Hierotheus, Bishop And Hieromartyr Of Veliky Ustiug And Those With Him

Bishop Hierotheus (Afonin) was born in about 1891. In 1923 he was secretly consecrated bishop of Shadrinsk by Archbishop Andrew of Ufa. Later the consecration was recognized by Patriarch Tikhon. On Palm Sunday, 1923 he arrived in Nikolsk to serve there, too, and from August, 1924 is counted as Bishop of Nikolsk.

"On Palm Sunday," recalls Nun Seraphima, "the new Bishop Hierotheus served the all-night vigil. He was young, about 33 or 34 years old. Everyone liked him. He blessed people very well, he blessed everyone himself, and at the end of the service he said:

"'Well, now we shall begin to pray. Come tomorrow. Do not fear, I am a Tikhonite, sent to you by his Holiness Patriarch Tikhon."

Fr. Sergius (Schema-Hieromonk Seraphim) said of him then: "This is a lamb ready for the slaughter. We are of one spirit with him. We shall tonsure some monks and nuns and they shall live in twos or threes without a monastery, beginning to save themselves and glorify the Lord."

Fr. Cyril remembers: "When Vladyka Hierotheus served in Nikolsk, some people doubted whether one could be a bishop at such a young age of 34 years. Once Vladyka was giving a sermon and asked whether anyone knew Metropolitan Peter. Then he showed us a card on the back of which was written: 'To Bishop Hierotheus'. That was a confirmation, he was really a bishop.

"I saw Vladyka for the first time when I had just finished seven-year-school. My father wanted me to study more. He went to the priest and asked him to acquaint me with all the services. He agreed, and suggested I come in the evening. The priest was a seminarist. He taught me for a month and then wrote to Vladyka Hierotheus. He replied: let him come to me at any time. It was 70 kilometres to Nikolsk, it was spring, the snow was beginning to melt. My father was uneducated and was embarrassed to go. He found someone and asked him to go with me. He told me I would be with Vladyka. We arrived in the evening. I immediately went to Vladyka. He lived in his cell beside the cathedral. They told him about me and I went in. He immediately saw what kind of bird had flown in to him. Coming up to me, he took both my hands and said:

"'Aren't you frozen?' Do you have a flat? Do you have food?'

"I told him everything about myself.

"'Well, he said, 'you'll live here and come to me every day. We have services in the morning and evening. You'll live here for a week.'

"They put me on the kliros. Since the bishop had given the order, they did not throw me off. Sunday came. It was in the Great Fast. They called me and said:

"'Vladyka has ordered you to go and read the rule. A reader should be able to do it.'

"Well, I knew the rule. I was not embarrassed, I just tried to get the stresses right. I read it through. They came up to me and said:

"'Vladyka said that you read well.'

"A little more time passed. He summoned a protopriest and said to him about me:

"'Take him to your flat and examine him.'

"Then the priest assked me: 'Can you serve a service?'

"'I can.'

"Can you serve the Basil's [the service to St. Basil the Great]?'

"'I can.'

"And Vladyka gave me a certificate saying that I could be a reader in any parish."

"Vladyka served in cathedral and chanted on the kliros every day," recalls Nun Seraphima. "He had a pleasant voice. When he chanted or served, something special filled the soul, a certain feeling of reverence and zeal for prayer, so that we experienced no tiredness and said that when the service came to an end we had not prayed enough. Vladyka gave very good sermons about saving the soul so as to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven prepared for the righteous and repentant sinners. Services were always celebrated without haste, which the old priests did not like. They called the priests of the cathedral of the Meeting of the Lord 'the old cathedral popes' because they came from a line of hereditary clergy. The 'cathedral popes' did not like Bishop Hierotheus and were unfriendly and hostile to him because he was young and they were old. They did not want to obey him, and they invented and wrote all manner of fables and slanders against him. Vladyka left the cathedral and went to the Kazan church. The renovationists also got a foothold in the cathedral of the Meeting of the Lord at that time. Vladyka expelled them from the Church and anathematized them by his episcopal power."

Around the Kazan church under Bishop Hierotheus there united all the true and zealous believers: the superior of the church, Protopriest Anatolius, Hieromonk Anthony, Hieromonk Anastasius and the priest Sergius Voyensky, who before his death received the schema with then name Schema-Hieromonk Seraphim.

Schema-Hieromonk Seraphim, in the words of his relative Helen Kontzevich, "was born in 1897 and was named Sergius. He spent his childhood in Petersburg, where his father, Constantine Voyensky, was the chief warden of the archives of the Ministry of Public Education and a historian. Strange to say, there was something similar between the Voensky family and the "Karamazovs" of Dostoyevsky's novel. The father of the family, having led from childhood a loose life, was light-minded, and his wife Olga, exasperated by his behaviour, was constantly at war with him, which created unpleasant scenes, so that the home atmosphere was very trying.

