Orthodox America

  Holy Trinity Orthodox Seiminary

Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary was founded in 1948 by Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko) under the auspices of Holy Trinity Monastery. It is a post secondary educational institution which offers a five-year study program leading to a degree of Bachelor of Theology, conferred by the State University of New York. Nestled in the hills and surrounded by fields, the seminary calls to mind the proverbial treasure hidden in the field, which the merchant discovered and was then willing to sell everything he possessed in order to obtain it. Many indeed have gladly parted with everything and come to acquire that which the seminary and the monastery have to offer.

The life of the seminary is intimately interwoven with that of the monastery. This arrangement offers an exceptional opportunity for candidates for the priesthood to experience firsthand the life in a community fully immersed in the Orthodox way of life. There is an obvious spiritual advantage in studying theology in a setting where it does not remain abstract and academic, but is directly applied in everyday life. The seminarians are in constant contact with the monastic brotherhood; they participate with them in prayer and Divine Services and work alongside the monks in their obediences. Returning alumni invariably point to this interaction as the greatest treasure acquired during their seminary years.

The students all wear cassocks girded by a belt symbolizing their obedience to spiritual authorities, an essential element of Orthodox spiritual growth. Seminarians are expected to attend and take part in the daily church services, either by singing in the choirs, or assisting in the sanctuary as acolytes. Frequent Holy Confession and Holy Communion, so essential to Orthodox spiritual life, are required. The day begins at 5:30 a.m. with morning prayers, followed by daily Divine Liturgy in the cathedral. Breakfast, like all other meals, is in the monastery refectory. Classes begin at 8:00 a.m. and end at noon. Lunch is the main meal of the day and is shared by everyone in silence, while the assigned seminarian reads the Life of the saint of the day. In the afternoon, after a break, the seminarians report for work at their respective obediences. These may include jobs in the print shop, offices, library, icon studio, fields and gardens, church cleaning, or working in one of the other monastery workshops. Before dinner there is time for school work or personal matters. Dinner is at 7:00 p.m., again with the reading of the Saints' Lives. This is followed by the Compline Service with evening prayers in church. The seminarians have the remainder of the evening to study, or to engage in extracurricular activities. This highly structured and concentrated lifestyle promotes discipline and spiritual maturity in the students.

The work of the seminary in preparing worthy priests and deacons for service in the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ is of eternal significance. The future of the Church, after all, depends on the priests, who are the instruments by which the grace of the Mysteries is imparted to the people of God. Our seminary is one of very few Orthodox Christian institutions that offer a program in traditional Orthodox theology untainted by modernism. The student body is surprisingly international with seminarians hailing from all parts of the globe. Yet they all live together in dorms, sharing their cultures and languages to their mutual enrichment and benefit. Classes are conducted predominantly in Russian, so the first two years stress learning of the language. The seminarians have at their disposal a well-stocked library, rich in spiritual material. All students receive basic choral training in Russian Church music. Those with artistic talent can train in the icon studio, founded by Archimandrite Cyprian. The seminary offers a wholesome environment, nurturing a true Orthodox Christian faith.

After graduation, some seminarians become monks, but most marry and become priests, taking with them the light that they came to find here. They take it back to their corner of the world where, in turn, they may light the way for others. For one does not place a lit candle under a bushel, but places it in a high place where it can shed light all around for those who seek it. The work of the Holy Trinity Seminary is essential to the spiritual well-being of so many, in so many different parts of the world.

To help meet rising costs associated with running and maintaining the seminary, as well as to defray the expenses of those students from low currency countries who cannot afford the full cost of tuition, the administration appeals to the faithful for their financial assistance. Please be generous in your support of this unique and vital institution.

Send donations to
Holy Trinity Seminary
P.O. Box 36, Jordanville, NY 13361-0036

 Holy Trinity Seminary 1948-1998

In connection with the 50th anniversary jubilee of Holy Trinity Seminary, the editor of Russkiy Pastyr posed a number of questions to alumni concerning their years at the seminary: what were their most vivid memories of life at the monastery; who among the professors influenced them most; from what they learned and experienced in their seminary years, what proved most helpful to them in later life... Here are three responses that together illustrate the unique contribution of Holy Trinity Seminary.

