When the time does not matter. St. Athanasius the Confessor, Bishop of Kovrov

Canonization of martyrs and Confessors had done the impossible a departure from historical specifics. In their lives of an abstract “Lord city” can not appear. Can not least because the portraits of these rulers hung in the school where I studied our parents. About the life of Saint Athanasius the Confessor, Bishop of Kovrov, on the day of his memory Alexander Kravetsky.

Bishop Athanasius (Sakharov)

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Almost contemporaries

Icon of swedenlithuania Athanasius (Sakharov), Bishop of Kovrov. The icon was painted in 2006 for the Church of the Intercession of the blessed virgin in Butyrskaya prison the castle on the donations of parishioners of St. Nicholas Church in Biryulyovo

The beginning of the General Church veneration of the new martyrs and Confessors of Russia, gave us a completely unique experience of the attainment of Holiness. More recently, our life was separated from the earthly lives of the saints for many centuries. This temporal distance deprived us of the opportunity of reading about the early Christian martyrs, to try their exploits for themselves. In hagiographical texts we were looking for a moral lesson, enjoying the refined style of the Byzantine hagiographers, were read the historical details.

We could only imagine the fear and the pain that a living person felt being in the arena among the wild beasts.

To read the life as a record of the witness people have forgotten how long ago, centuries ago. Not accidentally, the literature historians wrote about the lives of the principle of abstraction, the refusal of their authors from the specific historical details.

At the time of D. S. Likhachev pointed to the fact that the authors of Russian saints ‘ lives, telling about very specific events, and strove to speak descriptive, without resorting to the contemporary political terminology. Instead of “Governor” says, “a certain nobleman”, “elder”; instead of “Prince” — “the ruler of the land.” Expelled from the lives of the names of incidental characters, replaced on the descriptive “a single husband”, “a virgin”, etc. In the practice of the Russian Church canonization was carried out on a considerable lapse of time.

Canonization of martyrs and Confessors had done the impossible a departure from historical specifics. Novopolevaya saints are for us almost contemporaries. They are the same age our grandmothers or great-grandmothers, and then their life belongs to the time about which we know not only from books but also from the stories of elders.

In these hagiographies abstract “Lord city” can not appear. Can not least because the portraits of these rulers hung in the school where I studied our parents. And children in red ties, the descendants of whom we are, gave these rulers flowers on the anniversary of the revolution.

Unnoticed revolution

Unlike the approach of the historian from the writer of the life, the hagiographer, is well known. The historian deals with the description of the life, biography and hagiographer — hagiography, that is, the description of Holiness. A small distance that separates our time from the time of the martyrs, gives the opportunity to see how one differs from another.

Sergei Sakharov was born into a family with traditional provincial lifestyle. The child willingly went to the temple and loved the solemn hierarchal Liturgy, and at home playing “in Church”, built from the parent of a shawl something like the Episcopal vestments and portraying the censers, and blessed, etc.

And in his youth showed the ability to get around, and perhaps, to ignore the temptations of the time. Very indicative in this respect are the years of his studies at the Vladimir theological Seminary. About her Seminary life, the Saint remembered very warmly. However, Seminary life in those years, as it was reconstructed would be a historian, seems not idilicno.

About Vladimir’s Seminary has been preserved memoirs of Metropolitan Evlogy (Georgievsky), who had served in her inspector in 1895-1897.

“I took away your vodka seminarians and severely scolded them, but without publicity. When in the diocesan hostel guard, moving tables, found a forged bottom shelf (there fell an armful of banned books), I was investigating in private. Sometimes, the evening get in the shoes of the dormitories and suddenly I hear: “Oh, if I ACE slipped!” Clearly seminarians quietly playing cards. And I’ll call them: “Yes, Yes, good move!” Confusion”.

In 1903, that is, at a time when it was attended by the future Saint, in the Seminary was created by an underground cell of the Social democratic party, collapsed after one of its organizers was killed by careless handling of explosives. In the summer of 1905, there was held a clandestine Congress of students of seminaries. And in December of the same year, Vladimir’s seminarians went on strike.

Characteristically, Sergei Sakharov, in front of which these events transpired, told nothing about them. The impression that social life and the political passions it especially was not interested. Remembering the Seminary years, he often spoke about Archbishop Vladimir Nicolae (Nalimov), a strict ascetic, the lover and connoisseur of the statutory services. The rest, as it appeared, passed by and the particular meaning for him had not.

