Part II of The Zealot of Athos and Moscow: Back to Russia
In the second part of the life of Elder Ilarion we follow him back to Russia, which was soon to be overtaken by the darkest times in its history. We see him giving spiritual guidance to a dispersed convent of nuns before and after their exile in Kazakhstan, and then learn of  the elder’s part in the extraordinary story of the hiding of the head of Saint Sergius of Radonezh, ending with a moving account of the first Divine Liturgy at the Trinity St Sergius Monastery, which had been closed for 26 years.


The Moscow Monastery of the Meeting of the Vladimir Icon of the Theotokos

Archbishop Sergey’s memoirs tell us that in 1905, “Father Ilarion, together with his elder, Schema-Abbot Kirill, were sent to Russia to collect alms for the monastery, but were not destined to return”. The same is repeated by the elder’s spiritual daughter, Schema-nun Theoktista (Govorova), who mentions also that it was a time of great need in Athos. We know no more about Father Ilarion’s life in Russia in the years from 1905–1914.

Archbishop Sergey also says that Father Ilarion, after the demise of his elder, Kirill, who is buried at the Lazarevskoye Cemetery, “considered Schema-Archimandrite Zacharias[1] his elder and sometimes sought his advice when in Moscow”.

In an official work sheet from Soviet times, we read that from 1914 to 1923, Father Ilarion “served the cult duties” in the Moscow Monastery of the Meeting of the Vladimir Icon; from 1923 to 1935 he was at the church of St Sergey in the village of Zabolotye; from 1935… - Here the record comes to an end unfinished.

In the Moscow monastery of the Meeting of the Vladimir Icon, Father Ilarion was the Father-treasurer. There is a mention in the archive materials[2] of a certain Abbot Ilarion being in 1921 a member of the monastery governing council and, though no surname is mentioned, we can presumably refer this to be Father Ilarion (Udodov).

Spiritual Father to a dispersed convent

A cloistral hamlet in the village of Chernetzovo

In 1923, at the request of the sisters from the Moscow convent of St John the Baptist, closed by that time by the communist government, Father Ilarion became their Father confessor and moved to the small cloistral hamlet situated not far from the station Mark of the Saviolovo Railway.

Before the changes of the 1917 revolution, the monastery used to send money, clothes and footwear to its Zabolotye rural branch, receiving in exchange vegetables and dairy products. During the revolutionary years, many sisters from Moscow were dispersed and lived in their parents’ homes or elsewhere though the convent still tried to help those who stayed in the hamlet. However, the time came when all the sisters gathered in their rural cloister. This latter used to be under obedience to the Mother Superior Epiphania (lay name Elisaveta Dmitrievna Mitiushina) then living in the Moscow convent, only coming to the rural farmstead from time to time, while the immediate management of the small sisterhood was the concern of its eldest nun. But when, in 1927, the main convent in Moscow was closed and all the sisters expelled from their cells, a large part of them together with Mother Epiphania moved to the remaining rural place.

All of the sisters were steadfast followers of Patriarch Tikhon. When coming to Moscow, they usually went to pray at the church of St Nicholas the Great Cross, on Ilyinskaya Street, or at some other Moscow church, but only provided there were no prayers said for metropolitan Sergey (Stragorodsky) and the atheistic government. Left without any spiritual guidance, the sisters of the ravaged nunnery felt too acutely their vulnerability and weakness. Spiritual consolation soon came from Father Ilarion who met one of the novice sisters, Elena Cherenkova, in the monastery of the Meeting of the Vladimir Icon when she came to Moscow for her daily work; she was then earning her living by washing linen.

Having moved to Chernetzovo, the elder took up residence in a cell at the church dedicated to Saint Sergey of Radonezh, built in 1893–1895. There he continued to celebrate liturgies up until its closure on May 20, 1931.

In 1929, Mother Epiphania, the last mother superior of the closed convent of St John the Baptist, which had been in her charge since 1907, died. Father Ilarion performed the burial service at the cloister rural graveyard, numbering about a hundred nuns’ graves by that time. Her pastoral staff was put into the grave together with her, as there was nobody to succeed the abbess in those tragic circumstances.

