Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Metropolitan Anthony of Kiev

Joyous feast! Today marks the 75th anniversary of the repose of the ever-memorable Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of Kiev, a onetime contender for the patriarchal cathedra of the Russian Orthodox Church and the founding first hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) after the triumph of the Bolsheviks in the Russian Civil War.

The future Metropolitan Anthony was born in March 1863 to members of the eastern Ukrainian nobility from the area of Kharkov as Aleksey, so named after St. Alexis of Rome. As a child Aleksey desired to live the monastic life and became closely involved in the divine services, even meeting, while serving in the sanctuary, the future missionary St. Nicholas (Kasatkin) of Tokyo in St. Petersburg. While still a child the future metropolitan even composed a Slavonic-language service to Sts. Cyril and Methodius that was later approved for use by the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church.

After finishing his primary education Aleksey entered the St. Petersburg Theological Academy and at the age of twenty-two, having finished his theological studies, was tonsured a monk with the name Anthony and ordained first to the deaconate and then to the priesthood. Fr. Anthony served as an inspector at his alma mater, but was exiled to the Kholm Theological Seminary in the western reaches of the Russian Empire when he refused to denounce the seminarians under his care to the authorities.

Fr. Anthony remained in Kholm for a year before being recalled to St. Petersburg to teach at the Academy. During his time as a professor Fr. Anthony strongly defended the movement calling for the restoration of the Russian Orthodox Church's patriarchate and attracted many of the seminarians, among them the future Patriarch St. Tikhon (Bellavin), to the monastic life through his example. At the age of twenty-seven Fr. Anthony was elevated to the rank of archimandrite and appointed rector of the Academy, becoming its youngest rector ever and a year later being transferred to serve as rector of the Moscow Theological Academy.

Due to the dislike of the newly enthroned Metropolitan of Moscow Fr. Anthony was transferred from the former imperial capital to Kazan, where he taught at the Kazan Theological Academy before being elected to the episcopate at the age of thirty-four as Bishop of Christopol' and auxiliary of the Eparchy of Kazan. Within three years Bishop Anthony was elected ruling Bishop of Ufa, where he soon doubled the number of parishes in his diocese and ordained many non-Russians to the priesthood to minister to the area's native pagans and Muslims.

In 1902 Bishop Anthony was transferred to the Eparchy of Zhytomyr in Volhynia in the western reaches of the Russian Empire. During his twelve years in Volhynia Bishop Anthony did much to uproot the corruption that had been prevalent in the diocesan administration and amongst the Eparchy's clergy while also renewing the spiritual life of his flock and strengthening its witness to the area's many Ukrainian Catholics, Roman Catholics, and Jews. Despite the political tensions of the times Bishop Anthony, who was elevated to the rank of archbishop in 1906, protected Volhynia's Jews from pogroms by ultranationalists while also defending the institution of the monarchy during the revolutionary fervor of 1905. Archbishop Anthony also oversaw the renewal of the Pochaev Lavra, which built its great Cathedral of the Trinity during Archbishop Anthony's episcopate.

Archbishop Anthony remained unpopular in government circles for his support of the patriarchate and prevention of pogroms in Volhynia, but remained in Zhytomyr until Austria-Hungary discovered his involvement in missionary work amongst the Ruthenians living in northeastern Hungary as exarch of Ecumenical Patriarch Joachim III, at which point Vienna had pressure applied to have the archbishop transferred to the Eparchy of Kharkov in 1914.

When World War I began Archbishop Anthony became involved in caring for the wounded in local hospitals, visiting soldiers regardless of their nationality thanks to his command of the German language. He also took refugees from Serbia, among them the future Patriarch Barnabas, into his diocese, forging ties that would later be of vital importance to the survival of the ROCOR. Following the March Revolution in 1917 Archbishop Anthony was expelled from his diocese by the revolutionaries and retired to the Valaam Monastery for several months before being called back to Kharkov by his flock.

In late 1917 Archbishop Anthony arrived in Moscow to take part in the All-Russian Council then being held. When the patriarchate was restored and elections held Archbishop Anthony was the leading candidate of those proposed, receiving over a third of the votes in the first round of voting. When a lot of the top three was used to chose the next patriarch the archbishop's former pupil, St. Tikhon (Bellavin), was chosen by God to be the first restored Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus'.

Following the election Archbishop Anthony was elevated to the rank of metropolitan and, in 1918, transferred to the Eparchy of Kiev to replace the martyred Metropolitan St. Vladimir of Kiev. In Kiev he was imprisoned first by Ukrainian nationalists and then by the invading Poles before being liberated by the Whites in 1919. When the Soviets began occupying central Ukraine Metropolitan Anthony wanted to remain in his diocese, but was persuaded to board an evacuation ship to serve a thanksgiving for the capture of the Hagia Sophia by the Greeks (which had not taken place), with the ship weighing anchor as soon as the metropolitan was aboard.

In the huge Diaspora that formed following the end of the Russian Civil War Metropolitan Anthony initially thought that the refugees should submit to the Local Orthodox Churches on whose canonical territories they found themselves. Taking the precedent of the exiled Cypriot Orthodox Church, however, Metropolitan Anthony was persuaded in late 1920 to participate in Constantinople in the organization of a 'higher church authority,' with both the Church of Constantinople and Patriarch St. Tikhon approving the move that December.

In 1921 the headquarters of the 'higher church authority' were established in the former seat of the Orthodox Church of Austria-Hungary in Smreski Karlovci, Yugoslavia, and at the end of that year the first All-Diaspora Council took place there. In 1922 the authority was reorganized on the instruction of Patriarch St. Tikhon as the ROCOR with its own permanent local synod to direct its internal life until the Russian Orthodox Church in the USSR would be free again.

Metropolitan Anthony was recognized as the First Hierarch of the ROCOR and courageously led it throughout its early years, seeking to prevent the schisms of Metropolitans Eulogius of Paris and Platon of New York and also highlighting the war crimes committed by the Soviets both within the USSR and in northern China. In 1934 the aging Metropolitan Anthony together with St. Nicholas (Velimirovich) of Zhicha consecrated his spiritual son in monasticism, Archimandrite St. John (Maximovich), to the episcopacy as Bishop of Shanghai.

Two years after the consecration of St. John Metropolitan Anthony, then wheelchair-bound, reposed peacefully on this day in 1936 in Serbia. Three days later Patriarch Barnabas of the Serbian Orthodox Church together with six other hierarchs served Metropolitan Anthony's funeral in Belgrade's Cathedral of St. Michael, after which the metropolitan was buried in the city's new cemetery beneath the Chapel of the Icon of the Mother of God 'the Gatekeeper.'

More on Metropolitan Anthony's life and labors can be found here. May his memory be eternal!

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