HIEROMARTYR THEODORE OF PETROGRAD (+ 1929)
and those with him
By Vladimir Moss
Fr. Theodore Konstantinovich Andreyev was born in a merchant's family in St. Petersburg on April 1, 1888 (or 1887). On finishing his secondary education in 1905, he entered the St. Petersburg Institute of Civil Engineering, but left during his fourth year and moved to the Moscow Theological Academy, from which he graduated in 1913 with a degree of candidate of theology. The subject of his candidate’s dissertation was “Yu. F. Samarin as a theologian and philosopher”. Then he became professor of systematic philosophy and logic in the Moscow Theological Academy, receiving his cathedra from Fr. Paul Florensky.
After the revolution, considering it “a time of self-definition”, he decided to devote himself entirely to the Church. In 1918 he cooperated on the Orthodox journal, Vozrozhdenie. In 1919, after the closure of the Moscow Academy, he moved to Petrograd, where he became a teacher of Russian language and literature in the former Mikhailovsky artillery school. He was also a teacher of apologetics and liturgics in the Petrograd theological institute from 1921 to 1923. On July 18, 1922 he became deputy of the pro-rector, and in his first academic year read 81 lectures on Christian apologetics. In the second year he read 83 lectures on patrology, and led the philosophico-apologetic circle.
I.M. Andreyev writes: "In 1921-22 Prof. T.K. Andreyev would sometimes give lectures or, more frequently, debates. Especially striking was his talk at the 'Home of Scientists' in the discussion after the lecture of Prof. N.O. Lossky in 1921, 'On the Nature of the Satanic', when the young professor, with immense feeling and broad erudition, censured the renowned philosopher Lossky, reading as it were a counter-lecture on the theme of 'The Origin of Evil'."
He also very cleverly and tactfully refuted the uniate exarch, Fr. Leonid Fyodorov and the talented Yu.N. Danzas, who until their arrest in 1922 preached the unia with Rome among the professorial body, claiming that it was the only way to the spiritual and political regeneration of Russia. Thanks to Theodore Konstantinovich, only two people in the whole professorial world accepted the unia. In this period, Theodore Konstantinovich began gradually to depart from his former professor and friend, Fr. Paul Florensky, and come closer to the well-known church writer and publisher, Michael Alexandrovich Novoselov (the future secret Bishop Mark).
On July 23, 1922 Theodore Konstantinovich married Natalia Nikolayevna Florovskaya. It was a happy marriage, and the couple had two twin girls.
On December 17, 1922 Theodore Konstantinovich was ordained to the diaconate, then to the priesthood, and on December 19, 1922 was appointed fourth priest in the Kazan cathedral. After the seizure of the cathedral by the renovationists, he temporarily did not serve. In the autumn of 1923 Bishop Manuel (Lemeshevsky) appointed him junior priest of the St. Sergius cathedral. He was raised to the rank of protopriest in 1927.
Fr. Theodore was tall, thin, well-built, with light-brown hair and beard, and with an exceptionally beautiful, inspired, but always waxy-pale face. He was distinguished for his asceticism, his simplicity and the strictness of his confession. Hundreds of inhabitants of Petrograd, especially from the intelligentsia, used to go to him for confession, when he gave many the Optina rule: “Live simply, say the Jesus prayer from day to day”. However, he forbade many to receive Communion. It is known, for example, that once he did not allow the widow of a professor of the Military-Medical Academy to receive Communion because she had attended an anti-religious spectacle in a theatre. To another parishioner he offered either that she get married in church or that she terminate her living together of many years with a certain professor. Otherwise, he would not allow her to receive Communion.
From 1924 to 1928, Fr. Theodore taught Dogmatic Theology and Liturgics in the "Pastoral Courses" which had been set up in Petrograd by a number of theology professors as an answer to the two other theological schools remaining in the city, a "renovated" one and a "liberal" one. However, when the rector of these courses, Professor John Pavlovich Shcherbov died, the courses closed down. Fr. Theodore lost his professorship and began teaching in technical and high schools.