On the eve of the New 1931 Year, one of the successive mass repressions took place in Moscow, with many clergy and monastics being taken into custody, fifteen sisters from the St John the Baptist convent among them. All were put into the Butyrki prison, charged with anti-Soviet propaganda and sentenced to three to five years of exile in Kazakhstan.

Within a couple of months, the repressions reached the countryside as well. On the night of May 21, 1931, every single one of the nuns or novices in the Chernetzovo hamlet was taken into custody, revealed to the local government by a local informant. The charge was always the same, and quite usual for those times: methodical anti-Soviet propaganda among the local population of the surrounding villages, agitation against compulsory work in collective farms and against other “social campaigns of the government”. None of the accused pleaded guilty, nor denied her faith and convictions. On June 28, 1931, all of them were sentenced to five (twenty eight nuns) or three (three novices) years of concentration camps and deported under guard to Kazakhstan.

Father Ilarion was not taken in, which caused him deep grief, as Schema-nun Theoktista witnessed: “He wept much over the imprisoned sisters and used to repeat that he wished he had been taken in their stead. He was left to work in the collective farm as there was great need for someone to fix carts, wooden sledges and other agricultural implements. He sent them parcels of food as often as he could.”

The house in the monastic hamlet was sealed after the sisters had been arrested, and the seventy year-old Father Ilarion had to move into the belfry of the church of Saint Sergey of Radonezh. Later on, he happened to live there in seclusion for several years., An elderly nun named Matrona, from the Moscow Nikitsky Convent, which by that time was also closed, came to help him from time to time, travelling from the Moscow suburb of Lobnya, where she was living with the last mother superior of the nunnery, the nun Mariam., Father Ilarion very seldom went out of his seclusion to go to see his younger brother Deacon Piotr in Moscow. Having learnt of the oncoming demolition of the Lazarevskoye Cemetery, where Schema-Abbot Kirill had been buried (the authorities in Moscow planned to build a park for the Young Pioneers with various recreational facilities on its site), he carried his spiritual father’s remains over to the quiet hamlet graveyard. Nowadays a forest grows there, on the edge of which one may see three graves still extant: of Mother superior Epiphania, of Schema-Abbot Kirill and of nun Elisaveta (Borodina) who died in 1903.

More and more new repressions were taking place in Russia. On the night of April 16, 1932, about a hundred clergy and those of lower ecclesiastical ranks were taken into custody in Moscow, Deacon Piotr, the younger brother of our elder, among them.

Piotr Khrisanfovich Udodov was born on June 28, 1876. Having in 1889 finished a course in a parish school, he enjoyed chanting in a church choir, as he had a good voice and the love of liturgical cervices. Having come of age he left home for St Petersburg, where he was accepted to the choir of the Alexander Nevsky Lavra as a monasterial cantor. After the 1917 revolution he lived in the countryside as a simple peasant. In 1921 he came to his elder brother in Moscow[3] and worked as a stoker for three months. At that time Father Ilarion was the treasurer of the Moscow Monastery of the Meeting of the Vladimir Icon of the Theotokos, whose Father superior, Bishop Ilarion (Troitsky), now counted among the holy hierarch martyrs of the Orthodox Church, proposed to Father Ilarion to invite his brother to the monastery and ordain him a deacon. Piotr agreed, and very soon Metropolitan Eusebius of Krutitza appointed him for ordination and Bishop Ilarion ordained him deacon, after which he performed his duties in Moscow churches: first, in the church of the Holy Martyrs Florus and Laurus at the Myasnitsky Gates, then in the church of the Forty Martyrs that is opposite the New Saviour Monastery.

In 1932, the time for confessing his faith came for Father Piotr. On April 15, he was arrested and faced with the charge of involvement in the “criminal conspiracy of Priest Nikolay Alexandrov and others”. His personal guilt consisted in “regular anti-Soviet propaganda” and “organizing a highly extensive network for gathering money and food for the clergy in exile”. The notes of his interrogation occupied ten handwritten lines. No answers were given at all to any political questions. A detail interesting for us here is that in his examination record of April 23, 1932, Father Ilarion is mentioned as “the archimandrite of the former convent of St John the Baptist”.

