Archbishop Hilarion, in the world Vladimir Alexeyevich Troitsky, was born on September 13, 1886 in the village of Lipitsy, Serpukhov uyezd, Moscow province, in the family of a priest. He was the brother of Archbishop Daniel of Bryansk.
He was a man of outstanding academic abilities which revealed themselves very early. Thus when he was seven years old he took his three-year-old younger brother by the hand and led him out of his native village to the city in order to study. And when his brother began to cry, he said:
"Well, remain uneducated..."
The two brothers were found by their parents in time. But in all the years of his study, beginning with church school and ending at the Academy, the future Archbishop Hilarion never gained less than the highest mark (five points) in any subject.
In 1900 he finished his studies at the Tula theological school, and in 1906 - from the Tula theological seminary, entering the Moscow Theological Academy in the same year. In 1910 he graduated from the Academy, being recognized as the best student at the Academy in the last fifty years. On August 16, 1910 he became a lecturer at the Academy with a professor's scholarship and, exactly a year later - lecturer in the first faculty of the Holy Scriptures of the New Testament. On December 11, 1912 he defended his dissertation on the theme, "Sketches on the history of the dogma of the Church". Other works of his include the articles: "The Head of the Corner of the Church", "Ecclesiastical Theology" and "The Unity of the Christian Ideal". After a trip to the West there appeared his "Letters on the West", in which the western religious confessions were criticised as being merely human organizations by comparison with the Divine beauty of Orthodoxy. On January 16, 1913 he was awarded the degree of master of theology.
On March 28, 1913 he was tonsured into monasticism in the desert of the Holy Paraclete attached to the Holy Trinity Lavra by Bishop Theodore (Pozdeyevsky). On April 11, 1913 he was ordained to the diaconate, on May 30 became inspector of the Moscow Academy, and on June 2 was ordained to the priesthood. On July 5 he was raised to the rank of archimandrite by Metropolitan Macarius of Moscow. Then he was sent together with Bishop Nicon of Vologda to Mount Athos to resolve the dogmatic dispute that had arisen among the monks there about "name-worshipping". On November 5 he became extraordinary professor at the Academy.
Fr. Hilarion was one of the foremost defenders of the dogma of the Unity of the Church against the heresy of ecumenism in its earlier forms. Thus in January, 1917, in the course of a debate with Mr. Robert Gardiner, secretary of the Joint Commission of the World Conference on Faith and Order, a forerunner of the World Council of Churches, he wrote: "I could ask you this question: Do you and I belong to the one Church of Christ? In answering it you undoubtedly would mention the insignificance of our dogmatic differences and the virtually negligible difference in rites. For me, however, the answer is determined not by considerations of dogmatic disagreements but by the fact on hand: there is no ecclesiastical unity in grace between us...
"The principal truth of Christianity, its great mystery - the Incarnation of the Son of God - is acknowledged by all Christian creeds, yet this alone cannot fuse them into one Church. For, according to the Apostle James (2.19), the devils also believe; as attested by the Gospel, they confessed their faith like the Apostle Peter did (Matthew 16.16; 8.26; Mark 1.24; Luke 8.28). But do they belong to one Church of Christ? On the other hand, the Church community undoubtedly embraces people who do not know the dogmas of the Council of Chalcedon and who are unable to say much about their dogmatic convictions...
"If the question of the belonging or non-belonging to the Church be formulated in terms of theological dogma, it will be seen that it even cannot be resolved in a definite way. Just how far should conformity to the Church's ideas go in dogmatic matters? Just in what is it necessary to agree and what kind of disagreement ensues following a separation from the Church? How are we to answer this question? And who has so much authority as to make the decision stand? Perhaps you will point to the faith in the incarnate Son of God as the chief characteristic of belonging to the Church. Yet the German Protestants are going to argue against the necessity of even this feature, since in their religion there are to be found even such ministers who openly deny the Divinity of the Saviour.
"Christ never wrote a course in dogmatic religion. Precise formulations of the principal dogmas of Christianity took place centuries after the earthly life of the Saviour. What, then, determined the belonging to the Church in those, the very first, times of the historical existence of Christianity? This is attested to in the book of the Acts of the Apostles: 'Such as should be saved were added to the Church' (2.45; 6.13-14). Membership of the Church is determined by unity with the Church. It cannot be otherwise, if only because the Church is not a school of philosophy. She is a new mankind, a new grace-filled organism of love. She is the Body of Christ. Christ Himself compared the unity of His disciples with the organic unity of a tree and its branches. Two 'bodies' or two trees standing side by side cannot be organically related to each other. What the soul is to the body, the Holy Spirit is to the Church; the Church is not only one body but also One Spirit. The soul does not bring back to life a member which has been cut off, and likewise the vital sap of a tree does not flow into the detached branch. A separated member dies and rots away. A branch that has been cut off dries up. These similes must guide us in a discussion of the unity of the Church. If we apply these similes, these figures of a tree and a body, to the Church, any separation from the Church, any termination of the unity with the Church will turn out to be incompatible with membership of the Church. It is not the degree of the dogmatic dissent on the part of the separated member that is important; what is significant in the extreme is the fact of separation as such, the cessation itself of the unity with the Church. Be it a separation on the basis of but a rebellion against the Church, a disciplinary insubordination without any dogmatic difference in opinion, separation from the Church will for the one who has fallen away have every sad consequence.
