Vladyka Mitrophan

The Funeral of a Righteous man

An eyewitness report of the funeral by Matushka Ann Lardas
The same, of the burial, by Deacon Pavel Wolkow
A report concerning the relics Vladyka was buried with, by Bishop Tikhon

Except that we were all unspeakably sad, it was like Pascha.

Vladyka was in his open coffin in the middle of the church, his mantia draped, his klobuk at his feet, his face cover with an aer and only his hands, holding a cross, showing. Near Vladyka's feet were relics of three saints -- St. Seraphim of Sarov, St. Patriarch Tikhon, and St. Nikolai Velimirovich, whom Vladyka knew personally -- relics that Vladyka had with him when he reposed, on loan with his bishop's blessings from an OCA priest who loved Vladyka Mitrophan dearly.

Various of our clergy read the Gospel over Vladyka Mitrophan until the funeral began. There were three bishops (Met. Laurus, Vladyka Michael, and Vladyka Alexander), twenty priest served, not counting deacons, subdeacons, readers, altar boys, all in blue and white and gold.

At least half a dozen priests from other jurisdictions came, out of their love for Vladyka. They didn't serve, but most stood on the steps to the kliros so as not to be crushed. The crowd was huge, with people not just from St. Seraphim in Sea Cliff but from Holy Epiphany in Boston, from Presentation of Christ in the Temple and from St. Nicholas in Stratford, spiritual children who'd moved to California, people who flew in from the Midwest, Russians, Greeks, Americans, with many children, all drawn by Vladyka's love.

St. Seraphim Church is beautiful, all wooden and golden and white, and it's long and narrow. People stood at least two deep behind the clergy, who stretched nearly all the way to the altar in a line on either side of Vladyka, and the laity were encouraged to move forward, and forward, to make room, until some of us were pressed against kivots and between floral arrangements. Everyone held burning candles.

The funeral service for the bishop is the same as that for a priest. It begins as the funeral for laity, but then there are Epistle and Gospel readings, and more prayers. It lasted for about four hours.

Both the choir from St. Seraphim and a choir from Holy Trinity Monastery and Seminary sang, both richly and beautifully and simply.

When it was time to sing "So svjatimi upakoi," "With the Saints, give rest," everyone sang with one voice, and the church thundered.

Just before the final kiss, Met. Laurus gave a sermon, talking about Vladyka's life of service to the church. The sermon was in Russian and I think in English, so all mistakes are mine, but I believe he said Vladyka was born in Brest-Litovsk, where his father was a priest. His brother Arseni, a priest, was murdered by the Checka in the Revolution. When Vladyka Mitrophan saw his father's grief at Arseni's death, he promised to take his brother's place and take up the burden of the priesthood. He finished high school (gymnasium) in Brest-Litovsk and then went to Belgrade for Seminary. He watched over his flock in Germany, in North Africa, in Morocco, and finally led them to Sea Cliff, where he served for forty-two years, the last ten as bishop.

Met. Laurus spoke of how hard Vladyka worked and how heavily we will miss him. Met. Laurus read from the scroll that is placed in the hand of the departed and rolled it up and tucked it into Vladyka's hand. Then from both sides of the coffin, people made prostrations and kissed Vladyka Mitrophan one last time. It took a very long time, because we were many, but no one hurried anyone else.

The clergy carried Vladyka's open coffin around the church in a krestny hod. After the funeral, the Sisterhood of St. Seraphim's Church had a meal for all the assembled guests. Vladyka Mitrophan was a widower, and his children and grandchildren, and Fr. Sergei and Fr. Deacon Paul from the St. Seraphim parish, were unfailingly kind to everyone, spending most of the meal making sure everyone else was taken care of, had enough to eat, had heard a kind word. The parish's hospitality was a reflection of Vladyka's love.

At the meal, a letter from Vladyka Kyril was read, and various people spoke of Vladyka and his works and his love. Among the people, also, one heard stories of the letters Vladyka wrote to this one, how he visited people in the hospital (both Orthodox and otherwise) and didn't just pray for them but also helped them get cleaned up, how he would visit his parishioners for their namedays, how he remembered everyone. We remembered his bravery and candor. We remembered his humility. We remembered his love.

