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8. Bishop Hierotheus
Russia's Catacomb Saints
AND HIS FRIEND, SCHEMA-HIEROMONK SERAPHIM
Commemorated May 31 (†1927)
The good shepherd giveth
his life for the sheep.
St. John 10:11
The first martyr of the Catacomb Church, who died directly for the purity of Christ's Church at the very outbreak of impious Sergianism, was a young and zealous hierarch, well known to Patriarch Tikhon, Bishop Hierotheus (Athonik) of Nikolsk in the Diocese of Ustiug the Great, a Vicarate of Vologda. And the land of his martyrdom, the northern plains of Russia, once abundant with glorious monk-saints of the "Northern Thebaid," became once more plenteous with saints—but now with martyrs and confessors of the Church of Christ.
Bishop Hierotheus was much loved and very popular among his flock. His outspokenness and his refusal to submit to Metropolitan Sergius and his new church policy or to pray for the God-hating Soviet State during church services led him to his martyr's crown. In May of 1928, when the Soviet authorities came to arrest him, the people gathered in great numbers and would not allow him to be arrested. Without further ceremony the authorities shot him in the head and killed him. Thus, falling dead into the arms of his loving flock, the hieromartyr literally fulfilled the words of Christ which he had just quoted in his own epistle to his flock: The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. And like a chosen sacrifice, he went straight to the Throne of God as the first heavenly intercessor of the Catacomb Church, whose members from this time forth were to undergo the cruelest sufferings and tortures, yet thereby multiplying and becoming the sole bearers of the purity of the Orthodox Church in Russia.
Bishop Hierotheus had a young friend, Father Seraphim. The following account of his life is in the words of a relative of his, H. Kontzevitch:
"Father Seraphim was born in 1897 and was named Sergius. He spent his childhood in Petersburg, where his father, Constantine Voensky, was the chief warden of the Archives of the Ministry of Public Education and a historian. Strange to say, there was something similar between the Voensky family and the "Karamazovs" of Dostoyevsky's novel. The father of the family, having led from childhood a loose life, was light-minded, and his wife, Olga, exasperated by his behavior, was constantly at war with him, which created unpleasant scenes, so that the home atmosphere was very trying.
"This reflected adversely on the frail and sensitive boy. He early realized that his father lived at the mercy of his passions. Sergius did not wish to be like this. Therefore, he began to develop his power of will. He read books on the subject, slept on the bare floor, and even was about to try Yoga. Then one day he went to Valaam. The grandeur of the great monastery left a deep impression on him; there his soul found its home. He began to go frequently to Valaam on pilgrimage; he even talked his father into going there, where the latter by a miracle gave up smoking, which he had never been able to do. In 1917 Sergius finished Military Academy. The whirlwind of revolution scattered the members of the family: his father ended up in Malta, and Sergius and his mother found themselves in the city of Nikolsk, where they settled in the house of a priest and lived in great poverty.
"Here occurred Sergius' most significant meeting with the young bishop Hierotheus. The bishop ordained him priest, and he served in a parish. Meanwhile the Revolution was raging and the clergy was being exterminated. Bishop Hierotheus presented Fr. Sergius to Patriarch Tikhon already as a candidate for bishop. The Patriarch called him to Moscow. He went, met the Patriarch, and on his return to Nikolsk was arrested. In prison he underwent the usual tortures inflicted upon members of the clergy by the atheist regime. He developed tuberculosis. He was finally released from prison to 'die at home,' which in fact happened very soon, in the year 1923, when he was just 26 years old. On his deathbed his friend, Bishop Hierotheus, tonsured him in the Great Schema with the name of Seraphim, and buried him with the rites of the Church.
"In 1915 I met Father Seraphim for the first time. He was then the student Sergius, a close friend of my brother, who was attending school in Petersburg. He was a short, thin young man, with dark hair, and with an extraordinarily kind and attractive face. He had beautiful dark blue eyes. There was in him something not of this world.
"When the news came of Fr. Seraphim's death, I wrote to his father: 'Dear Uncle Kostya, How fortunate you are. You are the father of a saint! On the day of your death he will come for you and take you to that land where he is now, where there will be no more tears or sorrow, but eternal joy.'"
O Lord, grant rest to the righteous souls of thy slaves, Bishop Hierotheus and Schema-Hieromonk Seraphim, and by their prayers grant us, too, the strength to confess true Orthodoxy to our last breath. Amen.
THE SEPARATION OF HIEROTHEUS, BISHOP OF NIKOLSK
Document of January 12, 1928
To all my co-workers in the Lord's Name on the spiritual field, and to the clergy and laymen of the Diocese of Ustiug: In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
And grant us with one mouth and one heart to glorify Thy most honorable and majestic Name.
Dear pastors and faithful children of the Orthodox Church:
You know that without unity there is no salvation. The organism of the Church is one: Christ is the Head of the Church; the mouth, eyes, hands, and feet are pastors and teachers, the organs of the Church; and the body of the Church is all who believe in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The whole body moves with one spirit and is animated by one heart. A part of the body which is not nourished by the heart's blood falls away and perishes. Thus before our own eyes did the Renovationists fall away from the Church; they did not wish to be in communion with the primary person in the Church, the Most Holy Patriarch, and now they are gradually rotting away, like some useless hand or foot that has been cut off and thrown on the ground.