"Not only heretics but schismatics, too, separate themselves from the Church. The essence of the separation remains the same."
In March, 1917, according to one source, Fr. Hilarion was appointed rector of the Moscow Theological Academy. Later that year he participated in the Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church as a delegate of the Academy. There he delivered a speech on the restoration of the patriarchate in which he said: "Never has the Russian Church been without a first-hierarch. Our patriarchy was annihilated by Peter I. Whom did it hinder? The conciliarity of the Church? But were there not especially many councils during the time of the patriarchs? No, neither conciliarity nor the Church were hindered by our patriarchy. Who, then? Lo, in front of me are two great friends, two ornaments of the 17th century - Patriarch Nicon and Tsar Alexis Mikhailovich. In order to set the friends quarrelling, the evil boyars whispered to the tsar: 'Because of the patriarch, you have become invisible, your Majesty.' And when Nicon left the Muscovite throne, he wrote, among other things: 'Let his Majesty be without me, he will have more space.' This thought of Nicon's was incarnated by Peter, who annihilated the patriarchy. 'Let his Majesty be without me, he will have more space.'...
"But the consciousness of the Church, as expressed both in the 34th Apostolic Canon and at the Moscow Council of 1917, says one thing without fail: 'The bishops of every people, including the Russian, should know the first among them and recognize him as their head.'
"And I would like to address all those who for some reason consider it still necessary to object to the patriarchy. Fathers and Brothers! Do not destroy the joy of our unanimity! Why do you take upon yourselves this thankless task? Why do you deliver hopeless speeches? You know, you are fighting against the consciousness of the Church. Fear that you do not turn out to be fighters of God (Acts 5.59)! We have already sinned in this way. We have sinned in not restoring the patriarchy two months ago when we came to Moscow and met each other for the first time in the Great Dormition cathedral. Was no one pained to tears at that time to see the empty seat of the patriarch? And when we kissed the holy relics of the wonderworkers of Moscow and first-hierarchs of Russia, did we not then hear their reproach, in that for the last two hundred years the first-hierarchical see has been widowed?"
After the election of Patriarch Tikhon Fr. Hilarion became his secretary and one of his closest assistants. At the same time, on October 29, 1917 he was elected assistant to the rector of the Moscow Academy by the Academy's Council while remaining extraordinary professor at the first faculty of New Testament Scriptures.
From March 10 to June 7, 1919 he was in the Butyrki prison in Moscow.
On May 12, 1920 he was consecrated Bishop of Verey, a vicariate of the Moscow diocese by Patriarch Tikhon.
In the same year he was again imprisoned in Butyrki for four months. He was arrested again in 1921 and again on March 22, 1922, when he was cast into the inner prison of the GPU in Moscow. On June 20, 1922 he was condemned to a year's exile in Archangelsk, and in June, 1923 returned to Moscow. On July 6 (according to another source, June 6), 1923 he was raised by the patriarch to the rank of archbishop and placed in temporary charge of the Moscow and Kolomna dioceses.
On December 7/20, 1923 Archbishop Hilarion was exiled for three years to the Solovki camps for having removed a renovationist deacon's orarion and refused to serve with him. On his way to Solovki he arrived in the Kemi camps a week before Christmas. Here, seeing the terrible conditions of life and the camp food, he said:
"We shall not get out of here alive."
But he remained his usual courageous self. Thus when, in January, 1924, the news arrived at the Kemi camps that Lenin had died, Archbishop Hilarion refused to stand in five minutes silence with the other prisoners, but said:
"Think what's happening in hell now, fathers: Lenin himself has appeared there. What a triumph for the demons!"
On arriving in Solovki, Archbishop Hilarion was very encouraged by the thought that Solovki was a school of virtue - unacquisitiveness, meekness, humility, abstinence, patience, love of labour.
Priest Michael once told him as a joke that this was how they would learn unacquisitiveness, and he was in raptures. When Fr. Michael's boots were twice stolen and he had to walk round the camp in tattered galoshes, Archbishop Hilarion was delighted, which also instilled equanimity into the souls of Fr. Michael and those round him. However, some of the other monks thought that monasticism was possible only in a monastery, and were sometimes very upset by their privations.