Archpriest Igor Hrebinka

Father Igor is rector of Saint John of Kronstadt parish  in Utica, New York. He taught in the Utica public schools for over thirty years. One of his sons is now studying at Holy Trinity Seminary.

At first I did not understand why the monastery and seminary are together, but later the principle began to become clear. The main reason is that nowhere else do you see such services as there are at a monastery. Having had this experience, it is now easy to serve and to teach. In the diaspora, "Jordanvillians" have a reputation for being experts in liturgics - thanks to the monastery. Here in the States, seminarians from other seminaries, as a rule, do not know the services. What is more important in the Orthodox Church - the church services or abstract theory? The answer to this question summarizes all of seminary life. Is it possible to know the services of Great Lent from text books? Archimandrite Constantine would reply, "One must be there, not merely know."

My memories of life at the seminary are among the warmest memories of my life. I studied at four other universities, and I am left with no particular memories of them, but that which I received in seminary has remained with me for life. In hard times, it is the church services that strengthen me most. The best moments of my life are those I experience at the end of the Divine Liturgy.

Deacon Vladimir Popov

For many years a professor of Russian at Yale University, Father Vladimir was ordained to the diaconate in 1991 and now serves at Saint Nicholas Church in Stratford, Connecticut.

Nearly forty years have passed since I graduated from Holy Trinity Seminary. From the brotherhood of that time, only four or five remain; even among my classmates, few are still alive. Now, when in my declining years the Lord has vouchsafed me to serve the Church in the rank of deacon, memories of the years spent at the monastery involuntarily come to mind: the services, the brethren, teachers, obediences, courses, singing, reading, people I met, conversations...

After my stint in the army, the schedule at the monastery-seminary did not seem strenuous to me. Here we were constantly occupied and lived like a big family, united in one faith and having common interests. Together we labored, and together we prayed. The Feasts were especially joyous and splendid occasions. Everyone prepared for them and celebrated them together. This was something altogether new to me.

The first monk that I had the good fortune to become closely acquainted with was Fr. Seraphim. His kind, quiet tone of voice, his simple and clear explanation of monasticism and matters of spiritual life inspired me. His humility and patience were boundless. ... It was thanks to our conversations and shared obediences that I did not quit seminary. To my great regret, Fr. Seraphim soon left the monastery.

As a child I sometimes helped take care of bee hives. The old bee-keeper showed us how the bees were constantly occupied. Monks reminded me of bees: they were always engaged in some kind of work. They fulfilled their obediences with a special kind of quiet joy, constancy - even the most difficult tasks, and from morning till evening. The most important of their occupations was attending the daily - and sometimes lengthy - services. I think that it was under their influence that I developed a capacity for working long hours, and a tendency to regard any work as something necessary, interesting, and positive.

The professors.  God blessed the seminary with distinguished professors in all subjects. It would be difficult to single out any one of the teaching staff for special recognition; each of them was outstanding in his own way. So as not to burden the reader, I shall highlight just two of them.

The lectures of Archimandrite Constantine (Zaitsev) amazed us with their erudition. It seemed that there were no subjects with which he was not familiar.  Not all of us at once understood his lectures, abstracts, and articles. One had to get used to his presentation and the tempo of his lectures. As I look back, it seems that he would have been a first-class professor in a graduate school or academy. At that time he was also the editor of Pravoslavnaya Rus (Orthodox Russia).

Here is an example of his editorial work. Once I came into his cell with some question and I stayed there for a while, observing how he worked on the current issue of Pravoslavnaya Rus.  They were preparing the page, "News in Brief." Before Fr. Constantine there lay a pile of twelve to fifteen newspapers and magazines in various languages; in his hand he held a red pencil. In the course of an hour he scanned the pages, making notes and setting aside what was useful. It seemed that he did not even read them. I took at random a German newspaper and read a rather lengthy article that he had marked. When I had finished, he turned to me and, in a few words - and not without some detail - summarized the contents. When I gasped with amazement, he remarked simply that this was "really very easy; it just requires some practice."

