I'm coming to the end of my material on those of whom there can be no doubt that they are new martyrs or confessors of Russia. I still have a lot of material on more borderline cases. However, I have decided not to publish that material - with one exception, the life I am appending below of Schema-Metropolitan Gennadius Sekach, whose branch of the Catacomb Church, according to Stavros, is now seeking communion with the Matthewites. There is a lot of controversy about this man, and many True Christians would not consider him a true confessor. Let the life here appended be considered as a kind of witness for the defence. One thing is certain: his life is a vivid witness to the trials and tribulations of being a True Orthodox Christian in Soviet Russia.
I. CHILDHOOD AND ADOLESCENCE
Schema-Metropolitan Gennadius, in the world Gregory Yakovlevich Sekach, was born in 1897 (according to another account, 1898) in the village of Akulovo in Belorussia. His father, who was a well-to-do merchant, died when Gregory was three years old. His mother Anastasia was left alone after her husband's death to look after their eight children.
Anastasia was a very pious woman and brought up her children in the fear of God. The walls of her little white room were hung with icons and portraits of the Russian saints and local priests. She often visited the local church of the Iviron icon of the Mother of God, and would sell candles and icons from behind the counter. Being an honourable and pious woman, she was also given the task of collecting the donations of the parishioners for the local women's monastery, which was under the spiritual direction of St. John of Kronstadt. Every three months she would open the box, take out the money and take it directly to Father John in Kronstadt.
Gregory loved his mother and imbibed from her a living faith in Christ and the Mother of God. Once, on hearing that Anastasia was preparing to go to Kronstadt to see Fr. John, about whom he had heard so much from her, he asked: "Mamochka, take me to the holy batyushka."
Anastasia did not refuse and took her son with her. On arriving in Kronstadt, they found Fr. John surrounded by thousands of worshippers after the Divine Liturgy. It was impossible for them to push their way through the throng. But Anastasia resorted to fervent prayer. Suddenly Fr. John turned his gaze in her direction and came up to her. Anastasia gave him the money and asked him:
"Fr. John, bless my child."
Fr. John smiled at the child, made the sign of the cross over him and said:
"He will be a priest, and a pillar in the last days."
According to another account of this story, Gregory was still in his mother's womb at this time, and St. John said to her:
"From your womb will come a great hierarch who will labour greatly to strengthen the Church in the last days."
This blessing placed a grace-filled seal on the whole subsequent life of Gregory, and to deep old age he considered himself a child of the great
According to one account, Gregory was brought up until his twentieth year in the monastery of his aunt, Abbess Paula, who was sent into exile for the faith in 1924, and did not return. According to another account, at the age of 11 he fell ill with bone tuberculosis of his right leg, and lay in bed without getting up until he was 20. A doctor in Minsk examined him and concluded that an operation was inevitable, the result of which would probably be that Gregory would become a chronic invalid. Summoning all his strength, with the aid of his relatives Gregory travelled to Kiev. There the diagnosis was confirmed. And he was told that if he delayed, it would be too late to have an operation...
Gregory learned that there was a talented surgeon, a Jewish Christian, living in Marioupol. Arriving in Marioupol, he was quickly examined by the eminent doctor. An icon hung in the corner of the room with a lampada burning in front of it. Gregory lay on the couch, sorrowing over his illness and bitter life. A few hours later the doctor came in again. He looked tired, but his tone was firm. He said to the nurse:
"Give him a glass of spirit. Drink, Gregory."
"What are you saying, doctor? I'll die!"
"You won't die. Drink, I tell you, to the bottom, if you have faith!"
Gregory drank it all. The spirit stirred up his blood, and collected all the pus in one place. The doctor's scalpel extracted one and a half litres of liquid. Gregory was healed, but lay for a long time in hospital. Attributing his healing to the prayers of the Mother of God, he gratefully decided to devote his life to the faith.
However, he had not yet decided whether to become a priest, to enter a monastery, or to remain in the world as a layman.
So he decided with his friend (according to another account, six friends) to seek the advice of Elder Svyatopolk of Pochayev monastery. At the entrance to the elder's cell there were some tubs full of vegetables and a queue of people patiently waiting for the elder to come out. He came out, looked attentively round the people and motioned with his finger to some young people, Gregory among them. The door closed behind them, and the elder asked:
"Why have you come here, young people?"
They replied that they wanted to know what path in life the Lord blessed them to follow. The elder said nothing, but invited them to the table to eat. When they had sat at the table, he poured out the first course, which was borshch. But the borshch was a week old and unfit for consumption. Gregory's friend did not touch it, but Gregory ate it all. The elder came up to him and asked:
"Grisha, can I give you some more?"
His friend shuddered on hearing this. But Gregory replied:
"As you bless."
Then the elder came and poured him some good borshch. When they had stood up and thanked God, the elder said:
"Grisha, if you marry, your life will be a monastic one. And you will die in the rank of a hierarch."
But to his friend who did not want to eat any more he said:
"Go and get married."
According to another account, the elder said to Gregory:
"You will be a priest. Only understand that the life of a priest is a bitter one, like this borschch."
And then he kissed him on the forehead.
Gregory set off on a journey round the monasteries and sketes of Russia. Coming to Polesye, he found another clairvoyant schema-monk in Polesye, who said to him after praying for a long time:
"You will be a hierarch."
And then, after a pause, he added:
"And perhaps you will go higher than that, I don't know." II. A TIME FOR CONFESSION
The Bolsheviks seized power in 1917, and in 1918 Patriarch Tikhon and the Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church anathematized Soviet power, forbidding Orthodox Christians to have anything to do with it. From 1918 to 1920 civil war raged. Anarchy, murder, theft and starvation were rife in the Russian countryside; hundreds of monasteries and churches were destroyed, and millions of Orthodox Christians received the crown of martyrdom. It was in these conditions that Gregory began the life of a preacher, and many a lost soul was converted by his words.
Once he gave shelter to Archbishop Simeon of Mozyr' in Belarus, who was fleeing from the renovationists.
The renovationist schism began in 1922, when, with the full support of the communists, a group of modernist, pro-Soviet hierarchs seized control of the Russian Church from its lawful head, Patriarch Tikhon. At one point about two-thirds of the churches were in the hands of the heretics. All those hierarchs who remained faithful to the Patriarch (36 out of 143) were removed from their sees and exiled, many of them to Solovki in the White Sea. The quality of the renovationists can be gauged from the following words from their Moscow "council" of 1923: "First of all, we must turn with words of deep gratitude to the government of our state, which, in spite of the slanders of foreign informers, does not persecute the Church... The word of gratitude and welcome must be expressed by us to the only state in the world which performs, without believing, that work of love which we, believers, do not fulfil, and also to the leader of Soviet Russia, V.I. Lenin, who must be dear also to church people..."
Archbishop Simeon had been given shelter by a humble, hunchbacked old woman named Eudocia, who was a former parishioner of the cathedral in which Vladyka had served. But someone betrayed them. The old woman was punished, and the bishop was sent to Siberia. He promised to appear with his things at the headquarters of the NKVD (the KGB in an earlier incarnation) the next day, but fled during the night and hid in various houses. Finally, exhausted, he came to Gregory, who was well-known for his care for the persecuted, and falling at his feet said:
"Child, receive me for Christ's sake. I have no more strength to wander around, I can't."
Gregory joyfully received Vladyka in his house. However, he, too, was betrayed, and after a month he was summoned to the police-station:
"Isn't an old archbishop hiding with you?"
"Yes, with me," replied Gregory boldly.
"Tell him to take his things and leave, and you go after him."
Gregory knew the Bolsheviks' weakness and put 100 pre-revolutionary roubles on the table - his mother's bequest.
"Well, okay," said the Bolshevik quickly, "let the old man live."
During the day they slept, hiding in the basement of Gregory's house, whose entrance was blocked by a stove. But during the nights they served the Liturgy. They had home-made candles, icons and a house altar. At five in the evening they would enter the house through a hidden entrance, light the lampadas in front of the icons, and begin Vespers. At three in the morning the Midnight service would begin, followed by the Liturgy. This was their daily routine.
After driving Archbishop Simeon from his see, the communists sealed the cathedral and put a guard at the entrance. Then they awaited the arrival of an official who would make an inventory of the contents of the cathedral and then dispose of them. Usually they would melt down the gold and silver vessels, sending the most valuable to the West. The books and icons would be burned. The relics of the saints would be destroyed or sent to the local museum where they would be mocked as "mummified corpses". Patriarch Tikhon had appealed to the Orthodox not to allow such sacrilege, and where possible the relics had been hidden, with dolls or other old bones put in their place. However, the chalices and diskoses could not be substituted... On seizing the churches, the Bolsheviks would go wild: they would put women on the altars and bow down to them, put on the priestly vestments and dance in them, thrust their bayonets through the eyes of the icons and trample on the Holy Gifts. Those who resisted (and there were many) were killed or tortured, some even in the altar...
There were many holy things in the boarded-up Mozyr' cathedral: 40 antimins, icons in gold and silver rizas, a priceless iconstasis, service books, crosses, the holy winding sheet. The old archbishop sobbed without ceasing:
"Gregory, what will happen to the holy things? I will die if the cathedral is sacked."
For two days and nights they did not sleep, pondering what they could do to save the holy things. On the third day, at midnight, Gregory crept up to the cathedral and went round it several times. Then, after making the sign of the cross three times, he calmly went up to guard and offered him his golden watch - the last thing that remained to him from his father. The guard took a covetous look at the watch, seized it and turned away, saying only:
"Wait a minute."