Archbishop Hilarion was attentive and loving to every man he met, which soon made him the most popular man in the camp at all levels. Even the thieves respected him. An enemy of every kind of hypocrisy, he was the soul of simplicity, purity and generosity.
In 1931 Priest Michael wrote about his fellow-prisoner on Solovki: "Archbishop Hilarion was young, full of life, very widely educated, a fine church preacher-orator and chanter, a brilliant polemicist with the atheists, always natural, sincere and open; everywhere, wherever he might be, he attracted people to himself and enjoyed the love of all. He was tall, broad-chested, with luxuriant reddish hair and a clear, radiant face. He will remain in the memory of all those who met him. During the years of our common imprisonment we were witnesses of his complete monastic unacquisitiveness, deep simplicity, true humility and childlike meekness. He simply gave away everything that he had, everything that he was asked for. He was not interested in his things. That is why someone out of charity had to keep an eye on his suitcase, at any rate. And such a novice was found for him even on Solovki. This captivating spirit of unacquisitiveness was a true product of Metropolitan Anthony [Khrapovitsky], to whose school many are proud to have belonged. One could offend this man, but he would never reply - perhaps he even did not notice the attempted slight. He was always happy, and even when he was preoccupied and worried, he would quickly try and hide it with the same happiness. He looked at everything with spiritual eyes and everything served for his spiritual benefit.
"At Philemon's bakery, which was seven versts from the Solovki Kremlin and the main camp, on the shore of a little bay of the White Sea, Archbishop Hilarion and I, with two bishops and several priests, all prisoners, were employed as net-members and fishermen. Archbishop Hilarion loved to speak about this work of ours by transferring the words of the verse for the feast of the Trinity:
"'Everything is given by the Holy Spirit: formerly fishermen were shown to be theologians, but now it is the reverse - theologians have been shown to be fishermen.'
"In this way was his spirit humbled and reconciled with his new position."
On July 18, 1925, Archbishop Hilarion was unexpectedly removed from Solovki and put in Korovniki prison in Yaroslavl. His prison news consisted exclusively of his conversations with the GPU agents who visited him in prison.
One agent tried to persuade the archbishop to join the new, Grigorian schism. By this move the agent evidently wanted, on the one hand, to discredit the popular hierarch, and on the other, to strengthen the new schism, for many would have followed Archbishop Hilarion.
"Moscow loves you, Moscow is waiting for you...," he said.
When Vlaydka remained unyielding and showed that he understood the GPU's plot, the agent said:
"It is nice to speak with a clever man... How long is your sentence on Solovki? Three years?! Three years for Hilarion! So few?!"
And indeed, three more years were added to his sentence - this time for "revealing state secrets", that is, for revealing his conversation with the GPU agent in Yaroslavl prison (which had been bugged). Of course, the accusation was absurd, because Archbishop Hilarion was not a co-worker of the GPU, he could not have been entrusted with any service secrets, and in any case he had refused to sign any agreement not to reveal his conversation.
Nevertheless, in the same Yaroslavl prison, the GPU agent had succeeded in getting from him a letter to Metropolitan Sergius in which he asked the latter not to ban the Grigorians. Of course, this caused the Grigorians no little joy, and when Archbishop Hilarion returned to Solovki, he was saddened. And often he would interrupt his thoughts to say aloud:
"The Grigorians say: 'Hilarion is for us', but Hilarion is again on Solovki..."
Once when talking about the relations between the GPU and the Church administration, he said:
"You have to have been in this situation if only for a short while in order to understand it. It's like having Satan himself face-to-face."
On April 13, 1926 he was taken out of Yaroslavl prison and returned to Solovki. There, in July, 1926 he took part in the composition of the Epistle of the Solovki bishops to the government of the USSR. On November 19, 1926 he was condemned for "revealing state secrets" (he had spoken about his enrolment as an OPGU agent by Tuchkov, which he refused). He was sentenced to three years in the camps.
All the bishops close to the patriarch were under great pressure to make compromises, and it must be admitted that Vladyka Hilarion also made such compromises.
