Early Years (to 1905)
Archbishop Theodore, in the world Alexander Vasilyevich Pozdeyevsky,was born on March 21, 1876, in the village of Makaryevskoye, Vetyluzhsky uyezd, Kostroma province (according to another source, Nizhegorod province) in the family of the priest Basil Pozdeyevsky. The church in which Protopriest Basil served has remained to this day - the church of St. Macarius of Unzhensk.Fr. Basil died in the 1930s. He was buried near the church. There still exists a house that was built with funds provided by Vladyka Theodore when he was rector of the Moscow Theological Academy. Vladyka Theodore had seven sisters and one brother.
Once, shortly after Alexander's birth, there was an all-night vigil in the church in Makaryevskoye. When the clergy came out for the polyelei the local "fool", whom the villagers considered to be blessed, entered the church and during the magnification cried out: You're praying here, but there a Vladyka has been born." And he prophesied that the Vladyka would be a pillar of Orthodoxy. And so it turned out
In 1896, on graduating from Kostroma theological seminary, he entered the Kazan Theological Academy.If in Moscow at this time the true spirit of the Church was as it were buried in the depths of the people's consciousness, while on the surface, amidst the intelligentsia, there ruled quite a different spirit - an antichristian, anti-Church spirit, the spirit of people who had lost the true faith, in distant Kazan, by contrast, a true and living faith had been preserved. The Kazan Theological Academy had been founded in 1841 with the aim of sending spiritual workers out into Eastern Russia and Siberia. Andso apart from the usual theological subjects, it also had two missionary sections. It was in this grace-filled atmosphere that the youth Alexander came to maturity.
Vladyka Theodore's instructors during his years in the Kazan Academy included the outstanding elder, Schema-Archimandrite Gabriel (Ziryanov) of Seven Lakes Monastery, and the rector of the Academy, Bishop Anthony (Khrapovitsky).
As Hieromartyr Symeon (Kholmogorov), the author of the Elder Gabriel's life and one of Vladyka Theodore's closest friends, wrote: "At this time the greater part of the Elder's visitors were students from the Kazan Theological Academy, primarily monks. They had long needed such a guide in the spiritual life, one who was full of love, unsophisticated and experienced, and now with eagerness they came to the Seven Lakes Monastery. However, as Father Gabriel himself later recalled, they often came to him out of sheer curiosity and left believers. Many of them hadn't even believed in God! But after their conversion they would sometimes begin to give themselves over to despair because of their former way of life and over their future salvation. Beneath the weight of their sins they now lost hope in forgiveness and salvation.
Father Gabriel comforted them and strengthened them in every way possible, and his words about God's measureless love and kindness were the testimony of a reliable witness who had personally experienced the depths of the loving-kindness of Christ. His words unexpectedly penetrated the darkest corners of men's hearts, kindling the bright ray of hope for salvation which would begin to awaken the soul by the touch of Christ's grace. And the sinner, forgetting himself, would see only the all-forgiving Face of Christ, and yearn for Him and begin to live and breathe together with Him."
Later, when Vladyka Theodore was rector of the Moscow Theological Academy, and the Elder Gabriel would visit him, he would gather together all the monks to meet him. And the meeting with the grace-filled Elder would leave an ineradicable imprint on the lives of them all.
No less a powerful an influence on the students was the young rector, Bishop Anthony, who educated a whole generation of outstanding bishops, priests and religious teachers. He placed particular emphasis on pastoral theology in the system of higher theological education, and his devotion and love effected a gradual change in the system of education in the direction of a closer and more constant spiritual and moral intercourse between teachers and taught. Almost every day after supper he would arrange tea-parties with the students in his rooms. "On a long table," writes one of the participants, "there stood a samovar and ten to fifteen glasses, with sugar and jam. One of the students would pour out the tea. Over tea a conversation would begin and perplexities would be resolved. Sometimes quarrels would arise. But in general, there were all sorts of people present, and one could learn much."