Gregory sat down on a bench and waited: five, ten, fifteen minutes. Then, understanding that the guard had deliberately given him the chance to enter the cathedral, he motioned to the church warden who was hiding behind some trees and they went into the cathedral by a secret entrance. A few minutes later they emerged, laden with icons, books, vestments, chalices, crosses. That same night they distributed these to the believers in various homes.
"Now I can die in peace," sighed the archbishop...
One cold February evening towards the end of the 1920s some guards were transporting money from the railway station to the bank on a sledge. Coming round a corner, the sledge skidded, and a sack of money fell onto the street. However, the guards were drunk and did not notice.
Early the next morning a priest on his way to church found the sealed bag and, not knowing what it was, brought it into the church and dumped it onto a chest while he changed his clothes. At that time Gregory was serving as a warden in the church. Glancing at the bag, he immediately understood what it was: state money from the bank. At first he decided to accept it as a gift sent from God sent for the restoration of the church. But then he thought again: what would happen to the unfortunates who had let the bag out of their grasp. 40,000 was a large sum even for those timesâ€¦ Those who had lost the money could expect the confiscation of their property and ten years in prison.
As it happened, the distracted guards came to the church to ask the priest's advice. When Gregory heard of their arrival, he went up to one of
them, who was standing despondently by the icon of St. Nicholas, and said:
"Nicholas, do you believe in God?"
"Well, what will you promise God if the money is found?"
"What a miracle that would be, if God sent me the lost money... It vanished into thin air. " Then, after a minute's thought, he was as it were enlightened and said: "I would become a monk!"
"Are you telling the truth?"
"God is my witness."
He went up to the second guard, an absolute drunkard:
"James, do they give you drink in prison?"
James peacefully replied:
"It can't be helped!"
"If the money is found, will you give up drinking?"
"I will, I will," said James, penitently falling on his knees. "Son, do you really know where the money is hidden? Help me, my children will remain without a provider!"
Gregory brought out the sack. The guards kept their word...
III. PRISON AND MARRIAGE
In 1927, Metropolitan Sergius, the deputy leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, had issued his infamous "declaration", in which he proclaimed, in the name of the Church, that the joys of the Soviet fatherland were the Church's joys, and its sorrows the Church's sorrows. Most of the senior bishops of the Church refused to accept the declaration and were either imprisoned or managed to flee into the underground. The bishops of Metropolitan Sergius' "Moscow Patriarchate" - or "Soviet church", as it came to be known - cooperated with the secret police, or NKVD, in denouncing the confessing Christians. Thus was born the Russian Catacomb or True Orthodox Church, of which Gregory was destined to become such a distinguished leader.
In 1929, to the sorrows of the faithful Christians caused by Sergius' betrayal were added the horrors of collectivization in the countryside and a full-scale campaign against all religion by Yaroslavsky's "League of Militant Atheists". In the town in which Gregory lived they decided to search all the houses and cellars. At midnight they found about 40 Christians who were in hiding and led them out to be shot. Among the victims was Archimandrite Alexander, a close associate of Archbishop Simeon. Hearing a noise, he had incautiously gone out into the street to see what was happening. He was immediately caught and joined to the group of those arrested.
Gregory was shattered - he was tied to Archimandrite Alexander by the closest bonds of spiritual friendship. Early in the morning he came onto the street oblivious to the world in his grief. Suddenly one of those who had taken part in the execution at dawn called him:
"Gregory, your archimandrite is lying in a common grave, on the top. I've just come from there, where we buried them. I specially laid him like that so that you could immediately find him. If you run now, you'll be able to take him!"
Gregory summoned up his last strength and rushed to the grave of the martyr archimandrite. He dug out his body and carried him away. It seemed to him that the archimandrite was still alive and breathing... The next morning the burial took place. He hid the name of the dead man from the authorities, saying:
"He's a stranger, we don't know who."
But his precautions were of no avail - someone denounced him. On the fortieth day after the burial an acquaintance of his from the chancellery came to him at night and said:
"Tomorrow they'll take you away. Get ready."
His first thought was to flee. But where to? Everywhere there were the same authorities, denunciations and spying. He decided to humble himself and give away both his own property and that of the archbishop and archimandrite.
The next morning they came and took him away. Without a trial, he was sent, first to the notorious camp for clergy at the former monastery of Solovki in the White Sea, and then for ten years to a camp in Kirov, where 20,000 prisoners were building an electric power station beyond the Arctic circle. In camp he helped the sick and suffering, washing their clothes and distributing sugar and cigarettes to those in need, while limiting himself in everything. He was appointed cook to the camp authorities - an unheard-of privilege for a prisoner, and one which may have saved his life. Nevertheless, from sleeping on a cold cement floor he developed tuberculosis in his leg which troubled him for the rest of his life.
When he was in Solovki (according to another account, on his way to Kirov), he and several other prisoners were travelling on a convoy of seven barges across the sea. The camp administration had decided to drown the prisoners on the first six barges. But Gregory managed to escape this fate - he was sitting on the last barge with the administration and only saw the drowned corpses of the prisoners from the first six barges knocking against the side of his own.
As if this were not a sufficient ordeal, when the surviving prisoners came to the land, they were given poisoned fish to eat. Every prisoner had to pass by a control point and breathe at the soldier to show whether he had eaten the fish or not. But the soldiers in his convoy took pity on him, knowing his kind heart and readiness to help all and sundry. They warned him that the fish was poisoned. He did not eat it, but smeared his face with it so that he should smell of it. After this, they released them all, thinking that they would all die within twelve hours.
On his release after eight years in the camps, Gregory went to Kiev, to the Catacomb Schema-Archbishop Anthony (Abashidze), whom he knew, and asked him for advice. His problem was that as an "enemy of the people" he had no "propiska", or registration documents, and without documents he was condemned to unemployment and therefore to another sentence in Siberia for "parasitism". Bishop Anthony advised him not to return home to Belorussia, but to marry a girl called Anna and in this way get a passport.
The Lord sent him five children - two boys and two girls and another boy who was stillborn. However, the marriage was not a success; there were quarrels and painful scenes. After the war the couple went to Schema-Archimandrite Laurence of Chernigov for advice. Anna threw herself at the elder's feet:
"Father, what kind of husband is he for me? And what kind of father? He doesn't care about anyone. Strangers and wanderers are dearer to him than those close to him."
And she poured out her heart for more than an hour.
The elder listened to her in silence. Then he called Gregory and whispered in his ear:
"From now on you are Monk Gennadius. Go with God. " And he blessed him with his prayer rope "in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen."
About his wife he said:
"Let her raise the children alone. Leave the house and everything in it. Take a rasson and books and go into the world."
But Anna did not let him go. She sapped his strength, opposed his every step, turned the children against their father and constantly demanded money. Once she even tried to poison him, putting poison in his drink. But Gregory made the sign of the cross over the wine before drinking and miraculously remained alive.
After leaving the camps, Gregory went round many secret monasteries and sketes, passing on the last words and blessings of prisoners who had died in the GULAG. Just before the war he was once more imprisoned, and found himself in the death cell in Gomel. There he got to know the Catacomb Bishop Seraphim (Pozdeyev), who later consecrated him to the episcopate.
Bishop Seraphim, in the world Michael Alexandrovich Pozdeyev, was from an aristocratic family (according to some, he was in fact the Grand Duke Michael Romanov, brother of the Tsar, and photographs do indicate a very close resemblance). However, after the revolution he did not want to emigrate from Russia together with almost all the other aristocrats, choosing rather, like Moses, "to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season" (Heb. 11.25). His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon kept Michael close to himself, tonsured him as a monk, and then, two or three days (according to another source, two or three months) before his death in 1925, consecrated him secretly to the see of Smolensk (according to another source, Novosibirsk). However, Bishop Seraphim did not reach his see. Very shortly after his consecration he was arrested by the GPU and sent to the prison in Gomel. (The same fate was shared by Bishop Tikhon of Gomel, consecrated by the patriarch two days before his death. Before he could reach his see he was put in prison in Gomel.)
As a rule, no-one came out of Gomel prison alive. But miracles took place for the believers. And in Gomel there was a chekist, or secret policeman, whose aunt was an abbess. Occasionally he would take the prisoners out for a walk at eleven o'clock at night so as to give them the illusion of freedom and incline them towards betraying others. His aunt besought him to save Gregory and Seraphim. He was touched by her plea, brought the two prisoners to his room, gave them food and drink and took them back to the cell. That was all he could do.
A week later, Bishop Seraphim was sent to the Butyrki prison in Moscow. There they tried to force him to serve them, but he remained unshakeable. So they sent him off to die a slow death in the Kemerovo camps of Western Siberia. Gregory remained in the prison in Gomel. But the image of the confessing bishop remained indelibly in his mind...
One night Gregory was called for "questioning" by the chief warder of the prison. Dressed in a leather jacket, with a bloody whip in his hand, the warder was in a rage. Fixing his eyes on Gregory, he suddenly brought the handle of his pistol down on the fingers of his right hand. (To the end of his life Vladyka was unable to form his hand correctly to make the sign of the cross.) Then, brandishing his whip in one hand, he cocked his pistol with the other and brought it to the face of Gregory:
"Who do you think you are?! I'll eat you alive!"
Gregory remained calm and firm.
"There's no Christ here, I'm the master! If I want, I can get rid of you without trace and scatter your ashes to the wind!"
"May the will of God be done," replied Gregory fearlessly.
"I'm god here, I'm the master! I!!" roared the warder, beating his breast.
Suddenly the door swung open and the commandant of Gomel prison came in.
"Surname of the prisoner?" he asked.