"This reflected adversely on the frail and sensitive boy. He early realized that his father lived at the mercy of his passions. Sergius did not wish to be like this. Therefore, he began to develop his power of will. He read books on the subject, slept on the bare floor, and even was about to try Yoga. Then one day he went to Valaam. The grandeur of the great monastery left a deep impression on him; there his soul found its home. He began to go frequently to Valaam on pilgrimage; he even talked his father into going there, where the latter by a miracle gave up smoking, which he had never been able to do. In 1917 Sergius finished Military Academy. The whirlwind of revolution scattered the members of his family: his father ended up in Malta, and Sergius and his mother found themselves in the city of Nikolsk, where they settled in the house of a priest and lived in great poverty.

"Here occurred Sergius' most significant meeting with the young Bishop Hierotheus. The bishop ordained him priest, and he served in a parish. Meanwhile the revolution was raging and the clergy was being exterminated. Bishop Hierotheus presented Fr. Sergius to Patriarch Tikhon as a candidate for bishop. The Patriarch called him to Moscow. He went, met the Patriarch, and on his return to Nikolsk was arrested. In prison he underwent the usual tortures inflicted upon members of the clergy by the atheist regime. He developed tuberculosis. He was finally released from prison to 'die at home', which in fact happened very soon, in the year 1923, when he was just 26 years old. On his deathbed his friend, Bishop Hierotheus, tonsured him in the Great Schema with the name Seraphim, and buried him with the rites of the Church.

"In 1915 I met Father Seraphim for the first time. He was then the student Sergius, a close friend of my brother, who was attending school in Petersburg. He was a short, thin young man, with dark hair, and with an extraordinarily kind and attractive face. He had beautiful, dark blue eyes. There was in him something not of this world.

"When the news came of Fr. Seraphim's death, I wrote to his father: 'Dear Uncle Kostya, How fortunate you are. You are the father of a saint.! On the day of your death he will come for you and take you to that land where he is now, where there will be no more tears and sorrow, but eternal joy.'"

Fr. Cyril recalls of Fr. Seraphim: "He was young, only 20 years old, and he said:

"'I want to be a priest.'

"'Well, marry then.'

"'I don't want to!'

"Bishop Hierotheus ordained him to the priesthood. Fr. Seraphim came to serve with us in the chapel in Zhirovikh. There was a learned man there by the name of Aristarchus Pavlovich. He was a complete unbeliever. And so Fr. Seraphim arrived from Nikolsk. The people gathered - not only in the chapel, but also in the courtyard. Well, Aristarchus Pavlovich wanted to have a look, to see what it was all about, and why there was such a crowd. With difficulty he pressed himself into the chapel and stood there. And suddenly - he himself recounted this - such grace enveloped him, such a fragrance as could not be compared with any perfume. He had never sensed anything of the kind. And from that moment Aristarchus Pavlovich became, like the Apostle Paul, a leading zealot. They made him warden. Then he was arrested. He did not fear the authorities in the slightest. They immediately shot him.

"Fr. Seraphim died young. They put him in prison, he got a cold there and developed tuberculosis. On his deathbed his friend, the bishop tonsured him into the schema with the name Seraphim. How they all pitied him! The whole town buried him. He was buried behind the altar. The authorities came and ploughed up the earth with a bulldozer, but the believers came during the night and put everything right again. And this happened several times. He was a great clairvoyant."

In 1925 Vladyka Hierotheus was arrested, and he continued to be harassed by the GPU, as well as by the Nikolsk clergy who were hostile to him.

His close disciple, Mother Seraphima, relates: "On June 17, 1926, I was tonsured with the name Seraphima in honour of Seraphim of Sarov, and the Lord counted me, the sinner, worthy to receive the tonsure from the hands of a hierarch. When Vladyka laid his hierarchical hand on my hand some kind of fire came out from it and passed straight into my heart and warmed it and set it as if on fire. I felt joy and wept abundantly. At the end of the service of tonsure Vladyka gave a short sermon and congratulated me on receiving the angelic rank. I experienced the same during the Presanctified Liturgy when Vladyka came out of the altar with burning candles and declared: 'The Light of Christ enlighteneth all'. At that moment the people should fall on their faces, but for some unknown reason I did not fall down but continued standing, and suddenly I felt a kind of bundle of fire burning in my heart, then I fell on my knees and was overcome with tears. I can't convey what I felt then, but some kind of fire burned my whole inner being. That's the kind of man our archpastor was. He had strength of will, he was himself full of Divine fire. Time flowed imperceptibly during his services, he thundered like a trumpet during his sermons. How sweet were his words to me, sweeter than honey to my heart. Yes! His lips were golden.

"But the enemy does not slumber. He could not stand seeing sinners turning to repentance every day and bringing joy to the angels in heaven. The demons attacked him with great spite. They caused him great harm. They also worked through the priests who did not respect him and tried by all means to get rid of him. But he endured everything like a good warrior on the field of battle. He was obedient to God. Life is higher than vanity. With grace-given strength, he found the road through the impurity of the earth straight to heaven. How he loved his people and cared for the salvation of their souls, how wonderful his general confessions were. Then, turning to the people, he would say severely that all foul-mouthed people, and thieves, and murderers, fornicators and adulterers, who were living in unlawful unions, should abstain from coming to Communion, but should weep and repent. How he comforted sinners, telling them to seek mercy from God!

