"Once I was accompanying Vladyka to the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. He had to take a tram. It was spring and the weather was hot. The rays of the sun burned on the cupolas of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, and they seemed to be incandescent globes passing the burning heat onto the noisy bustle of Moscow. On the fiery pavements lines of people were waiting for bread - a famine was raging. A shaven old man with pitiful tufts of grey hair and staring, protruding eyes was greedily looking on as the bread was being handed out. Vladyka had a loaf, and he gave it to him. The old man pounced to kiss the hand of his Eminence Theodore, but Vladyka forcefully pulled it away, while the old man bowed almost to the ground in front of him before merging into the queue. I asked Vladyka whether he knew him. 'Of course, that's the mad official Peter Fyodorovich Spitsyn, I know him well. He has long been playing the fool in Moscow. You know, in order to understand the essence of Orthodoxy, it is necessary to study it, not in books and learned works, but in close contact with people who are forgotten and despised by the world, with fools and wanderers and madmen, even with criminals. This contact is especially useful for pastors. When he has come to know those who have been rejected by the world better, the pastor will understand that in fact these people are closer to Christ than he is, because sinners who are conscious of their fall love the Lord Who forgives and has mercy on them. Orthodoxy is the religion of compassion and humility, one must pity sinners and recognize one's own sins. And this feeling is given to one when one comes into contact with the world of the poor and outcast.'
"While listening to the words of Bishop Theodore, I recalled Metropolitan Philaret, who also loved to look for, and found, people who had been forgotten by life; and the spiritual countenance of Vladyka became closer to me. Besides respecting his mind and his heart, I felt the trembling of his soul - a radiant, pure soul attached to the sources of the Orthodox Faith.
"I was struck by the humility of Vladyka Theodore, this masterful administrator of the Moscow Theological Academy, a man who influenced a whole series of hierarchs in our time."
Revolution and Imprisonment (1917-1922)
On March 2, 1917, the Tsar abdicated, and with his fall the great building of Orthodox Russia began to totter. Among the first pillars of the Church to be attacked was Vladyka Theodore, who was forced out of his post in the Moscow Theological Academy in April. Fr. Sergius Sidorov writes: "In 1923 I became superior of the church of Saints Peter and Paul in Sergiev Posad, and the problems of my parish often forced me to visit Vladyka and ask his advice. Once, in order to console me, who had been hurt by a slander, his Eminence Theodore told me about the events that led up to his expulsion from the Moscow Theological Academy. These events shed a particularly vivid light on the inner nature of the persecutions raised against him by the liberal press and professors in 1917. This is his story:-
"'There are an exceptional number of demon-possessed people in Sergiev. Many of them are brought up to the Holy Chalice. Once, when I was serving the Liturgy in the church of the Academy, I noticed that someone was staring at me malevolently. And when the communicants began to come up to the Holy Chalice, among them came up a girl of about twenty, and I recognized her as the daughter of an old resident of Sergiev. When I had returned home and had started my usual rule of prayer, I could not pray. An inner voice ordered me to save the unfortunate girl from the evil spirit, which, as I had become clearly convinced in the church, dwelt in her. My conviction was based only on the special dull, cold look in the eyes of the girl. In the church she behaved with decorum. The next day I visited her parents and learned that their daughter really was ill. When she prayed she could not read the "Virgin Theotokos, Rejoice!", and she was overwhelmed by despondency at Holy Communion. This information convinced me that the girl was demon-possessed, and I began to pray strongly for her and performed the rite of exorcism over her. On the day that I performed this rite over her, a striking change took place in her attitude towards me. Before, she had acted towards me with complete trust and love. But after the service she stopped visiting me and hid in a distant room when I visited the house of her parents... Rumour had it that she was planning to leave Sergiev, and this, in my opinion, could have destroyed her, since she was under the special protection of St. Sergius.