"Place of birth?"
"Akulinka - the Byelorussian village of Akulovo."
The face of the commandant changed:
"And what was your mother's name?"
It turned out that they were from the same village. Gregory remembered - they had been at a wedding together, he had been the best man while the commandant had been a guest, they called him the matchmaker. The commandant ground his teeth and turned on the warder almost as wrathfully as the warder had turned on Gregory:
"You what, you good-for-nothing, you'll eat people alive here?! Now you sign him off for me!"
He signed a piece of paper and took it with him. They went down the corridors to commandant's room.
"You probably know that they don't let people out of here alive. Tomorrow there's going to be an execution. How did you get in here?"
"I was exiled to Kirov, to Siberia."
The commandant dialled a number and got through to the Kirov jail. From there he was told that Gregory was counted among those who had disappeared without trace.
"Right," said the commandant, putting down the receiver. He shook Gregory's hand, opened the door and said:
"Where to?" asked Gregory fearfully, doubtless expecting a bullet in the back.
"Go wherever you like."
In Gomel prison the prisoners were often killed by asphyxiation. They were taken by night into a special room and killed either with a pillow or with a cord. They say that many went to this room with joyful faces, glad that their unbearable tortures were at last coming to an end.
The next day the chief warder was shot: the inspection committee discovered that he was involved in some plot with the accountant. For, as the Prophet David says of the evil man, "he opened a pit and dug it, and he shall fall into the hole which he hath made. His toil shall return upon his own head, and upon his own pate shall his unrighteousness come down" (Psalm 7.15-16).
IV. BETWEEN THE HAMMER AND THE ANVIL
In 1939 there were only four Orthodox bishops at liberty in the whole of the Soviet Union, and the great majority of the churches had been either closed or destroyed. However, the outbreak of war with Germany changed the church situation radically - at least in the German-occupied territories. For the Germans granted permission for the opening of churches, the Orthodox brought out the chalices, icons and other church valuables, and church life was restored to something like normality.
On the Feast of the Annunciation, 1943, in the town of Mozyr', Gregory (or Fr. Gennadius as we shall now call him) was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Leontius (Filippovich) of the Ukrainian Autonomous Church (later archbishop of Chile in the Russian Church Abroad) and given a parish. However, he was in a very difficult position. The Germans were in the town by day, and the Soviet partisans by night. At any moment he could be caught and killed by the Germans, on the one hand, and on the other - by the partisans. He constantly had to perform a kind of balancing act.
"Who are you with?" one side would ask.
"I am with Christ," he would reply.
He never took money for burials. And yet he had to carry out ten or more burials each day. For death mowed down the people in their thousands. Hunger and destruction were everywhere. People were glad if they could kill a scraggy horse and make soup out of it. During the day the Germans fleeced them, while at night the partisans took their last possessions down to their foot-bindings and their dried crusts of bread.
Once he met an old acquaintance of his, the dean of a region in Belarus. He gave the impression of being glad to see him, kissed him, invited him to eat with him, and, after asking him to wait for a quarter of an hour, ran to the shop to buy food. Gennadius felt uneasy, his heart beat strongly. He felt the approach of some misfortune. There was no-one else in the room except a seven-year-old boy, the priest's son. Several minutes of tormented waiting passed. The boy looked at Gennadius with great interest.
"Child, where is your mama?"
"Mama's gone to the shop," said the boy, without taking his eyes off Gennadius.
"And where has papa run off to?"
"Papa told me at the gate: 'You stay with dyadya, I'm going to the Gestapo.'"
Gennadius remembered the dean's hatred of the partisans and understood what was happening. He immediately flew out of the room, rushed through the backyard and into the peat-bog. In the distance he saw two figures with guns. He hid. The two German soldiers passed by. He understood that they were looking for him. He got to his home, and the next day left the area.
That day the Germans accidentally shot another priest, who was also called Gregory. As for the dean, when the Germans retreated, he hanged himself.
How many such cases were there! Everybody betrayed him: his own people, strangers, Germans, Russians, Gestapo, partisans...
One evening, on returning from a parishioner, Gennadius fell into a partisan ambush. They tied his hands behind his back and led him to their leader Kovpak. In this situation he could expect only death by shooting. Once again, however, he was saved by a chance acquaintance - Kovpak turned out to be a distant relative of Gennadius' who had been at a wedding together with him. Kovpak took him by the arm and led him into his dug-out.
"You know," he confided to Gennadius, "before I was sent to Belorussia to serve as a partisan, I went into a church and asked the priest to serve a prayer service for me. After the service the priest blessed me with a large cross, saying: 'Keep this cross as the apple of your eye. If you lose it, you won't have an army and you yourself will be killed. But with the cross you will be successful and conquer everywhere.'" Then Kovpak loosed his knapsack and drew out of it a big brass cross covered with enamel and carefully wrapped in white linen. "Look, I always carry it around with me."
"So you have faith?" asked Gennadius.
"Without prayer you'll get nowhere. Pray, and God will help you."
"Tell me what to do. Tomorrow we're going to attack a little placed called Loyev. There are huge numbers of Germans there. What must I do? If we lose the battle, we're all done for."
Gennadius stood up to pray.
"Don't go. You yourself will perish, and your whole army with you."
"If we don't go onto the attack, the Germans will certainly surround us. I don't see any way out." And Kovpak took his head in his hands, desperately searching for a solution.
Gennadius again stood up to pray and was as it were enraptured. After a time he said:
"Take your soldiers and go through the marsh."
"It's impossible, not one of us knows the way. We'll all perish."
"I'll show you the way. I know all the places around here."
Kovpak put Gennadius at the head of his soldiers, and that night they set off. And so the partisan unit was saved by the prayers of Fr. Gennadius.
Another time a German general was being pursued by the partisans. Fr. Gennadius hid him in a coffin and started to cense the coffin and read prayers over it. When the partisans arrived, he said that he did not know where the German was. The danger passed, and batyushka let the general out. After a time the general sought him out and thanked him heartily:
"You saved my life..."
Metropolitan T., Gennadius' closest disciple, writes: "He saved people throughout his life. It didn't matter who the person was. For him the main thing was to save the life of a man. During the war he saved partisans when they were threatened with reprisals. But he also saved Germans from the partisans, thereby risking his own life."
V. THE PASTOR OF SOULS
After the war, Fr. Gennadius devoted all his energy to preaching, to the founding of a monastery, and to charitable work for orphans. His zeal, unacquisitiveness and compassion drew people to him as iron filings are drawn to a magnet. They saw in him a father - and this aroused the envy of the red clergy of the Sovietized Moscow Patriarchate. They slandered him to the authorities, and he was several times summoned to the local official and warned. They even sent criminals to him, warning him that they would kill him - and it sometimes came to actual blows. Once they bribed a big-boned criminal to kill him. And the criminal was about to slit his throat, when his eyes met those of the righteous man. He turned away his eyes, he couldn't go through with it, and confessed everything to Fr. Gennadius.
People came to him in their thousands: some for advice, some for a blessing, some for material help. No-one went away dissatisfied. Fr. Gennadius gave each person what he needed, as he was able.
Fr. Gennadius used to serve openly, but according to his closest disciple he never came under the omophorion of a patriarchal bishop. He was able to do this because of the exceptional conditions prevailing in some parts of Belarus after the war. Taking advantage of this, Fr. Gennadius, together with Fr. T. (later Metropolitan T.) and novice Timothy (later Vladyka Gregory) were able to serve openly for some time in the village of Novoropsk in Bryansk region without entering the patriarchate or submitting to the local patriarchal bishop.
Novoropsk was specially protected by God. During the German occupation the village's Nikolsky church, which had three altars, was opened. A priest served there, and he was helped by an old woman called Pignulka. Once while she slept she received a revelation:
"To save Ropsk, it is necessary for a moleben to be served on the place of the Boris-and-Gleb church."
After the Liturgy they went in a cross procession to the place and served a moleben there until three or four o'clock. As a result Novoropsk was miraculously spared during the war, although all the surrounding places were burned down, sacked and abandoned. In connection with this one believing woman had a vision in which she saw Novoropsk surrounded by a high white wall which stretched to the heavens, while within these walls there was a fragrance as of narcissuses and the trees bloomed with white flowers...
A lime tree grew on the place where the Saints Boris and Gleb church had stood. In memory of the destroyed church they hung an icon of the Mother of God on a branch of this tree. And it hangs there to this day. They used to light lampadas in front of it. But you don't see it immediately now because it is surrounded by branches on all sides...
Nun V. relates that in 1958, while she was still a laywoman, she went to her mother in Novoropsk for a holiday.
"Go to our church and have confession. Some good new priests are serving there," her mother advised her.
At that time Fr. Gennadius and Fr. T. were serving there. However, she had no intention of going to church, and departed for Moscow without seeing the new priests. There, in 1959, she had a dream. She dreamed that she was going towards the lodge in the courtyard of the church in Novoropsk - the lodge in which the parish priests usually lived. The door opened, and there stood an old priest who said to her:
"You didn't want to come, you didn't come - well, you don't have to!"
She had never seen the new Novoropsk priests before, but then it turned out that the priest whom she had seen in her dream looked exactly like Gennadius. In this dream she had begun to complain to Fr. Gennadius:
"I've got such a headache..."
And he had replied:
"Your head needs no other medicine than what is contained in Holy Communion."
The next year she went to Novoropsk, confessed and received Communion from Fr. Gennadius, and from that moment her fate became intertwined with his.
