ARCHBISHOP THEOPHAN OF POLTAVA (+ 1940)
By Vladimir Moss
The future Archbishop Theophan was born in the village of Podmoshie, Novgorod province on December 31, 1874 (1873, according to another source). His father was the village priest, Fr. Demetrius Bystrov, and his mother was called Maria. He was baptized with the name Basil, since the feast day of St. Basil the Great (January 1) was the nearest to his birthday.
When he was seven years old, Basil had an extraordinary prophetic dream. He saw himself standing in hierarchical vestments and wearing a golden mitre in the high place during the Divine Liturgy. And his father went up to him and censed him. It should be pointed out that the child had never yet witnessed a hierarchical service. In the morning Basil told his mother the dream. His father, who was sitting in the next room, heard him and said:
“Look a new Joseph has appeared!”
But the prophecy in the dream was fulfilled exactly. Many years later, when Archbishop Theophan was going to be consecrated to the episcopate, the Holy Synod asked his father to take part in the service. And during the service he censed his son in the sanctuary in front of the holy altar…
As a child, his parents told him, Basil did not know any prayers by heart, but he would fall on his knees in front of the icons and burble out, weeping:
“Lord, You are so great and I am so small!”
He was quiet and concentrated, and did not take part in childish games. But at the same time he was radiant and joyful. He tasted of the fruits of prayer, and kept a strict watch on his inner life. He loved the severe landscape of the north of Russia, which spoke to him of God the Creator. And he breathed in the pious, humble spirit of the peasants around him.
Basil went to the parish school, where his extraordinary intellectual talents were first revealed. He was able to read a page once and repeat it almost word for word, and jumped class three times. Then he went to theological seminary, which he finished three years before those who had begun with him.
Having finished his secondary studies at the theological seminary, the young Basil had to pass an examination to enter the Theological Academy in St. Petersburg.
“I was then scarcely seventeen. I was much younger than all the other candidates, and I looked like a schoolboy… I was not afraid of the entry examination because I had a good knowledge of the seminary programme. And then there came the time of the written examination in philosophy marked by the famous Professor Korinfsky. I was afraid of this exam because it was outside the seminary programme and because it was the only written exam, all the others were oral. I prayed fervently to St. Justin the Philosopher and the holy teachers of the Church Saints Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom to enlighten my mind and give me their thought.
“The day of the exam arrived; it was due to take place at four o’clock. We sat down, Professor Korinfsky entered, greeted us and then wrote on the board the proposed subject:
“’The importance of personal experience in elaborating one’s world-view.’
“What joy and gratitude to the Lord I felt on reading this compositional subject! It was clear and familiar to me. Thanks to the prayers of the saints, the Lord sent me rapid, light thought and I finished my work astonishingly quickly, in half an hour. I had written only one page… I got up and asked permission to give in my work. The professor was clearly very surprised! He looked at his watch and said, not without hesitation: “’Oh well, give it to me.’
“He had seen that I was the youngest and probably thought that I had not understood the subject. I noted his hesitation and handed him my paper. He asked me to wait for a moment and began to read. During the reading, he raised his eyes towards me from time to time, then said:
“’Thank you, thank you… You can go.’
“My fervent prayer to the philosopher saints had been heard,’ continued the archbishop. ‘It was they, not I, who had written by my hand… Thanks be to Thee, O Lord! For Thou are the Giver of all good things! In this way the exam which was supposed to be the most difficult became for me the easiest of all. I had the distinct impression that Professor Korfinsky was satisfied with my work. Finally, I got the top pass into the St. Petersburg Academy. But as the Apostle writes: ‘Not I, but the grace of God which is with me’ (I Corinthians 15.10).”
Many years later, when Basil was now Bishop Theophan and the Rector of the Academy, he had to pacify the warring factions among the professors during the revolutionary years 1905-06. After one of these debates, without himself taking part, Professor Korinfsky came up to the Rector, who had just calmed the tempest, and said, smiling sweetly:
“Yes… I well remember your essay!”
At the Theological Academy
Archbishop Theophan had fond memories of several of the professors of the Academy when he was there, including V.V. Bolotov, A.P. Lopukhin and N.N. Glubokovsky. Professor Lopukhin even bequeathed him his very large theological library (which he later gave to the Academy). With their help and support, he passed all four years of his study as the first student.
Having finished his theological education at the age of 21, he was given a professorial scholarship to continue to study at the Academy.
In 1896, Basil Dmitrievich was appointed lecturer at the St. Petersburg Academy in the faculty of Biblical history. In 1898 he received the monastic tonsure with the name Theophan in honour of St. Theophan the Confessor, Bishop of Sigriane, and in respectful memory of Bishop Theophan the Recluse. In the same year he was ordained to the diaconate and the priesthood.
In 1901, he was raised to the rank of archimandrite with the duties of inspector of the Academy in the Academy’s house church by Metropolitan Anthony (Vadkovsky) of St. Petersburg.
The Academy’s ustav said that the inspector had to have a master’s degree and so was obliged to write a composition to obtain the degree. But Archimandrite Theophan did not hand in a composition, although he had written it. The reason was that as a monk he had given vows of poverty and humility, and could not seek or desire academic glory. It contradicted the monastic vows. And so the work lay in his desk for several years until another professor in his absence took it and gave it to the Academic Council. The subject of the composition was: “The Tetragram, or the Old Testament Name of God (Jehovah or Yahweh)”. This work became his master’s dissertation at the faculty of the Biblical history of the Old Testament. It was published in 1905 and was very highly esteemed by critics both inside and outside Russia. It was called “the famous Tetragram”! However, when the book appeared in the shops, Archbishop Theophan himself went round all the bookshops in a cab, and bought and burned all the copies of the work! In this way he fought against the love of glory in himself.
In this case, as in others, he sought the advice of the elders, especially Hieroschemamonks Alexis of Valaam, and Barnabas and Isidore of Gethsemane skete.
Fr. Theophan would often take the steamer to Valaam. Once he left the monastery church and went into the woods to practise the Jesus prayer. He soon noticed a large silent mass of people with Fr. Alexis, upon whom the abbot had given the obedience to teach the people outside the church. On seeing him, Fr. Theophan went in a different direction, thinking that he would not meet the crowd again. But it turned out that the elder led the pilgrims in the same direction. Then he decided to let the procession pass him while he went off in the opposite direction. He stopped in a thicket from where he could observe the pilgrims. In front strode the elder a large distance from the people, while behind him came the pilgrims, most of them women. The hieroschemamonk had his head bowed to the ground, and was praying. Suddenly the thought occurred to Fr. Theophan: “Ach, in vain does Hieroschemamonk Alexis surround himself with these women – and all of them are young. There could be reprimands…”
“But I hadn’t managed to think this before the elder raised his head and, turning in my direction, loudly said, almost shouting:
“’They followed Christ, too!’”
These words were so unexpected and short that none of the people could understand their meaning and to whom they referred. Although the whole crowd heard these words and looked in the direction of Fr. Theophan, they could not see him because of the thicket. But the elder again lowered his head and immersed himself in prayer…
“Truly, Elder Alexis was a great saint and wonderful clairvoyant,” witnessed Vladyka Theophan. “He was as beautiful as an angel of God. It was sometimes difficult to look at him, he was as it were in flames, especially when standing at the altar in prayer. At the time he was completely transfigured, his face became different in an indescribable way, extremely concentrated and severe. He was truly all in fire.”
But if the elder felt that those present in the altar were involuntarily observing him and his prayer, he tried to hide his condition by a kind of foolery. He usually went up to the wall and, pretending that he was an absent-minded worshipper, in his shadow on the wall he corrected and combed the hair on his head.
Once Fr. Theophan set off for Valaam, troubled by the following thought: the ascetic rules of the Holy Fathers said that a monk should pay as little attention to his external appearance as possible. But the Church had blessed him to be an academic monk and live and be saved in the world. But, living in the world, it was impossible to forget his flesh and not care for his appearance…
He went to Fr. Alexis’ cell convinced that he would get the solution to his problem. And his faith was rewarded. The elder, as always, received Fr. Theophan very joyfully. He sat him down and asked him to wait for a moment. Then he took a mirror, put it on the table at which Fr. Theophan was sitting, and began carefully to comb his hair. After this he cleared everything from the table and, turning to Fr. Theophan, said:
“Well, now we can talk.”
And so, without any words, the elder had resolved Fr. Theophan’s problem…
Another holy man to whom Fr. Theophan was close was the great wonderworking priest Fr. John of Kronstadt.
Once Fr. Theophan was preparing to celebrate the Divine Liturgy the next day in one of the capital’s churches whose altar feastday it was. But suddenly he was given urgent work that could not be postponed: he had to prepare a written report for the metropolitan. “From the evening and throughout the night I wrote the urgent report, and so I was not able to rest. When I had finished my work it was already morning, I had to go to the church. And there, together with the other clergy, Fr. John was serving with me. The Liturgy was coming to an end and the servers were communing in the altar. At a suitable moment, when the communion hymn was being sung, Fr. John came up to me and congratulated me on receiving the Holy Mysteries. And then he looked at me with particular attention and, shaking his head, said:
“’Oh, how difficult it is to write the whole night and then, having had no rest at all, to go straight to the church and celebrate the Divine Liturgy… May the Lord help and strengthen you!’
“You can imagine how joyful it was for me to hear such words from such a person. I suddenly felt that all my tiredness had suddenly disappeared at his words… Yes, great was the righteous one Fr. John of Kronstadt!”
After pausing for a little, Vladyka continued: “But how many people there were, blind and deaf ones, who did not accept Fr. John and treated him very crudely. And there were such people even among the priests. Thus for example Fr. John once came to the altar feast in one of the churches of St. Petersburg. But the superior of the church, on seeing him, began to shout at him:
“’Who invited you here? Why did you appear? I didn’t invite you. Oh, you’re such a ‘saint’. We know saints of your kind!’
“Fr. John was embarrassed and said:
“‘Calm down, batyushka, I’m leaving now…’
“But he shouted at him:
“‘Oh what a ‘wonderworker’ you are. Get out of here! I didn’t invite you….’
“Fr. John meekly and humbly asked forgiveness and left the church…
“Another time there was a service in the St. Andrew cathedral in Kronstadt, where Fr. John was rector. One of the servers began to get disturbed:
“’Why do you give away money to everyone, but to me, who serve you, you have never given anything? What does this mean?’
“Batyushka was silent, and was apparently praying within himself. But the other continued to be disturbed and reviled him, not sparing his language.
“A reader who happened to be there stood up for batyushka:
“’What are you doing? Are you in your right mind? Is this possible? It is shameful and terrible to think of what you are saying to batyushka.’
“And then he listed the merits of Fr. John, mentioning, among other things, that he was a rector.
“’That’s right,’ said Fr. John. ‘After all, I’m a superior. Is it possible to speak with a superior in such a way? No, no, no… It’s wrong, it’s wrong…’”
Vladyka Theophan noted: “What humility Fr. John had! Neither the gift of clairvoyance, nor the gift of healings, nor of wonderworking – none of this did he attribute to himself. But only that it was wrong to speak to a superior in such a way!”
Fr. John had great influence with the royal family, and the tsar visited him secretly. Rasputin feared this influence.
As Archbishop Theophan witnessed to the Extraordinary Commission: “Rasputin indicated with unusual skill that he had reservations [about Fr. John]… Rasputin… said of Fr. John of Kronstadt… that he was a saint but, like a child, lacked experience and judgement… As a result Fr. John’s influence at court began to wane…”
Fr. John reposed on December 20, 1908. Fr. Theophan served at his funeral.
In 1905, after the publication of his master’s thesis, Fr. Theophan was raised to the rank of extraordinary professor and confirmed in his post as inspector of the Academy.
Perhaps the greatest mistake of Archbishop Theophan’s life was his initial trust of the great pseudo-elder Gregory Rasputin (which means “debauched” in Russian). According to his own witness before the Extraordinary Commission established by the Provisional Government in 1917, he first met Rasputin, significantly, in the house of Bishop Sergius (Stragorodsky), the future traitor of the Russian Church and first Soviet “patriarch” of Moscow. “Once he [Bishop Sergius] invited us to his lodgings for tea, and introduced for the first time to me and several monks and seminarians a recently arrived man of God, Brother Gregory as we called him then. He amazed us all with his psychological perspicacity. His face was pale and his eyes unusually piercing – the look of someone who observed the fasts. And he made a strong impression.”
Archbishop Theophan was especially impressed by Rasputin’s apparent prophetic gift. “At that time Admiral Rozhdestvensky’s squadron had already set sail [to fight the Japanese in the Russo-Japanese War]. We therefore asked Rasputin, ‘Will its engagement with the Japanese be successful?’ Rasputin answered, ‘I feel in my heart that it will be sunk.’ And his prediction subsequently came to pass in the battle of Tsushima Strait.”
Again, “Rasputin correctly told the students of the seminary whom he was seeing for the first time that one would be a writer and that another was ill, and then explained to a third that he was a simple soul whose simplicity was being taken advantage of by his friends… In conversation Rasputin revealed not book learning but a subtle grasp of spiritual experience obtained through personal knowledge. And a perspicacity that verged on second sight.”