His sermons produced a powerful impression on his listeners. They attracted so many people that the huge cathedral could not hold all those who wished to hear his inspired Orthodox word. Among his listeners were many professors and students of the Military-Medical Academy and University, and scientific researchers at the Academy of Sciences, who gradually became his spiritual children.
In the summer of 1927, when Metropolitan Sergius issued his infamous declaration, Fr. Theodore refused to accept it. On July 14 he was arrested, but was released after signing a promise that he would not leave the city on August 31. On November 10, the case against him was dismissed by the OGPU. In December he left the Sergiev Cathedral, whose two mitre-bearing protopriests, Fr. John Morev and Fr. Basil Zapolsky, were sergianists, and moved to the Cathedral of the Resurrection on the Blood, where the clergy who did not recognize Metropolitan Sergius had gathered: the superior, Protopriest Basil Veryuzhsky, Protopriest Sergius Tikhomirov, Protopriest Alexander Tikhomirov, Fr. Nicholas Prozorov, Fr. Nicephorus Strelnikov, Protopriest Victorin Dobronravov and others.
On November 27, a delegation from the Petrograd clergy and laity went to Moscow to remonstrate with Metropolitan Sergius. Before going, they had sent a letter composed by Fr. Basil Veryuzhsky suggesting ways of averting the impending schism. Fr. Theodore was to have gone as a member of this delegation, but was prevented by illness, and Fr. Victorin Dobronravov went instead. (According to another source, the members of the delegation were Bishop Demetrius and Fr. Basil from the clergy, and I.M. Andreyevsky and Professor Abramovich-Baranovsky from the clergy).
When the delegation arrived in Moscow, they handed Metropolitan Sergius three letters, one from the episcopate which may have been composed by Fr. Theodore but which has not been preserve, another composed by S.S. Abramovich-Baranovsky from the academic world, and a third composed by Fr. Theodore from the clergy and laity. Fr. Theodore's letter read as follows:-
"The present letter to you comes from certain representatives of the Orthodox clergy and laity of the city of Leningrad. It is elicited by your recent actions, beginning with the epistle of July 16/29 of this year. Our letter to you will probably be familiar to you in its contents. For us, however, who give it to you, it has to be decisive as regards the question of our further relationship to you and your activity. We therefore beg you to attend to us in your capacity as archpastor.
"We, your Eminence, - like, probably, the majority of the Orthodox people, - do not find that your recent actions have been perfect in the eyes of our God (Revelation 3.2).
"Do you remember what you undertook to do when you became the guardian of the Russian patriarchal throne, which had been widowed after the exile of its first locum tenens? You promised to maintain what was the only correct, though difficult, position in which the Lord had placed the Russian Church in relation to the present rulers of Russia. This position is difficult, for its common name is - rightlessness. But the Ecumenical Church as a whole has at times already known such a position; in individual parts she always known it; while the Russian Church, in the ten years of her living next to Soviet power, has likewise neither seen nor sought the possibility of any other kind of relationship. Orthodox people understood that an authority which has as one of its aims the spread of unbelief is unable not only to protect the Church, but even to preserve her order within the boundaries of its dominions.
"And truly, as we do not have to remind your Eminence, the position of believers in the country has become difficult. Remembering the words of the Lord and the teaching of the apostles, we have obeyed all the prescriptions of the civil authorities that do not contradict our Orthodox conscience, and we have suffered in silence all the repressions to which our faith has been subjected. But we did not hope to have any closer juridical relations with the unbelieving authorities, and did not seek them.
"That is how things continued for ten years, and that is how they should have remained in the future. The Russian Orthodox Church, seeing her Sun of Righteousness hanging on the wood of the Cross, stood in her order, reflecting the way of the Cross of her Master in her earthly wanderings during the time of persecution.