In about 1961 Fr. Gennadius and his disciples moved to Shorse in Chernigov province, where he organized a small house church and monastery. The community consisted of thirty people. The authorities soon learned about it, and he began to suffer persecution. Several times he was summoned to the police, who demanded that he renounce Christ. But Gennadius was firm and refused to sign the papers they placed in front of him. The chief of police was amazed:
"I've seen many popes in my time, but only two others like you. All the rest are ours - you're not one of ours."
Another time he was called to the local official of the Council of Religious Affairs. He greeted him, asked him to sit down and handed him a document for his signature. It was an undertaking to work for the authorities. Such documents usually required of priests that they report on the activities of church people and dissidents, pray for the Soviet authorities at the Divine Liturgy, have no contact with any exiled or foreign bishops, abstain from teaching the faith to parishioners and especially children. If the priest refused to sign he was sent to prison or the camps. In the Brezhnev period he could be sent to a psychiatric hospital with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. There he would be forcibly injected with drugs or electrocuted...
After reading the document, Fr. Gennadius looked the official straight in the eyes and firmly declared:
"I would rather lie at the foot of a fence with the dogs and gnaw bones, but I will not betray the faith!"
From this time Fr. Gennadius descended completely into the catacombs. He was driven out of Shorse and moved to Novy Afon (New Athos) in the Caucasus, where he again began to organize a monastery. He bought a house without difficulty because the area was very isolated and quite dangerous - robbers plied their trade in the vicinity. Moreover, the climate was very changeable, which created additional difficulties. One nun had a donkey on which they brought supplies to the monastery.
In 1967 they arrested him again. But he was amnestied and released. After returning to Novy Afon, he continued his activities, tonsuring monks and gathering together all those who wished to be saved, regardless of age or health or status in the world. This greatly displeased the authorities, and in 1969 he was forcibly driven out of Novy Afon. Then he bought two houses in the town of Tkvarcheli and rehoused his monastery there, all the time looking for a worthy bishop of the Catacomb Church.
Once, in 1969, he went up to Novy Afon and there celebrated the Passion of Christ with exceptional feeling. The next day he asked a woman, who is now Nun E., to take a donkey, go down the mountain and buy something for Pascha. She bought some food and loaded it on the donkey, which made the saddle loose. As she was tightening it up, she somehow rubbed the hair of the donkey, who got irritable and kicked her with his hoof over the edge of the precipice. She flew through the air, thinking: "Lord, what a stupid death I'm dying! They won't even be able to bury me, they won't find my bones."
Suddenly some force lifted her up and seated her on a tree as if on a horse, so that not even her glasses were broken, although her shoes fell into the abyss. Some people who were passing then dragged her out by means of ropes. Meanwhile, Fr. Gennadius was descending the mountain.
"Well then, astronaut," he said. "Everything okay?"
"Forgive me, Batyushka, by your holy prayers everything's okay."
She was going to tell him everything, but he knew it all already.
Fr. Gennadius was very attentive to the sick. He himself looked after them and nursed them. Sometimes he would come up and throw them a bit of herb, as if for a joke, and this herb would do its work. In half an hour the person would not feel the pain anymore and would be healed. Once, at Holy Theophany, 1970, Nun E. fell ill with mastitis that threatened to change into a malignant tumour of the breast. During the blessing of the waters Fr. Gennadius poured a mug of holy water onto her breast. She was healed, and to this day by his prayers God has had mercy on her and she has not had to have an operation.
VI. BISHOP SERAPHIM (POZDEYEV)
In 1970, by the Providence of God, Fr. Gennadius heard that Bishop Seraphim (Pozdeyev), whom he had met in Gomel prison, was living illegally in the town of Barnaul.
Bishop Seraphim had suffered much since parting from Gennadius in Gomel prison. From 1939 to 1945 he was in the Siberian camps of Kemerovo. In 1945 he was released from prison and was exiled to Buzuluk.
Almost immediately he resumed his apostolic activity in the Catacomb Church; for in the biography of Metropolitan Manuel (Lemeshevsky) of Orenburg and Buzuluk, we read that in his sermon on the Sunday of All Saints, 1945, "he delivered an accusatory sermon against the self-styled Bishop Seraphim who had appeared in the Chkalov [Orenburg] diocese". However, Bishop Manuel, who had been a confessor of the Faith against renovationism before succumbing to the subtler temptation of the Moscow Patriarchate's neo-renovationism, decided to come to terms with Vladyka Seraphim. In 1946 or 1947 he visited Vladyka, talked with him for about a day, and then left Novice L. remembers that when Manuel left Bishop Seraphim was very pleased. He said that Manuel had allowed him to serve needs in the region from Orenburg to Buzuluk, which was equivalent to administrative permission from the Soviet authorities. Without this Bishop Seraphim would have been under constant threat of arrest for his independent activity.
Novice L. says that Bishop Seraphim did not go into the churches of the Moscow Patriarchate, but sometimes pretended to be drunk, went up to them and accused many of the people there of secret sins. For he was clairvoyant. Bishop Seraphim never hid from them that he was a bishop.
Novice L. used to go to Orenburg and receive money in the churches for Bishop Seraphim. They would give it to him with the blessing of Bishop Manuel. Vladyka Seraphim was very kind and would give away everything that the believers offered him.
By his prayers many people received healing. For example, there was a five-year-old boy called Alexander who had not been able to walk since birth. He used to sit rocking in a chair and say: "O God, give me legs!" Vladyka made the sign of the cross over him and gave him two sticks. The boy began to walk, first only with the two sticks. The next day Vladyka came and took away one stick. And the third day he took away the second stick, and the boy began to walk well. Now Alexander Makov lives in the town of Chernigov (he is the grandson of Protopriest Alexander Makov).
Another well-known incident concerns the healing of a hunched-up girl who had fallen ill during the war. Vladyka was serving in the flat where Maria Struchkova lived in the village of Kirsanovka in Tomsk district. Once after the service Vladyka said:
"Maria, give me some water."
And this in spite of the fact that she had been lying in bed without getting up for three years! After these words, as Maria herself witnesses, she felt as it were a current passing through her, and she began to be able to use her arms and legs, and to walk. But her arms were not completely healed. She is alive to this day and lives in Orenburg.
The following story is well-known, but few know that Vladyka Seraphim was the bishop who worked the miracle. Sometime in the 1950s, there was a birthday party for a young girl called Zoya in her house in Kuibyshev. She had invited her friends, but a young man called Nicholas with whom she was friendly did not turn up to congratulate her. They had had an argument before this, and she was waiting for him to make a step towards reconciliation. But he did not do that. After supper they all began to dance. But she, having no-one to dance with, took an icon of St. Nicholas and said:
"My love is also called Nicholas, but he hasn't come, so you will be instead of him."
She took the icon and began to dance with it. But she had not danced a complete round when she froze on the spot and became as stone, so that no-one could move her. Her friends were frightened and ran away. She stood in this way throughout Lent without anyone being able to do anything. The doctors said that she was alive, but she neither ate, nor drank, nor fell down. Multitudes of people came to look at her. Sometimes she cried:
"The whole world will burn with fire. Repent, soon will be the Coming of Christ."
The authorities surrounded the house. They wanted to cut a hole in the floor, but when they began to do it, blood began to flow out of the boards. Then they tried to force-feed her and cut a hole in her windpipe, but neither scalpel nor knife could make any impression on her body. Various clergy from the patriarchate came and read prayer-services. Even Patriarch Alexis served a prayer-service to take away the icon from Zoya. But the icon would not be parted from her. And only three days before Pascha Bishop Seraphim arrived and took the icon away from her with the words:
"Well, you've stood there long enough. Give me the icon."
Zoya came to herself, and then said:
"O Mama, how terrible it is in that world. How people go wrong when they take the things of this life seriously and joke about the life beyond the grave without even knowing what awaits them."
She lived for three more days and on the Radiant Resurrection of Christ departed to the Lord.
In 1952 Bishop Seraphim was again imprisoned on a charge of preaching monarchism, this time in Central Asia. But in 1956 he was released after the Khrushchev amnesty. According to one source, he was then a great schema-monk with the name Anthony. According to another source, he received the schema shortly before his death.
On being released, Bishop Seraphim was directed by the authorities to return to Barnaul, where Basil Konstantinovich and his wife Olga looked after him.
The KGB visited them every week. Usually Bishop Seraphim would have a premonition of their visits, and, to avoid their persistent inquisition, would pour over himself a bottle of vodka which he always had at hand for this purpose. He also began to sing songs, pretending to be drunk, so that the authorities, on looking at him, would invariably step back, wave their hands and say:
"What kind of a bishop is he - he's a drunk!"
And in the end they left him in peace. They decided that he was an alcoholic and would not declare himself to be a bishop and undertake spiritual activity.
But Bishop Seraphim did undertake spiritual activity. Although he had no opportunity to celebrate the Divine Liturgy openly, he always went around the houses of the faithful with the Holy Gifts and gave them Communion. For this purpose he had a bag with a double bottom made for him. Under the first bottom lay the Gifts, the Holy Chalice and everything that he needed for the service. Then he stuffed the bag with toys, so that people would not suspect that he was carrying anything important.
He had been told that the people of Barnaul would accept him. However, they did so only in part. Many people claimed that since he had been released from prison and there were no other bishops, that meant that he had signed an agreement with the authorities. They did not believe that he had been released because of the poor state of his health. Nor did they see the Providence of God in it.
At his first Pascha in Barnaul, Bishop Seraphim invited all his spiritual children. There was a nun there who led a very ascetic life, doing 12000 prostrations a day. The Lord revealed to the bishop that she had not long to live, and that she did not need to punish herself like that anymore. He told her this in an indirect way:
"Matushka," he said, "the application has been put in, your place is prepared, sit down and drink some tea."
