Compassionate Love - Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky
His Beatitude Metropolitan Anthony came from an old noble family from the province of Novgorod. He was born March 17, 1863, and at baptism was named Alexis. His father and mother were highly educated and religious people. It is known that his mother liked to pray for long periods of time; she often read the Holy Gospel to her children and explained it to them. Together with her husband she also loved visiting churches and monasteries.
Vladika more than once recalled his early impressions of Novgorod: 'I was still a child when my parents took me from the country to ancient Novgorod. Here I came to love the Church of Christ in which God's glory was revealed--the ancient churches of Novgorod, the relics of the saints end the grandeur of the hierarchical services. Although I could not then express it in precise terms, I sensed with my child's soul the greatness of God and the lofty truth of our Faith, revealed in the mystical sacred actions of the bishop."
In 1881 he finished the gymnasia [high school] and in the autumn of that year he passed the entrance examinations for the St. Petersburg Theological Academy which he finished in 1885. Here he received the monastic tonsure with the name of Anthony [after St. Anthony the Roman of Novgorod, commemorated January 19 and August 3]. At the beginning of the 1886-1887 academic year, after defending his master's thesis, Hieromonk Anthony was chosen as assistant professor of the Old Testament. Apart from his academy work, the young hieromonk frequently celebrated church services, preached throughout St. Petersburg, and visited prisons and hospitals. At the same time he took an active part in the work of the Society for Religious and Moral Enlightenment at which he gave a number of lectures.
Fr. Anthony's sermons were primarily devoted to explaining the principles of Christian love and humility. In all the lectures which he gave to theological students over the course of fifteen years, Metropolitan Anthony stressed the moral aspects of Christian teaching. Besides his remarkable intellectual abilities, the Lord also endowed Vladika with other rare gifts: love, kindness and a heart open to everyone who came to him. His loving heart not only attracted to him student youth, hut also parish clergy who were under his jurisdiction.
There were no few Occasions when Vladika Anthony took off his cassock and gave it to a poor priest. All the money which he received from the Pochaev Lavra he gave out to various charitable causes. He sent the Larva addresses to which the money was to be sent, and it usually went to poor students, poor priests, their widows and other s in similarly difficult financial situations.
From his youth, Vladika Anthony devoted all the strength of his richly gifted soul to the Church, He came to know the significance of compassionate love through his experience in relation s with his pupils and his flock. His teaching about love as a gift of God's grace he took from the Holy Scriptures and the works of the Holy Fathers, and he became more fully conscious of it through his experience of his own life from his youth to his last days,
While Vladika was at the St, Petersburg Theological Academy, the intellectual activities of the Academy were proceeding apace, but the students were not very enthusiastic about entering the ranks of clergy or becoming monks. In 1883 the new rector, Bishop Arseny, pointed out this deficiency to his pupils, saying that the main task of a theological academy is to provide cadres of educated monks. His words were not wasted.
From that moment circles of student youth sympathetic to the monastic way of life began to be formed at the Academy. The future Metropolitan was the soul of these circles. Not only during the academic period but also throughout the whole of his life, he loved to surround him self with religiously and morally oriented young people, who saw in him a man with a "pure heart," and clung to him, seeking to quench their spiritual thirst and be consoled in their sorrows. A great number of monks, priests and bishops came from under the wings of Vladika Anthony.
The fervent activity of the young professor found much criticism and hindrance in the conservative milieu of the St. Petersburg Academy, and this culminated in his having to leave the Academy in 1889. The following academic year he was elevated to the rank of archimandrite and appointed rector of the Moscow Theological Academy. Here his relationship with the students was based on love towards them, on their freely-given obedience, and on a common preparedness for moral struggles. Subsequently Vladika wrote to his pupils: "It was not with an ordinary human attachment that I loved you. I saw into each of you in your struggles with sin and doubts which are born from sin, in your gradual ascent towards perfection. I was not only inspired by the hope of our own salvation, but also, through you, as preachers of the Gospel good news, I felt my unity with the whole catholic Church."
During the years 1890-94, the young Archimandrite Anthony started printing articles in defense of the Orthodox Faith and Church, mainly against attacks from Leo N. Tolstoy whose views were then very popular in Russia, Tolstoy was impressed by his criticism, and even said that "only Father Anthony understands me."
Father Anthony did not stay long in the Moscow Academy. The same thing happened here as in St. Petersburg. After a biased investigation which could not come up with any incriminating material, Fr. Anthony was transferred to the Kazan Theological Academy in 1894, where he was also rector. Here his activities continued in the same spirit as in Moscow. He started special courses for missionaries who were to work among the local Tartar population. In 1897 at the age of 34 he was consecrated bishop, and so had to give up his rectorship.