After Seminary he studied at the Moscow theological Academy (Sergey Sakharov was tonsured a monk with the name Athanasius), teaching, participation in the work of the local Council, after which hieromonk Athanasius returned in the Vladimir diocese.

“A prison we have nothing to fear…”

Bishop he became in 1921. Before the ordination of the future Bishop was summoned to the GPU and threatened reprisals if he would agree to become a Bishop. If before the revolution an Episcopal staff had significant social benefits, in 1920-e years arhierejskoe not promise nothing but persecution and hardship.

First time of Saint Athanasius was arrested just seven months after his consecration. By his own calculations, over the years arhierejskoe the Department he spent only 2 years, 9 months and 2 days, “in bonds and bitter work” (i.e., in prisons and in exile) — 21 years, 11 months and 12 days.

About how the prisoners lived, we know quite a lot. Reading the letters of St. Athanasius from the camps and the memories of people who saw him there, amazed at some organic ability to ignore the inhuman living conditions, and the ability to remain a monk, no matter what.

Here’s a snippet from his letter, written in Tagansky prison where he was awaiting shipment to the link:

“But I look back now on the prisoners for the cause of Christ, bishops and presbyters, — he wrote to his mother, hear about the Orthodox pastors, in other prisons, which is what peace and amiability at all. <…> And the prison we have nothing to fear. It’s better than freedom, I’m not exaggerating saying. Here, the true Orthodox Church. We are here as if they were taken to the infirmary during epidemics. However, some of the tightness test. But how many sorrows. <…> The constant anticipation of an invitation to visit, where you do not want. <…> Then try to resist. And we all this are almost guaranteed. And so, when I get sympathy for my present situation, I am very confused. The plight of the Orthodox who now, being at liberty, carry the banner of Orthodoxy. Help them, Lord.”

His camp letters more like a letter from a man who went and pilgrimage purposes. in a remote monastery. Here is how he describes committed on the bunk Belbaltlag (1940) Christmas service and mental visit to the graves of loved ones:

EP. Athanasius Sakharov, Ishim, photos, 1943

“At night, with some breaks (fell asleep… Woe is me lazy…) have made a festive vigil. Went after him to glorify Christ rozhdshagosya and native graves, and kelem alive. Here and there one and the same, sang the troparion and kontakion of the feast, then ectent purely by changing only one petition, and the dismissal holiday, after which congratulated both the living and the dead, “all ye Bo That the living essence”. Like to see you all and to be comforted prayer fellowship. And where I was… Began, of course, from the graves of my sweet mom, then my dad had, and a godmother and then went to travel to Holy Russia, and the first thing to Petushki, then Vladimir, Moscow, Carpets, Bogolyubovo, Sobinka, nut, Sergiev, Romanov-Borisoglebsk, Yaroslavl, Rybinsk, Peter, then in exile — Kem, Ust-Sysolsk, Turukhansk, Yeniseisk, Krasnoyarsk…”

And as a comment to this “Christmas picture” we may add that this letter was written 51-year-old man with a bad heart, breathless when walking, which daily had to perform a five-kilometer path to the workplace, and the job was unloading wood, moving just piled trees, snow, etc. Any items pertaining to Church life in the camp is not allowed. Have been chosen not only books, but also, for example, result in sending a painted Easter egg. Despite official permission to imprisoned priests to keep long hair, he was subjected to forced grooming.

In some camps were allowed to have books. The story E. V. Pushkinoj about the arrival of hieromonk Araxa (Bocharova) at the Mariinsky camp (1944):

“The door opened. There was a knock of the knuckles “goat”, Mat and thieves jargon. The air was solid blue tobacco smoke. The shooter pushed O. Yerxa and he pointed to a place on the benches. The door slammed shut. Stunned, father Ierax stood in the doorway. Someone said to him, “go Over there!” Going in the direction indicated, he stopped at an unexpected sight. On the lower bunk, with tucked up legs, around lined with books, sat the Bishop Athanasius. Looking up and seeing father Araxa that I knew the Lord was not at all surprised, did not say Hello, but just said, “Read! The voice, the hymn so-and-so!” “Yes unless you can?” — “You can, you can! Read!” Father Hierax began to help the Lord to continue the service, however, it jumped all the anxiety, all the heavy that just weighed the soul.”

