Orthodox America

 MEMORY ETERNAL Archimandrite Methodius 1910-1997  

One of the most revered and endearing personalities to greet Orthodox pilgrims to the Holy Land was the elderly Archimandrite Methodius. His repose on 28 June/11 July, 1997, brought a keen sense of loss to the many fortunate to have received his spiritual guidance.

A long-time father confessor of the Mount of Olives Convent there in Jerusalem, Archimandrite Methodius (in the world, Michael Petrovich Popovich) was born in 1910 in the Carpathians and descended from a peasant Carpatho-Russian family. He came to the Holy Land in 1934 and became a brother of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem, which then numbered about seventy members. He fulfilled various obediences in the Mission and in 1935 was ordained deacon on Golgotha by the Chief of the Mission, Archbishop Anastassy, the future First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.

The most tragic period of Father Methodius' life in Palestine came in 1948, when the state of Israel was founded and the property of the Russian Church that happened to be on the territory of this State was handed over to the Moscow Patriarchate. The residents of the Mission were evicted from the premises. Eventually, only two members remained: Archimandrite Meletius and Hierodeacon Methodius. The former was taken forcibly to the Soviet Union; Father Methodius escaped this fate only because he began to act the fool (for which he subsequently had a penchant). He was imprisoned in a basement, and sometimes his captors "forgot" to feed him. They tortured him in other ways as well, trying to force him to give up the keys of the Mission premises to representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate, but Fr. Methodius did not yield. He was finally released through the intervention of the Red Cross, thanks to the efforts of Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko) in the United States. As he left the Mission and passed across the border into Jordan, Fr. Methodius was kicked and beaten.

On 3 November 1952, Fr. Methodius was ordained to the priesthood. When pilgrimages to the Holy Land from the Russian diaspora began to be organized in the 1950s, Fr. Methodius sometimes joined the pilgrims and together with them visited the holy sites in the Holy Land and on Mount Sinai. In 1964 he visited Mount Athos, and in the same year he visited Sinai. For a certain time, Fr. Methodius had the oversight of parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad in Egypt - in Cairo and Alexandria. There he became acquainted with many pilgrims, many of whom maintained spiritual ties with him. Fr. Methodius had an extensive book of names of his spiritual children, whom he unfailingly commemorated.

Fr. Methodius led an ascetical life. He often prayed late into the night, standing for long periods of time. Eventually this habit affected his legs, which became chronically swollen and had open sores. Pilgrims tried to help him; he was twice invited to the United States for treatment, and he travelled to doctors in Canada as well.

Fr. Methodius was distinguished by an uncommon zeal for God's temple. He knew the church typicon well, and he loved to serve, taking his turn in church and frequently substituting for others. When age and ill health had taken their toll and he could no longer celebrate the Liturgy, he tried to concelebrate or at least to be present at the service. And if a panikhida were served in church, Fr. Methodius invariably put on an epitrachilion and took part.

In 1985, Igumen Methodius was awarded a gramata by the Synod on the occasion of fifty years of sacred ministry. In it is said, "We also remembered your unshakable faithfulness to our Church, which you manifested during the difficult days of the war and the seizure of the Mission's premises by hostile forces."

Until prevented by poor health, Archimandrite Methodius considered it his duty to visit Saint Chariton's Monastery at least on the Saint's feastday (28 September/11 October) in order to celebrate the Divine services, although the road there was not easy. At one time, Athonite Russian monks had restored and rebuilt the Monastery. Before Fr. Gerasim, the last of the Athonite monks, died, he entrusted Fr. Methodius with its care. In 1994, Archimandrite Methodius travelled to San Francisco to participate in the Glorification of the holy Hierarch and Wonderworker John of Shanghai and San Francisco.

All the numerous pilgrims who knew Fr. Methodius and appealed to him with requests to pray for them are now asked to pray for the repose of his soul. May his memory be eternal!

With the blessing of the Chief of the Mission, Archimandrite Alexis, the Mount of Olives Convent has begun a collection of funds for a memorial cross over Fr. Methodius' grave. We ask that checks be sent to the Mount of Olives Convent, clearly earmarked: "For Archimandrite Methodius' memorial cross." Russian Convent of Mount of Olives PO Box 19229 Jerusalem 91191, ISRAEL Based on am article by Nun Ioanna in Pravoslavnaya Rus', No. 19, 1997.