Protopriest Vladimir Anatolyevich Bogdanov (in secret monasticism, Seraphim) was born on April 19, 1865 in Moscow, the son of the famous Russian anthropologist and zoologist A. P. Bogdanov, the director of the Moscow zoological museum. In 1888 he graduated from the physical-mathematical faculty of Moscow University. From 1888 to 1900 he was a teacher in the first real school in Moscow. From 1902 he was in charge of the departments of readings in physics and natural science in the commission for the organization of general educational readings for the Moscow workers. He had the degree of candidate of mathematical sciences. From 1900 to 1917 he was a member of many scientific societies and institutions founded by his father.
He was a disciple of Elder Barsonuphius of Optina, and then spiritual son of Fr. Valentine Amphiteatrov. He also often went for spiritual advice to Elder Barnabas of Gethsemane skete. On May 17, 1917 (according to another source, 1914) he was ordained to the priesthood as a celibate. From 1917 (according to another source, 1915) to 1927 he served in the churches of the Saviour of the Transfiguration on the Sands, in the Jerusalem podvorye (the church of St. Philip), and was superior of the church of St. Seraphim of Sarov attached to the St. Seraphim committee for help to the wounded until its closure in 1921. Patriarch Tikhon often proposed to consecrate him to the episcopate, but he refused. He was the spiritual father of Fathers Vladimir Krivolutsky, Demetrius Kryuchko and Alexander Gomanovsky. He often lived for long periods in the Diveyevo monastery, in the Seraphimo-Ponetayevsky monastery, and in the Anosina desert. He served his last Liturgy in a Moscow church on April 13, 1927, after which he served at home and in village churches.
In 1923 he was arrested and imprisoned in Butyrki prison after which he was exiled to Zyryansk region. In Ust-Sysolsk he was together with Metropolitan Cyril of Kazan, Archbishop Thaddeus (Uspensky) and Bishop Athanasius (Sakharov).
Schema-Monk Epiphanius writes: "Before the revolution, Father Vladimir (B.) graduated from the Physics and Mathematics faculty of the Moscow State University. Following this he was Professor of Physics in this same university at the same time that his father was professor of another faculty. During the revolution he abandoned his teaching career and became an unassuming celibate priest.
"While a student, he had been called 'elder' by the Optina elder, Hieroschemamonk Ambrose. And that is what he became. Once Elder Ambrose had visitors, and the conversation turned to eldership. Hieroschemamonk Ambrose explained that eldership is a special gift of God that is bound neither to age nor to a hierarchical position in the Church. Looking through the window, he drew the attention of his interlocutors to a student who was passing in the yard.
"'Look, you see, this is a student. But he is already an elder. He gives to others correct spiritual counsel on how to live, how to save oneself, how to struggle with the passions. And this is a rare gift of God...'
"Years passed. The student became a professor at the Moscow State University next to his father. Then the son became a priest. With the publication of Metropolitan Sergius' declaration recognizing Soviet power as God-given, Fr. Vladimir separated from Metropolitan Sergius. When all the Moscow churches, for fear of the Soviet authorities, became sergianist, as before they had become renovationist, Protopriest Fr. Vladimir was serving in the Serbian podvorye in obedience to the Serbian patriarch. The elder fed many people of the educated world, especially secretly.
"He had the habit of delivering very short, pithy sermon-appeals of two to three minutes' duration, in the spirit of short ascetic instructions from the holy Fathers. These sermons did not fatigue people, but, on the contrary, favoured a prayerful mood and concentration. In his actions he followed the rules of St. Hesychius of Jerusalem, who taught that 'the outer is the enemy of the inner', and for that reason the elder carefully avoided anything that could appear to be in the nature of self-advertisement. His whole spiritual activity was hidden from human eyes. But it seems that towards the end of his life he was a monk and bore the name of Seraphim. But this was not made public knowledge.
"He was, of course, persecuted by the Soviet authorities. They often arrested him and he was not only in prison but also in camps. On being freed he hid himself and directed secret Catacomb communities of believers. He taught everyone to have no communion with the sergianist church, because it was a political false-church united with the God-fighting authorities.
"One of those spiritually fed by the elder, a Moscow priest, said:
"'It so happened that, together with Batyushka Vladimir, we also, priests who had enjoyed his spiritual direction, were arrested. They kept us in Butyrki prison in a room full of priests of every kind. Both the renovationists and the neo-renovationists [the sergianists] were there. We kept apart, our group being united by our elder. He remained all the time in prayer.
"'The day of the Holy Trinity arrived. We got up early and prayed, standing by the big window, which was somewhat darkened by the prison "cap" or "muzzle". We even read through the Vespers kneeling prayers. The elder read them from memory almost perfectly. And after this, since the Lord had sent him in a parcel the reserved Gifts, we all, led by the elder, received communion... Only we did not know what to do with that thin piece of paper in which the Gifts had been wrapped. You see, there were some imperceptible small particles on it. The elder told us that this paper had to be burned on the window sill, covered with a sheet of zinc and tin. We did this. But some light ashes were still left, and again we did not know what to do.
"'At that very moment, when the cigarette paper was burning quickly, with the same speed there appeared a white dove on the window-sill. It pecked up all the ashes and disappeared behind the edge of the sill. We were stunned by the sight. A holy miracle had been accomplished before our eyes. The symbol of the Holy Spirit, the white dove, had consumed the imperceptible burnt remains of the Holy Gifts. With tears of tender feeling, the elder said:
"'"Let us thank the Lord!"'"
