thus, the First-called Apostle, the first of the Twelve Great Apostles to know the Lord and follow Him, finished his earthly course. St. Andrew suffered for his Lord in the year 62. His relics were taken to Constantinople; his head was later taken to Rome, and one hand was taken to Moscow.
The Holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called (Pervozvyannii) was the first of the Apostles to follow Christ, and he afterwards brought to Christ his own brother the holy Apostle Peter (Jn. 1: 35-42). The future apostle was from Bethsaida, and from the time of his youth he turned with all his soul to God. He did not enter into marriage, and together with his brother he worked as a fisherman. When upon Israel thundered the voice of the holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord John, Saint Andrew became his closest disciple. Saint John the Baptist himself sent off to Christ his own two disciples, the future Apostles Andrew and John the Theologian, declaring Christ to be the Lamb of God.
After the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, Saint Andrew set off preaching the Word of God to the Eastern lands. He went through Asia Minor, Thrace, Macedonia, he reached along the River Dunaj (Danube), went along the coast of the Black Sea, through Crimea, the Black Sea Region and along the River Dniepr he climbed to the place, where now stands the city of Kiev. He stopped overnight on the hills of Kiev. Rising in the morning, he said to those disciples that were with him: “See ye these hills? Upon these hills will shine forth the beneficence of God, and there wilt be here a great city, and God shalt raise up many churches”. The apostle went up around the hills, blessed them and set up a cross. Having prayed, he went up even further along the Dniepr and reached a settlement of the Slavs, where Novgorod was built. From here the apostle went through the land of the Varangians towards Rome for preaching, and again he returned to Thrace, where in the small village of Byzantium — the future mighty Constantinople, he founded the Church of Christ. The name of the holy Apostle Andrew connects the mother — the Church of Constantinople, together with the daughter — the Russian Church.
On his journeys the First-Called Apostle endured many sufferings and torments from pagans: they cast him out from their cities and they beat him. In Sinope they pelted him with stones, but remaining unharmed, the persevering disciple of Christ continued to preaching about the Saviour to people. Through the prayers of the apostle, the Lord worked miracles. From the labours of the holy Apostle Andrew there emerged Christian Churches, for which he established bishops and clergy. The final city to which the First-Called Apostle came, and where it was allotted him to accept a martyr’s end, was the city of Patra.
The Lord manifest many a miracle through His disciple in Patra. The infirm were made whole, and the blind received their sight. Through the prayers of the apostle, the illustrious citizen Sosios recovered from serious illness; by the placing on of apostolic hands was healed Maximilla, wife of the governor of Patra, and his brother Stratokles. The miracles accomplished by the apostle and his fiery speech enlightened with the true faith almost all the citizens of the city of Patra. Few pagans that remained at Patra, but among them was the governor of the city, Aegeatos. The Apostle Andrew repeatedly turned to him with the words of Good-News [meaning of Euangelium, or Gospel]. But even the miracles of the apostle did not convince Aegeatos. The holy apostle with love and humility appealed to his soul, striving to reveal to him the Christian mystery of life eternal, through the wonderworking power of the Holy Cross of the Lord. The angry Aegeatos gave orders to crucify the apostle. The pagan thought to undo the preaching of Saint Andrew, if he were to give him over to death on the cross, which however the apostle glorified. Saint Andrew the First-Called accepted the decision of the governor with joy and with prayer to the Lord he himself went willingly to the place of execution. In order to prolong the suffering of the saint, Aegeatos gave orders not to nail down the hands and feet of the saint, but to tie them to the cross. From up on the cross for two days the apostle taught the citizens who gathered about. The people, in listening to him, with all their souls pitied him and tried to take the holy apostle down from the cross. Fearing a riot of the people, Aegeatos gave orders to stop the execution. But the holy apostle began to pray that the Lord would grant him death on the cross. Just as the soldiers tried to take hold of the Apostle Andrew, they lost control of their hands. The crucified apostle, having given glory to God, uttered: “Lord Jesus Christ, receive Thou my spirit”. Then a blazing ray of Divine light illumined the cross and the martyr crucified upon it. When the shining ceased, the holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called had already given up his holy soul to the Lord (+ 62). Maximilla, wife of the governor, had the body of the Apostle taken down from the cross, and buried him with honour.
