Re: [orthodox-synod] Hieromartyr Seraphim of Dmitrov - part 3
- The journey lasted a month. On May 16, he arrived in Ust-Sysolsk, where
the venerable Metropolitan Cyril of Kazan was living. The hierarchs comforted
each other and then parted again. Vladyka Seraphim was sent to the remote
village of Vizinga, where he was at the end of 1924 and the beginning of
1925. There, in a simple peasant's hut in an ocean of forests, the hierarch
and his two companions settled. Soon a house church was built, and the
everyday services took up all their free time. The exiled hierarch gave
himself to prayer for his flock, while his flock remained faithful to their
lawful hierarch, not joining the renovationists.
"Only here, in saving exile," wrote Vladyka Seraphim to his friend
Vladyka Arsenius, "have I learned what seclusion and prayer is."
And here he received food and clothing from his spiritual children, who
wrote to him about their sorrows and needs. Vladyka replied to them in
writing, comforting them and not allowing the renovationists to build their
nest in his diocese.
Thus passed two years.
On the day of the Annunciation, 1925, Vladyka Seraphim rejoiced at the
news that he had been freed from exile. On the next day, however, he was
greatly saddened to hear that the patriarch had died. On May 4, he arrived in
Moscow, having stopped at Sergiev Posad for confession with his elder, Fr.
The Church in Moscow was in a pitiful state. Metropolitan Peter of
Krutitsa, the patriarch's successor, was not trusted by many of the pastors
and archpastors of Moscow, and the venerable hierarchs did not want to submit
to a hierarch who had only just become a monk. But the pure-hearted Vladyka
Seraphim understood that the metropolitan was the most worthy successor to
the patriarch. He knew that Patriarch Tikhon had been greatly comforted by
Metropolitan Peter's devotion, faithfulness and love for him. And by
supporting the locum tenens in his turn, Vladyka Seraphim helped to reconcile
the Muscovite clergy with Metropolitan Peter.
Vladyka Seraphim spent the summer in the Borisoglebsk Anosin monastery
in Moscow diocese. In the autumn Metropolitan Peter appointed Vladyka
Seraphim, together with other vicar-bishops, to take his place in Moscow. He
knew that he would not betray the Church of Christ.
At the end of 1925 Vladyka Seraphim retired to a wooded retreat twenty
versts from Kubinki station in Zvenigorod uyezd, where there was a house
church in honour of St. Sabbas of Zvenigorod. Quiet prayer gave peace to the
soul of the archpastor, and he clearly understood that the enemy would not
allow Metropolitan Peter to take the helm of the Church again. And in order
to preserve his independence, Vladyka Seraphim retreated further into the
On June 13, 1926 he was exiled to Arzamas. On July 5, 1926, he made a
pilgrimage to Diveyevo. The timid abbess took fright at the unexpected
arrival of the popular hierarch and began to constrain him and prevent him
from performing Church services. Vladyka Seraphim suffered this for a long
time, but finally by his humility and prayers he won over the abbess. And so
every day he would celebrate the Liturgy behind closed doors in the
underground church of the Mother of God "Console my Sorrow", praying for the
monastery and his orphaned flock. After the Liturgy he would go round St.
Seraphim's canal and recite "Virgin Mother of God, rejoice!", in accordance
with St. Seraphim's rule, 150 times.
Every day he prayed in St. Seraphim's hermitage. And on July 19, the
feast of the opening of the relics of St. Seraphim, he served in Sarov. (St.
Seraphim's relics had been removed from the monastery in March, 1926.)
Thousands of pilgrims participated in the festivities. But soon Vladyka was
given the order to leave Sarov. Thus just as the first celebration of St.
Seraphim at Sarov was linked with Fr. John and his son, the future Vladyka
Seraphim, so the last hierarchical Liturgy in Sarov was celebrated by Vladyka
Seraphim on August 15, 1926.
"Where do you want to go?" they asked the exiled archpastor.
"Only back to my diocese," replied the hierarch.
"That is impossible!" they replied.
September 9/22 was Vladyka's last day in Diveyevo. During the night he
was ordered to go he did not know where. Then in pouring rain he and other
members of the Diveyevo community were brought to Arzamas. Late at night the
damp, dark walls of Arzamas prison received the tormented prisoners. In the
morning the nuns who accompanied him brought him dry, clean clothing. Soon
the prisoners were taken to Nizhni-Novgorod, where the basement of a
threatening institution hid the archpastor from the eyes of those who loved
him. In these difficult trials his gallstone illness got worse, and he was
given over into the care of a nun who was his adopted daughter. He was
released on October 8, and on October 17 he was ordered to appear before
Metropolitan Sergius in Moscow
Vladyka Seraphim categorically refused to accept Sergius' infamous
"declaration" of July, 1927, which placed the Church in more or less complete
submission to the atheists.
"I am morally incapable of doing that which those who do not love Christ
the Saviour want," was the reply of the wise confessor.
"Agree with the proposal," said Metropolitan Sergius, "otherwise you
will not only land up beyond the Arctic circle, but your lot will be three
times as bad as that of Metropolitan Peter."
At this point Vladyka produced a petition that he be retired, expressing
thereby his refusal to submit his rank and conscience to those who did not
love the Son of God and His glory.
Sergius, stunned by the decisive departure of the archpastor, hid
Vladyka Seraphim's decision from all those round him in order that others
should not follow his example and retire.