"'Once, as I was travelling along Pereyeslavka, I saw her carrying a suitcase and heading for the station. I ordered the carriage to stop, got out, told her to get into the carriage with me, and took her home. On the way she asked me why I was not letting her go to the station, and declared that I had been in her house in the morning and had tried to persuade her to leave Sergiev. At that time I took her words for the ravings of a clearly sick person. But hardly had I crossed the threshold of her room when I heard laugh and a voice saying: 'I've outwitted you, don't fight with me, otherwise I'll drive you out of here.' I understood that this was the voice of a dark spirit, and, sprinkling the room with holy baptismal water, I forced it to be quiet. However, I could not sleep the whole of that night. I was thinking about the unfortunate girl the whole time, and I began to work out that her words saying that I had been in her house were not the ravings of a sick person, but the action of a dark power. The next morning I put a part of the relics of St. Sergius into my panagia and set off for the sick girl. The door into their flat was open, noone met me in the hall, and I went straight into her room. She was sitting on the bed, and opposite her sat my double, who was trying to persuade her to leave Sergiev without delay. Thunderstruck, I halted on the threshold. The double turned to me and, pointing to me, said to the girl: 'Don't believe him, it's the devil.' 'You're lying,' I said, and touched it with my panagia. My double suddenly disappeared and did not trouble the girl any more. She made a complete recovery from the mental illness that had tormented her since the age of seven. And two months later I was expelled from my post as rector of the Academy and from Sergiev! When I moved to Danilov I heard a voice in the night: 'I expelled you from Sergiev. Don't save my girls.'"
"'Why, Vladyka,' I asked, 'are there so many possessed people in Sergiev?' 'I think,' he replied, 'that the distinguishing trait of St. Sergius' exploit was his struggle with the demon. True, his life contains no reference to the way in which he struggled with them, but there is some indication that this struggle was long and stubborn. The saint chose a place inhabited by the dark powers to glorify God, and before building the monastery he destroyed the demons. But you know what the dark places are like. They become still more terrible and dark when the holy thing restraining it wavers.'"
On May 1, 1917, Vladyka Theodore was appointed superior of the Danilov monastery in Moscow. This appointment, as A. Flovsky writes, "was providential; for it allowed him to gather around the monastery all that was best, most alive and most Orthodox in the Church, resolving all doubts in a manner that unquestionably furthered the purity of Orthodoxy and uncompromisingly sweeping away all innovations and novelties that undermined the purity of the canons." The "Danilovites", as Vladyka Theodore's circle came to be called, included many future martyr-hierarchs, priests and monks, and was recognized by all as the foremost bastion of uncompromising Orthodoxy in the face of the Soviet Antichrist.
In July, 1917, a congress of learned monastics took place in the Holy Trinity - St. Sergius Lavra in Sergiev Posad. The congress was opened by Metropolitan Tikhon, the future patriarch, who immediately handed the presidency over to Vladyka Theodore, in spite of the fact that Vladyka had just been relieved of his post as rector of the Moscow Academy "at the unanimous demand of the council of professors and students of the Academy", as the newspapers put it. Metropolitan Tikhon's action was a clear indication of his firm support for Vladyka Theodore's confessing position, which became increasingly isolated and heroic as the revolution spread and deepened.
After the October revolution of 1917, the Bolshevik government openly declared that it would persecute the Orthodox "for exciting the masses against Soviet power on a religious basis". It announced the separation of Church and State and freedom of conscience for all believers and non-believers. However, "separation of Church and State" in fact meant persecution of the Church by the State, and "freedom of conscience" meant freedom from conscience and the license to commit all kinds of brutalities without fear of punishment.
As I.M. Andreyev wrote: "The militant atheist-materialist ideology of the Soviet State could not be reconciled with the existence of the Church and strove by all means to annihilate her as its principal ideological adversary. Soviet power openly and actively fought against religion and the Church, wishing to destroy her completely. The word 'Christian' became equivalent to 'counter-revolutionary'."
Seeing this clearly, the Local Council of the Russian Church, led by his Holiness Patriarch Tikhon, anathematized Soviet power in January, 1918, forbidding the members of the Church to have any communion whatsoever with the Bolsheviks. In the years that followed, under the almost unbearable pressure of the State organs, this uncompromising position was at times softened by the leadership of the Church. However, one hierarch who never softened his position, and continually exhorted others to remain uncompromising, was Vladyka Theodore. A great ascetic and an expert on patristic theology and canon law, he warned the patriarch against making too great concessions to the authorities and against any negotiations with the renovationists. Although this sometimes brought him into conflict with the patriarch, the two holy hierarchs never lost their love and respect for each other and communion between them was never broken.
