His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus Škurla
Archbishop of New York and Eastern America and Abbot of Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville NY USA
First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (MP)
Today, my heart and soul are filled with spiritual joy, spiritual mercy, and the mercy of God. I’m always joyful when I’m in the holy Russian land. For me this is a Holy Land. I’m joyful when I’m able to concelebrate with hierarchs, priests, and their flock, to pray to God and be worthy of the great mercy of God… to partake of the Mysteries of Christ here, in this holy land.
For myself, I’m from the Carpathians. That’s where the Slavs came from. We were brought up to look on Russia, the Russian land, as a Holy Land… I ask for your holy prayers that the Lord may make us worthy to be together with the saints, especially with the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, who suffered and abundantly watered our Russian land with their blood.
Metropolitan Laurus after the Divine Liturgy at Sretensky Monastery in Moscow on 24 February 2008
as recorded by Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov
There are people whose calling and destiny it is to fulfil a great task. They do not in the least seek after this, but they are chosen by God. They have greatness thrust upon them. For example, in Moscow on Monday 17 March, the influential Russian Union of Orthodox Citizens (SPG) suggested naming a street after a poor peasant boy from Slovakia. “The merits of His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus are so great that streets in our cities deserve to be named after him. A majestic Cathedral should be build to commemorate this outstanding man and the unification of the Russian Orthodox Church”, said Kirill Frolov, the head of the SPG Moscow Department. He added, “The SPG regards Metropolitan Laurus as a national hero. The unification of the Russian Orthodox Church was a great deed on the part of His Eminence, who achieved it despite devilish resistance from opponents of the Church and of Russia. The fact that Metropolitan Laurus passed away on the day of the Triumph of Orthodoxy is the clearest proof of this. The unification of the Russian Church is indeed a great triumph for Orthodoxy”.
Vladyka had been found early on Sunday, 16 March, the morning of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, by Protodeacon Victor Lokhmatov. “His hands were under his head, as I always saw him when he slept”, he said. “He taught souls through the example of his life. He would get up earlier than all the others, he worked harder than all the others… He always had something good to say about others”. The future Metropolitan “carried out all the monastic obediences, starting from the cowshed to the typography”. We should not forget that the Monastery in Jordanville did its utmost to send out books to spiritually-starving Russia. Its postage bill to Russia at the beginning of the ’90s was $5,000 a month. As a bishop, the future Metropolitan was to be seen dressed as a simple hieromonk. One of his obediences was to wash the dishes in the Monastery. He would not have dreamed of removing his name from the rota, just because he was the abbot and had become a bishop. He was famed for his borshch soups. It was always possible to talk to this exemplary monk, always accessible like all the best hierarchs of the Church Outside Russia. And, on being chosen as Metropolitan in 2001, he said, “And, now, what I feared has come to me. In my old age, my brother bishops have bound me and entrusted the ship of our Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia to me. I have accepted this as obedience to God, to the Church of Christ and to our Council of Hierarchs. For my part, I do not feel any superiority or any strength to guide this ship. I merely trust in God’s help and the prayers of our flock. Russian Orthodox and Orthodox in general must be one in spirit and deed”.
The Shrine to St John Maksimovich the Wonderworker of Shanghai, Paris, and San Francisco at the Cathedral of the Mother of God the Joy of All Who Sorrow (San Francisco CA)
It was at the Council in San Francisco in May 2006 that I first understood the nature of the Metropolitan’s humility. Here I saw not a Metropolitan, but, rather a poor village boy, whose mother had passed away, in the Carpathian foothills in Slovakia. In my mind’s eye, I saw him pedalling his bicycle, one of the best investments that the local Monastery ever made, to school in Svidník, avoiding the Nazi soldiers. (Where is that bicycle now? Standing rusting in the corner of a barn in the Carpathians?) But, then, in San Francisco, Metropolitan Laurus stood side by side with Metropolitan Amfilohije Radović of Monetengro, with a dozen bishops, presiding over a Council of a worldwide Church on the far distant shores of the Pacific Ocean. This was a destiny. How was it possible? Because the Metropolitan was not a learned professor, not a politician, not a prince of the Church, who talk, but, do not do, but, for over sixty years a true monk, who simply listens and then does. He conquered by his example, by his Carpatho-Russian sincere faith, which is indeed greater than riches, by his virtue, by his humility.
As for the greatest event in his life, the canonical communion of the two parts of the Russian Church, the Metropolitan suffered greatly at the dissent of the vocal (but small) minority who opposed the episcopate. He always wanted to keep everyone together. Indeed, there will be those who will say that the stress caused by that dissent brought on his repose. He hid his emotions and his peaceful and calming spirit no doubt helped limit the amount of dissent, but nevertheless he suffered, a victim of the disobedience of others. Having returned from his beloved Russia two weeks earlier, the Metropolitan served all the offices of the First Week of the Great Fast, except for Saturday, because he was not feeling well. The manner of his repose was that which Orthodox pray for… “painless, blameless, peaceful”, and it happened on the Feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, when by Moscow time, that Triumph had been completed. The day of the restoration of the icons was the day of the repose of him who had restored unity. He had completed his task, fulfilled the destiny that had been asked of him, the good and faithful servant had run his course and it was time to rest.
