His Beatitude, Metropolitan Theodosius, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, visited a number of Moscow area Orthodox communities on Thursday, December 6, as he continued his official week-long visit to the Russian Orthodox Church at the invitation of His Holiness, Patriarch Aleksy II of Moscow and All Rus.
In the morning, Metropolitan Theodosius visited His Eminence, Bishop Nifon, Representative of the Patriarchate of Antioch in Moscow. The visit was especially timely as Metropolitan Theodosius presented Bishop Nifon and the Antiochian Representation Church in Moscow with relics of Saint Raphael Hawaweeny of Brooklyn, who prior to his assignment to America at the beginning of the 20th century had held the same position in Moscow currently held by Bishop Nifon. Metropolitan Theodosius reflected on the life and ministry of Saint Raphael, who was the first Orthodox Christian to be consecrated to the episcopacy on the North American continent. Bishop Nifon responded in kind, expressing his joy and that of the faithful at the Antiochian Representation Church at receiving such a special gift.
Metropolitan Theodosius then went to Saint Dmitri Orthodox Orphanage, where he was met in the chapel by the Archpriest Arkady Shatov and the orphans to whom he ministers.
“You and those who assist you have been called by the Lord to a special work,” Metropolitan Theodosius told Father Shatov upon his arrival at the orphanage. “The Lord Himself has entrusted you with the care of a special treasure—the treasure of young lives whose future, both as Orthodox Christians and as citizens of Russia and the world is given to you to nurture and create.
“The children and young people of Russia, of the United States, and, indeed, of the whole world, live in a time that has been marked with violence,” Metropolitan Theodosius concluded. “This has been seen most recently in the United States, but no nation, indeed, no community is entirely free from the possibility of such dangers. At the same time, we must acknowledge that the majority of the children of this world are also loved and cared for in a special way—this is most notable here at this orphanage which has become a place of refuge and loving care for children who might otherwise be left to suffer the darker side of human life.”
Delighted by the rare occasion to host such special guests, the orphans entertained Metropolitan Theodosius and his entourage with a musical concert and series of recitations prepared especially for the occasion. Equally delighted by the orphan’s outpouring of love and excitement, Metropolitan Theodosius blessed each child and presented them with small mementos of his visit.
Before visiting the Saint Tikhon Theological Institute, Metropolitan was welcomed to the Moscow Filial of the Pyukhtitsky Women’s Monastery in Estonia, one of several such monastic communities in the capital maintained by major monasteries elsewhere. The Pyukhtitsky Monastery, located in Estonia, was one of only a handful of monastic communities that had functioned during the Soviet era. Patriarch Aleksy, who struggled to keep the Church alive in Estonia during his years as Metropolitan of Tallin and All Estonia, had successfully helped to keep the monastery alive during those dark times.
In his greeting to Mother Filareta, Abbess, and the sisterhood, Metropolitan Theodosius emphasized the importance of monastic witness in bringing people to Christ and inspiring the return of the lost, the searching, and the seeking. Noting that “monasticism is often misunderstood,” he encouraged the nuns to continue their witness through their prayer, their work, and the witness they provide to the broader society.
The Saint Tikhon Theological Institute was Metropolitan Theodosius’ next stop. Established in the early 1990s in honor of Saint Tikhon of Moscow, who had served as Orthodox Archbishop in North America from the end of the 19th to the beginning of the 20th centuries, the Institute offers instruction to over 1000 students in theology, Church history, Scripture studies, iconography, liturgical music, language, and a variety of other disciplines. Metropolitan Theodosius is a member of the Institute’s Board.
Metropolitan Theodosius was welcomed by the Archpriest Vladimir Vorobyov, Rector of the Institute, members of the faculty, and the student body.
In addressing the assembly, Metropolitan Theodosius marveled at the progress he has seen at the Institute during the past decade and reflected on the enthusiasm displayed by the students, especially after seven decades of repression of religious education and theological studies. He challenged the students to continue their studies with the utmost seriousness and to focus on the ministries for which they are preparing.
On behalf of the Institute community, Father Vorobyov presented Metropolitan Theodosius with an icon of Saint Tikhon, prepared at the school’s iconography studio. Students were so anxious to greet the Metropolitan personally that he spent nearly one hour blessing and speaking with them individually.
Metropolitan Theodosius and Archbishop Herman went directly to the Orthodox Church in America’s Representation Church of Saint Catherine the Great Martyr for the celebration of the Vigil Service on the eve of the parish’s patronal feast. Located in central Moscow, the church had been closed for many years, during which it was used for secular purposes. In the mid-1990s, it was given for use as the OCA’s Representation Church, and under the Archpriest Daniel Hubiak, first OCA Representative in Moscow, it underwent extensive renovation and consecration. Archimandrite Nicholas [Iuhos] currently serves as Representative.
“My last visit to this venerable temple was over two years ago, for the feast of its consecration,” Metropolitan Theodosius reflected in his address to the clergy and faithful who filled the church. “At that time, I expressed my hope that Saint Catherine Church would be a sign of the unity between the Church of Russia and the Church in America and that this parish community would become known for its enthusiasm and dedication. I am confident that this has taken place and continues to take place.”
Metropolitan Theodosius expressly thanked Archimandrite Nicholas for the tremendous efforts he has displayed during his first year as the OCA Representative in Moscow.
Following the Vigil Service, Metropolitan Theodosius visited the Women’s Monastery of Saints Martha and Mary, just minutes away from Saint Catherine Church. The monastery was founded by Saint Elizabeth the New Martyr, the sister of the recently canonized Tsar Nicholas II. Closed during the Soviet era, the monastery was one of the first to reopen after the fall of communism.
In his greeting to the Abbess and the sisterhood, Metropolitan Theodosius spoke of the importance the monastery holds in providing “a spiritual haven to so many who are now actively seeking to live their lives in Christ as faithful members of His Holy Church.”
Metropolitan Theodosius continued by reflecting on the importance of monasticism in the life of the Church.
“Throughout the centuries, monastic life has often been misunderstood or misrepresented,” he said. “Because of the basic monastic dynamic of fleeing from the world, monastics have often been portrayed as persons who live in ivory towers, apart from the difficulties and rigors of daily life, even removed from the daily difficulties and rigors of being faithful followers of Jesus Christ. Clearly, such understandings of monastic life are incorrect. For the monastic, while living apart from the world, is dedicated to the world’s very salvation. Indeed, the life of the monastic is lived for the world.”