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7279WAY OF THE ORTHODOX ~-Fr. Vladimir Evsukoff

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  • byakimov@csc.com.au
    Jan 1, 2003
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      WAY OF THE ORTHODOX
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      Fr. Vladimir Evsukoff

      At a time when the light of true Christianity has been all but
      extinguished by the spirit of the world, how rare it is to
      encounter a torch-bearer, someone able to guide the faithful
      through the encroaching darkness, And how great that darkness seems
      when death unexpectedly blows out the torch. So it was with Fr,
      Vladimir Evsukoff whose tragic death two years ago at the age of 37
      left his many parishioners of the Holy Protection Cathedral in
      Melbourne profoundly shaken. And not only his parishioners but also
      a great number of others, for he was a torch-bearer whose burning
      love for Christ had inspired and encouraged many on the path of
      salvation,

      As a simple lay priest Fr. Vladimir did not perform any outstanding ascetic
      feats, nor was he a brilliant theologian, Rather, it is his example of a
      life of self-sacrifice for Christ which qualifies him to be called a
      spiritual hero of our time, Among the young, pampered generations it is
      very unusual to find such self-sacrifice, even though this is required of
      all Christians, For this reason the memory of Fr. Vladimir deserves to be
      kept alive and the example of his life set "on a candle stand," so that
      even after death, his torch may continue to burn and inspire others with
      love for Christ.

      Fr. Vladimir spoke little about his life. Growing up in Europe
      during the war years, he had a difficult childhood and was spared
      the misfortune of being spoiled, His mother left him when he was
      still young and he was raised almost as an orphan by his
      grandparents. It was only in the '50' s that he saw his father for
      the first time in Australia. His grandfather was a reader in the
      church and his grandmother was very pious. It was from them that he
      received the spark of a spiritual life which, over the years,
      steadily grew into a burning flame.

      His fondest memories were of his seminary years (1961-1966)in
      Jordanville. There his heart was at home, and Holy Trinity
      Monastery remained a spiritual home for him for the rest of his
      life. He entered whole-heartedly into the seminary life with an
      enthusiasm tempered by sobriety. He was a great admirer of
      Archbishop Averky of blessed memory, whose sermons made a deep
      impression on him.

      Upon graduating from the seminary, he made a pilgrimage to Mt. Athos and
      the Holy Land. Returning to Australia, he met his future Matushka. Within
      two years after they were married, he was ordained to the priesthood and
      assigned to the parish "Joy of All Who Sorrow" in Geelong. There he served
      until 1976 when he was transferred to the Holy Protection Cathedral in
      Melbourne. Both in Geelong and Melbourne, Fr. Vladimir inspired many to
      draw closer to Church. So many of the Russian emigres in both cities had
      become luke-warm in their faith; likewise many of their children understood
      little Russian and were Orthodox by birth rather than by conviction.
      Through contact with Fr. Vladimir their love for the Church was re-
      kindled. The younger generations were especially attracted to Fr. Vladimir
      who was always concerned for the Orthodox instruction of youth--concern
      that their faith be meaningful and active and that their church attendance
      be not mere habit for the sake of ritual, but a gateway to communion with
      the living God. Every other week Fr. Vladimir held a Bible-study in English
      which regularly drew as many as 20 to 30 young people, For most of the
      participants, it was the first time they had heard the basic teachings of
      the Orthodox faith explained in a language they could easily understand. It
      is no wonder so many of them began to take an active part in the church and
      to lead a conscious spiritual life.

      In his love for Christ and His Church, Fr. Vladimir was an ardent
      missionary. He purchased a small printing press which turned out,
      among other things, "Protection Leaflets" similar to church leaflets
      so widespread in Holy Russia; they explained the meaning of various
      Church feasts, points of Orthodox doctrine and information on Church
      life. Fr. Vladimir dedicated the work of the press to St. Xenia,
      Fool-for-Christ, whom he greatly venerated. Under his direction the
      leaflets and other spiritual books were translated into English and
      spread among Australians, not a few of whom became Orthodox.