A few centuries later, under the emperor Constantine the Great, the relics of the holy Apostle Andrew were solemnly transferred to Constantinople and placed in the church of the Holy Apostles alongside the relics of the holy Evangelist Luke and Apostle Paul’s disciple — the Disciple Timothy.
On Monday, November 21, 2011, the feast day of Archangel Michael and the Bodiless Heavenly Hosts, His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, celebrated Divine Liturgy at Archangel Michael Church in Cannes, France. He was joined in the service by Archimandrite Ieronim (Shurygin); Archimandrite Vasily (Pasquiet); Protopriest Leonid Kalinin; Priest Jean Gautier; Priest Alexander Korzhenevsky; Priest Anthony Odaisky, along with Deacon Eugene Kallaur. The choir sang joyously under the direction of Protopriest Michael Boikov, the Parish Rector, who is the official representative of the First Hierarch at the church.
At the end of the service, His Eminence delivered a sermon, then headed a moleben with a procession of the cross around the church. Before the veneration of the cross, His Eminence congratulated the parish rector on his namesday, wishing him strength, health and abundant mercies from the Lord in his service in this historic church. In memory of this day, Vladyka Hilarion gave Fr Michael an ancient icon depicting this feast day.
At the trapeza, organized by the parish sisterhood in the church yard, the Primate of the Church Abroad continued to spend time with the clergymen and parishioners in a friendly atmosphere.
The following day, having once again venerated the holy relics of Archangel Michael Church and the graves of Russian Orthodox Christians, His Eminence and his delegation departed for New York.
On Saturday 5 November 2011 the Holy Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God was brought to the Protection of the Holy Virgin parish in Cabramatta.
The Divine Liturgy was celebrated by His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad together with the rector Archpriest Boris Ignatievsky, Deacon Ivan Bots and visiting clergy. His Grace Archbishop Gabriel of Montreal and Canada was also present.
At the appointed time His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion ordained to the Holy Diaconate Sub-deacon Andrew Morgan to serve at the Protection parish.
In the afternoon the Holy Kursk-Root icon left Sydney to travel to the parishes of other states, firstly to the Dormition Church in Dandenong and then to the Joy of All Who Sorrow Church in Geelong for its Parish Feast Day on Sunday 24 October/6 November 2011.
The members of the 2nd Episcopal Assembly of all canonical Orthodox Bishops of Oceania welcomed once again the opportunity to meet in Sydney from October 16-17, 2011, under the chairmanship ex officio of His Eminence Archbishop Stylianos of Australia.
The Assembly commenced with prayer at the central offices of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, Redfern.
Present were: His Eminence Archbishop Stylianos (Ecumenical Patriarchate – Australia), His Eminence Metropolitan Paul (Antiochian Patriarchate), His Grace Bishop Irinej (Serbian Church), His Grace Bishop Mihail (Romanian Church), His Eminence Metropolitan Amphilochios (Ecumenical Patriarchate – New Zealand), His Grace Bishop Ezekiel (Assistant Bishop), His Grace Bishop Seraphim (Assistant Bishop), His Grace Bishop Nikandros (Assistant Bishop), His Grace Bishop Iakovos (Assistant Bishop), the Very Rev. Father Michael Protopopov (representing His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of the Russian Orthodox Church) who read a letter of greeting from His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion) and Rev. Father Michael Smolynec (representing His Eminence Archbishop Ioan of Parnassou of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the Diaspora).
The Bishops continued the work of the first Assembly, held in Sydney in October last year, and heard the Reports of the respective Committees.
