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WAY OF THE ORTHODOX - Fr. Michael

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  • byakimov@csc.com.au
    GREAT Theologian, Teacher, Pastor Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky + October 22/November 4, 1988 A gentle light of our Church has gone Fr Michael Pomazansky.
    Message 1 of 2 , Dec 4, 2002
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      GREAT Theologian, Teacher, Pastor
      Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky
      + October 22/November 4, 1988

      A gentle light of our Church has gone Fr Michael Pomazansky. Meek,
      benevolent, wise, full of love--he was not extinguished, he went
      away. He went there where there is neither sickness nor sot row, nor
      sighing, but life everlasting.

      Each righteous person has some distinguishing virtue. Fr. Michael
      was characterized by a bound less humility. A protopresbyter, a
      well-known theologian of our Church, a gifted instructor, the author
      of many articles, four books and a textbook on dogmatics, the last
      remaining graduate of the Russian Theological Academy abroad, Fr.
      Michael lived oblivious to all this. Fulfilling all that was
      required of him in accordance with the Gospel, he always considered
      himself to be "an unprofitable servant."

      Humility came to be a virtue natural to him, although it was
      doubtless acquired through no small effort. It is very difficult for
      many people to humble themselves, while for Fr. Michael it was
      painfully difficult to be in authority, to tell people what to do.
      The acquisition of profound humility was the fruit of Fr. Michael's
      whole life, whose roots went deep into the good soil in which he was
      born and grew up.

      Fr. Michael was born November 7, 1888, on the eve of the Feast of
      Archangel Michael, in the jubilee year of the 900th anniversary of the
      Baptism of Rus', in the village of Korist, in the province of Volhynia.
      His parents came from a long line of clergy. His father, Archpriest
      Ioann Pomazansky was the son of a priest, Ioann Ambrosievich, who in
      turn was likewise the son of a priest; in the records of the graduates
      of the Kiev Theological Academy, Fr. Michael found a relative who
      hailed from the time of the Napoleonic War of 1812. Fr. Michael's
      mother, Vera Grigorievna, borb Kachin, was the daughter of a
      protodeacon in the city of Zhitomir who later became a parish priest.
      Fr. Michael's childhood was spent in the simple village milieu. A
      priest in those days served his parishioners both as a judge, as a
      doctor, as a spiritual father and as a counselor. His grandfather was
      respected by his parishioners, who also feared his strictness: young
      men wouldn't walk in a crowd down the street singing worldly songs; and
      older men...if he saw someone with a pipe-better hide or put the pipe
      in a pocket, even if it burned a hole... "Even so, grandfather already
      sensed the breakdown of morality and the whole way of life, and he was
      often heard to say, as if without any reason, 'Something's going to
      happen, some thing's going to happen,' i.e., something dreadful awaited
      us ahead."

      "Village life is simple," wrote Fr. Michael, "and it gets along
      without fanciful amusements. In the summer a young boy rides about
      the yard on a stick, prodding himself along with a little self-made
      whip: and when he grows up a bit, it's up on the back of a work horse
      without a saddle or off to the field on the bare boards of a cart...

      "...What is it in a priest's family that primarily occupies a child's
      attention? Church. In going to services, father would always take me
      with him. It was still dark in the yard; I would walk along the
      narrow dike beside the pond after my father to matins; vespers was
      usually served in the evening. People, would gather quietly in
      church; behind your back you would hear only the whisper of people
      praying before the service began. It was freezing, and in the first
      half hour my legs would grow numb, but with the breathing of the
      people the church gradually warmed up. A group of older men sang. The
      people stood in order: men to the right, women to the left, young
      people in front according to age. It was an old church, rather small,
      dedicated to Saint Dimitri of Thessalonica, and it was painted in
      light tones pleasing to the eyes of a child."

      At harvest time there was much work to be done in the fields. From
      childhood Fr. Michael grew accustomed to work. "Once," he recalled,
      "I had to take some entrance exams. It was during haymaking and every
      day I was busy in the fields gathering in the hay. I was faced just
      then with an exam on the New Testament. When the day's work was
      finished my father called me; he gave me a copy of the New Testament
      and told me to read a certain chapter. Afterwards he talked to me
      about what I had read and we went to rest. At the examination the
      question that fell to my lot was on this very chapter."

      When he was nine years old, Fr. Michael was sent to a parochial
      school seventy versts from home. These first independent steps of his
      life were difficult. He came to know a schoolboy's griefs and made
      his acquaintance with the world, at times foreign and cold. In
      recalling an episode from his first days at the school, Fr. Michael
      wrote:

      "My coat was still that of a child; it had a cape attached to the
      shoulders. It was cold and I put it on. From behind the monitor came
      up to me with a large pair of scissors and without saying a word cut
      it off--I obviously looked foolish in it and just as silently walked
      off with it. I felt this unjust redress terribly insulting. Moreover,
      I sensed then that together with this cape my past had been cut off
      from my--my childhood and the only world which I had known until
      than. A new stage in my life began, still strange to me The old
      Volhynia stayed behind, while in front stood the as yet unknown,
      stormy and cruel 20th century."