      During the church services, Fr. Vladimir became entirely engrossed in
      the prayers and his fervent spirit and enthusiasm were warmly
      communicated to his flock whom he exhorted to be attentive. He would
      not allow the reading of the Gospel to begin until there was absolute
      silence in the church. Fr. Vladimir attempted to make the church as
      conducive to prayer and as spiritually uplifting as possible. He bought
      many new icons and regilded the church vessels as well as replacing
      worn vestments and church coverings. The outward adornment of the
      church however, was always secondary; its main purpose was to aid the
      inner adornment of the heart.

      Warm and loving, with a ready smile, Fr. Vladimir was also strict
      concerning matters of the faith. He did not hesitate to upbraid
      parishioners for being late to service or' being lax in keeping the
      fasts. He was very strict with himself and never missed a single
      service. His Matushka remembers that once during Great Lent Fr.
      Vladimir fell very ill --from weakness he had to hold onto the walls as
      he walked around his room, In spite of this, he went to church to serve
      the Presanctified and did not break the fast even to drink some water.

      Fr. Vladimir was one of those rare, tireless workers in Christ's
      vineyard. His activities touched upon all aspects of church life. He
      was at once a sower scattering seeds far and wide, a fisherman
      continually letting down and drawing up his nets. His
      self-sacrificing activity was apparent in the many things he did
      which were, one might say, "Beyond the call of duty": Almost every
      Saturday during Great Lent, for example, after the church service,
      Fr. Vladimir would make for his parishioners a huge pot of "monastic"
      borsch--Jordanville style. On Pascha he and Matushka Barbara would
      invite all those who worked for the church to their home to break the
      fast. Afterwards Fr. Vladimir would drive home those who needed
      rides--to all parts of Melbourne. He would then return to the church
      and clean it up in preparation for the evening service, All this
      after having just finished a long fast with its long services and
      having eaten nothing during the whole of Passion Week.

      Fr. Vladimir was also active in founding the Australian branch of
      Orthodox Action, whose purpose is to help persecuted Orthodox behind
      the Iron Curtain. He felt a strong tie to the suffering brethren in
      Christ and tried to communicate this to others.

      The above gives by no means a complete picture of Fr. Vladimir's
      life. It is enough however, to see that when the heart is turned to
      Christ and when there is a willingness to sacrifice oneself, it is
      possible even as a lay priest of a large city parish to maintain a
      high 1evel of spiritual life oneself and to draw others to the same
      ideal. Various letters written by Fr. Vladimir's spiritual children
      after his death testify that he indeed succeeded in igniting hearts.
      One such letter reads in part: "There was that deep spiritual bond
      which I underestimated, which I felt towards the priest who received
      me into the Church, confessed me, guided and instructed me, and
      showed such pastoral concern for the new member of his flock .... He
      was a real rock to me. Above all, he inspired me with his strength,
      his fervor, his zeal, his single-minded dedication, and his love of
      God."

      It is, of course, a great tragedy that Fr. Vladimir's life was cut
      short just as it seemed to be in full bloom. Nothing, however, happens
      without God's allowance. So many people were spiritually dependent
      upon Fr. Vladimir, so many looked to him for guidance and inspiration.
      Perhaps now it is time for them to take Fr. Vladimir's life as an
      example and become themselves torchbearers who, having been ignited by
      Fr. Vladimir, are now ready to spread the light to others.

      One of Fr. Vladimir's spiritual children has written: "Fr. Vladimir
      was a very hardworking and enthusiastic priest, and a very zealous
      advocate of the Holy Orthodox Faith .... If ever a man was a great
      lover of Christ and guided by the Holy and Life-giving Spirit, Fr.
      Vladimir was such a man."

      May Orthodox Christians everywhere be inspired and motivated by Fr.
      Vladimir's example, inspired to be independent Christian workers,
      torch-bearers of genuine Orthodox Christianity in an age of darkness.
      Article from Orthodox America (Many years have passed since his tragic
      death in a motor accident - his life was cut short whene he was on his way
      to serve the Sunday Liturgy. May his memory be eternal!)