A Life of Archbishop Theophan of Poltava

Written by Vladimir Moss


Early Years

The future Archbishop Theophan was born in the village of Podmoshie,

Novgorod province on December 31, 1874 (1873, according to another source).

His father was the village priest, Fr. Demetrius Bystrov, and his mother was

called Maria. He was baptized with the name Basil, since the feast day of St.

Basil the Great (January 1) was the nearest to his birthday.

When he was seven years old, Basil had an extraordinary prophetic dream.

He saw himself were standing in hierarchical vestments and wearing a

golden mitre in the high place during the Divine Liturgy. And his father went

up to him and censed him. It should be pointed out that the child had never

yet witnessed a hierarchical service. In the morning Basil told his mother the

dream. His father, who was sitting in the next room, heard him and said:

“Look a new Joseph has appeared!”

But the prophecy in the dream was fulfilled exactly. Many years later, when

Archbishop Theophan was going to be consecrated to the episcopate, the

Holy Synod his father to take part in the service. And during the service he

censed his son in the sanctuary in front of the holy altar…

As a child, his parents told him, Basil did not know any prayers by heart,

but he would fall on his knees in front of the icons and burble out, weeping:

“Lord, You are so great and I am so small!”

He was quiet and concentrated, and did not take part in childish games.

But at the same time he was radiant and joyful. He tasted of the fruits of

prayer, and kept a strict watch on his inner life. He loved the severe landscape

of the north of Russia, which spoke to him of God the Creator. And he

breathed in the pious, humble spirit of the peasants around him.

Basil went to the parish school, where his extraordinary intellectual talents

were first revealed. He was able to read a page once and repeat it almost

word for word, and jumped class three times. Then he went to theological

seminary, which he finished three years before those who had begun with


Having finished his secondary studies at the theological seminary, the

young Basil had to pass an examination to enter the Theological Academy in

St. Petersburg.

“I was then scarcely seventeen. I was much younger than all the other

candidates, and I looked like a schoolboy… I was not afraid of the entry

examination because I had a good knowledge of the seminary programme.

And then there came the time of the written examination in philosophy

marked by the famous Professor Korinfsky. I was afraid of this exam because

it was outside the seminary programme and because it was the only written

exam, all the others were oral. I prayed fervently to St. Justin the Philosopher

and the holy teachers of the Church Saints Basil the Great, Gregory the

Theologian and John Chrysostom to enlighten my mind and give me their


“The day of the exam arrived; it was due to take place at four o’clock. We

sat down, Professor Korinfsky entered, greeted us and then wrote on the

board the proposed subject:

“’The importance of personal experience in elaborating one’s world-view.’

“What joy and gratitude to the Lord I felt on reading this compositional

subject! It was clear and familiar to me. Thanks to the prayers of the saints, the

Lord sent me rapid, light thought and I finished my work astonishingly

quickly, in half an hour. I had written only one page… I got up and asked

permission to give in my work. The professor was clearly very surprised! He

looked at his watch and said, not without hesitation:

“’Oh well, give it to me.’

“He had seen that I was the youngest and probably thought that I had not

understood the subject. I noted his hesitation and handed him my paper. He

asked me to wait for a moment and began to read. During the reading, he

raised his eyes towards me from time to time, then said:

“’Thank you, thank you… You can go.’

“My fervent prayer to the philosopher saints had been heard,’ continued

the archbishop. ‘It was they, not I, who had written by my hand… Thanks be

to Thee, O Lord! For Thou are the Giver of all good things! In this way the

exam which was supposed to be the most difficult became for me the easiest

of all. I had the distinct impression that Professor Korfinsky was satisfied with

my work. Finally, I got the top pass into the St. Petersburg Academy. But as

the Apostle writes: ‘Not I, but the grace of God which is with me’ (I

Corinthians 15.10).”

Many years later, when Basil was now Bishop Theophan and the Rector of

the Academy, he had to pacify the warring factions among the professors

during the revolutionary years 1905-06. After one of these debates, without

himself taking part, Professor Korinfsky came up to the Rector, who had just

calmed the tempest, and said, smiling sweetly:

“Yes… I well remember your essay!”

At the Theological Academy

Archbishop Theophan had fond memories of several of the professors of

the Academy when he was there, including V.V. Bolotov, A.P. Lopukhin and

N.N. Glubokovsky. Professor Lopukhin even bequeathed him his very large

theological library (which he later gave to the Academy). With their help and

support, he passed all four years of his study as the first student.

Having finished his theological education at the age of 21, he was given a

professorial scholarship to continue to study at the Academy.

In 1896, Basil Dmitrievich was appointed lecturer at the St. Petersburg

Academy in the faculty of Biblical history. In 1898 he received the monastic

tonsure with the name Theophan in honour of St. Theophan the Confessor,

Bishop of Sigriane, and in respectful memory of Bishop Theophan the

Recluse. In the same year he was ordained to the diaconate and the


In 1901, he was raised to the rank of archimandrite with the duties of

inspector of the Academy in the Academy’s house church by Metropolitan

Anthony (Vadkovsky) of St. Petersburg.

The Academy’s ustav said that the inspector had to have a master’s degree

and so was obliged to write a composition to obtain the degree. But

Archimandrite Theophan did not hand in a composition, although he had

written it. The reason was that as a monk he had given vows of poverty and

humility, and could not seek or desire academic glory. It contradicted the

monastic vows. And so the work lay in his desk for several years until

another professor in his absence took it and gave it to the Academic Council.

The subject of the composition was: “The Tetragram, or the Old Testament

Name of God (Jehovah or Yahweh)”. This work became his master’s

dissertation at the faculty of the Biblical history of the Old Testament. It was

published in 1905 and was very highly esteemed by critics both inside and

outside Russia. It was called “the famous Tetragram”! However, when the

book appeared in the shops, Archbishop Theophan himself went round all the

bookshops in a cab, and bought and burned all the copies of the work! In this

way he fought against the love of glory in himself.

In this case, as in others, he sought the advice of the elders, especially

Hieroschemamonks Alexis of Valaam, and Barnabas and Isidore of

Gethsemane skete.

Fr. Theophan would often take the steamer to Valaam. Once he left the

monastery church and went into the woods to practise the Jesus prayer. He

soon noticed a large silent mass of people with Fr. Alexis, upon whom the

abbot had given the obedience to teach the people outside the church. On

seeing him, Fr. Theophan went in a different direction, thinking that he would

not meet the crowd again. But it turned out that the elder led the pilgrims in

the same direction. Then he decided to let the procession pass him while he

went off in the opposite direction. He stopped in a thicket from where he

could observe the pilgrims. In front strode the elder a large distance from the

people, while behind him came the pilgrims, most of them women. The

hieroschemamonk had his head bowed to the ground, and was praying.

Suddenly the thought occurred to Fr. Theophan: “Ach, in vain does

Hieroschemamonk Alexis surround himself with these women – and all of

them are young. There could be reprimands…”

“But I hadn’t managed to think this before the elder raised his head and,

turning in my direction, loudly said, almost shouting:

“’They followed Christ, too!’”

These words were so unexpected and short that none of the people could

understand their meaning and to whom they referred. Although the whole

crowd heard these words and looked in the direction of Fr. Theophan, they

could not see him because of the thicket. But the elder again lowered his head

and immersed himself in prayer…

“Truly, Elder Alexis was a great saint and wonderful clairvoyant,”

witnessed Vladyka Theophan. “He was as beautiful as an angel of God. It was

sometimes difficult to look at him, he was as it were in flames, especially

when standing at the altar in prayer. At the time he was completely

transfigured, his face became different in an indescribable way, extremely

concentrated and severe. He was truly all in fire.”

But if the elder felt that those present in the altar were involuntarily

observing him and his prayer, he tried to hide his condition by a kind of

foolery. He usually went up to the wall and, pretending that he was an

absent-minded worshipper, in his shadow on the wall he corrected and

combed the hair on his head.

Once Fr. Theophan set off for Valaam, troubled by the following thought:

the ascetic rules of the Holy Fathers said that a monk should pay as little

attention to his external appearance as possible. But the Church had blessed

him to be an academic monk and live and be saved in the world. But, living in

the world, it was impossible to forget his flesh and not care for his


He went to Fr. Alexis’ cell convinced that he would get the solution to his

problem. And his faith was rewarded. The elder, as always, received Fr.

Theophan very joyfully. He sat him down and asked him to wait for a

moment. Then he took a mirror, put it on the table at which Fr. Theophan was

sitting, and began carefully to comb his hair. After this he cleared everything

from the table and, turning to Fr. Theophan, said:

“Well, now we can talk.”

And so, without any words, the elder had resolved Fr. Theophan’s problem…

Another holy man to whom Fr. Theophan was close was the great

wonderworking priest Fr. John of Kronstadt.

Once Fr. Theophan was preparing to celebrate the Divine Liturgy the next

day in one of the capital’s churches whose altar feastday it was. But suddenly

he was given urgent work that could not be postponed: he had to prepare a

written report for the metropolitan. “From the evening and throughout the

night I wrote the urgent report, and so I was not able to rest. When I had

finished my work it was already morning, I had to go to the church. And

there, together with the other clergy, Fr. John was serving with me. The

Liturgy was coming to an end and the servers were communing in the altar.

At a suitable moment, when the communion hymn was being sung, Fr. John

came up to me and congratulated me on receiving the Holy Mysteries. And

then he looked at me with particular attention and, shaking his head, said:

“’Oh, how difficult it is to write the whole night and then, having had no

rest at all, to go straight to the church and celebrate the Divine Liturgy… May

the Lord help and strengthen you!’

“You can imagine how joyful it was for me to hear such words from such a

person. I suddenly felt that all my tiredness had suddenly disappeared at his

words… Yes, great was the righteous one Fr. John of Kronstadt!”

After pausing for a little, Vladyka continued: “But how many people there

were, blind and deaf ones, who did not accept Fr. John and treated him very

crudely. And there were such people even among the priests. Thus for

example Fr. John once came to the altar feast in one of the churches of St.

Petersburg. But the superior of the church, on seeing him, began to shout at


“’Who invited you here? Why did you appear? I didn’t invite you. Oh,

you’re such a ‘saint’. We know saints of your kind!’

“Fr. John was embarrassed and said:

“‘Calm down, batyushka, I’m leaving now…’

“But he shouted at him:

“‘Oh what a ‘wonderworker’ you are. Get out of here! I didn’t invite


“Fr. John meekly and humbly asked forgiveness and left the church…

“Another time there was a service in the St. Andrew cathedral in

Kronstadt, where Fr. John was rector. One of the servers began to get


“’Why do you give away money to everyone, but to me, who serve you,

you have never given anything? What does this mean?’

“Batyushka was silent, and was apparently praying within himself. But the

other continued to be disturbed and reviled him, not sparing his language.

“A reader who happened to be there stood up for batyushka:

“’What are you doing? Are you in your right mind? Is this possible? It is

shameful and terrible to think of what you are saying to batyushka.’

“And then he listed the merits of Fr. John, mentioning, among other things,

that he was a rector.

“’That’s right,’ said Fr. John. ‘After all, I’m a superior. Is it possible to speak

with a superior in such a way? No, no, no… It’s wrong, it’s wrong…’”

Vladyka Theophan noted: “What humility Fr. John had! Neither the gift of

clairvoyance, nor the gift of healings, nor of wonderworking – none of this

did he attribute to himself. But only that it was wrong to speak to a superior

in such a way!”

Fr. John had great influence with the royal family, and the tsar visited him

secretly. Rasputin feared this influence.

As Archbishop Theophan witnessed to the Extraordinary Commission:

“Rasputin indicated with unusual skill that he had reservations [about Fr.

John]… Rasputin… said of Fr. John of Kronstadt… that he was a saint but,

like a child, lacked experience and judgement… As a result Fr. John’s

influence at court began to wane…”

Fr. John reposed on December 20, 1908. Fr. Theophan served at his funeral.

Admirer of Rasputin

In 1905, after the publication of his master’s thesis, Fr. Theophan was

raised to the rank of extraordinary professor and confirmed in his post as

inspector of the Academy.

Perhaps the greatest mistake of Archbishop Theophan’s life was his initial

trust of the great pseudo-elder Rasputin (which means “debauched” in

Russian). According to his own witness before the Extraordinary Commission

established by the Provisional Government in 1917, he first met Rasputin,

significantly, in the house of Bishop Sergius (Stragorodsky), the future traitor

of the Russian Church and first Soviet “patriarch” of Moscow. “Once he

[Bishop Sergius] invited us to his lodgings for tea, and introduced for the first

time to me and several monks and seminarians a recently arrived man of

God, Brother Gregory as we called him then. He amazed us all with his

psychological perspicacity. His face was pale and his eyes unusually piercing

– the look of someone who observed the fasts. And he made a strong


Archbishop Theophan was especially impressed by Rasputin’s apparent

prophetic gift. “At that time Admiral Rozhdestvensky’s squadron had already

set sail [to fight the Japanese in the Russo-Japanese War]. We therefore asked

Rasputin, ‘Will its engagement with the Japanese be successful?’ Rasputin

answered, ‘I feel in my heart that it will be sunk.’ And his prediction

subsequently came to pass in the battle of Tsushima Strait.”