"You, your Eminence, wished as it were to help the Church and obtain for her certain rights from the civil authorities. But at what price did you obtain these? A price which for many Orthodox will become and already has become 'the price of blood' (Matthew 27.6). True, you did not act on your own, but as it were in the name of the Church, in your capacity as the guardian of the patriarchal throne. But you have gone far beyond the bounds of your remit. In fact, you know, your remit derives from the patriarchal remit and is defined by it; the Patriarch depends on the Local Council, and the Council expresses the voice of the whole of the Russian Church. These three grades of ecclesiastical authority were before your eyes when you composed your epistle. But how did you ascend on them to the primary source of your rights?
"You began with the Patriarch. Here, on your way to him, there arose before you the figure of the locum tenens. He had already been deprived of his place of service and had been sent into exile by the same authority from which you sought new rights for the Church, and was silently witnessing before the face of the whole of the Russian Church that his sorrows were not the sorrows of this authority, as your epistle claims, but were the same as our common, Orthodox grief. You understood that you could not justify your way of acting in the name of him whose closest deputy you were; and so, passing by the locum tenens, you never even mentioned him in your epistle. You extended your hand to the Patriarch himself through his exiled head, as it were.
“On the basis of certain unclear, as yet unconfirmed words of the reposed Patriarch concerning some 'three years' which he supposedly put forward as necessary for his completion of a work identical to your own, if death had not hindered him, you established this specious link of yours with him, at the same time that his nearest deputy, who was probably better initiated into the intentions of the reposed Patriarch, preferred to spend these three fatal years in exile, instead of working in the direction supposedly bequeathed to him by the Patriarch.
"Having established in this way an artificial link with the Patriarch, you turn to the next step - the Local Council. But here, not finding anything in the most recent Council which would authorize you to create those relations with the civil authorities which were laid down in your epistle, but even finding a decision contrary to your own in the decree of August 2/15, 1918, you, of course, did not seek for confirmation in the acts of previous Councils but preferred to turn to a Council that was still to come. It, you claim in your epistle, will solve the question concerning the higher ecclesiastical administration and 'those who tear the robe of Christ' - that is, evidently, the most recent schismatics and heretics. Moreover it will do a number of other things - but you did not say that it would review your own epistle [declaration] and everything done in the name of the council before its actual convening. It follows that there will be no proper Local Council, but only some new executive institution attached to your person. Moreover, in being called to establish a new form of higher ecclesiastical administration, it will evidently remove also that very patriarchate, on your links with which you have just tried to base your epistle. Don't you see the vicious circle you have fallen into?
"Let us now turn to the third, highest step of ecclesiastical authority - the conciliar mind of the Church. Perhaps, in bypassing the Council and the Patriarch, you succeeded in making immediate contact with the Orthodox conscience of the Russian members of the Church, and your epistle appeared as the expression of their voice? No, this voice would have had to assure you that if you seek the true witness of the Christian conscience, you would first of all have to find out the opinion of those who especially bear the name of witnesses of the truth, that is, the confessors who have suffered for it. You not only did not do this, but, on the country, you completely swept them aside as have sinned against that very authority with which you have so ardently been concerned to establish better relations. You swept aside both the witnesses and those whom you simply supposed would not be on your side, considering them to be 'ivory-towered dreamers'. You even suggested that they depart from you altogether, whether temporarily or forever. You recognized what remained from this selection to be the true Russian flock and began to act in their name. It is not surprising that they turned out to be in full agreement with you.
"And so the whole aim of the epistle was to give you the appearance of lawfulness, and yet it all stands on sand. Neither the Patriarch, nor the Council nor the conciliar mind of the Church is in fact in agreement with it. The epistle not only does not express their opinion: on the contrary, having first deviated from them, it substituted false likenesses of them and then clothed itself in its own fictitious rights. To put it bluntly, it is not the Russian Church that has drawn this epistle from her own depths; it is rather that the epistle, having been torn away from the historical Church, has itself been laid as the cornerstone at the base of the new 'church of the evildoers'. It has constructed new logical steps of representation in its own image and likeness: it has revealed to the world a deputy standing above and beyond the person he deputizes for; it has thought up a council with previously prepared acts; it has gathered to its advantage only those voices of whom it knew in advance that they would have to be in agreement with it.