It was unanimously agreed:
1. To arrange an annual Synaxis meeting of Clergy of all canonical jurisdictions for the purpose of forming brotherly relations and to have collaboration in carrying out the decisions of the Assembly on a local level;
2. To launch an official website of the Assembly that will inform our faithful of its work and provide a source of information, that would include a catalogue of canonical Clergyand thereby knowledge of schismatic groups;
3. To seek legal opinion with regard to the suggested promulgation of a Statute for the Episcopal Assembly of Oceania;
4. To organise a common celebration to mark the 1,700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan in 2013;
5. To respond formally to the Healthcare Chaplaincy Council of Victoria affirming the position of the canonical Churches in relation to Hospital Chaplaincy, without ignoring the pastoral dimension of ministering to all infirm Orthodox, irrespective of national backgrounds; and
6. To bring together prominent Orthodox theologians, medical doctors, psychologists, ethicists, legal and public policy experts to enable the Hierarchs of Oceania to issue responsible joint statements with regard to the ethical dimensions of proposed Government legislation.
The Assembly received a Report on the draft Act of Parliament for the recognition of all canonical Orthodox Churches in New Zealand, and specifically with regard to the registration of Marriage Celebrants.
Another Report was received from the Committee on Campus Ministry, which met under the co-Chairmanship of His Grace Bishop Irinej and His Grace Bishop Ezekiel, the primary focus of which was to develop Orthodox Chaplaincy in tertiary educational institutions. The Assembly confirmed the proposal of the Committee to appoint His Grace Bishop Iakovos of Miletoupolis to Chair the Committee.
The Assembly reaffirms its unity in our Lord Jesus Christ, and in brotherly love, committing ourselves to work together for the good of the holy Orthodox Church and its children in Australia and throughout Oceania.
Dated 17th October, 2011
His Eminence Archbishop Stylianos (Ecumenical Patriarchate – Australia)
His Eminence Metropolitan Paul (Antiochian Patriarchate)
His Grace Bishop Irinej (Serbian Church)
His Grace Bishop Mihail (Romanian Church)
His Eminence Metropolitan Amphilochios (Ecumenical Patriarchate – New Zealand)
In September, 2011, a delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia brought the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God “of the Sign” to Kazakhstan. During the icon’s stay in Almaty, Archbishop Mark, who headed the delegation, granted an interview to the magazine Light of Orthodoxy in Kazakhstan.
— Vladyka, tell us please about the life of the Russian Orthodox Church in Germany. Who comprise the majority of your parishioners, Russian emigres or native Germans? What language is used during divine services?
— Until 1990, our parishioners were mostly emigres of the first and second waves, that is, those who fled Russia after 1917 and after World War II. Many of them gradually moved to America and Australia, so our parishes began to decline by 1990. When the borders opened, Germans from the Soviet Union were allowed to relocate to Germany, so there was an infusion of new blood, mostly from Kazakhstan. Before 1990, the language of our divine services was half Church Slavonic and half German, but by the early 1990’s we started serving mostly in Church Slavonic.
But now we again have a tendency towards using German, because the children of the immigrants don’t have the same motivation to preserve the Russian language and culture as the old emigres did, and for this reason we serve partly in German. It is usually like this: a priest serves in Slavonic, while the Gospel, Epistle and one or two litanies are read in German. In some parishes it’s the opposite, once a month they serve in German, but the Epistle and some litanies are read in Slavonic.
As far as Germans who have converted to Orthodoxy are concerned, they are few, but a small percentage exists in every parish. There are also people among our parishioners who come to Germany temporarily, for work or school: college students, professors and scholars.
— Do you have converts to Orthodoxy from Catholicism or Protestantism?
— There are such people, but they represent a very small percentage. Our priests are working in this direction. We have a yearly seminar for people who are interested in Orthodoxy, and we acquaint them with our lives and some of them accept Holy Baptism.
— You minister to parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia not only in Germany, but in Great Britain, too. Is the church situation there different?
— Yes, it is different. As I said, in Germany, there is a large percentage of parishioners who are from Kazakhstan, so-called Russian Germans. You don’t find these people in Great Britain. There, the parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church have a small number of Greek Russians, but not many at all. Mostly these are people who moved to the country for various reasons, mostly for work, some of them moved there permanently, others only for a time.
— You were born and reared in a Protestant family. How is it that you, a German by blood, became a bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church?