Fr. Theophan invited Rasputin to move in with him, to stay in his apartment. It was through Fr. Theophan that Rasputin gained entry into the house of Grand Duke Peter Nikolaevich, the Tsar’s cousin, and his wife, the Montenegrin Grand Duchess Militsa Nikolaevna, whose confessor Fr. Theophan had become. (According to another source the Grand Duchess first met Rasputin in the podvorye of the Mikhailov monastery in Kiev.) “Visiting the home of Militsa Nikolaevna, I let slip that a man of God named Gregory Rasputin had appeared among us. Militsa Nikolaevna became very interested in my communication, and Rasputin received an invitation to present himself to her.” After that, Rasputin was invited to the Grand Duchess’ house on his own…
It was through the Grand Duchess that Fr. Theophan was introduced to the Tsar: “I was invited to the home of the former emperor for the first time by Grand Duchess Militsa Nikolaevna.” In his diary for November 13/26, the Tsar noted: “I received Theophan, inspector of the St. Petersburg Theological Academy.”
Soon after, Fr. Theophan was offered the extremely responsible post of spiritual father of the Royal Family. So he became, as it were, the “conscience of the Tsar” at a critical moment in the nation’s history.
Fr. Theophan gave the Tsarina and her children books of the Holy Fathers to read. In a note to her daughter, the Tsarina reminded them “to read the book that batyushka brought you before communion”.
In view of Fr. Theophan’s closeness both to the Royal Family and to Rasputin, it is often asserted that it was he who introduced them to each other, and that his later self-imposed exile in France was in order to expiate this sin. This is untrue. According to the words of Archbishop Theophan before the Extraordinary Commission: “How Rasputin came to know the family of the former emperor, I have absolutely no idea. And I definitely state that I took no part in that. My guess is that Rasputin penetrated the royal family by indirect means… Rasputin himself never talked about it, despite the fact that he was a rather garrulous person… I noticed that Rasputin had a strong desire to get into the house of the former emperor, and that he did so against the will of Grand Duchess Militsa Nikolaevna. Rasputin himself acknowledged to me that he was hiding his acquaintance with the royal family from Militsa Nikolaevna.”
The first meeting between the Royal Family and Rasputin, as recorded in the Tsar’s diary, took place on November 1, 1905. Archbishop Theophan testified: “I personally heard from Rasputin that he produced an impression on the former empress at their first meeting. The sovereign, however, fell under his influence only after Rasputin had given him something to ponder.” According to the Monk Iliodor, Rasputin told him: “I talked to them for a long time, persuading them to spit on all their fears, and rule.”
On hearing that Rasputin had impressed the empress, Grand Duchess Militsa Nikolaevna said to him, as Archbishop Theophan testified: “’You, Grigory, are an underhand person.’ Militsa Nikolaevna told me personally of her dissatisfaction with Rasputin’s having penetrated the royal family on his own, and mentioned her warning that if he did, it would be the end of him. My explanation of her warning,” said Archbishop Theophan, “… was that there were many temptations at court and much envy and intrigue, and that Rasputin, as a simple, undemanding wandering pilgrim, would perish spiritually under such circumstances.”
It was at about this time that Rasputin left Fr. Theophan’s lodgings and moved in with the woman who was to become one of his most fanatical admirers, Olga Lokhtina. Archbishop Theophan writes: “He only stayed with me a little while, since I would be off at the Academy for days on end. And it got boring for him… and he moved somewhere else, and then took up residence in Petrograd at the home of the government official Vladimir Lokhtin,” who was in charge of the paved roads in Tsarskoe Selo, and so close to the royal family…
Rasputin returned to his family in Pokrovskoe, Siberia, in autumn, 1907, only to find that Bishop Anthony of Tobolsk and the Tobolsk Consistory - as was suspected, at the instigation of Grand Duchess Militsa Nikolaevna - had opened an investigation to see whether he was spreading the doctrines of the khlysty. Olga Lokhtina hurried back to St. Petersburg and managed to get the investigation suspended. Soon afterwards, testifies Fr. Theophan, “the good relations between the royal family and Militsa and Anastasia Nikolaevna [the sister of Militsa], and Peter and Nikolai Nikolaevich [the husbands of the sisters] became strained. Rasputin himself mentioned it in passing. From a few sentences of his I concluded that he had very likely instilled in the former emperor the idea that they had too much influence on state affairs and were encroaching on the emperor’s independence.”
The place that the Montenegrin Grand Duchesses had played in the royal family was now taken by the young Anya Vyrubova, who was a fanatical admirer of Rasputin. Another of Rasputin’s admirers was the royal children’s nurse, Maria Vishnyakova. And so Rasputin came closer and closer to the centre of power… His influence on the political decisions of the Tsar has been much exaggerated. But he undoubtedly had a great influence on the Tsarina through his ability, probably through some kind of hypnosis, to relieve the Tsarevich’s haemophilia, a tragedy that caused much suffering to the Tsar and Tsarina, and which they carefully hid from the general public…
Bishop of Yamburg
On February 1, 1909 Archimandrite Theophan was appointed Rector of the St. Petersburg Theological Academy. And on Sunday, February 22, the second Sunday of the Great Fast, which is dedicated to the memory of St. Gregory Palamas, he was consecrated Bishop of Yamburg, a vicariate of the St. Petersburg diocese, in the Holy Trinity cathedral of the Alexander Nevsky Lavra. The consecration was performed by Metropolitan Anthony (Vadkovsky) of St. Petersburg together with other members of the Holy Synod and other hierarchs who came to the service – 13 in all.
In answer to the accusation that he had gained his see through the influence of Rasputin, Bishop Theophan testified: “My candidacy for the bishopric was put forward by church hierarchs led by Bishop Hermogen [of Saratov, the future hieromartyr]. I would never have permitted myself to take advantage of Rasputin’s influence… I was known personally to the royal family and had four times or so heard confession from the empress and once from the sovereign… and I was already the Rector of the Petersburg Theological Academy.”
It was a difficult time, with liberal ideas gaining ground even among the professors of the Academy. Bishop Theophan more than once came into conflict with these liberal professors, and they complained about him to Metropolitan Anthony. After one such complaint, the metropolitan summoned the bishop to himself and said:
“The professors are complaining that you are restricting their freedom of scientific research.”
Instead of a reply, Vladyka Theophan showed the metropolitan a paragraph from the ustav of the Theological Academies which said: “The Rector of the Academy is responsible for the direction and spirit of the Academy”. Then he explained how certain professors during their lectures to students were permitting themselves to express freethinking ideas contrary to Orthodoxy. And the metropolitan had to agree that the Rector had the right to oppose this.
As Rector of the Academy, Vladyka Theophan enlivened the religio-moral atmosphere in it and created a whole direction among the students, a kind of school of “Theophanites”, as they were called. He tried to instill in the students a respect for the lofty authority of the Holy Fathers of the Church in everything that pertained to Church faith and piety. When replying to a question of a theological or moral character he tried to avoid speaking “from himself”, but immediately went to the bookcase and found a precise answer to the question from the Holy Fathers, which allowed his visitor to depart profoundly satisfied. He himself was a walking encyclopaedia of theological knowledge.
And yet this was by no means merely book knowledge: because of his ascetic life, he knew the truth of the teachings of the Fathers from his own experience. He would go to all the services, and often spend whole nights in prayer standing in his cell in front of the analoy and the icons. He would even take service books with him on his travels, and read all the daily services.
His very look inspired respect, and soon cases of amazing spiritual perspicacity revealed themselves. Never familiar, always correct and restrained in manner, but at the same time warm and attentive, he was a fierce enemy of all modernism and falsehood. If the conversation took a vulgar turn, he would immediately turn away, however distinguished his interlocutor. This caused him to have many enemies, but people also involuntarily respected him. Once the famous writer V.V. Rozanov spoke at length to him against monasticism. Vladyka Theophan did not reply with a single word. But his silence was effective, for at the end the writer simply said:
“But perhaps you are right!”
Bishop Theophan began to have doubts about Rasputin. These doubts related to rumours that Rasputin was not the pure man of God he seemed to be. “Rumours began reaching us,” testified Vladyka, “that Rasputin was unrestrained in his treatment of the female sex, that he stroked them with his hand during conversation. All this gave rise to a certain temptation to sin, the more so since in conversation Rasputin would allude to his acquaintance with me and, as it were, hide behind my name.”
At first Vladyka and his monastic confidants sought excuses for him in the fact that “we were monks, whereas he was a married man, and that was the reason why his behaviour has been distinguished by a great lack of restraint and seemed peculiar to us… However, the rumours about Rasputin started to increase, and it was beginning to be said that he went to the bathhouses with women… It is very distressing… to suspect [a man] of a bad thing…”
Rasputin now came to meet Vladyka and “himself mentioned that he had gone to bathhouses with women. We immediately declared to him that, from the point of view of the holy fathers, that was unacceptable, and he promised us to avoid doing it. We decided not to condemn him for debauchery, for we knew that he was a simple peasant, and we had read that in the Olonets and Novgorod provinces men bathed in the bathhouses together with women, which testified not to immorality but to their patriarchal way of life… and to its particular purity, for… nothing was allowed. Moreover, it was clear from the Lives of the ancient Byzantine holy fools Saints Simeon and John [of Edessa] that both had gone to bathhouses with women on purpose, and had been abused and reviled for it, although they were nonetheless great saints.”
The example of Saints Simeon and John was to prove very useful for Rasputin, who now, “as his own justification, announced that he too wanted to test himself – to see if he had extinguished passion in himself.” But Theophan warned him against this, “for it is only the great saints who are able to do it, and he, by acting in this way, was engaging in self-deception and was on a dangerous path.”
To the rumours about bathhouses were now added rumours that Rasputin had been a khlyst sectarian in Siberia, and had taken his co-religionists to bathhouses there. Apparently the Tsar heard these rumours, for he told the Tsarina not to receive Rasputin for a time. For the khlysts, a sect that indulged in orgies in order to stimulate repentance thereafter, were very influential among the intelligentsia, especially the literary intelligentsia, of the time.
It was at that point that the former spiritual father of Rasputin in Siberia, Fr. Makary, was summoned to Tsarskoe Selo, perhaps on the initiative of the Tsarina. On June 23, 1909 the Tsar recorded that Fr. Makary, Rasputin and Bishop Theophan came to tea. There it was decided that Bishop Theophan, who was beginning to have doubts about Rasputin, and Fr. Makary, who had a good opinion of him, should go to Rasputin’s house in Pokrovskoe and investigate.
Bishop Theophan was unwell and did not want to go. But “I took myself in hand and in the second half of June 1909 set off with Rasputin and Monk Makary of the Verkhoturye Monastery, whom Rasputin called and acknowledged to be his ‘elder’”. The trip, far from placating Vladyka’s suspicions, only confirmed them, so that he concluded that Rasputin did not “occupy the highest level of spiritual life”. On the way back from Siberia, as he himself testified, he “stopped at the Sarov monastery and asked God’s help in correctly answering the question of who and what Rasputin was. I returned to Petersburg convinced that Rasputin… was on a false path.”
While in Sarov, Vladyka had asked to stay alone in the cell in which St. Seraphim had reposed. He was there for a long time praying, and when he did not come out, the brothers finally decided to enter. They found Vladyka in a deep swoon.
He did not explain what had happened to him there. But he did relate his meeting with Blessed Pasha of Sarov the next year, in 1911. The eldress and fool-for-Christ jumped onto a bench and snatched the portraits of the Tsar and Tsarina that were hanging on the wall, cast them to the ground and trampled on them. Then she ordered her cell-attendant to put them into the attic.
This was clearly a prophecy of the revolution of 1917. And when Vladyka told it to the Tsar, he stood with head bowed and without saying a word. Evidently he had heard similar prophecies…
Blessed Pasha then gave Vladyka a prophecy for himself personally. She hurled a ball of some kind of white matter onto his knees, which, on unwinding, he found to be the shroud of a dead man. “That means death!” he thought. But then she ran up and seized the shroud from his hands, muttering:
“The Mother of God will deliver… Our All-Holy Lady will save!”
This was a prophecy of Vladyka’s near-mortal illness in Serbia several years later, when he was saved from death by the Mother of God…
On returning from Sarov, Vladyka conferred with Archimandrite Benjamin and together with him summoned Rasputin. “When Rasputin came to see us, we, to his surprise, denounced him for his arrogant pride, for holding himself in higher regard than was seemly, and for being in a state of spiritual deception. He was completely taken aback and started crying, and instead of trying to justify himself admitted that he had made mistakes. And he agreed to our demand that he withdraw from the world and place himself under my guidance.” Rasputin then promised “to tell no one about our meeting with him.” “Rejoicing in our success, we conducted a prayer service… But, as it turned out, he then went to Tsarskoe Selo and recounted everything there in a light that was favourable to him but not to us.”
