Orthodox America

  Grant Rest, O Lord, Unto Thy Servants

Bishop Constantine, +May 18/31, 1996
Archbishop Seraphim, +August31/September 13, 1996

Monk Isaaky, +July 28/August 10, 1996

Subdeacon Basil Anderson, +August 18/31, 1996

Thoughts About Life

How long we live or what illness will cause our death are not proper concerns for Orthodox Christians. Although we sing "Many Years" for one another at Name days and other celebrations, this is only because the Church in Her wisdom knows that we need many years to repent of our sins and be converted, and not because a long life has any value in itself. God is not interested in how old we are when we come before His Judgment, but whether we have repented. He is not concerned about whether we died of a heart-attack or cancer, but whether our soul is in a state of health.

Saint Colman's Bulletin, No. 12, Stradbally Ireland, 1993.

Bishop Constantine

+May 18/31,1996

On May 31, 1996, Bishop Constantine (Jesenky) departed this life. He was 89 years old. For the past five years he had been living in retirement at Christ of the Hills Monastery in Blanco, Texas, and it was there that his earthly remains were laid to rest, awaiting the General Resurrection. Emmanuel Jesensky, the future Bishop Constantine, was born in 1907 in St Petersburg, where his father worked in the Imperial Chancery. In the first year of the Revolution, the family moved to Riga, Latvia. Vladika's father was taken prisoner by the Bolsheviks and executed. His mother, on receiving this news, died of a heart attack, leaving eleven-year-old Emmanuel an orphan. He finished school and worked in a pharmacy. At the same time he studied iconography under the masterful Old Rite iconographer, Pimen Sofronov. In 1928 New Martyr Archbishop John of Riga blessed him to enter seminary. He graduated in 1930 and went to Paris, where he continued his studies and obtained his doctorate at the St Sergius Theological Academy. In 1932 Metropolitan Eulogius of Paris ordained him to the priesthood and sent him to Berlin, to the Church of Equal-to-the-Apostles Great Prince Vladimir, a distant ancestor. He served there for two years as second priest before being assigned rector of the Church of St Alexis Metropolitan of Moscow in Leipzig. During his four-year tenure there, he also served parishes in Kassel, Dresden and Einbeck.

      In 1938, Fr. Emmanuel and his parish left the Paris jurisdiction and joined the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. That same year he was sent as a delegate to the Second Pan-Diaspora Council. During the war he began to study medicine, completing four semesters at Berlin University. Due to ill health, he moved in 1945 to Bad-Hartzburg and was 'there during the American occupation.

      In 1949 Fr. Emmanuel emigrated to the United States. He served briefly in Washington DC and Trenton NJ before being assigned to Glen Cove NY, as rector of the Church of the Ascension. Fr Emmanuel had a particular love for the beauty of God's house, and, with his talent for iconography and his refined artistic sensibilities, he transformed the garage in which the church was located, into a lovely jewel, worthy of being God's temple. He had a great love for the Divine services, and his manner of serving was always dignified, never hurried, and deeply prayerful. One man, who had served as an acolyte under Vladika, said that when he served Liturgy, "his prayer was palpable. You could feel it!'

      It was evident to the church hierarchs that here was a suitable candidate for the episcopacy. In October 1967, Fr. Emmanuel was tonsured a monk by Archbishop Averky at Holy Trinity Monastery and given the name Constantine. Two months later, on the feast of the Kursk Icon of the Sign, he was consecrated Bishop of Brisbane. In the customary speech at his consecration, the new bishop described what had motivated him to dedicate himself to the service of the Church:

      "In answering this question, I cannot fail to recall the early years of my childhood, when my unforgettable nanny, who had also raised my father, placed in my receptive soul -- simply, but with love -- the first seeds of holy faith and piety. It was she who taught me to go to church and to love it. She often showed me a large Bible. I could scarcely tear myself away from it. It was also she who related to me Lives of the saints, and in such a lively and engaging manner. I would try to imitate them, denying myself many childish pleasures. God grant her the Kingdom of Heaven! Of course, my good parents also planted in my soul lofty impulses, teaching me to be a good Christian -- not just in word but in deed."

      In Australia, Bishop Constantine encountered many difficulties which finally compelled him to return to America. In 1978 he was made Vicar Bishop of Eastern America and New York. Three years later he was sent to shepherd the flock of Great Britain. His ascetic practices and the raw climate undermined his already poor health -- he suffered from pernicious anemia, a heart condition and bad arthritis --and in 1985 he returned to the United States to live in retirement. He spent summers at the Kursk Hermitage in Mahopac, New York, but the winters there were hard on his health, and in 1991 he moved to Christ of the Hills Monastery in Texas. Not only was the climate there suitable, but he was uplifted by the many visitors and pilgrims, and by the monks' readiness to learn from his monastic experience and his thorough knowledge of the services.