But since people suspected him of having ties with the KGB, she thought that he had written a denunciation to the police, that a place had been prepared for her in prison, and that she had only to sit down and drink some tea and wait until they came for her. These words dismayed her. She got up, struck the table with her fist and said:
"That's enough. I'm fed up with your jokes."
The bishop's face changed sharply, and he said, three times and with great seriousness: "To hell, to hell, to hell."
At that moment she had an attack of a liver disease, it was impossible for her to sit at table, and a strong smell came out of her mouth. This became stronger with every passing day. People told her:
"Matushka, humble yourself before Vladyka."
But she did not want to humble herself. And only ten days later, when her condition had worsened, did she ask people to go to Vladyka and ask his forgiveness and prayers for her. Vladyka welcomed this as indicating a disposition to repent, and said:
"I've forgiven you long ago, but whether God will forgive you - I do not know."
Two weeks passed, she humbled herself and decided to come to him herself. Falling at his feet, she said:
"Holy Vladyka, forgive me the accursed one, for becoming proud of my labours."
"God will forgive you, and I forgive you," he said, "but you will not receive the same glory. Because you became proud you have lost that glory, but for your humility the Lord will give you back everything, but not to the same degree."
She wept bitterly, but he said:
"There's no way I can help you, matushka."
Bishop Seraphim tonsured and ordained people only after a long testing period. "Quality before quantity," he used to say. Thus he had a spiritual son called Amphir whom he decided to elevate to the episcopate. Before Lent he said to him:
"Do you object if we lay on you the yoke of Christ and elevate you to the episcopate after Pascha, but on the condition that you carry out a test that I will impose on you during the Great Fast?"
He was to sit in reclusion (in a bath-house) throughout Lent. Amphir very readily agreed, thinking that this was an easy test - he could read the books of the Holy Fathers and pray. So he quickly asked for a blessing and after Forgiveness Sunday entered reclusion. In the second week of Lent, the bishop, as was his wont, had to go to various places to give Communion to people. During this period some people began to knock on Fr. Amphir's door and tempt him to come out, saying:
"What a fool you are, sitting in a bath-house! He's gone around the parish and enticed all your spiritual children, saying that Amphir's no good. And now people will go to him while you wait here in a bath-house. You'll be left with nothing."
Amphir accepted these diabolic thoughts and in the fourth week of the Fast he came out of his reclusion without waiting it out until Pascha. He came out in the morning, and in the evening Bishop Seraphim arrived back from his parish. While he was still on the way the Lord had revealed to him that Amphir had left his reclusion, and he said:
"O Amphir, I was weeping for you even before I got here - why did you listen to those people?"
"Forgive me, Vladyka," he replied, "and pray for me."
But Vladyka said: "A word is a sword; to speak is to wreak. You have broken your word. There will be no consecration."
At Pascha a nun arrived and told the bishop about a vision she had had. The heavens had been opened to her, and through them she saw patriarchs, metropolitans and bishops passing in groups of four towards the Lord. But in one row there were only three.
"Where is the fourth?" she asked.
Then it was revealed to her that the fourth was to have been Amphir...
In Barnaul there lived Fr. Alexander, a 45-year-old widowed priest who had been ordained by the Catacomb Archbishop Melladius (+April 2, 1953, in Rossozh). In 1965 Bishop Seraphim, who had known Archbishop Melladius, proposed to Fr. Alexander he tonsure him and consecrate him to the episcopate. After taking counsel with a spiritual nun, Fr. Alexander accepted the offer. Then Bishop Seraphim together with another Catacomb bishop called Alexander (Pruzhansky) - other sources give other names for the second bishop - wrote to Fr. Alexander (Alpheus in monasticism), inviting him to come to Barnaul for the consecration.
Bishop Seraphim came to meet him at the station. Although he had put on some torn clothing, he noticed that he was being followed by the KGB. So on meeting Alpheus (then still Alexander) he said:
"Sanya, how about drinking half a bottle of vodka?"
But Alexander never drank vodka, and he found it strange - two priests drinking vodka on the street? But this was a critical moment. The bishop bought a bottle of vodka, sat on some logs and drank it, shouting in the meantime at the passers-by. When the vodka had done its work, he was quite drunk, because it was late in the day and he had not eaten. Fr. Alexander had to drag him on his shoulders for two blocks, like a little boy. When they had arrived home and slept, Bishop Seraphim said:
"You know what the two of us would have got, Sanya? Five years."
Bishop Seraphim took a long time testing Fr. Alexander before raising him to the episcopate. He was afraid of outsiders penetrating the Church, and, noticing Alexander's indecisiveness, he sent him home after a month without consecrating him. But three months later he again sent him an invitation, saying:
"For lack of material, we shall have to consecrate you, Alexander Mikhailovich. If there were a choice, I would not consecrate you, but since there is no choice, you will be a kind of left luggage room of grace, so that apostolic succession should remain in someone until the right time. Then, when the Lord sends the right person, one who is energetic and necessary for the Church, this succession will not be broken, but will be preserved."
Many evil rumours circulated about Bishop Seraphim. Besides the accusations of drunkenness, people used to say that he was a magician. Nun E. knew Bishop Seraphim personally. She recalls him complaining to her:
"What a state we've reached - they think I'm a drunkard and a magician."
Bishop Seraphim received his full share of slanders.
In Barnaul during the last years of his life Bishop Seraphim was accompanied by two clerics: Bishop Alpheus and Fr. Alexander Shabelnik. A few days before his death, in the spring of 1971, Bishop Seraphim raised Fr. Gennadius to the rank of bishop. The story was as follows.
Already in 1968 Fr. Gennadius had prophesied that he would soon be giving blessings with two hands. When Nun E. objected and pointed out that the reposed Fr. Alexander had looked for a Catacomb bishop for twenty years without success, he replied:
"You'll see it with your own eyes."
Before going to Bishop Seraphim in Barnaul, Fr. Gennadius sent a monk there to find out what kind of life Bishop Seraphim lived. The monk returned from this trip disappointed:
"Why did you send me there? I didn't like Vladyka Seraphim's manner of life. It's so dirty in his house - loads of empty bottles lying around, cast away corks..."
"That's his disguise," replied Fr. Gennadius, and taking a staff he went to Bishop Seraphim himself.
Seraphim himself had prophesied to Olga Konstantinovna that a great man whom he had been waiting for all his life would come to him soon. For, although there were other bishops, he used to say:
"O Lord, I am dying in great anxiety, because these people will do little for the Church."
And yet when Fr. Gennadius first arrived, Bishop Seraphim did not immediately recognize him.
"Where have we seen each other?.." he asked.
"We were in a single cell in Gomel prison. You were sleeping on my sheepskin coat, and I was covered with your coat."
And then Gennadius reminded him of the policeman who had fed them at midnight, and of their walks in the prison courtyard together.
Seraphim's face changed, the tension in it - he had got into the habit of extreme caution with people - disappeared. He joyfully recognized Gennadius.
"You know, Vladyka," said Gennadius, sobbing, "I still pray for that red army man. If it hadn't been for him, we could not have had this meeting."
Vladyka Seraphim sat Gennadius at the table and blessed the meal. They sorrowed together: over the quenching of faith in Russia, over the death, one by one, of the last confessing bishops. The Sergianist Moscow Patriarchate had betrayed Orthodoxy. There was no-one to teach the people; there were no elders, no intercessors for Russia.
Then, after the meal and while they were reading the Psalter, Vladyka Seraphim was enlightened from above. He decided to consecrate Fr. Gennadius to the episcopate. This took place on May 6, 1971.
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 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."
The newspaper quoted a woman who had lived for two months at one of the monasteries as telling the court that she had helped finance trips round the country to recruit more monks and nuns. Sekach and his assistants were constantly travelling, bringing back young men and girls. They took the tonsure and then left again, the woman, Maria Matsepuro, told the judges.
Vladyka Gennadius was sentenced to four years in prison. On the eve of his sentence he saw a vision. Vladyka Seraphim (Pozdeyev) appeared to him and offered him two and a half fish. The meaning of the vision became clear when he returned home after two and a half years in prison...
Without Vladyka Gennadius the discipline at the monastery deteriorated. There were quarrels between the monks and the nuns, and the absence of the powerful but kind hand of Vladyka was evident everywhere. The disturbances in the monastery were revealed to Gennadius, and he wept more about them than about his own sufferings.
Hieromonk Yu. and Nun M. heard from an informant in the police that Gennadius was being taken to prison by plane, and they decided to go to the airport to say goodbye to him. It was the eve of the New Year, 1975. The weather was clear and sunny. But when the plane was about to take off, the airfield was suddenly enveloped in fog. An agent of the KGB came up to them and said:
"Do you want to see your priest?"
Mother M. was so frightened that her hands shook.
"Go on then, only not for long."
Vladyka looked exhausted and weak. Next to him stood a Kalymyk, a man whose face was marked by the presence of strong passions. At first he humbly asked Vladyka's prayers. And he even gave him some presents, saying:
"Only pray for me."
But when he saw Mother M. approaching he grinned and said:
"Look, they're taking you to prison, father, but I will return and defile all your girls."
Gennadius wept and replied:
"I beseech you, cut off my head if you want, but don't touch my sisters."
Besides M. and Yu., the relatives of other prisoners had gathered at the airport to say goodbye to those arrested. When they saw the weeping elder they were moved and disturbed:
"Okay, our people are hooligans, but what has this old man done? Why are they humiliating him?"
The noble appearance of the elder touched the hearts of these people, weeping though they already were over the fate of their sons and husbands.