— When I was a young man, I studied in the philological department, Slavistics and Old Russian, Ancient Russian literature, Church Slavonic. That is how I became acquainted with the spiritual literature of Old Rus. A greater impression was made on me by the works of St Nilus of Sora. When I read them, I understood that I must become a monk, choose the path of service to the Church. I grasped that the Truth was in Orthodox Christianity. That is why there was no question that I must leave Protestantism.
But I did not immediately become a monk, I prepared for many years: I would travel to Mt Athos, and learned a great deal from the old Russian startsy there. Since we needed priests in Germany, I was ordained to the priesthood. I did not dream of becoming a hierarch, but that was what the Church decided.
— You actively participated in the process of reunification of the Russian Church Abroad with the Moscow Patriarchate. What changed in your life after this finally took place?
— It is very significant that we now have the opportunity to have such close contact, to pray together, to serve together. This is the most important thing. We now participate in all the events of Russia, we participate in the Councils of Bishops. I think this is of great importance.
— We know that after the reunification of the Churches, some members of ROCOR did not recognize the unification and preferred an independent path in church life, for instance, Lesna Convent in France. What can be said now about this group?
— Sadly, these people are so blinded, so fanatical, that they are incapable of recognizing the actual situation in Russia, in the Russian Church, and so they have torn themselves away from the Church. This causes us great pain, because among them are parishes, monasteries that were dear to us. They broke off, without seeking counsel, some even giving no hint that they were disturbed by the process of reunification, simply declaring suddenly that they are no longer with us. A schism such as this in any organism is painful, and, of course, many of us suffer greatly from what happened. On the other hand, in numbers, this is a very small percentage and does not represent the real face of our Church.
— Is this your first visit to Kazakhstan?
— Yes, the first.
— What are your impressions?
— I had read a great deal about Kazakhstan and also heard much from my parishioners. But one gets a more profound impression in person. I must say that I was very happy to have the possibility to come to know the believers of your country. In Astana and Almaty, we met civil representatives and I understood that the attitude towards the Church and the faithful is positive here. This is very important for us. I think that many of those who left this country in the 1990’s did so to escape what they feared would be heightened tension with the government. At the same time, as I see it now, this relationship is very positive. I think that the Orthodox people here have a future and must hold fast to their faith, their rules, their way of life.
Visiting the expanses of Kazakhstan, I feel in my heart that this is truly an antimension under the open skies. Every populated place here is connected with the name of a New Martyr or Confessor, every kilometer of Kazakhstan soil was bathed with the blood of those suffering for Christ.
Karaganda occupies a special place on the spiritual map of the country, having preserved until this day a living memory of the death camps—Karlag, Steplag, Peschanlag, and other horrible places of torture and executions of innocent people. A great holy man of God shone in Karaganda, Elder Sevastian, in whose podvig we see witness for Christ as was the continuation of the prayerful podvigi of the holy Elders of Optina.
— You often accompany the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God on its pilgrimages to various countries. What does this holy icon mean to you?
— Even as a layman, I frequently had the opportunity to pray before this icon. Later, as it turned out, the first month of my priesthood I was appointed to travel together with another priest and this icon to several of our parishes. I saw how the people were drawn to this holy image and witnessed miracles happening in its presence. So not only I but many of our clergymen became very attached to this miracle-working icon.
— Could you share one of the miracles you witnessed?
— At one parish I had attended for many years as a layman, I accompanied the icon not only to church but to the homes of sick people. We took the icon to one very old woman whom I knew well; she had been unable to walk for several years. She asked that we warn her in advance of our arrival so that she could have her son come and open the apartment. But when we arrived, she opened the door herself and after that, she would walk to church by herself, and for several years. This was the first genuine miracle that I witnessed. But later I was witness to very many miraculous events.
— Allow us to thank you on behalf of our readers for heading the delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia which allowed us to venerate this great holy icon of the Orthodox Church.
— We are very thankful to His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia and the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York, who blessed the visit of the Hodigitria of the Russian diaspora to your country.
I would like to thank His Eminence Metropolitan Alexander of Astana and Kazakhstan, the head of this Metropolitan District, for organizing the visit of the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God to Kazakhstan. It was his good initiative that the people of Astana, Karaganda and Almaty, over two hundred thousand of them, and over a short period of time, could venerate the holy icon.