Again, “Rasputin correctly told the students of the seminary whom he was

seeing for the first time that one would be a writer and that another was ill,

and then explained to a third that he was a simple soul whose simplicity was

being taken advantage of by his friends… In conversation Rasputin revealed

not book learning but a subtle grasp of spiritual experience obtained through

personal knowledge. And a perspicacity that verged on second sight.”

Fr. Theophan invited Rasputin to move in with him, to stay in his

apartment. It was through Fr. Theophan that Rasputin gained entry into the

house of Grand Duke Peter Nikolaevich, the Tsar’s cousin, and his wife, the

Montenegrin Grand Duchess Militsa Nikolaevna, whose confessor Fr.

Theophan had become. (According to another source the Grand Duchess first

met him in the podvorye of the Mikhailov monastery in Kiev.) “Visiting the

home of Militsa Nikolaevna, I let slip that a man of God named Gregory

Rasputin had appeared among us. Militsa Nikolaevna became very interested

in my communication, and Rasputin received an invitation to present himself

to her.” After that, Rasputin was invited to the Grand Duchess’ house on his


It was through the Grand Duchess that Fr. Theophan was introduced to the

Tsar: “I was invited to the home of the former emperor for the first time by

Grand Duchess Militsa Nikolaevna.” In his diary for November 13/26, the

Tsar noted: “I received Theophan, inspector of the St. Petersburg Theological


Soon after, Fr. Theophan was offered the extremely responsible post of

spiritual father of the Royal Family. So he became, as it were, the “conscience

of the Tsar” at a critical moment in the nation’s history.

Fr. Theophan gave the Tsarina and her children books of the Holy Fathers

to read. In a note to her daughter, the Tsarina reminded them “to read the

book that batyushka brought you before communion”.

In view of Fr. Theophan’s closeness both to the Royal Family and to

Rasputin, it is often asserted that it was he who introduced them to each

other, and that his later self-imposed exile in France was in order to expiate

this sin. This is untrue. According to the words of Archbishop Theophan

before the Extraordinary Commission: “How Rasputin came to know the

family of the former emperor, I have absolutely no idea. And I definitely state

that I took no part in that. My guess is that Rasputin penetrated the royal

family by indirect means… Rasputin himself never talked about it, despite the

fact that he was a rather garrulous person… I noticed that Rasputin had a

strong desire to get into the house of the former emperor, and that he did so

against the will of Grand Duchess Militsa Nikolaevna. Rasputin himself

acknowledged to me that he was hiding his acquaintance with the royal

family from Militsa Nikolaevna.”

The first meeting between the Royal Family and Rasputin, as recorded in

the Tsar’s diary, took place on November 1, 1905. Archbishop Theophan

testified: “I personally heard from Rasputin that he produced an impression

on the former empress at their first meeting. The sovereign, however, fell

under his influence only after Rasputin had given him something to ponder.”

According to the Monk Iliodor, Rasputin told him: “I talked to them for a long

time, persuading them to spit on all their fears, and rule.”

On hearing that Rasputin had impressed the empress, Grand Duchess

Militsa Nikolaevna said to him, as Archbishop Theophan testified: “’You,

Grigory, are an underhand person.’ Militsa Nikolaevna told me personally of

her dissatisfaction with Rasputin’s have penetrated the royal family on his

own, and mentioned her warning that if he did, it would be the end of him.

My explanation of her warning,” said Archbishop Theophan, “… was that

there were many temptations at court and much envy and intrigue, and that

Rasputin, as a simple, undemanding wandering pilgrim, would perish

spiritually under such circumstances.”

It was at about this time that Rasputin left Fr. Theophan’s lodgings and

moved in with the woman who was to become one of his most fanatical

admirer, Olga Lokhtina. Archbishop Theophan writes: “He only stayed with

me a little while, since I would be off at the Academy for days on end. And it

got boring for him… and he moved somewhere else, and then took up

residence in Petrograd at the home of the government official Vladimir

Lokhtin,” who was in charge of the paved roads in Tsarskoe Selo, and so close

to the royal family…

Rasputin returned to his family in Pokrovskoe, Siberia, in autumn, 1907,

only to find that Bishop Anthony of Tobolsk and the Tobolsk Consistory - as

was suspected, at the instigation of Grand Duchess Militsa Nikolaevna - had

opened an investigation to see whether he was spreading the doctrines of the

khlysty. Olga Lokhtina hurried back to St. Petersburg and managed to get the

investigation suspended. Soon afterwards, testifies Fr. Theophan, “the good

relations between the royal family and Militsa and Anastasia Nikolaevna [the

sister of Militsa], and Peter and Nikolai Nikolaevich [the husbands of the

sisters] became strained. Rasputin himself mentioned it in passing. From a

few sentences of his I concluded that he had very likely instilled in the former

emperor the idea that they had too much influence on state affairs and were

encroaching on the emperor’s independence.”

The place that the Montenegrin Grand Duchesses had played in the royal

family was now taken by the young Anya Vyrubova, who was a fanatical

admirer of Rasputin. Another of Rasputin’s admirers was the royal children’s

nurse, Maria Vishnyakova. And so Rasputin came closer and closer to the

centre of power… His influence on the political decisions of the Tsar has been

much exaggerated. But he undoubtedly had a great influence on the Tsarina

through his ability, probably through some kind of hypnosis, to relieve the

Tsarevich’s haemophilia, a tragedy that caused much suffering to the Tsar

and Tsarina, and which they carefully hid from the general public…

Critic of Rasputin

On February 1, 1909 Archimandrite Theophan was appointed Rector of the

St. Petersburg Theological Academy. And on Sunday, February 22, the second

Sunday of the Great Fast, which is dedicated to the memory of St. Gregory

Palamas, he was consecrated Bishop of Yamburg, a vicariate of the St.

Petersburg diocese, in the Holy Trinity cathedral of the Alexander Nevsky

Lavra. The consecration was performed by Metropolitan Anthony

(Vadkovsky) of St. Petersburg together with other members of the Holy

Synod and other hierarchs who came to the service – 13 in all.

In answer to the accusation that he had gained his see through the

influence of Rasputin, Bishop Theophan testified: “My candidacy for the

bishopric was put forward by the church hierarchs led by Bishop Hermogen

[of Saratov, the future hieromartyr]. I would never have permitted myself to

take advantage of Rasputin’s influence… I was known personally to the royal

family and had four times or so heard confession from the empress and once

from the sovereign… and I was already the Rector of the Petersburg

Theological Academy.”

It was a difficult time, with liberal ideas gaining ground even among the

professors of the Academy. Bishop Theophan more than once came into

conflict with these liberal professors, and they complained about him to

Metropolitan Anthony. After one such complaint, the metropolitan

summoned the bishop to himself and said:

“The professors are complaining that you are restricting their freedom of

scientific research.”

Instead of a reply, Vladyka Theophan showed the metropolitan a

paragraph from the ustav of the Theological Academies which said: “The

Rector of the Academy is responsible for the direction and spirit of the

Academy”. Then he explained how certain professors during their lectures to

students were permitting themselves to express freethinking ideas contrary to

Orthodoxy. And the metropolitan had to agree that the Rector had the right to

oppose this.

As Rector of the Academy, Vladyka Theophan enlivened the religio-moral

atmosphere in it and created a whole direction among the students, a kind of

school of “Theophanites”, as they were called. He tried to instill in the

students a respect for the lofty authority of the Holy Fathers of the Church in

everything that pertained to Church faith and piety. When replying to a

question of a theological or moral character he tried to avoid speaking “from

himself”, but immediately went to the bookcase and found a precise answer

to the question from the Holy Fathers, which allowed his visitor to depart

profoundly satisfied. He himself was a walking encyclopaedia of theological


And yet this was by no means merely book knowledge: because of his

ascetic life, he knew the truth of the teachings of the Fathers from his own

experience. He would go to all the services, and often spend whole nights in

prayer standing in his cell in front of the analoy and the icons. He would even

take service books with him on his travels, and read all the daily services.

His very look inspired respect, and soon cases of amazing spiritual

perspicacity revealed themselves. Never familiar, always correct and

restrained in manner, but at the same time warm and attentive, he was a

fierce enemy of all modernism and falsehood. If the conversation took a

vulgar turn, he would immediately turn away, however distinguished his

interlocutor. This caused him to have many enemies, but people also

involuntarily respected him. Once the famous writer V.V. Rozanov spoke at

length to him against monasticism. Vladyka Theophan did not reply with a

single word. But his silence was effective, for at the end the writer simply said:

“But perhaps you are right!”

Bishop Theophan began to have doubts about Rasputin. These doubts

related to rumours that Rasputin was not the pure man of God he seemed to

be. “Rumours began reaching us,” testified Vladyka, “that Rasputin was

unrestrained in his treatment of the female sex, that he stroked them with his

hand during conversation. All this gave rise to a certain temptation to sin, the

more so since in conversation Rasputin would allude to his acquaintance with

me and, as it were, hide behind my name.”

At first Vladyka and his monastic confidants sought excuses for him in the

fact that “we were monks, whereas he was a married man, and that was the

reason why his behaviour has been distinguished by a great lack of restraint

and seemed peculiar to us… However, the rumours about Rasputin started to

increase, and it was beginning to be said that he went to the bathhouses with

women… It is very distressing… to suspect [a man] of a bad thing…”

Rasputin now came to meet Vladyka and “himself mentioned that he had

gone to bathhouses with women. We immediately declared to him that, from

the point of view of the holy fathers, that was unacceptable, and he promised

us to avoid doing it. We decided not to condemn him for debauchery, for we

knew that he was a simple peasant, and we had read that in the Olonets and

Novgorod provinces men bathed in the bathhouses together with women,

which testified not to immorality but to their patriarchal way of life… and to

its particular purity, for… nothing was allowed. Moreover, it was clear from


Lives of the ancient Byzantine holy fools Saints Simeon and John [of

Edessa] that both had gone to bathhouses with women on purpose, and had

been abused and reviled for it, although they were nonetheless great saints.”

The example of Saints Simeon and John was to prove very useful for

Rasputin, who now, “as his own justification, announced that he too wanted

to test himself – to see if he had extinguished passion in himself.” But

Theophan warned him against this, “for it is only the great saints who are

able to do it, and he, by acting in this way, was engaging in self-deception and

was on a dangerous path.”

To the rumours about bathhouses were now added rumours that Rasputin

had been a khlyst sectarian in Siberia, and had taken his co-religionists to

bathhouses there. Apparently the Tsar heard these rumours, for he told the

Tsarina not to receive Rasputin for a time. For the khlysts, a sect that indulged

in orgies in order to stimulate repentance thereafter, were very influential

among the intelligentsia, especially the literary intelligentsia, of the time.

It was at that point that the former spiritual father of Rasputin in Siberia,

Fr. Makary, was summoned to Tsarskoe Selo, perhaps on the initiative of the

Tsarina. On June 23, 1909 the Tsar recorded that Fr. Makary, Rasputin and

Bishop Theophan came to tea. There it was decided that Bishop Theophan,

who was beginning to have doubts about Rasputin, and Fr. Makary, who had

a good opinion of him, should go to Rasputin’s house in Pokrovskoe and


Bishop Theophan was unwell and did not want to go. But “I took myself in

hand and in the second half of June 1909 set off with Rasputin and Monk

Makary of the Verkhoturye Monastery, whom Rasputin called and

acknowledged to be his ‘elder’”. The trip, far from placating Vladyka’s

suspicions, only confirmed them, so that he concluded that Rasputin did not

“occupy the highest level of spiritual life”. On the way back from Siberia, as

he himself testified, he “stopped at the Sarov monastery and asked God’s help

in correctly answering the question of who and what Rasputin was. I returned

to Petersburg convinced that Rasputin… was on a false path.”

While in Sarov, Vladyka had asked to stay alone in the cell in which St.

Seraphim had reposed. He was there for a long time praying, and when he

did not come out, the brothers finally decided to enter. They found Vladyka

in a deep swoon.

He did not explain what had happened to him there. But he did relate his

meeting with Blessed Pasha of Sarov the next year, in 1911. The eldress and

fool-for-Christ jumped onto a bench and snatched the portraits of the Tsar

and Tsarina that were hanging on the wall, cast them to the ground and

trampled on them. Then she ordered her cell-attendant to put them into the


This was clearly a prophecy of the revolution of 1917. And when Vladyka

told it to the Tsar, he stood with head bowed and without saying a word.

Evidently he had heard similar prophecies…

Blessed Pasha then gave Vladyka a prophecy for himself personally. She

hurled a ball of some kind of white matter onto his knees, which, on

unwinding, he found to be the shroud of a dead man. “That means death!” he

thought. But then she ran up and seized the shroud from his hands,


“The Mother of God will deliver… Our All-Holy Lady will save!”

This was a prophecy of Vladyka’s near-mortal illness in Serbia several

years later, when he was saved from death by the Mother of God…

On returning from Sarov, Vladyka conferred with Archimandrite Benjamin

and together with him summoned Rasputin. “When Rasputin came to see us,

we, to his surprise, denounced him for his arrogant pride, for holding himself

in higher regard than was seemly, and for being in a state of spiritual

deception. He was completely taken aback and started crying, and instead of

trying to justify himself admitted that he had made mistakes. And he agreed

to our demand that he withdraw from the world and place himself under my

guidance.” Rasputin then promised “to tell no one about our meeting with

him.” “Rejoicing in our success, we conducted a prayer service… But, as it

turned out, he then went to Tsarskoe Selo and recounted everything there in a

light that was favourable to him but not to us.”