According to Metropolitan Manuel, Vladyka Seraphim's conversation
with Metropolitan Sergius took place after the latter's notorious declaration
of July, 1927, and Archbishop Zenobius of Tambov was also present. Vladyka
Seraphim and Archbishop Zenobius refused to accede to Sergius' demand that
they read out his declaration from the ambon to their flocks, which would
have meant that they agreed with the declaration. Instead, the confessing
bishops produced (from the sleeves of their cassocks) their petitions, which
they had prepared earlier just in case. It was at that point that
Metropolitan Sergius mentioned the Arctic circle, and the island of Khe on
which Metropolitan Peter was exiled. Apparently, after this the bishops were
given some time to consider their response. It is not known what Archbishop
Zenobius did. But Vladyka Seraphim, who had been given the choice of
returning to his flock or exile in the town of Melenki (on the river Unzhe in
Vladimir province) if he did not accept the conditions, asked the advice of
an elder. The elder said:
"Go to Melenki, and you will be beloved of God."
Soon Vladyka was ordered to leave Moscow and go to Melenki, where his
new life in retirement began. For five years he did not leave his house, but
lived a life of prayer in strict accordance with the typikon. Faithful
pastors came to seek his advice from Moscow, and his spiritual children also
Vladyka Seraphim lived with Vladyka Arsenius in the St. Catherine's
women's monastery until its closure.
According to one (dubious) source, Vladyka signed the decisions of the
so-called "Nomadic Council" of the Catacomb Church, which took place in
various places between March and August, 1928, through Protopriest Paul
He also wrote (although these words may belong to Hieromartyr Archbishop
Seraphim of Uglich): "Metropolitan Sergius has fallen away from the Church,
that is, by his actions he has transgressed the Church canons. Metropolitan
Sergius no longer remains in the bosom of the Orthodox Church. The Church
which has recognized righteousness in communism is not a Church… An
'organization bought at the price of bowing down to the Antichrist is
unworthy of the Church."
On Palm Sunday, April 25, 1932, he was imprisoned in Moscow (according
to another source, Melenki) in connection with the affair of the Moscow
branch of the True Orthodox Church. For three months he remained in Butyrki,
sick and weak. On July 7 he was sentenced to three years exile in Kazakhstan.
On the feast of St. Seraphim he was taken out and put on a train, where his
spiritual daughter, a nun, was waiting for him. They were taken to Alma-Ata,
which was overflowing. For two months the hierarch could not find a place to
stay. He lived on the roof of a poor old man's store-room. He had hardly had
time to rest on the shed, which was quickly converted into living
accomodation, when he was again taken away seven thousand kilometres through
Syzran, Penza, Saratov and Uralsk (on August 1, 1933) to Guryev.
The unendurable heat of the Caspian played havoc with his health, and
after seven months he was again taken on a very hard journey to Uralsk. Here
the sufferer found shelter in a humble little cottage, where he fell victim
to a bout of malaria that nearly killed him. After recovering from this
illness, at the beginning of 1935, he was arrested in Uralsk and sentenced to
three years' exile in Ishim. Sick, and without money or shelter, the exile
arrived in Ishim. Having settled with his companions in the house of an old
man, Vladyka gave himself up to prayer and the reading of the Sacred
Scriptures. Here in his distant exile he was visited by his spiritual
On the night of June 23-24, 1937, Bishop Seraphim was arrested in Ishim
and sentenced to be shot. The sentence was then commuted to ten years in the
camps without right of correspondence. According to one source, Bishop
Seraphim and 70 exiled priests were shot in Ishim. According to another, he
was shot in Omsk on August 26, 1937 and buried in a common grave. According
to a third source, he was executed on March 13/26, 1937. And according to yet
another source, this took place in a camp in the Far East.
(Sources: M.E. Gubonin, Akty Svyatejshego Tikhona, Patriarkha Moskovskogo i
Vseya Rossii, Moscow: St. Tikhon's Theological Institute, 1994, pp. 889-90;
"Zhiznennij put' Vladyki Seraphima (Zvezdinskogo) (1883-1937)", Vestnik
Russkogo Khristianskogo Dvizheniya, N 133, I-1981; "O svyashchennike
Seraphime Zvezdinskom", Vestnik Russkogo Khristianskogo Dvizheniya, N 134,
II-1981; Russkie Pravoslavniye Ierarkhi, Paris: YMCA Press, 1986; Shemetov,
"Khristos sredi nas!", Moskovskij Tserkovnij Vestnik, May, 1990; Metropolitan
Manuel Lemeshevsky, Die Russischen Orthodoxen Bischofe von 1893-1965,
Erlangen, 1989; P.Z. "Vyesti iz Rossii", Pravoslavnaya Rus', no. 24 (1525),
December 15/28, 1994, p. 11; Bishop Ambrose (von Sivers), "Istoki i svyazi
Katakombnoj Tserkvi v Leningrade i obl. (1922-1992)", report read at the
conference "The Historical Path of Orthodoxy in Russia after 1917", Saint
Petersburg, 1-3 June, 1993; "Katakombnaya Tserkov': Kochuyushchij Sobor 1928
g.", Russkoye Pravoslaviye, N 3 (7), 1997, p. 19; "Episkopat
Istinno-Pravoslavnoj Katakombnoj Tserkvi 1922-1997gg.", Russkoye
Pravoslaviye, N 4(8), 1997, p. 5; Lev Regelson, Tragediya Russkoj Tserkvi,
1917-1945, Moscow: Krutitskoye patriarsheye podvorye, 1996, pp. 535, 566; Ikh
Stradaniyami Ochistitsa Rus', Moscow, 1996, p. 75; I.I. Osipova, "Skvoz' Ogn'
Muchenij i Vody Slyoz", Moscow: Serebryanniye Niti, 1998, p. 261)
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]