Part III of The Zealot of Athos and Moscow: Memories of the Elder
In the third and final part of the life of Elder Ilarion (Udodov) we read of his life through the eyes of his spiritual children, from those who lived and worshipped with him in his church in Vinogradovo, to those who later became priests and hierarchs of the Church under his guidance and with his prayers. We end by looking at his spiritual successors, in particular his brother, Protopriest Piotr, and Protopriest Vladimir Zhavoronkov, who became the parish priest of the Vinogradovo church.

The Elder in the memories of his spiritual children

One of the closest spiritual children of the elder, having spent quite a substantial span of her life near him, is Schema-nun Theoktista (lay name Alexandra Ilyinichna Kononova, born 1920).

Her native place somewhere in the Penza region, Alexandra Kononova came to the town of Dolgoprudnoye near Moscow in 1937, there became a toolmaker at a factory, married a military man and soon gave birth to a son. At the very beginning of the Patriotic war, her husband went to the front and was killed.

Her son was born very ill and Father Ilarion baptized him and prayed much for him, laying his hands upon his head. The elder reassured Alexandra that the boy would survive and be a good man.

Alexandra was present at every service in the Vinogradovo church of the Vladimir icon. Father Ilarion gave his blessing to her to assist the sexton Tatiana (eventually nun Eufrosynia). She became the elder’s main helper for many long years; he could always rely upon her in every hardship and trouble. Everyone coming to church knew her and called her by the affectionate name Shura.

When she first came to confession to him, the elder blessed her to observe special daily prayers with five prostrations, and by the end of the war she always wore a monastic cassock under her usual dress. The Elder used to call her “my dearest child” and to say, with a sad sigh, that she was going to need very much courage in future.

Mother Theoktista remembers that when the war ended, the Patriarch told Father Ilarion to go and live in the Holy Trinity Lavra, as he was a monk. She was the one who accompanied the elder in his journeys to the Lavra, too weak by that time to go by himself. She worked round the clock one day in an industrial school, and the next day she took the elder to the Lavra. Every time there was a whole sack to carry – books, icons, crosses. She always went with the sack on her back, the eighty-three year-old elder following her. The train brought them from Dolgoprudnoye to the Saviolovsky railway station in Moscow, then they had to go to the Yaroslavsky station by tram to take another train to the Lavra (in the town of Zagorsk).

“There were no suburban electric trains yet, as far as I can remember”, she writes, “just simple diesel locomotives. Imagine, the locomotive was already hooting ready to start away – and we were just leaving the tram! The elder was ready to cry! I ran, with the sack on my back – and he tried to keep up with me, doddering along with his walking stick. ‘Dear child, dear child, has it been too heavy?’ he would ask climbing the carriage. ‘Never mind,’ I would answer, ‘I feel so good at your side – I will not hesitate to go through fire and water for your sake!’ That was how we journeyed”.

“And when we wanted to hire a car he would never just get into any! First he would miss several taxis, looking attentively inside, and only then would give me a sign, waving his finger in silence. He saw something, I think. He was able to see something. I suppose – he could see an evil spirit if it was there – and would never get into such a car, and where he could see an angel of God with the driver – there he would make me a token to get in, like that”, described mother Theoktista (recorded by N.B. Alidema).

In the Trinity Lavra Father Ilarion was given a cell next to the metropolitan’s rooms. Father Ilarion made chests and reliquaries of red copper for the Lavra. Thus he made one for the “right arm of the first martyr Archdeacon Stephen, the undecayed relics up to the elbow”.

Mother Theoktista goes on: “When the elder moved to the Lavra to live there he took all his lathe-tools and cutting machines there with him. He was given a special room for work. There was in the monastery an abbot, Artemiy by name, whose cell was in the bell tower, in a very cold place. He was acquainted with us. He asked me once: ‘Please, ask the elder for me, maybe he will let me live with him, for I’m terribly cold in my room’ – ‘Okay’, I promised, ‘I’ll ask him’. So I did, and the elder said: ‘Let him come along’. Later on, the elder simply let him have his cell and himself moved to live in his working intercommunicating room with all those lathe-tools and other machines” (written down by N.B. Alidema).