Enemy of Rasputin

In 1910, for the sake of his health, Vladyka was transferred to the see of

Tauris and Simferopol in the Crimea. Far from separating him from the royal

family, this enabled him to see more of them during their summer vacation in

Livadia. He was able to use the tsar’s automobile, so as to go on drives into

the mountains, enjoy the wonderful scenery and breathe in the pure air.

He often recalled how he celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the palace. And

how the Tsarina and her daughters chanted on the kliros. This chanting was

always prayerful and concentrated.

Vladyka used to say: “During this service they chanted and read with such

exalted, holy veneration! In all this there was a genuine, lofty, purely

monastic spirit. And with what trembling, with what radiant tears they

approached the Holy Chalice!”

“The sovereign would always begin every day with prayer in church.

Exactly at eight o’clock he would enter the palace church. By that time the

serving priest had already finished the proskomedia and read the hours. With

the entry of the Tsar the priest intoned: ‘Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father

and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages.

Amen.’ And exactly at nine o’clock the Liturgy ended. There were no

abbreviations or omissions. And the priest did not give the impression of

being in a hurry. The secret lay in the fact that there were no pauses at all.

This enabled the Liturgy to be completed within one hour. For the priest this

was an obligatory condition. The sovereign always prayed very ardently.

Each petition in the litany, each prayer found a lively response in his soul.

“After the Divine service the working day of the sovereign began.”

However, the issue of Rasputin was destined to bring an end to this idyllic

phase in the relations between Vladyka Theophan and the Royal Family.

“After a while,” testifies Vladyka, “rumours reached me that Rasputin had

resumed his former way of life and was undertaking something against us… I

decided to resort to a final measure – to denounce him openly and to

communicate everything to the former emperor. It was not, however, the

emperor who received me but his wife in the presence of the maid of honour


“I spoke for about an hour and demonstrated that Rasputin was in a state

of spiritual deception… The former empress grew agitated and objected,

citing theological works… I destroyed all her arguments, but she… reiterated

them: ‘It is all falsehood and slander’… I concluded the conversation by

saying that I could no longer have anything to do with Rasputin… I think

Rasputin, as a cunning person, explained to the royal family that my speaking

against him was because I envied his closeness to the Family… that I wanted

to push him out of the way.

“After my conversation with the empress, Rasputin came to see me as if

nothing had happened, having apparently decided that the empress’s

displeasure had intimidated me… However, I told him in no uncertain terms,

‘Go away, you are a fraud.’ Rasputin fell on his knees before me and asked

my forgiveness… But again I told him, ‘Go away, you have violated a

promise given before God.’ Rasputin left, and I did not see him again.”

At this point Vladyka received a “Confession” from a former devotee of

Rasputin’s. On reading this, he understood that Rasputin was “a wolf in

sheep’s clothing” and “a sectarian of the Khlyst type” who “taught his

followers not to reveal his secrets even to their confessors. For if there is

allegedly no sin in what these sectarians do, then their confessors need not be

made aware of it.”

“Availing myself of that written confession, I wrote the former emperor a

second letter… in which I declared that Rasputin not only was in a state of

spiritual deception but was also a criminal in the religious and moral sense…

In the moral sense because, as it followed from the ‘confession’, Father

Grigory had seduced his victims.”

There was no reply to this letter. “I sensed that they did not want to hear

me out and understand… It all depressed me so much that I became quite ill –

it turned out I had palsy of the facial nerve.”

In fact, Vladyka’s letter had reached the Tsar, and the scandal surrounding

the rape of the children’s nurse, Vishnyakova, whose confessor was Vladyka,

could no longer be concealed. Vishnyakova herself testified to the

Extraordinary Commission that she had been raped by Rasputin during a

visit to Verkhoturye Monastery in Tobolsk province, a journey undertaken at

the empress’s suggestion.

“Upon our return to Petrograd, I reported everything to the empress, and I

also told Bishop Theophan in a private meeting with him. The empress did

not give any heed to my words and said that everything Rasputin does is

holy. From that time forth I did not see Rasputin, and in 1913 I was dismissed

from my duties as nurse. I was also reprimanded for frequenting the Right

Reverend Theophan.”

Another person in on the secret was the maid of honour Sophia Tyutcheva.

As she witnessed to the Commission, she was summoned to the Tsar.

“You have guessed why I summoned you. What is going on in the


She told him.

“So you too do not believe in Rasputin’s holiness?”

She replied that she did not.

“But what will you say if I tell you that I have lived all these years only

thanks to his prayers?”

Then he “began saying that he did not believe any of the stories, that the

impure always sticks to the pure, and that he did not understand what had

suddenly happened to Theophan, who had always been so fond of Rasputin.

During this time he pointed to a letter from Theophan on his desk.”

“’You, your majesty, are too pure of heart and do not see what filth

surrounds you.’ I said that it filled me with fear that such a person could be

near the grand duchesses.

“’Am I then the enemy of my own children?’ the sovereign objected.

“He asked me never to mention Rasputin’s name in conversation. In order

for that to take place, I asked the sovereign to arrange things so that Rasputin

would never appear in the children’s wing.”

But her wish was not granted, and both Vishnyakova and Tyutcheva

would not long remain in the tsar’s service…

It was at about this time that the newspapers began to write against

Rasputin. And a member of the circle of the Grand Duchess Elizabeth

Fyodorovna, Michael Alexandrovich Novoselov, the future bishop and

hieromartyr of the Catacomb Church, published a series of articles

condemning Rasputin.

"Why do the bishops,” he wrote, “who are well acquainted with the

activities of this blatant deceiver and corrupter, keep silent?… Where is their

grace, if through laziness or lack of courage they does not keep watch over the

purity of the faith of the Church of God and allow the lascivious khlyst to do

the works of darkness under the mask of light?"

The brochure was forbidden and confiscated while it was still at the

printer's, and the newspaper

The Voice of Moscow was heavily fined for

publishing excerpts from it.

In November, 1910, Bishop Theophan went to the Crimea to recover from

this illness. But he did not give up, and inundated his friend Bishop

Hermogen with letters. It was his aim to enlist this courageous fighter against

freethinking in his fight against Rasputin. But this was difficult because it had

been none other than Vladyka Theophan who had at some time introduced

Rasputin to Bishop Hermogen, speaking of him, as Bishop Hermogen himself

said, “in the most laudatory terms.” Indeed, for a time Bishop Hermogen and

Rasputin had become allies in the struggle against freethinking and


Unfortunately, a far less reliable person then joined himself to Rasputin’s

circle – Sergius Trophanov, in monasticism Iliodor, one of Bishop Theophan’s

students at the academy, who later became a Baptist, married and had seven

children. Fr. Iliodor built a large church in Tsaritsyn on the Volga, and began

to draw thousands to it with his fiery sermons against the Jews and the

intellectuals and the capitalists. He invited Rasputin to join him in Tsaritsyn

and become the elder of a convent there. Rasputin agreed.

However, Iliodor’s inflammatory sermons were not pleasing to the

authorities, and in January, 1911 he was transferred to a monastery in Tula

diocese. But he refused to go, locked himself in his church in Tsaritsyn and

declared a hunger-strike. Bishop Hermogen supported him, but the tsar did

not, and ordered him to be removed from Tsaritsyn. However, at this point

Rasputin, who had taken a great liking to Iliodor, intervened, and as Anya

Vyubova testified, “Iliodor remained in Tsaritsyn thanks to Rasputin’s

personal entreaties”. From now on, Olga Lokhtina would bow down to

Rasputin as “Lord of hosts” and to Iliodor as “Christ”…

When Rasputin’s bad actions began to come to light, Hermogen vacillated

for a long time. However, having made up his mind that Vladyka Theophan

was right, and having Iliodor on his side now too, he decided to bring the

matter up before the Holy Synod, of which he was a member, at its next

session. Before that, however, he determined to denounce Rasputin to his

face. This took place on December 16, 1911. According to Iliodor’s account,

Hermogen, clothed in hierarchical vestments and holding a cross in his hand,

“took hold of the head of the ‘elder’ with his left hand, and with his right

started beating him on the head with the cross and shouting in a terrifying

voice, ‘Devil! I forbid you in God’s name to touch the female sex. Brigand! I

forbid you to enter the royal household and to have anything to do with the

tsarina! As a mother brings forth the child in the cradle, so the holy Church

through its prayers, blessings, and heroic feats has nursed that great and

sacred thing of the people, the autocratic rule of the tsars. And now you,

scum, are destroying it, you are smashing our holy vessels, the bearers of

autocratic power… Fear God, fear His life-giving cross!”

Then they forced Rasputin to swear that he would leave the palace.

According to one version of events, Rasputin swore, but immediately told the

empress what had happened. According to another, he refused, after which

Vladyka Hermogen cursed him. In any case, on the same day, December 16,

five years later, he was killed…

Then Bishop Hermogen went to the Holy Synod. First he gave a speech

against the khlysty. Then he charged Rasputin with khlyst tendencies.

Unfortunately, only a minority of the bishops supported the courageous

bishop. The majority followed the over-procurator in expressing

dissatisfaction with his interference “in things that were not of his concern”.

Vladyka Hermogen was then ordered to return to his diocese. As the

director of the chancery of the over-procurator witnessed, “he did not obey

the order and, as I heard, asked by telegram for an audience with the tsar,

indicating that he had an important matter to discuss, but was turned down.”

The telegram read as follows: “Tsar Father! I have devoted my whole life to

the service of the Church and the Throne. I have served zealously, sparing no

effort. The sun of my life has long passed midday and my hair has turned

white. And now in my declining years, like a criminal, I am being driven out

of the capital in disgrace by you, the Sovereign. I am ready to go wherever it

may please you, but before I do, grant me an audience, and I will reveal a

secret to you.”

But the Tsar rejected his plea. On receiving this rejection, Bishop

Hermogen began to weep. And then he suddenly said:

“They will kill the tsar, they will kill the tsar, they will surely kill him.”

Bishop of Astrakhan

The opponents of Rasputin now felt the fury of the Tsar. Bishop Hermogen

and Iliodor were exiled to remote monasteries. And Vladyka Theophan was

transferred to the see of Astrakhan.

Before departing from the Crimea, Vladyka called on Rasputin’s friend, the

deputy over-procurator Damansky. He told him: “Rasputin is a vessel of the

devil, and the time will come when the Lord will chastise him and those who

protect him.”

Later, in October, 1913, Rasputin tried to take his revenge on Vladyka by

bribing the widow of a Yalta priest who knew Vladyka, Olga Apollonovna

Popova, to say that Vladyka had said that he had had relations with the

empress. The righteous widow rejected his money and even spat in his face.

Vladyka’s health, which was in general not good because of his very

ascetic way of life since his youth, was made worse by the climate in

Astrakhan. He contracted malaria and a lung disease. Grand Duchess

Elizabeth pleaded with her sister not to forbid him to receive treatment in the

Crimea, but the request was turned down. Later, however, the grand duchess

did manage to get Vladyka transferred to the see of Poltava.

In spite of the Tsarina’s hostility to Bishop Theophan with regard to

Rasputin, Vladyka always had the highest opinion of the Tsarina and always

defended her against those who would slander her.

Although suffering from ill health and deeply grieving over his break with

the royal family and Rasputin’s continuing hold over them, Vladyka

Theophan quickly won the respect and love of his flock in Astrakhan.

Once, on the namesday of the Tsar, Vladyka went out with his clergy to

serve a prayer service for the health of his Majesty in the middle of the

cathedral. But in front of him, nearer the altar, stood what seemed to be,

judging from his clothes, a Muslim. It turned out later that this was the

Persian consul dressed in extravagant finery, with orders and a sabre, and a

turban on his head. Vladyka, pale, weak and ill, asked the consul through a

deacon to step to one side or stand with the other official persons, with the

generals behind the bishop’s throne. The consul remained in his place and

made no reply to Vladyka’s request. After waiting for several minutes,

Vladyka sent the superior of the church to request the consul not to stand

between the altar and Vladyka and clergy, but to stand to one side. The

consul did not move. Vladyka waited, without beginning the official prayer

service. And yet the whole leadership of the province and the city, together

with the military in parade uniform, were gathered in the church. On the

square in front of the church were soldiers drawn up for parade.

Again they went up to the consul and asked him to go to one side and not

to stand between the clergy and the altar, the more so as he was dressed in

such demonstrative attire. Instead of replying, the consul pointed at the clock,

and then angrily said:

“Convey to your Hierarch that the prayer service should have been started

long ago as indicated in the official timetable, a prayer service for the

prosperity of his Majesty the Emperor. For this delay, he - your Hierarch - will

answer for his stubbornness. He has delayed the prayer service for a whole


When Bishop Theophan was informed of the consul’s reply, he asked them

to convey to him the message:

“It is not I, but you, who are delaying the prayer service. And until you go

to one side, the prayer service will not begin.”

When he heard that, the consul demonstratively left the church casting

furious looks and mumbling threats. Immediately Vladyka began the service

and the choir intoned the Te Deum.