"'You virgins, be not deceived by the vanity of this world, flee sin, do not drink wine, preserve your chastity, seek for yourselves a Heavenly Bridegroom, and not an earthly one.'

"After the end of confession he would raise the cross and, pointing to it with his finger, he would say:

"'Look at what you have now said, you have given a promise not to sin, and you have given it not to me, but to the Lord Himself. I am only a witness.'

"He had a wonderful effect on the penitents, who could scarcely restrain their groaning. Who did not weep then, whose heart was not touched?!

"'Fall to the ground and weep, recite the prayer of the publican,' said our bishop.

"From all sides there resounded groans and sobs. He went to pray in the altar, and having finished his prayer he came out with the cross in his hand and read the prayer of absolution. Having taken his omophorion, he stretched it in all directions over the worshippers and his powerful voice rang out:

"'I, the unworthy bishop, by the power given me, do forgive and absolve you from all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Rise.'

"And happy was that man upon whose head the omophorion descended then. I myself experienced it on my head. I felt a special descent of the grace of the Holy Spirit. The bishop himself joyfully congratulated the people on the purification of their conscience, and we felt light in our souls, it was as if some weight had fallen away and the heart felt joyful. How many such general confessions there were during his life with us.

"Soon we suffered a great sorrow. Our dear archpastor fell ill and wanted to go away to be treated by the hot springs. Many tears were shed, we were so sorry to part with our dear father. We asked ourselves: will he come back? And at the thought that he would go away and not come back and we would not see him again, our hearts squeezed in pain and tears flowed in an unrestrainable torrent.

"In the end the all-merciful Lord heard our groans, and Vladyka said that he would not go, but would be treated here. And we began to treat him with a very simple treatment. I boiled pine buds in honey and brought them to him every day, and gradually his health began to improve and we were overjoyed at Vladyka's recovery.

"I came to him and he said: 'Matushka, I very nearly left you. I was completely in the other world, I saw my body remaining on the bed. I saw coming to me as if in a dream a beautiful youth, and he ordered me to follow him. We went off, and I looked back and saw my body remaining on the bed. We went for a long time, and encountered many things on the way. We passed them all by without stopping. Then we came to a beautiful garden whose beauty I cannot convey to you. How good it was there, what a fragrance, what trees and flowers, how beautifully the birds sang. I did not want to leave, but the beautiful youth said that we must go on. In the end we came to a room of indescribable beauty in which a virgin who was all shining in a wonderful light was sitting. I, the sinner, could not look at her. When I saw her, I fell down in fear and bowed down to her. I heard her saying to the youth:

"'"It is not yet time for him to come here. Lead him back to earth. Let him continue labouring to the glory of God and glorify My Son."

"'And we set off again. I cannot convey to you how much I did not want to leave that place. I woke up and felt that I was no longer in pain and that I had become healthy. The youth had disappeared. I was sorry that they had not left me there. And so, matushka, I'm with you again, and we shall glorify the Lord together.'

"'That's very good for us,' I said, 'and we are very glad that you have remained. What would we have done without you? How would we have lived?'

"'I think, matushka,' he said, 'that the beautiful youth was the Archangel Michael, and the wonderful virgin - the Mother of God, who sent me back to the earth.'"

Fr. Cyril recalls: "When Vladyka gave me the certificate that I could be a reader, my father learned that in Zhirovikh, 30 kilometres from us, they needed a reader. I put my rucksack on my shoulders and went there. And I stayed there until 1928, when they arrested the priest.

"Zhirovikh is a village of 80 households. Our church was small - tall people couldn't get into it. It was a chapel dedicated to the Nativity of the Mother of God at the appearance of an icon of the Mother of God. It's interesting how they built it. A peasant went early one morning to look for his horses. Some bells had been hung on the horses. He stood and heard the sound of bells. Where was it coming from? It seemed as if it was in the earth. The peasant was a believer. He went to the bishop in Vologda, 400 kilometres away. He asked what this could mean. The bishop said that a church had to be built there. The peasant hung an icon round his neck and went round asking for alms: give something for the building of a church. And then they decided that they would all bring one log, of a definite, fitting size, and there were eight villages and they brought hundreds of logs, a whole mountain was formed. They summoned an engineer and began to build it themselves. While I was there Fr. Anthony and Fr. Anastasius served there.

"Fr. Anastasius - in the world he was called Alexander - had struggled on Solovki. He was such a meek, humble man, he couldn't do anything himself, his sister, who was called Anastasia, helped him in everything. He wanted to go to Solovki monastery and asked his sister to accompany him. Well, she was going to take him, but then burst into tears:

"'You're so thin and weak, how will you stand it?'

"But he kept repeating: 'If only they took me! If only they accepted me!'

"He became a hieromonk there, and when the monastery was scattered he came to us in Zhirovikh as priest for the parish.

"Once Fr. Anastasius came up to me and said: 'I've received the declaration of Metropolitan Sergius and there it is written that your joys are our joys. They're cutting our heads off and we're supposed to rejoice! I don't recognize Sergius.'

