Orthodox America


A Call to Godliness - Archbishop Andrew of Novo-Diveyevo  


Spiritual Heroes of the 2Oth Century

A link from the golden chain of renowned Optina Elders, the late Archbishop Andrew transmitted their teachings of the Orthodox way of life to this country. The emphasis of their message was "live in utter reverence for whatever is God's, and most of all with your thoughts, which must be in God."

This call to godliness echoes constantly through Archbishop Andrew's many years of apostolic labors and zealous struggle to preserve genuine Christianity against the rising tide of revolutionary atheism in Russia, and against the spirit of luke-warmness and modernism in this country.

Below are excerpts from the Address of Archbishop Andrew on the day of his ordination as Bishop.

I grew up in a pious family... I was surrounded by that Orthodox way of life which for generations had been created by Holy Russia. In our family, life proceeded according to the church calendar, according to the yearly church cycle. Feast days were as it were the signposts of life.

A strong impression was made on me by the early-morning Divine services, to which our mother took us and to which we went no matter what the weather, fall and winter. After these Divine services one always felt a kind of extraordinary inspiration, a kind of quiet joy.

Our family was wealthy... .And the religious outlook with which our life was penetrated was naturally reflected in deeds also:

we participated in the building of churches, set out tables with food for poor people, sent donations to prisons, hospitals...

Of course, there were also sorrows, and illnesses, and deaths. But they also were accepted in the light of Christ. The awareness that Christ is risen, and the life of man will be in the Resurrection of Christ" helped us to bear our misfortunes and reverses...

After the Revolution of 1905, in place of the hopes and agitations there came disillusionment and desolation. People became as it were closed in on themselves. They were occupied with empty things-visits, concerts, theater. In human relations dryness and officialness reigned.

And I [attending the St. Petersburg Polytechnic Institute], coming up against this cold alienation, this desolation, for the first time experienced a feeling close, if not to despair, then to despondency... I felt that I could not live as people around me were living. I had to have life. And I began to seek...

[The lectures on Dostoevsky of a certain professor] revealed sides of life which I had somehow not recognized earlier.... I became acquainted with a Christian student group.. But this group did not satisfy me. It was inter-confessional. But I, raised from childhood in the conditions of the Orthodox way of life, needed precisely the confessional way; I needed the Sacraments, the feeling of sanctification, prayer.

All this was given to me by Archpriest John Egorov.... He became the leader of a group of students who had left the Christian student group. I spent five years in his “school” where there were 25 of us students, and for me there was opened up the elemental reality of the life of Christ’s Church, by which Holy Russia had lived. I understood that the Divine services are not merely a ritual, but that in them are revealed the dogmas of faith; they are the foundation of man's reception of Divinity.


Then the examination and study of the works of the Fathers of the Church and the Patristic writings revealed to me the paths of life.


After this preparation I came, in fact, upon an Elder-Fr. Nectarius, disciple of the great Elder Ambrose of Optina. Elder Nectarius showed me my path, the path of pastoral service, and prepared me for it with the help of his disciple, Fr. Vincent. He taught me that confession of faith must be in godliness. The Divine must enter into every side of our life: personal, family, and public. And so in 1921 my pastoral activity began in my native Romny...


I was soon deprived of my flock and sent to Kiev under surveillance. There it was very difficult for me at first, but then I be came close to a group of outstanding Kiev pastor-ascetics, who became my instructors and friends. Their activity and battle for human souls took place during the frightful time of persecutions against the Church and believers, of massive arrests and executions. And all of them gave up their lives for what was already in my heart-for the quiet which I had experienced in childhood, for inward lif~, for strengthening oneself in faith, for the Orthodox way of life...


God had mercy on me then and delivered me from prison. On my shoulders lay the heavy responsibility to continue the work of the martyred ascetics...
The Germans came to Kiev.... Churches were opened. The Lord helped us to re-establish the Protection Hospital Convent, in the church of which I became priest. Again one had to help people, feed them. We man aged to re-establish the hospital, a home for the crippled and aged. But the famine was not only bodily; but spiritual as well. People who had been starved for the Church, for the Orthodox way of life, streamed into the churches. One had to quench their hunger. Then, after two years under the German occupation we had to throw everything over and be evacuated. The Soviets came.

Together with a group of people close to me, I ended up in Berlin. I was assigned as chief priest of the Berlin cathedral. For the course of nearly two years, under ceaseless bombings, Divine services were celebrated every day in the cathedral... The church was constantly filled with Russian youth, who for the most part knew neither their homeland nor God nor the Orthodox way of life, but now instinctively were drawn to the Church, to Christ. One had to help them, caress them, teach them, instruct them.

But the war was approaching its end. Again one had to be evacuated-this time to the small town of Wendlingen. There, in the difficult period which set in after the capitulation of Germany, being in constant fear of repatriation, our small group, under my guidance, erected a church and immediately instituted the great Sacrament of the Divine Eucharist. And we began again to create a quiet order of life-the Orthodox way of life. All around there blustered passions, animosity, an animal-like battle for survival. Many began to look on us as naive people who were not living in accordance with the times. But we lived, lived in God. Little by little the attitude towards us changed. Pilgrimages began. People who had gone to the depths of despair found peace of soul and a quiet joy with us and went away enlightened and calmed.

And then a new move-to America. And again one had to begin everything from the beginning. In the autumn of l959 Archbishop Vitaly [of Jordanville} and Archbishop Nikon entrusted to me the establishment of a women’s monastery.... This assignment seemed beyond our powers. . but agreed, trusting to the help of God. And the Lord did not abandon us.

Nuns were gathered together. About a thousand D.P.'s (Displaced Persons) were brought over from Europe, of whom a significant number settled around the monastery and formed, so to speak, a large Orthodox family. . Most important, the Lord helped to create in Novo-Diveyevo that which had filled my soul from childhood: a church atmosphere of the quietness of Christ and of godliness: to establish Holy Russia in a foreign land.

But it is not yet enough to establish a monastic life; one must Preserve it. For there is always the danger that life can be converted into a hothouse, a greenhouse, where it will be supported by artificial warmth, and as soon as the source of warmth ceases to operate; life will perish.

Therefore, there must be a constant source of life. Just as the earth and its vital juices constantly nourish vegetation, so our life also must be ceaselessly nourished by that elemental power which the Church of Christ gives, which is incarnated in the Orthodox way of life, in the Divine services, in fastings, in prayers, in vigils, in all that which embodies our Holy Russia. This is the elemental power which places in the mouth of the man who is leaving his earthly existence the last words, "Into Thy hands I commend my spirit," and gives him the possibility to de part into eternal existence with the name of Christ.

From The Restoration of the Orthodox Way of Life.

[../../_private/oabot.htm]