      Upon completing secondary school, Fr. Michael entered the Volhynia
      seminary where he attracted the particular attention of Bishop [later
      Metropolitan] Antfony Khrapovitsky, who left in his heart traces of
      his broad social, intellectual and moral influence. At every possible
      opportunity, even during school breaks, Fr. Michael and his
      classmates would hurry to the Zhitomir cathedral to listen to the
      sermons of their abba. Once I witnessed someone accusing Vladika
      Anthony of "heresy" in front of Fr. Michael. Meekly but firmly, he
      replied: "We will not have our alpha degraded." And so to the end of
      his days Fr. Michael preserved great respect for Vladika Anthony as
      his abba. When, after graduating from seminary Fr. Michael left
      Volhynia, he continued to maintain contact with Vladika Anthony
      through correspondence. It was with Vladika Anthony's help that in
      1914 Fr. Michael received a position as a teacher of Church Slavonic
      in the Kaluga Seminary.

      From 1908 to 1912 Fr. Michael taught in the Kiev Theological Academy.
      There in Kiev he took graduate pedagogical courses. In 1913 he
      married Vera Feodorovna Shumsky, the daughter of a priest, who became
      his faithful and inseparable companion on their long path together in
      life. After a brief stint on the missionary field combating
      sectarianism-through which he formed a life-long attachment to the
      study of the New Testament--Fr. Michael taught in the Kaluga
      Theological Academy; his time there coincided with the First World
      War. The Revolution and the consequent closing of ecclesiastical
      ins0tutiens obliged him to return to his native Volhynia.

      The bloody revolutionary upheaval affected his part of the country
      and his family. At the time of the Revolution Fr. Michael's parents
      were away visiting their daughter, who during the War had moved with
      her children beyond the Dniepr. When they returned they found in
      place of their house a pile of ashes. But this was far from the final
      trial which visited Fr. Michael's close ones. In the fall of 1917
      "...father sat home alone at the table; he was reading Metropolitan
      Macarius' Dogmatic Theology. Mother had not yet returned from a
      shopping trip to the town of Ostrog. Suddenly two men walked into the
      house, one with a revolver, the other with a rifle supporting a
      bayonet; the one shot my father in the chest while the other pierced
      him with his bayonet, and with the words "It's finished," they both
      turned around and hid themselves in the dark behind the door Covered
      with blood, my father was still able to run out with a shout into the
      yard. Just then my mother drove up, some people came and they managed
      to put my father into the cart. The horses were turned around and
      they rushed to Ostrog---a two hour drive. There he was laid in the
      hospital. In the middle of the night everything was done to save his
      life, and he pulled through. His hemp shirt (father did lot wear
      linen), painted red with blood, was kept by my father in memory of
      his ordeal."

      Once I brought Fr. Michael the second volume of Fr. Michael Polsky's
      New Martyrs of Russia. He read it carefully, especially the parts
      about the married clergy of the Kievan diocese, and discovered there
      many classmates, teachers, friends and acquaintances. In his
      characteristic humility, he found even here a source for
      self-reproach: 'They all suffered, became martyrs, but what have I
      done; I merely burden others with my existence, and am of no use at
      all." And yet Fr. Michael suffered no less than these others, only
      his cross was different. In his youth he pulled a facial nerve. Only
      those who have experienced the pain caused by nerves can understand
      what this means The nerve sometimes hurt for several days in a row,
      with only brief periods of respite. At times the pain was so acute
      that Fr. Miehael, unable to bear it, banged his head against the
      wall in an effort to suppress it. I used to find him in such a
      state; he was a living martyr. 'This is a result of my sins," he
      would say; never did he utter a word of complaint

      From 1920 until 1934 Fr. Michael taught Russian philology,
      literature, philosophical dialectics and Latin at the Russian lycee
      in Rovensk. During those years he worked closely on ecclesiastical
      publications. This was not easy in view of the persecution which the
      Catholics were raising at that time against the Orthodox. It was a
      time when churches were destroyed or taken over by the Catholics.
      Fr. Michael reacted with a strong article against Catholicism, but
      the entire issue of the magazine which carried his article was
      confiscated by the Polish gendarmes and the author himself fell
      under surveillance. Later Fr. Michael edited two church journals,
      The Word and Sunday Reading.

      In 1936 Fr. Michael entered the priesthood and joined the clergy of the
      Warsaw cathedral as the first assistant to the rector, a position he
      held until June, 1944.

      The circumstances of my life were arranged in such a way," wrote Fr.
      Michael in his testament, "that the first half of my public work
      took place in the worldly arena, in schools, while the second took
      me into the ecclesiastical arena, into the priesthood. In the
      worldly arena I experienced offenses, but in the priesthood I met
      only with kindness and at times even acts of love."

      After being evacuated from Warsaw and after the war, Fr. Michael
      lived in Germany, in Munich, where he was editor of the Synodal
      publication Church Life and secretary of the missionary committee.
      During the German blockade of Warsaw Fr. Michael had contracted a
      lung disease which flared up periodically, hampering his capacity to
      work. By reason of his ill health Fr. Michael tried to decline the
      obediences laid upon him, but in response Vladika Anastassy said to
      him: "You must, therefore you can." The Metropolitan served a moleben
      before the wonderworking Kursk Icon of the Mother of God, and Fr.
      Michael's health rapidly improved.

      Obedience gives birth to humility. Fr. Michael always regarded
      himself as an obedient child of the Church; wherever the Church sent
      him there he went, not choosing for himself his own paths. It was a
      principle he held to the end of his life. When he was already 98
      years old he continued, at the request of Vladika Laurus, to write
      articles, dedicated to the millennial jubilee of our Church. His eyes
      protested, long intermissions were required, but the work was
      completed, and two new articles dedicated to the jubilee of the
      Baptism of Rus' are to be published posthumously.