"And the next day they began to commemorate [Archbishop] Demetrius of Gdov.

"There was a poor man with us in Zhirovikh who often used to stay with Fr. Anastasius. He received him even though his cell was very small. But this poor man was terribly frightened of the police. If you said to him that the police were coming, he'd immediately run away. Well, this poor man was present when they came to arrest Fr. Anastasius. They took both Fr. Anastasius and the poor man and carried them off to Ustiug. The poor man then began to weep, but Fr. Anastasius said to him:

"'Don't fear those who kill the body but who cannot kill the soul.'

"Well, they shot the poor man on the spot. But for what? He was just a simple poor man. But Fr. Anastasius lived for a year in Ustiug. Then they shot him. This was already after the death of Vladyka Hierotheus.

"30 priests did not recognize Sergius, and all of them were arrested in one night. They were all swept away simultaneously as if by a wind. And their churches were taken over by sergianist priests. Then they, too, were arrested, and their churches were closed.

"The other priest, Fr. Anthony, was strict. He said:

"'Fr. Anastasius goes for meekness, I - for zeal.'

"With him not a single letter was left out. If you made a mistake with a single letter, he would shout at you through the whole church and correct it. And I was his reader. One had to learn the typicon quickly and well... Fr. Anthony was a great preacher. Once he went into the altar and then returned and said:

"'Listen, Orthodox, he who goes to the cinema or the theatre is not worthy to kiss the cross. He kisses the cross like a Judas traitor.'

"Fr. Anthony's fate was as follows. He spoke openly with the authorities. They exiled him to Siberia, beyond Irkutsk, to the banks of the river Irtysh. I was with him in 1934. The frost there was savage. He was fishing there - that was how he fed himself. And while he went to the river he completed his rule from memory. He didn't waste a single minute. But the people there didn't sympathize with him, they didn't help him.

"He finished his three-year sentence, but they didn't release him. They said that they didn't let people like him go. It was at that time, in 1938, that I myself was arrested, and I don't know what happened to him, I have no information."

From 1927 Vladyka Hierotheus became also bishop of Veliky Ustiug, a vicariate of Vologda diocese.

Vladyka rejected Metropolitan Sergius' declaration, which placed the Russian Church in subjection to the Bolsheviks. On January 12, 1928, he wrote to the clergy and laity of the diocese of Great Ustiug explaining why he was not in communion with Metropolitan Sergius:

"To all my co-workers for the name of the Lord in the spiritual field, the clergy and laity of the Great Ustiug diocese.

"Dear pastors and faithful children of the Orthodox Church!

"You know that without unity there is no salvation. The organism of the Church is one: Christ is the Head of the Church; the eyes, ears, arms and legs are the pastors and teachers, while the body of the Church is all the believers in our Lord Jesus Christ.

"The whole body moves with one spirit and lives with one heart. A part of the body that is not fed with blood from the heart falls away and perished. Thus the renovationists have fallen away before our eyes: they did not want to have communion with the first person in the Church, his Holiness Patriarch Tikhon, and now they are gradually decomposing, like a useless arm or leg cut off and cast onto the earth.

"After the renovationist 'livingchurchmen', the unity of the Church was rejected by the 'autocephalists', followers of Archbishop Gregory of Ekaterinburg (the Gregorians), who did not recognize the locum tenens Metropolitan Peter. Now the unity of the Church has been destroyed by Metropolitan Sergius, the deputy of Metropolitan Peter. As long as he was the faithful guardian of the patriarchal throne entrusted to him, the whole Church considered him her leader. But when he undertook arbitrary initiatives that were approved neither by the church people nor by the council of bishops, nor by the blessing of Metropolitan Peter - then nobody was obliged to go the way of his errors.

"Thus during the period of livingchurch renovationism, all the faithful children of the Church separated from the renovationist council of 1923 and from their synod, and gradually united around his Holiness the Patriarch and the bishops who had church communion with him. In the same way now Metropolitans Peter and Cyril, Metropolitans Joseph of Leningrad, Arsenius of Novgorod, Agathangel of Yaroslavl, the vicar-bishop of Moscow and former bishop of Serpukhov Arsenius (who is in retirement), Archbishop Seraphim of Uglich, Archbishop Athanasius of Kiev, and the bishops Demetrius of Gdov, Victor of Vyatka, Seraphim the former bishop of Dmitrov (Zvezdinsky, who is in retirement), Irinarch of Veliky Ustiug, the bishops in exile and many others, as well as a group of clergy in the capital and delegations representing communities of believers, have in various forms declared to Metropolitan Sergius that they do not agree with him and have separated from him.

"Some of them [the confessing bishops] declare that Sergius has stretched out his hands toward the Patriarchal Throne, striving to overturn it, inasmuch as in his Synod there are persons whom the Church does not trust.

"Others say that Sergius has introduced a political tendency into Church life (see his declaration in Izvestia, August 19, 1927 [probably he had the declaration of July 16/29 in mind]).

"Still others indicate that Metropolitan Sergius has chosen a crooked path of diplomatic doubletalk, agreements, and compromises - as if for the salvation of the Church - and has left the straight but sorrowful path of the Cross, i.e., of patience and firmness.