Very important details about the holy skull of Saint Sergey of Radonezh came forth in the conversation that took place between L.S. Komarova and mother Theoktista. It became clear that the Saint’s head was not kept under the altar in the chancel of the Vinogradovo church all the time. Mother Theoktista was not sure when exactly Father Ilarion had taken it from there, but pointed out that it had happened “when the church was to be closed”. However, no other evidence of any intentions to close the Vinogradovo church is available.

Father Ilarion took the Saint’s head to the attic of the chapel where he was then living himself. He might have considered it safer to have the cherished relic always at his side. There was a spiral staircase leading to the attic. The floor of the attic was covered with a thick layer of sawdust.

One day Father Ilarion called Shura, asked her to climb up the winding staircase and “find the ball in the sawdust”. Rather surprised, she went up and fumbled about in the sawdust for some time when suddenly her hands found something spherical wrapped in purple fabric under which she was able to touch unbleached linen. Very carefully she folded back a corner of the linen and saw the bone of the skull, yellow as wax. She did not know what it could be. Father Ilarion was waiting downstairs. She climbed down and passed the mysterious “ball” to the silent elder, not daring to ask about it.

Years passed, and Alexandra remained ignorant about the fact that she herself had once carried the head of Saint Sergey in a sack when accompanying the elder to the Holy Trinity Lavra. It was only at Father Ilarion’s funeral repast that Protopriest Vladimir Zhavoronkov revealed the secret to her, who was by that time already nun Ambrosia.[1] She then remembered one of their numerous journeys to the Lavra.

It was a very unusual journey. All the way Father Ilarion carried one rather weighty sack himself, upon his breast. At some moment he needed to leave her for a short while. He put the sack on her neck with prayer, and, having returned, took it from her also praying.

L.S. Komarova talked also to the countryfolk of the Vinogradovo village who had known and still remembered Father Ilarion. Here is the story told by Natalia Pavlovna Parfionova, a schoolteacher living in Vinogradovo since 1930:

“It was a small nimble man hunched up with years, with a long white beard and a very kind, mild face, his sparkling eyes seeming those of a merry child. He was so lively, so easy-going!”

Natalia Pavlovna’s father, Pavel Gavrilovich, after graduating from the Moscow Academy of Forestry, was a forest warden in the Khlebnikovsky recreational forest, and made good friends with the elder, who liked to come and see them in their house. When in 1943 Pavel Gavrilovich died Father Ilarion also came to chant psalms and prayers for the repose of his soul for three days and nights running.

Natalia Pavlovna also narrates that Father Ilarion used always to ask the parishioners whether anybody in the village was ill or grieving, and went there immediately to do what he could to help them.

“I still seem to see this picture,” says Natalia Pavlovna. “An old monk with a bright white beard, dressed in a black cassock is crossing the settlement carrying something in his bag, striding towards a neighbouring village. It is Father Ilarion, hurrying to see a sick man, to bring some food to a hungry person. And that was during the time of famine! I’ve seen lots of priests in my life – but never have I seen anybody like that elder!”

She also describes Father Ilarion soldering saucepans and repairing clocks for everybody. The worn out kettles, mugs and pots that came out of the elder’s dexterous hands could be used for many long years more.

Another parishioner of the Vinogradovo church, Anna Ivanovna Latz, who spent eleven years in exile (from 1937 to 1948) and died in 1957, also knew Father Ilarion well; her daughter, Valentina Vasilievna Kuznetzova-Latz, remembers the elder coming to their house – and many of their friends gathered then, to read books aloud and discuss them together. Anna Ivanovna’s cousin Mikhail Vladimirovich Shmeliov, an artist, was on friendly terms with the elder; he had graduated from the Leningrad Academy of Arts and painted icons for the church on the elder’s request.

Mother Theoktista says that the elder liked to help people in need: “Here they might be building a house and there they might have lost a cow – and everywhere he would necessarily find a way to give them the sum needed, always for good, out of sheer desire to support everyone”.

