Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Recollections of Metropolitan Laurus, I

I can't claim to have known the late Metropolitan Laurus any better than the hundreds who have had the great privilege of living and praying with him at Holy Trinity Monastery and Seminary in Jordanville, NY. Many will offer better and more thorough memorials, but I thought I could at least add my widow's mite to the growing wealth of tributes.

One didn't have to spend long in Jordanville to understand that Vladyka Laurus was not simply a monk, but a deeply cenobitic monk. Every morning, without fail, Vladyka attended Midnight Office, which began at 5:00 am, and then the Divine Liturgy. He attended every meal in the trapeza (refectory) every day, eating the same humble food as did the monks and seminarians. After each meal he would walk the length of the trapeza, through the entry area, and then through the print-shop before reaching the elevator that would take him to his modest office on the third floor. Anyone could approach him during this relaxed walk, to receive a blessing, ask a question, or simply exchange a few words with him. He never walked past anyone who wanted his attention. He was equally accessible in his office: one only had to knock. His "skete" a few hundred yards from the main monastery buildings was a simple, very small cottage – hardly larger than a cabin in a grove of trees. He always dressed as a simple monk, wearing a simple gray or light blue cassock, a black monastic belt, and a simply black skufia (cap). An outsider, seeing him walking around the monastery, would never have guessed that he was a bishop. Indeed, when he made his first trips to Russia in the early 1990s, he traveled wearing a simple priestly cross, and appeared for all the world a simple Carpatho-Russian batiushka.

Vladyka Laurus always spoke simply and clearly, often seasoning his words with a gentle and playful humor. All the words he spoke publicly were his own: he wrote all his sermons and addresses himself, never relegating this task to secretaries or helpers. Under this simplicity of manner, however, lay a great wealth of knowledge: Vladyka was deeply read in the Holy Scriptures and the writings of the Holy Fathers (he had particular affection for the works of St John Chrysostom and St John of Kronstadt); he had a mastery of every detail of the liturgical services; he was at home in any epoch of Christian history; he had a "pan-Orthodox" view of the Church, having traveled widely throughout the Orthodox world; and he knew the lives of the saints backwards and forwards. Indeed, along with being Rector of Holy Trinity Seminary for several decades, he taught classes every year until the early- to mid-nineties, when his strength began to lessen and his responsibilities to increase. His was a wisdom that he did his best to conceal, but which always shown through.

I'll continue to put down my thoughts piecemeal over the next few days, but I'm sure much better tributes will be appearing all over the press and Internet.

Once again: May his memory be eternal!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Matthew said:

I can't say that I knew the Metropolitan in any personal way though I do feel a certain sense of loss for a person that I knew very little about but who played a very interesting role in my development as an Orthodox young person.

My girlfriend and I had been catechumens for about two years when our then spiritual father rejected us. We became very confused by all of this happening and didn't know what to do so we drove for 18hrs to get to Jordanville, to try to figure out what we were supposed to do and petition our case before the head of ROCOR in order to try to straighten things out. We knew very little of anything Orthodox having only an evangelical background. The only thing we knew was that we needed to talk to the Metropolitan and tell him what happened and he would straighten everything out for us. We asked all around for who this man might be and when we found out, the monk said that he was on his way to his cell and that we might catch him if we were quick. I spied him nearing his gate and did the hundred meter dash to intercept him. I was able to stop him and managed to tell him my story in a very hurried and desperate fashion to which he calmly nodded occasionally as he kept his hands on his belly. He said he would get back to me that day to which I nodded and thanked him for his time and apologized for chasing him down. Later on I was contacted and all was reconciled and we were taken care of. As we continued to visit the monastery since then we have always striven to get his blessing after the meals.

On another occasion as I was there to write exams I met him while I was sitting in the guest room of the main building early before an exam and getting some last minute studying done. Metropolitan Laurus walks past the door and then comes back in and says, “What are you studying?” I say, “Liturgics” he nods and then walked out after a few moments of silence. Afterwards, after getting over feeling stunned by talking with him, I thought that perhaps I should have asked him some pertinent questions that would have been beneficial to my soul but the encounter seemed so unexpected that I never knew what to say.

On another occasion my wife and I came to be married at a local Church and we were brought around the monastery to chase him down again to get his blessing before our wedding and we also had the opportunity to venerate the Kursk Icon of the Mother of God that he was leaving with within the hour.

Our last time to see him was on the Feast of Saint Nicholas while at the Saint Elizabeth Convent. He was handing out laminated icons of Saint Nicholas as a blessing and we appreciatively took some kissing his hand.

He was present in our formative moments and for that we will never forget him.

May his memory be eternal