Gennadius(Sekach), Schema-Metropolitan 4 of 6

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Now according to the canons of the Orthodox Church at least two or three bishops have to be present at the consecration of another bishop. In the conditions of the Catacomb Church at that time it was impossible to fulfil this condition. However, Bishop Seraphim was able to obtain the written consent of Bishop Alpheus, and also, according to another source, of Bishops Gabriel of Tashkent and Alexander (Pruzhansky).

According to one source, Vladyka Gennadius later had doubts about the canonicity of his consecration. He took counsel from a Catacomb bishop living in Kiev - possibly Archbishop Anthony (Galynsky-Mikhailovksy). The bishop told him to have no further doubts and continue serving as a bishop.

A deacon and two nuns were present at the consecration, after which Vladyka Seraphim said:

"Vladyka Gennadius, I am soon departing to the Lord, but I have no vestments, since I have lived my whole life in exile."

Gennadius replied that he would bring some vestments by plane within a week. To which Vladyka Seraphim replied that he would not make it. The two hierarchs wept and kissed each other, and then Vladyka Gennadius sorrowfully returned home to Novy Afon. But no sooner had he arrived than he received a telegram saying that Vladyka Seraphim had died. His prophecy had been fulfilled.

Bishop Seraphim died on May 3/16, 1971 at the age of 97. When Bishop Gennadius learned of the death of Seraphim he immediately took the night flight from Adler to Kuibyshev, and then went by taxi the remaining 300 or so kilometres to Barnaul. After giving the taxi driver three times the fare in order to drive faster, he arrived early in the morning at the house where Bishop Seraphim's body lay.

The wife of Fr. Alexander witnessed that a sweet fragrance came from the body of the reposed, filling everybody with joy. And Bishop Gennadius himself, who escorted Bishop Seraphim on his last journey, recalled:

"The sledge carrying the coffin was going across the snow when the horses unexpectedly stopped and did not want to move on. Then we all again began to chant prayers, after which the horses spontaneously started moving again. A wonderful fragrance was coming from the body of Bishop Seraphim as he lay in the coffin the whole length of the journey. I even placed my handkerchief on the feet of the reposed for a time."

The catacomb bishops and priests wanted to bury Bishop Seraphim in the fifth block of the cemetery, which was called the royal block. But the patriarchal clergy rebelled. They said:

"He will not be buried either in the fifth block or in any part of the cemetery."

And they called him a "heretic".

But Bishop Gennadius gave the president of the regional executive committee of the Communist party 100 (according to another account, 250) rubles, and he gave the order for him to be buried in the fifth block. Bishops Gennadius and Alpheus and, according to one source, five priests buried him. However, the local patriarchal clergy out of spite did not let the car into the cemetery. And after the burial they made a denunciation.

VII. NEW ATHOS

At the burial of Bishop Seraphim Bishop Gennadius invited Bishop Alpheus, whom he had first met when he was a novice in the Dubrovinsky monastery in Ukraine, to his house in Georgia for the feast of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God. There, in 1971, Bishops Alpheus and Gennadius consecrated Hieromonk T. to the episcopate. And in 1973 Bishops Gennadius and T. consecrated Fr. Gregory (the former novice Timothy) to the episcopate.

Gennadius tonsured about 500 monks, entrusting them to the guidance of the Mother of God and sending them on their way with the words:

"Pull on your prayer rope, and it will bring you to the entrance to the Heavenly Kingdom."

In the town of Loyev he had built a church. In Ukraine he had founded three monasteries, in Belarus - four, in the Kuban - two. But his most important foundation was on the blessed Iveron hill at Novy Afon in the Caucasus.

And the Caucasus remained a centre of True Orthodox Christianity right to the end of the Soviet period.

Thus in the early 1980s a small secret community of monastics was discovered in the high mountains about 60 kilometres from Sukhumi by the KGB. Eighteen monastics - we know the names of Irina, Maria, Eudocia, Ulyana, John, Gregory, Basil, Andrew, and Stepan - took shelter in a cave. The pursuers in a helicopter threw a cask full of burning liquid into the entrance and set it on fire. All those hiding in the cave perished...