In 1910, for the sake of his health, Vladyka was transferred to the see of Tauris and Simferopol in the Crimea. Far from separating him from the royal family, this enabled him to see more of them during their summer vacation in Livadia. He was able to use the tsar’s automobile, so as to go on drives into the mountains, enjoy the wonderful scenery and breathe in the pure air.
He often recalled how he celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the palace. And how the Tsarina and her daughters chanted on the kliros. This chanting was always prayerful and concentrated.
Vladyka used to say: “During this service they chanted and read with such exalted, holy veneration! In all this there was a genuine, lofty, purely monastic spirit. And with what trembling, with what radiant tears they approached the Holy Chalice!”
“The sovereign would always begin every day with prayer in church. Exactly at eight o’clock he would enter the palace church. By that time the serving priest had already finished the proskomedia and read the hours. With the entry of the Tsar the priest intoned: ‘Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.’ And exactly at nine o’clock the Liturgy ended. There were no abbreviations or omissions. And the priest did not give the impression of being in a hurry. The secret lay in the fact that there were no pauses at all. This enabled the Liturgy to be completed within one hour. For the priest this was an obligatory condition. The sovereign always prayed very ardently. Each petition in the litany, each prayer found a lively response in his soul.
“After the Divine service the working day of the sovereign began.”
However, the issue of Rasputin was destined to bring an end to this idyllic phase in the relations between Vladyka Theophan and the Royal Family.
“After a while,” testifies Vladyka, “rumours reached me that Rasputin had resumed his former way of life and was undertaking something against us… I decided to resort to a final measure – to denounce him openly and to communicate everything to the former emperor. It was not, however, the emperor who received me but his wife in the presence of the maid of honour Vyrubova.
“I spoke for about an hour and demonstrated that Rasputin was in a state of spiritual deception… The former empress grew agitated and objected, citing theological works… I destroyed all her arguments, but she… reiterated them: ‘It is all falsehood and slander’… I concluded the conversation by saying that I could no longer have anything to do with Rasputin… I think Rasputin, as a cunning person, explained to the royal family that my speaking against him was because I envied his closeness to the Family… that I wanted to push him out of the way.
“After my conversation with the empress, Rasputin came to see me as if nothing had happened, having apparently decided that the empress’s displeasure had intimidated me… However, I told him in no uncertain terms, ‘Go away, you are a fraud.’ Rasputin fell on his knees before me and asked my forgiveness… But again I told him, ‘Go away, you have violated a promise given before God.’ Rasputin left, and I did not see him again.”
At this point Vladyka received a “Confession” from a former devotee of Rasputin’s. On reading this, he understood that Rasputin was “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” and “a sectarian of the Khlyst type” who “taught his followers not to reveal his secrets even to their confessors. For if there is allegedly no sin in what these sectarians do, then their confessors need not be made aware of it.”
“Availing myself of that written confession, I wrote the former emperor a second letter… in which I declared that Rasputin not only was in a state of spiritual deception but was also a criminal in the religious and moral sense… In the moral sense because, as it followed from the ‘confession’, Father Gregory had seduced his victims.”
There was no reply to this letter. “I sensed that they did not want to hear me out and understand… It all depressed me so much that I became quite ill – it turned out I had palsy of the facial nerve.”
In fact, Vladyka’s letter had reached the Tsar, and the scandal surrounding the rape of the children’s nurse, Vishnyakova, whose confessor was Vladyka, could no longer be concealed. Vishnyakova herself testified to the Extraordinary Commission that she had been raped by Rasputin during a visit to Verkhoturye Monastery in Tobolsk province, a journey undertaken at the empress’s suggestion.
“Upon our return to Petrograd, I reported everything to the empress, and I also told Bishop Theophan in a private meeting with him. The empress did not give any heed to my words and said that everything Rasputin does is holy. From that time forth I did not see Rasputin, and in 1913 I was dismissed from my duties as nurse. I was also reprimanded for frequenting the Right Reverend Theophan.”
Another person in on the secret was the maid of honour Sophia Tyutcheva. As she witnessed to the Commission, she was summoned to the Tsar.
“You have guessed why I summoned you. What is going on in the nursery?”
She told him.
“So you too do not believe in Rasputin’s holiness?”
She replied that she did not.
“But what will you say if I tell you that I have lived all these years only thanks to his prayers?”
Then he “began saying that he did not believe any of the stories, that the impure always sticks to the pure, and that he did not understand what had suddenly happened to Theophan, who had always been so fond of Rasputin. During this time he pointed to a letter from Theophan on his desk.”
“’You, your majesty, are too pure of heart and do not see what filth surrounds you.’ I said that it filled me with fear that such a person could be near the grand duchesses.
“’Am I then the enemy of my own children?’ the sovereign objected.
“He asked me never to mention Rasputin’s name in conversation. In order for that to take place, I asked the sovereign to arrange things so that Rasputin would never appear in the children’s wing.”
But her wish was not granted, and both Vishnyakova and Tyutcheva would not long remain in the tsar’s service…
It was at about this time that the newspapers began to write against Rasputin. And a member of the circle of the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Fyodorovna, Michael Alexandrovich Novoselov, the future bishop and hieromartyr of the Catacomb Church, published a series of articles condemning Rasputin.
"Why do the bishops,” he wrote, “who are well acquainted with the activities of this blatant deceiver and corrupter, keep silent?… Where is their grace, if through laziness or lack of courage they do not keep watch over the purity of the faith of the Church of God and allow the lascivious khlyst to do the works of darkness under the mask of light?"
The brochure was forbidden and confiscated while it was still at the printer's, and the newspaper The Voice of Moscow was heavily fined for publishing excerpts from it.
In November, 1910, Bishop Theophan went to the Crimea to recover from this illness. But he did not give up, and inundated his friend Bishop Hermogen with letters. It was his aim to enlist this courageous fighter against freethinking in his fight against Rasputin. But this was difficult because it had been none other than Vladyka Theophan who had at some time introduced Rasputin to Bishop Hermogen, speaking of him, as Bishop Hermogen himself said, “in the most laudatory terms.” Indeed, for a time Bishop Hermogen and Rasputin had become allies in the struggle against freethinking and modernism.
Unfortunately, a far less reliable person then joined himself to Rasputin’s circle – Sergius Trophanov, in monasticism Iliodor, one of Bishop Theophan’s students at the academy, who later became a Baptist, married and had seven children. Fr. Iliodor built a large church in Tsaritsyn on the Volga, and began to draw thousands to it with his fiery sermons against the Jews and the intellectuals and the capitalists. He invited Rasputin to join him in Tsaritsyn and become the elder of a convent there. Rasputin agreed.
However, Iliodor’s inflammatory sermons were not pleasing to the authorities, and in January, 1911 he was transferred to a monastery in Tula diocese. But he refused to go, locked himself in his church in Tsaritsyn and declared a hunger-strike. Bishop Hermogen supported him, but the tsar did not, and ordered him to be removed from Tsaritsyn. However, at this point Rasputin, who had taken a great liking to Iliodor, intervened, and as Anya Vyubova testified, “Iliodor remained in Tsaritsyn thanks to Rasputin’s personal entreaties”. From now on, Olga Lokhtina would bow down to Rasputin as “Lord of hosts” and to Iliodor as “Christ”…
When Rasputin’s bad actions began to come to light, Hermogen vacillated for a long time. However, having made up his mind that Vladyka Theophan was right, and having Iliodor on his side now too, he decided to bring the matter up before the Holy Synod, of which he was a member, at its next session. Before that, however, he determined to denounce Rasputin to his face. This took place on December 16, 1911. According to Iliodor’s account, Hermogen, clothed in hierarchical vestments and holding a cross in his hand, “took hold of the head of the ‘elder’ with his left hand, and with his right started beating him on the head with the cross and shouting in a terrifying voice, ‘Devil! I forbid you in God’s name to touch the female sex. Brigand! I forbid you to enter the royal household and to have anything to do with the tsarina! As a mother brings forth the child in the cradle, so the holy Church through her prayers, blessings, and heroic feats has nursed that great and sacred thing of the people, the autocratic rule of the tsars. And now you, scum, are destroying it, you are smashing our holy vessels, the bearers of autocratic power… Fear God, fear His life-giving cross!”
Then they forced Rasputin to swear that he would leave the palace. According to one version of events, Rasputin swore, but immediately told the empress what had happened. According to another, he refused, after which Vladyka Hermogen cursed him. In any case, on the same day, December 16, five years later, he was killed…
Then Bishop Hermogen went to the Holy Synod. First he gave a speech against the khlysty. Then he charged Rasputin with khlyst tendencies. Unfortunately, only a minority of the bishops supported the courageous bishop. The majority followed the over-procurator in expressing dissatisfaction with his interference “in things that were not his concern”.
Vladyka Hermogen was then ordered to return to his diocese. As the director of the chancery of the over-procurator witnessed, “he did not obey the order and, as I heard, asked by telegram for an audience with the tsar, indicating that he had an important matter to discuss, but was turned down.”
The telegram read as follows: “Tsar Father! I have devoted my whole life to the service of the Church and the Throne. I have served zealously, sparing no effort. The sun of my life has long passed midday and my hair has turned white. And now in my declining years, like a criminal, I am being driven out of the capital in disgrace by you, the Sovereign. I am ready to go wherever it may please you, but before I do, grant me an audience, and I will reveal a secret to you.”
But the Tsar rejected his plea. On receiving this rejection, Bishop Hermogen began to weep. And then he suddenly said:
“They will kill the tsar, they will kill the tsar, they will surely kill him.”
Bishop of Astrakhan
The opponents of Rasputin now felt the fury of the Tsar. Bishop Hermogen and Iliodor were exiled to remote monasteries. And Vladyka Theophan was transferred to the see of Astrakhan.
Before departing from the Crimea, Vladyka called on Rasputin’s friend, the deputy over-procurator Damansky. He told him: “Rasputin is a vessel of the devil, and the time will come when the Lord will chastise him and those who protect him.”
Later, in October, 1913, Rasputin tried to take his revenge on Vladyka by bribing the widow of a Yalta priest who knew Vladyka, Olga Apollonovna Popova, to say that Vladyka had said that he had had relations with the empress. The righteous widow rejected his money and even spat in his face.
Vladyka’s health, which was in general not good because of his very ascetic way of life since his youth, was made worse by the climate in Astrakhan. He contracted malaria and a lung disease. Grand Duchess Elizabeth pleaded with her sister not to forbid him to receive treatment in the Crimea, but the request was turned down. Later, however, the grand duchess did manage to get Vladyka transferred to the see of Poltava.
In spite of the Tsarina’s hostility to Bishop Theophan with regard to Rasputin, Vladyka always had the highest opinion of the Tsarina and always defended her against those who would slander her.
Although suffering from ill health and deeply grieving over his break with the royal family and Rasputin’s continuing hold over them, Vladyka Theophan quickly won the respect and love of his flock in Astrakhan.
Once, on the namesday of the Tsar, Vladyka went out with his clergy to serve a prayer service for the health of his Majesty in the middle of the cathedral. But in front of him, nearer the altar, stood what seemed to be, judging from his clothes, a Muslim. It turned out later that this was the Persian consul dressed in extravagant finery, with orders and a sabre, and a turban on his head. Vladyka, pale, weak and ill, asked the consul through a deacon to step to one side or stand with the other official persons, with the generals behind the bishop’s throne. The consul remained in his place and made no reply to Vladyka’s request. After waiting for several minutes, Vladyka sent the superior of the church to request the consul not to stand between the altar and Vladyka and clergy, but to stand to one side. The consul did not move. Vladyka waited, without beginning the official prayer service. And yet the whole leadership of the province and the city, together with the military in parade uniform, were gathered in the church. On the square in front of the church were soldiers drawn up for parade.
Again they went up to the consul and asked him to go to one side and not to stand between the clergy and the altar, the more so as he was dressed in such demonstrative attire. Instead of replying, the consul pointed at the clock, and then angrily said:
“Convey to your Hierarch that the prayer service should have been started long ago as indicated in the official timetable, a prayer service for the prosperity of his Majesty the Emperor. For this delay, he - your Hierarch - will answer for his stubbornness. He has delayed the prayer service for a whole half-hour!”
When Bishop Theophan was informed of the consul’s reply, he asked them to convey to him the message:
“It is not I, but you, who are delaying the prayer service. And until you go to one side, the prayer service will not begin.”
When he heard that, the consul demonstratively left the church casting furious looks and mumbling threats. Immediately Vladyka began the service and the choir intoned the Te Deum.
As was to be expected, the consul made a protest to the Tsar, accusing the “audacious hierarch who had stopped the Te Deum for the health of the Tsar from proceeding normally”, and who, being a “hierarch in disgrace”, had attempted to make a political act out of the incident. But then the opposite of what was expected happened. The Tsar and Tsarina approved of Bishop Theophan’s act…
Before that good news arrived, however, Vladyka had been comforted in another way, during Vespers in the church: “I had so much pain because of the Persian consul and I felt so ill… One evening, when I was serving in the cathedral, I saw St. Theodore the General in a coat of mail… Lord, what joy! How that comforted me! All my sadness and tiredness vanished in an instant. I understood that the Lord approved of my firmness and that He was sending me his martyr to support me… “
Another comfort came in a letter to him from the paralysed Schema-Nun Eugenia, who had the gift of clairvoyance: “I’m having a dream. Some black, threatening clouds have covered the sky. Suddenly the holy Bishop Joasaph of Belgorod appeared. He read a long manuscript, then tore it up, and at that moment the sun reappeared behind the clouds. Soon it was shining clearly and tenderly… Glory to Thee, O Lord!”