Vladyka Theodore's zeal for the faith was combined with great humility. This is illustrated by an incident related by Fr. Sergius Sidorov, who once visited Vladyka Theodore and Fr. Simeon Kholmogorov in the Danilov monastery in order to tell them of a certain V. Sladkopevtsev's conversion to Catholicism: "Sladkopevtsev was a friend of Vladyka Theodore and a spiritual son of Archimandrite Simeon. His Eminence Theodore was very upset by my news. He began to condemn the Catholics sharply, calling them papists. I remember the circumstances of my discussion with Vladyka to this day. The cell was stuffy and filled with the fragrance of geraniums. Archimandrite Simeon was lying with his face covered on a narrow sofa. Vladyka Theodore was sitting in a white cassock in a big armchair under a small window. 'Tell V.V. from us,' he said, 'that we do not commend his passion for Catholicism and consider the Catholics to be heretics.' Vladyka had hardly uttered these words when the curtain dividing the little room into two was noisily pushed aside and a small, wrinkled, beardless man with severe eyes appeared and shouted to Vladyka: 'Don't you dare revile other faiths, fear God, don't be proud!' 'Well, don't worry. I admit I did get a bit carried away,' replied his Eminence equably. 'You see how strict he is,' said Vladyka to me, pointing to the dwarf. [The dwarf was Hieromonk Ignatius Bekrenev, a graduate of the Moscow Theological Academy.] The dwarf smiled and kissed the hand of Vladyka, who blessed him and left the cell. When he had gone out, Archimandrite Simeon said: 'You see, you can learn humility from Vladyka. He never objects with even a word when people rebuke him and point out his mistakes.'"
In June, 1918 Patriarch Tikhon transferred Vladyka Theodore from the see of Volokolamsk to that of Perm. However, Vladyka did not move to Perm, but remained in the Danilov monastery with the right to administer it. In this period, according to a book published by the Danilov monastery in 1988, the children of the Church who came to the monastery were served by Archimandrites Simeon (Kholmogorov), Polycarp (Solovyov), Seraphim (Klimkov) and Stephen (Safonov). Among the brothers who had previously struggled in Optina monastery were Archimandrite George (Lavrov) and Hieromonk Peter (Drachev). From 1919, Vladyka Theodore, foreseeing that he would probably be sent to prison soon, appointed his deputies in the Danilov monastery. "The last of these was Archimandrite Tikhon (Belyaev), who was distinguished for his kindness, meekness, strict ascetic life and exceptional artistic gifts. At the beginning of the 1920s, with the blessing of his Holiness Patriarch Tikhon, Bishop Theodore organized a higher theological school in the Danilov monastery, its purpose being, as he wrote, 'to study theology on a strictly ecclesiastical, patristic basis and to prepare pastors.'"
Vladyka Theodore was arrested for the first time n June 15, 1920, and on July 12 was sentenced to the camps "until the end of the Civil War" On October 25, 1920 his term was shortened in accordance with the amnesty to five years.
V.F. Martsinovsky describes a meeting with Vladyka and other imprisoned hierarchs in Taganka prison in the spring of 1921: "In the prison while I was there were Metropolitans Cyril [of Kazan] and Seraphim [of Warsaw], Archbishop Philaret of Samara, Bishops Peter, Theodore of Volokolamsk, Gurias [of Kazan], Igumens John Zvenigorodsky and George Meshchevsky, some priests, the Procurator of the Holy Synod A.P. Samarin, Professor Kuznetsov...
"In accordance with the will of the prisoners, Divine services were permitted, and a schoolroom in the prison was set aside for them. It was a small, well-lit hall with school benches and some portraits on the side walls: on the left - Karl Marx, on the right - Trotsky. There was no iconostasis in this improvised church... But there was a table covered with a white cloth, and on it stood a chalice for the celebration of the Mystical Supper, a cross and a Gospel... A seven-branched candlestick had been made of wood by some prisoners. Everything was simple, as it was, perhaps, in the catacombs of the first Christian centuries.
"The usual celebrant was Metropolitan Cyril, tall, with his majestic figure, regular features and wide grey beard. Bishops Theodore and Gury concelebrated with him. Also standing there were Igumen Jonah with his concentrated, somewhat severe face, and the simple and serious Fr. George. The choir was directed by the former Over-Procurator of the Holy Synod, A.D. Samarin. And how they chanted! Only suffering could give such life to the hymn-singing... Many of those present also chanted. How much feeling and profound experience is in the words of the Gospel: 'Blessed are they that weep, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.' As for those who suffer, not for the Faith, but only for their sins and crimes, their brokenness of heart is poured out in the prayer: 'Lord, have mercy', or in the penitential sigh of Great Lent: 'Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me'.