As was to be expected, the consul made a protest to the Tsar, accusing the

“audacious hierarch who had stopped the Te Deum for the health of the Tsar

from proceeding normally”, and who, being a “hierarch in disgrace”, had

attempted to make a political act out of the incident. But then the opposite of

what was expected happened. The Tsar and Tsarina approved of Bishop

Theophan’s act…

Before that good news arrived, however, Vladyka had been comforted in

another way, during Vespers in the church: “I had so much pain because of

the Persian consul and I felt so ill… One evening, when I was serving in the

cathedral, I saw St. Theodore the General in a coat of mail… Lord, what joy!

How that comforted me! All my sadness and tiredness vanished in an instant.

I understood that the Lord approved of my firmness and that He was sending

me his martyr to support me… “

Another comfort came in a letter to him from the paralysed Schema-Nun

Eugenia, who had the gift of clairvoyance: “I’m having a dream. Some black,

threatening clouds have covered the sky. Suddenly the holy Bishop Joasaph

of Belgorod appeared. He read a long manuscript, then tore it up, and at that

moment the sun reappeared behind the clouds. Soon it was shining clearly

and tenderly… Glory to Thee, O Lord!”

On March 8/21, 1913 Vladyka was transferred from Astrakhan to Poltava.

As he was leaving Astrakhan, writes someone who knew him well, “there

took place an unusually vivid incident, which in itself witnessed to the

loftiness and spirituality of his soul, and his truly pastoral relationship to his

flock. Before, the people in Astrakhan had protested decisively against his

transfer to Poltava. But he nevertheless had to go, a huge crowd assembled at

the station, and several hundred people lay on the rails in front of the train to

stop it from going. This continued for several hours until they finally

managed to free the railway line. I personally think that this is the most vivid

event in the story of his life. The people, the flock felt, understood the

loftiness of his soul, the soul of their archpastor, and witnessed this love of

theirs and understanding, perhaps in too primitive a way, but truly with all

their soul, mind and heart. Nobody ever heard of a similar incident with

anybody else!”

Archbishop of Poltava

Church life was at a low level when Vladyka came to his new diocese, and

hardly anyone attended the services. And so “I prayed to the Guardian

Angels of my flock to make to be born in them a zeal for God, to excite in their

souls a thirst for prayer and penitence. That is so important. With penitence,

there is no true prayer. Only he who feels himself to be infinitely guilty before

God truly prays.”

And his prayers were answered. The church began to fill up. And the

people began to pray with fervour; the zeal of the archbishop communicated

itself to all the clergy.

Vladyka also paid attention to the chanting in church. He looked for

someone who knew church chant since childhood to direct the choir. And he

founded a “chanting school” for the chanters. The pupils were entirely looked

after by the diocese and lived near the episcopal palace. They had to know the

words of the chants by heart and understand their meaning perfectly. The

child voices of Poltava were soon recognized to be among the best in Russia.

Vladyka also attended rehearsals and chose the chants. He saw it that the

choir became well-known not only through the technical perfection of its

chanting, but also through its truly liturgical spirit. The people understood

this immediately, and the church services were from then on very well


Instead of the pagan celebrations of the New Year, Vladyka instituted a

solemn Te Deum at midnight, during which the choir sang marvelously and

the cathedral was full to bursting…

So popular did Vladyka become that when he arrived at the cathedral on

feast days he found his path covered with flowers…

In 1913 the Russian Church celebrated the 300 th anniversary of the

founding of the Romanov dynasty. Patriarch Gregory of Antioch came to the

celebrations, and during the solemn service in his honour in the Pochaev

Lavra the litanies were pronounced in Greek by Archbishop Anthony

(Khrapovitsky) of Volhynia, the host, in Latin by Archbishop Theophan and

in other languages by the other priests.

In Poltava a whole series of incidents took place which testified to the

loftiness of Vladyka Theophan, who had visions and revelations from God


In Poltava there lived an exceptionally pious married couple, who were

devoted to Vladyka Theophan. When the husband died, the widow, being in

indescribable sorrow, asked Vladyka whether he could tell her what was the

fate of her dead spouse in the other life. Vladyka replied that perhaps after a

period of time he would be in a condition to give a reply to her question.

Vladyka prayed that this should be revealed to him, and after a certain time

he consoled the widow, saying that God had had mercy on her husband.

Prince Zhevakhov, who later became Bishop Ioasaph, asked Vladyka about

the fate beyond the grave of the Bishop of Belgorod who had been found

hanged in the lavatory of the archiepiscopal podvorye. Had his soul perished?

Vladyka Theophan replied that the bishop had not perished, since he had not

laid hands on himself, but this had been done by the demons. It turned out

that this house was being reconstructed, and there had been a house church in

it before. But the atheist-minded builders had blasphemously built a lavatory

in the place where there had been the altar. When holy places are defiled or

where a murder or suicide is committed, the grace of God leaves, and demons

settle there. It is difficult to say whether this bishop was guilty of this

blasphemy, but he became the victim of the demons.

Once a married couple came to the archbishop complaining about the

behaviour of their beloved son, who, though pious in his childhood, no longer

went to church, but returned home late at night in a drunken state. Weeping,

they asked him to pray for their son.

The son came home late again one night and began to curse and swear. The

next morning he could not get out of bed. He did not eat or speak, was

feverish and gradually wasted away. His parents were beginning to lose all

hope of a cure when they turned to the archbishop again.

The sick boy was already unconscious, and was groaning and crying. Then

he came to himself and said that a monk had come to him in his delirium and

had said:

“If you don’t correct yourself, and turn from the path of sin, you will die

and perish without fail!”

The sick boy wept and swore that he would correct himself. Gradually he

began to eat again, and the illness left him. As soon as he could walk, he went

to the cathedral to pray and shed tears of penitence. After the service he

approached the server to kiss the cross and was amazed to recognize in the

archbishop the monk who had appeared to him in his illness! From then on,

the young man visited the archbishop frequently, thanked him for praying for

him, asked him to forgive him and reiterated his promise to reform his life.

Another rich couple came to the archbishop, complaining about their son,

too. Under the influence of bad companions, he was living a debauched life

and paid no heed to their pleas. They sought help from the archbishop, but at

the same time continued to indulge their son, giving him money. The

archbishop advised them to stop giving him money, to be severe with him.

But they replied that in their opinion this was not Christian.

“No,” they said, “we want to raise him with love in a Christian spirit.

When he gets bigger he will understand and will appreciate our kindness.”

The archbishop could only keep silent. The boy got bigger and became

more and more disobedient. Not content with asking for money, he

demanded it and even robbed his parents of it. They turned to the archbishop

asking him what to do. He gave them the same advice. They again rejected it.

Finally the boy left his parents’ house and gave himself up completely to

debauchery. The parents cursed him and when they came back weeping to

the archbishop, they recognized their error. But it was already too late.

“Certain parents,” concluded the archbishop while telling this story,

“before beginning to educate their children should educate themselves, or

rather re-educate themselves in the spirit of Christianity. Then what

happened in this family would not happen with them.”

A private correspondent writes: “This is a story related by the wife of

Professor L.V.I of Poltava theological seminary on what happened in their


“In 1915 her son, an officer, whose bride was in Poltava, returned on leave

from the front. This officer’s leave ended in Paschal week. The young people

wanted to be crowned before the departure of the bridegroom. L.V. knew

Vladyka Theophan well and he loved the whole of their family. And L.V.

came to Vladyka and asked for his blessing on the marriage on one of the

days of Paschal week. Vladyka, who was always attentive and ready to help

anyone who asked, this time fell into sad thought and said that he wanted

first to look at the canons, and then he would give his answer.

“A few days later the mother of the bridegroom again came to Vladyka.

Vladyka said firmly: ‘I cannot bless the marriage of your children on these

Paschal days, since the Church does not allow it and for the young people

there will be great unhappiness if they do not obey the Church.’

“The mother was terribly upset and threatened the Archbishop with many

unpleasantnesses. She thought that Vladyka, as a strict ascetic, did not

understand life and for that reason was not allowing the marriage in

completely exceptional circumstances.

“In spite of the Archbishop’s ban, they found a priest who agreed to carry

out their marriage. After the marriage, the officer departed, having left his

young wife in Poltava. But from this moment all trace of him was lost. In spite

of all the inquiries of the mother and young wife, nobody could tell them

where he was or what had happened to him.

“In relating this, L.V. wept bitterly. She used to say that the wife was in a

terrible condition. There was one man whom she wanted to marry. L.V.

herself wanted this, for she was convinced that her son was no longer among

the living, but at the same time there were no facts, and the wife, not knowing

for certain about the death of her husband, could not marry for a second time.

This lack of knowledge tormented both the mother and the young woman.

L.V. wept and said: ‘How great Vladyka Archbishop Theophan was! And we

valued him so little, we did not understand and did not obey…’

“The inhabitants of Poltava always remembered how the prayers of

Vladyka Theophan healed the sick, and how by his prayers he turned many

from sin.”

There was a well-off family with two maid servants. One of them died, and

it was discovered after her death that a large sum of money had disappeared.

Suspicion fell upon the surviving maid servant. She wept and implored the

Mother of God to show where the money was hidden. The Mother of God

answered her prayer: one day, the dead woman appeared to Archbishop

Theophan and showed him the place where the money was buried…

A similar incident had taken place a few years before, when Vladyka was

Bishop of Simferopol. A young man whom Vladyka had known died, and

then appeared to him and asked him for his holy prayers to help him pass

through the “toll-houses”. Vladyka prayed, and the young man appeared to

him again, thanking him for his prayers and asking him to celebrate a

thanksgiving service.

“But you are dead! It is a pannikhida that we must celebrate for you, and

not a Te Deum!”

“They told it me over there, they’ve allowed it for me… The point is that

over there we are all alive, there are no dead amongst us!”

Then he explained how he had died and passed into the next life, but the

person who passed on this story did not understand Archbishop Theophan’s


Once the administration of the diocese received a letter from one of the

parishes complaining that their priest had given himself to black magic and

sorcery. He was naturally red-haired, but one night he had become brown,

then violet and now he was green! The priest was summoned. Weeping, he


“My wife reproached me for always being red-haired. ‘You should at least

dye your beard!’ And I dyed it black. And then during the night the dye

disappeared, and it became violet, and now it is becoming green… Forgive

me, for Christ’s sake! There’s no sorcery here, just cowardice!”

“Your fault,” replied the archbishop, “consists in having led these little

ones into error. They didn’t understand what was happening and basically

they have not acted wrongly. One cannot accuse them of anything. It’s you

who should ask their forgiveness and be more prudent in the future. I am not

going to impose a penance on you: you are a priest and can impose it on


And he added, after telling this story:

“We had to send someone to the parish to explain matters to the

parishioners and reassure them.”

On another occasion, as Archbishop Averky tells the story, “one of the

priests of the Poltava diocese related that when Vladyka was touring his

diocese the priests who had modernist tendencies were afraid to appear

before him. If Vladyka saw that an priest’s beard and hair were obviously

trimmed short or that there was some other irregularity he would say very

gently and tactfully:

“’And you, Batyushka, would you be so kind as to go and spend a month

in such-and-such a monastery?’”

Vladyka’s typical day in Poltava was distributed as follows. He would rise

from sleep in the second half of the night and carry out his prayer rule. In the

morning, when the bell sounded, he would go into the house church, where

the hieromonk on duty was performing the morning service and the Divine

Liturgy. After the Liturgy Vladyka would drink some coffee and withdraw to

his study, where he occupied himself with diocesan affairs, and then went

over to the reading of his beloved Holy Fathers. He wrote much. In the

afternoon would come lunch. Weather permitting, he would go into the

garden for a time and walk around praying the Jesus prayer. Then he would

again withdraw to his study. When the bell sounded for Vespers, he would go

to the church. After Compline he would receive visitors. After supper there

would be free time for conversation with his clergy and work in his study.

His study was furnished in the simplest way possible. In the corner stood

an iron bed with planks instead of a mattress, on which Vladyka took a little

sleep. There were many icons, Vladyka prayed in front of them for a long

time with a candle in his hand in spite of the lighted lampadas. His food was

the simplest, and he ate very little. When he was very tired from meeting

people, he would withdraw for a few days to the Lubny Holy Transfiguration


The Revolution

The abdication of the Tsar, whom Archbishop Theophan greatly loved and

admired, was a terrible shock for him as for all the true believers. Soon the

Provisional Government set up an Extraordinary Commission to investigate

the truth about the relationship between the Tsarina and Rasputin. Vladyka

was summoned and testified that he had never had any doubt about the

complete purity of these relations. As former confessor of the Tsarina, he

declared officially that on her side the relationship was motivated only by her

care for the Tsarevich, and the undoubted success that Rasputin had in saving

the Tsarevich’s life while the doctors had shown themselves to be completely

helpless. As for the other rumours, these were lies and slanders… With regard

to Rasputin himself, Vladyka considered that he was not a hypocrite, but was

a simple man who had suffered a terrible spiritual catastrophe and had fallen,

a fall that had been willed by those around him and which they had treated as

just a joke…

As Archbishop of Poltava, Vladyka was sent as a delegate to the Local

Council of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow in 1917-18. The novice

who served him at the time said:

“The archbishop and I left Poltava and arrived in Moscow. Nobody

greeted us and we did not know what to do. We went to a monastery, but felt

that we were not welcome. They had nothing to eat. They gave only a bowl of

soup with some thin cabbage which his Eminence Theophan was not able to

swallow because of the weakness of his stomach. We had to leave. A student

gave his room for some days… I wrote an urgent letter to Poltava requesting

that someone bring some food, for there they had everything. An

archimandrite arrived with food. Finally, he obtained for us some lodgings in

the Kremlin, in which some other hierarchs were already living. They were

starving: the archbishop had to nourish them. I did not attend the Council

sessions, I didn’t hear the speeches, I could only observe things from the

outside… I remember some attacks against Metropolitan Macarius [of

Moscow], a holy man. He left the assembly room, but with a smile…”

During the Council, some modernist clergy, future renovationist heretics,

came up to Vladyka and said:

“We respect you and venerate you, Vladyko. We know your principled

firmness, your faithfulness to the Church, your wisdom. But you yourself see

how fast the waves of time are rolling; they are changing everything, and

changing us also… There was a monarchy, there was an autocratic Tsar, and

now there is nothing of all that. We must, whether we like it or not, make

concessions to the changes. As the great teacher of the Church, St. John

Chrysostom said so well, we must sometimes, so as to guide the vessel of the

Church up to the harbour, give in to the waves and currents so as to await the

favourable moment and bring the ship into the haven… That’s how it is now,

the Church must yield a little…”

“Yes,” replied the Archbishop, “but yield what?”