On March 8/21, 1913 Vladyka was transferred from Astrakhan to Poltava. As he was leaving Astrakhan, writes someone who knew him well, “there took place an unusually vivid incident, which in itself witnessed to the loftiness and spirituality of his soul, and his truly pastoral relationship to his flock. Before, the people in Astrakhan had protested decisively against his transfer to Poltava. But he nevertheless had to go, a huge crowd assembled at the station, and several hundred people lay on the rails in front of the train to stop it from going. This continued for several hours until they finally managed to free the railway line. I personally think that this is the most vivid event in the story of his life. The people, the flock felt, understood the loftiness of his soul, the soul of their archpastor, and witnessed this love of theirs and understanding, perhaps in too primitive a way, but truly with all their soul, mind and heart. Nobody ever heard of a similar incident with anybody else!”
Archbishop of Poltava
Church life was at a low level when Vladyka came to his new diocese, and hardly anyone attended the services. And so “I prayed to the Guardian Angels of my flock to make to be born in them a zeal for God, to excite in their souls a thirst for prayer and penitence. That is so important. Without penitence, there is no true prayer. Only he who feels himself to be infinitely guilty before God truly prays.”
And his prayers were answered. The church began to fill up. And the people began to pray with fervour; the zeal of the archbishop communicated itself to all the clergy.
Vladyka also paid attention to the chanting in church. He looked for someone who knew church chant since childhood to direct the choir. And he founded a “chanting school” for the chanters. The pupils were entirely looked after by the diocese and lived near the episcopal palace. They had to know the words of the chants by heart and understand their meaning perfectly. The child voices of Poltava were soon recognized to be among the best in Russia.
Vladyka also attended rehearsals and chose the chants. He saw it that the choir became well-known not only through the technical perfection of its chanting, but also through its truly liturgical spirit. The people understood this immediately, and the church services were from then on very well attended.
Instead of the pagan celebrations of the New Year, Vladyka instituted a solemn Te Deum at midnight, during which the choir sang marvelously and the cathedral was full to bursting…
So popular did Vladyka become that when he arrived at the cathedral on feast days he found his path covered with flowers…
In 1913 the Russian Church celebrated the 300th anniversary of the founding of the Romanov dynasty. Patriarch Gregory of Antioch came to the celebrations, and during the solemn service in his honour in the Pochaev Lavra the litanies were pronounced in Greek by Archbishop Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of Volhynia, the host, in Latin by Archbishop Theophan and in other languages by the other priests.
In Poltava a whole series of incidents took place which testified to the loftiness of Vladyka Theophan, who had visions and revelations from God.
In Poltava there lived an exceptionally pious married couple, who were devoted to Vladyka Theophan. When the husband died, the widow, being in indescribable sorrow, asked Vladyka whether he could tell her what was the fate of her dead spouse in the other life. Vladyka replied that perhaps after a period of time he would be in a condition to give a reply to her question. Vladyka prayed that this should be revealed to him, and after a certain time he consoled the widow, saying that God had had mercy on her husband.
Prince Zhevakhov, who later became Bishop Ioasaph, asked Vladyka about the fate beyond the grave of the Bishop of Belgorod who had been found hanged in the lavatory of the archiepiscopal podvorye. Had his soul perished? Vladyka Theophan replied that the bishop had not perished, since he had not laid hands on himself, but this had been done by the demons. It turned out that this house was being reconstructed, and there had been a house church in it before. But the atheist-minded builders had blasphemously built a lavatory in the place where there had been the altar. When holy places are defiled or where a murder or suicide is committed, the grace of God leaves, and demons settle there. It is difficult to say whether this bishop was guilty of this blasphemy, but he became the victim of the demons.
Once a married couple came to the archbishop complaining about the behaviour of their beloved son, who, though pious in his childhood, no longer went to church, but returned home late at night in a drunken state. Weeping, they asked him to pray for their son.
The son came home late again one night and began to curse and swear. The next morning he could not get out of bed. He did not eat or speak, was feverish and gradually wasted away. His parents were beginning to lose all hope of a cure when they turned to the archbishop again. The sick boy was already unconscious, and was groaning and crying. Then he came to himself and said that a monk had come to him in his delirium and had said:
“If you don’t correct yourself, and turn from the path of sin, you will die and perish without fail!”
The sick boy wept and swore that he would correct himself. Gradually he began to eat again, and the illness left him. As soon as he could walk, he went to the cathedral to pray and shed tears of penitence. After the service he approached the server to kiss the cross and was amazed to recognize in the archbishop the monk who had appeared to him in his illness! From then on, the young man visited the archbishop frequently, thanked him for praying for him, asked him to forgive him and reiterated his promise to reform his life.
Another rich couple came to the archbishop, complaining about their son, too. Under the influence of bad companions, he was living a debauched life and paid no heed to their pleas. They sought help from the archbishop, but at the same time continued to indulge their son, giving him money. The archbishop advised them to stop giving him money, to be severe with him. But they replied that in their opinion this was not Christian.
“No,” they said, “we want to raise him with love in a Christian spirit. When he gets bigger he will understand and will appreciate our kindness.”
The archbishop could only keep silent. The boy got bigger and became more and more disobedient. Not content with asking for money, he demanded it and even robbed his parents of it. They turned to the archbishop asking him what to do. He gave them the same advice. They again rejected it. Finally the boy left his parents’ house and gave himself up completely to debauchery. The parents cursed him and when they came back weeping to the archbishop, they recognized their error. But it was already too late.
“Certain parents,” concluded the archbishop while telling this story, “before beginning to educate their children should educate themselves, or rather re-educate themselves in the spirit of Christianity. Then what happened in this family would not happen with them.”
A private correspondent writes: “This is a story related by the wife of Professor L.V. of Poltava theological seminary on what happened in their family.
“In 1915 her son, an officer, whose bride was in Poltava, returned on leave from the front. This officer’s leave ended in Paschal week. The young people wanted to be crowned before the departure of the bridegroom. L.V. knew Vladyka Theophan well and he loved the whole of their family. And L.V. came to Vladyka and asked for his blessing on the marriage on one of the days of Paschal week. Vladyka, who was always attentive and ready to help anyone who asked, this time fell into sad thought and said that he wanted first to look at the canons, and then he would give his answer.
“A few days later the mother of the bridegroom again came to Vladyka. Vladyka said firmly: ‘I cannot bless the marriage of your children on these Paschal days, since the Church does not allow it and for the young people there will be great unhappiness if they do not obey the Church.’
“The mother was terribly upset and threatened the Archbishop with many unpleasantnesses. She thought that Vladyka, as a strict ascetic, did not understand life and for that reason was not allowing the marriage in completely exceptional circumstances.
“In spite of the Archbishop’s ban, they found a priest who agreed to carry out their marriage. After the marriage, the officer departed, having left his young wife in Poltava. But from this moment all trace of him was lost. In spite of all the inquiries of the mother and young wife, nobody could tell them where he was or what had happened to him.
“In relating this, L.V. wept bitterly. She used to say that the wife was in a terrible condition. There was one man whom she wanted to marry. L.V. herself wanted this, for she was convinced that her son was no longer among the living, but at the same time there were no facts, and the wife, not knowing for certain about the death of her husband, could not marry for a second time. This lack of knowledge tormented both the mother and the young woman. L.V. wept and said: ‘How great Vladyka Archbishop Theophan was! And we valued him so little, we did not understand and did not obey…’
“The inhabitants of Poltava always remembered how the prayers of Vladyka Theophan healed the sick, and how by his prayers he turned many from sin.”
There was a well-off family with two maid servants. One of them died, and it was discovered after her death that a large sum of money had disappeared. Suspicion fell upon the surviving maid servant. She wept and implored the Mother of God to show where the money was hidden. The Mother of God answered her prayer: one day, the dead woman appeared to Archbishop Theophan and showed him the place where the money was buried…
A similar incident had taken place a few years before, when Vladyka was Bishop of Simferopol. A young man whom Vladyka had known died, and then appeared to him and asked him for his holy prayers to help him pass through the “toll-houses”. Vladyka prayed, and the young man appeared to him again, thanking him for his prayers and asking him to celebrate a thanksgiving service.
“But you are dead! It is a pannikhida that we must celebrate for you, and not a Te Deum!”
“They told it me over there, they’ve allowed it for me… The point is that over there we are all alive, there are no dead amongst us!”
Then he explained how he had died and passed into the next life, but the person who passed on this story did not understand Archbishop Theophan’s words.
Once the administration of the diocese received a letter from one of the parishes complaining that their priest had given himself to black magic and sorcery. He was naturally red-haired, but one night he had become brown, then violet and now he was green! The priest was summoned.
Weeping, he explained:
“My wife reproached me for always being red-haired. ‘You should at least dye your beard!’ And I dyed it black. And then during the night the dye disappeared, and it became violet, and now it is becoming green… Forgive me, for Christ’s sake! There’s no sorcery here, just cowardice!”
“Your fault,” replied the archbishop, “consists in having led these little ones into error. They didn’t understand what was happening and basically they have not acted wrongly. One cannot accuse them of anything. It’s you who should ask their forgiveness and be more prudent in the future. I am not going to impose a penance on you: you are a priest and can impose it on yourself.”
And he added, after telling this story:
“We had to send someone to the parish to explain matters to the parishioners and reassure them.”
On another occasion, as Archbishop Averky tells the story, “one of the priests of the Poltava diocese related that when Vladyka was touring his diocese the priests who had modernist tendencies were afraid to appear before him. If Vladyka saw that a priest’s beard and hair were obviously trimmed short or that there was some other irregularity he would say very gently and tactfully:
“’And you, Batyushka, would you be so kind as to go and spend a month in such-and-such a monastery?’”
Vladyka’s typical day in Poltava was ordered as follows. He would rise from sleep in the second half of the night and carry out his prayer rule. In the morning, when the bell sounded, he would go into the house church, where the hieromonk on duty was performing the morning service and the Divine Liturgy. After the Liturgy Vladyka would drink some coffee and withdraw to his study, where he occupied himself with diocesan affairs, and then went over to the reading of his beloved Holy Fathers. He wrote much. In the afternoon would come lunch. Weather permitting, he would go into the garden for a time and walk around praying the Jesus prayer. Then he would again withdraw to his study. When the bell sounded for Vespers, he would go to the church. After Compline he would receive visitors. After supper there would be free time for conversation with his clergy and work in his study.
His study was furnished in the simplest way possible. In the corner stood an iron bed with planks instead of a mattress, on which Vladyka took a little sleep. There were many icons, Vladyka prayed in front of them for a long time with a candle in his hand in spite of the lighted lampadas. His food was the simplest, and he ate very little. When he was very tired from meeting people, he would withdraw for a few days to the Lubny Holy Transfiguration monastery.
The abdication of the Tsar, whom Archbishop Theophan greatly loved and admired, was a terrible shock for him as for all the true believers. Soon the Provisional Government set up an Extraordinary Commission to investigate the truth about the relationship between the Tsarina and Rasputin. Vladyka was summoned and testified that he had never had any doubt about the complete purity of these relations. As former confessor of the Tsarina, he declared officially that on her side the relationship was motivated only by her care for the Tsarevich, and the undoubted success that Rasputin had in saving the Tsarevich’s life while the doctors had shown themselves to be completely helpless. As for the other rumours, these were lies and slanders… With regard to Rasputin himself, Vladyka considered that he was not a hypocrite, but was a simple man who had suffered a terrible spiritual catastrophe and had fallen, a fall that had been willed by those around him and which they had treated as just a joke…
As Archbishop of Poltava, Vladyka was sent as a delegate to the Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow in 1917-18. The novice who served him at the time said:
“The archbishop and I left Poltava and arrived in Moscow. Nobody greeted us and we did not know what to do. We went to a monastery, but felt that we were not welcome. They had nothing to eat. They gave only a bowl of soup with some thin cabbage which his Eminence Theophan was not able to swallow because of the weakness of his stomach. We had to leave. A student gave his room for some days… I wrote an urgent letter to Poltava requesting that someone bring some food, for there they had everything. An archimandrite arrived with food. Finally, he obtained for us some lodgings in the Kremlin, in which some other hierarchs were already living. They were starving: the archbishop had to nourish them. I did not attend the Council sessions, I didn’t hear the speeches, I could only observe things from the outside… I remember some attacks against Metropolitan Macarius [of Moscow], a holy man. He left the assembly room, but with a smile…”
During the Council, some modernist clergy, future renovationist heretics, came up to Vladyka and said:
“We respect you and venerate you, Vladyko. We know your principled firmness, your faithfulness to the Church, your wisdom. But you yourself see how fast the waves of time are rolling; they are changing everything, and changing us also… There was a monarchy, there was an autocratic Tsar, and now there is nothing of all that. We must, whether we like it or not, make concessions to the changes. As the great teacher of the Church, St. John Chrysostom said so well, we must sometimes, so as to guide the vessel of the Church up to the harbour, give in to the waves and currents so as to await the favourable moment and bring the ship into the haven… That’s how it is now, the Church must yield a little…”
“Yes,” replied the Archbishop, “but yield what?”