In the last years of his life Fr. Vladimir lived illegally in Pushkino near Moscow, where he died on November 10, 1931. He was considered to be an elder, and the Optina elders sent many people for spiritual advice to him.
Fr. Vladimir was close to Archimandrite Seraphim Mikhailovich (Batyukov), who took on several of his spiritual children after his death, and was perhaps the last Josephite priest to serve openly in Moscow. He was born in 1880 in Moscow, of a merchant's family. He received a higher technical education. He visited Optina Desert and attended lectures in the Moscow Theological Academy. In 1919 he was ordained to the priesthood, serving in the church of the Resurrection in Moscow. In 1922 he was tonsured into the mantia with the name Seraphim. In 1926 he was raised to the rank of archimandrite. Then he served in churches in Moscow region. In 1926 he was arrested for a short time. After Metropolitan Sergius issued his notorious declaration, Fr. Seraphim joined the Catacomb Church. For some time he served in the church of the Holy Martyrs Cyrus and John in Moscow, until it was closed in April, 1931. Then he served in the Serbian podvorye on Solyanka street in Moscow, which for a long time remained the last church of the "non-commemorators" in the city until its closure in 1933. During the last years of his life he lived in Sergiev Posad with nuns from the Diveyevo monastery.
Schema-Monk Epiphanius (Chernov) writes about him: "With his priestly rank he received something which is rare in our time - the gift of the exorcism of demons. The elder received this a special gift for the healing of the possessed, the oppressed, 'those under the constraint of the devil'. Thus when he was serving, the church of the podvorye resembled a hospital for the mentally ill, in which there gathered every possible maimed, hunchbacked and epileptic person, as well as those clearly oppressed by evil spirits."
The following story is ascribed by Schema-Monk Epiphanius to Fr. Seraphim and in another to his spiritual father, Elder Zachariah of Sergiev Posad, who died in 1936.
"A special prayer service was being read over a possessed man. The man being healed was letting his eyes rove around in a terrified manner and muttering unclear words. It was as if something were boiling inside him...
"'No, no, I will not go out!' 'he' cried in a strange, rough voice which was not his own.
"But the prayer commanded the spirit 'in the name of Jesus Christ', 'in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit' to come out of him and never enter into him again...
"The priest repeated his call to set free God's creation... But that which was inside the man stubbornly remained within him:
"'No, no! I will not come out. I do not want to!...'
"But suddenly the priest said:
"'In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, I command you: tell me: was my father with you?'
"'He was! But your prayers got him out!'
"'And my mother: was she with you?'
"Again, in a disconcerted tone, suffering and despairing:
"'We did not see her!... For she strewed her whole path with pieces of bread...'
"Here it is necessary to make a clarification.
"The demon was talking about something that the man being healed did not know... In the time of the terrible famine of 1921 and 1922 the mother of Father Seraphim took upon herself the task of feeding homeless children. She literally collected pieces of bread from among her acquaintances. She did this day and night and thereby fed unfortunate children who had been left to the mercy of God. The demon was recalling this exploit when he said that 'she strewed her whole path with pieces of bread', that is, through her unparalleled mercifulness towards the unfortunate children she obtained an unhindered ascent to Heaven...
"After the possessed man had obeyed the priest as he adjured the demon to reply in the name of the Lord, the priest again said:
"'In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ I command you, unclean spirit, come out! In the name of the Holy Trinity I command you...'
"And suddenly, instead of a reply, there was a soul-rending shriek. And the oppressed man fell down, trembling throughout his body. He became black like a corpse... But the priest read the appointed prayers from The Book of Needs by Metropolitan Peter Moghila...
"That is how the demon was driven out, leaving with a terrible scream. But the sufferer himself knew nothing of this, he absolutely did not remember what had happened to him... They brought him to the Holy Cross and the Holy Icons. He willingly and fervently kissed them. But if they succeeded in doing that before his exorcism, it was only with great difficulty, with a struggle...
"Fr. Seraphim, was arrested, by the Soviet authorities and put in prison. And not for the first time. But this was the last arrest. After being released, the elder hid and led the life of a catacombnik, serving secretly in houses...
"It was wartime. He was sick in hospital. His death was known to no one. But the Lord informed us in a special way about the death of the righteous man...
"In the yard it was a Moscow winter. In the flat of a nun who was close to Batyushka Seraphim there was no light in the evenings. But it was not necessary. Even without it there was light in the flat from the street lamps. Now this flat was in the suburbs of the city, next to a cemetery. Matushka lay on a couch and dozed off... Suddenly she jumped up and went to the window. A sledge was passing slowly by with a single coffin from the prison. She cried to her son:
"'Quick, quick! They've brought batyushka. Run behind the sledge to the cemetery. We shall know where his grave is...'
"In a flash the son put his pea-jacket on his shoulders... He was not far behind the sledge. On it was a coffin and a driver. Nothing else... There was the cemetery. Graves for prisoners. He went up and pushed the coffin into a hole. He covered it haphazardly with frozen clods of earth and returned... The youth came out of his hiding-place. He went up to the fresh grave, prayed and drove a stick into the ground as a sign... He returned home and told everything to his mother, and she said to him:
"'I was dozing. Suddenly I saw batyushka, as if he were alive. He prodded me in the side and said: "I am at the window. Look at the sledge with the coffin."... I sent you to find out where batyushka's grave was...'
"Some days passed. Again matushka saw him, whether in sleep or in waking reality she did not know. Batyushka entered in his cassock with its wide embroidered belt and asked her:
"'Mother, were you very frightened when I prodded you in the side as you slept?'
"That is how the secret Catacomb Church lives!"
According to one source, Archimandrite Seraphim died on February 19, 1942.
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