I also thank the archpastors of the dioceses of the Kazakhstan Metropoliate, Vladyka Metropolitan Seraphim of Borjomi and Bakurian, and the clergymen and faithful for sharing this joy of common prayer.
— May the Lord save you, Vladyka, thank you for this interview. I hope that we will once again see you on Kazakhstan’s soil.
Metropolitan District of Kazakhstan/Patriarchia.ru
– Vladyka, please tell us about your “new homeland.” Where were you born?
– I was born in Western Canada, in the Province of Alberta, where there were a great many Ukrainian settlers. My parents immigrated to Canada in 1929 from Ukraine, which at that time was part of Poland. They had lived in Volhynia guberniya. After World War One, Poland was granted the western part of Ukraine—Volhynia oblast, Galicia, etc. During World War II, the Soviet Union seized these territories. But by that time, my parents were already in Canada. At home we spoke Ukrainian, and English at school. My first language is English.
– Did you not speak any Russian as a child?
– I began to study Russian only when I enrolled in Seminary, in New York State, where I received my theological training.
– What memories do you have from your childhood?
– At that time, all the Ukrainians lived on farms. Canada is an enormous country and there are vast tracts of land, such as in Texas and Oklahoma. For the first few years, we lived far from school, and along with other school-age children, I walked two-and-a-half miles to school every day. Sometimes someone would give us a ride. During the spring, when it was muddy, it would stick to our shoes, and it would be hard to walk. But it was fun, and safe—we all knew each other. During the winter, if the ditches were filled with ice and not covered by snowdrifts, I would skate part of the time to the bus, or take another road. I had a very pleasant childhood, absolutely free of any harmful influences. No one even knew that illegal drugs existed… Since early childhood I loved the Church and decided that I would become a priest at the age of six or seven.
– Do you remember your first visit to church?
– Yes. We would go to Holy Trinity Church in the farming village of Spirit River, where everyone was Ukrainian. First there was a little church, which at the time seemed very big to me. After a while, they built a new, bigger church. It was consecrated by Archbishop Panteleimon, who headed the Diocese in Canada. He often visited our parish and served there, because we had a dearth of priests, and divine services were not held often: once a month or even every two months. Archbishop Panteleimon himself traveled 400 miles by bus to visit us in order to conduct services on days off. He was my idol, I revered him. Once he gave me his blessing and said: “Someday you will be a priest,” as though he could see my future.
Services were held in Church Slavonic. My mother sang on the kliros, and though I really wanted to serve in the altar or go to the kliros, I was afraid, because only adults served in the altar then, and they didn’t allow children there for some reason. I yearned to go, but just didn’t dare. It was only after I joined the seminary that I could frequent the kliros, because I could sing. I learned the order of divine services, which are very complicated—you have to know when to go where at what time, learn the order of divine services. Later I learned to serve as an acolyte and I continued to serve until my ordination. All this was at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY.
– Vladyka, you graduated seminary in 1972, and in 1976 you graduated from Syracuse University with a Master’s Degree in Slavic Studies and Literature. Why did you decide to also get a lay education, having already gotten theological training?
– Our Vladyka Laurus blessed several monks to enroll in the university to obtain academic status and have the chance to teach at seminary. Our seminary already has state accreditation from the State of New York, and Vladyka wanted to elevate the quality of teaching of Russian language and literature so that the quality of our seminary education in these subjects would improve. We studied Church Slavonic, Old Russian and Old Slavonic at the university. A very kind, nice man by the name of Yakov Panteleimonovich Gursky taught this subject, and there were also other Russian and American teachers.
– Vladyka, it wouldn’t be totally inappropriate for me to call you a colleague, for you were the editor-in-chief of a magazine at one time…
– Starting with my second year at Seminary at Jordanville, I began to work as a typesetter, when I didn’t even know Russian yet. I was appointed to typeset Orthodox Life in English, the editor of which at the time was Archimandrite Konstantin (Zaitsev)—a highly-educated but older person born in St Petersburg before the Revolution. As a result of his age, it was difficult for him to execute the duties of editor, and so that job was soon assigned to me. After some time my boss in the print shop, Hieromonk Ignaty told me to do the Russian typesetting, too. This helped me learn the Russian language a great deal, because while typesetting, you had to read and proofread, and even correct, text.