It was meeting Schema-archimandrite Ilarion that played a decisive role in archbishop Sergey (Golubtzov) becoming a hierarch. They met in the late 1920s or early 30s, and young Pavel Alexandrovich Golubtzov made the decisions to devote himself to the Church and then to take the monastic habit and receive ordination under the strong impression of the spiritual elder’s image and with his blessing. In his diary, Hieromonk Sergey wrote:

“It is three years now, in 1953, that I’ve been staying in the monastery,[2] three long years of hardships of all kinds…”. There follows a list of those hardships with an inscription in the margin in his own hand: “Remember Archimandrite Ilarion’s words: Everything comes to him who waits; and also: A great ship needs deep waters!

Here is the elder’s portrait as described by his spiritual son, Archbishop Sergey:

“Father Schema-archimandrite Ilarion was marked by some special kind of quiet and deep humility of mind. He did not talk much, never laughed aloud, never judged anybody. When working, his lips were always moving with the Jesus Prayer. When taking a tool in his hands he first made the sign of the cross.

“He was wonderfully polite, allowing himself no rude or harsh expressions, being at the same time simple and even tender in his conversations with people, whatever their rank or attitude, smiling in a most endearing way when speaking. No anger or irritation were ever seen in him – though his energetic, vigorous movements showed him to be a rather emotional, lively and strong-willed man by nature. He was not tall but neither very short, rather lean, he strode steadily and with vigour. His hands, with very expressive broad palms were those of a workman; the fingers, though distorted by injuries and abrasions, were always firm and neat in doing their work.

“Having once seen the elder’s face you would have never forgotten that impression: the forehead was not too high, but the large, agile dark-brown eyes looked with calm attention, sometimes wide-open, and when listening, half-closed. He was fond of listening to people with maximum attention and sympathy, in silence, leaning a bit forward, as if participating in the story.

“He used to have an amazingly strong tenor in youth – he always stressed that he had never been able to grasp what was its source. All his feelings remained, even at a very advanced age, as ingenious and fresh as those of a very young man, great integrity sparkling in all his movements.

“When at the Liturgy, pronouncing the words of the priest’s prayer, the elder may sometimes have laid some special logical stress where he supposed it important, as for example, saying: “Christ, our true God…”. His celebrating of the liturgical services was no less ingenious and sincere than his everyday life. His ministration was touched with some extraordinary simplicity, brevity, frankness and joy, and said in a very strong and clear voice that never failed him up to the very end. Everything sounded smooth and precise.

“Solitary life in alternating liturgical ministration and diligent physical work accompanied with incessant Jesus prayer – such was the rhythm and structure of the elder’s life throughout many a long year. Day after day he followed the same measure and pattern, both in his inner prayer of the heart and his outer activities. Day after day he got up at four in the morning, prayed for two hours and then, having received some holy water and a prosphora, started his daily work at six, according to his “working plan”, as he called it.

“The elder was remarkably good at his whitesmith profession. He was always doing something for all his neighbours for free, wearing an apron and smiling. In the evening he would necessarily read the vespers and the matins, intoning all the stichera and performing the minor procession with a small censer. All this he did wearing his monastic mantle and a priestly stole, never in his life omitting a single evening service. On the days of receiving Holy Communion he would not take anything apart from a small amount of tea – and would then go to sleep for a while in his room.

“The elder said he hated teaching others. If asked, he would only say: ‘You know the Commandments? Well, they are to be taken seriously’. Such was his usual answer to all those verbose questions about salvation and spiritual life. He liked to recall his own meeting with Holy Righteous John of Kronstadt, who was torn apart by the eager crowd avid for his advice, when he only said to him: ‘Dear Father, I don’t want anything from you, just pray to God for me’.

“Asked about the books he was reading he used to say he was reading the Gospel and the Book of Psalms. Sometimes he would answer questions with quotations from the Scripture. The sayings from the holy Fathers: ‘Silence will never fail the silent; laziness leads to eternal torment; I hate the idea of dominating others!’ were his favourite answers.