Archpriest Nikolai Stepanov commuted from Syracuse, and later all the way from Springfield (Massachusetts - ed.). He taught Old Testament. He was an expert in the prophetic books, and they interested him particularly. In his lectures he vividly described the time of the prophets; the way of life of that time; the customs, dress, geography, and climate of the countries where they lived. The prophets, who wandered about the deserts and mountains and plains of the East thousands of years ago, came alive to us; their meetings with kings, rulers, and common people - and how fearlessly they prophesied. His voice thundered and it seemed as though we were in some desert place, listening to the voice of the prophet himself... Preachers. Most often it was the older and more experienced preachers who gave the sermons: Archbishop Averky and Archimandrite Constantine. More rarely others would preach: Hieromonk Vladimir, for example. While the first two spoke primarily on a variety of subjects - the state of Christianity (Orthodoxy) in the modern world, standing fast in Orthodoxy and defending it, apostasy-Fr. Vladimir usually spoke briefly and generally on the subject of the Gospel, the epistle reading, or the feast, relating it to the present time. He spoke rapidly, with enthusiasm, leaving his listeners with hope and spiritual joy.

Hieromonks Laurus and Vladimir worked in the office. They were very approachable, and this gave us the opportunity to become more closely acquainted with them. Often one or the other would support and help us when we were having trouble with our studies.

How they and the other monastic instructors managed to find time for their obediences - taking turns in the church, preparing for the services, fulfilling their cell rule, cooking, working in the barn, preparing lectures, giving lectures, correcting our papers, listening to us, looking after our welfare... - to this day remains a mystery to me.

Influence. Different instructors influenced me at different times. I shall give two or three examples.

When I first came to the seminary, I was given a room which had belonged to one of the professors, the historian Nikolai Dimitrievich Talberg. By the end of the fall semester we had become more closely acquainted, and in those first years I frequently visited him and helped him out. I was a good listener, and he was a superb raconteur on the subject of pre-Revolutionary Russia and Russian history. Both subjects were for me quite new and very absorbing. As he told it, the history of Russia and the history of the Church were so interwoven that in speaking of the history of Russia he simultaneously spoke about the history of the Church.

In my last years I drew very close to Professor Sergei Ivanov. This was, as the Germans say, ein gemütlicher Mensch (a congenial man). If Professor Talberg instilled in me a love for Russia and her Church, for her history, Sergei Mikhailovitch helped me in my future life in relating to people. Emulating him and recalling his precepts, I was later able to deal with the administration and with colleagues at the university, to organize my lectures, meetings, and contribute to their success. He had a gift for relating to people, for anticipating complications in a prospective undertaking, and for averting them.

Likewise, Hieromonk Laurus, with his confidence in people and their abilities, gave many of us, I think, good lessons in the development of independence in our future work and responsibilities.

Hieromonk Ioanniki

Hieromonk Ioanniki was among the monks expelled from the Russian skete of Prophet Elias on Mount Athos. Since that time he has been at the Monastery of Saints Cyprian and Justina in Greece.

In May 1965, when the remains of the newly-reposed Metropolitan Anastassy (Gribanovsky) were brought to Holy Trinity Monastery for burial, I was among those who accompanied the deceased First Hierarch. I stayed at the monastery for the summer, and in the fall I entered the seminary, which I finished in the spring of 1970.

The Lord gave me the good fortune of studying under the leadership of Archbishop Averky, while having Archimandrite Constantine (Zaitsev) as my spiritual father. My obedience was to work in the office under the supervision of Archimandrite Vladimir and Archbishop Laurus (who at that time was a hegumen). I also worked sometimes in the seminary office, at first under Nikolai Alexandrov, and afterwards under Evgenii Alferiev. Outside of classes, I was particularly drawn to Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky and to Archpriest (now Bishop) Mitrofan Znosko-Borovsky.  Much has already been written and will still be written about these and other outstanding instructors. While I will always be profoundly grateful to them, I leave it to others who can write about them much better than I. For my part, I should like to remember some others, so that their good memory also be preserved.

I came into a very amicable and close-knit spiritual family. "A little island of historical Russia" is how my spiritual father, Archimandrite Constantine, called Jordanville at that time. As an American convert to Orthodoxy, I had to be grafted onto the mighty spiritual organism, one of whose flourishing branches was this little island. I was surrounded by the kindness and concern of warm people, who themselves had suffered and endured a great deal.