“You must be with the majority! Otherwise with whom will you remain? You must yield, the wisdom of the Church demands it. Otherwise you will consign yourself to complete solitude.”
Vladyka replied: “’The majority can frighten me,’ said St. Basil the Great, ‘but it can never convince me…’ To continue the thought of the holy bishop, let us say that it is not solitude that is frightening, but the renunciation of the truth. And that means that it is necessary to stand without weakening in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is on Him that the whole of the Church stands as on her foundation. ‘For other foundation can no man lay than that which has been laid, Jesus Christ’ (I Corinthians 3.11). And that is why we must not be, as the Apostle says, like ‘children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive’ (Ephesians 4.14). We must firmly hold on to what we have received from the Fathers of the Church. As is so well said in the kontakion of the Feast of the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council: ‘The preaching of the Apostles and the doctrines of the Fathers confirmed the one Faith of the Church. And wearing the garment of truth woven from the theology on high…’ This ‘garment’ is the clothing of the Church, the teaching received from the Fathers of the ancient Church, which they themselves received from the preaching of the Apostles. And the holy Apostles received it from the very Source of Truth, our Lord Jesus Christ….
“As for the question with whom we shall remain if we do not join those who are ready to make a revolution in the Church, the reply is perfectly clear: we shall remain without moving with those who for the last two thousand years have formed the body of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church on earth, although this is the Church of the Heavens. We also in a certain sense have entered this Heavenly Church, through the saints and first of all through him who baptised Russia, St. Vladimir, and through all the saints, known and unknown, beginning with Saints Anthony and Theodosius of the Kiev Caves, via Saints Sergius of Radonezh and Seraphim of Sarov, and all the saints and martyrs of our Russian land, which is protected by the Heavenly Queen, who intercedes for us… And with whom will you, brothers, remain, if with all your numbers you give yourselves up to the will of the waves of contemporary life? They have already swept you into the flabbiness of Kerensky’s regime, and soon they will push you under the yoke of the cruel Lenin, into the claws of the red beast…”
The church modernists silently left him…
Vladyka Theophan recounted the witticism that went the rounds in the Council: “Archbishop Anthony Khrapovitsky is the most intelligent. Metropolitan Tikhon of Moscow is the gentlest. And Archbishop Anastasy Gribanovsky is the wisest in a special sense…”
During the Council, Archbishop Theophan was appointed head of a commission entrusted with investigating the heresy of the name-worshippers, a heresy that had broken out among the Russian monks of Mount Athos five years earlier and which had been supported by Vladyka’s old enemy, Rasputin. This was a natural appointment, since Vladyka’s master’s thesis had been on the Name of God.
He prepared a report on the subject, but unfortunately the red terror cut short the proceedings of the Council. The commission (whose deputy president was the heretic Fr. Sergius Bulgakov) did not meet, and it is not now known where this report is. All we have is Vladyka’s succinct but precise formula: “The Divinity rests in the Name of God”, which is an implicit rejection of the name-worshippers’ thesis that the Name of God is God.
On returning to Poltava, Vladyka Theophan had to suffer much from the Ukrainian autocephalists who, on seizing power, demanded that he serve a triumphant requiem liturgy for Ivan Mazeppa in Poltava cathedral. Mazeppa was the favourite of Peter the Great who had betrayed him at the battle of Poltava in 1712 and had then been anathematised by the Church. But Vladyka said:
“I cannot do this. I do not have the right to do what you ask me because the Church has anathematised Ivan Mazeppa for his treachery. I am not entitled to lift the anathema, which was hurled by the highest representatives of the Church at that time.”
“But it was the Muscovites who did it!”
“No, you are mistaken. There was no patriarchate at that time. The Church was ruled by the patriarchal locum tenens, Metropolitan Stephen Yavorsky, who was from the Western Ukraine. Besides, Tsar Peter surrounded himself precisely with Ukrainians, who were more educated…”
For his principled refusal, Vladyka was put in prison, and was released only when the government of Petlyura was overthrown and the White Army liberated Poltava. After Vladyka’s exile to Serbia, the struggle against the autocephalists and renovationists was continued by his close disciple, the future hieromartyr Bishop Basil of Priluki.
Exile in Serbia
Civil war erupted between the Reds and the Whites, and by the beginning of 1920 it was clear that the Reds, who had already carried unparalleled atrocities against church property and church servers, were going to win. In the same year Archbishop Theophan became a member of the Higher Church Administration of the South of Russia, formed in accordance with the decree of Patriarch Tikhon and the Holy Synod, ukaz № 362 of November 7/20, 1920. Almost immediately, at the suggestion of the White army commanders, who said that their departure would be merely provisional, the HCA prepared to flee southwards from the invasion of the barbarians.
The first stage of the journey took them to Stavropol, and then to Yekaterinodar in the Northern Caucasus. Coming out of Yekaterinodar cathedral, the president of the HCA, Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of Kiev, asked the thousands of worshippers whether they should stay in Russia or leave. The people shouted that they should leave and pray for them in the lands beyond the sea. A Te Deum was celebrated, and the immense crowd prayed and wept. The Cossacks came to bid farewell to their hierarchs.
Then the hierarchs set off with the remnants of the White Army for the Crimea, the last refuge of Free and Orthodox Russia. They settled in the monastery of St. George in Sevastopol. Three months later, they left for Constantinople. Helena Yurievna Kontzevich writes: “[Vladyka Theophan] departed from Russia on a steamship along with Metropolitans Anthony (Khrapovitsky) and Platon and Bishop Benjamin (Fedchenko). They discussed the situation of the Church the whole way. Bishop Theophan’s position differed from the united opinion of the other bishops, who stood for the path of church politics, and they parted ways.”
However, these differences did not seem to be serious at that time, and in 1921 Vladyka, together with the whole Higher Church Administration, moved to Yugoslavia at the invitation of Patriarch Demetrius of Serbia, and took part in November of the same year in the First Russian All-Emigration Council in Sremsky-Karlovtsy.
Nicholas Zernov, a participant in this Council, describes Vladyka Theophan at this time as “a learned man and an ascetic, withdrawn from the world. His head bowed, his voice scarcely audible, he sometimes celebrated in the Athonite podvoryes. He seemed completely immersed in prayer and indifferent to the world around him, but there came out from him a power that was his own and which fixed people’s attention on this fragile old man.”
The most important decision of this Council was the call for the restoration of the Romanov dynasty to the throne of Russia. In this connection, it is interesting to note the letter which Archbishop Theophan wrote to Helena Yurievna Kontzevich in 1930 on the subject of the coming Tsar: “You ask me about the near future and about the approaching last times. I do not speak on my own, but am saying that which was revealed to me by the Elders, The coming of the Antichrist draws nigh and is very near. The time separating us from him can be counted a matter of years, and at the most a matter of some decades. But before the coming of the Antichrist Russia must yet be restored - to be sure, for a short time. And in Russia there must be a Tsar forechosen by the Lord Himself. He will be a man of burning faith, great mind and iron will. This much has been revealed about him. We shall await the fulfilment of what has been revealed. Judging by many signs it is drawing nigh, unless because of our sins the Lord God shall revoke it, and change what has been promised. According to the witness of the word of God, this also might happen.”
And to another visitor he wrote: "O Russia, Russia! How terribly she has sinned before the goodness of the Lord. The Lord God deigned to give Russia that which He gave to no other people on earth. And this people has turned out to be so ungrateful. It has left Him, renounced Him, and for that reason the Lord has given it over to be tormented by demons. The demons have entered into the souls of men and the people of Russia has become possessed, literally demon-possessed. And all the terrible things that we hear have been done and are being done in Russia: all the blasphemies, the militant atheism and the fighting against God – all this is taking place because of the demon-possession. But the possession will pass through the ineffable mercy of God, and the people will be healed. The people will turn to repentance, to faith. This will take place when nobody expects it. Orthodoxy will be regenerated in her and will triumph. But that Orthodoxy which was before will no longer exist. The great elders said that Russia would be regenerated, that the people itself would re-establish the Orthodox Monarchy. A powerful Tsar will be placed by God Himself on the Throne. He will be a great reformer and he will have a strong Orthodox faith. He will depose the unfaithful hierarchs of the Church, and will himself be an outstanding personality, with a pure, holy soul. He will have a strong will. He will come from the dynasty of the Romanovs according to the maternal line. He will be a chosen one of God, obedient to Him in all things. He will transfigure Siberia. But this Russia will not continue to exist for long. Soon that will take place which the Apostle John speaks of in the Apocalypse.”
And again he said, as witnessed by Archbishop Averky: “In Russia, the elders said, in accordance with the will of the people, the Monarchy, Autocratic power, will be re-established. The Lord has forechosen the future Tsar. He will be a man of fiery faith, having the mind of a genius and a will of iron. First of all he will introduce order in the Orthodox Church, removing all the untrue, heretical and lukewarm hierarchs. And many, very many - with few exceptions, all - will be deposed, and new, true, unshakeable hierarchs will take their place. He will be of the family of the Romanovs according to the female line [according to Schema-Monk Epiphanius he said: “He will not be of the family of the Romanovs, but will be related to them through women”]. Russia will be a powerful state, but only for 'a short time'... And then the Antichrist will come into the world, with all the horrors of the end as described in the Apocalypse."
Vladyka Theophan was appointed abbot of the monastery of Petkovitsa in the diocese of Shabats. However, because of his poor health, the new abbot was not able to spend much time with the brethren, and, as Archbishop Anthony of San Francisco recounts, “the older brethren began to complain, while the younger brethren were on the side of Vladyka. Fr. Ambrose [Kurganov] was especially grieved when he encountered the complaining. He always honoured the holiness of the authority of the abbacy.
“Realizing his weakness to calm the ferment, and longing for another form of life,… Archbishop Theophan decided to leave Petkovitsa.
“Before his departure, on the feast day of the Petkovitsa church, October 1, 1923, he ordained Deacon Ambrose to the priesthood during the Divine Liturgy.
“It is said that on that day, St. Paraskeva was seen standing in the sanctuary near the holy table…”
The archbishop was taken away, sick, to another monastery on the Adriatic coast. It was meant to be a place of recuperation, but his health only worsened.
“I could scarcely move, I was so weak; my sick throat deprived me of my last strength, and every day I became weaker. There were so few monks in the monastery that there were no services. There was a Serbian Orthodox monastery not far away. One day, as the bells were ringing for the beginning of Vespers, I decided to go for the last time to pray in a church: I dressed and left, to respond to the call of the bells.
“I dragged myself painfully to the monastery, and on arriving I saw a hieromonk occupied in playing cards in the courtyard of the monastery, his stole hanging on a tree beside the church, which was locked. I went up to the monk and asked him:
“’What’s happening, is Vespers already finished?’
“’We rang the bells so that the faithful should know that tomorrow is a feast day.’
“’But the Vespers service?’
“’We don’t have services! We only have the bells!’”
The archbishop bowed his head, and returned to his cell, immersed in sad thoughts…
In the following days, his last strength left him. He was suffering terribly in his throat. He could not swallow anything; in any case, he had no appetite. He felt the end approaching…
The feast of the Protection of the Mother of God was drawing near. He addressed a last tearful prayer to the Mother of God and delivered himself into the hands of the Lord:
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, into Thy hands I commit my spirit!”
The brothers were panic-stricken. The archbishop was lying like a corpse, hardly breathing… He remained in this state for forty-eight hours.
On the third day, he recovered consciousness and felt that an important change had taken place in him. Tears of joy came to the eyes of the sick man, tears of gratitude to God and the Holy Virgin…
Then he remembered the prophetic words of the fool for Christ, Pasha of Sarov:
“The Mother of God will deliver you! The Holy Virgin will save you!”
Just at that moment a parcel arrived from the Soviet Union from an unknown person – at a time when no letters were arriving from the Soviet Union! Inside was a beautiful icon of St. Seraphim of Sarov. He was convinced that he had been saved through the Mother of God and the prayers of St. Seraphim.
Pascha arrived, and the priest of the Russian church in the town near the monastery was going round the homes of his parishioners to wish them the joy of the feast. But in his heart he was sad, because he had left his family in the Soviet Union and had received no news of them. His sadness combined with the effects of drinking too much in the houses of his parishioners, and suddenly he awoke from his stupor to realize that the money collected in church which he carried with him had disappeared. Terrible thoughts assailed him, he was convinced that nobody would believe that he had not stolen the money, and he determined to kill himself.