As Vladyka Gennadius' reputation spread, many potential monastics came to his secret monastery at Novy Afon. And he always received everybody, turning away no-one. Although money flowed in, he never kept it for himself, but always distributed it immediately to the needy. He gave alms in secret: at night he would put money in the pocket of a poor man's clothing. He did everything himself: he prepared the food (before the war he had worked as a cook in the camps) and sewed clothes for the monastics and priests. He was always in an even-tempered mood: if anyone fell into despondency he was able to console them with a few words. He cured the weaknesses, temptations and spiritual illnesses of his spiritual children with long-suffering and love. He prayed unceasingly for them with tears. He gave few open reproaches, trusting in God to bring people to their senses.

Once Nun P. smeared her legs with petrol, wrapped herself in a white sheet and set out at night on a six-kilometre trip through the woods to frighten the holiday-makers on the sea-coast.

"What are your nuns doing?!..." asked the police.

He had to buy them off.

When Nun P., after the death of Vladyka, herself departed to the Lord, a nun had a vision. She saw that she had been numbered among the nuns of the Heavenly Church. For she had humbled herself and patiently endured sorrows...

The monastic discipline introduced by Vladyka Gennadius was strict. He paid particular attention to unceasing prayer, "pulling the prayer rope". Whatever the monastics were doing (with the Jesus prayer), at four in the morning they had to drop everything and come to the service in the church. If one of the brothers or sisters was held up on an obedience, Vladyka would not begin the service but would himself go and bring the person to the church.

The grace in the monastery was great. When they went anywhere, the lampadas in the church continued to burn without oil for a week. They never went anywhere without their prayer-ropes, not even to the well for water. If they all left the monastery, they would first go round it praying. Robbers did not penetrate even once, although their neighbours were all robbed.

"However hard we try, we can't get closer! We get only as far as the fence, and then some kind of force stops us..."

In autumn, 1971, a big women's monastery in the mountains came under the spiritual protection of Vladyka Gennadius. He made one of the nuns, Seraphima, abbess. Many did not understand Vladyka's spiritual direction. In order to avoid the temptation of vainglory, he took upon himself the exploit of being a fool for Christ and often used coarse words, although always with a spiritual significance. He did this with the blessing of an elder, who had told him to be "a fool with people, but pure in God's eyes".

Thus he once called Abbess Seraphima a "prostitute" in front of the whole monastery. She did not understand why. But the spiritual meaning of this consisted in the fact that she had invited other clergy to perform the mystery of monastic tonsure without the knowledge or blessing of her own hierarch, Gennadius. For this Gennadius deprived her of the abbacy, and those who had been tonsured without his blessing - of their monasticism. Later Seraphima renounced her own monasticism, casting off her mantia with curses.

Bishop Gennadius was very strict about correctness in church serving. Thus once during the blessing of the waters Bishop T. was holding the cross the wrong way round and Bishop Gennadius said:

"What are you doing? When Christ descended into the Jordan, did he turn his back on you?"

Vladyka was able to read the spiritual condition of a man from his outer actions. For example, he could tell what kind of a man he was from his eating. It was enough for him to feed him once in order to determine what would happen to him in the future.

Some people he blessed to become monks or nuns, others he blessed to marry.

Once a woman was married according to the Church's rite. When he heard about it he said to her:

"If I had known about it, I would have taken you out from under the crown. You shouldn't have married. Your cross is a monastic one, not a family one."

And indeed, seven years later the marriage collapsed and his words were fulfilled. The woman is now a nun.

During confession he would point out the sins people had forgotten or of which they had difficulty repenting. Thus he told one woman about a person who was committing a certain sin. And when Vladyka left, it dawned on this woman that this was her sin. Then she ran after him and weeping asked him for forgiveness. The same woman had the habit of cooking blood and preparing sausages from it. Vladyka said to her:

"You know, I also used to eat blood, and did not repent of it. But then my bishop said to me: 'You know, Grisha, I have to excommunicate you from the Church for seven years.'