"And this 'shame of nakedness' (Revelation 3.18) which has been revealed by the epistle cannot be covered by the 'Temporary Holy Synod' attached to the deputy which has arisen with it. It is in vain that it tries to communicate the likeness of a Patriarch to its president, for in accordance with the conciliar decree it is conceivable only with a Patriarch; its claims to express the voice of the Church are crazy. The synod is only a kind of soft carpet that covers over the profanation of the steps of ecclesiastical authority. They are now so smoothed down that they have formed a single steep incline along which the Russian Church is bound to crash down into the pit dug for it by you and the synodical epistle.
"But the abomination of desolation extends even further, it has been set up on the holy place, it penetrates into the very holy of holies of the Christian sacraments. Already the name of the patriarchal locum tenens is commemorated as if unwillingly, without calling him 'our lord'; already the deputy is sending out warnings that this commemoration will shortly cease because of 'the absence of canonical basis for it'; already the name of the deputy, which up to now has not been commemorated aloud in the churches, has been set next to that of the locum tenens and is about the crowd it out; already the names of the lawful diocesan bishops are being substituted with those of new ones forcibly imposed by the higher authorities in spite of the church canons; the commemoration of the very civil authorities who have rejected all faith is being introduced - a new phenomenon which disturbs the conscience of many; and many other anticanonical acts are also being carried out.
"And so the unity of the Church, which, in the words of Hieromartyr Ignatius the Godbearer, has its external expression in the bishop, and so for the Russian Church as a whole - in the Patriarch, has already been shaken - as a whole, by your union with a synod that has exceeded its rights to the point of equality with you, and in individual dioceses - by unlawful transfers of local bishops and their substitution by others. The holiness of the Church, which shines in martyrdom and confession, has been condemned by your epistle. Her catholicity has been desecrated. Her apostolicity, as her link with the Lord and as an embassy to the world (John 17.18), has been destroyed by the break in hierarchical succession (the removal of Metropolitan Peter) and the movement of the world itself into her.
"The stormy waves of this unprecedented ecclesiastical unrighteousness have rushed up even to our city. Our metropolitan has been removed without guilt and without a trial - you know all about this, Vladyka, although you have paid no attention either to him or to those who ask about him. A new bishop has been consecrated without sufficient basis and against the will of many Orthodox; another banned bishop takes part in church services; a series of other ecclesiastical iniquities have been committed, about which those who have given you this letter will tell you about.
"Our embassy to you, Vladyka, has been directly elicited by the pressure of this wave, but in coming to you we knew that were ascending to the very source of all the recent misfortunes, for that source is your epistle, and for that reason we beseech you on behalf of the needs not only of our diocese, but of the whole Russian Orthodox Church, whose members, by the mercy of God, we are. And we repeat what we said at the beginning: our embassy to you is decisive.
"You, Vladyka, must separate yourself, as the head of the Russian Church, from your own epistle, declaring it to be the expression only of your personal opinion which is not binding for the other members of the Russian Church, in accordance with the decree of the Council of 1917-18 of August 2/15, 1918, which made the taking up of this or that kind of attitude towards political questions a matter of the conscience of the believers themselves, for our Church by the legislation of the civil authorities themselves is separated from the state. Moreover, you must annul and reconsider all the canonically incorrect acts carried out by you and the synod and, in places by diocesan councils as a result of your epistle.
"But at the present time of our meeting we expect from you the simple witness of your conscience: do you accept our letter or not, so that we can inform our like-minded fathers and brothers who have authorized us to come to you whether we can expect from you the return of our holy rightlessness. Otherwise, our rejection of your epistle and your actions connected with it must, to our great sorrow, be transferred to your person, and, preserving hierarchical succession through Metropolitan Peter, we shall be forced to break canonical communion with you."
This letter was dated November 26-28 / December 9-11. Metropolitan Sergius did not respond to it. And so the True Orthodox Christians of Petrograd broke communion with him; and it was Fr. Theodore who composed the text of their "secession" in a letter dated December 14-16, 1927.