There may be some who will try and use his repose for their own ends. We believe it more likely that his repose will rather seal unity and bring back to the fold those of goodwill who are still reticent. As a prominent laywoman in New York, Lyudmila Kholodnya, has said, “The schism is already on the sandbanks and I think that it will end with this”. We recall that less than a month ago Metropolitan Laurus was in Moscow, receiving the Compatriot of the Year prize from the Mayor of Moscow. The Metropolitan said, “We must save our souls in love for each other and in unity”. Exactly a week ago, I sent Vladyka a postcard from the shores of the North Sea and asked for his prayers. I do not know whether he received it or not. I remember how I had once wanted to ask him a question. He smiled at me in his grandfatherly way. I had received my answer and it was no longer necessary to ask my question. Everything had been said in his smile. However, I will remember him best at the Council in San Francisco. In the talk I gave there, I said a word in his native Carpatho-Russian, po-nashomu, meaning “in our (Carpatho-Russian) language”. His smile was unforgettable. I think he was touched that someone had remembered his Carpathian roots, those simple and honest roots that had determined the course and pattern of his life and set us all an example.
Archbishop Hilarion Kapral of Australia and New Zealand (1948- ), locum tenens of the ROCOR
Metropolitan Laurus, the fifth First Hierarch of the Church Outside Russia in 87 years, was Metropolitan for only seven years. He was the last bishop of the pre-war generation. All our other active bishops are aged under 60. We do not know what will happen at their Synod after the Paschal celebrations and who will take the place the Metropolitan as Sixth First Hierarch of our Church. All we can do is pray and obey, as the Metropolitan would surely have advised us to do. But, if I may add a thought of my own, the best thing that could happen is that all those who call themselves Russian Orthodox and live outside Russia, whether in Western Europe, the Americas or elsewhere, should now, with the blessing of Patriarch Alexis and His Synod in New York, join themselves to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. In this way, the spiritual unity that we already have may be transfigured further into a visible administrative unity. This would be the greatest memorial to Vladyka Metropolitan, much greater still than a majestic Cathedral in Moscow. To him we all sing:
17 March 2008
I can only wholeheartedly endorse everything written by Fr Andrew. I, too, wish for the unity of all Russian Orthodox Christians. It is time for the Soviet construct known as the OCA to end, and for the healthy elements within it to reunite with the mother church. We should ask the Carpatho-Russians and Ukrainians to join us as well, if they will, and one hopes that they shall. We should send the Romanians in the OCA back to their mother church in Romania, which is now free, with our blessings and good wishes, and with the hope that we shall remain good neighbours (and, no doubt, we would!).
Brothers! A sign of Orthodox unity in Moscow
There is no hope at all for the idealistic “union of all Orthodox Christians in America” preached by SVS and the Again crowd. Indeed, because of the nature of diaspora Orthodoxy, it may never be. Instead, we should work at uniting the various strands of Orthodoxy in our country, that is, there should be a united Serbian Church, a united Greek Church, a united Russian Church, a united Arab Church, and a united Romanian Church. We could indeed cooperate on projects of good will, and we could do much good together. Nevertheless, the discarnate “united Orthodoxy” preached by some recent converts (especially in the Antiochian archdiocese) is not only unattainable, but, dangerous in the extreme. This “Union Orthodoxy” is suffused completely with amoral American suburban notions, and its primary credo is not Orthodoxy, but, rather, it subscribes to a positivism that is little different from its secular analogue. Indeed, it is MORE dangerous because of its religious veneer. One can see this in the refusal of the OCA to effectively remove Nikolai of Alaska for ordaining a convicted sexual offender to the clergy. The OCA’s response has been psychobabble. What would the Metropolia bishops have done? They would have called in the Alaska State Troopers, removed Nikolai from church housing, and banned him from all Church property by the issuance of the proper court order (an easy item to procure, by the way). QED, done quite smartly, and without delay or fuss! Methinks that the OCA is a step DOWN the evolutionary ladder!
We must honour Vladyki’s memory by completing his project of Church unity. If a few unrepresentative intellectuals squawk, let them do so, and let them wander away to whatever destination they choose. They shall be happier there than amongst us. As for us, we should clasp our hands together and fashion the unity that God has set before us, not the notional unity that was nothing but an opium dream of heretics such as Alexander Schmemann. We owe Vladyki that much. We shall honour him by following his deeds, not by repeating his words. May God bless us in the completion of such a task.