“You must be with the majority! Otherwise with whom will you remain?

You must yield, the wisdom of the Church demands it. Otherwise you will

consign yourself to complete solitude.”

“’The majority can frighten me,’ said St. Basil the Great, ‘but it can never

convince me… ‘To continue the thought of the holy bishop, let us say that it is

not solitude that is frightening, but the renunciation of the truth. And that

means that it is necessary to remaining without weakening in the Lord Jesus

Christ. It is on Him that the whole of the Church stands as on her foundation.

‘For other foundation can no man lay than that which has been laid, Jesus

Christ’ (I Corinthians 3.11). And that is why we must not be, as the Apostle

says, like ‘children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of

doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in

wait to deceive’ (Ephesians 4.14). We must firmly hold on to what we have

received from the Fathers of the Church. As is so well said in the kontakion of

the Feast of the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council: ‘The preaching

of the Apostles and the doctrines of the Fathers confirmed the one Faith of the

Church. And wearing the garment of truth woven from the theology on

high…’ This ‘garment’ is the clothing of the Church, the teaching received

from the Fathers of the ancient Church, which they themselves received from

the preaching of the Apostles. And the holy Apostles received it from the very

Source of Truth, our Lord Jesus Christ….

“As for the question with whom we shall remain if we do not rejoin those

who are ready to make a revolution in the Church, the reply is perfectly clear:

we shall remain without moving with those who for the last two thousand

years have formed the body of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church

on earth, although this is the Church of the Heavens. We also in a certain

sense have entered this Heavenly Church, through the saints and first of all

through him who baptised Russia, St. Vladimir, and through all the saints,

known and unknown, beginning with Saints Anthony and Theodosius of the

Kiev Caves, via Saints Sergius of Radonezh and Seraphim of Sarov, and all

the saints and martyrs of our Russian land, which is protected by the

Heavenly Queen, she who intercedes for us.”

“And with whom will you, brothers, remain, if with all your numbers you

give yourselves up to the will of the waves of contemporary life? They have

already swept you into the flabbiness of Kerensky’s regime, and soon they

will push you under the yoke of the cruel Lenin, into the claws of the red


The church modernists silently left him…

Vladyka Theophan recounted the witticism that went the rounds in the

Council: “Archbishop Anthony Khrapovitsky is the most intelligent.

Metropolitan Tikhon of Moscow is the gentlest. And Archbishop Anastasy

Gribanovsky is the wisest in a special sense…”

During the Council, Archbishop Theophan was appointed head of a

commission entrusted with investigating the heresy of the name-worshippers,

a heresy that had broken out among the Russian monks of Mount Athos five

years earlier and which had been supported by Vladyka’s old enemy,

Rasputin. This was a natural appointment, since Vladyka’s master’s thesis

had been on the Name of God.

He prepared a report on the subject, but unfortunately the red terror cut

short the proceedings of the Council. The commission (whose deputy

president was the heretic Fr. Sergius Bulgakov) did not meet, and it is not

now known where this report is. All we have is Vladyka’s succinct but precise

formula: “The Divinity rests

in the Name of God”, which is an implicit

rejection of the name-worshippers’ thesis that the Name of God

is God.

On returning to Poltava, Vladyka Theophan had to suffer much from the

Ukrainian autocephalists who, on seizing power, demanded that he serve a

triumphant requiem liturgy for Ivan Mazeppa in Poltava cathedral. Mazeppa

was the favourite of Peter the Great who had betrayed him at the battle of

Poltava in 1712 and had then been anathematised by the Church. But Vladyka


“I cannot do this. I do not have the right to do what you ask me because

the Church has anathematised Ivan Mazeppa for his treachery. I am not

entitled to lift the anathema, which was hurled by the highest representatives

of the Church at that time.”

“But it was the Muscovites who did it!”

“No, you are mistaken. There was no patriarchate at that time. The Church

was ruled by the patriarchal locum tenens, Metropolitan Stephen Yavorsky,

who was from the Western Ukraine. Besides, Tsar Peter surrounded himself

precisely with Ukrainians, who were more educated…”

For his principled refusal, Vladyka was put in prison, and was released

only when the government of Petlyura was overthrown and the White Army

liberated Poltava. After Vladyka’s exile to Serbia, the struggle against the

autocephalists and renovationists was continued by his close disciple, the

future hieromartyr Bishop Basil of Priluki.

Exile in Serbia

Civil war erupted between the Reds and the Whites, and by the beginning

of 1920 it was clear that the Reds, who had already carried unparalleled

atrocities against church property and church servers, were going to win. In

the same year Archbishop Theophan became a member of the Higher Church

Administration of the South of Russia, formed in accordance with the decree

of Patriarch Tikhon and the Holy Synod, ukaz

№ 362 of November 7/20,

1920. Almost immediately, at the suggestion of the White army commanders,

who said that their departure would be merely provisional, the HCA

prepared to flee southwards from the invasion of the barbarians.

The first stage of the journey took them to Stavropol, and then to

Ekaterinodar in the Northern Caucasus. Coming out of Ekaterinodar

cathedral, the president of the HCA, Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of

Kiev, asked the thousands of worshippers whether they should stay in Russia

or leave. The people shouted that they should leave and pray for them in the

lands beyond the sea. A Te Deum was celebrated, and the immense crowd

prayed and wept. The Cossacks came to bid farewell to their hierarchs.

Then the hierarchs set off with the remnants of the White Army for the

Crimea, the last refuge of Free and Orthodox Russia. They settled in the

monastery of St. George in Sevastopol. Three months later, they left for


Helen Yurievna Kontzevich writes: “[Vladyka Theophan] departed from

Russia on a steamship along with Metropolitans Anthony (Khrapovitsky) and

Platon and Bishop Benjamin (Fedchenko). They discussed the situation of the

Church the whole way. Bishop Theophan’s position differed from the united

opinion of the other bishops, who stood for the path of church politics, and

they parted ways.”

However, these differences did not reveal themselves to be serious at that

time, and in 1921 Vladyka, together with the whole Higher Church

Administration, moved to Yugoslavia at the invitation of Patriarch Demetrius

of Serbia, and took part in November of the same year in the First Russian

All-Emigration Council in Sremsky-Karlovtsy.

Nicholas Zernov, a participant in this Council, describes Vladyka

Theophan at this time: “The Archbishop of Poltava Theophan (Bystrov, 1874-

1940) was a learned man and an ascetic, withdrawn from the world. His head

bowed, his voice scarcely audible, he sometimes celebrated in the Athonite

podvoryes. He seemed completely immersed in prayer and indifferent to the

world around him, but there came out from him a power that was his own

and which fixed people’s attention on this fragile old man.”

The most important decision of this Council was the call for the restoration

of the Romanov dynasty to the throne of Russia. In this connection, it is

interesting to note the letter which Archbishop Theophan wrote to Helen

Yurievna Kontzevich in 1930 on the subject of the coming Tsar: “You ask me

about the near future and about the approaching last times. I do not speak on

my own, but am saying that which was revealed to me by the Elders, The

coming of the Antichrist draws nigh and is very near. The time separating us

from him can be counted a matter of years, and at the most a matter of some

decades. But before the coming of the Antichrist Russia must yet be restored -

to be sure, for a short time. And in Russia there must be a Tsar forechosen by

the Lord Himself. He will be a man of burning faith, great mind and iron will.

This much has been revealed about him. We shall await the fulfilment of what

has been revealed. Judging by many signs it is drawing nigh, unless because

of our sins the Lord God shall revoke it, and alter what has been promised.

According to the witness of the word of God, this also might happen.”

And to another visitor he wrote: "O Russia, Russia! How terribly she has

sinned before the goodness of the Lord. The Lord God deigned to give Russia

that which He gave to no other people on earth. And this people has turned

out to be so ungrateful. It has left Him, renounced Him, and for that reason

the Lord has given it over to be tormented by demons. The demons have

entered into the souls of men and the people of Russia has become possessed,

literally demon-possessed. And all the terrible things that we hear have been

done and are being done in Russia: all the blasphemies, the militant atheism

and the fighting against God – all this is taking place because of the demonpossession.

But the possession will pass through the ineffable mercy of God,

and the people will be healed. The people will turn to repentance, to faith.

This will take place when nobody expects it. Orthodoxy will be regenerated in

her and will triumph. But that Orthodoxy which was before will no longer

exist. The great elders said that Russia would be regenerated, that the people

itself would re-establish the Orthodox Monarchy. A powerful Tsar will be

placed by God Himself on the Throne. He will be a great reformer and he will

have a strong Orthodox faith. He will depose the unfaithful hierarchs of the

Church, and will himself be an outstanding personality, with a pure, holy

soul. He will have a strong will. He will come from the dynasty of the

Romanovs according to the maternal line. He will be a chosen one of God,

obedient to Him in all things. He will transfigure Siberia. But this Russia will

not continue to exist for long. Soon that will take place which the Apostle

John speaks of in the Apocalypse.”

And again he said, as witnessed by Archbishop Averky: “In Russia, the

elders said, in accordance with the will of the people, the Monarchy,

Autocratic power, will be re-established. The Lord has fore-chosen the future

Tsar. He will be a man of fiery faith, having the mind of a genius and a will of

iron. First of all he will introduce order in the Orthodox Church, removing all

the untrue, heretical and lukewarm hierarchs. And many, very many - with

few exceptions, all - will be deposed, and new, true, unshakeable hierarchs

will take their place. He will be of the family of the Romanovs according to

the female line [according to Schema-Monk Epiphanius he said: “He will


be of the family of the Romanovs, but will be related to them through

women”]. Russia will be a powerful state, but only for 'a short time'... And

then the Antichrist will come into the world, with all the horrors of the end as

described in the Apocalypse."

Vladyka Theophan was appointed abbot of the monastery of Petkovitsa in

the diocese of Shabats. However, because of his poor health, the new abbot

was not able to spend much time with the brethren, and, as Archbishop

Anthony of San Francisco recounts, “the older brethren began to complain,

while the younger brethren were on the side of Vladyka. Fr. Ambrose

[Kurganov] was especially grieved when he encountered the complaining. He

always honoured the holiness of the authority of the abbacy.

“Realizing his weakness to calm the ferment, longing for another form of

life,… Archbishop Theophan decided to leave Petkovitsa.

“Before his departure, on the feast day of the Petkovitsa church, October 1,

1923, he ordained deacon Ambrose to the priesthood during the Divine


“It is said that on that day, St. Paraskeva was seen standing in the

sanctuary near the holy table…”

The archbishop was taken away, sick, to another monastery on the Adriatic

coast. It was meant to be a place of recuperation, but his health only


“I could scarcely move, I was so weak; my sick throat deprived me of my

last strength, and every day I became weaker. There were so few monks in the

monastery that there were no services. There was a Serbian Orthodox

monastery not far away. One day, as the bells were ringing for the beginning

of Vespers, I decided to go for the last time to pray in a church: I dressed and

left, to respond to the call of the bells.

“I dragged myself painfully to the monastery, and on arriving I saw a

hieromonk occupied in playing cards in the courtyard of the monastery, his

stole hanging on a tree beside the church, which was locked. I went up to the

monk and asked him:

“’What’s happening, is Vespers already finished?’

“’We rang the bells so that the faithful should know that tomorrow is a

feast day.’

“’But the Vespers service?’

“’We don’t have services! We only have the bells!’”

The archbishop bowed his head, and returned to his cell, immersed in sad


In the following days, his last strength left him. He was suffering terribly in

his throat. He could not swallow anything; in any case, he had no appetite. He

felt the end approaching…

The feast of the Protection of the Mother of God was drawing near. He

addressed a last tearful prayer to the Mother of God and delivered himself

into the hands of the Lord:

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, into Thy hands I commit my spirit!”

The brothers were panic-stricken. The archbishop was lying like a corpse,

hardly breathing… He remained in this state for forty-eight hours.

On the third day, he recovered consciousness and felt that an important

change had taken place in him. Tears of joy came to the eyes of the sick man,

tears of gratitude to God and the Holy Virgin…

Then he remembered the prophetic words of the fool for Christ, Pasha of


“The Mother of God will deliver you! The Holy Virgin will save you!”