"Finally, he has made use of deceit, calling his Synod Orthodox and Patriarchal, while in reality its organization is a trampling down of the Church's canons: Metropolitan Peter, the locum tenens, did not give his approval for such a thing, since it failed to obtain the blessing of his Holiness the Patriarch himself in 1924. What the Renovationists and the Gregorians could not succeed in doing - that Metropolitan Sergius very cunningly did: he bound the Church to the civil authority, expressing spiritual submission to it.

"The Decree on the Separation of the Church from the Government does not exist for Metropolitan Sergius and his followers. Therefore, for the realization of his plans Metropolitan Sergius, violating the 9th Canon of the Council of Chalcedon, even makes use of the non-ecclesiastical power.

"As for me, acknowledging my responsibility before God for the flock entrusted to me, I have declared on January 10/23 of this year to Bishop Sophronius, who has been assigned to the see of Great Ustiug by [Sergius'] Synod, that my flock and clergy of Nikolsk - except for the cathedral clergy, who have been rejected by the people - cannot accept him because we have separated from Sergius and from his Synod.

"On the other hand I have informed Metropolitan Joseph (of Leningrad) that I canonically join to him the clergy and laity of the diocese of Great Ustiug, in accordance with the blessing of Vladyka Irinarchus, whose lawful deputy I am at the present time for the whole diocese of Great Ustiug.

"I have had to suffer much in the way of every kind of slander and offense for my archpastoral labours for the good of the Church. If the Apostolic Canons say that clergy may do nothing without the will of their bishop, then my will expressed in the present epistle, is thereby all the more worthy of every acceptance.

"Nevertheless, wishing to hear from you, dear children, that you are one in soul and one in thought with me, and likewise respecting your freedom of self-determination, I propose that my epistle be read and considered at assemblies of the faithful, so that all might know the way the matter stands and freely enter into unity with me, remaining faithful to the locum tenens of the Patriarchal See, Metropolitan Peter, and to the entire Russian Orthodox Church; concerning which I request you to send me a written statement.

"Only the clergy of the Cathedral of the Meeting of the Lord in Nikolsk, the priest from the Renovationists Sergius Aranovich (in Kudrilo), and Archpriest John Golubev (in Shango) have openly come out against me, spreading every kind of evil report, slander, and absurdity. They have written unfounded complaints against me to the Synod, and Archpriest Michael Krasov (of Vokhma) personally took these to Moscow; for which they have been prohibited from serving and are in a state of excommunication from me until they shall show sincere repentance in the form established for renovationists, or until a complete council of bishops shall judge the case of Metropolitan Sergius and those who are with him (10th Canon of the Holy Apostles).

"I place before you these hirelings, who see the wolf approach and flee; do not follow them, my brethren and children, but let us have before us a different example: the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. Amen.

"On January 12/25, 1928, I received the reply of Metropolitan Joseph: 'Govern yourselves independently. Our justification: faithfulness to Metropolitan Peter. Joseph.'"

On January 28 / February 10, 1928, Metropolitan Sergius and his Synod issued a decree (no. 38) concerning the "schismatic" behaviour of Metropolitan Joseph and Bishop Hierotheus, and on March 29 / April 11 another decree (no. 76) was issued banning Bishop Hierotheus and Bishop Victor of Vyatka.

According to one (dubious) source, Bishop Hierotheus signed the decisions of the so-called "Nomadic Council" of the Catacomb Church in 1928 through Hieromonk Jerome (Vostryshev).

The last Great Lent and Pascha of Vladyka Hierotheus' life until his death in May (or June or July), 1928, are described by Mother Seraphima: "He promised to return [from Vyatka] by Forgiveness Sunday, but returned still earlier, and brought me a big prosphora from matushka and told how many adventures he had had on the way. The Vespers of Forgiveness Sunday went very well and triumphantly. The service was paschal. The clergy were in white vestments and they sang 'Christ is risen!'. Vladyka explained to the people that some of us might not live to Pascha and would not hear 'Christ is risen!', so we should rejoice and be glad on this day.

"'Forgive me the sinner and unworthy one,' he said, and our dear intercessor bowed to the feet of everyone. It was touching to watch it. The service came to an end, and having received his blessing and forgiveness the people dispersed. On Monday evening the Canon of St. Andrew of Crete was read with prostrations. Vladyka read it himself, standing on the cathedra and making prostrations to the ground. We all prayed together with him in unity of spirit. Lord, how good it was, how it touched the soul. Recognizing our nothingness with contrite heart we prayed with repentance in this way until Thursday. In the sermons we were told how we must spend the time of the Great Fast, repenting and fleeing sin and trying not to anger God. He terrified us by describing what the Judgement of God would be for sinners, and what awaited the righteous. It was quite something to listen to him. He became threatening, terrifying impenitent sinners with the wrath of God, but also consoling and calming us, telling us that ear has not heard nor has it entered into the heart of man what the Lord has prepared for those who love him, if we work for the Lord and do His holy will. What blessedness awaits all those who follow Christ. We listened to him with rapture and tears flowed in hope of the mercy of God. There was a general confession with many penitents. Three chalices were used. Everyone wanted to receive Communion from the hands of the hierarch, although he himself said that we should go to the priests, it doesn't matter to me. But the people somehow did not hear him and they all thronged to him, saying they wanted to receive Communion from Vladyka. Finally, at the end of the service Vladyka was very tired, and we were very sorry for our worker, and when he still needed rest there was still a crowd of people waiting for him to give them advice and a blessing. The indefatigable worker and intercessor did not give himself any rest, but strengthened his failing powers a little and was ready to serve again.