Exhausted, he fell asleep. And then in a dream he saw Archbishop Theophan, who approached him and said:
“Go to the temple of the Lord and you will find what you have lost.”
Dawn was breaking as he rushed to the church. Lighting a candle and making the sign of the cross, he began to search. There was the money, on one of the side benches!
Joyfully he began to chant the Paschal hymn: “Christ is risen from the dead!” He felt that he himself had been truly resurrected from the dead!
Then he rushed to the archbishop and thanked him fervently for saving him from perdition. But the archbishop said that he knew nothing about this, and told him to ascribe the glory to God alone, and said:
“Always remember what God told you: ‘Go to the temple of the Lord and you will find what you have lost.’”
In 1925 the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church invited Archbishop Theophan to live in Sofia, in two rooms on the first floor of the Synodal House overlooking St. Alexander Nevsky Square. The reason for this was that several members of the Bulgarian Synod had been students of Vladyka at the St. Petersburg Theological Academy, including the president of the Synod, Metropolitan Clement. Also instrumental in the invitation was another former student of Vladyka’s, Bishop Seraphim (Sobolev) of Lubny, a vicariate of the Poltava diocese, who was now in charge of the Russian parishes in Bulgaria.
Archbishop Averky writes: “It was touching to see the attention and profound reverence which our brothers the Bulgarians showed Archbishop Theophan. He frequently served in the majestic Church of St. Alexander Nevsky which was erected in memory of the liberation of Bulgaria from the Turkish yoke. It stood on the enormous square adjacent to the Synodal house and could accommodate 7000 faithful. Occasionally, and especially during Great Lent, he served even in the Synod ‘paraklis’ – the small house church in the Synodal House. Those who participated in his spiritually fulfilling and profoundly prayerful services even today remember them with compunction…
“Indeed, Vladyka Theophan made a deep impression as a man of genuinely spiritual life on all foreigners who came in contact with him. The enemy, however, takes up arms against such saintly people and makes a special effort to pour out on them all his diabolical malice with the help of malevolent and depraved individuals who are devoted to his service. Thus in Sofia, due to various unfortunate events in the local Russian Church, Vladyka Theophan had to suffer much grief simply because he was a strict ascetic and an uncompromising Archpastor. Consequently, he withdrew more and more from the world and its raging passions and began to retire into himself, leading what was already virtually the life of a recluse. For some time, however, he continued to participate in the sessions of the Synod, periodically travelling to Yugoslavia for this purpose…
“Vladyka grieved over all the unnecessary events which took place in the Russian émigré community. Most detrimental were all the arguments and disputes which, as he put it, were not befitting of Orthodox Russians who, because of their sins, had lost their homeland and were sentenced to live in exile, in some cases in extremely difficult material and moral circumstances. He altogether disapproved of the idea of proclaiming a Russian Emperor outside of Russia, or a ‘Patriarch of Russia’ or even a ‘patriarchal locum tenens’, notions which were widely circulated by certain individuals. He believed that Russia would soon be resurrected, but only on the condition that the whole nation repented of its grave sin of apostasy before God. He considered our life in exile as nothing other than an opportunity for fervent repentance and prayer for God’s forgiveness. This is why many of the events that occurred during our life in exile gave him pain and sorrow and forced him to avoid close contact with people. Neither would he engage in any kind of social interaction in which he did not observe the repentance which should be evident in our people, to whom God had given the penance of banishment. Vladyka Theophan never went out of his cell in the Synodal House except to go to church, nor did he receive anyone there except a few individuals who were deeply devoted to him and sought his instructions and spiritual guidance.
“Every summer he moved from Sofia to the coastal city of Varna, where a group of his admirers rented him a modest cottage about five kilometres from town. The cottage was located in a very isolated and relatively uninhabited spot. There Vladyka lived alone with his cell-attendant as in a skete, daily performing the whole cycle of services and readers services in place of the Liturgy. Only on certain Sundays and on major holy days did he ride to church in a carriage. Usually he went to the Russian church of Athanasius of Alexandria, an ancient Greek church that had been put at the disposal of the Russians by the Bulgarian Metropolitan Symeon of Varna and Preslav.
“Here Vladyka worked especially hard on his dogmatic, exegetical and ascetic spiritual writings. Himself a profound and refined expert in Patristics, he complied a new edition of the Philokalia, organized according to a system which he had worked out, which was very practical and handy to use. He also complied a Philokalia of Russian Saints, wrote a very interesting and original interpretation of Revelation, and many other things as well. In addition he conducted extensive correspondence with his spiritual children. His letters contained penetrating spiritual advice and instructions which were always accompanied by citations from the Holy Scriptures and numerous quotations from the Holy Fathers. They were reminiscent of the correspondence of Bishop Theophan the Recluse, and constitute a precious guide on all matters of morality and spirituality…
“Most astonishing of all were Vladyka’s labours of prayer, to which he devoted himself literally day and night. It was obvious that he never gave up the prayer of ‘the mind in the heart’, following the legacy of the Holy Fathers. He was often so deep in contemplation that it seemed to him that the whole visible world around him had ceased to exist. Prayer without ceasing was indeed vital to his spirit, which dwelt on high…
“When he performed the Liturgy in the church of St. Athanasius in Varna, the congregation of the church, righteous and patriarchal Greeks who lived in the environs, told us: ‘When your Vladyka sits on the high place in the church, it seems as if the Blessed Athanasius himself has come to his church and is performing the services through him. One Greek woman, in whose house Vladyka spent the night, was surprised that when she came in to clean up in the morning the bed appeared to be untouched. Obviously, Vladyka had spent the whole night before the Liturgy in prayer and had not gone to bed.
“It is not surprising that, given Vladyka Theophan’ strict ascetic life, as happens with many genuine ascetics, he experienced frightening episodes of the sort that the enemy of mankind uses to try to force people who lead an ascetic life to give up their labours. These were the same sort of episodes that we know from the Russian ascetics Saints Sergius of Radonezh and Seraphim of Sarov. Vladyka Theophan’ frightening episodes were reported by those who served as his cell-attendants, and even by the Right Reverend Seraphim who rode with him in a sleeping-car on the Sofia-Varna express, and who was at that time in charge of the Russian ecclesiastical communities in Bulgaria. Once, when they were riding together in the same compartment, something woke Vladyka Seraphim in the night and he saw in the middle of the compartment a big black cat [according to Archbishop Theophan, it was more like a tigress with a huge udder] with eyes of burning flames. Then the loud voice of Vladyka Theophan resounded: ‘In the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, I adjure you: be gone from me, unclean one!’ The cat snorted, spraying fiery sparks in all directions, and disappeared. Since that time, as Vladyka Seraphim stated, he tried to avoid spending the night in the same place as Vladyka Theophan because he was so shaken by this experience.
“In the cottage in Varna, there were only two rooms and a kitchen. Vladyka lived in the front room which opened onto the veranda; the second room was empty, and beyond it was the kitchen where Vladyka’s cell-attendants stayed. They took this duty upon themselves voluntarily and served all Vladyka’s needs. One of them was an elderly merchant from Moscow, Kh., another was a middle-aged but by no means old Cossack from the Urals, S., and the third was the young student, T. At first they took turns spending the night in the kitchen, but later they began to go home late at night after doing all that Vladyka asked of them. The reason for this was certain mysterious phenomena which frightened them. In the empty room between the kitchen and Vladyka’s cell somebody’s footsteps would suddenly resound, clearly audible, although there was nobody there. Then it seemed as if some unseen person were throwing whole handfuls of sand or dirt in through the windows of the cottage, and there were other unexplained noises of this kind. When this happened, Vladyka’s loud voice, which was usually soft, could be heard very loud and strong, clearly articulating, ‘In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, I adjure you: be gone from me, unclean one!’ Then everything grew quiet and calm.
“According to the cell-attendant S., at midnight the sound of various falling objects could be heard, and this also ceased after Vladyka pronounced in a loud and threatening voice his adjuration, apparently against the demonic forces which menaced him. At first Vladyka used to ask his cell-attendant,
“’Did you hear what happened in the night?’
“’I did,’ he would answer.
’And were you frightened?’
But once that cell-attendant himself experienced an attack of demons. When he was half-asleep he suddenly felt some terrible hairy monster pressing on him and choking him. He awoke and saw somebody squeezing his throat. At first he thought that it was a robber and took it into his head to grab him with his hand, but his arms went numb… Then he began to pray and he saw a grey cloud that twisted up in the shape of a horn and gradually disappeared. Vladyka came in and made the sign of the cross on his forehead, sprinkled the room with holy water, and such occurrences were not repeated.
“After Vladyka had left for Sofia, his cell-attendants came to the cottage to pack up and move out the things he had left behind. The neighbouring Bulgarian villagers surrounded them and asked in astonishment,
“’What was going on last night in your Vladyka’s cottage?’
“’Nothing could have happened,’ they replied. ‘Vladyka left the day before and nobody was in the cottage.’
“’What do you mean?’ the Bulgarians countered, bewildered. ‘All night long the windows of the cottage were brightly lit, and it was evident that many people had gathered and there seemed to be a party and some kind of dancing going on.’
“Some time later, one of his cell-attendants attempted to ask Vladyka in a most cautious and tactful way what all these mysterious phenomena meant. Vladyka smiled somewhat enigmatically and humbly said,
“’Well, this is what happens with monks!’
We, however, understood him thus: yes! This is what happens with monks, but not with all of them, only real monks such as you!
“Vladyka was extraordinarily fond of his cell attendants. Sometimes when he came to see them in the kitchen he was very gentle, loving and cheerful. He could appreciate a good polite joke and laugh at it. Only once did his cell-attendants have occasion to see Vladyka actually get angry: a certain priest once wanted to exclude an individual who had offended him from Holy Communion. Vladyka told him that he had no right to do so, and that one must forgive personal offences.”
Once, during the Cherubic hymn of the Liturgy that was being celebrated in the small chapel in the cottage, noises and groaning were heard coming from under the roof. One of the cell-attendants asked the blessing of the archbishop to investigate, but he said it would not happen again. And it didn’t. Instead, however, snakes appeared all round the house, which Vladyka attributed to demonic forces. As a result, they had to move into another house a bit further down the coast in place called “Roumi”…
Dr. Abbatti was working as a doctor in Bulgarian Macedonia when a malaria epidemic broke out. And his wife Anna Vassilievna came down with the illness. Now the doctor and his wife had sworn to each other that they would not conceal from each other when one of them was dying. So the doctor, who had to leave to see a patient, turned to his wife and said:
“Annette, you have no more than two hours to live!”
She was already in the throes of convulsions, and she asked her husband to send a telegram to Archbishop Theophan immediately and ask him to pray for her. He agreed, sent the telegram and left for his work. The telegram read as follows:
“Anna Vassilievna Abatti is dying. Two hours to live. Asking for your holy prayers to save her from death. Doctor Abatti.”
Then he left. The region where he was working was mountainous and the communications poor. On his way back, he received a telegram. Too preoccupied and sad to read it, he stuffed it in his pocket. He was expecting to find his wife dead… But as he entered his house he could not believe his eyes: his wife was sitting, pale and weak, but with no traces of the illness… The telegram he hadn’t read was from the archbishop and said:
“I am praying. By God’s mercy, the sick one will recover.” He noted that the time when the telegram was sent and the time when his wife felt the illness depart coincided. But when Anna Vassilievna came to thank the archbishop, he did not let her open her mouth, telling her to tell nobody about the miraculous healing and threatening her that if she did tell something worse would happen to her. And it was only after the archbishop’s death in 1940 that she said:
“He was not a simple archbishop. He was a great man, a holy man of God, ignored by men… Listen how, thanks to his holy prayers, I am alive now, although I was in agony.”
And she told the story…
There lived in Varna a Russian by the name of Pelichkin, a former colonel, who had converted from Orthodoxy to the Baptist faith. He knew how to conduct conversations on religious matters, and was able to disturb someone who was not trained in theology. And he decided to display his talents in a debate with Archbishop Theophan.
When Pelichkin arrived at the house, Vladyka told his cell-attendants to stay close to the room in which the interview was to take place.
“The interview will be short. You will wait in the corridor and will be witnesses, is such are needed.”
Pelichkin was ushered in. He wanted to close the door, but the archbishop opened it again, which disturbed him. Moreover, Vladyka did not offer him a seat and remained standing himself. Then the archbishop began:
“When there are differences of opinion, and so as to avoid interminable disputes, one makes appeal to the judgement of a third party. These arbiters decide which of the two confess the true faith. Not long ago you and I confessed the same faith, the Orthodox faith. The best judges that we could find are the three holy ecumenical bishops, St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory the Theologian and St. John Chrysostom. Their authority is indisputable for us.”
To this Pelichkin objected: “But they are men like you and I! Why should I be obliged to consider them as indisputable authorities?”
The archbishop replied: “If you consider yourself the equal of the holy bishops St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory the Theologian and St. John Chrysostom, we have nothing more to say to each other. I ask you to leave the room!”