       Vladika Constantine was a true ascetic; he ate and slept very little. The monks noticed that the light in Vladika's cell would go on about 12:30 a.m., when he would get up to perform his rule of prayer. At about 2.'00 a.m. they regularly saw his bobbing flashlight as Vladika rnade the rounds of the monks' cells, praying and spreading God's blessing upon the sleeping occupants. In his last years, Vladika Constantine acquired the gift of compunction. He would often weep unaffectedly in receiving the Holy Mysteries.

       After a brief struggle with pneumonia, Bishop Constantine peacefully reposed as the monks around him read, at his request, the Prayers for the Departure of the Soul. His un-embalmed body lay in the church surrounded by Pentecost flowers for two days, without any sign of decomposition or rigor mortis. Those who had gathered for the occasion could not help but draw special significance from the Kneeling Prayers read on the eve of the funeral: "There is, therefore, no death for Thy servant, when we leave the body and come unto Thee, our God, but a translation from things most saddening unto things most beneficial and most delightful, and unto repose and joy." Bishop Constantine was buried after Divine Liturgy on the Feast of the Holy Spirit, which this year coincided with the feast of Saints Constantine and Helen.


Sources: an Obituary prepared by the monks of Christ of the Hills Monastery, and a memorial article in Pravoslavnaya Rus', Jordanville: No. 14, 1996.

Archbishop Seraphim

+August 31/September 13,1996 

Archbishop Seraphim (Svezhevski), formerly of Caracas and Venezuela, spent his last years of retirement at the Novo-Diveyevo Convent in Nanuet, New York. At the age of 97 the oldest hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, Vladika Seraphim had just returned from a meeting of the Sobor of Bishops when, on September 13, 1996, he reached the end of his long earthly sojourn. He was buried three days later at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville.

       Born in Imperial Russia on August 14, 1899, Constantine Nikolaevich Svezhevski attended the Cadet School in Odessa and an additional year in an artillery school with the intention of following his father and older brother into a military career. He was sent to the front and returned with a decoration of the order of Stanislav, third rank. In 1918 he joined the Volunteer Army. His division eventually joined General Wrangel's army in fighting against the Bolsheviks. With the defeat of the Whites, the army was evacuated in November 1919 to Constantinople. Like many Russian refugees, Constantine Nikolaevich spent a number of years as a transient -- Lemnos, Bulgaria, Belgium, Germany -- before his path became clear. At the end of the war he entered the newly-established monastery of St Job of Pochaev in Munich where, in August 1947, he received the monastic tonsure with the name Seraphire. In January 1949, he arrived at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville. He became the first graduate of the seminary and was raised up in the clerical ranks. In 1957 he was consecrated bishop of Caracas and Venezuela, where he served for 27 years. Observing that his flock had a poor knowledge of the Holy Scripture, he compiled numerous leaflets of scriptural commentary and led regular discussions, tirelessly explaining the meaning of various liturgical texts. He likewise impressed upon his priests that such educational work must be a consistent part of their pastoral ministry. Vladika Seraphim had himself developed an effective program of instruction using the Methodist approach. While in Jordanville, he had taken English lessons from a Methodist and had visited his church. He was so impressed by their pedagogical strategy that he later adapted it to the teaching of the fundamentals of Orthodoxy. Years later, living in retirement near Sacramento, California, Vladika Seraphim was still eager to share his experience as a religious educator; he gave lectures and conducted catechism classes, being especially attentive towards the growing influx of newcomers from Russia.

      Archbishop Seraphim was characterized by a special meekness. In later life he possessed a truly childlike countenance, which only comes with purity of heart. He bore a striking resemblance to the portrait of his heavenly patron, St Seraphim of Sarov, which stands in the small chapel of the Novo Diveyevo Convent. Observing him there as he shuffled from icon to icon greeting the saints each morning at the Divine Liturgy, it was evident that he had already made his acquaintance with the heavenly realm and was living with a foretaste of eternal blessedness.


From an article in Pravoslavnaya Rus ', No, 20, 1996, and a personal meeting with the Archbishop.

Monk Isaaky

+July 28/August 10, 1996

Here was a convert who, like Fr. Seraphim Rose, was  committed to the ideal of Orthodox monasticism, and became fully assimilated into its tradition.

        Father Isaaky (Howard Schotter, in the world) was born in 1942 in the United States and was raised in England. After completing the course of history at the University of Dublin, he became an officer in the  British Army. He was stationed in various countries  -- Borneo, Germany, India -- and also served in the  Royal Guards. He felt, however, that his attention  should be more clearly focussed on "the one thing  needful," and he became an Anglican priest. Ever the  idealist (in the best, most sober sense of the word), the deviations which began to overtake that denomination prompted him to leave the Church of England, and he eventually found his way to Orthodoxy. He was baptized at St Elias Monastery in England, and received the name Hilarion. Inclined towards monasticism, he became a novice in 1985 at that same monastery and within a year was tonsured as a  Rassophore. He also spent time on Mt Athos, but an impromptu visit to Holy Trinity Monastery in 1987  convinced him that that was where he would sink his roots.