"The GPU had summoned him more than once already. They had even asked him to go to Ustiug, but Vladyka didn't even think of going there. He said in the church that he wasn't going anywhere, but would stay with us:

"'Let them take me from my cathedra with candles!"

"The whole fast they pestered him. Sometimes they ordered him not to live in the church but to go to his flat, where they could take him at any time. Once Vladyka went into a village and was arrested by a policeman. At that moment the prosphora-baker Agrippina came up and took him away. Then some other peasants came up and took Vladyka away to the church. They frightened Vladyka very much, but the Lord preserved him, and they only imprisoned N.I. Ryshkov because he took part in this affair, together with Novice Andryusha and the watchman Andrew. That was the end of it. But since they had failed to get him that time, they became still more spiteful and thought up various ways of taking him. On the Monday of the last week Vladyka came to me (I had sewed some vestments for him) and said:

"'Matushka, I've come to rest in your house.'

"'I'm very glad,' I said.

"'Will you sew me the vestments by Pascha?'

"'I will.'

"He walked around the room and said:

"'The feast of Pascha is the most joyful of all the feasts. What chants they sing, for example: Now all the heavens are filled with light, heaven and earth, and the nethermost parts of the earth. Let all things visible and invisible keep the feast. How happy we believers are. The unbelievers and sinners cannot rejoice and be glad so much. What sorrow awaits all the impenitent sinners at the Terrible Judgement!'

"He spoke so movingly that as I listened I wept and said:

"'O Vladyka, what will happen to me then? Where will I the accursed one turn?'

"'Don't be sad, matushka,' he said with a smile, 'your path is all covered with flowers. You have nothing to fear...'

"Vladyka himself served the whole week. What services those were! The shroud was brought out and then came the burial. Lord, what sermons he gave! How the soul was touched on seeing Christ God lying, all wounded and bloody. The Lord God Himself suffered for the sins of men. I sewed his vestments and brought them on the Saturday. Vladyka was pleased and thanked me, and when he blessed me and held my hand he said:

"'Tomorrow, matushka, I will come to you first.'

"There had never been so many people at Paschal Mattins. Vladyka said:

"'I thought they would crush me, but everything turned out alright.'

"After the Liturgy, it is true, Vladyka soon came to me, we sang 'Christ is risen!' and began to eat and drink. He rested, and was very joyful. They said that there had been many people.

"'Yes,' said Vladyka, 'when I said "Christ is risen!" to them, the reply resounded like a trumpet in the church, it was as if I was lifted off the ground.'

"Some peasants came from Vozdvizhenye, and everyone was happy, joy was in everyone's soul. Vladyka blessed them to stay a little longer and eat.

"'Matushka," he asked, 'do you have any Theophany water/'

"'Your water?' I asked.

He smiled and said: "'Yes, the water I consecrated.'

"'There is,' I said.

"'Keep it then,' he said. 'I will not consecrate it again.'

"I began to groan. 'O Vladyka, what are you saying?'

"'The times are hard,' he said. 'Anything could happen now. I may even die...'

"On the third day of Pascha he went to the warden and stayed there until the Sunday of the Myrrh-bearers. He served the Liturgy, but was somehow unhappy. It seemed as if the people could not have enough of looking at him. They all stood and wanted to accompany him, and since he wanted to leave he let them all come to the cross again. Then he closed the royal doors. But the people still stood where they were. Then Vladyka again opened the royal doors and blessed everyone again. Then he closed them and went into his cell. That was the last blessing he gave. That was how Vladyka said goodbye to his flock. Our beloved knew it, he knew that he was seeing his children for the last time. Having drunk some tea and strengthened himself with some food, he got ready to go the country. When Vladyka came out, everyone rushed up to him so as to receive his verbal blessing.

"After a while he stopped blessing, saying that he had blessed us all today, and sat down. I went up to him and said:

"'Bless me, Vladyka.'

"He blessed me with a smile and said:

"'Be with God, matushka. Remain here.'

"Then he got up, looked round again, saying: 'Don't forget me', and left... When he left I sent my novice Matrona to him with something, and she walked with him round the village. That was in Rystyug. Then he went to Makretsevo. That was his favourite village. Then some peasants from Kipshenka arrived and began to ask him to come to them. For a long time he refused, but they insisted, complaining that they kept asking for him, and he kept promising but did not come. Then he said:

"'Alright, you go home, I'll come.'

"When they had left, Vladyka became sad and silent. Then he went to Rystyug and began to prepare to go to Kipshenka. Many people tried to persuade him not to go there. They said that he would be arrested. But he said:

"'No. The people there are believers, they will not give me up.'