Pelichkin had nothing to answer to this. Disconcerted, he left the room. Later Vladyka explained his tactics:
“If I had refused to speak with him, he would have told the world that ‘the archbishop is frightened’. Whereas here, he had nothing to say in reply… In his heart he well understands that to consider oneself the equal of Saints Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom is a great impudence and spiritual delusion.”
In 1928 Vladyka came to Varna for Holy Week and Pascha. During the Liturgy for Holy Thursday an earthquake suddenly hit the city. Tens of chandeliers suspended on chains from the ceiling began to tinkle, the walls seemed to come to life, the bells began to ring.
The people, too, were disturbed and began to flee from the church. The superior of the church asked the archbishop to allow him to go and calm the people.
“Stay here and pray!” he replied.
And he immersed himself in prayer.
Again the superior, thinking that the archbishop had misunderstood him, insisted:
“Allow me to go and say a word to the people!”
“You must not go and say anything… Stay here and pray!”
When the panic-stricken parishioners saw that everyone in the sanctuary was staying and praying, they calmed down.
On Holy Saturday, there was another earthquake during the chanting of the cherubic hymn: “Let all mortal flesh keep silence…” This time many of the faithful, their fears reinforced by what they had read in the press, rushed out into the street. Once again the superior asked:
“Your Eminence, bless me and allow me go and pacify the people!”
“Father Igumen, stay here and pray!”
This time the priest did not insist. And the people who had fled, seeing the calmness of the clergy in the sanctuary, returned to the church.
But there were many victims in the city. People who should have been in church praying… Vladyka saw the earthquake as a call to repentance….
The 1920s were a period of extraordinary turmoil in the Russian Church both inside and outside of Russia. Schisms and heresies, excited and exploited by political and extra-ecclesiastical forces, threatened to tear apart the Body of Christ. In this chaos many looked to the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia for guidance, and in particular to its president and vice-president, Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of Kiev and Archbishop Theophan of Poltava, who had respectively been rectors of the Moscow and St. Petersburg Theological Academies. On many issues the two hierarchs agreed. But unfortunately on one or two issues Archbishop Theophan considered the metropolitan to be in error; and, for all his love and respect for the older hierarch, he considered it his duty to point out these errors.
In 1926 there was published in Sremski Karlovtsy in Serbia the second edition of Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky)’s Dogma of Redemption, an attempt to conceptualise the mystery of Christ’s redemption of mankind by means of a sharp contrast between redemption understood as an act of supremely compassionate love and redemption understood as the satisfaction of God’s justice, the so-called “juridical theory”. The juridical theory was rejected by Metropolitan Anthony as “scholastic”, and he sharply criticised several Fathers of the Russian Church for teaching it. In particular, he criticised the Catechism of Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, which his supporters proposed to replace with his own Catechism containing his own “monistic” theory of redemption. According to Metropolitan Anthony, our salvation was not accomplished by a restoration of justice between God and man, but by an outpouring of Christ’s compassionate love for man onto the whole of mankind. In accordance with this theory, the central point in the redemption of mankind was located by the metropolitan in the Garden of Gethsemane, rather than on the Cross.
Archbishop Theophan, supported by his vicar in Russia, Bishop Seraphim (Sobolev) of Lubny, profoundly disagreed with the metropolitan. He considered the so-called “juridical theory” to be Orthodox, and Metropolitan Philaret’s Catechism in no need of replacing. And he considered Metropolitan Anthony’s Catechism to contain serious dogmatical errors relating to the dogmas of redemption and original sin.
The issue came to a head in a session of the Synod held in Yugoslavia in April, 1926. On the one hand, the Synod expressed its approval of Metropolitan Anthony’s Catechism. On the other hand, no decision was made to replace Metropolitan Philaret’s Catechism with that of Metropolitan Anthony.
However, the dispute rumbled on “underground”. Thus in letters to Hieroschemamonk Theodosius of Mount Athos, who took the side of Archbishop Theophan, Metropolitan Anthony expressed the suspicion that Archbishop Theophan was in “spiritual delusion” and continued to show himself in fundamental disagreement “with the juridical theory of Anselm and Aquinas, completely accepted by P[eter] Moghila and Metropolitan Philaret”. And again he wrote: “We must not quickly return to Peter Moghila, Philaret and Macarius: they will remain subjects for historians”.
For his part, Archbishop Theophan was unhappy that Metropolitan Anthony did not abandon his incorrect views on redemption, but only refrained from pressing for their official acceptance by the Synod. As he wrote on February 16/29, 1932: “Under the influence of the objections made [against his work], Metropolitan Anthony was about to take back his Catechism, which had been introduced by him into use in the schools in place of Metropolitan Philaret’s Catechism. But, as became clear later, he did this insincerely, and with exceptional persistence continued to spread his incorrect teaching On Redemption and many other incorrect teachings contained in his Catechism”.
Another dogmatic issue on which Archbishop Theophan and Bishop Seraphim cooperated fruitfully was the Sophianist heresy of Fr. Sergius Bulgakov. (Another theologian who worked on this issue was Hieromonk John Maximovich, the future holy hierarch.) This heresy was based, according to Vladyka in a letter he wrote in 1930, “on the book of Fr. [Paul] Florensky, The Pillar and Ground of the Truth. But Florensky borrowed the idea of Sophia from V.S. Soloviev. And V.S. Soloviev borrowed it from the medieval mystics.
“In V.S. Soloviev Sophia is the feminine principle of God, His ‘other’. Florensky tries to prove that Sophia, as the feminine principle of God, is a special substance. He tries to find this teaching in St. Athanasius the Great and in Russian iconography. Protopriest Bulgakov accepts on faith the basic conclusions of Florensky, but partly changes the form of this teaching, and partly gives it a new foundation. In Bulgakov this teaching has two variants: a) originally it is a special Hypostasis, although not of one essence with the Holy Trinity (in the book The Unwaning Light), b) later it is not a Hypostasis but ‘hypostasisness’. In this latter form it is an energy of God coming from the essence of God through the Hypostases of the Divinity into the world and finding for itself its highest ‘created union’ in the Mother of God. Consequently, according to this variant, Sophia is not a special substance, but the Mother of God.
“According to the Church teaching, which is especially clearly revealed in St. Athanasius the Great, the Sophia-Wisdom of God is the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Here, in the most general terms, is the essence of Protopriest Bulgakov’s teaching on Sophia! To expound any philosophical teaching shortly is very difficult, and so it is difficult to expound shortly the teaching of the ‘sophianists’ on Sophia. This teaching of theirs becomes clear only in connection the whole of their philosophical system. But to expound the latter shortly is also impossible. One can say only: their philosophy is the philosophy of ‘panentheism’, that is, a moderate form of ‘pantheism’. The originator of this ‘panentheism’ in Russia is V.S. Soloviev.”
Bulgakov was only one of a series of heretical teachers who were teaching in the 1920s and 30s in the Theological Institute of St. Sergius in Paris, such as Nicholas Berdyaev, Lev Zander and Nicholas Zernov. By no means all the Paris theologians supported him. Fr. Georges Florovsky, for example, strongly criticized him. However, Metropolitan Eulogius of Paris supported them, and was in turn supported by them, which, combined with the intrigues of the communists, laid the basis for the schism of the “Paris exarchate” from the Russian Church Abroad that took place in 1927. The sticking point was Eulogius’s refusal to allow Synodal supervision of the St. Sergius Institute; and his refusal to break links with the masonically inspired and financed YMCA, proved the sticking point on which hopes of a permanent reconciliation foundered.
Archbishop Averky writes: “Archbishop Theophan was the first to expose and document the anti-Christian nature of certain so-called Christian organizations, some of which were eager to extend their influence to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, and even to subjugate it to themselves somewhat by rendering financial assistance much needed by our refugees who had no stable sources of their own to draw from in exile. Vladyka Theophan himself categorically refused to accept the monthly allowance offered to him by these organizations, and did not approve of those who did, for he believed that this caused them to lose their spiritual freedom, and that in one way or another they would consequently be forced to do the will of their sponsors. Vladyka Theophan guarded his independence and spiritual freedom, preferring a beggarly existence to a secure situation. This discloses the most characteristic trait of our great pastor, a trait which he shared with the great Fathers of Christian antiquity: any compromise of conscience, no matter how small, was for him altogether inconceivable. In all of his actions and conduct, in his private life as well as in his service to the Church and society, he was utterly constant, never departing in any way from what his convictions dictated. Absolute incorruptibility, uncompromising honesty and straightforwardness, demand for unconditional loyalty to the true Church, to the Word of God, and to Patristic tradition – these were his hallmarks, ideals which guided his life and which he liked to see in other servants of the Church as well.”
In August, 1926, Archbishop Theophan wrote: “The real causes of the division are deeper than it seems at first glance. Two of them are especially significant. ‘They’ consider the Soviet authorities as ‘ordained by God’, but we consider them antichristian. On the basis of overwhelming documentary evidence, we recognized that the YMCA is a masonic organization. They consider it a Christian organization.” And he predicted: “Metropolitan Eulogius will not give in. Those around him are pushing him toward schism. We could let him have his way, but we cannot entrust the fate of Orthodoxy to him. He is ensnared in the nets of the [masonic] YMCA. The YMCA in turn is having a demoralizing effect on student groups. In the magazine The Way № 5, Professor Berdyaev stated openly that the schism in the church is unavoidable and necessary. Metropolitan Eulogius is the only hierarch who ‘has raised his consciousness to the realization that it is necessary to reform Orthodoxy’, and he is therefore ‘a tool of God’s Providence’ in our days!”
Vladyka took a very strict attitude towards the Paris exarchate. As Helen Kontzevich relates, “in Paris, Archpriest Sergius Chetverikov asked to come and see Archbishop Theophan, to converse with him on the theme of the Jesus Prayer. But he was presented with the condition that he cease all contact with the YMCA. The Archpriest did not agree to it.”
Archbishop Averky says that Vladyka Theophan foresaw both the schism of Metropolitan Eulogius of Paris and that of Metropolitan Platon in America. “He warned and admonished, but his warnings were not heeded in time and the subsequent reproach of those who broke away not only had no positive results, but even deepened the division, as Vladyka had also foreseen. Such ecclesiastical schisms and divisions caused Vladyka to sorrow in his heart, to suffer in his soul and to grieve. Although he had at the very beginning identified the root of the problem, he did not always approve of the measures taken to stop the schisms and establish unity in the Church, and he indicated the errors sometimes made in so doing.”
Although Eulogius at times sought, and obtained, reconciliation with Metropolitan Anthony and the other hierarchs, his heretical entourage was stronger, as Vladyka had predicted. First he joined the Moscow Patriarchate under Metropolitan Sergius. But then, when Sergius demanded political loyalty to the Soviet Union, he turned to Constantinople.
However, by 1927-28, both the Moscow and the Constantinople patriarchates had fallen away from the truth of Orthodoxy, and Vladyka Theophan was prominent in defending that truth against their innovations.
One of the last Hierarchical Councils that Vladyka attended condemned the notorious declaration of Metropolitan Sergius, which recognized the Soviet power as established by God and placed the Russian Church in more or less complete dependence on it. As he wrote on September 1, 1927: “It is impossible to recognize the epistle of Metropolitan Sergius as obligatory for ourselves. The just-completed Council of Bishops rejected this epistle. It was necessary to act in this way on the basis of the teaching of the Holy Fathers on what should be recognized as a canonical power to which Christians must submit. St. Isidore of Pelusium, having pointed to the presence of the God-established order of the submission of some to others everywhere in the life of rational and irrational beings, draws the conclusion:
“’Therefore we are right to say that the thing in itself, I mean power, that is, authority and royal power, have been established by God. But if a lawless evildoer seizes this power, we do not affirm that he has been sent by God, but we say that he, like Pharaoh, has been permitted to spew out this cunning and thereby inflict extreme punishment on and bring to their senses those for whom cruelty was necessary, just as the King of Babylon brought the Jews to their senses. (Works, part II, letter 6).
“Bolshevik power in its essence is an antichristian power and there is no way that it can recognized as God-established.”
In relation to the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the introduction of the new calendar into that patriarchate and other churches, Vladyka Theophan was similarly uncompromising. Thus “only an Ecumenical Council”, he wrote, “can introduce a new Church calendar, as the First Ecumenical Council introduced the one which we now use. Any other unauthorized introduction cannot be recognized as canonical.” Unlike Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), who, though opposed to the new calendar innovation, argued in favour of remaining in communion with the new calendarists, and served with the new calendarist patriarch Miron on more than one occasion, Archbishop Theophan adopted the “zealot” line of the Greek and Romanian Old Calendarists. And he wrote two extended works on the subject. In one of them, written in 1926, he wrote:
“Question. Have the pastors of the Orthodox Church not made special judgements concerning the calendar?
“Answer. They have, many times – with regard to the introduction of the new Roman calendar – both in private assemblies and in councils.
“A proof of this is the following. First of all, the Ecumenical Patriarch Jeremiah II, who lived at the same time as the Roman calendar reform, immediately, in 1582, together with his Synod condemned the new Roman system of chronology as being not in agreement with the Tradition of the Church. In the next year (1583), with the participation of Patriarchs Sylvester of Alexandria and Sophronius VI of Jerusalem, he convened a Church Council. This Council recognised the Gregorian calendar to be not in agreement with the canons of the Universal Church and with the decree of the First Ecumenical Council on the method of calculating the day of Holy Pascha.