Just at that moment a parcel arrived from the Soviet Union from an

unknown person – at a time when no letters were arriving from the Soviet

Union! Inside was a beautiful icon of St. Seraphim of Sarov. He was

convinced that he had been saved through the Mother of God and the prayers

of St. Seraphim.

Pascha arrived, and the priest of the Russian church in the town near the

monastery was going round the homes of his parishioners to wish them the

joy of the feast. But in his heart he was sad, because he had left his family in

the Soviet Union and had received no news of them. His sadness combined

with the effects of drinking too much in the houses of his parishioners, and

suddenly he awoke from his stupor to realize that the money collected in

church which he carried with him had disappeared. Terrible thoughts

assailed him, he was convinced that nobody would believe that he had not

stolen the money, and he determined to kill himself.

Exhausted, he fell asleep. And then in a dream he saw Archbishop

Theophan, who approached him and said:

“Go to the temple of the Lord and you will find what you have lost.”

Dawn was breaking as he rushed to the church. Lighting a candle and

making the sign of the cross, he began to search. There was the money, on one

of the side benches!

Joyfully he began to chant the Paschal hymn: “Christ is risen from the

dead!” He felt that he himself had been truly resurrected from the dead!

Then he rushed to the archbishop and thanked him fervently for saving

him from perdition. But the archbishop said that he knew nothing about this,

and told him to ascribe the glory to God alone, and said:

“Always remember what God told you: ‘Go to the temple of the Lord and

you will find what you have lost.’”

In Bulgaria

In 1925 the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church invited

Archbishop Theophan to live in Sofia, in two rooms on the first floor of the

Synodal House overlooking St. Alexander Nevsky Square. The reason for this

was that several members of the Bulgarian Synod had been students of

Vladyka at the St. Petersburg Theological Academy, including the president

of the Synod, Metropolitan Clement. Also instrumental in the invitation was

another former student of Vladyka’s, Bishop Seraphim (Sobolev) of Lubny, a

vicariate of the Poltava diocese, who was now in charge of the Russian

parishes in Bulgaria.

Archbishop Averky writes: “It was touching to see the attention and

profound reverence which our brothers the Bulgarians showed Archbishop

Theophan. He frequently served in the majestic Church of St. Alexander

Nevsky which was erected in memory of the liberation of Bulgaria from the

Turkish yoke. It stood on the enormous square adjacent to the Synodal house

and could accommodate 7000 faithful. Occasionally, and especially during

Great Lent, he served even in the Synod ‘paraklis’ – the small house church in

the Synodal House. Those who participated in his spiritually fulfilling and

profoundly prayerful services even today remember them with


“Indeed, Vladyka Theophan made a deep impression as a man of

genuinely spiritual life on all foreigners who came in contact with him. The

enemy, however, takes up arms against such saintly people and makes a

special effort to pour out on them all his diabolical malice with the help of

malevolent and depraved individuals who are devoted to his service. Thus in

Sofia, due to various unfortunate events in the local Russian Church, Vladyka

Theophan had to suffer much grief simply because he was a strict ascetic and

an uncompromising Archpastor. Consequently, he withdrew more and more

from the world and its raging passions and began to retire into himself,

leading what was already virtually the life of a recluse. For some time,

however, he continued to participate in the sessions of the Synod, periodically

travelling to Yugoslavia for this purpose…

“Vladyka grieved over all the unnecessary events which took place in the

Russian émigré community. Most detrimental were all the arguments and

disputes which, as he put it, were not befitting of Orthodox Russians who,

because of their sins, had lost their homeland and were sentenced to live in

exile, in some cases in extremely difficult material and moral circumstances.

He altogether disapproved of the idea of proclaiming a Russian Emperor

outside of Russia, or a ‘Patriarch of Russia’ or even a ‘patriarchal locum

tenens’, notions which were widely circulated by certain individuals. He

believed that Russia would soon be resurrected, but only on the condition

that the whole nation

repented of its grave sin of apostasy before God. He

considered our life in exile as nothing other than an opportunity for fervent


and prayer for God’s forgiveness. This is why many of the events

that occurred during our life in exile gave him pain and sorrow and forced

him to avoid close contact with people. Neither would he engage in any kind

of social interaction in which he did not observe the repentance which should

be evident in our people, to whom God had given the penance of banishment.

Vladyka Theophan never went out of his cell in the Synodal House except to

go to church, nor did he receive anyone there except a few individuals who

were deeply devoted to him and sought his instructions and spiritual


“Every summer he moved from Sofia to the coastal city of Varna, where a

group of his admirers rented him a modest cottage about five kilometres from

town. The cottage was located in a very isolated and relatively uninhabited

spot. There Vladyka lived alone with his cell-attendant as in a skete, daily

performing the whole cycle of services and readers services in place of the

Liturgy. Only on certain Sundays and on major holy days did he ride to

church in a carriage. Usually he went to the Russian church of Athanasius of

Alexandria, an ancient Greek church that had been put at the disposal of the

Russians by the Bulgarian Metropolitan Symeon of Varna and Preslav.

“Here Vladyka worked especially hard on his dogmatic, exegetical and

ascetic spiritual writings. Himself a profound and refined expert in Patristics,

he complied a new edition of the

Philokalia, organized according to a system

which he had worked out, which was very practical and handy to use. He

also complied a

Philokalia of Russian Saints, wrote a very interesting and

original interpretation of Revelation, and many other things as well. In

addition he conducted extensive correspondence with his spiritual children.

His letters contained penetrating spiritual advice and instructions which were

always accompanied by citations from the Holy Scriptures and numerous

quotations from the Holy Fathers. They were reminiscent of the

correspondence of Bishop Theophan the Recluse, and constitute a precious

guide on all matters of morality and spirituality…

“Most astonishing of all were Vladyka’s labours of prayer, to which he

devoted himself literally day and night. It was obvious that he never gave up

the prayer of ‘the mind in the heart’, following the legacy of the Holy Fathers.

He was often so deep in contemplation that it seemed to him that the whole

visible world around him had ceased to exist. Prayer without ceasing was

indeed vital to his spirit, which dwelt on high…

“When he performed the Liturgy in the church of St. Athanasius in Varna,

the congregation of the church, righteous and patriarchal Greeks who lived in

the environs, told us: ‘When your Vladyka sits on the high place in the

church, it seems as if the Blessed Athanasius himself has come to his church

and is performing the services through him. One Greek woman, in whose

house Vladyka spent the night, was surprised that when she came in to clean

up in the morning the bed appeared to be untouched. Obviously, Vladyka

had spent the whole night before the Liturgy in prayer and had not gone to


“It is not surprising that, given Vladyka Theophan’ strict ascetic life, as

happens with many genuine ascetics, he experienced frightening episodes of

the sort that the enemy of mankind uses to try to force people who lead an

ascetic life to give up their labours. These were the same sort of episodes that

we know from the Russian ascetics Saints Sergius of Radonezh and Seraphim

of Sarov. Vladyka Theophan’ frightening episodes were reported by those

who served as his cell-attendants, and even by the Right Reverend Seraphim

who rode with him in a sleeping-car on the Sofia-Varna express, and who was

at that time in charge of the Russian ecclesiastical communities in Bulgaria.

Once, when they were riding together in the same compartment, something

woke Vladyka Seraphim in the night and he saw in the middle of the

compartment a big black cat [according to Archbishop Theophan, it was more

like a tigress with a huge udder] with eyes of burning flames. Then the loud

voice of Vladyka Theophan resounded: ‘In the name of Jesus Christ, the Son

of the Living God, I adjure you: be gone from me, unclean one!’ The cat

snorted, spraying fiery sparks in all directions, and disappeared. Since that

time, as Vladyka Seraphim stated, he tried to avoid spending the night in the

same place as Vladyka Theophan because he was so shaken by this


“In the cottage in Varna, there were only two rooms and a kitchen.

Vladyka lived in the front room which opened onto the veranda; the second

room was empty, and beyond it was the kitchen where Vladyka’s cellattendants

stayed. They took this duty upon themselves voluntarily and

served all Vladyka’s needs. One of them was an elderly merchant from

Moscow, Kh., another was a middle-aged but by no means old Cossack from

the Urals, S., and the third was the young student, T. At first they took turns

spending the night in the kitchen, but later they began to go home late at

night after doing all that Vladyka asked of them. The reason for this was

certain mysterious phenomena which frightened them. In the empty room

between the kitchen and Vladyka’s cell somebody’s footsteps would

suddenly resound, clearly audible, although there was nobody there. Then it

seemed as if some unseen person were throwing whole handfuls of sand or

dirt in through the windows of the cottage, and there were other unexplained

noises of this kind. When this happened, Vladyka’s loud voice, which was

usually soft, could be heard very loud and strong, clearly articulating, ‘In the

name of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, I adjure you: be

gone from me, unclean one!’ Then everything grew quiet and calm.

“According to the cell-attendant S., at midnight the sound of various

falling objects could be heard, and this also ceased after Vladyka pronounced

in a loud and threatening voice his adjuration, apparently against the

demonic forces which menaced him. At first Vladyka used to ask his cellattendant,

“’Did you hear what happened in the night?’

“’I did,’ he would answer.

“’And were you frightened?’


But once that cell-attendant himself experienced an attack of demons. When

he was half-asleep he suddenly felt some terrible hairy monster pressing on

him and choking him. He awoke and saw somebody squeezing his throat. At

first he thought that it was a robber and took it into his head to grab him with

his hand, but his arms went numb… Then he began to pray and he saw a grey

cloud that twisted up in the shape of a horn and gradually disappeared.

Vladyka came in and made the sign of the cross on his forehead, sprinkled the

room with holy water, and such occurrences were not repeated.

“After Vladyka had left for Sofia, his cell-attendants came to the cottage to

pack up and move out the things he had left behind. The neighbouring

Bulgarian villagers surrounded them and asked in astonishment,

“’What was going on last night in your Vladyka’s cottage?’

“’Nothing could have happened,’ they replied. ‘Vladyka left the day before

and nobody was in the cottage.’

“’What do you mean?’ the Bulgarians countered, bewildered. ‘All night

long the windows of the cottage were brightly lit, and it was evident that

many people had gathered and there seemed to be a party and some kind of

dancing going on.’

“Some time later, one of his cell-attendants attempted to ask Vladyka in a

most cautious and tactful way what all these mysterious phenomena meant.

Vladyka smiled somewhat enigmatically and humbly said,

“’Well, this is what happens with monks!’

We, however, understood him thus: yes! This is what happens with monks,

but not with all of them, only

real monks such as you!

“Vladyka was extraordinarily fond of his cell attendants. Sometimes when

he came to see them in the kitchen he was very gentle, loving and cheerful.

He could appreciate a good polite joke and laugh at it. Only once did his cellattendants

have occasion to see Vladyka actually get angry: a certain priest

once wanted to exclude an individual who had offended him from Holy

Communion. Vladyka told him that he had no right to do so, and that one

must forgive personal offences.”

Once, during the Cherubic hymn of the Liturgy that was being celebrated

in the small chapel in the cottage, noises and groaning were heard coming

from under the roof. One of the cell-attendants asked the blessing of the

archbishop to investigate, but he said it would not happen again. And it

didn’t. Instead, however, snakes appeared all round the house, which

Vladyka attributed to demonic forces. As a result, they had to move into

another house a bit further down the coast in place called “Roumi”…

Dr. Abbatti was working as a doctor in Bulgarian Macedonia when a

malaria epidemic broke out. And his wife Anna Vassilievna came down with

the illness. Now the doctor and his wife had sworn to each other that they

would not conceal from each other when one of them was dying. So the

doctor, who had to leave to see a patient, turned to his wife and said:

“Annette, you have no more than two hours to live!”

She was already in the throes of convulsions, and she asked her husband to

send a telegram to Archbishop Theophan immediately and ask him to pray

for her. He agreed, sent the telegram and left for his work. The telegram read

as follows:

“Anna Vassilievna Abatti is dying. Two hours to live. Asking for your holy

prayers to save her from death. Doctor Abatti.”

Then he left. The region where he was working was mountainous and the

communications poor. On his way back, he received a telegram. Too

preoccupied and sad to read it, he stuffed it in his pocket. He was expecting to

find his wife dead… But as he entered his house he could not believe his eyes:

his wife was sitting, pale and weak, but with no traces of the illness… The

telegram he hadn’t read was from the archbishop and said:

“I am praying. By God’s mercy, the sick one will recover.”

He noted that the time when the telegram was sent and the time when his

wife felt the illness depart coincided. But when Anna Vassilievna came to

thank the archbishop, he did not let her open her mouth, telling her to tell

nobody about the miraculous healing and threatening her that if she did tell

something worse would happen to her. And it was only after the archbishop’s

death in 1940 that she said:

“He was not a simple archbishop. He was a great man, a holy man of God,

ignored by men… Listen how, thanks to his holy prayers, I am alive now,

although I was in agony.”

And she told the story…

There lived in Varna a Russian by the name of Pelichkin, a former colonel,

who had converted from Orthodoxy to the Baptist faith. He knew how to

conduct conversations on religious matters, and was able to disturb someone

who was not trained in theology. And he decided to display his talents in a

debate with Archbishop Theophan.

