Neither the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) or the Moscow Patriarchate (MP) exclude the future possibility of the canonisation of Metropolitan Laurus Škurla, Archbishop of New York and Eastern America, First Hierarch of the ROCOR, for his role in the restoration of Church unity, who passed away on Sunday on the Feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville NY at the age of 80.
“We lost an amazing person. He was a living saint, and we had the honour of associating with him. He was a rule of prayer and a light to the Church,”, said Fr Seraphim Gan, the personal secretary of Metropolitan Laurus, in a telephone interview with RIA-Novosti. He believes that is “certainly, too early” to speak of canonising Vladyki Laurus. “However, yesterday, when we went into the church, I had the sensation that we prayed not before an ordinary deceased person, but, before the remains of a righteous man, one who gave us an example of love and modesty”, Fr Seraphim remarked. He is confident that the funeral of Metropolitan Laurus, which shall take place in Jordanville NY on Friday, shall become a celebratory event.
“We reacted to his sudden death with much grief, everyone is still in shock over it”, Gan said. He told us that Vladyki Laurus contracted a cold recently, he felt weak during the last service he attended and he coughed, but no one expected his death. “He always was in a state of prayer and he lived the life of the Church. He came to the church at 04.30 in the morning when the entire brotherhood was lighting candles… He inspired us not so much by his words as with his example, with his humility and love”, Fr Seraphim recalled, as he was constantly at Vladyki’s side, especially in recent years.
During the first week of the Great Lent, Metropolitan Laurus participated in the services and prayers, and read lectures to the brotherhood and pilgrims from the Holy Fathers and Teachers of the Church. Last Friday, he read St Ephraim of Syria’s discourse on love. “We intend to publish it”, Rev Gan said. The greatest impression that one received of him was of great faith and humility. “He trusted entirely in God, and relied on His Will alone. He received everything, both good and sorrowful, as a gift from God, and as a sign of God”, Fr Seraphim explained. “Towards himself, Vladyki was very strict, but, he was lenient to others. In this way, he disciplined and restrained us”, he said.
Gan noted that he ordained many priests now serving in the US, Europe, and Australia. “He knew all of us very well… all of us were trained here in this seminary, within the walls of this monastery, and he knew whom he should ordain and where he should send us… for all of us, he was a father”, he emphasised.
In his opinion, Vladyki Laurus was at the same time “an exceptionally modest man, every inch a monk”, therefore, he had considerable authority, great respect, and much love throughout the entire Russian emigration. Fr Seraphim is convinced that “without him, it would be impossible to even conceive of any negotiations with the MP about the restoration of Church unity. He succeeded in overcoming our separation precisely through the medium of his love”.
Vladyki Laurus passed away very quietly and peacefully in his sleep on the morning of the Church Feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy. Fr Seraphim told us that one of the brotherhood was before Vladyki’s coffin and said, “Before us lies the celebration of Orthodoxy”. Rev Gan concurred, saying, “This is an actual fact”.
In his turn, Fr Vladimir Vigilyansky, head of the MP press service, in answering a question from RIA-Novosti concerning the possibility of the canonisation of the newly-reposed Metropolitan Laurus in the list of the saints, commented that he does not exclude this, but, “some time must pass before we do this. We only reiterate the Lord’s selection of His servants. Over time, the memory of the person must remain fresh, and the turning to him in prayer must come from all the people”.
18 March 2008