On May 10, 1932, Father Piotr Udodov was pleaded guilty by the Special Soviet at the State Security Board under clause 58—10 of the Criminal Code: “Criminal gang around the churches of the city of Moscow, anti-Soviet propaganda among the clergymen and spreading defamation of the state policy” – and sent into exile, which was, most probably, in the town of Pavlovsk in the Altai territory.

Priesthood in the Church of the Vladimir Icon of the Theotokos in the village of Vinogradovo

In 1935, Schema-Archimandrite Ilarion was invited by the rural dean, the Archpriest Konstantin Speransky, to perform his priestly functions in the church of the village of Vinogradovo “at the Long Lake”.

That ancient village, situated a few kilometres from the Chernetzovo hamlet, was interesting both historically and architecturally. Up to the present time one can find the old lords’ mansion houses, the entrance gates of the old estate, a bridge and a system of running water ponds dating to the late 18th century, as well as the church of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God, built in 1772-1777, which, together with the belfry and the parish clergy house, comprise one of the most beautiful sights in the vicinity of Moscow.

We can read about Father Ilarion’s first appearance in the village of Vinogradovo in the memoirs of a parishioner of the Vladimir icon church, signed with the initials M.Sh.[4]:

“It was at a church service devoted to our Vinogradovo church feast of the Vladimir Icon that I saw Father Archimandrite Ilarion for the first time, in the year 1931. He was invited by Father Viktor, the father superior of our church from 1918 to 1933. The way he served in church was rather unusual, being filled with some special prayerful mood, some special sincerity which undoubtedly moved those gathered in church to heartfelt spiritual feelings and deep reverence before God.”

In the early thirties, near the Dolgoprudnoye station on the Saviolovo railroad, a centre of scientific and athletic aeronautics was being organized, aimed at airship building and the future construction of the Moscow airship port. In April 1931, Dirigiblestroy, a workers’ settlement, arose there. In 1937 a gas plant was put into operation, producing hydrogen for dirigibles and other airships.

M.Sh. writes that Father Ilarion was keen on helping the workers building the new plant, and for such “social work of great care for the workers” the plant’s higher-ups placed different transport at his disposal, as much as he needed for trucking the church utensils and the iconostasis from the Chernetzovo hamlet to the new place of his priesthood. Thus, unbelievably enough, Father Ilarion managed to save from profanation and carry onto the new place all church property from the closed church of Saint Sergey. “Such an amazing thing was only possible because of the great meritorious service Father Ilarion was never too lazy to offer to everyone”, wrote M.Sh.

Father Ilarion brought with him to the new place the carved wooden iconostasis and some venerated icons in addition – of Saint John the Baptist, with a particle of his relics, and the Chernigov icon of the Theotokos. Protopriest Vladimir Zhavoronkov says that a particle of Saint Sergey’s relics and some hairs from his head were also brought from his church, after which the elder arranged an additional side altar dedicated to Saint Sergey of Radonezh and built a wooden choir stall there with his own hands.

In 1936, the father superior of the Vladimir church, Archpriest Konstantin Speransky, was arrested and no more information ever came about him, which most probably meant that he was shot, or died in the concentration camp. The same fate, common for thousands of absolutely innocent people in the Soviet Union of the 1930s, could have very possibly befallen Father Ilarion as well. The local people came to love the elder very much and they found ways to speak in his defence before the local authorities as having skilful hands for every kind of work and never refusing anybody his help.

In 1936 Schema-Archimandrite Ilarion was appointed the father superior of the Vladimir church. He moved into the chapel where the previous father superior had lived before him. On the ground floor there was one common room for clergy, with a Russian stove for cooking and baking the prosphora for liturgy; the priest’s tiny bedroom was on the first floor.

Deacon Piotr Udodov returned from exile in 1935 and was appointed to the Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul in Lefortovo, and in 1936 to the Church of the Placing of the Honourable Robe of the Theotokos at Blachernae, on Donskaya Street. In 1944, he was ordained priest and sent to serve together with his brother in the village of Vinogradovo.

Time passed, and one by one the exiled sisters returned from Kazakhstan. They remembered that people there had pitied them and helped them with food and clothes, making those years lit up with mercy for them. They even were able to adhere to their usual rhythm of monastic rules, observing fasts and reading all their monastic prayers. They had never ceased to pray to their common patron saint – the Holy Prophet John the Baptist.