When Pelichkin arrived at the house, Vladyka told his cell-attendants to

stay close to the room in which the interview was to take place.

“The interview will be short. You will wait in the corridor and will be

witnesses, is such are needed.”

Pelichkin was ushered in. He wanted to close the door, but the archbishop

opened it again, which disturbed him. Moreover, Vladyka did not offer him a

seat and remained standing himself. Then the archbishop began:

“When there are differences of opinion, and so as to avoid interminable

disputes, one makes appeal to the judgement of a third party. These arbiters

decide which of the two confess the true faith. Not long ago you and I

confessed the same faith, the Orthodox faith. The best judges that we could

find are the three holy ecumenical bishops, St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory the

Theologian and St. John Chrysostom. Their authority is indisputable for us.”

To this Pelichkin objected: “But they are men like you and I! Why should I

be obliged to consider them as indisputable authorities?”

The archbishop replied: “If you consider yourself the equal of the holy

bishops St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory the Theologian and St. John

Chrysostom, we have nothing more to say to each other. I ask you to leave the


Pelichkin had nothing to answer to this. Disconcerted, he left the room.

Later Vladyka explained his tactics:

“If I had refused to speak with him, he would have told the world that ‘the

archbishop is frightened’. Whereas here, he had nothing to say in reply… In

his heart he well understands that to consider oneself the equal of Saints Basil

the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom is a great impudence

and spiritual delusion.”

In 1928 Vladyka came to Varna for Holy Week and Pascha. During the

Liturgy for Holy Thursday an earthquake suddenly hit the city. Tens of

chandeliers suspended on chains from the ceiling began to tinkle, the walls

seemed to come to life, the bells began to ring.

The people, too, were disturbed and began to flee from the church. The

superior of the church asked the archbishop to allow him to go and calm the


“Stay here and pray!” he replied.

And he immersed himself in prayer.

Again the superior, thinking that the archbishop had misunderstood him,


“Allow me to go and say a word to the people!”

“You must not go and say anything… Stay here and pray!”

When the panic-stricken parishioners saw that everyone in the sanctuary

was staying and praying, they calmed down.

On Holy Saturday, there was another earthquake during the chanting of

the cherubic hymn: “Let all mortal flesh keep silence…” This time many of

the faithful, their fears reinforced by what they had read in the press, rushed

out into the street. Once again the superior asked:

“Your Eminence, bless me and allow me go and pacify the people!”

“Father Igumen, stay here and pray!”

This time the priest did not insist. And the people who had fled, seeing the

calmness of the clergy in the sanctuary, returned to the church.

But there were many victims in the city. People who should have been in

church praying… Vladyka saw the earthquake as a call to repentance….

Dogmatic Disputes

The 1920s were a period of extraordinary turmoil in the Russian Church

both inside and outside of Russia. Schisms and heresies, excited and exploited

by political and extra-ecclesiastical forces, threatened to tear apart the Body of

Christ. In this chaos many looked to the Synod of the Russian Orthodox

Church Outside Russia for guidance, and in particular to its president and

vice-president, Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of Kiev and

Archbishop Theophan of Poltava, who had respectively been rectors of the

Moscow and St. Petersburg Theological Academies. On many issues the two

hierarchs agreed. But unfortunately on one or two issues Archbishop

Theophan considered the metropolitan to be in error; and, for all his love and

respect for the older hierarch, he considered it his duty to point out these


In 1926 there was published in Sremski Karlovtsy in Serbia the second

edition of Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky)’s Dogma of Redemption, an

attempt to conceptualise the mystery of Christ’s redemption of mankind by

means of a sharp contrast between redemption understood as an act of

supremely compassionate love and redemption understood as the satisfaction

of God’s justice, the so-called “juridical theory”. The juridical theory was

rejected by Metropolitan Anthony as “scholastic”, and he sharply criticised

several Fathers of the Russian Church for teaching it. In particular, he

criticised the Catechism of Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, which his

supporters proposed to replace with his own Catechism containing his own

“monistic” theory of redemption. According to Metropolitan Anthony, our

salvation was not accomplished by a restoration of justice between God and

man, but by an outpouring of Christ’s compassionate love for man onto the

whole of mankind. In accordance with this theory, the central point in the

redemption of mankind was located by the metropolitan in the Garden of

Gethsemane, rather than on the Cross.

Archbishop Theophan, supported by his vicar in Russia, Bishop Seraphim

(Sobolev) of Lubny, profoundly disagreed with the metropolitan. He

considered the so-called “juridical theory” to be Orthodox, and Metropolitan

Philaret’s Catechism in no need of replacing. And he considered Metropolitan

Anthony’s Catechism to contain serious dogmatical errors relating to the

dogmas of redemption and original sin.

The issue came to a head in a session of the Synod held in Yugoslavia in

April, 1926. On the one hand, the Synod expressed its approval of

Metropolitan Anthony’s Catechism. On the other hand, no decision was made

to replace Metropolitan Philaret’s Catechism with that of Metropolitan


However, the dispute rumbled on “underground”. Thus in letters to

Hieroschemamonk Theodosius of Mount Athos, who took the side of

Archbishop Theophan, Metropolitan Anthony expressed the suspicion that

Archbishop Theophan was in “spiritual delusion” and continued to show

himself in fundamental disagreement “with the juridical theory of Anselm

and Aquinas, completely accepted by P[eter] Moghila and Metropolitan

Philaret”. And again he wrote: “We must not quickly return to Peter Moghila,

Philaret and Macarius: they will remain subjects for historians”.

For his part, Archbishop Theophan was unhappy that Metropolitan

Anthony did not abandon his heretical views on redemption, but only

refrained from pressing for their official acceptance by the Synod. As he wrote

on February 16/29, 1932: “Under the influence of the objections made [against

his work], Metropolitan Anthony was about to take back his Catechism, which

had been introduced by him into use in the schools in place of Metropolitan

Philaret’s Catechism. But, as became clear later, he did this insincerely, and

with exceptional persistence continued to spread his incorrect teaching

On Redemption and many other incorrect teachings contained in his Catechism”.

Another dogmatic issue on which Archbishop Theophan and Bishop

Seraphim cooperated fruitfully was the Sophianist heresy of Fr. Sergius

Bulgakov. (Another theologian who worked on this issue was Hieromonk

John Maximovich, the future holy hierarch.) This heresy was based, according

to Vladyka in a letter he wrote in 1930, “on the book of Fr. [Paul] Florensky,

The Pillar and Ground of the Truth. But Florensky borrowed the idea of Sophia

from V.S. Soloviev. And V.S. Soloviev borrowed it from the medieval mystics.

“In V.S. Soloviev Sophia is the feminine principle of God, His ‘other’.

Florensky tries to prove that Sophia, as the feminine principle of God, is a

special substance. He tries to find this teaching in St. Athanasius the Great

and in Russian iconography. Protopriest Bulgakov accepts on faith the basic

conclusions of Florensky, but partly changes the form of this teaching, and

partly gives it a new foundation. In Bulgakov this teaching has two variants:

a) originally it is a special Hypostasis, although not of one essence with the

Holy Trinity (in the book The Unwaning Light), b) later it is not a Hypostasis

but ‘hypostasisness’. In this latter form it is an energy of God coming from the

essence of God through the Hypostases of the Divinity into the world and

finding for itself its highest ‘created union’ in the Mother of God.

Consequently, according to this variant, Sophia is not a special substance, but

the Mother of God. “According to the Church teaching, which is especially clearly revealed in St. Athanasius the Great, the Sophia-Wisdom of God is the Lord Jesus Christ. “Here, in the most general terms, is the essence of Protopriest Bulgakov’s

teaching on Sophia! To expound any philosophical teaching shortly is very

difficult, and so it is difficult to expound shortly the teaching of the

‘sophianists’ on Sophia. This teaching of theirs becomes clear only in

connection the whole of their philosophical system. But to expound the latter

shortly is also impossible. One can say only: their philosophy is the

philosophy of ‘panentheism’, that is, a moderate form of ‘pantheism’. The

originator of this ‘panentheism’ in Russia is V.S. Soloviev.”

Bulgakov was only one of a series of heretical teachers who were teaching

in the 1920s and 30s in the Theological Institute of St. Sergius in Paris, such as

Nicholas Berdyaev, Lev Zander and Nicholas Zernov. By no means all the

Paris theologians supported him. Fr. Georges Florovsky, for example,

strongly criticized him. However, Metropolitan Eulogius of Paris supported

them, and was in turn supported by them, which, combined with the

intrigues of the communists, laid the basis for the schism of the “Paris

exarchate” from the Russian Church Abroad that took place in 1927. The

sticking point was Eulogius’s refusal to allow Synodal supervision of the St.

Sergius Institute, and his refusal to break links with the masonically inspired

and financed YMCA, proved the sticking point on which hopes of a

permanent reconciliation foundered.

Archbishop Averky writes: “Archbishop Theophan was the first to expose

and document the anti-Christian nature of certain so-called Christian

organizations, some of which were eager to extend their influence to the

Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, and even to subjugate it to

themselves somewhat by rendering financial assistance much needed by our

refugees who had no stable sources of their own to draw from in exile.

Vladyka Theophan himself categorically refused to accept the monthly

allowance offered to him by these organizations, and did not approve of those

who did, for he believed that this caused them to lose their spiritual freedom,

and that in one way or another they would consequently be forced to do the

will of their sponsors. Vladyka Theophan guarded his independence and

spiritual freedom, preferring a beggarly existence to a secure situation. This

discloses the most characteristic trait of our great pastor, a trait which he

shared with the great Fathers of Christian antiquity: any compromise of

conscience, no matter how small, was for him altogether inconceivable. In all

of his actions and conduct, in his private life as well as in his service to the

Church and society, he was utterly constant, never departing in any way from

what his convictions dictated. Absolute incorruptibility, uncompromising

honesty and straightforwardness, demand for unconditional loyalty to the

true Church, to the Word of God, and to Patristic tradition – these were his

hallmarks, ideals which guided his life and which he liked to see in other

servants of the Church as well.”

In August, 1926, Archbishop Theophan wrote: “The real causes of the

division are deeper than it seems at first glance. Two of them are especially

significant. ‘They’ consider the Soviet authorities as ‘ordained by God’, but

we consider them antichristian. On the basis of overwhelming documentary

evidence, we recognized that the YMCA is a masonic organization. They

consider it a Christian organization.”

And he predicted: “Metropolitan Eulogius will not give in. Those around

him are pushing him toward schism. We could let him have his way, but we

cannot entrust the fate of Orthodoxy to him. He is ensnared in the nets of the

[masonic] YMCA. The YMCA in turn is having a demoralizing effect on

student groups. In the magazine The Way № 5, Professor Berdyaev stated

openly that the schism in the church is unavoidable and necessary.

Metropolitan Eulogius is the only hierarch who ‘has raised his consciousness

to the realization that it is necessary to reform Orthodoxy’, and he is therefore

‘a tool of God’s Providence’ in our days!”

Vladyka took a very strict attitude towards the Paris exarchate. As Helen

Kontzevich relates, “in Paris, Archpriest Sergius Chetverikov asked to come

and see Archbishop Theophan, to converse with him on the theme of the

Jesus Prayer. But he was presented with the condition that he cease all contact

with the YMCA. The Archpriest did not agree to it.”

Archbishop Averky says that Vladyka Theophan foresaw both the schism

of Metropolitan Eulogius of Paris and that of Metropolitan Platon in America;

“he warned and admonished, but his warnings were not heeded in time and

the subsequent reproach of those who broke away not only had no positive

results, but even deepened the division, as Vladyka had also foreseen. Such

ecclesiastical schisms and divisions caused Vladyka to sorrow in his heart, to

suffer in his soul and to grieve. Although he had at the very beginning

identified the root of the problem, he did not always approve of the measures

taken to stop the schisms and establish unity in the Church, and he indicated

the errors sometimes made in so doing.”

Although Eulogius at times sought, and obtained, reconciliation with

Metropolitan Anthony and the other hierarchs, his heretical entourage was

stronger, as Vladyka had predicted. First he joined the Moscow Patriarchate

under Metropolitan Sergius. But then, when Sergius demanded political

loyalty to the Soviet Union, he turned to Constantinople.

However, by 1927-28, both the Moscow and the Constantinople

patriarchates had fallen away from the truth of Orthodoxy, and Vladyka

Theophan was prominent in defending that truth against their innovations.

One of the last Hierarchical Councils that Vladyka attended condemned

the notorious declaration of Metropolitan Sergius, which recognized the

Soviet power as established by God and placed the Russian Church in more

or less complete dependence on it. As he wrote on September 1, 1927: “It is

impossible to recognize the epistle of Metropolitan Sergius as obligatory for

ourselves. The just-completed Council of Bishops rejected this epistle. It was

necessary to act in this way on the basis of the teaching of the Holy Fathers on

what should be recognized as a canonical power to which Christians must

submit. St. Isidore of Pelusium, having pointed to the presence of the Godestablished

order of the submission of some to others everywhere in the life of

rational and irrational beings, draws the conclusion:

“’Therefore we are right to say that the thing in itself, I mean power, that is,

authority and royal power, have been established by God. But if a lawless

evildoer seizes this power, we do not affirm that he has been sent by God, but

we say that he, like Pharaoh, has been permitted to spew out this cunning and

thereby inflict extreme punishment on and bring to their senses those for

whom cruelty was necessary, just as the King of Babylon brought the Jews to

their senses. (Works, part II, letter 6).