Another of the Academy's graduates, Bishop Metrophanes (Abramov) writes: "A beautiful choir was organized under the direction of the rector. No other academy could rival it, for Vladyka Anthony attracted all the young people who had firmly decided to dedicate themselves to the service of the Church in the priestly or monastic ranks. There were as many as 40 such students (priests and monks). The sacristan of the academy church was the humble and meek youth, Peter Kedrov from Vyatka diocese, who later became [the hieromartyr] Archbishop Pachomius of Chernigov. The staff-bearer was the likeable Vitya Ryashentsev from the Tambov high school, who later became the bishop of Gomel [and hieromartyr Archbishop Barlaam of Perm]."
A third major influence on Vladyka Theodore in the Kazan Academy was the brilliant young philosopher, Professor V.I. Nesmelov. Although his lectures were difficult, and he was harsh in his criticism of the students' written course work, his thinking was deep and highly appreciated by Vladyka Anthony, who wrote with reference to one of his works: "The true nature of philosophy consists in its finding clear, positive formulations of the unclear intuitions of human consciousness as a whole, in consciously penetrating into its syllogism so that anyone could joyously cry out: 'Yes, that's exactlyit! Yes, I recognize the same in myself!' The philosopher is not he who communicates to mankind some unexpected marvels, but he clarifies man to himself. The main thought of the author," continues Vladyka Anthony, "is that philosophizing attains its goal, the recognition of truth, only when it attends, not to the investigation of the things surrounding us, but to man himself ('know yourself' is the foundation of spiritual life), and, moreover, not to man's material composition or to the structure of his logical modes of thought, but to the investigation of the meaning of his existence and reality. From this point of view, the mind can successfully tackle only those subjects of philosophical thought which are bound up with the questions: 'Why do I live?' 'How can I fulfil the demands of my own moral consciousness?'"
In 1900 Vladyka Theodore was tonsured into monasticism. The rite of monastic tonsure was always celebrated by Bishop Anthony accompanied by Elder Gabriel. One eye-witness describes it as follows: "The procession with the novice who was about to be tonsured was particularly majestic. In front walked the universally venerated Elder, Schema-Archimandrite Gabriel, who reverently marked the path of the novice with the sign of the cross. The tonsure usually took place during the All-Night Vigil, after the Great Doxology. At the end of the service our Rector-Bishop always gave an edifying sermon to the newly-tonsured monk. Then the whole brotherhood accompaniedhim to his cell, where the rector blessed him with an icon."
In the same year of 1900 Vladyka Theodore graduated from the Academy with the degree of candidate of theology, and on July 24 was ordained to the priesthood. In 1901 he was appointed a teacher in the Kaluga theological seminary, and in 1902 - inspector of the Kazan theological seminary. From
July 3, 1902 to 1903 he was inspector of the Kaluga theological seminary.On October 13, 1903 he was awarded the degree of master of theology. His thesis was entitled "The Ascetic Views of St. John Cassian". On February 4, 1904he was appointed rector of the Tambov theological seminary with the rank of archimandrite.
It was the year 1905. A new inspector arrived to take up his duties at the Tambov seminary - Fr. Simeon (Kholmogorov), with whom Archimandrite Theodore had become friends when they studied together in Kazan. They served together for a little more than a month... At that time Tambov was one ofthe most revolutionary cities. The local revolutionary party had composed a list of people whom they were to kill: the governor, the vice-governor, the chief of police, the rector of the seminary and other highly-placed people. The first shot was aimed at the rector of the seminary... In his reminiscences on his meetings with Vladyka Theodore, the priest Sergius Sidorov writes: "In 1905 Archimandrite Simeon (in the world Michael Kholmogorov) was inspector of the Tambov theological seminary. During the revolutionary events one of the students made an attempt on the life of the rector of the seminary, Archimandrite Theodore (Pozdeyevsky). Fr. Simeon succeeded in shielding him with his body, and the bullet struck a vertebra at his waist, paralyzing the lower part of his body permanently. From that moment Vladyka Theodore never left his saviour," visiting him every day and fulfilling his smallest request.
Years in Moscow (1906-1917)
On August 19, 1906, Archimandrite Theodore was appointed rector of the Moscow theological seminary, and from August 19, 1909 - rector of the Moscow Theological Academy. On September 14, 1909, he was consecrated bishop of Volokolamsk, a vicariate of the Moscow diocese, by the future hieromartyr, Metropolitan Vladimir of Moscow, and other hierarchs.
