Remembering our Fathers

Remembering our Fathers

On Wednesday, August 20, 2008, Archimandrite Luke served a pannykhida in memory of Archimandrite Jospeh, one of the co-founders of Holy Trinity Monastery, and Archimandrite Vladimir, a well known and beloved spiritual Father of the Monastery. They both reposed on this day,  1970 and 1988 respectively.

Grave of Archimandrite Vladimir
Grave of Archimandrite Vladimir
Grave of Archimandrite Vladimir
Grave of Archimandrite Joseph
Grave of Archimandrite Joseph
Grave of Archimandrite Joseph
Pannykhida Service
Pannykhida Service
Pannykhida Service
Pannykhida Service
Pannykhida Service
Pannykhida Service
Archimandrite Joseph is on the top right next to Archimandirte Panteleimon
Archimandrite Joseph is on the top right next to Archimandirte Panteleimon
Archimandrite Joseph is on the top right next to Archimandirte Panteleimon

     Archimandrite Vladimir of Holy Trinity Monastery

A Personal Remembrance

      In the course of our lives we are sometimes privileged to meet people who bear witness to God's power to transfigure sinful human nature and to make out of ordinary men extraordinary vessels of His grace. Such a person was Archimandrite Vladimir of Holy Trinity Monastery. It was only fitting that he departed this life the day after the Feast of Transfiguration. Archpriest Valery Lukianov, in his eloquent tribute to Fr. Vladimir, described him as the monastery's "little sun." Indeed, he radiated such kindness as to warm the hearts of those fortunate to have contact with him. And there were many. A great crowd of people from all over North America packed the monastery church for his funeral--in spite of its being a weekday. He was a rare person altogether, and it would seem that no words could do justice to his memory. But for those who never met him, even a second-hand acquaintance, provided in the personal glimpses which follow, can perhaps serve to edify and inspire. 


Pilgrims to Holy Trinity Monastery will remember Fr. Vladimir from the office and the bookstore which he oversaw for the last 21 years of his life. Upon meeting him for the first time one could not but be struck by his appearance: he was short, little more than five feet tall, and had a long, snow white beard. Even more striking was his seemingly inexhaustible energy. His speech, his movements-all were brisk and precise. And he was always animated and cheerful. Even though the office was a place where money changed hands, an administrative center where people came on business, it felt like a holy place because Fr. Vladirnir rnade it a place of prayer. Before leaving the monastery, pilgrims would often come to Fr. Vladimir for a blessing; he would sometimes serve a short moleben for them, and always blessed them with a cross from the Holy Land and anointed them with holy oil, usually from the tomb of the Mother of God.

      I met Fr Vladimir on my first visit to the monastery 13 years ago. On that occasion he gave me my first prayer book in Church Slavonic. Later as I came to visit the monastery for longer periods and eventually entered the seminary, I learned that such generosity was characteristic of him, even legendary He used to give away so many books and icons that I wondered how the bookstore could ever show a profit. Often the "price' for something would be a candle lit before the icon of St. Seraphim of Sarov, next to the monastery's main church. Fr. Vladimir had great veneration for St. Seraphim, and it seems to me now that his "business" practice was based on St. Seraphim's advice; he exhorted people to be "wise merchants" by using their abilities on earth to store up treasures for themselves in heaven. Fr. Vladimir did just this, using the resources available to him to do as much good as possible for others. Like the sower in the Gospel parable, he spread spiritual literature and holy icons far and wide, often without any material compensation.

      Like St. Seraphim, Fr. Vladimir had a special love for the Mother of God. He was never happier than when the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God visited the monastery--the very Icon before which St. Seraphim was healed as a child. At those times he would be busy serving molebens and akathists, and arranging for the Icon to visit people's homes and monks' and seminarians' cells. Often he would keep the Icon in his own cell overnight and pray before it: When the Iveron Icon of the Mother of God began to stream myrrh, he saw it as a reminder of her mercy to the world, and sent paper reproductions of the Icon together with cotton soaked in the myrrh to many of the people who wrote to him, usually accompanied by a short note describing the miracle and a reminder to pray to the Queen of Heaven.

      I have known tow people who showed as strong belief as Fr. Vladimir in the power of prayer. You could never get advice from him that did not include instructions to pray. He himself put this advice into practice on t very possible occasion. After compline, many people would go downstairs to venerate the icons in the lower church where, more often than not, they would find Fr. Vladimir serving a panikhida. He took upon himself the responsibility of keeping the lists for commemoration up to date, and he constantly remembered the living and the dead in prayer, both in molebens and panikhidas and during Proskomed a. At one point a group of seminarians started singing the akathist to the Mother of God every Friday night in church after compline. When Fr. Vladimir learned about this, he began regularly serving the akathist for them

      That was another characteristic trait: Fr. Vladimir was always anxious to encourage people's good intentions. You might say he invested in people If he saw that someone had talent as an iconographcr, for example, he often encouraged them by commissioning them to paint for orders the office had received. He was also a great supporter of the seminary choir, knowing that it gave the seminarians an opportunity to do something enjoyable while beautifying the services.