Thus Priest Michael, writing in 1931, remarks: "He read a lecture on the compatibility of Christianity and Socialism when a GPU agent demanded that he do this to prove that he was not a counter-revolutionary. True, the chekist later said to him: 'You speak easily on subjects that appeal to you, but here it was as if someone was dragging the words out of your mouth with tongs...' And he was one of the (two) supporters of the patriarch's renunciation of power. The church administration discussed this matter intensively, but only for a short time. And it took Archbishop Hilarion no longer to recognize his mistake, so that far from everybody even among the bishops knew that this had been his position. [Again,] it was not without his influence, although only for a short time, that the patriarch introduced the new style - a completely unrealizable project in the Russian Church. Being the main witness of the GPU's plans to catch the Church in the Bolsheviks' nets, he was less inclined than anybody else to judge the first-hierarch for those acts of his which did not bring profit to the Church. He did not see anything special in Metropolitan Sergius' agreement with the authorities; he did not judge whether Metropolitan Sergius had made a mistake or acted after calculating the practical consequences; Archbishop Hilarion did not make severe judgements concerning the relations of the head of the Church with the authorities. And this, if not approbatory, at any rate indifferent attitude of Archbishop Hilarion to Metropolitan Sergius' politics did not help him. He was not released even when Soviet power had received the support of an authoritative ecclesiastical power. In fact, only now has the full, completely unchecked persecution that has brought the Church to complete exhaustion begun."
However, evidence has recently emerged that Archbishop Hilarion rejected the declaration of Metropolitan Sergius. According to Major-General Zaitsev, who was imprisoned on Solovki, in the autumn of 1927 a certain Yupovich was entrusted with organizing a hunt for members of the Commission of the Central GPU on Solovki. Meeting Archbishop Hilarion on the way, the members of the commission recognized him and started a conversation with him. The witness of the conversation said: "Archbishop Hilarion was taken to the Yaroslavl concentration camp, where Tuchkov, the GPU's representative attached to the Holy Synod, came to talk with him. Tuchkov suggested to Hilarion that he follow the political line taken in relation to Soviet power by Metropolitan Sergius, and also suggested that he sign the appeal of the Holy Synod which was marked for publication. This was the appeal which was published on July 16/29, 1927 under the signature of Metropolitan Sergius and the other bolshevizing hierararchs and which was sent abroad. Archbishop Hilarion unbendingly stuck to his views on the position of the Church in Russia in its present internal-political position and firmly declined all Tuchkov's suggestions."
In 1929 the authorities decided to send Archbishop Hilarion to Alma-Ata (according to another source, Ashkhabad). On the first stage of his journey he was taken to the prison of the Crosses in Petrograd. On the way he was robbed, and he arrived in Petrograd in tatters, infested with lice and sick with typhus. He was put in the prison hospital, from where he wrote: "I have fallen severely ill with typhus, I'm lying in the prison hospital. I must have been infected on the way. On Saturday, December 15, my lot (the crisis of the illness) will be decided. It's unlikely I will survive it..."
When they told him in the hospital that they would have to shave him, Vladyka said:
"Do what you want with me now."
In his delirium he said: "Now I'm completely free, nobody can take me..."
Vladyka Hilarion died at 4.20 a.m. on December 15/28, 1929.
Archbishop Hilarion's body was taken out of the prison at night in a simple coffin quickly put together from planks and given for burial to his nearest relatives. When they opened the coffin, nobody recognized him. Exile had so changed Vladyka, who had been distinguished by his great height and strong health. In the coffin there lay a pitiful old man, shaved and grey... One of his female relatives fainted...
Metropolitan Seraphim (Chichagov) brought his own white vestments and white mitre. After vesting Vladyka they placed him in another, better coffin. The burial service was carried out by the metropolitan, six bishops and many clergy. He was buried in Novo-Devichi monastery.
K. Glazkov reports that on the day of the canonization of St. John Maximovich, June 20 / July 3, 1994, the cross on the grave of Vladyka Hilarion began to emit a wonderful aroma of myrrh. This fragrance came from the cross during the whole time of the festivities for the canonization of St. John in San Francisco, and was quite persistent, as many witnesses can testify. "Probably the relics of the hierarch emitted the precious myrrh to express the joy of the holy God-pleasers at the great triumph."
(Sources: M.E. Gubonin, Akty Svyateishago Patriarkha Tikhona, Moscow: St. Tikhon's Theological Institute, 1994, p. 863; Protopresbyter Michael Polsky, Noviye Mucheniki Rossijskiye, Jordanville, 1949-57, part 1, chapter 12; Archimandrite Hilarion Troitsky, The Unity of the Church and the World Conference of Christian Communities, Montreal: The Monastery Press, 1975, pp. 13-15; Pravoslavnaya Rus', N 2 (1551), January 15/28, 1996, p. 6; Ikh Stradaniyami Ochistitsa Rus', Moscow, 1996, pp. 66-67; Za Khrista Postradavshiye, Moscow: St. Tikhon's Theological Institute, 1997, pp. 492-494; M.B. Danilushkin (ed.), Istoriya Russkoj Pravoslavnoj Tserkvi, 1917-1970, St. Petersburg: Voskreseniye, 1997, pp. 209-213; Natalya Krivosheyeva, "Blazhenni nyeporochni v put' khodyashchii", Moskva, N 5, 1998; Vertograd-Inform, vol. 8 (41), August, 1998, p. 25)
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