"Forgive me, Father Gennadius, I'm overcome by sorrow. Tell me the sins that I must repent of."
"Be patient, my child, the way is forced open by long-suffering. And attach no significance to human affairs - they are passing..."
The prison in Tbilisi (according to another source, the town of K.) was situated in a four-storey, pre-revolutionary building. It was a special prison from which people were brought out, as a rule, on stretchers. No parcels were received at this prison. The prisoners were tortured. Terrible injections were given, and blood flowed in streams. Some did not last even a week in it. They brought in a healthy middle-aged man, and he was brought out as a corpse..
Nun. M. and Nun E. came to the prison and tried to help him. (Nun M. came so frequently to the prison that she was nicknamed "the pope's wife".) However, they were only able to speak to him through glass, and all their conversations were monitored by the prison authorities. They often had to spend the night in stations. Sometimes the police would come up, check their documents, and on learning their business, let them continue their journey without paying.
Matushka E. relates that Nun M. and Nun O. once managed to bribe a Chuvash jailer. He said to them:
"I'll take you to his room and open the door, and you can have a look at him."
They looked into the room and saw that Vladyka Gennadius was sitting in pools of blood. Every time the authorities interrogated him they would beat him up. He himself related that the prison administration tried to shoot him in the head:
"But how accurately they had learned to shoot! The bullet grazed my head, removing some skin, and passed on. After this shot I fell unconscious. When I came to, I saw that they had cut a toe off my foot, and the spade with which they did it was lying next to it."
There were traitors among Vladyka's flock. Abbess V. was in charge of twelve thousand roubles which Vladyka had given her to buy a house for a Catacomb skete. On seeing her in prison Vladyka asked her to give back the money so that he could buy his freedom - he had already been offered a "business proposition" in prison. However, Abbess V. refused, saying:
"There is no money."
But soon she bought herself a house in Zelenchuk... When the Abkhaz police heard that Gennady had been willing to pay, but V. had not handed over the money, ten of them drove up to the house, raped her and seized everything that was in the house. But V. hardened her heart and did not repent. So Vladyka deprived her of her position. From this time V. wandered from place to place, shaking all over...
After Vladyka's arrest the authorities interrogated and threatened many of his monks and nuns. And other traitors were found among them. But they derived no profit from their treachery. One nun, after providing the authorities with a denunciation, was repeatedly raped in the interrogator's office. Hieromonk D., who had served in Vlasov's army and suffered 25 years in Stalin's camps before being ordained by Vladyka Gennadius in 1972, also gave in. But there were those who remained faithful - and the interrogators, respecting their courage, did not touch them...
Once the prison authorities gave Vladyka a loudspeaker and told him to declare in the hearing of all the prisoners that God did not exist.
"Will you say it?" they asked him.
"I will," replied Vladyka Gennadius.
He took the loudspeaker and declared to the prisoners that God did exist, and called on them to believe in Him. The prison authorities went into a rage and threw an ink-pot at Vladyka.
Since Vladyka was a "minister of the cult", he was allowed to wear a beard and long hair, but not a cassock. Like everyone, he wore pyjama trousers and a jacket. However, since he was so old and sick (he had an illness of the legs and could hardly walk), he was exempted from prison work and was not searched. Moreover, he was allowed to receive parcels - which he secretly distributed to his fellow prisoners. He himself could not eat the prison food because it usually contained meat. So he had to feed himself separately from the other prisoners. He would collect the cabbage leaves which were thrown away in the preparation of the common meal and boiled them. The authorities allowed him to do that. They even allowed him to plant potatoes by the prison fence. When the potatoes began to sprout, Vladyka would immediately dig them up, boil them and and eat them.
According to the command of the KGB, Gennadius was put into the same room with the common criminals, who were ordered to humiliate him with the express purpose of later having material with which to slander him and intrigue against him. This was called "operational work", and the room in which it took place was called the "press-hut". However, Vladyka Gennadius knew how to play the fool for Christ's sake and humble himself. He voluntarily offered to clean the prison toilets and covered his whole body with excrement. The stunned inmates did not approach the smelly bishop...
Later Vladyka Gennadius would say:
"What is Gennadius? Before I was Gennadius. But now what am I? Now I'm - shit."
And yet a fragrance came from him. The grace that was in him was so great that he and those close to him washed only once or twice a year - and yet his spirit-bearing body, purified and transfigured through suffering, was clean. For of Vladyka Gennadius it could be said, as it was said of the apostles: "Through us the fragrance of His knowledge is made manifest in every place. For we are unto God a sweet fragrance of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish. To the one we are the fragrance of death unto death; and to the other the fragrance of life unto life" (II Cor. 2.14-16).
The prisoners somewhat softened their attitude to Vladyka after he began to heal them. They often suffered from various illnesses - stomach illnesses, etc. Vladyka Gennadius gathered various herbs, boiled them and gave them to the prisoners, after which they recovered. He would distribute these herbal broths in bottles.
"Hey, pope, have you got something for me to drink?" the criminals would ask him.
"I have, here you are," replied Vladyka and gave the sick man a bottle of herbal broth.
Receiving as they did constant help from him, the criminals stopped pulling out his hairs and cruelly mocking him. But he was still surrounded by demonic people. Vladyka Gennadius' sufferings were indescribable...
While in prison, Vladyka Gennadius would constantly pray to St. Sergius of Radonezh for help.
"Father Sergius, if I get out of here, I will go to you at the Lavra before I die," he promised.
And he kept his promise. He arrived at the Holy Trinity - St. Sergius Lavra on the day of the saint's feast. Already old and sick, he was accompanied there by Vadim Abramov, the future Bishop Vladimir.
When Vladyka was in prison in Tbilisi, he was seen in a dream by a believing woman who knew him called Natalya. She saw him standing in the factory in which she worked holding a prayer rope in his hands.
"Are you praying?" she asked him.
"I am praying," replied Vladyka. "Here - take it and try," he added, handing her the prayer rope.
"But it's probably difficult," she said.
"Not at all, take it," he reassured her.
Now just before this dream Natalya had been wondering whether Vladyka was praying in prison. When he came out of prison and they met, she told him about the dream. He immediately gave her a prayer rope and blessed her to pray on it. Later she became Nun V.
It is interesting that in this dream Vladyka Gennadius appeared to her with exactly the appearance he had at that time - that is, with clumps of hair missing from his head and beard.
Nor did Vladyka help only the prison inmates. Once a tunnel was being bored through a rock, and the prison authorities joyfully decided to go through it. But Gennadius warned the head of the prison:
"Don't get on the train. You'll hurt yourself."
The head of the prison followed this advice and thereby saved his life: the train crashed in the tunnel.
IX. METROPOLITAN MALKHAZ OF KUTAISSI
The head of the prison was able to return the favour. Once, on the eve of Pascha, he came into the room where Vladyka was sitting and called him for interrogation. Having locked the door, he informed him that he was inviting him to a secret service.
"A Paschal service?" asked Gennadius in amazement: "Are you a believer?"
"Not only I, but the whole of my family."
"But where can I serve?" (At first he had decided that this must be yet another provocation!)
"Let's go," said the prison chief, and led his prisoner along an underground corridor.
They walked for a long time. Gennadius could hear shrieks coming from the neighbouring rooms: they were torturing prisoners. Peeping in, he counted twelve corpses lying beside each other, with terrible instruments of torture next to them... He looked into the face of the prison chief. It expressed disquiet: "Well, what can I do?"
Finally, after passing through many corridors, staircases and basements, they came into the last block and into a small hidden room. There, fully vested and ready to start the Paschal service were twenty-five prisoners: all the clergy of the Georgian Catacomb Church. Gennadius could not believe his eyes. He was literally struck dumb with amazement. The hierarchs were standing in full hierarchical attire with mitres and staffs. A church in a prison? With all the church utensils, burning incense, an altar, Royal doors, a Gospel, icons, crosses?! Unbelievable! Gennadius thought he was in a deep sleep, he even touched his rotting leg with his hand. The leg gave off a terrible pain, from which he understood: it was true.
It turned out that every year the believing prison chief, one of the secret Nicodemuses of the Brezhnev years, arranged services in the secret church on the great feasts. Noone knew about it except him, his wife and the hierarchs. The prisoners were brought into this room under the guise of an interrogation, and were then given vestments. Among them was Metropolitan Malkhaz (Michael) of Kutaissi, the nephew of the Archbishop Simeon whom Vladyka Gennadius had sheltered in his youth, stood out particularly by his great height, his simple, but beautiful face, transfigured by suffering, and his sorrowful but indomitable big blue eyes. He had been St. John of Kronstadt's secretary, and then, after the death of the great pastor, Patriarch Tikhon had drawn him close to himself. Malkhaz had not compromised with the authorities, and had been in prison without a trial or investigation for forty (according to another source, thirty) years. On learning that Gennadius had risked his life to bury Archimandrite Alexander (also a Georgian), he was very touched and grateful.
Not having met a single recently arrested clergyman for so many years, the hierarchs asked Gennadius:
"Are there still believers in the world?"
"There are," replied Vladyka. "About half are believers and half not."
And he went on to say that the Catacomb Church still existed in the world.
This gave them great joy. Then Metropolitan Malkaz said:
"They'll never let us out of here alive. But you are a simple, uneducated person, they'll let you out. And it is the will of God that you should be instead of us."
The hierarchs nodded their heads in agreement. And after the Paschal Liturgy Metropolitan Malkhaz and two hierarchs raised Vladyka Gennadius to the rank of metropolitan.