"Behind the small table, Professor Kuznetsov was selling candles. The prisoners loved to light them. In their quiet flicker they felt a warm, prayerful atmosphere which was reminiscent of the sketes of ancient piety, of the monastic life.
"Pascha was approaching. It was the first year that I had not fasted in preparation for Communion in the Orthodox Church. The thought occurred to me that I should receive Communion. But dogmatically speaking I was not quite convinced... So I put a trial question, as it were, to Metropolitan Cyril when I met him on the way to church. He invited me to come to him... The room looked inviting and clean. In the window bouquets of flowers stood out beautifully in the sun. They were offerings of admirers (the people did not forget their beloved pastors). From them they also received parcels of food, which many of the prisoners shared in, of course. Metropolitan Cyril was sitting on his cot at the back of the room, under the window. On his left was Bishop Theodore, and on his right - Bishop Gurias. The metropolitan spoke to me in a kind, fatherly tone; the two other bishops, who were a little younger, evaluated my views in a more theological manner. 'All this is sectarian pride,' Bishop Theodore said to me drily and severely. Bishop Gurias had a tendency for polemical argument, but he spoke more gently: 'It is a great sin that you should despise the sacrament of Baptism which was performed on you in your childhood. You must repent - and only after that can we allow you to come to Communion.' I expounded my views to the bishops. They shrugged their shoulders, but did not change their demand. 'As far as I know the canons, you could allow me to receive Communion. There is a rule which permits the giving of Communion to people of other faiths if they ask for it in extreme need, danger of death, etc. And we are all in just such a situation here...' 'No, this rule cannot be applied to the present situation,' said Metropolitan Cyril [obviously he had apostasized and was still not repentant]. 'God has punished you for your heresy by imprisoning you,' one of the bishops suddenly said hotly. 'And mark my word: you will not get out of prison until you repent.'
"In the following days this bishop would often start talking to me during exercise periods. 'Vladyka,' I asked him once, 'have you look through the passages from the Holy Scriptures which I referred to in my report?' 'Yes, I have looked through them... If you want, we can now discuss each of them.' And he began to go through them in order. 'Mark 16.16: "He who believes and is baptized will be saved." Well, yes: first faith and then baptism. And in Matthew faith comes first, too... Yes, you're right. But this is your mistake: you have forgotten that the Church has the fullness of grace, and in consequence she has changed the order in accordance with the demands of the time - and has begun to demand, first baptism, and then faith...' A loud voice announced the end of the exercise period. As he walked in the crowd towards the door of the prison, the bishop whispered to me the reproach: 'It is Satan who has deceived you into going against Church tradition.'
"The next day he met me again on the staircase and gave me a big bouquet of lilac. It was obvious that he wanted to soothe the pain which his words of the day before had caused me.
"Pascha in prison. March-April, 1921. Pascha night... The whole of Moscow, the heart of Russia, was trembling from joy... The dense waves of the copper church bells' booming poured through the prison (which was on a hill). Paschal Mattins should have started at 12 midnight, but it was postponed for fear of escape-attempts. Only at six in the morning, when it had begun to dawn, did they begin to lead us out of our cells. Moscow was booming no longer, only our bodyguards' bunches of keys tinkled in the corridors. As always happens at Pascha, there were many people in the church. Those in freedom had sent hierarchical paschal vestments flashing with silver and gold. Metropolitan Cyril, all shining in heavy brocade, was doing the censing, sending in all directions not only incense, but also puffs of flame that burst out of the censer. In his hand he held red paschal candles... 'Christ is risen!' 'He is risen indeed!' voices boomed under the vaults of the prison corridors. Many had tears in their eyes, although most of them were severe men who were used to much. The celebrated paschal sermon of St. John Chrysostom was read, greetings were sent to all, both those who had fasted and those who had not fasted, both those who came at the first hour and those who came at the last, eleventh hour... There were cakes and eggs, which had been brought from there, from freedom... I am moved to tears when I remember the great love which burned especially on that day in the prison and which embraced its cold, dark walls in a brotherly, tender caress. They were bringing things all through Holy Saturday - eggs, cakes, pascha made of cheese, flowers, candles - and all at a time when Moscow was starving... Perhaps they brought the last that they had, so as to cast some paschal joy even there, within the dank, dark casemates..."
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