Mother Theoktista (Kononova) tells a funny story: “One of our sisters, during her Kazakhstan exile, used to ask St John the Baptist for some comfort for all the sisters. Once she asked him to send them some pies (maybe it was on the occasion of some religious feast; she did not remember) – and the prophet came to her in a dream, saying: ‘Who do you ask for sweet pies?! Me?  known advocate of fasting who lived his life in a desert! For that ask your Nicholas, who likes to spoil his naughty children!’”

Here is another story also written down by mother Theoktista:

“In Semipalatinsk a woman came to meet us with two buckets of hot water and a sack of dry bread. We knew that we were following two groups of other exiled – somebody had told us that they were prostitutes. The woman told us: ‘I’m here to meet you exactly, I know for sure. The Mother of God came to me this night and said that I should meet the third group. She insisted, saying: ‘Go and meet them with some food. Let the two first groups pass by; mine are those in the third one’. We all wept together for joy! And you have to imagine that Semipalatinsk! The sandy wind blocks the doors with heaps of sand at nights!”

On their return from Kazakhstan, the sisters found dwelling places and work in villages and small towns, trying to settle somewhere as near to their elder as possible. Several of them were lucky to find room in the village of Vinogradovo. Together with the elders Ilarion and Piotr they made up a tiny secret monastic community.

The church in Vinogradovo lived a new life thanks to the elder’s great care and toils. “Before Father Ilarion came to Vinogradovo, the church there was in a very sad state,” recalls M.Sh. “Birch-trees growing on its roof, the cornices and plasterwork falling apart, everything in obvious want of repairs. And it had been so for many long years. But then, in quite a short time, the church gained quite another appearance, both inside and outside”.

The elder never failed to take part in all repair work, including that carried out on the dome. “It is not an easy thing even for those young and those used to building works to climb up the dome, hanging on a chain, and fix the cross. Many were afraid and refused, while the eighty year-old archimandrite would only say: ‘God will help me, if necessary’ – and climbed up himself.

“He also did the heavy stone work without any hesitation: thus, he made an extra exit from the chancel himself, which involved breaking through a wall of about a meter’s width; the passage to the central choir area was widened. An artesian well within the church territory was improved and an iron shed built above it, with a cast-iron gutter made by hand out of a special T-shaped beam; the floor was made anew of oak, after which it served for more than twenty years undamaged. In his own cell, the elder invented a “heating system”: an iron pipe going through the whole room from the oil stove”.

M.Sh. draws our attention to the elder’s amazing ability to make highly precise engineering calculations without any working drawings, just in his head, as well as to his unusual intuition enabling him to find optimum decisions when building all kinds of constructions. She writes:

“The love of physical work was something inalienable from this spiritual elder, who every day indulged in planing wood or hammering iron, building or mending something – so that plain people conceived great respect and admiration for him.

“His clever fingers, as they would say, would every other moment mend a suit for somebody, fix a clock or a watch, construct a stove with all those intricate devices in it, mend an iron roof and so on and so forth. The elder would always answer all requests and you would simply open your mouth, wondering how he could ever manage everything – the great amazement caused not only by the immeasurable quantity of works but by the particular accuracy and profound rational approach involved in all of them as well.

“And what could he possibly get in exchange? ‘Thank you so much, dear Father!’ – the people around him were often penniless! It all came from pure love and sympathy towards his neighbours. 

“Once I witnessed his work at repairing a floor that had collapsed because of the rotten beams under it. The master of that house in the village asked him to make a hatch leading to the cellar. ‘As you wish, my dear’, answered the elder. When the work was finally over, the master of the house saw the very smooth surface and was embarrassed. ‘Didn’t I ask you to make a hatch here?’, he asked. ‘Oh, here it is!’ answered the elder. ‘Let me just put a ring into that plank’. And indeed, the hatch was there, so accurately fitted into the floor that you would never have noticed it without having being told.

“The elder’s life was filled with helping everybody from morning till night, without any “days off”. ‘I hate sitting without work!’ he would say. ‘It’s a pleasure for me to be hammering, inventing, constructing things!’

“Young men in the village could learn planing, forging and engineering, mastering every tool and material – just by observing this amazing elder”.