Then Vladyka Gennadius said:
"I can't live any longer in one place," he replied. "It is very difficult for me. I am old. Where shall I die?"
In reply Metropolitan Malkhaz uttered the prophetic words: "You will die in a small peasant house, with two windows looking out onto a street, and next to a river." (According to another source, he said: "You will live for a short time in a remote place by a mountain river, and then you will come after us.") And in fact Vladyka Gennadius died in a small house at the foot of a mountain past which a small mountain river was flowing...
Then Vladyka learned that the hierarchs had not been idle in prison: they had secretly baptized three hundred people, including the prison chief. Nor had they simply been baptized. The conditions of the prison led many to deep repentance for their sins...
After two years and eight months in prison, Vladyka was released early because of the illness of his legs, and because the radio station "Voice of America" had heard about his imprisonment and taken up his cause. He was released on the Feast of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God, 1977. The joy of his flock was boundless.
However, when he recounted his meeting with Metropolitan Malkaz and the other hierarchs, many people did not believe him, saying that he had made it up and had appropriated to himself the title of metropolitan. Even those closest to him did not believe him, thinking that he had taken it for the sake of human glory. Once, after Communion at the Divine Liturgy, he came out of the altar and said:
"Look, I have just tasted of the Body and Blood of Christ, and I stand holding the Cross by the altar. Do you not believe me? How can I lie in such a position?"
And he explained that there had been no opportunity to invite witnesses into the prison, nor had it been possible to collect signatures on a piece of paper.
While Vladyka Gennadius was in prison, his disciple, Vladyka Gregory wandered around without any fixed place of residence. At one time he was living with two nuns in their house in a place called Gryazi. However, the devil put it into the mind of one of the nuns to suspect Vladyka Gregory, and she tried to expel him from her house. Before leaving the house, Vladyka sorrowfully stood up to pray in front of the icon of the Mother of God. While he was praying the second nun (who is still alive and recounted this story) was looking at him and noticed with amazement that huge tears were flowing from his eyes - tears the size of ten-kopeck coins. The drops were so big that they splashed as they fell on the floor. Gregory left, but a month later the nun who had expelled him was found to have cancer of the tongue. They gave her radiation therapy but it did not help. Her tongue began to peel off in lumps until the bone itself was exposed, after which she died...
X. THE LAST YEARS
After being released from prison, Vladyka Gennadius returned to Novy Afon. The local chief of police told him:
"You won't be allowed to live here. Leave."
And indeed, the local newspapers began to come out with stories of monastics gathering for secret services, etc. A fresh arrest seemed imminent. Once a man with a gun tried to climb in through the window of Vladyka Gennadius' room.
So he went first to the town of Eliste, where he and Vladyka T. bought a house. However, fearing a fresh arrest, the bishops decided to sell their house in Eliste and move to Vladyka T.'s homeland, where his sister had already registered a house in their name, and some nuns were already living. However, the local authorities already knew about Vladyka T. from his father, who had been shot for his true faith in God. So the bishops were not allowed to spend even one night there and had to return to Eliste.
Then, on the advice of the blessed elders, to whom it was revealed by the Spirit that they were intending to poison him, they moved again twice, ending up finally in a remote corner of Russia where a community of Catacomb nuns had already been struggling from some years.
Of this place Schema-Monk Nicander, who had the gift of prophecy (a blessing from St. John of Kronstadt), said:
"The Mother of God passed through the air over the mountains of S. Her throne is there."
It was in this fragrant corner of Holy Russia, which outwardly seemed damp and unremarkable, that the soul of the persecuted metropolitan found rest.
Once, in 1979 or 1980, Vladyka Gennadius fell seriously ill. Thinking that he was going to die, he asked to be tonsured into the great schema. But it was pleasing to God that he recover. The holy Martyr Eudocia appeared to him and said:
"Now is not the time for you to die. There will be a great disturbance. You will lie in bed a little longer so as to lighten the cup of your sins."
However, since he was now in the schema, Bishop T. was elected metropolitan in his place with his blessing. And Bishop Gregory was raised to the rank of archbishop.
Vladyka knew a great many people. And before his death, when he was already very old and weak, he visited all his friends, who were in various parts of the country. Once Bishop Vladimir (Abramov) and Bishop I. met Vladyka Gennadius at a train station and saw that he was quite unable to move. And they could not understand how in such a condition he was able to undertake these last journeys of his.
"Bishop Vladimir and I," recounts Bishop I., "led the elder Gennadius by the arm round the station and then round the carriage. In five minutes Vladyka was able to make only a few steps."
Once, in the town of Svetlograd in Belarus, some people began to slander Gennadius. Nun E. tried to bring them to their senses. It was Gennadius' nameday, and after the service everyone went up to congratulate him. But when the nun went up to him, he said:
"If you go on sticking up for me, I'll sew up your mouth."
And then she remembered that she had stood up for him the previous day. But he already knew all about it.
We may add to this that on his trips round the country, Vladyka Gennadius always took his coffin with him. He took it for himself personally, but if someone died and urgently needed a coffin, he would give away his own and then get a new one. And yet, in spite of all his many arrests and illnesses, and right up to his death and even in his coffin, as eye-witnesses testify, Vladyka always had a ruddy, healthy complexion, just as it is recorded of St. Anthony the Great.
The Lord once revealed to Vladyka that he must go to Pochayev to bring the Transcarpathian Church into unity. He was very ill, but somehow found the strength to go there. This saved the community, for their leader, Archimandrite Meletius, was on the point of death and was sorrowing greatly that after him his community would remain without a spiritual guide.
Vladyka sometimes went into churches of the Moscow Patriarchate, either in order to venerate relics or in order to draw some people into the Catacomb Church. But he never took part in their services. Once he was with a relative of Nun E. in the patriarchal Holy Trinity - St. Sergius Lavra in Zagorsk. Two foreigners came up to him and struck up a conversation with him, explaining that on the way to the Lavra they had had a revelation that in a certain place in the Lavra they would find a true priest. And there they met Vladyka Gennadius.
XI. BISHOP VLADIMIR (ABRAMOV)
One of Vladyka Gennadius' closest disciples in his last years was Bishop Vladimir, in the world Vadim Abramov. The future Bishop Vladimir was an educated man from Moscow who had been searching for the truth since childhood, His mother was an atheist - a fact which greatly upset the young boy. But his grandmother was a very religious person who lit the spark of faith in the boy. Already when he was serving in the army he wore a cross and read his prayers.
His spiritual searchings began in the patriarchate. He used to go to the "Znamenye" church at Rechnoj Vokzal in Moscow. At that time he was searching everywhere for monks, and he asked one woman to introduce him to one of the older monastics. This woman knew Vladyka Gennadius, although she did not join the Catacomb Church until later. She promised to introduce him to Gennadius. At that moment Gennadius arrived in Moscow for the last time - he wanted to visit the Trinity - St. Sergius Lavra. Vladimir met him and, it seems, accompanied him to the Lavra. Then he made his choice and joined the Catacomb Church.
Those who knew him say that by nature he was very reminiscent of a person of the 19th century. He was very open and spoke very openly on the telephone, although at that time it was very dangerous to do so. He was a jeweller by profession, and the Tikhonite branch of the Catacomb Church still uses some beautiful artefacts that he made.
He was tonsured a monk by Metropolitan Gennadius, and after the service Vladyka gave him the nickname "Vodik" or "leader". No-one knew why. Only later, when Bishop Vladimir's death was closely followed by those of Vladyka Gennadius and Vladyka Gregory, did people see in this a prophecy: "You will go before us, and we after you."
His consecration to the episcopate was foretold him by the blessed Greek clairvoyant Leontius at the spring of the holy Martyr Basiliscus in the Caucasus.
Bishop Vladimir had very acute spiritual intuition. Once he was out of work. After a while he received an offer of work from a priest he knew, a hieromonk of the Danilov monastery in Moscow. However, as he was going up the stairs to the monastery chancellery, he unexpectedly stopped, as if listening to something, and after a while said:
"What a heavy spiritual atmosphere there is here! There's something not right here, I'm leaving!"
He turned sharply, quickly went out and never came back.
Once Vladyka Gennadius was celebrating the Liturgy on the feast of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God. Bishops Gregory and Vladimir were serving with him.
Suddenly Vladyka Gennadius asked for a golden cross to be put on him. Then he called Nun E. and said:
"A cross, holy Vladyka."
"So know this: I am dying with great sorrow, because there is no-one I can put this golden cross on."
"How can that be?" said the nun in amazement. "After all, look at those serving with you: one is thirty and the other fifty-eight. Both are fit, and they're not old. They can continue your work."
"You don't understand a thing," replied Vladyka.
It had been revealed to him by God that these people would soon depart to the Lord. And indeed, Bishops Gennadius, Gregory and Vladimir all died in the same year of 1987.
Not long before his death, Bishop Vladimir left Moscow, having decided to retreat to the mountains of the Caucasus, where he bought a house. But the KGB did not allow him to live there. He had to leave, and since had now lost his Moscow residence permit, he registered in the town of Eliste. Here he was constantly summoned by the KGB, who demanded that he immediately leave the town. He refused. At that time the tragedy at Chernobyl had just taken place, and the KGB were sending all "suspicious" people to Chernobyl through the military registration and enlistment office. But Bishop Vladimir again refused to go. As a result, a warrant for his arrest was issued. And it was while fleeing from the KGB, as he was reading the lives of the saints in front of the icons in the town of Georgievsk, that he suffered a heart attack and died instantly at about 12 o'clock on January 2/15, 1987, at the age of 33.