We were not able to come for the burial in Jordanville the next day, but a whole bus was leaving from Sea Cliff. One was reluctant to leave. The last time I had seen Vladyka alive was at the feast of the Kursk Root icon, where at the Trapeza, despite his age (92!) and failing health, he held the icon far over his head and blessed the whole crowd assembled for Trapeza with it, again and again and again, with vigor. Vladyka's thoughts and sermons are available now in English in his book, "Path to a Meaningful and Fruitful Life." It would be fitting to end with Vladyka's last words in his book:

"To achieve a life of bliss, we must undergo a spiritual transformation which is within the reach of each and every one of us. The core of this transformation process, or reinventing of ourselves, is to think and reason as the Gospel tells us. It is all there, black on white, ink on paper, for everyone to follow. But appreciable effort must be applied and a real desire to change is essential to success. Look at the apple. First it was a green bud with no taste at all; then it became a sour little fruit. But under the effects of the sun's rays, oxygen, and moisture, that sour nondescript little fruit is transformed into a lovely apple which is plucked from the tree by the master with joy. Likewise, under the steadying influence of true faith, prayer, church services, the Holy Mysteries, and the blessed gifts of the Holy Spirit, we, feeble and worldly beings, can gradually change our ways and develop spiritually to ripen toward eternal life. In this we find the meaning and goal of our lives."

Vladyka's funeral was both a chance to grieve our very great loss together and an opportunity to remember and celebrate a life of true faith brought to fruition. May his memory be eternal!

Matushka Ann Lardas, Stratford, Connecticut

To add to everything you had said when we departed Sea Cliff and arrived at Jordanville Vladyka's casket was carried into the church and again opened. Then a small litany was served and all were allowed to again venerate and say goodbye to Vladyka.

After about a 1 hour break a final panikhida was served at which Metropolitan Laurus,Bishop Alexander and Bishop Michael again presided with numerous clergy serving. Father Roman led everyone in singing the panikhida.

The entire church was singing. It truly was heaven on earth.

Metropolitan Laurus again said a quick sermon reiterating yesterdays sermon, but also adding that Vladyka Mitrophan considered himself as part of the brotherhood of the Holy Trinity Monastery. Father protodeacon Joseph Jarostchuk also said a quick sermon about Vladyka and how he had spiritually helped to guide and save a lot of Russian Orthodox who lived in Morocco. When everyone finished saying their final goodbye's to Vladyka, the casket was closed and then carried out by Krestny Hod and carried once around the main cathedral and up to the cemetery,around the cemetery church and to his final resting place by his beloved departed Matushka, before his tonsure as a monk. Here a final short litany was served and Vladyka was lowered into his grave to the singing of " VECHNAYA PAMYATS". Bishop Alexander then also said a short sermon where he said "THAT THRU VLADYKA MITROPHANS DEATH WE LOST AN IRREPLACEABLE SYMBOL OF AND WHO WAS THE ONLY SURVIVING REPRESENTATIVE OF PRE-REVOLUTIONARY! AND POST REVOLUTIONARY RUSSIA"

May His memory be eternal and His prayers before Our Lord and Savior help guide us and save us!

unworthy deacon Pavel Wolkow

At 10:18 PM 2/21/2002 -0500, Matushka Ann Lardas wrote a very moving description of the funeral of late, ever-memorable Vladyka Mitrophan. I would just like to make a correction of a matter that Matushka had no way of knowing.

She wrote: "Near Vladyka's feet were relics of three saints -- St. Seraphim of Sarov, St. Patriarch Tikhon, and St. Nikolai Velimirovich, whom Vladyka knew personally -- relics that Vladyka had with him when he reposed, on loan with his bishop's blessings from an OCA priest who loved Vladyka Mitrophan dearly."

The relics of Venerable Seraphim and Holy Hierarch Tikhon (and, I believe, Holy Hierarch Nicholas of South Canaan, Bishop of Zhicha) were brought by Archpriest Leonid Kishkovsky at the personal direction and by the blessing of Metropolitan Theodosius from their location at the St. Sergius Chapel, Syosset. I know this because His Beatitude mentioned it during a telephone call to me on Thursday. Vladyka spoke of his love and respect for ever-memorable Bishop Mitrophan that had inspired him to do this. He had heard that the Kursk-Korennaya Icon was in Europe, and he felt that the repose of such as Bishop Mitrophan *must* be blessed with the Church's most holy treasures.

Love, +Bishop Tikhon

Memory eternal to God's servant who has fallen asleep, Mitrophan, Hierarch

Redeeming the Time

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