– Now the main problem faced by any editor is financing. What was your main headache at the time?
– My biggest challenge as editor-in-chief was to find material. There were no financial issues, since we had our own printing presses at the monastery. But we had to collect materials and do translations. Some people we knew would submit texts. There were a great many biographies of saints translated then, which I asked not only monastics but visiting laypersons, too. Russian articles were translated into English. Our journal was published six times a year. It is still published today, but improved, with a new format. Things were a lot more difficult then. It was hard to work with the old linotype machines. Molten lead was used for the galleys. The press would often jam, and we had to clean out the metal. Sometimes it would splash in your face, your beard, your feet. Sometimes you couldn’t do any work for a whole day as a result, having to clean the equipment instead. Sometimes the typeset assemblage would fall apart and you had to begin all over again…
– Vladyka Hilarion, you have a beautiful lay name—Igor Kapral. Was it hard to abandon it and get used to a new, ecclesiastical name? Why were you given the name Hilarion?
– Sometimes a priest can request a specific name. I didn’t, but I had a feeling it would be Hilarion. I liked the name, I revered Metropolitan Hilarion, who entered Russian history books as the first Russian metropolitan of Kiev and All Russia. Archbishop Averky (Taushev), who tonsured me, gave me that name. Of course, when you are tonsured and given a new name, it is difficult at first to get used to it. But I was happy that I got this name, because my saint is Schema-monk Hilarion of the Kievo-Pecherskaya Lavra. Vladyka Averky thought that he was a metropolitan first, only later taking on the schema. But some scholars think these were two different saints. The Kievo-Pecherskaya Lavra has the relics of St Hilarion, and whenever I am there I always venerate them.
– In 1974, you were ordained a priest, and in 1984 you were already made Bishop of Manhattan. In lay terms, that is a brilliant, skyrocketing career…
– At first I served a few years as a priest-monk in the monastery, as I worked at the printing press. I was often sent to parishes to replace priests who were away. I celebrated Pascha and other church holidays in Cleveland, where there was no priest at all, and in Pennsylvania… In this way I learned the practical aspects of serving in parishes. This proved very important in preparing me for service as a bishop. A bishop really should know the local conditions in distant parishes.
I knew Pennsylvania pretty well, and I often visited Washington, DC, when I was Bishop of Manhattan. In 1995, I was given the title of Bishop of Washington, but that only lasted one year: in 1996, I was sent to the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand. In America, my work stretched throughout the Eastern American Diocese, which included Maine, New York, Washington and Florida. I often visited the southern states, and sometimes I was invited to parishes of the Chicago Diocese.
Since 1996, most of my life has been connected with Australia—there full-time for 12 years, then two or three years of visiting them for periods of time. At first I was sorry to leave my diocese on the Eastern Seaboard of the US, because we had been opening new churches here, I ordained many clergymen here, so it was hard to say goodbye. But I accepted the obedience laid upon me, left for Australia and came to love the flock there a great deal, and again it was hard to leave. I hoped to remain there for the rest of my life. Many people begged me not to leave, to stay in Australia, because I remain to this day Ruling Bishop of Sydney, Australia and New Zealand. I hope that a vicar bishop is found soon who could live there and help me. Now I have no such vicar, so the ongoing diocesan matters are left to me alone to tend to.
– But the Orthodox believers of this country do not want a different bishop, preferring that you remain their ruling bishop. Why is that?
– Before me, Australia had not had a regular bishop for five years. Archbishop Paul, my predecessor, fell seriously ill and could not rule. Various bishops were sent there, but the lack of a bishop in a diocese leads to various problems and conflicts, that is why it is important for an archpastor to be there. Some parishes and priests wanted to be independent of the diocese. When they left for another church, they took church property with them, and the church buildings. We had to protect the interests of the diocese and stem this. Even before me, a Property Trust had been set up for the diocese, though it had its flaws.