Schema-Archimandrite Ilarion as the keeper of the head of Saint Sergey of Radonezh

During the Second World War, the services never ceased in the Vinogradovo church of the Vladimir Icon. There was a secret to this, which was quite recently disclosed. There, in the chalice under the very altar, a great sacred object of the Orthodox Church was kept from 1941 to 1945: the head of Saint Sergey of Radonezh. Nobody knew about this, but for a believing mind the secret presence of the great saint on the front line of the Moscow defence speaks for itself.

Vinogradovo is situated some eight kilometres from Lobnya – the very line where, on December 5, 1941, the fascist army was stopped and, after terribly hard battles, hurled back from Moscow. On the very site of Vinogradovo was the headquarters of the Fifth Army, and it was to that place exactly that the defending Soviet forces were drawn together. Thus Saint Sergey seems to have been present with the Russian Army at the very decisive moment on the last defensive line.

The details concerning the confiscation of Saint Sergey’s relics by the atheistic authorities and the concealment of his skull by believers were made clear by the publication of the work by Abbot Andronik (Trubachiov) “The closure of the Holy Trinity Lavra and what happened to Saint Sergey’s relics in the period from 1918 to 1946”.[5]

The author explains that when the Holy Trinity Lavra was closed by the government in 1919 and the danger of losing Saint Sergey’s relics forever was realized clearly, Patriarch Tikhon gave his blessing for the holy skull to be secretly taken away from the reliquary and replaced it with the skull of one of the Trubetskoy princes buried under the western side of the Trinity Cathedral. This was done approximately in March 20-30, 1920. The main participants of the event – Father Pavel Florensky and Count Yuri Alexandrovich Olsufiev – hid the Saint’s head in the latter’s house in the town of Sergiev Posad, where it was kept from March 1920 up to March 1928. Then it had to be hidden even more thoroughly, and so was buried under the ground in a reliquary in the Count’s garden, where it stayed from March till late summer 1928. The place was known to the Count’s wife, Sofia Vladimirovna Olsufieva, and possibly to Ekaterina Pavlovna Vasilchikova. Protopriest Vladimir Zhavoronkov told Abbot Andronik in a conversation that took place in March 2001, that a drawing existed that showed the exact spot where the reliquary had been buried. Afterwards, that handmade map was kept in the oak chest together with the Saint’s skull itself.

Before autumn 1928, the reliquary was taken from the ground there and passed, through Pavel Alexandrovich Golubtzov, to Sofia V. Olsufieva, living at that time in Lubertzy. However, the hazard of search and arrest in her Lubertzy flat was becoming ever more vivid (and she was indeed taken into custody and vanished on November 1, 1941) and that, most probably, was the reason why Pavel A. Golubtzov, waiting to be summoned to join the army, brought the reliquary from Lubertzy to his elder, Schema-Archimandrite Ilarion (Udodov), to the church of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God. This happened, according to Abbot Andronik’s estimation, somewhere during the period between the beginning of the Great Patriotic War (June 22, 1941) and Golubtzov’s leaving for the army (August 20, 1941).

Protopriest Vladimir Zhavoronkov, who was during that period a sexton in the Vinogradovo church, recollected that P.A. Golubtzov and Father Ilarion “brought the holy head secretly and put it under the altar table. Father Piotr Udodov was doing something in the chalice at that moment and happened to see it” (recorded by Hieromonk Zosima on August 3, 1998). Father Vladimir himself did not know about it and dared not ask, though he “always felt that there was something unusual and awesome” in Father Ilarion’s behaviour in the chalice when they happened to celebrate the Liturgy there together. Only later did protopriest Piotr Udodov tell him about the presence of the holy head under the altar.

P.A. Golubzov returned from the war and, in summer 1945, took the holy reliquary to the Moscow flat of Ekaterina P. Vasilchikova, who, when the Holy Trinity Lavra was reopened in 1946, brought it there by car to Patriarch Alexius I, and “passed it with awe from my hands to the hands of the Patriarch” (from her memoirs dated May 28, 1991).

The Saint’s holy skull was returned to his relics on April 7/20, 1946 – on Great Saturday. “The Patriarch blessed to keep it all secret – to put the Saint’s skull back in its place and rebury the replacement one in its proper place… He did not approve of making a show of the process,” recollects Protopriest Vladimir Zhavoronkov (recorded by Hieromonk Zosima on August 3, 1998).

