Bishop Andrew of Ufa
HIERARCH OF "THE CHURCH OF THE WILDERNESS"
Commemorated December 26 (†1937)
And I will make with them a
covenant of peace.. and they shall
dwell securely in the wilderness,
and sleep in the woods. And I will
make them and the places round about
my hill a blessing...
Subsequently, in his sermon before his consecration, Valdika Andrew recalled with what fear he, a young hieromonk, took upon himself this responsibility:
“I have suffered awesome torments ever since I first heard these words found in the rite for the consecration of a bishop: ‘Take this Covenant (the Body of Christ) and keep it whole and untainted until your last breath—to Whom you must give an account at the great and terrible Second Coming of our Lord God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.’ I thought, ‘How can I preserve this great Covenant, whichwas entrusted to me, the Body of Christ, if I cannot even preserve myself?’ I felt then that the Holy Mysteries of the Eucharist were, indeed, a fire burning the unworthy two whole years I found no peace, performing the Holy Mysteries in fear and trembling on account of my unworthiness, ready to forsake that terrible and awesome calling But a meeting with the great Father John of Kronstadt saved my soul from further bitterness, torment and the prolongation of the almost sicken ing duel in my soul When I asked him for counsel on this matter, Father John said, ‘Yes, we are all guilty before the Holy Mysteries, but we must be true to our priest- ly calling for we are in obedience to the Holy Church Weeping over our own sins, we must, however, do the will of Christ’s Church and follow the instructions of the Church which are made known to us through our Archpastors.’
These words of Father John were, in truth, a soothing balm for my wound ed and sinful soul which had been torn by various doubts; they made my outlook on life whole and indicated my path in life, I began to understand it only as the most precise fulfillment of obedience to the Church, as the most perfect way of serving the Holy Church, a nation of God, and the people of God who have been redeemed by the Precious Blood of Christ.” (Supplement to the “Church News” for 1907, No. 49.)
In 1899 he was raised to the rank of archimandrite and was appointed as in spector of the Kazan missionary school.
He began his work of Orthodox enlightenment in his native Kazan as a young hieromonk, being in charge of a seminary and a missionary school, highly respected and loved by all. He soon became a popular figure for his deeds of mercy to the poor and needy and for his asceticism. It was known that he spent his nights in prayer, using a hard bed with no blanket or pillow for his brief rest. In the midst of his social activity he always fasted, never eating even fish. When his wealthy admirers presented him with crates of fresh fruit he immediately gave it away to seminarians and children. People were astonished to see him eat only two or three prosphora and a few glasses of tea a day, never complaining of frailty or loss of energy, yet his activity was enormous. When raised to the rank of archimandrite he became abbot of the ancient Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Kazan, ably governing it, de livered flaming sermons, founded a convent for Tatar girls, was an excellent spiritual advisor, published a magazine and booklets, and organized mission ary conferences.
Before long he was consecrated bishop of Mamadynsk, a vicariate of the Kazan diocese, continuing the same duties. Once in the revolutionary year of 1905 the workers of a gunpowder factory eight miles from Kazan rose up in revolt, as a result of Communist propaganda, and killed one of the eight directors of the factory. A barrel of explosives was blown up, breaking all windows in the nearby houses. Bishop Andrew immediately mounted a horse and, fearlessly risking his life, galloped to the factory. There he mounted a high place and silently waited for the mob to quiet down. They laughed at him, cursed, threw handfuls of dirt and rotten apples; but he stood quietly, looking at the mob and praying silently. The mob, seeing him fearless and peaceful, gradually calmed down; and then Viadika began to talk. His talk was short, but so powerful that the whole mob came to repentance, realizing what a sin they had committed in killing an innocent man. They released the other directors and resumed work, after accompanying Bishop Andrew with great respect back to his monastery quarters.
Bishop Andrew was transferred to Sukhumi in the Caucasus, but be fore long he returned as bishop of the diocese of Ufa, northeast of Kazan, where there was a large Moslem population. He did his missionary work well, travelling extensively, and was known and loved throughout Russia. Sensing the approaching revolution, he called all Orthodox faithful to join together behind the anointed of God, the Tsar; but at the same time he was outspoken in his opposition to the rich exploiters of the poor and showed him. self to be a faithful disciple of Metropolitan Anthony in criticizing the Syno dal system of church government and calling for the restoration of the Patriarchate.
When the revolution broke out he hoped for changes for the better even from the Bolsheviks, but soon recognizing their true nature he began to call for the formation of an Orthodox “regiment” of seminary students. He was soon arrested, and although he was released several times he was never actually free again, being simply moved about from prison to prison, from one exile to another.
Nonetheless, the people did not forget him, and many managed to see him in prison or deliver food parcels to him; and every time he was released and returned to his flock, it would cause a whole “event” among the people. The Secret Police sought to use his popularity as bait to fish out the more fervent church people, but Bishop Andrew was so Cautious and prudent in his behavior that these attempts always failed.