“He liked to repeat only: ‘The Jesus Prayer should be closer to you than your own breath!’ But when asked how it is possible to pray without distraction he would say thoughtfully: ‘One should be well prepared for prayer…’

“The elder never talked much, but his gesticulation was vigorous, quick, and extremely expressive. This language of hands and fingers was an important part of his communication, a kind of mute speech that you had to grasp if you wished to understand him properly. He recollected, in his turn, how watchful he had once had to be in order to grasp the tiny shades of meaning in his own elder’s directions and orders. Such a language of gestures was so natural for the elder that you felt uneasy to clarify by asking what was the exact message of his mute utterances.

“The elder used to bow with reverence to every passer-by, taking off his hat – and to crumple his cap in embarrassment if not answered.

“Father Ilarion said that a person living in a God-pleasing way might dream about good things.

“One fine day, in a Moscow street, he was accosted by a woman crying: ‘Hey you! Why are you still living?!’ and answered her smiling: ‘I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord’ (Psalm 118: 17).

“When, on another occasion, he was asked in the Holy Trinity Lavra what was his name, he answered: ‘Dust and ashes!’ (Gen. 18: 27).”

Nun Martha from the former convent of John the Baptist (now a chanter in the Vinogradovo church) remembers an incident when a woman asked Father Ilarion: “How old are you?” and the elder answered: “Just live by truth and faith and God will not be envious to give you as many long years as you wish!”

In the book “The Russia That No Longer Exists” there is a story about Father Ilarion in his Lavra period, written from the words of Metropolitan Pitirim (Nechaev), which might be a good addition to what has been said above:

“That was a very aged monk, one of those who had taken the habit long before the First World war started… He was silent with most people he met. Simply did not speak at all. And there was a very nice young man, an Assyrian, who was eager to join the Lavra fraternity. We assigned him to be a novice in obedience to Father Ilarion, but no longer than a few days had passed when he ran away from him. We asked him: ‘Why? What’s happened?’ ‘Well, he’s proved to be mute!’ he answered.

“And there was Pasha Golubtzov. This one managed to be near Father Ilarion a considerable span of his life. Once he begged for a word from his elder: ‘Father, why don’t you talk?’ ‘Child, why?” Father Ilarion seemed surprised. “Why should I, dear? Here you are: just look and do, that’s all’.

“And really, a monk is not a teacher, not a social type by the very essence of his psychological structure. If he develops a liking for teaching it means he has conceived the feeling of self-importance in his heart”.

However, Schema-archimandrite Ilarion did speak sometimes, and his answers then revealed the gift of spiritual discernment. When, in 1940, Bishop Sergey, then a youth, asked him about the possibility of priesthood for him, the elder said, quite unexpectedly: “If any one aspires to the office of bishop, he desires a noble task. Now a bishop must be – a martyr!” (Cf: 1 Timothy 3: 1-2). Fifteen years after that Pavel Golubtzov really did become a bishop.

The elder also predicted about him – most probably, when the young soldier Golubtzov, just summoned to the front, brought the holy head of Saint Sergey to the elder – that he would manage to go through the war without ever using a gun (according to the canons, a priest should never shed anybody’s blood), with rather strange words: “While you’re driving to and fro, the war shall come to an end”. At the very beginning of the Great Patriotic War, in August 1941, P.A. Golubtzov was summoned to the army, and served throughout all the four years of the war in the Sixth Motor Training Regiment as a lorry driver and then also as an artist. Awarded the medal “For Victory over Germany”, he happened to get under fire, but returned safe and free from homicide.

Archimandrite Stephan, the father-treasurer of the Holy Trinity Lavra during that period, witnessed numerous cases of miraculous help people received thanks to Father Ilarion’s prayer. It was, he said, a good tradition that those getting married would come for his blessing.

The last days of the elder’s long and righteous life he was seriously ill, though his spiritual children were all permitted to see the elder. At their request not to forget them, he answered: “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither!” (Psalm 137: 5).