Neither Ekaterina P. Vasilchikova nor Archbishop Sergey point out in their memoirs who it was that put the holy skull of Saint Sergey back in the reliquary. Archbishop Mikhey (Kharkharov) of Yaroslavl and Rostov (lay name Alexander; born 1921) said in the late 1990s that it was Schema-Archimandrite Ilarion (Udodov).

When the Trinity Lavra had just been reopened, the novice Alexander Kharkharov came there on the same day as Father Ilarion, on April 6/19, 1946. Being a spiritual son and lay brother to the father superior of the Lavra, Archimandrite Guriy,[6] he could have well been aware of the events taking place there at that period, or, even more probably, have been given still more information by Archimandrite Guriy when, in August 1946, he moved together with him to Tashkent.

“As soon as the monastery was reopened, Father Ilarion was appointed assistant to Father Guriy, remaining also the Father Superior in his Vinogradovo church where he was helped by his brother, Father Piotr. Father Ilarion, with the blessing of the Patriarch, put the holy head of the Saint back into its reliquary,” recollected Archbishop Mikhey (recorded by Hieromonk Zosima in the late 1990s).

In the memoirs by another witness of the Lavra revival, Protodeacon Sergey Boskin,[7] the name of Father Ilarion is mentioned rather frequently, especially as it was he who celebrated the first liturgical services in the Lavra together with Archimandrite Guriy after the twenty-six year period of silence when monastic and liturgical life there was interrupted.[8]

“In January 1945, Elder Schema-monk Ilarion came to the Trinity Lavra,” remembers Protodeacon Sergey. He robed in a monastic schema the relics of Saint Sergey, after which the shrine was returned to its usual place in the Holy Trinity Cathedral. Before that, the shrine with the blasphemously naked bones had stood in the middle of Saint Nikon’s church, made into a mere museum exhibit, people coming round it to look at the uncovered bones through the glass”.

The Patriarchal locum tenens Metropolitan Alexius could possibly have known about Father Ilarion keeping the holy head of Saint Sergey, for in January 1945 he appointed the elder to go and examine the state of the relics so that, as soon as the Lavra was returned to the Church, he would be ready to restore the relics’ integrity by returning the skull to its place.

Father Ilarion is also mentioned in the description of the liturgical services taking place on Great Friday (April 6/19) and Great Saturday (April 7/20) 1945, in the Holy Trinity Lavra Assumption Cathedral, the key of which had been handed to the father superior on Great Tuesday that year:

“At two o’clock in the afternoon, Father Guriy opened the royal gates of the cathedral, performed the consecration of the altar (after the years of desecration) and, having sprinkled the entire space with the holy water, started the vespers.

Elder Ilarion (Udodov) came up to carry out the holy Shroud together with Father Guriy.

At six o’clock in the evening they started the Great Saturday Matins, with the rite of carrying the holy Shroud around the cathedral. All the services were celebrated by the two archimandrites together. No announcements had been made beforehand, but believers came in plenty”.

On the day of Great Saturday, April 7/20, 1945, “at seven o’clock in the evening, the holy relics of Saint Sergey were carried along in a closed silver shrine from the Trinity and into the Assumption Cathedral. The shrine was placed onto a wooden plinth near the right wall of the Assumption Cathedral”.

Having come to the Lavra at about ten o’clock in the evening, Sergey Boskin saw Elder Ilarion standing before the shrine in deep reverence. During the Easter Midnight service, when the tolling of bells was heard, including the famous old bell “the Swan” that had been silent for 26 years, “those in the chalice were deep in prayer… Father Guriy was kneeling before the holy altar; Father Ilarion was to the left of it, also on his knees and with his arms raised to the skies, repeating with tears: ‘O Lord, for Thee nothing is impossible!’

“‹…› The clergy – Archimandrite Guriy, Archimandrite Ilarion, Abbot Alexey, and Hierodeacon Innokentiy – robed themselves in the carmine Easter vestments of the Old Lavra, which had been taken from the museum.