After the Renovationists of the "Living Church" it was the "Autocephalists"—the followers of Archbishop Gregory of Ekaterinburg (Gregorians), who did not acknowledge the Locum Tenens Metropolitan Peter — who renounced the unity of the Church. And now the unity of the Church has been broken by Metropolitan Sergius, the Substitute of Metropolitan Peter. As long as he was a faithful guardian of the Patriarchal See which was entrusted to him, the entire Church considered him its guide; but when he has undertaken arbitrary enterprises approved neither by the people of the Church nor by a Council of Bishops, and without the blessing of Metropolitan Peter — then no one is obliged to follow the path of his errors.
At the time of the Renovationism of the Living Church all true children of the Church separated themselves from the Renovationist Council of 1923 and from the Living Church Synod, and gradually they united themselves around the Most Holy Patriarch and the bishops who were in ecclesiastical communion with him. In the same way now Metropolitans Peter and Cyril, Metropolitans Joseph of Leningrad, Arsenius of Novgorod, and Agathangel of Yaroslavl, Bishop Arsenius Vicar of Moscow (formerly of Serpukhov, now retired), Archbishop Seraphim of Uglich, Archbishop Athanasius of Kiev, Bishops Dmitry of Gdov, Victor of Votkinsk, Seraphim formerly of Dmitriev (Zvezdinsky, retired), Irinarch of Great Ustiug, the Bishops in banishment, and many others, and likewise a group of the clergy of the capital and delegations authorized by communities of believers —all in various forms have declared to Metropolitan Sergius their disagreement with him and their separation from him.
Some of them declare that Sergius has stretched out his hands towards the Patriarchal Throne, striving to overturn it, inasmuch as in his Synod there are persons whom the Church does not trust. Others say that Sergius has introduced a political tendency into Church life (see his Declaration in Izvestia, Aug. 19, 1927). Still others indicated that Metropolitan Sergius has chosen a crooked path of diplomatic doubletalk, agreements, and compromises — as if for the salvation of the Church — and has left the straight but sorrowful path of the Cross, i.e., of patience and firmness.
Finally, he has made use of deceit, calling his Synod Orthodox and Patriarchal, while in reality its organization is a trampling down of the Church's canons: Metropolitan Peter, the Locum Tenens, did not give his approval for such a thing, it having failed to obtain the blessing of the Most Holy Patriarch in 1924. What the Renovationists and the Gregorians could not succeed in doing — what Metropolitan Sergius very cunningly did: bound the Church to the civil authority, expressing spiritual submission to it.
The Decree on the Separation of the Church from the Government does not exist for Sergius and his followers. Therefore, for the realization of his plans Metropolitan Sergius, violating the 9th Canon of the Council of Chalcedon, even makes use of the non-ecclesiastical power.
As for me, acknowledging my responsibility before God for the flock entrusted to me, I have declared on January 10|23 of this year to Bishop Sophronius, who has been assigned to the See of Great Ustiug by (Sergius') Synod, that my flock and clergy of Nikolsk — except for the cathedral clergy, who have been rejected by the people — cannot accept him because we have separated from Sergius and from his Synod. And on the other hand I have informed Metropolitan Joseph (of Leningrad) that I canonically join to him the clergy and laity of the Diocese of Great Ustiug, in accordance with the blessing of Vladika Irinarch, whose lawful Substitute I am at the present time for the whole Diocese of Great Ustiug.
I have had to suffer much in the way of every kind of slander and offense for my archpastoral labors for the good of the Church. If the Apostolic Canons say that clergy may do nothing without the will of their bishop, then my will expressed in the present epistle, is thereby all the more worthy of every acceptance.
Nevertheless, wishing to hear from you, dear children, that you are one in soul and one in thought with me, and likewise respecting your freedom of self-determination, I propose that my epistle be read and considered at assemblies of the faithful, so that all might know the way the matter stands and freely enter into unity with me, remaining faithful to the Locum Tenens of the Patriarchal See, Metropolitan Peter, and to the entire Orthodox Russian Church; concerning which I request you to send me a written statement.
Only the clergy of the Cathedral of the Lord's Meeting in Nikolsk, the priest from the Renovationists Sergius Aranovich (in Kudrilo), and Archpriest John Golubev (in Shango) have openly come out against me, spreading every kind of evil report, slander, and absurdity. They have written unfounded complaints against me to the Synod, and Archpriest Michael Krasov (of Vokhma) personally took these to Moscow; for which they have been prohibited from serving and are in a state of excommunication from me until they shall show sincere repentance in the form established for Renovationists, or until a complete council of bishops shall judge the case of Metr. Sergius and those who are with him (10th Canon of the Holy Apostles).
I place before you these hirelings, who see the wolf approach and flee; do not follow them, my brethren and children, but let us have before us a different example: the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. Amen.
On January 12|25, 1928, I have received the reply of Metropolitan Joseph: "Govern yourselves independently. Our justification: faithfulness to Metropolitan Peter. ˜Joseph."
Hierotheus, Bishop of Nikolsk
Sources: Polsky's Russia's New Martyrs, Vol. I and II; Helen Kontzevitch, "God's People Met in My Life," in Orthodox Russia, 1972; Andreyev's verification.