A Personal Testimony
“A man’s wisdom maketh his face to shine…”
Having been appointed by the late Metropolitan warden of the Kursk Hermitage in Mahopac these seven years, I had some occasion to know him. Our relationship was quite formal; I did not know him with that ease and intimacy with which so many others knew him, yet I thoroughly appreciated the quiet and intensely dignified presence of this gentle and angelic man who left us on the Feast of the Angels to join that heavenly choir.
Great silence and time were mainsprings of his person. His very words were encased in silence; they arose out of silence. He seemed to wait there, behind the silence, so as to greet one in a holy place. He waited for us all, even the whole Church, and condemned no man; neither did he despise any. Those who were foolish and naked he protected; he hated mockery. With the greatest respect and attention he waited; never to break, nor despoil, nor wound — that in silence and in secret our hearts might arise in us and recall us again to the True Love. He knew full well that wisdom and love and the redemption of a Christian soul can be neither legislated nor coerced.
He gave “time” to men with an extravagant generosity. These gifts of “time” would suspend a human life in hope. For so many he bought a few more days, months or years in which a soul might be recalled, unbruised in kindness to his Christ. His very presence imparted a certain freedom, a freedom which probed the deepest recesses of the heart, seeking some shame and sanity that would enable the heart to be broken from within by the Lord Himself.
The Metropolitan lay in state in the Synod Cathedral those several days, -magnificent, still, with that same -unbroken presence. An experience of terrible -vacancy and loss — bankruptcy was on the faces of so many. Only the spiritual beauty and power of the requiem services were able to address it. Like the eternal “Russian monk” described by a great writer of the last century, our Vladyka “kept the image of Christ fair and undefiled, in the purity of God’s truth, from the time of the Fathers of old, the Apostles and the martyrs.”
Others will write historical descriptions of Vladyka; we wished only to say a word about him here in Mahopac. Our rector, Archpriest Konstantine Fedoroff, a spiritual son of Vladyka, is certain that Vladyka has not left us — nor ever will. He exhorts everyone to preserve the spiritual content of Vladyka’s injunctions, and to hold most dear Vladyka’s final testament to his flock, “to hold fast and keep clean before God that which our holy Church has given us from the beginning.”
— Simeon Richards
After Vladyka’s repose, the following message was found in his typewriter. No date was indicated, but one must conclude that it was typed within a few days of his peaceful repose. For all us, his spiritual children, it is his spiritual legacy, a reminder for us to live as true Orthodox Christians.
“Hold that fast which thou hast”
These words from the Book of Revelation [Rev. 3:11] have a particular significance in our time, our greatly sorrowful and wicked days which are full of temptation. They remind us of that priceless spiritual treasure which we possess, as children of the Orthodox Church. Yes, we are rich. And this spiritual wealth is that which the holy Church possesses, which belongs to all her faithful children: the teaching of the Faith, our wonderful, salvific Orthodox Faith; the countless living examples of the lives of people who have lived according to the Faith, according to those lofty principles and laws which the Church sets before us, and who have attained that spiritual purity and exalted state which is called sanctity; the beauty and magnificence of our Orthodox divine services, and a living participation in them through faith and prayer; the fullness of the spiritual life of grace which is accessible to each and every one; and, what is the crown of all, the unity of the children of the Church in that love of which the Savior said: “By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another” [Jn 13:35].
+ Metropolitan Philaret