The religious life of Moscow in the decade before the revolution was quite different from that of provincial Kazan. The 80s and 90s of the nineteenth century had been a time of social weariness and depression, but at the beginning of the twentieth century there was a return to the faith in some intellectual circles. However, this return was often sickly and mixed with deceptions, and many members of the intelligentsia became infected with unbelief. As one church writer put it: "It is not the flesh, but the spirit that has been corrupted in our time, and men pine away to the point of despair."
In his work The Meaning of Christian Asceticism, Vladyka Theodore wrote: "Many contemporary renovators of Christianity think it unnecessary to take account of the true attitude of Christianity towards man, his nature and the meaning of life. They create their own ideal of life and judge Christianity in accordance with that ideal. They want to bring in Christianity as the most suitable, so to speak, most vital factor contributing to the realization of their ideal. The most important thing, the question of sin, is completely ignored by them, and they have no idea what it is. That is why, for example, Merezhkovsky, who accuses Christianity of the split between flesh and spirit that destroyed the pagan world, has no explanation of where this split appeared among the pagans or why they lived by affirming the flesh. But Christianity says that this destructive split and disharmony in the nature of man was not imposed on man from without, but lives within him, as a consequence of sin... This is the corruption, illness and servitude of man to the flesh, and in order to understand what happened in the soul of man through sin it is necessary to penetrated into the psychology of sin. One should point out that, among the representatives of that part of the intelligentsia which is thinking of going along the path of Christianity,
This path is indeed new, because, far from wanting to accept Christianity as it is and always was, historically speaking, they want to find - or, better, invent - in this same Christianity certain new ways of incarnating it in life and, through it, of renovating human life... For the man who is used to living in accordance with the ideals of the new philosophy of life, or in accordance with the moods revealed by the philosophy of Nietzsche and the wild heroes of the works of Gorky, L. Andreyev, etc., it is of course not easy immediately to accept Christianity in its historical integrity, and such people find much in the teaching of the Christian Church that is as strange as it is incomprehensible. The Apostle Paul said that the preaching of Christ crucified appeared as very strange and difficult to accept: for some it was simply a deception, and for others - sheer madness... This same teaching about Christ, crucified and suffering, this demand that man should crucify his passions and lusts, this Christianity imbued with the spirit of compunction and the suppression of the carnal principle in the name of spiritual interests - in a word: the ascetical spirit of Christianity has disturbed the new pagans who seek in the Christianity the truth of life (as they understand it, of course) and has become a stone of stumbling and fall in the task of following Christ. Open the pages of any work of Merezhkovsky, Minsky or Rozanov, and you will see that their articles are mainly occupied with a criticism of monasticism, which is identified with asceticism. This strange phenomenon is the result of the fact that a part of the intelligentsia which is seeking God has approached Christianity with the very definite aim of reforming it, which is nothing other than the same decadence applied to the religious life."
It was truly an age of universal religious crisis, whose religious searchings, in the words of one thinker, were distinguished by a decadent, dionysiac mood and the absence of spiritual sobriety. Most of these searchers were some distance from the Church. Nevertheless, the intelligentsia began to return to the Church, but in the expectation of reforms. In many circles and meetings, and in all the discussions and arguments, one question was feltto be basic and critical: How was Christianity to be made influential in life? This was the whole meaning of the religious searchings...
But there was also a misunderstanding of the meaning of Christian salvation, which resulted in many accusing asceticism of misanthropy, as being "contrary to the idea of the public good".