Schema-archimandrite Ilarion passed from this world on March 15, 1951, aged eighty-eight, and is buried near the northern doors of the Vinogradovo church of the Vladimir Icon of the Theotokos.


Schema-archimandrite Ilarion’s successors

Father Ilarion’s younger brother Protopriest Piotr was of the same prayerful spirit and filled with the same genuine piety and wisdom.

He was a celibate priest wholly devoted to liturgical ministration. His love for God was boundless. People around him could feel his spirited prayer and see his stainless life that attracted many to the Church. Father Piotr was gifted with spiritual discernment, was very strict to himself and mild and lenient to others. Priests came daily from all over the country to unburden their hearts to him and always went away consoled and inspired. He really was able and willing to help people in spiritual matters.

Father Piotr was ninety-three when, having made a thorough confession and received the last unction, he died on April 20, 1968, on the very day of Great Saturday. The extraordinarily long service of Great Thursday had been held only the day before, when he himself celebrated the Divine Liturgy and then read the Twelve Passion gospels at the evening service that day. His death was a real shock for the parishioners, who had just heard his wonderfully young voice reading the gospels and chanting beautifully the touching trios by the famous ecclesiastical composer Bortryansky. That was indeed a Christian, peaceful and painless death of a righteous man.

The funeral Divine Liturgy was celebrated for him on April 22 by the Bishop Pitirim (Nechaev) of Volokolamsk and followed by the special Easter rite of priestly funeral service performed by the same bishop together with Archbishop Sergey (Golubtzov) and many of the diocesan clergy. Both hierarchs and two protopriests – Fathers Viktor Zhukov and Vladimir Zhavoronkov – spoke in his memory.

The coffin with his body was carried around the church with the Easter procession with banners, the bells tolling and the people chanting the Easter troparion. Not only the church but the whole area around it as well were crowded with those chanting “Christ has risen from the dead.” The dearly loved elder was buried near the church, next to his brother.

“I did not see much of Father Piotr and still his image is so bright in my memory, so dear to my heart – for he was an amazing elder and spiritual father indeed,” writes Protopriest Alexiy Kungurov. “I can still see the most affable smile always shining upon his kind face. His reminiscences of his visit to Athos were outstandingly interesting and educative for us young priests. Every time he retold us his stories, they were new and tinted with fresh colours and moods so that everybody would each time listen with most intense attention.

“The room where he lived was very much like the cell of an ascetic. He used to spend all his free time there. The day I could come to see him was unfailingly a day of great joy for me. The following days I would inevitably indulge in comparing his way of living and mine, thinking of the great difference between us and of the spiritual height he had so evidently reached in his prayer through the ascetic feats known to him alone. Having confessed to him I was sure to go home in some unusual joy of heart; the ordinary words “Forgive him, my Lord!” had some special strength in his lips and filled the repentant with doubtless hope and lightness.

“He would often busy himself with some or other work for the church, rewriting music for the choir or making lecterns and other pieces of furniture with his own hands. During the services he would conduct the people’s common chanting, coming out of the altar himself; everything was performed strictly according to the ecclesiastical canons, no texts omitted and no canticle forgotten. Up to a very old age, Father Piotr had a surprisingly strong and melodic voice, which was pleasant to listen to. When at his services, I was immediately embraced by the atmosphere of pure and undisturbed prayer.

“Many of the clergy and a still greater amount of simple Christians will always remember this outstanding man of prayer with great love and respect…”

The future father superior of the Vladimir church in Vinogradovo, Protopriest Vladimir Zhavoronkov, was still a boy when he first came there to pray at the services celebrated by Schema-archimandrite Ilarion and Protopriest Piotr, which inspired in him a love for the Orthodox liturgical tradition in such a degree that at the age of sixteen he was already conducting the church choir.