      Like St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, Fr. Michael could find everywhere
      "spiritual treasures"--in the surrounding nature, in the details of
      daily life, in his meetings with people, he could find the spiritual
      side of everything and the means of going from an earthly to a
      heavenly contemplation. Clearly, it was for this reason that he was
      so fond of St. Gregory the Theologian, whom he never tired of
      reading. During our walks together he said more than once: "One can
      learn to love the Creator through nature, because He created it with
      love." Fr. Michael was a contemplative, a theologian, a doer of quiet
      and warm mental prayer. He likewise had a spiritual affinity with
      Bishop Theophan the Recluse 'I understand Theophan the Recluse, why
      even on Pascha he didn't quit his seclusion; for me it would also be
      easier to celebrate Pascha alone in my cell, in quietness to
      experience the joy of the Paschal night"

      Upon his arrival in America in 1949, Fr. Michael was appointed by
      Archbishop Vitaly [Maximenko] as an instructor at Holy Trinity
      Seminary. Fr. Michael and his matushka arrived on the eve of the
      feast of St. Job of Pochaev, the heavenly patron of his native
      Volhynia. The monastery's early years were financially difficult;
      these were years of building. And it wasn't easy for Fr. Michael and
      his matushka. They settled in a house purchased by the monastery in
      Jordanville. The house came to serve as the monastery guest house,
      and Matushka and Fr. Michael took upon themselves the ministry of
      hospitality. Fr. Michael became involved in the seminary where he
      taught Greek, Church Slavonic and Dogmatic Theology. He dedicated 66
      years of his life to the work of teaching. Not infrequently former
      students of his who remembered him from Rovensk would come to the
      monastery and with tears would greet their now aged former teacher
      and thank him for his unforgettable lessons of kindness, warmth and
      wisdom. And indeed, Fr. Michael was a brilliant teacher. Usually
      there were no discussions during his classes, not because he didn't
      allow them but because no one wanted to interrupt his lively,
      satisfying discourse. Fr. Michael talked about the dogmas of the
      Church; he spoke simply, humbly and exhaustively, so that any
      questions fell away of themselves, and if not, they found
      satisfactory answers---although Fr. Michael would frequently repeat,
      "There is a great deal that is concealed from us and we cannot
      comprehend everything." His lecture progressed as though he were
      reading a music score: he began with a theme, developed it, brought
      it to a conclusion, placed a period...and the bell rang signaling a
      change of classes.

      After the illness of his matushka, Fr. Michael moved into the
      monastery where he lived as one of the brethren. He always tried to
      be unnoticeable, and for this reason he chose a semi-secluded life;
      he knew only his cell, the church, the seminary building and the
      refectory. And for the last seven years of his life it was only the
      church and his cell. He led an ascetic life. Once, during the first
      week of Great Lent, I asked him: "Batiushka, what shall I bring you
      to eat?" "Nothing is necessary; I would like just as the brothers."
      'Thc brothers are eating potatoes." "No, thank you..." 'Nevertheless
      I brought him two baked potatoes. The next day I asked again,
      "Batiushka, what shall I bring you?" 'Thank you, nothing; I still
      have a potato left over from yesterday's dinner."

      St. Nilus of Sainai said: "If you are a theologian you will pray in
      truth; and if you pray in truth, then you are a theologian"
      (Philokalia, vol. II, St. Nilus §61). It was from prayer that Fr.
      Michael drew the source of the enlightenment of his mind and heart;
      through prayer, which draws upon us the cleansing grace of the Holy
      Spirit, he became a theologian; having cast aside the decayed
      garments of the old man, he was able to bravely set out upon the sea
      of theology. I often came upon him in prayer and, the door being
      ajar, I was involuntarily arrested by the sight of his noble
      countenance. His gaze was open and shining, his lips whispered words
      of entreaty and gratitude. He knew many prayers by heart. He would
      usually leave vigil before the First Hour, and on the way to his cell
      would recite the entire First Hour by memory. The same was true when
      he was late for the midnight office; on the way to church he would
      recite morning prayers.

      Prayer made Fr. Michael a theologian, but he himself always feared
      such a title: 'The Church knows only three thologians--St. John, St
      Gregory and St. Simeon the New Theologian; any others are extra."
      When Fr. Michael missed any daily services in the church, he would
      read them in his cell; in addition he daily read from the New and Old
      Testaments the first often in Greek or Latin, and this he continued
      until the last years of his life

      A great deal could be written about Fr. Mi chael's meekness ant
      compassion. I remember how one winter day I turned from digging
      graves and stopped in to check on Fr. Michael. And here he found
      means for self-reproach. "I am good for nothing; I am of no use to
      the monastery whatsoever. just a burden to the brothers: they'll even
      have to dig my grave. If only I don't die in winter; if only not in
      winter! It's so difficult to dig in winter"! And for a long time he
      dwelt on this thought, sincerely distressed

      It was difficult for him at times to accept another's service. He was
      bothered that someone should have to clean his cell or do his
      laundry. "Ah, my dear, ah, my dear, forgive me, forgive me; I'm
      forcing you to dig about in my dirt!"