"'For what?'

"'For eating blood.'"

And then the woman understood that it was not Grisha who had eaten the blood, but her. And she repented.

Two nuns related how they had committed a certain sin and did not want to tell Vladyka about it. A new priest arrived, and they had the thought of confessing to him. From that moment Vladyka refused to talk to them. And to the persistent questions of the nuns he replied:

"Well, you go and confess to your priest, I don't need your revelations."

The nuns were amazed, for no-one knew about what had happened.

Although he told people their sins in confession, he never laid penances of any kind on them.

"Why beat a poor man," he would say, "if he's already so beaten up? Now men must keep the faith, and that will be considered sufficient. Life is such that the only necessary exploit is preserving the purity of the faith amidst all these temptations."

Once from long standing he was not able to put on his boots. He had heart disease, and his feet were swollen. One woman asked his blessing to help him put on his boots, but he said:

"That would be it - a woman's hand touching me."

He was already 77 at that time. At this point another woman appeared. She was heavily made-up. And as she left he kissed her. And the first woman thought:

"Look, he didn't let me put on his boots, but he kisses another woman."

And she had hardly uttered this thought when Vladyka said:

"You see what kind of a man I am. I didn't let my boots be put on, but I kiss a woman."

The woman said in reply: "Forgive me, Vladyka, that was just what I was thinking."

"Yes, yes, matushka, that was what you were thinking. Hey, why did I call you matushka? It's obvious you really will be a matushka."

And his words were later fulfilled.

The Lord said that He came not to be served, but to serve. Vladyka Gennadius always tried to incarnate this image of Christ in himself. Nevertheless, many fell away from him. Foreseeing this, he sang a song in the church:

"The reed rustled, the trees bent, and the night was dark..."

By "reed" he understood the simple parishioners, by "trees" - the clergy, including the hierarchs. But Vladyka never despaired. For while many left, many also came. He would say:

"Better five faithful than fifty unfaithful, because my church is not in quantity, but in quality. He who truly loves Christ will endure everything for His sake. He is that gold which is hidden from the eyes of men."

Vladyka never took off his cassock. He wore it in towns, on trains, in prisons and churches. One schema-nun recalled how she was once walking with Vladyka on the street and they were stopped by a policeman.

"Take that off!" said the policeman, pointing to Vladyka's cassock.

But Vladyka replied, pointing to the policeman's uniform:

"And you take that off!"

The policeman was disturbed:

"What are you saying? This is my uniform!"

"And this is my uniform," said Vladyka, and walked on.

A nun asked permission to go to the telegraph office so as to ring her relative. As she went out of the gate of the monastery, she lifted her long dress since she was ashamed to walk in such clothes. On her return Vladyka Gennadius said to everyone:

"I'm now going to show you how a schema-nun goes to the telegraph office."

Then, lifting his rasson, he walked round the courtyard, saying:

"This is how Schema-Nun Michaela goes to the telegraph office."

Then he told everyone what she had said to her relative on the phone, without missing out a word. Then he told the nuns that he knew not only everything that they said, but also all their thoughts.

Innumerable snares were laid for him. He was searched many time, many times they tried to bribe him, they offered him a high rank in the official church. But he always refused: "Freedom is dearer to me than anything."

Once Vladyka was seized by the local officials of the Council for Religious Affairs. They proposed that he work for them. To which he replied:

"Forgive me, good sirs, but how can we work together if you persecute Christ while I am for Christ? There is no way we can help each other. But I do not want to be enemies with you. My work is to win the Church through suffering."

They restricted him greatly in Eliste, but in spite of that he spared neither money nor strength nor his health to support Bishops T. and Gregory in every way he could, hiding them and enabling them to avoid military service.