“Thy Resurrection, O Christ our Saviour…” – and the Royal Doors are opened wide. The cathedral is overcrowded with praying people, the choir is making its way through the exultant crowd, ‹…› I am carrying the icon of the Lord’s Resurrection; Father Ilarion the icon of Saint Sergey, Father Alexiy is carrying the Book of the Gospels; Father Guriy, the cross and the trikirios; Father Innocentiy the candle. As we move down the chalice stairs there starts the peal of all the bells – for the first time after a twenty-six year-long silence!

“It was so unexpected, so striking an event, this pealing of bells on Easter night that year! People overcrowded the square under the bell-tower, each person holding a small candle and praying. There were so many candles burning around that the bell-tower looked as if it was shining with pink light against the night sky. Crowds of people – imagine – were standing in deep silence, in deep joyous silence. The procession of priests and the choir could freely pass along the cathedral, everybody making way for them, and ascended the stairs of the church porch. The Matins started with the first ‘Christ has risen!’ – the Easter Matins in the divine cathedral of the great Lavra, that had so sadly remained silent for such a long time! People simply could not believe it and were saying to each other: ‘What great things are happening around us! Glory be to our God! Who could have ever hoped to see a Liturgy here?’ ”

Protodeacon Sergey continues, telling us that on the very day of the Holy Easter, after the Sunday Vespers, Father Ilarion left the place.

Very soon, however, he was invited by the Patriarch to join the fraternity of the newly opened Holy Trinity Lavra, and was elected to be the father confessor of the abode.

Having lived there for a little over a year he returned to the church in Vinogradovo. His brother, Priest Piotr, was then father superior there, and together with him the elder performed liturgical services until the very end of his earthly life. The Vinogradovo church of the Vladimir Icon was one of the rare places in Soviet Russia where liturgies did not cease even for a single year: even during the years of most cruel repression (which, for the Church, continued under Khrushchev’s rule as well) the church was never closed, thanks to the spiritual wisdom and deep prayer of the two elders, Schema-Archimandrite Ilarion and Protopriest Piotr.

Translated from the Russian by Yana Larionova

[1] Schema-archimandrite Zacharias (Yegorchenkov Zakhar Ivanovich; 02.09.1850–15.06.1936) was descended from peasants of the Kaluga region. From 1873 he lived in the Holy-Trinity Lavra of St Sergey; in 1884 he was accepted as a novice and did his services at the St Petersburg Fontanka town-church, where, in 1885, he was given the monastic habit and then, on September 28, 1894, was ordained deacon. Back in the Holy-Trinity Lavra, he was ordained a priest, on February 01, 1904. From February 09, 1916, he was the Father confessor to the monks and pilgrims. From 1919 to 1922 he bore his ministry at the Moscow Savvinka town church. He is buried at the Vvedenskoye (German) cemetery in Moscow.

[3] The third of the brothers, Fyodor, was born in 1884 and as a youth was going to take the monastic habit like his elder brother, being for several years a novice in the Lavra. When the First World War came, he was called up. Seriously wounded, he was nursed in a hospital by a Polish young girl, a Catholic sister of mercy. The two fell in love, and when Fyodor recovered, Father Ilarion received her into the Eastern Orthodox Church and the young couple were married.

[4] The memoirs by M.Sh., dated June 29, 1951, belong to the archive of Archbishop Sergey (Golubtzov). I was kindly allowed to use them by the Reverend Father Andronik (Trubachiov).

[5] Cf. Abbot Andronik (Trubachiov), Moscow: Publishing Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, 2008. 432 pages, illustrated. (In Russian.)

[6] Archimandrite Guriy (Yegorov Vyacheslav Mikhailovich; 1891-1965) was the first father superior of the Holy Trinity Lavra from after its reopening until August 1946, then bishop of Tashkent and the Central Asia, the head of several dioceses, dying as Metropolitan of Simferopol and the Crimea.

[7] Sergey Mikhailovich Boskin descended from a line of artists living in the town of Sergiev Posad; in the newly opened Lavra, Protodeacon Sergey was for seventeen years the precentor of the Lavra choir.

[8] Protopriest Vladimir Zhavoronkov says that Father Ilarion had the honour of giving the very first liturgical exclamation at the first service in the re-opened Lavra.

Комментарии ():
Написать комментарий:

Другие публикации на портале:

Еще 9