Arsenius Metropolitan And Hieroconfessor Of Novgorod

Metropolitan Arsenius, in the world Auxentius Georgievich Stadnitsky, was born on January 22, 1862 in Kishinev province, in the family of a priest. In 1880 he finished his studies at the Kishinev theological seminary, and became a teacher at the Kishinev and Yedinets theological seminaries. In 1881 he entered the Kiev Theological Academy, and in 1885 graduated from it with the degree of candidate of theology. In 1895 he became master of theology and was tonsured into the mantia. In 1896 he was ordained to the priesthood and became inspector, later rector of the Novgorod theological seminary, and superior of the monastery of St. Anthony the Roman with the rank of archimandrite. In 1897 he became inspector of the Moscow Theological Academy, and in 1898 - rector of that Academy. In February, 1899, he was consecrated bishop of Volokolamsk, a vicariate of the Moscow diocese. From 1903 to 1910 he was bishop of Pskov. In 1904 he became a doctor of Church history. He was also an archaeologist, and published many works. In 1905 he became a member, and later president, of the Educational Committee attached to the Holy Synod. In 1907 he was raised to the rank of archbishop and was elected a member of the State Council. In 1910 he became archbishop of Novgorod. In 1917-18 he was a member of the Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, the deputy president of the Council, being in fact the leader of almost all the Council's sessions. He was also a member of the Council's department on the legal position of the Church in the State. He was one of the three candidates to the patriarchal throne, and received the second highest number of votes after Archbishop Anthony (Khrapovitsky) on the first ballot. On November 28 / December 11, 1917, Patriarch Tikhon raised him and Archbishop Anthony to the rank of metropolitan. He was a close associate of the Patriarch, and a member of the Higher Church Council and the Holy Synod. In 1919 he was arrested, returning to his duties in 1921. In 1922 he was arrested again, put on trial together with Patriarch Tikhon and others, and served a term of exile in Central Asia. He spent 11 months in one of the GPU prisons, and was then exiled to Turkestan. According to one source, in 1926 he was in Butyrki prison, from whence he was transferred to Tashkent in the same year.

The sergianists have always tried to claim Metropolitan Arsenius as one of their own because he was numbered among the members of Metropolitan Sergius' Synod in July, 1927, and was appointed metropolitan of Tashkent and Turkestan by him on August 11/24, 1933. However, the truth is that, although he did not see through the deception presented by Metropolitan Sergius immediately, he ended his days as a confessing bishop. Thus one of his fellow prisoners, Fr. Michael Polsky, wrote about him in his memoirs as follows:

"The Apostle Peter had much love for the Saviour, but in the hour of temptation he fell heavily. I recall many new illustration of this eternal example. Who in spiritual circles does not know the now reposed Metropolitan Arsenius Stadnitsky. He had a broad mind, excellent education, a powerful will, honourableness and uprightness. He had a very firm, decisive, unbending character, being strict both to his subordinates and to himself. And once when the Lord had united us for a short period in the Moscow Butyrki prison, this glorious and great man, the metropolitan of Novgorod, a member of the Synod and of the State Duma and Council, from a pure heart told me, a little, unknown priest, what feelings of pusillanimity and cowardice he had suddenly experienced in the inner prison of the GPU when he was awaiting execution by shooting.

"'I am already an old man,' he said, 'I have nothing to look forward to. I have been a monk from my youth, finally I became a hierarch, an example and model of Christianity and Christian courage. And yet I was quite unable to conquer myself. I experienced such a thirst to live, such a lack of will to die, such despondency and struggle with myself and fear of death and pusillanimity - it was simply terrible. I fought, but could not conquer myself. Such is my bankruptness and such is the sorrow I feel for myself.'

"Later the great man fearlessly wrote from his Turkestan exile to Metropolitan Sergius, protesting against his agreement with the God-fighting authorities and rejecting any possibility of compromise with them.

"Metropolitan Arsenius experienced and overcame his human weakness in his Gethsemane struggle before death, and with complete strength of spirit rejected every temptation, dooming himself to long and harsh imprisonment."

The same informant also recounted the following fact:

"By the way, the bishops who fell into schism usually played a terrible role of agent provocateur for the GPU. In the GPU prison, the renovationist Metropolitan Eudocimus (Meshchersky) tried to force Metropolitan Arsenius of Novgorod to join renovationism. Metropolitan Arsenius told him, his former colleague in the Moscow Academy:

"'But you must know that renovationism is unlawful.'

"'What can one do - they demand it,' replied Archbishop Eudocimus, motioning with his head to the chekist's door.

"When Metropolitan Arsenius remained unbending, Archbishop Eudocimus angrily said to him:

"'Well then rot in prison!..'

"And with this he left the prisoner."

Metropolitan Arsenius died in Tashkent on January 28 / February 10, 1936 (according to another source, February 23, 1936).

(Sources: M.E. Gubonin, Akty Svyateishago Patriarkha Tikhona, Moscow: St. Tikhon's Theological Institute, 1994, pp. 842-843, 964; Protopresbyter Michael Polsky, Novye Mucheniki Rossijskiye, Jordanville, 1957, vol. 2, pp. 148-149; Lev Regelson, Tragediya Russkoj Tserkvi, 1917-1945, Paris: YMCA Press, pp. 524, 528; Ikh Stradaniyami Ochistitsa Rus', Moscow, 1996, p. 60)

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