On the night before his death, as he related to Abbess O. he had seen a vision. He was standing at the spring of the Martyr Basiliscus in the white vestments of a bishop and an omophorion. A little old man was pouring water over him...
On the night of January 2 - 3, it was revealed to his friend Bishop I. in a dream that he had died.
"However I did not believe it. The dream was like this. Inside a church, on the balcony for the choir, a little old man in a rasson was leading me by the right hand. Suddenly I heard steps behind me and, turning round, I recognized Bishop Vladimir. Immediately a voice said: 'It is his Angel.' A few steps away from me, he turned to the right and jumped across the balustrade and began to fall. I ran up to the edge of the balcony and saw that he had not injured himself but had fallen into some kind of swimming pool with water. He jumped happily out of it and disappeared somewhere in the church. At this moment a voice said: 'You see, Father Vladimir has left us.' I went further along the balcony with the old man and as we were leaving the church it seemed to me that he was standing on an outcrop of rock. On leaving the church I saw two sculptures representing people. Further on there was some kind of garden and singing, and the dream came to an end..."
He was buried in the cemetery of the town of Georgievsk with a big green cross the height of a man over his grave. Bishop I. visited the cemetery a little more than a year after his death.
"Flowers which usually grow 20-30 centimetres were growing to a height of 1-2 metres. A blue wooden cross crowned the graves of four of the local Christians - two fools-for-Christ, one unknown 'passportless' [a branch of the Catacomb Church whose members refused to carry Soviet passports] and in the last row a 120-year-old nun by the name, I think, of Olga... It was wonderful how the Lord had united them together here by His Providence!"
However, his mother later arranged for his relics to be removed to the Mitimo cemetery in Moscow, where other victims of Chernobyl are buried.
Cases have been reported of Bishop Vladimir interceding for Christians after his death.
Thus Bishop I was once standing in a queue in the hall of an airport waiting to buy tickets to Moscow. He and a few other people were returning home after visiting some fellow believers in the Caucasus. There were no tickets, and yet there were three hundred people in the queue waiting for them. It was obvious that they might have to stand there for days. And then the bishop remembered the newly reposed Bishop Vladimir. In such situations Bishop Vladimir used to act very calmly; he would go to the end of the queue or to one side, and pray and wait patiently. So the Tikhonite bishop decided to follow his example, and prayed:
"If you have received favour in the sight of God, Father Vladimir, help me!"
Then a voice was heard inviting a list of names to come and get their tickets. No-one responded. The woman repeated her declaration. Again no-one responded. Then she said rather irritably:
"So no-one wants to go to Moscow?!"
At this point some people from the back of the queue, including Bishop I., went up and bought tickets. Then the woman again addressed the queue with the same invitation. And only then did the queue hear her and liven up. It was obvious that, through the prayers of Bishop Vladimir, hundreds of people had not heard her first and second calls, thereby enabling Bishop I. to buy a ticket.
XII. DEATH AND BURIAL
Not long before his death, Vladyka Gennadius went up to the window of his last dwelling-place and said with a sad smile:
"A small peasant hut, with two windows looking out onto a street, and beside it a river..."
A little later, he called Nun E. and began to treat her to some doughnuts. When she had eaten her fill and refused another helping, he made as if to dismiss her with some crude words. She asked for his blessing for this. None of those around understood what was happening. He was letting her know that his spiritual feeding of her was over and that she now had to look for another director.
A month before his death he was struck by paralysis. Matushka M. looked after him, and the bishops also served him with love and gratitude. For a while Vladyka seemed to be getting better, and everyone was filled with joy. But he just repeated:
"It's time to go home..."
Snow fell at Pascha, 1987. It amazed the inhabitants of the Caucasus, it portended something sorrowful for them. But until Radonitsa, the Tuesday of the second week of Pascha, Vladyka was his usual good-spirited self, giving help to everyone. Then, on the Wednesday after Radonitsa, he became weaker and Vladyka T. gave him Holy Unction. After the second anointing he lost his speech and the death agony began.
Fifteen people were present in the room: eleven Catacomb nuns, the two bishops and two laymen. Everyone was weeping, in a state of shock. But it was necessary to think how to bury Vladyka. After prayer it was revealed to Schema-Metropolitan T. that they should take the dying man across the river to the house of an aged nun who lived alone some tens of kilometres away. If the authorities asked her, she could say:
"The old man was my nephew. He wanted to recuperate - and died on me. He's a retired priest."
They wouldn't check her story.
But how were they to transport the dying bishop? If they put him on a cart he would die. They couldn't carry him in their arms - he was too heavy. One nun suggested putting him on a camp-bed which six or seven people could put their hands to. This was the alternative Metropolitan T. blessed.
At ten o'clock in the evening it was already dark - the weather was overcast. The old man was wheezing heavily, there was foam on his lips. His face was a pale greenish colour. They decided to take him across the river now. However they couldn't use the old, rickety bridge - he might fall into the water! So they had to wade across in complete darkness and without torches, with the water coming up to their waists. And after the river was a big meadow with ruts and pot-holes overgrown with high grass. And then a steep stony incline to the house of the nun... But they had no choice. They covered the body of the bishop with a blanket, covered his face and set off in complete silence.
Strengthened by God, they brought Vladyka to the house of the nun. On the way, he grew quieter and only groaned deeply, saying in a scarcely audible voice:
As they entered the house of the nun, there was a clap of thunder and the rain came down in torrents. They carefully laid Vladyka on a cot. His wheezing stopped. The next morning, at 7.30 (according to another source, 9.00), after receiving Holy Unction, he quietly died. His face was lit up from within, there were tears in his eyes. One by one his spiritual children came up to him for a last blessing. They kissed his hand and his forehead.
The burial took place at night, because the authorities forbade open services during the day. And although he was a very corpulent person, and it was hot, and many candles were burning, his body gave out no odour of corruption for three days. And when they brought him to the cemetery many people sensed a fragrance coming from the coffin.
Instead of the name and photograph of Gennadius they placed a white marble representation of the Crucified Lord on the wooden cross over the grave.
After Vladyka Gennadius' death he appeared to many monks and nuns in dreams and exhortations. Once, after a panikhida for Bishop Vladimir, Nun E. saw Vladyka Gennadius in her sleep. He was leaving the church with Vladyka Vladimir. They went into her house, and saw Vladyka Gregory there. After a brief consultation, Vladyka Gregory gave the nun a mug and demanded that she drink it up. It was a sign that something unpleasant was going to happen in her life. And indeed, within three months a very unpleasant change did take place in her life.
On another occasion, Vladyka Gregory appeared to Nun E. and told her how he had passed through the toll-houses, which, he said, every soul had to traverse. He said that it had been very difficult for him. But the prayers of Vladyka Gennadius had helped him very much...
Once a woman left her husband Arcadius, a middle-aged peasant. She became a nun and sent him a letter: "Arcadius, if you want, I bless you to visit me, but not before six months have passed." The husband could not wait that long and angrily went in search of her. From Armavir he took a taxi for almost 200 kilometres, then another three bus-rides. He was angry with his wife, who had left him with the housework and three children to look after. Three kilometres from the village of N. the taxi stopped - there was no more road, only mud. Arcadius paid, and looked round. How beautiful it was! A quiet mountain stream with an oak grove above it, and a hanging bridge. The lilac was in bloom, and the nightingales were singing...
Something stirred in the heart of Arcadius. The heaviness fell away from his heart, his anger disappeared, he was no longer jealous of his wife's cleaving to Christ and the Mother of God.
And suddenly his eyes were blinded by a vision. The heavens opened in front of him, and the figure of an elder was revealed to him in a white cloud. He was dressed royally in a rich brocade mantia adorned with gold, a cross with jewels, a mitre with pearls, two hierarchical panagias and a staff in his right hand. The elder looked severely at Arcadius, then his gaze softened, he turned his head towards the right and said:
His face shone with an indescribable beauty, and then disappeared. Arcadius froze with fear, he couldn't move. He stood without moving for a quarter of an hour. He had cramp in his right hand and couldn't open his eyes. It seemed that he had gone blind. Leaning on a wooden stick, he crawled towards the secret community - some good people showed him the way to the nuns.
He saw his wife and burst into tears. He had completely changed. He had thought of threatening her and taking her away by force. But after spending a few days there he himself decided to become a monk.
The elder in the royal vestments whom Arcadius had seen was Schema-Metropolitan Gennadius, who had died only a week before.
Priest A. recounts the following story, which took place some years later: "Julia, aged 17, was once fully awake and sober after the Liturgy when she saw an elder walking along the seashore, which was revealed to her noetic mind's eye. The elder went up to her and began to pray. Then the heavens opened and a holy angel flew down. He flew up to them and began to pray together with the elder. The elder was dressed in white. In response to their joint prayer the Lord Jesus Christ came out of the sun and approached them. He blessed Julia and healed her toothache. Then the angel flew into the heavens and the heavens closed up. And the Lord with the elder went into the sun. At that point the vision came to an end. I advised Julia to ask the elder his name. He pronounced his name and repeated it so that Julia should have no doubts about it. The name was: Hermotheus [perhaps a corruption of 'Hierotheus'].
"Julia's mother and some other parishioners were present and heard Julia's account of what she had seen in the spirit. We sat down at the table, as is our custom after the service, to drink some tea and eat some food. Julia's mother, Vera, asked me to show the photographs of our hierarchs. Julia immediately pointed at the reposed Schema-Metropolitan Gennadius and said that this was the same elder in white raiment whom she had just seen in a spiritual revelation and who had departed with the Lord into the sun...."
Holy Hieroconfessor Gennadius, pray to God for us!
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