"Then he went with Kolya [his twenty-year-old novice] to Kipshenka and after that to Kema. Kolya for some reason did not want to go there, but they persuaded him and he went. What sorrow Kolya brought to the whole people!"

"The communists were trying with all their might to catch him. They even said that if he went to Kema he would be theirs. Then we heard that the bosses had gone there to arrest Vladyka. Lord, what sorrow all the believers experienced! And they did arrest Vladyka, but the people took him away and locked him in a cabin. What a horror it was! Many of the people defended Vladyka. Women with babes at the breast even stood in the way. The authorities sent to Ustiug for help, and when a detachment came they surrounded the house and looked for Vladyka everywhere. Kolya asked to go home, but Vladyka tried to persuade him to stay if only for a day. But he said he was going, so they gave him a girl as a guide. But immediately he set off he was arrested, his hands were tied behind him and he was led to the town, where he was questioned about Vladyka's whereabouts. At first he said nothing, but then they began to promise him a good job, and with alternate threats and endearments they dragged out of him where Vladyka was. [Fr. Cyril says that Kolya gave in after being tortured.] Then Satan entered into him, and the wretched one dared to say:

"'Give me a revolver and I'll kill him myself.'

"To think that our dear archpastor suffered as Christ suffered, and as Christ was betrayed by His disciple, so Vladyka was betrayed by his cell-attendant! How much love he showed him, how many favours he showered on him! And how he repaid him!

"Then they brought Kolya there, confident that when he showed them where he was they would arrest him. But when they saw Kolya coming, they led Vladyka away into the wood, so that noone knew where he was except the two girls Paula and Alexandra. Then Kolya went up the peasant Basil and asked:

"'Where's Vladyka?'

"'What business is it of yours, Kolya?'

"But then Kolya urged Basil to tell him quickly because the man with him (a policeman) wanted to take him to Kipshinka. He mustn't hinder him because a detachment was coming and would take Vladyka away. Then Basil told him to go to Alexandra. Kolya went up to Alexandra and said:

"'Where's Vladyka?'

"'Where's Vladyka? And why do you want to know where Vladyka is, Kolya?'

"As she told me later, she was very frightened at that moment. Then Kolya said the same to her as he had said to Basil. And Alexandra believed the demonic ruse and led them. Meanwhile Paula was with Vladyka in the wood. As she later related, he prayed the whole day and forced her to pray, saying that one must pray and pray and pray for everyone. Suddenly she heard a conversation. Vladyka was alarmed. Paula said to him:

"'You stay here, I'll go out to have a look.'

"When she saw Alexandra and Kolya, Alexandra asked her:

"'Where's Vladyka?'

"'Here,' said Paula. They went off, and Paula came to Vladyka and said that Kolya had come.

"On seeing him, Vladyka rejoiced and said:

"'Ah, Kolya.'

"'Don't move, Vladyka,' said Kolya loudly, and he raised his arm as if surrendering to the hidden policeman.

"'You wanted to shoot me, so shoot,' said Vladyka.

"Then Alexandra began to shout and weep and said to Kolya:

"'What are you doing? We took you for an angel, but you've turned out to be a Judas traitor. I will not let you shoot Vladyka. Shoot me instead.'

"Then she began to plead, and stand in front of Vladyka, which did no good at all. Then, O Lord, what a horror took place. They came up from the side and shot straight at his head. Our martyr-sufferer fell, covered in blood, and they went off singing, thinking they had killed him, while the girls stayed with Vladyka, weeping and saying:

"'Will Vladyka forgive us for what we've done? Forgive us!'

"Then he only looked at them and blessed them and laid his hierarchical hand upon their head. O Lord! They had all left him, they had all left without giving him any help. He lay alone on the earth, which was still covered with snow. They left him lying and pouring out blood until the morning. They came for him only in the morning and treated him crudely and mercilessly. O Lord, when the news came to the city that Vladyka had been wounded in the head, and had been found in the wood, what did we not suffer then! It is terrible even to think of it! The city was under military law. It was forbidden to walk late at night. They were arresting everybody and dragging them off in droves to the prison. A mounted detachment arrived, and a steamer, and people were saying that they were going to take Vladyka away on the steamer. They were waiting for him to be brought from Kema. They brought him quietly. He was so weak! In front went the prisoners, on either side were horses carrying the prisoners' knapsacks. And so the whole procession went slowly to the bank where they were waiting for them in the steamer. O Lord, it is impossible to describe all the horrors that took place then. Even before Vladyka's arrival the people were driven away from the bank. Noone was allowed near. Then:

"'They've brought him! They've brought him!'

"The detachment appeared, and the prisoners, and they brought Vladyka on a stretcher straight to the steamer. No-one saw our joy and treasure. As I write these lines, my heart fails. Then they brought the prisoners onto the steamer. Soon a doctor arrived and applied a dressing. When he saw Vladyka wounded and covered in blood he was shocked and said:

"'Hey, what have they done?! What have they done?!'