Again, Metropolitan Elijah of Sukhumi of the Moscow Patriarchate, who has been publicly proved to have been a KGB agent since 1962 and is now the Patriarch-Catholicos of Georgia, invited Vladyka, through a neighbour, to come and have a chat with him in Sukhumi. But Vladyka refused, saying:

"Tell your bishop that I cannot and will not be subject to him."

Because of this Ilia later stirred up a case against Gennadius, accusing him of being an impostor who did not want to be registered although he had a community. This enabled the authorities to put pressure on Vladyka and drive him from his place of residence. Ilia then offered him a parish and a church.

"Serve however you want, only be subject to me," he said.

Vladyka made no compromises, but said:

"How can it be that you want me to betray everyone and bend my neck to you? That would mean that I would lose everything."

VIII. PRISON AGAIN

Once, five years before his last period of imprisonment, Vladyka was sewing a coat for himself. Nun E. asked him:

"Why such a warm rasson?"

"I have to go to prison," he replied.

No-one understood him, and asked:

"Why do you have to go to prison?"

"I have to win the Church by suffering," he replied. " I have to win her by suffering and go to prison in order that she can continue her existence."

He considered that every priest, and especially every bishop, had to suffer for the Church, just as Christ suffered for His Church. He said that the path to the Heavenly Kingdom lies through sufferings and privations and sorrows. And five years later he was imprisoned.

The story was as follows. There was a nun in his monastery called Angelina. Here parents had been KGB agents, and they had shot many Christians in their time, priests and monks included. During the Second World War the Germans had shot a group of people which included Angelina's mother and Angelina herself. As she fell, Angelina's mother covered her with her body, and at that moment a demon passed from the dying woman into her daughter. This demon gave her no peace day and night to the end of her life. Vladyka took her into his monastery and paid particular attention to her. But the demon could not abide his humility and love, and forced Nun Angelina to break the rules of the monastery. For this she was punished by Abbess Seraphima. In revenge for this, Angelina, spurred on to it by some atheist neighbours, wrote a denunciation to the KGB which served as the excuse for action against Vladyka.

It was the feast of the Annunciation, 1973. Hieromonk Dositheus was serving the Liturgy. The house was surrounded by the KGB. But Hieromonk Dositheus did not panic; he forbade the doors to be opened until the Liturgy was finished and everyone had communicated. Only when everything had been cleared away and everyone was chanting "To thy kindness do we have recourse" in front of the icon of the Mother of God, were the doors opened. Not finding Vladyka, they took two nuns away for questioning. Then an All-Union (nation-wide) warrant for Vladyka's arrest was issued. For a year he hid in Eliste. Then he was arrested on the charge of organizing a religious community without registration.

On the day of the arrest they were preparing fish-soup. But he heard a voice:

"You should not eat."

So he just sat on a chair, saying nothing to anybody so as not to upset them. During the service the police came and began knocking on the door. Vladyka ordered that they should not be let in until the prayers were finished. So the policemen had to wait for two hours. Then they were let in. During the search Vladyka Gennadius sat on a chair with the books of commemoration containing the names of his spiritual children under him. His face, as always, was completely calm and unruffled. He humbly allowed them to handcuff him and drive him away in a car.

The investigation lasted for half a year. According to the communist newspaper Sovietskaya Abkhazia, the police found letters and notebooks "of a clearly anti-Soviet, slanderous character - proof that the illegal religious group organized by Sekach occupied itself not only with prayers... When Sekach was arrested, many of his supporters fled and efforts by police to track them down have been so far unsuccessful. To ensure that they do not reform elsewhere in the country, ideological work has to be stepped up among ordinary people and waged forcefully on a broad front. Sekach used the offerings of his supporters to buy several houses in Tkvarcheli, a growing industrial town, and others under various names in the Afon area. Domestic churches and illegal monasteries were set up in them. Prayers were held there in strict secrecy, money transfers and parcels of food and other things were constantly arriving for Sekach."


End of part 4
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