    Over the years Fr. Isaaky worked conscientiously at a variety of obediences: -- in the bakery, library, office, book binding, Orthodox Life staff. A linguist and gifted teacher, he was especially valued at the Seminary, where he taught Church Slavonic and Greek (in Russian!) He was very erudite, without  any trace of snobbery, and in his "spare" time translated Slavonic services into English.

      On the fifth week of Great Lent, 1990, he was tonsured to the Little Schema and named Isaaky, in honor of St Isaaky of Optina. He took seriously his monastic profession; he avoided idle conversations, rarely left the monastery, and was always occupied with labors to the glory of God. He always strove not to expose his displeasure no matter what happened.

      In the winter of 1995, it was discovered that Fr. Isaaky had a brain tumor. The doctor's prognosis indicated a quick end, and Fr. Isaaky prepared for death, communing daily and concentrating on prayer. He had several months' unexpected respite during which he resumed teaching, but in the beginning of summer the cancer reappeared. He reposed in his cell on August 19, 1996. His example had already inspired his sister and nieces to become Orthodox, and just 18 days after he died, his mother was baptized.


Adapted from Orthodox Life, Jordanville, No. 5, 1996.

Subdeacon Basil Anderson

+August 18/31,1996

The tragic death of subdeacon Basil Anderson sent a shock wave through the Orthodox community. It was a Saturday, three days after the Feast of Dormition and his thirty-fifth birthday. Assisted by his wife Sandi, and with their two adopted daughters watching, he was trimming a tree in their yard when he fell, puncturing a lung. He died before reaching the hospital.

       We have been warned that death can come as a thief in the night. Here is a sobering example.

       Above all, perhaps, Basil's life was a tribute to the example of his parents, Father Vladimir and Matushka Sylvia.

      Dressed typically in jeans and cowboy boots, Basil projected a casual, easy-going attitude that masked his intense commitment to the work of God. He was third in a family of eight children (a younger sister died at the age of seven), and seven years old when the family, sponsored by Father Seraphim Rose, converted from Roman Catholicism to Orthodoxy. His father, a school teacher, launched a publishing business, Eastern Orthodox Books, to promote Orthodox missionary efforts in the English speaking world. It was a family operation. Basil had ink on his fingers almost before he could read, and his youthful apprenticeship enabled him eventually to go into the printing business for himself. Before doing so, he enrolled in Holy Trinity Seminary, but the Russian-language requirement discouraged him from returning for his second year. In 1986 he married Alexandra Harvey. They were well-paired: she had been baptized as an infant by St John Maximovitch and grew up with a mission church in her back yard. The couple moved to New Jersey where Basil opened a print shop in partnership with his older brother, whom he later bought out. For Basil, printing was not just a job; it was a means of serving the Church. He donated hours of labor to print Orthodox and Church-related materials at cost or below. On these terms he himself solicited the printing of The Orthodox Family, and many others were treated to the same generous discounts. Basil's greatest contribution lay in his collaboration with Fr Laurence of Holy Trinity Monastery, whose translations of services Basil printed and published (and personally financed) in handsome, hardcover editions: The Divine Liturgy, The All-night Vigil for Choir and Laity, The Horologion, Priest's Handbook (Sluzhebnik) in Slavonic and English; as well as numerous smaller booklets: the Canons for Holy Communion, the Funeral Service, and others which have significantly enhanced Orthodox worship in English. It was evident that Basil had been raised with a strong Christian work ethic. When we would call to ask if he could do a job for us, the answer was invariably, "No problem." What this really meant was working regularly after hours and taking work home. And he extended himself in other directions, contributing countless hours of carpentry work to his parish church of St Alexander Nevsky in Lakewood and setting up a bookstore there. His spiritual father, Father Valery Lukianov, characterized Basil as having "a golden heart and golden hands." He was very capable -- whether repairing a machine or making a kiot, and, like his parents, he was compulsively generous. He was especially fond of children. One year he and Alexandra encouraged patrons of the print shop to donate gifts for the needy children of the Annunciation Community in Uganda, which they then packed and shipped.

      The last two years of Basil's life were especially eventful. In January 1995, he and Alexandra flew to Russia to adopt two girls, sisters. In June, Basil was tonsured reader and ordained subdeacon. In February 1996 his wife was diagnosed with cancer. She had not yet finished her course of chemo-therapy when Basil died.

      Most of us express ourselves in words -- too many words. Basil expressed himself by doing. Here was a true laborer, whose good deeds, in a short life span, paved his way into the eternal kingdom.

      This is a difficult period of adjustment, emotionally and financially, for Basil's family. He contributed so much to the Church. May we reciprocate by praying for the repose of God's departed servant, Subdeacon Basil, and for the health and salvation of Alexandra, Svetlana and Lubov.  


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