“Through the labours of this Council there appeared: a Conciliar tome, which denounced the wrongness and unacceptability for the Orthodox Church of the Roman calendar, and a canonical conciliar Decree – the Sigillion of November 20, 1583. In this Sigillion all three of the above-mentioned Patriarchs with their Synods called on the Orthodox firmly and unbendingly, even to the shedding of their blood, to hold the Orthodox Menaion and Julian Paschalion, threatening the transgressors of this with anathema, cutting them off from the Church of Christ and the gathering of the faithful…
“In the course of the following three centuries: the 17th, 18th and 19th, a whole series of Ecumenical Patriarchs decisively expressed themselves against the Gregorian calendar and, evaluating it in the spirit of the conciliar decree of Patriarch Jeremiah II, counselled the Orthodox to avoid it…
“Question. Is the introduction of the new calendar important or of little importance?
“Answer. Very important, especially in connection with the Paschalion, and it is an extreme disorder and ecclesiastical schism, which draws people away from communion and unity with the whole Church of Christ, deprives them of the grace of the Holy Spirit, shakes the dogma of the unity of the Church, and, like Arius, tears the seamless robe of Christ, that is, everywhere divides the Orthodox, depriving them of oneness of mind; breaks the bond with Ecclesiastical Holy Tradition and makes them fall under conciliar condemnation for despising Tradition…
“Question. How must the Orthodox relate to the new calendarist schismatics, according to the canons?
“Answer. They must have no communion in prayer with them, even before their conciliar condemnation…
“Question. What punishment is fitting, according to the Church canons, for those who pray with the new calendarist schismatics?
“Answer. The same condemnation with them…”
In France: Final Years and Repose
As early as 1928 Archbishop Theophan wrote to one of his spiritual children: “I would like to retreat in silence from all things and from henceforth, but I do not yet know whether this is God’s will.” On April 16/29, 1931 he left Bulgaria and moved in with a couple known to him from St. Petersburg, Theodore and Lydia Porokhov, who were living in Clamart, near Paris.
It is not known for certain why Vladyka left Bulgaria for reclusion in France. A desire for deep inner prayer, which is easier in reclusion, was probably one factor. Another, according to his cell-attendant, the future Schema-Monk Epiphanius (Chernov), was the deteriorating state of his relations with his vicar, Bishop Seraphim. A third, according to the same source, was a desire to check out a report that the Tsar was alive and living in France!
Certainly Vladyka was depressed about the state of the Churches, and perhaps felt that he with his uncompromising views could make no further contribution to public Church life. Thus on September 12, 1931 he wrote from Clamart: “You complain about developments in ecclesiastical affairs in your country. I do not know the details of your situation, but I think that the religious and moral state of other Orthodox countries is no better, perhaps even worse. I can at least state with assurance that this is true both of Russia under the yoke and of Russia in the Diaspora. Regarding ecclesiastical matters there, I have an enormous amount of material at my disposal: approximately 700 pages in all. I have at my disposal materials about ecclesiastical affairs here as well which are no less important nor less voluminous. The overall conclusion that can be drawn from these materials is horrifying. Yet there is, of course, amid this general darkness a ‘grace-filled remnant’ that still perpetuates the Orthodox faith both here and there. Our times seem to be apocalyptic. The salt is losing its savour. Among the Church’s highest pastors there remains a weak, dim, contradictory and incorrect understanding of the written word. This is subverting spiritual life in Christian society and destroying Christianity, which consists of actions, not words. It grieves me to see to whom Christ’s sheep have been entrusted, to see who it is that oversees their guidance and salvation. But this is tolerated by God. ‘Let those in Judaea flee to the mountains!’ With these words the great Russian hierarchs Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow and Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov characterized the state of ecclesiastical affairs in their own times, sixty years ago. Do we not have even greater reason to repeat these threatening words at the present time?”
One contributing factor to Vladyka’s decision almost certainly was his strained relations with Metropolitan Anthony over the Dogma of Redemption and other matters. According to Helena Kontzevich, Metropolitan Anthony wrote to Vladyka after their disagreement over the dogma, and refused him permission to come to any more sessions of the Synod. Whether this is true or not, the relations between the two hierarchs were definitely strained. However, this did not lead to Vladyka formally breaking relations with the Church Abroad, for the newspapers reported that he concelebrated with Archbishop Seraphim (Lukianov) of Paris, and gave sermons.
Vladyka’s letters became increasingly apocalyptic in tone. Already in 1931 he predicted a new war in Europe. And “Czechoslovakia will be the first to succumb to this threat!”, he added…
On April 31, 1936 he wrote: “Have you noticed what is happening in the world today? The leaders of the world’s governments are all doing the same thing: they all speak about world peace. The leaders of France and of states friendly to her are also very insistent in speaking about ways to guarantee security, as if this were the essential precondition of this ‘peace’. One cannot help but recall the words of the Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Thessalonians: ‘The day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say peace and security, then sudden destruction cometh upon them as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape’ (I Thessalonians 5.3). Everybody who loves the Truth must not only take note of the signs of the times, but also follow these observations to their logical conclusion.
“Regarding the affairs of the Church, in the words of the Saviour, one of the most awesome phenomena of the last days is that at that time ‘the stars shall fall from heaven’ (Matthew 24.29). According to the Saviour’s own explanation, these ‘stars’ are the Angels of the Churches, in other words, the Bishops (Revelation 1.20). The religious and moral fall of the Bishops is, therefore, one of the most characteristic signs of the last days. The fall of the Bishops is particularly horrifying when they deviate from the doctrines of the faith, or, as the Apostle put it, when they ‘would pervert the Gospel of Christ’ (Galatians 1.7). The Apostle orders that such people be pronounced ‘anathema’. He said, ‘If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that which ye have received, let him be accursed (anathema)’ (Galatians 1.9). And one must not be slow about this, for he continues, ‘A man that is an heretic, after the first and second admonition reject, knowing that he that is such is subverted, being condemned of himself’ (Titus 3.10-11). Moreover, you may be subject to God’s judgement if you are indifferent to deviation from the truth: ‘So them because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold not hot, I will spew thee out of My mouth’ (Revelation 3.6).
“Clouds are gathering on the world’s horizon. God’s judgement of its peoples and of hypocritical Christians, beginning with heretics and lukewarm hierarchs, is approaching.”
Soon after moving to France, Vladyka discovered that he was being followed. He had to stop going to church in the Rue Odessa in Paris, and told one of his people in Bulgaria that life in Clamart was “not peaceful”. Later he explained that there had been a night-time descent on the house where he lived. It appears that the Soviets were trying to kidnap Vladyka as they had kidnapped General Kutepov in 1931 and General Miller in 1937. And although they did not succeed, after his death his papers were all sent to Moscow…
Seeking a safer refuge, in 1936 Vladyka moved with the Porokhovs to Mosne, near Amboise on the Loire. Soon after this Theodore Vassilievich Porokhov was murdered. In 1939 Lydia Nikolaevna Porokhova, in monasticism Maria, also died. Six months later, on September 1, 1939, Vladyka and the Porokhovs’ niece, Anastasia Vassilievna, were taken by a former landowner of Poltava, Maria Vassilievna Fedchenko, to a little property which she rented at Limeray, in the same region. Here there were three caves suitable for living in. In the first lived Vladyka. In the second was a church. In the third lived Anastasia Vassilievna. And Maria Vassilievna lived in a house next to the caves. There was also a place for some domestic animals, and for twelve Doberman-pinchers, who were chained up during the day but were released into the park during the night, probably so as to protect Vladyka from his enemies. After his death, they were all sold.
Archbishop Theophan reposed peacefully at three o’clock in the morning on February 6/19, 1940, the feast of St. Photius the Great. According to one of those present, there were no more than four people present at the funeral of the great and holy hierarch, who was vested in his hierarchical vestments with the mitre and panagia that the Tsar had presented him with at his consecration. The funeral was celebrated by Hieromonk Barnabas, his confessor, who lived in the same village. According to Helena Yurievna Kontzevitch: “At Archbishop Theophan’s funeral he was deprived of the burial rite due to him as a bishop, and was buried as a simple monk by order of Metropolitan Eulogius. He was buried by Hieromonk Barnabas, who had inquired of Metropolitan Eulogius concerning the rite of burial.”
Vladyka was buried in plot № 432 in the municipal cemetery of Limeray.
On the fortieth day after his repose he appeared to his spiritual son and the future Archbishop of Canada Joasaph, who witnessed: “After the death of my marvelous instructor, I was terribly afflicted… It was very difficult for me and I prayed much for him. And then, on the night of the fortieth day after his repose, I dreamed that I was standing in front of a magnificent church from which were proceeding a multitude of hierarchs after the service. I recognized the great hierarchs: Saints Basil the Great, John Chrysostom, Gregory the Theologian and many others. Suddenly, in the middle of them I saw his Eminence Theophan! I ran up to him:
“’Your Eminence, where are you coming from? ‘
“’Well, as you can see, we have just celebrated the Liturgy together. Come with us.’
“I followed him. All this took place in a spacious automobile – or was it a boat? – which began to sail in the air, so to speak. We passed by mountains, forests and valleys of an indescribable beauty. My elder began to show me these dwellings and revealed to me their destiny:
“’That one will be saved, but that one over there at the bottom of the valley will perish.’
“It was terrible to see! And all around us there were beautiful gardens and a sweet perfume. I contemplated them with delight and without being sated. For a long time we were carried about in this way in the air, in the middle of this magnificence. Finally I could not restrain myself and asked:
“’But where are we?’
“His Eminence Theophan answered me: ‘And why do you not understand…? In Paradise!’
“From that moment I was reassured, having understood that my dear instructor had been found worthy of eternal blessedness.”
Miracles of healing have been attributed to Archbishop Theophan since his repose.
Thus when he died in 1940 Helena Yurievna Kontzevich had had a terrible toothache; she prayed to him and the pain disappeared instantly. Towards the end of her life she had a vision of him, after which she wrote a troparion to him:
TROPARION. TONE 3
Defender of the right belief in Christ’s redemption,
thou didst endure afflictions and death in exile,
O holy father, Hierarch Theophan,
pray to Christ God to save our souls.
Sources: The Works of Archbishop Theophan in printed and manuscript form; Archbishop Theophan of Poltava and Pereyaslavl, Selected Letters, Liberty, TN: St. John of Kronstadt Press, 1989; V.K., Russkaia Zarubezhnaia Tserkov’ na Steziakh Otstupnichestva (The Russian Church Abroad on the paths of Apostasy), St. Petersburg, 1999, pp. 29-30 (in Russian); Monk Anthony (Chernov), Vie de Monseigneur Théophane, Archevêque de Poltava et de Pereiaslavl (The Life of his Eminence Theophan, Archbishop of Poltava and Pereyaslavl), Lavardac: Monastère Orthodoxe St. Michel, 1988 (in French); Monk Anthony (Chernov), private communication; Sergius and Tamara Fomin, Rossia pered Vtorym Prishestviem (Russia before the Second Coming), Sergiev Posad, 1994; Richard Bettes, Vyacheslav Marchenko, Dukhovnik Tsarskoj Sem’i (Spiritual Father of the Royal Family), Moscow: Valaam Society of America, 1994, pp. 60-61 (in Russian); Archbishop Averky (Taushev), Vysokopreosviaschennij Feofan, Arkhiepiskop Poltavskij i Pereiaslavskij (His Eminence Theophan, Archbishop of Poltava and Pereyaslavl), Jordanville: Holy Trinity Monastery, 1974 (in Russian); Archbishop Anthony of San Francisco, The Young Elder: A Biography of Blessed Archimandrite Ambrose of Milkovo, Jordanville: Holy Trinity Monastery, 1974, p. 39; Abbot Herman, “Helen Yurievna Kontzevitch”, The Orthodox Word, vol. 35, № 6 (209), November-December, 1999, pp. 286-290; Edvard Radzinsky, Rasputin, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2000; Polischuk, E.S. (ed.), Imiaslavie. Antologia (Name-worshipping. An Anthology), Moscow, 2002, p. 518 (in Russian); Gubanov, Tsar Nikolai II-ij i Novie Mucheniki (Tsar Nicholas II and the New Martyrs), St. Petersburg, 2000, p. 770 (in Russian); M.E. Gubonin, Akty Sviateishago Patriarkha Tikhona (The Acts of His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon), Moscow, 1994, p. 995 (in Russian); Pis’ma Blazhennejshago Mitropolita Antonia (Khrapovitskago), (The Letters of His Beatitude Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky)), Jordanville: Holy Trinity Monastery, 1988 (in Russian); V. Moss, The Mystery of Redemption, Cafepress, 2007; Arkhiepiskop Feofan Poltavsky. Izbrannie Trudy (Selected Works), http:www.prav-de.ru/mason.htm (in Russian).