"But Vladyka looked at him with love and blessed him. When the doctor was applying the dressing, he asked that Vladyka be left there because he was weak and he would not survive until Ustiug. The dear one would die. But they did not agree. They said:

"'We must take him away even if he dies, otherwise there'll be a commotion among the people.'

"What groans, what tears were shed then! We were so sorry for our holy sufferer, instructor and leader. He did not spare himself, he shed his blood and laid down his life for the Faith of Christ. With his blood he washed away the sins of his pastors and his flock. He himself did not deny the Lord, and asked his flock earlier to firmly believe in Him.

"'Don't limp on two legs, but go the straight path to God, to heaven!'

"Yes, it was for that that the Lord glorified His servant. He gave his soul into the hands of the Lord and was counted worthy of martyrdom. He shed his blood and is now at the altar of the Lord rejoicing with all the saints and praying God for us and for his traitors and murderers.

"Soon the steamer departed taking our treasure, and we saw him no more. The people from the neighbouring villages ran along the river-bank weeping and shouting:

"'Vladyka, why are you leaving us? Take us with you.'

"But Vladyka did not hear their calls. The steamer soon arrived in Ustiug, where an ambulance was awaiting it. He was lifted up on the stretcher and taken to the hospital. One of the doctors gave him a good room and looked after him. Vladyka blessed him lovingly. An operation was decreed, and O Lord! they operated on him without an anaesthetic! But noone heard so much as a groan or sign; it was as if it happened with someone else. The doctors were amazed and said that they had never seen such a patient. After the operation Vladyka felt unwell, and the nurse who was looking after him told me that he would die soon. At that moment Vladyka asked to be raised a little so that he could pray - the first words anyone had heard from him. The nurse said he could, and he, raising himself, said:

"'Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit. Accept my soul, and let my body be thrown to the dogs.'

"Then he lay back on the bed, crossed his hands on his breast and slept the sleep of the righteous. His holy, long-suffering soul flew to the throne of God for Whom he lived and laboured and suffered without sparing himself. Eternal memory to you, Vladyka, sufferer for Christ! Those eyes which looked straight into one's soul and caused it to tremble were closed. Those golden lips fell silent forever. And when he died he was buried without honour, and we do not know where his grave is. Where did they put him? That has increased our sorrow even more. Amen."

Bishop Hierotheus died on May 3/16 (according to another source, May 6/19), 1928.

While Vladyka had lain in the hospital, the authorities had ringed the building so as to let nobody in. But the believers made their own ring. There was one believer there who worked in the hospital. She said:

"I'll give you a sign. Tonight they're going to operate on him. If he lives, I'll come out onto the balcony, but if he doesn't live, I'll come out onto the balcony to shake out some sheets."

That was how the believers learned that Vladyka had died. But they did not know what happened to his body. One fool-for-Christ in the city, the clairvoyant Dunyuhska, said:

"The fish have eaten Vladyka."

In other words, they had drowned his body. And no trace of it was ever found.

After the death of Vladyka the arrests began. About 300 nuns who had been tonsured by Vladyka were arrested. The Kazan church was closed, and they turned the cathedral of the Meeting of the Lord into a prison. But the memory of the martyrs did not disappear. This memory is the salt of the Russian land, the earnest of her resurrection!

(Sources: Novice Tatiana, "Svyashchennomuchenik Episkop Ierofei (Afonik)", Pravoslavnaya Zhizn', 48, N 2 (554), February, 1996; Russkiye Pravoslavnye Ierarkhi, Paris: YMCA Press, 1986; I.M. Andreyev, Russia's Catacomb Saints, Platina, Ca.: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1982, chapter 8; M.E. Gubonin, Akty Svyateishago Patriarkha Tikhona, Moscow: St. Tikhon's Theological Institute, 1994, pp. 863, 973; "Novomuchenik Rossijskij Episkop Ierofei", Tserkovnoye Slovo, vol. 36, no. 5, May, 1992, pp. 11-20; Bishop Ambrose (von Sievers), "Istoki i Svyazi Katakombnoj Tserkvi v Leningrade i obl. (1922-1992)", report read at the conference "The Historical Path of Orthodoxy in Russia after 1917", Saint Petersburg, 1-3 June, 1993; "Katakombnaya Tserkov': Kochuyushchij Sobor 1928 g.", Russkoye Pravoslaviye, N 3 (7), 1997; "Episkopat Istinno-Pravoslavnoj Katakombnoj Tserkvi 1922-1997 gg.", Russkoye Pravoslaviye, N 4 (8), 1997, p. 4; Protopresbyter Michael Polsky, Novye Mucheniki Rossijskiye, vol. 1, chapter 20, p. 179, Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, 1957; Lev Regelson, Tragediya Russkoj Tserkvi, 1917-1945, Moscow: Krutitskoye patriarsheye podvorye, 1996, p. 595; Za Khrista Postradavshiye, Moscow: St. Tikhon's Theological Institute, 1997, p. 489; I.I. Osipova, "Skvoz' Ogn' Muchenij i Vody Slyoz…", Moscow: Serebryanniye Niti, 1998, pp. 251-252)


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