“The prayer you all will be saved…”

His last years the Saint lived in retirement in the suburban Petushki. Rehabilitation was denied. In the Khrushchev era were rehabilitated in the first place, former Soviet and party functionaries arrested during party purges. The Ministers of the Church were still enemies, the correctness of the conviction which the authorities do not doubt.

In Petushki St. Athanasius lived the rest of his life after returning from the camps. Preserved the house where the Saint died. Pious parishioners, this house turned into a small Museum. The room remains personal belongings: a bed, Desk, icons, hand-embroidered Sainted elements of clothing, wooden Panagia, carved and painted them.

In 1958 the Prosecutor of the Vladimir region wrote that since more than 30 years ago Bishop Athanasius did not hide that he as “a believer and a servant of the Church, there can be solidarity with militant bezbozhniki authority regarding his religious hopes and religious service,” the verdict was fair and the grounds for rehabilitation no.

The last years of his life to the Lord was confined to the secret service, which, however, had its advantages. And it wasn’t just so ogorzalek Bishop Athanasius widespread reduction in Church services. Only in the cell could, for example, to pray before analogni icon, which depicted the Royal family and the Patriarch Tikhon avid fan of which was the master. Only space devoid of prying eyes and ears, each year on 7 and 8 November (Soviet celebrations devoted to the October revolution) to hold in strict fasting and prayer for Russia.

Enforced isolation of the Saint was not a shutter. He had a very active correspondence, to him constantly and people came with their questions and problems. Church historian M. E. Gubonin, who visited the Bishop Athanasius in 1958, compared the Bishop to the bishops-exiles of the time of the Ecumenical councils.

“Looking at him, wrote Gubonin, I imagine vividly that distant epoch dogmatic and iconoclastic troubles in Byzantium, when sent to remote links to young saints and monks zealous for the purity of Orthodoxy, neglected all through the decades as people from another world, appeared before the eyes of new generations the ancient elders, gray-haired and with trembling hands, but with indomitable spirit and strong is still burning a fiery belief in their unshakable beliefs, the sacrifice that they so willingly brought all his painful izgnanniki life.”

St. Athanasius died on 28 Oct 1962. His last words: “Prayer all will save you”.

He was buried at the Vvedenskoye cemetery of Vladimir, adjacent to the barbed wire fence of the Vladimir prison, where he had visited.

In the fall of 2000, after the canonization, the relics of the Saint were transferred to the Bogoroditse-Rozhdestvensky monastery, a vicar whom he was in 1920. For a long time in the premises of this monastery housed the Vladimir Cheka. The procession with the relics went the way in which the Bishop Athanasius from prison were taken for interrogation.

The right to an anachronism

Here we try to talk about the Holy, not about the historical figure. Therefore, we do not write neither on the participation of St. Athanasius in the local Council of 1917-1918, nor about the struggle against the Renovationists, or the separation from Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky), and then, after world war II, the reunification with the Moscow Patriarchate, nor of his many years of work on the correction of the liturgical books. We are not interested in the role of personality in history, and how Holiness conquers time, and therefore history.

The phenomenon of the new martyrs began to be realized only in 60-e years of the XX century (in 1981, they were canonized by the Russian Church Abroad, and in 2000 — the Moscow Patriarchate). But for the first time this word appeared in the documents of the local Council of 1917-1918, when no political analyst could not assume what the scale achieved by the persecution of the Church.

In 1918, St. Athanasius, together with Professor B. A. Turaev made on behalf of the local Council “the Service of all saints resplendent in the Russian land”, which included the hymns dedicated to the new martyrs:

“On the new martyrs! Feat to resist the malice of UBO preterpela, the faith of Christ like a shield before the doctrine of this world holding us the way of patience and suffering with dignity is a fabulous grade. About the hardness and courage of the regiment, Martyr of Christ, for Christ is slain! TII Bo akrasia Orthodox Church and in the country of its own blood, for the seed of faith Dasha and jointly with all the saints worthy poshtots Yes”.

When he wrote these hymns, the Bolshevik defeat of the Russian Church was just beginning, and almost no one believed that the persecution will go on increasing. The historian, analysing the trends of the era, I would say that the events could develop differently. But Holiness is victory over time, and the Holy hymnography could afford what the historian would call an anachronism.

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