These were people of all ages, backgrounds, and upbringings, from all corners of the vast Russian land: there were "old-timers" who had come to America before the First World War, immigrants made homeless by the Revolution and Civil War, and refugees whom fate had dispersed in the course of the Second World War and the post-war years. A majority of the seminarians were the children of the latter - they were born in conditions of war and exile in Europe or the Far East.

All these diverse people consciously gathered in Jordanville with the express intent to preserve their Russian Orthodoxy and to live it in anticipation of that time when the Lord would hearken to their constant and fervent prayers and have mercy on the persecuted Church of Russia and her much-suffering Orthodox people in the homeland and in the diaspora. My first task was to learn Russian - in the old orthography, of course. Together with learning the language, I had to adopt a new way of understanding and to immerse myself in the culture of Russian Orthodox spirituality. But on this grace-filled island, among the direct heirs and bearers of this spiritual treasure, it all turned out to be simple and natural.

One evening after vespers during the first days of my life in the monastery, Hierodeacon Gelassiy stopped me, sat me down next to him in the church foyer, and gave me two or three Russian books about the Jesus Prayer. Father Gelassiy was an old Don Cossack. He had lost a large family and had spent many years in prison. In the course of the war he found himself expelled abroad where, at the first opportunity, he became a monk. One day I was sent to him at his skete for some honey and to gather some berries. In spite of the fact that he was already very weak from anemia, he compelled himself to labor for the brethren. He told me a lot, but, alas, at that time I understood almost nothing! Within a year he died, having foreknown the day of his repose.

Archimandrite Joseph, the fellow laborer of the monastery's founder, Archimandrite Panteleimon, was energetic and straightforward in character. He took me at once onto the left cliros and began to teach me church singing, the tones, and how to give the pitch. Since he spoke English, he often instructed and corrected me on how to act in circumstances that were new to me.

During this time - my first years at the monastery - I was also treated with great kindness by the blind archimandrite, Fr. Ambrose (Konovalov). Having lost his sight, he was compelled to quit his solitary skete in Canada and seek refuge in Jordanville. He often invited me to his cell, where he would tell me of his wandering through Russia, of Optina and of Saint John of Kronstadt. He gave me a book by Bishop Theophan the Recluse, What is the Spiritual Life? Within a year he had a stroke which paralyzed him and left him unable to speak. In such a state - he was a recluse really - he spent his final days.

I must by all means mention Hieromonk Ignaty (Trepachko). We were the same age, but he had entered the monastery five years earlier than I, and he was one of my instructors. At first he helped me with Russian; later he taught Old Testament. Conscientiously, humbly, almost unnoticeably fulfilling his many - and not easy - responsibilities, he served as a stirring example for me.

Nor can I forget the pious pilgrims and laity, both those who had settled near the monastery and came regularly to the services and those who lived far and wide, spread all across America, but who came to the monastery for special feasts and church celebrations, seizing every opportunity to escape the vanities of the world. Through them I became acquainted with the ascetics and New Martyrs, to whom Russians turn in prayer with their needs and sorrows. And it was from them that I learned of the miraculous assistance received through the prayers of these saints.

 It was thanks to all these people that the riches of the spiritual life were revealed to me, and a love was kindled for the church services, for traditional chant and, in general, for genuine Russian piety. They made me realize the necessity of preserving spiritual integrity in the midst of the subtle and cunning temptations of modernity. Through them I learned about the apostasy, about deviations from true Orthodoxy, about amazing examples of nationwide repentance in the history of Russia, and about the need for such repentance today.

It is not possible to enumerate all those believing and faithful members of the Russian Church, who, with their warm attention, kind word or glance or prayer, helped, instructed, and edified me. From the least to the greatest, from that uneducated "babushka" who handed me a prosphora after Communion on the day of the seminary feast of the Three Hierarchs and whispered into my ear, "For Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and John Chrysostom," to Archbishop Nikon, who good-naturedly showed me how to hold a saucer in order to drink tea "as in Moscow."

Eternal memory, to our fathers and brothers, worthy to be praised! And to those who are still living and working in this vale of tears - Save them, O Christ God!

Translated from Russkiy Pastyr #32, San Francisco, CA 1998.

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