Bishop Andrew’s fight against the false “renovation” of the “Living Church” was noteworthy It brought true martyrs’ crowns to some of his Co workers and spiritual children; the story of one of these, the young student Valentina, has reached the Free World. But his greatest service to the Church was his valiant battle for the truth against “Sergianism” by openly proclaim ing it a betrayal of the Church and a trap for the faithful; and in this battle his voice, thanks to his popularity, was widely heard. When the Declaration of Metropolitan Sergius was issued in 1927, announcing the “concordat” with the Soviet government and promising various freedoms, Viadika Andrew was in exile far away in the Askhabad region; but even from there he rang the alarm for the faithful. He called on people not to believe Metropolitan Ser gius and to separate from him, foretelling that all the “promises” would be broken and a worse enslavement would follow. At first, as a former resident of Ufa testifies, reality seemed to contradict the voice of the much-respected hierarch, and the number of his followers diminished. But in a short time his influence and authority were restored and his followers took the lead in church life in the Ufa region. Early in 1930, within a few months twice as many churches were closed as had been closed for the whole time before the “legal ization” of Sergius; taxes on the Church rose five times over; all the church people who had been released from prisons for accepting the “Declaration” were arrested again; and, in a word, the Sergianists did not gain a thing, while losing their freedom of conscience, To this unfortunate group of Sergianists belonged Bishop Andrew’s successor in the Ufa diocese, Bishop John, whom Viadika Andrew had consecrated at great peril.
The faithful now came to see clearly that Bishop Andrew was right, and he took the leadership of the underground Church in the Ufa region, leading it into the deep “wilderness.” This Church began a life and activity that can only be compared with those of the historic catacomb Church of the first Christians. People gathered to pray in caves, in forests, in desolate farm houses before daybreak. Between periods of arrest and exile, Bishop Andrew would strengthen the Church, consecrating bishops and priests and inspiring saints to go to a martyrdom equal to that of the great martyrs of the early Church. In particular, the New Martyr Lydia has been accepted as a canonized saint by the Catacomb Church. Even before the death of Patriarch Tikhon, Bishop Andrew had united several groups of Old Believers to the Orthodox Church, and now they too joined the Catacomb Church, which, spiritually free, coutinued to grow, much to the agitation of her enemies. “Many do not believe that there are catacombs,” concludes a witness from Ufa. “Let them disbelieve. The existence of the spiritual world also is denied by the foolish, but because of this it does not cease to exist. It seems the persecution of the last Christians surpasses that of the first Christians.”
ABOUT THE LAST period of Bishop Andrew’s life we have this account of a fellow prisoner: “In May, 1932, I was transferred from the inner prison of the GPU to the hospital of the isolation wing, scurvy ward, of Butyrka prison. Within two days Bishop Andrew of Ufa, who had been brought to Moscow from banishment in Uzbekistan, where he had finished his term, was transferred from the venereal ward to this ward. Before this transfer, Bishop Andrew had been kept from February, 1932, to May 1st in the inner prison of the GPU in solitary confinement, and then for four days he had been kept—supposedly because there was no other place— in the second ward of Butryka prison, the ward of the psychologically ill; then for several days he had been kept in the fifth (venereal) ward, and finally he was transferred to the fourth (scurvy) ward, since in fact he was ill of scurvy. In 1919 I had been with Bishop Andrew in the Omsk prison. But now he was unrecognizable; only a little hair remained on his head and face, almost all of it hav ing fallen out as a result of scurvy; he had become completely grey, decrepit, so thin that he could not be recognized; but he was still as ever humble, encouraging, good, responsive. At the present time he was accused of organizing Orthodox communities [of the Catacomb Church], which was against Soviet law, and of agitation and propaganda against Bolshevism. Evenings in the prison Vladika Andrew would usually hold everyone’s attention with his stories, and it should be said that he had such an effect on the prisoners around him that even the criminals, disgraced Communists, and others never dared to swear and curse in his presence. Bishop Andrew reacted actively and openly to all the injustices in prison (for which many times he was deprived of parcels which had been sent him by friends outside The chief priest of Soviet Russia, the head of the Moscow Orthodox Church, Bishop Andrew referred to as a betrayer of Christ To prison, banishment, and other misfortunes he responded calmly, philosophically reserved, and he suffered more for those around him than for himself. On his fellow prisoners he had an encouraging influence. Large parcels would be sent him as the local residents quickly found out from the prison personnel concerning his arrival at a place of imprisonment. The parcels were not always given to him, but those he recieved he shared with those who had none. He was executed by shooting in the Yaroslavl isolation prison in 1937.”
And thus the earthly life of Bishop Andrew was ended, his voice silenced, his grave a hole together with hundreds of other such victims buried beneath the nightmare dungeons of the dark world of Soviet atheism. But the memory of him remains vivid, fresh, and fragrant with the spiritual beauty of a true Christian martyr. The image of a Tatar prince who became a monk in order to preach spiritual freedom with Christ even in the catacombs is indeed inspiring and alive today more than ever. On the back of a portrait given in 1912 to some person afflicted with grief his hand inscribed three short words of encouragement, which come down to us today as full of meaning as if from the better world where he is now: ‘‘I weep, love, and pray.”
Sources (all in Russian): Theological Encyclopedia, Vol. VII, 1906, article “Kazan”; Or thodox Russia, 1948, No. 3; 1949, Nos. 8-9; 1952, Nos. 5 and 9; 1981, No. 5. Orthodox Life: 1966, No. 6. Polsky, The New Martyrs of Russia, Vol. II, p. 250. Unpublished letters and manuscripts of Rev. N. Deputatoff, Abbess Juliana, Nun Tabitha, Prof. S.V. Grotov, Rev. M. Polsky. M. Popovsky, “Protopov Avvakum of the 20th Century,” Russian Life, August 19, 1981. Nadezhda, No. 3, 1979.