On September 8, 1928 he was arrested. First he was tortured. Then his throat filled with blood. The prison doctors diagnosed tuberculosis of the throat and pleurisy. At one of the interrogations they offered him freedom on condition that he supported Metropolitan Sergius. The investigator Makarov painted a rosy picture of all the "delights" of a flourishing Church recognizing the communist government and benefiting from the rights of a juridical person before the emaciated, barely alive pastor.
"We do not need your Soviet laws," replied Fr. Theodore, "leave us in our holy rightlessness".
Fr. Theodore defended his position in a work entitled “Apology of the Departed”, which was published under the name of his close friend and mentor, M.A. Novoselov, but which is now thought to have been written by Fr. Theodore
When the doctors had determined that Fr. Theodore had no more than one month to live, the GPU allowed him home without sentencing him. According to one source, he caught a chill at the beginning of Great Lent, 1929 while giving confession for hours in the cathedral of the Resurrection “on the Blood”. On returning home he lay down, with blood frequently pouring out of his throat. But in a weak voice he exhorted his visitors to be faithful to the Church of Christ and Metropolitan Joseph of Petrograd. His last known words were: “I am always thinking about the events that have taken place, and as I examine myself before the face of death, I can say one thing – with that mind and that soul that the Lord has given me, I could not have acted otherwise…”
Protopriest Theodore died quietly in his flat on May 23, 1929, and thousands attended his solemn funeral service. According to Professor A.I. Brilliantov of the St. Petersburg Theological Academy, the city had not known such an assembly for a funeral since the death of Dostoyevsky. Several future martyrs were there: Bishop Demetrius of Gdov, Protopriest Sergius Tikhomirov, Fr. Nicholas Prozorov, the young reader Kartsev (shot in 1931), and many pastors and laymen. Bishop Demetrius called him an "adamant of Orthodoxy" for his righteous criticism of Bulgakov, Berdyaev and other pseudo-Orthodox thinkers. It is known from the testimony of Hieromartyr Paul Borotinsky that Fr. Theodore, together with Bishop Demetrius of Gdov, was also opposed to Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky’s teaching on “the Dogma of Redemption”.
In September, 1930 Fr. Theodore’s matushka, Natalya Nikolayevna, was arrested in connection with the case of “The All-Union Counter-Revolutionary Monarchist Organization, ‘The True Orthodox Church’”, and was sentenced to three years in exile. A search was carried out in the flat and many precious theological works by Fr. Theodore were taken away into the depths of the NKVD. On returning from exile, Matushka Natalya and her daughter Zoya were taken care of by his disciple and future Catacomb confessor and theologian, I.M. Andreyevsky. However, according to another source, she returned to Leningrad only in the middle of the 1950s, and died in 1970.
(Sources: L.E. Sikorskaya, Svyaschennomuchenik Dmitrij Arkhiepiskop Godvskij, Moscow, 2008; Protopresbyter Michael Polsky, Noviye Mucheniki Rossijskiye, Jordanville, 1949-57, part 2, chapter 19; "The Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia", Orthodox Life, vol. 37, no. 1, 1987, p. 37; I.M. Andreyev, Russia's Catacomb Saints, St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1982, p. 92; Orthodox Apologetic Theology, St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1995, pp. 23-25; Victor Antonov, "Otvyet na Deklaratsiyu", Russkij Pastyr, 24, I-1996; M.B Danilushkin (ed.), Istoria Russkoj Tserkvi ot vosstanovlenia Patriarchestva do nashikh dnej, vol. I, St. Petersburg, 1997, pp. 989-990; M.V. Shkarovsky, Iosiflyanstvo, St. Petersburg, 1999, p. 300; http://www.pstbi.ru/cgi-htm/db.exe/no_dbpath/docum/cnt/ans/newmr; Bishop Ambrose (Epifanov), “’Ostav’te nam nashe sviatoe bespravie!’”, Vertograd, 1 (96), April-June, 2009, pp. 14-27)