Once, when he was just starting to read in church, he came up to Father Ilarion after the service and asked him with pride: “How did you like my reading, Father?” The elder smiled pleasantly and answered: “You were brilliant, my dear, you were brilliant!” “Did I make many mistakes?” “No, honey, not many! You made twenty-five, but it’s okay…”

The boy became close to both elders and when he was of age and decided to become a priest he came to live in the church house with them, eager to train himself in obedience and asceticism. Father Piotr helped him to get used to praying at night. The elder’s room was on the first floor and young Vladimir had his bed on the ground floor. He tied a rope to his feet and when the time for their common midnight prayers came, Father Piotr pulled on the other end of the rope, waking Vladimir, and he went up to read and chant the Midnight service. He remembered afterwards that amazing period of life with great joy and said that it had proved an excellent preparation for his future priesthood.

Vladimir was then thinking of entering the monastic way of life but Father Piotr advised him to become better a married priest. For sixteen years they performed their priestly office together, being true father and son to each other till the very end of the elder’s life.

But even long after Father Piotr had passed away, the spiritual bond between them remained strong. Thus, Father Vladimir once fell ill on the eve of a liturgical day and was anxious about his being unable to celebrate the approaching service. At night he saw Father Piotr in a dream, giving a prosphora to him and saying: “Don’t be upset, my dear, just eat it!” In the morning he felt fully recovered and able to go to church.

Father Vladimir was always doing his best to preserve all the liturgical rites in the Vinogradovo church as they had been when his elders were alive, and asked other priests of the church not to change anything. He liked to remind the other clergy of the elders’ words, insisting that as long as a church observed good traditions there would be peace and abundant grace in it.

All prayers for the dead started for Father Vladimir with the names of his two unforgettable elders, and he asked others, too, to remember the elders in their prayers.

Father Vladimir performed his priestly office in the Vinogradovo church for more than fifty years. It was he who took care of the last sisters of the old Convent of St John the Baptist, receiving their confessions, bringing the Sacrament of Holy Communion to those unable to come to church, and performing the last rites and funeral services for them.[3]

His meekness before the believers, the people of God, and his very sober approach to his pastoral duties were notable. He wanted people to come to church not to see him or talk to him but to stand before the Living God and talk to Him in prayer. With great tact and attention he led each parishioner away from being focused on his relationship with his spiritual father to being focused on the true goal of Christian faith – becoming Christ-like by the grace of the Holy Spirit.

He never tried to “change” other people, never wanted them to do what they themselves did not wish to – but waited till they conceived the desire to know Christ, to acquire His grace, to cling to the Sacraments of the Church. Nothing seemed unimportant to him in people’s lives, he was ready to live together with them through all their troubles and miseries, listening with compassion and never quick to advise.

Like his dear late elders, he also hated any kind of domination over other people’s will, trying to hold his opinion back and simply give support to those coming to him. Even when asked for advice he would always insist that the choice should be made by the one asking, not by the priest, for God had given everyone free will. Very often he would just say: “Let’s pray together and wait” instead of giving advice. When the problem was serious he might advise the person to come to receive Holy Communion for three Sundays one after another, asking the Lord to give right understanding to the heart. He never forgot that it was God Himself Who acts in a believer’s mind in such cases.

Father Vladimir, with his bright open smile, was like a shining sun! It was sincere in him: he really saw the good side in each person and enjoyed meeting people. Warm prayer for everyone who talked to him was his inalienable habit, and he asked those coming to confession to pray for him, too.

Everyone coming to confession was for him dear and welcome. It seemed that he had just been waiting for you. He might very possibly have said nothing, just have listened to you and read the prescribed prayers – nothing from himself – but you felt his support and joy. Not a single reproach, not the slightest perplexity, however terrible the sins he might have heard – but only love, only silent support, only great hope. All were equal for him – men, women, priests, laymen, monks – all were simply human beings, all were simply images of Christ! You could not help feeling joy when meeting him. Sometimes he would explain some theological questions, very briefly, in a couple of words. It was just joy and warmth of heart that gave meaning. He could remain silent, but if he happened to say his “everything will be well!” – it would have been so.

Father Vladimir disliked the topic of miracles and wonders. He simply helped people to live through their lives, prayed and gave support. There were cases when the very seriously ill felt better and returned to normal life after they had asked for his prayers – but he never allowed such things to be talked about.