Vladyka Theodore wrote about this as follows:
"The proponents of the idea that ascetics should do public service make the direct demand that the antiquated institution of monasticism should be reformed by turning monasteries into associations and congregations with a predominantly practical significance. Among secular writers, Merezhkovsky, for example,in his article 'The Last Saint', directly states that 'the whole of ancient eastern and Russian asceticism is imbued with the spirit of hatred and disdain for society'. Berdyaev for some reason represents asceticism as rejoicing in the existence of diabolical evil in the world, for if this evil did not exist, where would ascetics go in their search for reasons to suffer? This is an example of the contemporary misunderstanding of the nature and meaning of Christian asceticism..." (The Meaning of Christian Asceticism)
However, this atmosphere, which reigned in the capitals at that time, did not satisfy everyone. There were also groups of Orthodox activists who shared the views of Vladyka Theodore and stood close to him. Among these was his spiritual son, the well-known church publisher and publicist Michael Alexandrovich Novoselov, who became the secret Bishop Mark and died in exile for the faith, V. Kozhevnikov, O. Yezerskij, A.D. Samarin and Paul Mayesurov. This group of lay theologians were convinced that the true voice of Christian truth came from the teaching of the elders, who had preserved intact the genuine path of Orthodoxy.
From 1909 to 1914, Vladyka Theodore took an active part in the publication Theological Herald, turning it into one of the best of the theological journals. He attached an appendix to the journal devoted to the writings of the Holy Fathers. And he wrote: "Glory and honour to the great and holy Fathers of the Church, in that they defended the purity of Christian consciousness, and in good time overthrew those ideas - mere products of the human mind - which were introduced by false teachers as tares among the wheat into the enclosure of Christian Church consciousness. However, the historical path of the growth of the Church and the Kingdom of God will never be free from these tares. And since the Councils, the field of the Kingdom of God has been zealously seeded, especially 'while we slept', by tares of all kinds, both from the dogmatic and the moral aspects. We think that the whole process, lasting many centuries, of the assimilation of Christianity and its principles by the historical life of man has been at the same time a constant process, a constant attempt, a constant historical tendency on the part of mankind to counterfeit Christianity, to assimilate it to its purely human demands and tastes, that is, in the language of theology, in accordance 'with the spirit of this world'."
However, in spite of the great advance that Vladyka Theodore made in reorganizing theological education on a strictly patristic basis, the opposite, renovationist trend took the upper hand after the February revolution of 1917. At that time, in the same Theological Herald, there was published an article entitled "The New Theology" by a teacher of the Moscow Academy, M.M. Tarayev, in which the teaching of the Holy Fathers was reduced to gnosticism, and gnosticism and asceticism were declared to be "inveterate enemies of the Russian genius"!
Although the general image of Vladyka was of a strict, unsmiling rigorist, he was in fact a man of great compassion and humility. Two incidents illustrate this clearly.
Fr. Sergius Sidorov, who was shot for the faith in 1937 in Butovo, writes: "The first time I saw Vladyka Theodore was in the late autumn of 1915 in Sergiev. Mists wrapped the Assumption cathedral and metropolitan's residence in a white cloud. The all-night vigil had just ended in the Academy church. The worshippers were hurrying towards the gates, sliding over the wet snow. I had stopped by the grave of I. Aksakov, and was waiting for my companions, when a tall monk wearing glasses and a velvet skull-cap came up to me and said: 'Have you not come from M.A. Novoselov?' 'Yes, I know him.' 'Please, I beg you, give him this. The address is: N. Street, house 10, flat 7... Only don't look to see what's in this bundle and envelope and don't say that it's from me.' 'Vladyka, how glad I am' - I heard the voice of Durylin coming up to us. He introduced me to Bishop Theodore, who invited us to his room and gave us an excellent supper.
"After visiting Vladyka, I carried out his request. Number 10 housed the unfortunate family of a paralytic, who lived in terrible filth and hunger. I do not know what was in the bundle Vladyka gave to the unfortunates, but when I handed over the envelope, they opened it and 200 rubles fell out of it. From that evening I became a frequent visitor of the renowned at that time head of 'the reactionary clergy', Bishop Theodore, the rector of the Moscow Theological Academy, and I became his fervent admirer. I did not share many of his views, but on seeing his genuine kindness which was hidden from many, and on listening to his wise speeches imbued with a burning love for God's creatures, I recognized in his cell the essence of genuine Orthodoxy.
"After 1917, Vladyka Theodore was retired to the Danilov monastery, where his glory, the glory of the first righteous man protecting the Church from rebellious secular movements, began. In 1918 I was attending a theological course on which Bishop Theodore was teaching.
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