      He tried to give me money for my services, but I refused. This
      grieved him, something of which I was senselessly unaware. I would go
      into his cell and batiushka would be standing with an awkward look,
      his eyes cast down, and smile meekly. I already felt something; was
      not quite right. And then he would make a move to pull out the drawer
      of the table, and again he would pull it out further, and there lay a
      wallet with some money. Finally, overcoming his shyness, he would
      begin to offer me money Once he found a way out of this awkward
      situation, a solution characteristic of his meekness. I should add
      that I was at that time a mere novice with scarcely a beard. I came
      into my cell and found on the table an envelope on which was written
      in a familiar hand: "From Michael to Alexis. On the occasion of
      summer's end"; it held some money. I hae kept that envelope to this
      day as a memento of Fr. MichaePs humility and love.

      It is a rare person who can live in a monastery without experiencing
      the bitterness of offenses. Fr. Michael was such a person. In his
      testament he wrote with perfect sincerity: "...on the part of the
      monastery brethren I cannot remember a time when I was grieved by
      anyone. I write about all this not for the sake of some tradition, as
      happens when people leave this life, but on the strength of
      experience, and that is there is a real difference between the
      outward affection of the "world" and the outward severity of the
      Church's way of life, between the real coldness of a world rich in
      earthly goods and the hidden inner warmth of the life of the Church
      which is scorned by the world. Within the confines of the Church--the
      light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendth it not.'

      I do not recall a single instance when Fr. Michael judged someone or
      reacted negatively towards someone, or even once became angry or
      irritated at my at times inattentive care of him. If I did not
      remember myself to bring him dinner or do his laundry, I could not
      expect a reminder from him.

      At the last, from September 1988, Protopresbyter Michael was less
      frequently in church Until that time, on feast days he was helped
      from the seminary building to the church and he attended the
      all-night vigils and the Divine Liturgy and usually partook of the
      Holy Mysteries. During the last months he was unable to go to church
      and he communed in his cell.

      In the final days of his earthly life Fr. Michael suffered especially;
      cancer of the prostate destroyed batiushka's strong organism and caused him
      acute pain. Someone was constantly at his bedside: his daughter-m-law
      Natalia Sergeyevna, Fr. Andrew Erastoy, Brother Theodore Korolenko, and in
      the final days seminarians and the servant of God Alexandra Listmenko. From
      October 26 Batiushka's condition worsened; he began at times to lose his
      mind. But even in such a state he would utter words so characteristic of
      him: "Beloved, dear ones"! And he would look at you with the kind, gentle
      eyes of a child. He imagined that he was back in his native Volhynia, among
      the fields and horses, in the church there, among his close ones. This
      alleviated his sufferings; his face would brighten and take on the look of
      a child, reflecting his soul--it was the soul of a pure youth, who was
      leaving a sorrowing life and returning to his father's home, where there is
      neither sickness nor sorrow nor sighing, but life everlasting!

      On Friday October 22/November 4, at 6:30 in the morning the feast day
      of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God, I came into Fr. Michael's
      cell and found that he had reposed; his forehead was still warm.
      Batiushka died alone. He had always served me as an example of
      meekness, humility, prayerful recollection and abstinence--those
      monastic activities to which I can only aspire. And he died in a
      monastic way with no one around, Soon came Fr. Cyprian and Fr. Luke.
      They immediately dressed Fr, Michael and took him in a wooden coffin
      into the lower church of St. Job. For five days Fr. Michael's body
      lay there in the church where the Gospel and the Psalter were read
      continually on behalf of his soul. Archbishop Laurus performed the
      funeral service on November 9. Present at the service were
      Fr.Michael's former students--Fr. George Larin, Fr. Vsevolod Drobot,
      Fr. Gregory Kotliarov, Fr. Ioasaph Yaroshchuk, Fr. Victor Lokhmatov
      and Fr. Andrei Papkov.

      May the memory of this unforgettable pastor and teacher be eternal!

      M.B.

      (Translated from Pravoslavnaya Rus', 11/14/88)

      FATHER MICHAEL POMAZANSKY WAS ONE OF THE LAST GENUINE
      THEOLOGIANS OF OUR TIMES.
    • maureengirard
      Thank you for posting this. So many of those we loved are gone. Maureen ... Meek, ... went ... row, nor ... Michael ... protopresbyter, a ... the author ...
      Message 2 of 2 , Dec 4, 2002
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        Thank you for posting this. So many of those we loved are gone.
        Maureen