The other thing Father Vladimir would have never accepted was moralizing. He considered that it had nothing to do with reality. He loved humour, jokes, and hated the standardized vision of life situations, having a new approach to each person. Peace and true contact in the family he considered the most precious of all moral values.

Mercy and discernment went together for him. When asked: “How could you permit him to receive Communion if he had not prepared properly?” he said: “When somebody asks you for help being hungry, cold and injured – you will certainly ask him questions not before you first give him the necessary care and food. The same is true on the spiritual level: a new person comes to church, feeling cold, miserable and abandoned. He will need first the support which is available nowhere else but in the sacrament of Communion. The Lord will give him support! It does not matter for the Lord that the newcomer does not know some rules, has not read some texts! When he conceives the taste for it – then he himself will be eager to prepare himself better”. Father Vladimir felt responsible for those who came. He repeated the same to young priests: “Try and do everything so that each person who has come to you should go home consoled”.

It was not always easy, however, to follow this rule in life. Too many were those who came for consolation. When the service was over, Father Vladimir went on receiving people at home. His house was always open – people would come in for a minute and stay with him for hours…

Father Vladimir was known and loved among the clergy, to many of whom he was spiritual father and confessor long before he was, in 1988, unanimously elected and appointed the official father confessor of the Moscow diocese.

In his everyday life Father Vladimir was extremely modest and easy to contact. He very seldom left his parish, only the Great Lent period being an exception, his duty being to visit priests from other parishes, sometimes quite far away, to receive confessions. It was hard work sometimes, for having no car he had to use public transport, making many changes of vehicles which could sometimes take long hours. However, he never refused to travel when somebody from the clergy had no opportunity to come to see him.

The atmosphere in his house was simple, even austere; he had absolutely no liking for valuable or prestigious things. Vanity seemed to be alien to this magnanimous man, who had instead his spiritual discernment and loving heart.

The state of warm inner prayer was something quite natural for him; it was simply impossible for him to cease praying, which was very much like breathing. He would never miss any liturgical service; even when it was not his turn to perform the priestly office he would rather go to church and immerse himself in peaceful contemplation (when there was no need to receive confessions).

Everybody who had ever talked to Father Vladimir could not help being fond of this open, hearty, most sympathetic man, even if they were not religious themselves. He received it as God’s gift and never thought much of himself. Monks, priests, lay people, ecclesiastical authorities, high intellectuals and simple peasants – every one of them found his attention ready and his heart open. Everyone could be sure that Father Vladimir would make time to receive them and afterwards to pray for them. Even when, in his very last days, he did not feel well he did not think it right to refuse anyone asking for confession: “If they have come in hope to be heard, how can I send them away?!”

Thus Protopriest Vladimir persevered in Christian love till the very end, his heart open to people up to his very demise, on January 25, 2004, and was buried side by side with his spiritual mentors, Schema-archimandrite Ilarion and Protopriest Piotr.

Let God our Lord rest their souls in the house of His Father! (Cf: Jn 14:2)

Translated from the Russian by Yana Larionova

[1] After Father Ilarion’s death, Alexandra went to the town Dmitrov for ten years, to help Father Pavel Sokolovsky in the church of the Kazan Icon of the Theotokos, where she was a psalm-reader, a chorister, a bell-ringer, cooked the phosphor, and helped around the church. She worked there daily, with rare days off and a month’s holiday once a year. In 1959 she took the veil with the name of Ambrosia. In the early 1960s she came back to Vinogradovo, where Father Piotr Udodov was still the Vladimir church’s father superior. In 1993 she retired on a pension. She was lucky to go on pilgrimages to Jerusalem several times. In 2004 she received the great schema with the name of Theoktista in the Moscow monastery of Saint Daniel. The rite was performed by Archimandrite Daniel.

[2] In the Holy Trinity Lavra of Saint Sergey.

[3] Many of the nuns of the old Convent of St John the Baptist are buried at the Staromarkovsko cemetery in Vinogradovo, the parishioners of the Vladimir church taking care of their graves up to now.

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