“Bolshevik power in its essence is an antichristian power and there is no

way that it can recognized as God-established.”

In relation to the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the introduction of the

new calendar into that patriarchate and other churches, Vladyka Theophan

was similarly uncompromising. Thus “only an Ecumenical Council”, he

wrote, “can introduce a new Church calendar, as the First Ecumenical Council

introduced the one which we now use. Any other unauthorized introduction

cannot be recognized as canonical.” Unlike Metropolitan Anthony

(Khrapovitsky), who, though opposed to the new calendar innovation,

argued in favour of remaining in communion with the new calendarists, and

served with the new calendarist patriarch Miron on more than one occasion,

Archbishop Theophan adopted the “zealot” line of the Greek and Romanian

Old Calendarists. And he wrote two extended works on the subject. In one of

them, written in 1926, he wrote:

Question. Have the pastors of the Orthodox Church not made special

judgements concerning the calendar?

Answer. They have, many times – with regard to the introduction of the

new Roman calendar – both in private assemblies and in councils.

“A proof of this is the following. First of all, the Ecumenical Patriarch

Jeremiah II, who lived at the same time as the Roman calendar reform,

immediately, in 1582, together with his Synod condemned the new Roman

system of chronology as being not in agreement with the Tradition of the

Church. In the next year (1583), with the participation of Patriarchs Sylvester

of Alexandria and Sophronius VI of Jerusalem, he convened a Church Council.

This Council recognised the Gregorian calendar to be not in agreement with

the canons of the Universal Church and with the decree of the First

Ecumenical Council on the method of calculating the day of Holy Pascha.

“Through the labours of this Council there appeared: a Conciliar tome,

which denounced the wrongness and unacceptability for the Orthodox

Church of the Roman calendar, and a canonical conciliar Decree – the Sigillion

of November 20, 1583. In this Sigillion all three of the above-mentioned

Patriarchs with their Synods called on the Orthodox firmly and unbendingly,

even to the shedding of their blood, to hold the Orthodox Menaion and Julian

Paschalion, threatening the transgressors of this with anathema, cutting them

off from the Church of Christ and the gathering of the faithful…

“In the course of the following three centuries: the 17th, 18th and 19th, a

whole series of Ecumenical Patriarchs decisively expressed themselves

against the Gregorian calendar and, evaluating it in the spirit of the conciliar

decree of Patriarch Jeremiah II, counselled the Orthodox to avoid it…

Question. Is the introduction of the new calendar important or of little


Answer. Very important, especially in connection with the Paschalion,

and it is an extreme disorder and ecclesiastical schism, which draws people

away from communion and unity with the whole Church of Christ, deprives

them of the grace of the Holy Spirit, shakes the dogma of the unity of the

Church, and, like Arius, tears the seamless robe of Christ, that is, everywhere

divides the Orthodox, depriving them of oneness of mind; breaks the bond

with Ecclesiastical Holy Tradition and makes them fall under conciliar

condemnation for despising Tradition…

Question. How must the Orthodox relate to the new calendarist

schismatics, according to the canons?

Answer. They must have no communion in prayer with them, even before

their conciliar condemnation…

Question. What punishment is fitting, according to the Church canons, for

those who pray with the new calendarist schismatics?

Answer. The same condemnation with them…”

In France: Final Years and Repose

As early as 1928 Archbishop Theophan wrote to one of his spiritual

children: “I would like to retreat in silence from all things and from

henceforth, but I do not yet know whether this is God’s will.” On April 16/29,

1931 he left Bulgaria and moved in with a couple known to him from St.

Petersburg, Theodore and Lydia Porokhov, who were living in Clamart, near


It is not known for certain why Vladyka left Bulgaria for reclusion in

France. A desire for deep inner prayer, which is easier in reclusion, was

probably one factor. Another, according to his cell-attendant, the future

Schema-Monk Epiphanius (Chernov), was the deteriorating state of his

relations with his vicar, Bishop Seraphim. A third, according to the same

source, was a desire to check out a report that the Tsar was alive and living in


Certainly Vladyka was depressed about the state of the Churches, and

perhaps felt that he with his uncompromising views could make no further

contribution to public Church life. Thus on September 12, 1931 he wrote from

Clamart: “You complain about developments in ecclesiastical affairs in your

country. I do not know the details of your situation, but I think that the

religious and moral state of other Orthodox countries is no better, perhaps

even worse. I can at least state with assurance that this is true both of Russia

under the yoke and of Russia in the Diaspora. Regarding ecclesiastical matters

there, I have an enormous amount of material at my disposal: approximately

700 pages in all. I have at my disposal materials about ecclesiastical affairs

here as well which are no less important nor less voluminous. The overall

conclusion that can be drawn from these materials is horrifying. Yet there is,

of course, amid this general darkness a ‘grace-filled remnant’ that still

perpetuates the Orthodox faith both here and there. ‘Our times seem to be

apocalyptic. The salt is losing its savour. Among the Church’s highest pastors

there remains a weak, dim, contradictory and incorrect understanding of the

written word. This is subverting spiritual life in Christian society and

destroying Christianity, which consists of actions, not words. It grieves me to see

to whom Christ’s sheep have been entrusted, to see who it is that oversees their

guidance and salvation. But this is tolerated by God. Let those in Judaea flee to

the mountains!’ With these words the great Russian hierarchs Metropolitan

Philaret of Moscow and Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov characterized the state

of ecclesiastical affairs in their own times, sixty years ago. Do we not have

even greater reason to repeat these threatening words at the present time?”

One contributing factor to Vladyka’s decision almost certainly was his

strained relations with Metropolitan Anthony over the Dogma of Redemption

and other matters. According to Helen Kontzevich, Metropolitan Anthony

wrote to Vladyka after their disagreement over the dogma, and refused him

permission to come to any more sessions of the Synod. Whether this is true or

not, the relations between the two hierarchs were definitely strained.

However, this did not lead to Vladyka formally breaking relations with the

Church Abroad, for the newspapers reported that he concelebrated with

Archbishop Seraphim (Lukianov) of Paris, and gave sermons.

Vladyka’s letters became increasingly apocalyptic in tone. Already in 1931

he predicted a new war in Europe. And “Czechoslovakia will be the first to

succumb to this threat!”, he added…

On April 31, 1936 he wrote: “Have you noticed what is happening in the

world today? The leaders of the world’s governments are all doing the same

thing: they all speak about world peace. The leaders of France and of states

friendly to her are also very insistent in speaking about ways to guarantee

security, as if this were the essential precondition of this ‘peace’. One cannot

help but recall the words of the Apostle Paul in his epistle to the

Thessalonians: ‘The day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For

when they shall say peace and security, then sudden destruction cometh upon

them as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape’ (I

Thessalonians 5.3). Everybody who loves the Truth must not only take note of

the signs of the times, but also follow these observations to their logical


“Regarding the affairs of the Church, in the words of the Saviour, one of

the most awesome phenomena of the last days is that at that time ‘the

stars shall fall from heaven’ (Matthew 24.29). According to the Saviour’s own

explanation, these ‘stars’ are the Angels of the Churches, in other words, the

Bishops (Revelation 1.20). The religious and moral fall of the Bishops is,

therefore, one of the most characteristic signs of the last days. The fall of the

Bishops is particularly horrifying when they deviate from the doctrines of the

faith, or, as the Apostle put it, when they ‘would pervert the Gospel of Christ’

(Galatians 1.7). The Apostle orders that such people be pronounced ‘anathema’. He said, ‘If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that which

ye have received, let him be accursed (anathema) ’ (Galatians 1.9). And one must

not be slow about this, for he continues, ‘A man that is an heretic, after the first

and second admonition reject, knowing that he that is such is subverted, being

condemned of himself’ (Titus 3.10-11). Moreover, you may be subject to God’s

judgement if you are indifferent to deviation from the truth: ‘So them because

thou art lukewarm, and neither cold not hot, I will spew thee out of My

mouth’ (Revelation 3.6).

“Clouds are gathering on the world’s horizon. God’s judgement of its

peoples and of hypocritical Christians, beginning with heretics and lukewarm

hierarchs, is approaching.”

Soon after moving to France, Vladyka discovered that he was being

followed. He had to stop going to church in the Rue Odessa in Paris, and told

one of his people in Bulgaria that life in Clamart was “not peaceful”. Later he

explained that there had been a night-time descent on the house where he

lived. It appears that the Soviets were trying to kidnap Vladyka as they had

kidnapped General Kutepov in 1931 and General Miller in 1937. And

although they did not succeed, after his death his papers were all sent to


Seeking a safer refuge, in 1936 Vladyka moved with the Porokhovs to

Mosne, near Amboise on the Loire. Soon after this Theodore Vassilievich

Porokhov was murdered. In 1939 Lydia Nikolaevna Porokhova, in

monasticism Maria, also died. Six months later, on September 1, 1939,

Vladyka and the Porokhovs’ niece, Anastasia Vassilievna, were taken by a

former landowner of Poltava, Maria Vassilievna Fedchenko, to a little

property which she rented at Limeray, in the same region. Here there were

three caves suitable for living in. In the first lived Vladyka. In the second was

a church. In the third lived Anastasia Vassilievna. And Maria Vassilievna

lived in a house next to the caves. There was also a place for some domestic

animals, and for twelve Doberman-pinchers, who were chained up during the

day but were released into the park during the night, probably so as to protect

Vladyka from his enemies. After his death, they were all sold.

Archbishop Theophan reposed peacefully at three o’clock in the morning

on February 6/19, 1940, the feast of St. Photius the Great. According to one of

those present, there were no more than four people present at the funeral of

the great and holy hierarch, who was vested in his hierarchical vestments

with the mitre and panagia that the Tsar had presented him with at his

consecration. The funeral was celebrated by Hieromonk Barnabas, his

confessor, who lived in the same village. According to Helen Yurievna

Kontzevitch: “At Archbishop Theophan’s funeral he was deprived of the

burial rite due to him as a bishop, and was buried as a simple monk by order

of Metropolitan Eulogius. He was buried by Hieromonk Barnabas, who had

inquired of Metropolitan Eulogius concerning the rite of burial.”

Vladyka was buried in plot № 432 in the municipal cemetery of Limeray.

On the fortieth day after his repose he appeared to his spiritual son and the

future Archbishop of Canada Joasaph, who witnessed: “After the death of my

marvelous instructor, I was terribly afflicted… It was very difficult for me and

I prayed much for him. And then, on the night of the fortieth day after his

repose, I dreamed that I was standing in front of a magnificent church from

which were proceeding a multitude of hierarchs after the service. I recognized

the great hierarchs: Saints Basil the Great, John Chrysostom, Gregory the

Theologian and many others. Suddenly, in the middle of them I saw his

Eminence Theophan! I ran up to him:

“’Your Eminence, where are you coming from? ‘

“’Well, as you can see, we have just celebrated the Liturgy together. Come

with us.’

“I followed him. All this took place in a spacious automobile – or was it a

boat? – which began to sail in the air, so to speak. We passed by mountains,

forests and valleys of an indescribable beauty. My elder began to show me

these dwellings and revealed to me their destiny:

“’That one will be saved, but that one over there at the bottom of the valley

will perish.’

“It was terrible to see! And all around us there were beautiful gardens and

a sweet perfume. I contemplated them with delight and without being sated.

For a long time we were carried about in this way in the air, in the middle of

this magnificence. Finally I could not restrain myself and asked:

“’But where are we?’

“His Eminence Theophan answered me: ‘And why do you not

understand…? In Paradise!’

“From that moment I was reassured, having understood that my dear

instructor had been found worthy of eternal blessedness.”

Miracles of healing have been attributed to Archbishop Theophan since his


Thus when he died in 1940 Helen Yurievna Kontzevich had had a terrible

toothache; she prayed to him and the pain disappeared instantly.

Towards the end of her life she had a vision of him, after which she wrote a

troparion to him:


Defender of the right belief in Christ’s redemption,

thou didst endure afflictions and death in exile,

O holy father, Hierarch Theophan,

pray to Christ God to save our souls.

Sources: The Works of Archbishop Theophan in printed and manuscript form;

Archbishop Theophan of Poltava and Pereyaslavl, Selected Letters, Liberty, TN:

St. John of Kronstadt Press, 1989; V.K., Russkaia Zarubezhnaia Tserkov’ na

Steziakh Otstupnichestva (The Russian Church Abroad on the paths of Apostasy), St.

Petersburg, 1999, pp. 29-30 (in Russian); Monk Anthony (Chernov), Vie de

Monseigneur Théophane, Archevêque de Poltava et de Pereiaslavl (The Life of his

Eminence Theophan, Archbishop of Poltava and Pereyaslavl), Lavardac: Monastère

Orthodoxe St. Michel, 1988 (in French); Monk Anthony (Chernov), private

communication; Sergius and Tamara Fomin, Rossia pered Vtorym Prishestviem

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Rasputin, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2000; Polischuk, E.S. (ed.),

Imiaslavie. Antologia (Name-worshipping. An Anthology), Moscow, 2002, p. 518

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Sviateishago Patriarkha Tikhona (The Acts of His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon),

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