        -- In orthodox-synod@y..., byakimov@c... wrote:
        > GREAT Theologian, Teacher, Pastor
        > Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky
        > + October 22/November 4, 1988
        >
        > A gentle light of our Church has gone Fr Michael Pomazansky.
        Meek,
        > benevolent, wise, full of love--he was not extinguished, he
        went
        > away. He went there where there is neither sickness nor sot
        row, nor
        > sighing, but life everlasting.
        >
        > Each righteous person has some distinguishing virtue. Fr.
        Michael
        > was characterized by a bound less humility. A
        protopresbyter, a
        > well-known theologian of our Church, a gifted instructor,
        the author
        > of many articles, four books and a textbook on dogmatics,
        the last
        > remaining graduate of the Russian Theological Academy
        abroad, Fr.
        > Michael lived oblivious to all this. Fulfilling all that was
        > required of him in accordance with the Gospel, he always
        considered
        > himself to be "an unprofitable servant."
        >
        > Humility came to be a virtue natural to him, although it was
        > doubtless acquired through no small effort. It is very
        difficult for
        > many people to humble themselves, while for Fr. Michael it was
        > painfully difficult to be in authority, to tell people what
        to do.
        > The acquisition of profound humility was the fruit of Fr.
        Michael's
        > whole life, whose roots went deep into the good soil in which
        he was
        > born and grew up.
        >
        > Fr. Michael was born November 7, 1888, on the eve of the Feast
        of
        > Archangel Michael, in the jubilee year of the 900th anniversary
        of the
        > Baptism of Rus', in the village of Korist, in the province of
        Volhynia.
        > His parents came from a long line of clergy. His father,
        Archpriest
        > Ioann Pomazansky was the son of a priest, Ioann Ambrosievich,
        who in
        > turn was likewise the son of a priest; in the records of the
        graduates
        > of the Kiev Theological Academy, Fr. Michael found a relative
        who
        > hailed from the time of the Napoleonic War of 1812. Fr.
        Michael's
        > mother, Vera Grigorievna, borb Kachin, was the daughter of a
        > protodeacon in the city of Zhitomir who later became a parish
        priest.
        > Fr. Michael's childhood was spent in the simple village milieu.
        A
        > priest in those days served his parishioners both as a judge,
        as a
        > doctor, as a spiritual father and as a counselor. His
        grandfather was
        > respected by his parishioners, who also feared his strictness:
        young
        > men wouldn't walk in a crowd down the street singing worldly
        songs; and
        > older men...if he saw someone with a pipe-better hide or put
        the pipe
        > in a pocket, even if it burned a hole... "Even so, grandfather
        already
        > sensed the breakdown of morality and the whole way of life, and
        he was
        > often heard to say, as if without any reason, 'Something's
        going to
        > happen, some thing's going to happen,' i.e., something dreadful
        awaited
        > us ahead."
        >
        > "Village life is simple," wrote Fr. Michael, "and it gets
        along
        > without fanciful amusements. In the summer a young boy rides
        about
        > the yard on a stick, prodding himself along with a little
        self-made
        > whip: and when he grows up a bit, it's up on the back of a
        work horse
        > without a saddle or off to the field on the bare boards of a
        cart...
        >
        > "...What is it in a priest's family that primarily occupies a
        child's
        > attention? Church. In going to services, father would always
        take me
        > with him. It was still dark in the yard; I would walk along
        the
        > narrow dike beside the pond after my father to matins;
        vespers was
        > usually served in the evening. People, would gather quietly in
        > church; behind your back you would hear only the whisper of
        people
        > praying before the service began. It was freezing, and in the
        first
        > half hour my legs would grow numb, but with the breathing of
        the
        > people the church gradually warmed up. A group of older men
        sang. The
        > people stood in order: men to the right, women to the left,
        young
        > people in front according to age. It was an old church,
        rather small,
        > dedicated to Saint Dimitri of Thessalonica, and it was
        painted in
        > light tones pleasing to the eyes of a child."
        >
        > At harvest time there was much work to be done in the fields.
        From
        > childhood Fr. Michael grew accustomed to work. "Once," he
        recalled,
        > "I had to take some entrance exams. It was during haymaking
        and every
        > day I was busy in the fields gathering in the hay. I was
        faced just
        > then with an exam on the New Testament. When the day's work
        was
        > finished my father called me; he gave me a copy of the New
        Testament
        > and told me to read a certain chapter. Afterwards he talked
        to me
        > about what I had read and we went to rest. At the examination
        the
        > question that fell to my lot was on this very chapter."
        >
        > When he was nine years old, Fr. Michael was sent to a
        parochial
        > school seventy versts from home. These first independent
        steps of his
        > life were difficult. He came to know a schoolboy's griefs and
        made
        > his acquaintance with the world, at times foreign and cold. In
        > recalling an episode from his first days at the school, Fr.
        Michael
        > wrote:
        >
        > "My coat was still that of a child; it had a cape attached to
        the
        > shoulders. It was cold and I put it on. From behind the
        monitor came
        > up to me with a large pair of scissors and without saying a
        word cut
        > it off--I obviously looked foolish in it and just as silently
        walked
        > off with it. I felt this unjust redress terribly insulting.
        Moreover,
        > I sensed then that together with this cape my past had been
        cut off
        > from my--my childhood and the only world which I had known
        until
        > than. A new stage in my life began, still strange to me The
        old
        > Volhynia stayed behind, while in front stood the as yet
        unknown,
        > stormy and cruel 20th century."
        >
        > Upon completing secondary school, Fr. Michael entered the