We worked on the text of the founding document and amended it, and sent it to all the priests and parishioners for consideration. In the end, at a specially-convened diocesan assembly, at which both clergy and laypersons participated, it passed a vote. It was then submitted to Parliament. After the New South Wales Parliament approved it, everyone relaxed. This was a great accomplishment.
The diocese had a shortage of priests then, we had to find candidates, do missionary work, because there were Australians who wanted to convert to Orthodoxy. We had to strengthen the diocese and its church life.
– Vladyka, after the death of Metropolitan Laurus, the Council of Bishops of ROCOR elected you the sixth Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and elevated you to the rank of metropolitan. Was this a surprise to you or did you sense that events would unfold in such a way?
– I very much feared that this would happen, because Vladyka Laurus had appointed me his deputy with the approval of the Council of Bishops. Vladyka hoped that I would replace him. I hoped that Vladyka Laurus would live for a long time, and didn’t even want to imagine becoming metropolitan. But after his death, which was a great shock to me, I anticipated this moment, the [decision of the] approaching Council, with fear and trembling. Unfortunately, I was elected. I feared this because it is such a heavy cross to bear. But I thank God that day after day, problems are being handled, though they are replaced with new ones, but by Divine mercy they also get resolved. One must pray fervently for God to help.
– What is your main mission as First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad?
– My main duty as the Primate is to be the senior bishop in our Orthodox family, which is scattered throughout the Western world. I must also convene meetings of the Synod of Bishops, at which bishops gather three or four times a year, as well as other representatives of dioceses. I convene the Council of Bishops, to which all the hierarchs of the Church Abroad come, to discuss and decide the fundamental questions in the life of the Church. So the role of the First Hierarch is to unite everyone, to keep them all together. When bishops convene in Russia, or some important church event takes place, the First Hierarch acts as representative of the Russian Church Abroad. The First Hierarch also has his own diocese. As I said, my own dioceses include both those of Eastern America and Australia and New Zealand.
– Vladyka, how many parishes now comprise the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia?
– It is difficult to answer this question. Not long ago we had 500 parishes, but I think we have many more now. Although after the reunification in 2007, some parishes, for instance, in South America and a few American states, broke away. A great many new communities have sprung up in their place, consisting of Russians who are now scattered throughout the whole world, and new missions are being formed. Recently 12 priests have appeared in Indonesia, there is a mission in Haiti, where we have two priests, and about 7 native Haitians will soon be going to the Russian Orthodox seminary in Paris, France. I am hoping that they become Orthodox clergymen. The Dominican Republic now has a community, and there is one in Costa Rica. South America is a problem, financially, and because of the lack of clergymen and the schism. In Guatemala there is a large group of people, mostly local natives who wish to convert to Orthodoxy. There are many examples of America priests, Catholics and Lutherans who accept Orthodoxy together with their entire parishes. Some of them wish to preserve the Western Rite, and we give our consent. The Western Rite was actually permitted by the Russian Orthodox Church in the 19th century. Now we have 20-25 such communities.
– Vladyka, how does the process of gathering parishes happen in practice?
– Very naturally, very normally. We can breathe easy, because there is no division now, no quarrels or accusations, and we can move forward together in love and mutual understanding. The path of schism is unconstructive and leads to nothing good. One Church has not consumed the other, there is no inequality in our relations. Many priests from Russia now visit us, and we can pray together. This greatly enriches our spiritual life. We can participate in conferences and our youth can socialize.
– Vladyka, these are not the simplest of times: there is a global economic crisis, catastrophes and natural disasters occur, people are frightened by talk of the end of the world. How is a person to endure all this? Whence comes spiritual strength?
– Of course, it is in faith. One should remember that God suffered for us, and suffers now together with us now. The cause of all tragedies is the sinfulness of mankind. One must pray that God protect us from such things, and remember that God is love, He desires our salvation. All earthly things are perishable and temporary, while ahead of us is eternity, which will be blessed and joyous.
– Your favorite prayer, which you would recommend that all Orthodox Christians learn?
– O Heavenly King, O Comforter, the Spirit of truth, Who art in all places, and fills all things; Treasury of good things, and Giver of Life, come dwell in us and cleanse us from our every stain, and save our souls, O gracious Lord.