At first he was vicar bishop in Kazan, then, in 1900, he became ruling bishop of Ufa, a distant provincial see to which bishops without higher education were usually assigned. Disregarding this injustice, Bishop Anthony attracted the hearts of everyone in Ufa, and church life started to improve noticeably. During the two years that he ruled the diocese, the number of parishes in it doubled.
In 1902 Bishop Anthony was transferred to the Volynia cathedral [on the western border of Russia], where he remained until 1914. This period was one of the brightest pages in the age-long history of the Volynia diocese. Vladika Anthony immediately tried to attract experienced and inspired co-workers from among his numerous former pupils at the academies. Thus he gave new life to the work of preaching, to education in the seminary and church schools, and to missionary work. Closest to his heart were the monasteries, especially the Pochaev Lavra where he brought about a rebirth of the monastic spirit of podvig and greatly increased the influence of the Lavra among the people. There in the Lavra he organized a printing brotherhood which did much to enlighten the people by printing popular spiritual materials. Vladika Anthony did much to improve the situation of the Orthodox in the Austro-Hungarian Empire [which bordered on his diocese]. In 1912 he was made Archbishop and became a permanent member of the Holy Synod.
In 19l4 Archbishop Anthony was transferred to Kharkov. When the First World War broke out, he encouraged the people to fight bravely, as he feared the spiritual consequences of a demoralization among the troops and of a revolution which could easily follow. When the Revolution did come in 1917, he was compelled by various revolutionary elements to leave Kharkov, and he went to Valaam monastery, intending to devote the rest of his days to theological writing and monastic life. But very soon he was called to take part in the All-Russian Church Council in Moscow as a representative of Russian monasticism. Here he was the leading spokesman for the restoration of the Patriarchate, a dream he had had since childhood. While still a professor of the St. Petersburg Academy, he had argued in favor of this, often speaking about it with his students in sermons, lectures and articles; he later took part in a synodal committee on this question. When the Patriarch of Antioch had visited St. Petersburg, Archbishop Anthony had organized a patriarchal church service, and this helped to popularize the idea of restoring the Patriarchate in Russia. At the Council of 1917 he gave members lectures on Patriarch Nikon and organized an expedition for them to the monastery of the Resurrection [founded by Patriarch Nikon], His efforts succeeded in changing the attitude of the council members who finally decided in favor of the restoration. This was the greatest joy in the life of the great Abba Anthony. Vladika himself was chosen as one of three candidates for the patriarchal throne, and he received the greatest number of votes. [The final choice, made by lot, fell to Patriarch Tikhon. ]
Archbishop Anthony was asked to return to Kharkov, but at the end of the Council he was made Metropolitan of Kiev and Galich. When the Petlura government [left-wing Ukrainian nationalists-] came to power, he was imprisoned for eight months in a Uniate monastery. Later he was able to return to Kiev, but while he was in Novocherkassk [in the south of Russia] on church business, Kiev fell to the advancing Red Army, preventing Vladika Anthony's return to the city...
At Novocherkassk he led the Highest Church Administration, which was composed of bishops in the south whe were cutoff from Patriarch Tikhon by the civil war. This group of hierarchs was the precursor of the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. After the White Army's evacuation of the Crimea, Metropolitan Anthony accompanied it to Constantinople. He was soon invited to Yugoslavia by Patriarch Dimitrije of Serbia. Here he spent the last 15 years of his life as leader of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
At Sremski Karlovtsi Metropolitan Anthony was the senior hierarch of the Synod of Bishops formed in 1922. His close personal friendship with Patriarch Varnave, who succeeded Patriarch Dimitrije in 1930, helped the establishment of friendly relations between the exile Synod and the local Serbian Orthodox Church. In 1927 he drafted the Synod' s letter of protest to Metropolitan Sergius, when the latter issued his notorious "Declaration" of compromise with the Soviet regime. His intense efforts to establish church unity among the emigres were not entirely successful: in 1926 Metropolitans Evlogy [of Paris] and Platen [of North America] broke away from the Synod, and although this schism was healed in 1935, on returning to Paris the following year, Metropolitan Evlogy again separated himself from the Synod.
In exile Metropolitan Anthony continued to pursue his theological and literary activities. Besides theology he also wrote on various philosophical and literary questions. His writings are dominated by the same idea which characterized his life: a compassionate, 'co-suffering,' love. His explanation of the moral aspect of Christian dogmatics is based on this concept. The Metropolitan's political views were strictly grounded in Orthodoxy and went beyond mere party doctrine. Here he was in complete agreement with Dostoevsky whose writings he valued very highly.
In his last years Metropolitan Anthony became very weak and was unable to walk; he had to be carried to council meetings and to church in an armchair. This was due to a disease of the nerves, brought on by his deep anguish over the spiritual fate of Russia. This illness finally led to his repose on July 28/August10,1936. Truly it can be said that Metropolitan Anthony remained to the end of his life a faithful embodiment of his teaching on co-suffering love.
Based on an article in "Praroslarnaya Rus'," No. l3 1936.