        Volhynia
        > seminary where he attracted the particular attention of
        Bishop [later
        > Metropolitan] Antfony Khrapovitsky, who left in his heart
        traces of
        > his broad social, intellectual and moral influence. At every
        possible
        > opportunity, even during school breaks, Fr. Michael and his
        > classmates would hurry to the Zhitomir cathedral to listen to
        the
        > sermons of their abba. Once I witnessed someone accusing
        Vladika
        > Anthony of "heresy" in front of Fr. Michael. Meekly but
        firmly, he
        > replied: "We will not have our alpha degraded." And so to the
        end of
        > his days Fr. Michael preserved great respect for Vladika
        Anthony as
        > his abba. When, after graduating from seminary Fr. Michael
        left
        > Volhynia, he continued to maintain contact with Vladika
        Anthony
        > through correspondence. It was with Vladika Anthony's help
        that in
        > 1914 Fr. Michael received a position as a teacher of Church
        Slavonic
        > in the Kaluga Seminary.
        >
        > From 1908 to 1912 Fr. Michael taught in the Kiev Theological
        Academy.
        > There in Kiev he took graduate pedagogical courses. In 1913 he
        > married Vera Feodorovna Shumsky, the daughter of a priest,
        who became
        > his faithful and inseparable companion on their long path
        together in
        > life. After a brief stint on the missionary field combating
        > sectarianism-through which he formed a life-long attachment
        to the
        > study of the New Testament--Fr. Michael taught in the Kaluga
        > Theological Academy; his time there coincided with the First
        World
        > War. The Revolution and the consequent closing of
        ecclesiastical
        > ins0tutiens obliged him to return to his native Volhynia.
        >
        > The bloody revolutionary upheaval affected his part of the
        country
        > and his family. At the time of the Revolution Fr. Michael's
        parents
        > were away visiting their daughter, who during the War had
        moved with
        > her children beyond the Dniepr. When they returned they found
        in
        > place of their house a pile of ashes. But this was far from
        the final
        > trial which visited Fr. Michael's close ones. In the fall of
        1917
        > "...father sat home alone at the table; he was reading
        Metropolitan
        > Macarius' Dogmatic Theology. Mother had not yet returned from
        a
        > shopping trip to the town of Ostrog. Suddenly two men walked
        into the
        > house, one with a revolver, the other with a rifle supporting
        a
        > bayonet; the one shot my father in the chest while the other
        pierced
        > him with his bayonet, and with the words "It's finished,"
        they both
        > turned around and hid themselves in the dark behind the door
        Covered
        > with blood, my father was still able to run out with a shout
        into the
        > yard. Just then my mother drove up, some people came and they
        managed
        > to put my father into the cart. The horses were turned around
        and
        > they rushed to Ostrog---a two hour drive. There he was laid
        in the
        > hospital. In the middle of the night everything was done to
        save his
        > life, and he pulled through. His hemp shirt (father did lot
        wear
        > linen), painted red with blood, was kept by my father in
        memory of
        > his ordeal."
        >
        > Once I brought Fr. Michael the second volume of Fr. Michael
        Polsky's
        > New Martyrs of Russia. He read it carefully, especially the
        parts
        > about the married clergy of the Kievan diocese, and
        discovered there
        > many classmates, teachers, friends and acquaintances. In his
        > characteristic humility, he found even here a source for
        > self-reproach: 'They all suffered, became martyrs, but what
        have I
        > done; I merely burden others with my existence, and am of no
        use at
        > all." And yet Fr. Michael suffered no less than these
        others, only
        > his cross was different. In his youth he pulled a facial
        nerve. Only
        > those who have experienced the pain caused by nerves can
        understand
        > what this means The nerve sometimes hurt for several days in
        a row,
        > with only brief periods of respite. At times the pain was so
        acute
        > that Fr. Miehael, unable to bear it, banged his head against
        the
        > wall in an effort to suppress it. I used to find him in such
        a
        > state; he was a living martyr. 'This is a result of my
        sins," he
        > would say; never did he utter a word of complaint
        >
        > From 1920 until 1934 Fr. Michael taught Russian philology,
        > literature, philosophical dialectics and Latin at the
        Russian lycee
        > in Rovensk. During those years he worked closely on
        ecclesiastical
        > publications. This was not easy in view of the persecution
        which the
        > Catholics were raising at that time against the Orthodox. It
        was a
        > time when churches were destroyed or taken over by the
        Catholics.
        > Fr. Michael reacted with a strong article against
        Catholicism, but
        > the entire issue of the magazine which carried his article
        was
        > confiscated by the Polish gendarmes and the author himself
        fell
        > under surveillance. Later Fr. Michael edited two church
        journals,
        > The Word and Sunday Reading.
        >
        > In 1936 Fr. Michael entered the priesthood and joined the
        clergy of the
        > Warsaw cathedral as the first assistant to the rector, a
        position he
        > held until June, 1944.
        >
        > The circumstances of my life were arranged in such a way,"
        wrote Fr.
        > Michael in his testament, "that the first half of my public
        work
        > took place in the worldly arena, in schools, while the
        second took
        > me into the ecclesiastical arena, into the priesthood. In the
        > worldly arena I experienced offenses, but in the priesthood
        I met
        > only with kindness and at times even acts of love."
        >
        > After being evacuated from Warsaw and after the war, Fr.
        Michael
        > lived in Germany, in Munich, where he was editor of the
        Synodal
        > publication Church Life and secretary of the missionary
        committee.
        > During the German blockade of Warsaw Fr. Michael had
        contracted a
        > lung disease which flared up periodically, hampering his
        capacity to
        > work. By reason of his ill health Fr. Michael tried to
        decline the
        > obediences laid upon him, but in response Vladika Anastassy
        said to
        > him: "You must, therefore you can." The Metropolitan served a
        moleben
        > before the wonderworking Kursk Icon of the Mother of God, and
        Fr.
        > Michael's health rapidly improved.
        >
        > Obedience gives birth to humility. Fr. Michael always regarded
        > himself as an obedient child of the Church; wherever the
        Church sent
        > him there he went, not choosing for himself his own paths. It
        was a
        > principle he held to the end of his life. When he was already
        98
        > years old he continued, at the request of Vladika Laurus, to
        write
        > articles, dedicated to the millennial jubilee of our Church.
        His eyes
        > protested, long intermissions were required, but the work was
        > completed, and two new articles dedicated to the jubilee of
        the
        > Baptism of Rus' are to be published posthumously.
        >
        > Like St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, Fr. Michael could find everywhere
        > "spiritual treasures"--in the surrounding nature, in the
        details of
        > daily life, in his meetings with people, he could find the
        spiritual
        > side of everything and the means of going from an earthly to a
        > heavenly contemplation. Clearly, it was for this reason that
        he was
        > so fond of St. Gregory the Theologian, whom he never tired of
        > reading. During our walks together he said more than
        once: "One can
        > learn to love the Creator through nature, because He created
        it with
        > love." Fr. Michael was a contemplative, a theologian, a doer
        of quiet
        > and warm mental prayer. He likewise had a spiritual affinity
        with
        > Bishop Theophan the Recluse 'I understand Theophan the
        Recluse, why
        > even on Pascha he didn't quit his seclusion; for me it would
        also be
        > easier to celebrate Pascha alone in my cell, in quietness to
        > experience the joy of the Paschal night"
        >
        > Upon his arrival in America in 1949, Fr. Michael was
        appointed by
        > Archbishop Vitaly [Maximenko] as an instructor at Holy Trinity
        > Seminary. Fr. Michael and his matushka arrived on the eve of
        the
        > feast of St. Job of Pochaev, the heavenly patron of his native
        > Volhynia. The monastery's early years were financially
        difficult;
        > these were years of building. And it wasn't easy for Fr.
        Michael and
        > his matushka. They settled in a house purchased by the
        monastery in
        > Jordanville. The house came to serve as the monastery guest
        house,
        > and Matushka and Fr. Michael took upon themselves the
        ministry of
        > hospitality. Fr. Michael became involved in the seminary
        where he
        > taught Greek, Church Slavonic and Dogmatic Theology. He
        dedicated 66
        > years of his life to the work of teaching. Not infrequently
        former
        > students of his who remembered him from Rovensk would come to
        the
        > monastery and with tears would greet their now aged former
        teacher
        > and thank him for his unforgettable lessons of kindness,
        warmth and
        > wisdom. And indeed, Fr. Michael was a brilliant teacher.
        Usually
        > there were no discussions during his classes, not because he
        didn't
        > allow them but because no one wanted to interrupt his lively,
        > satisfying discourse. Fr. Michael talked about the dogmas of
        the
        > Church; he spoke simply, humbly and exhaustively, so that any
        > questions fell away of themselves, and if not, they found
        > satisfactory answers---although Fr. Michael would frequently
        repeat,
        > "There is a great deal that is concealed from us and we cannot
        > comprehend everything." His lecture progressed as though he
        were
        > reading a music score: he began with a theme, developed it,
        brought
        > it to a conclusion, placed a period...and the bell rang
        signaling a
        > change of classes.
        >
        > After the illness of his matushka, Fr. Michael moved into the
        > monastery where he lived as one of the brethren. He always
        tried to
        > be unnoticeable, and for this reason he chose a semi-secluded
        life;
        > he knew only his cell, the church, the seminary building and
        the
        > refectory. And for the last seven years of his life it was
        only the
        > church and his cell. He led an ascetic life. Once, during the
        first
        > week of Great Lent, I asked him: "Batiushka, what shall I
        bring you
        > to eat?" "Nothing is necessary; I would like just as the
        brothers."
        > 'Thc brothers are eating potatoes." "No, thank
        you..." 'Nevertheless
        > I brought him two baked potatoes. The next day I asked again,
        > "Batiushka, what shall I bring you?" 'Thank you, nothing; I
        still
        > have a potato left over from yesterday's dinner."
        >
        > St. Nilus of Sainai said: "If you are a theologian you will
        pray in
        > truth; and if you pray in truth, then you are a theologian"
        > (Philokalia, vol. II, St. Nilus §61). It was from prayer that
        Fr.
        > Michael drew the source of the enlightenment of his mind and
        heart;
        > through prayer, which draws upon us the cleansing grace of
        the Holy
        > Spirit, he became a theologian; having cast aside the decayed
        > garments of the old man, he was able to bravely set out upon
        the sea
        > of theology. I often came upon him in prayer and, the door
        being
        > ajar, I was involuntarily arrested by the sight of his noble
        > countenance. His gaze was open and shining, his lips
        whispered words
        > of entreaty and gratitude. He knew many prayers by heart. He
        would
        > usually leave vigil before the First Hour, and on the way to
        his cell
        > would recite the entire First Hour by memory. The same was
        true when
        > he was late for the midnight office; on the way to church he
        would
        > recite morning prayers.
        >
        > Prayer made Fr. Michael a theologian, but he himself always
        feared
        > such a title: 'The Church knows only three thologians--St.
        John, St
        > Gregory and St. Simeon the New Theologian; any others are
        extra."
        > When Fr. Michael missed any daily services in the church, he
        would
        > read them in his cell; in addition he daily read from the New
        and Old
        > Testaments the first often in Greek or Latin, and this he
        continued
        > until the last years of his life
        >
        > A great deal could be written about Fr. Mi chael's meekness
        ant
        > compassion. I remember how one winter day I turned from
        digging
        > graves and stopped in to check on Fr. Michael. And here he
        found
        > means for self-reproach. "I am good for nothing; I am of no
        use to
        > the monastery whatsoever. just a burden to the brothers:
        they'll even
        > have to dig my grave. If only I don't die in winter; if only
        not in
        > winter! It's so difficult to dig in winter"! And for a long
        time he
        > dwelt on this thought, sincerely distressed
        >
        > It was difficult for him at times to accept another's
        service. He was
        > bothered that someone should have to clean his cell or do his
        > laundry. "Ah, my dear, ah, my dear, forgive me, forgive me;
        I'm
        > forcing you to dig about in my dirt!"
        >
        > He tried to give me money for my services, but I refused. This
        > grieved him, something of which I was senselessly unaware. I
        would go
        > into his cell and batiushka would be standing with an awkward
        look,
        > his eyes cast down, and smile meekly. I already felt
        something; was
        > not quite right. And then he would make a move to pull out
        the drawer
        > of the table, and again he would pull it out further, and
        there lay a
        > wallet with some money. Finally, overcoming his shyness, he
        would
        > begin to offer me money Once he found a way out of this
        awkward
        > situation, a solution characteristic of his meekness. I
        should add
        > that I was at that time a mere novice with scarcely a beard.
        I came
        > into my cell and found on the table an envelope on which was
        written
        > in a familiar hand: "From Michael to Alexis. On the occasion
        of
        > summer's end"; it held some money. I hae kept that envelope
        to this
        > day as a memento of Fr. MichaePs humility and love.
        >
        > It is a rare person who can live in a monastery without
        experiencing
        > the bitterness of offenses. Fr. Michael was such a person. In
        his
        > testament he wrote with perfect sincerity: "...on the part of
        the
        > monastery brethren I cannot remember a time when I was
        grieved by
        > anyone. I write about all this not for the sake of some
        tradition, as
        > happens when people leave this life, but on the strength of
        > experience, and that is there is a real difference between the
        > outward affection of the "world" and the outward severity of
        the
        > Church's way of life, between the real coldness of a world
        rich in
        > earthly goods and the hidden inner warmth of the life of the
        Church
        > which is scorned by the world. Within the confines of the
        Church--the
        > light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendth it
        not.'
        >
        > I do not recall a single instance when Fr. Michael judged
        someone or
        > reacted negatively towards someone, or even once became angry
        or
        > irritated at my at times inattentive care of him. If I did not
        > remember myself to bring him dinner or do his laundry, I
        could not
        > expect a reminder from him.
        >
        > At the last, from September 1988, Protopresbyter Michael was
        less
        > frequently in church Until that time, on feast days he was
        helped
        > from the seminary building to the church and he attended the
        > all-night vigils and the Divine Liturgy and usually partook
        of the
        > Holy Mysteries. During the last months he was unable to go to
        church
        > and he communed in his cell.
        >
        > In the final days of his earthly life Fr. Michael suffered
        especially;
        > cancer of the prostate destroyed batiushka's strong organism and
        caused him
        > acute pain. Someone was constantly at his bedside: his daughter-m-
        law
        > Natalia Sergeyevna, Fr. Andrew Erastoy, Brother Theodore Korolenko,
        and in
        > the final days seminarians and the servant of God Alexandra
        Listmenko. From
        > October 26 Batiushka's condition worsened; he began at times to
        lose his
        > mind. But even in such a state he would utter words so
        characteristic of
        > him: "Beloved, dear ones"! And he would look at you with the kind,
        gentle
        > eyes of a child. He imagined that he was back in his native
        Volhynia, among
        > the fields and horses, in the church there, among his close ones.
        This
        > alleviated his sufferings; his face would brighten and take on the
        look of
        > a child, reflecting his soul--it was the soul of a pure youth, who
        was
        > leaving a sorrowing life and returning to his father's home, where
        there is
        > neither sickness nor sorrow nor sighing, but life everlasting!
        >
        > On Friday October 22/November 4, at 6:30 in the morning the
        feast day
        > of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God, I came into Fr.
        Michael's
        > cell and found that he had reposed; his forehead was still
        warm.
        > Batiushka died alone. He had always served me as an example of
        > meekness, humility, prayerful recollection and abstinence--
        those
        > monastic activities to which I can only aspire. And he died
        in a
        > monastic way with no one around, Soon came Fr. Cyprian and
        Fr. Luke.
        > They immediately dressed Fr, Michael and took him in a wooden
        coffin
        > into the lower church of St. Job. For five days Fr. Michael's
        body
        > lay there in the church where the Gospel and the Psalter were
        read
        > continually on behalf of his soul. Archbishop Laurus
        performed the
        > funeral service on November 9. Present at the service were
        > Fr.Michael's former students--Fr. George Larin, Fr. Vsevolod
        Drobot,
        > Fr. Gregory Kotliarov, Fr. Ioasaph Yaroshchuk, Fr. Victor
        Lokhmatov
        > and Fr. Andrei Papkov.
        >
        > May the memory of this unforgettable pastor and teacher be
        eternal!
        >
        > M.B.
        >
        > (Translated from Pravoslavnaya Rus', 11/14/88)
        >
        > FATHER MICHAEL POMAZANSKY WAS ONE OF THE LAST GENUINE
        > THEOLOGIANS OF OUR TIMES.
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