      Individual cases of his generosity are too numerous for human reckoning. Large sums of money passed through his hands from those requesting his prayers to those in need of help. To give an example from my own experience... I needed a large sum of money in order to graduate. I had most of it in a savings account and my parents were willing to gave me the rest, but there was no way I could get it all together in time to avoid an unpleasant consequence. In the office one day I approached Fr. Vladimir for a blessing. sensing I was in difficulty, he led me to a quieter place and asked what the problem was. 'I see. That’s a lot of money. Well, I can give it to you if you want, and you can pay me back when you're able." I somehow managed to stammer out my thanks, but he was all business. 'Meet me here in an hour, and I’ll have it ready." When he gave it to me, I said something to the effect that I didn't know how to thank him. He said, "It's all right; this way you'll graduate, and you'll pray..." He was a wise merchant.

      Fr. Vladimir loved birds and was always feeding them. You couldn't step into the office's main storeroom without tripping over one of Fr Vladimir's 25-pound bags of birdseed. At night he could often be found in the refectory, cutting dried bread crests into small pieces for his birds. Probably as a result of this, the monastery was a regular stopping place for many different kinds of migrating birds, some of whom I had never seen before in the Northeast. In fact, the only time I ever recall seeing Fr. Vladimir angry was when cats frightened away some birds

      Fr. Vladimir had a gift for teaching, he taught 3rd- and 4th year Church History, at the seminary. Instead of presenting us with dry outlines; of events, he tried to inspire us with the lives and labors of the holy men and women, the 'principals" in Church history, beginning with the holy Apostles. His own life was an inspiring example. It is always possible, after all, to read about Christianity in books, but in Fr. Vladimir we had before us a living icon of what the goal of our life in Christ, in the Church should be. And that was the best lesson of all.

       Fr. Vladimir also had unimpeachable moral authority, both within the monastery community and outside. Although he did not hear confessions, he had keen discernment and many people turned to him for advice. A fellow seminarian once pointed out to me that while other people could chastise you at length and have no effect, all Fr. Vladimir had to do was say one word, and you would instantly be overcome with a feeling of repentance Likewise, when we had an idea for a project, we would use Fr. Vladimir's opinion as a test to see if the idea was worthwhile. If he approved, we would go to Archbishop Laurus for his blessing, If, on the other hand, Fr, Vladimir didn't like the idea it usually meant it wasn't worth bothering the Rector about it.

       Because of the kindness and hospitality he showed to visitors, as well as his reputation as a man of prayer and spiritual discernment, Fr. Vladimir received mail from people all over the world who wrote to him with their troubles and sorrows. Keeping up with this correspondence was probably a greater burden than most of us realized. It was at night, after the rest of the monastery had gone to bed, that he read and answered his mail. Those who worked with him often came into the office to find him somberly reading a letter, occasionally sighing and crossing himself, suffering with the person who had written him. He frequently served panikhidas and molebens right there in the office in answer to the many requests he received for prayer.

       Fr. Vladimir loved children, and it was always touching to watch him around them, because they obviously loved him in return. This was certainly true of my younger sister and brother, ever' though they did not speak Russian and Fr. Vladimir's English was limited although he understood it very well. It seemed to me that he would have made a wonderful father, in fact, in the course of his monastic life, he had became precisely that: a father in Christ to generations of younger monks and seminarians, clergy and lay people all over the world. I believe that it was about people like Fr. Vladimir that the Apostle Paul wrote: For though ye have ten thousand instructors m Christ, yet have ye not many fathers.

       Fr Vladimir spent nearly forty years in the monastic life, which was for him a great happiness, although he bore his share of suffering, both spiritual and physical. In the last months of his life he endured a painful brain tumor. Now, however, he has gone there where there is neither sickness, nor sorrow, nor sighing. And just as he sowed an abundance of goodness in his life, so shall he reap the reward of his labors. May his memory among us be eternal.

Joseph McLellan

 Source: Orthodox America Online 


Archimandrite Vladimir (Sukhobok)

by Fr Vsevolod (Filipiev)

Every pilgrim from Russia who arrives at any monastery usually asks the following question, “Are there any Elders in the monastery?” If we speak of Jordanville in that sense, it will not be an exaggeration to say that the spirit of that monastery is the spirit of humility. It is just not the custom in Jordanville to call anyone an Elder, though judging by the standards in Russia, there used to be and there still are people who are worthy of bearing that name there. In the past, Abbot Filimon (+ 1953), the Old Calendarist Monk from Valamo and the first spiritual father of the monastery, was particularly venerated as well as the previously mentioned Archimandrites Anthony (Iamshikov) and Metrophanes (Manuilov). Yet, the ever-memorable Archimandrite Vladimir (Sukhobok) will probably deserve special attention from the devotees of Elders.

Father Vladimir… – a whole era in Jordanville is connected with his name. His spiritual children used to call him “the Red Sun” in honor of his Patron Saint, St. Prince Vladimir, the Baptist of Russia. And Father Vladimir truly was the Red Sun of Jordanville. One time Archbishop Anthony of Los Angeles, a bishop who could never be suspected of being sentimental, told a young man who was preparing to set off for his studies in the Holy Trinity Seminary, “When you get there, go to the second floor, to the monastery office to see Father Vladimir. He will warm you straight away. There is a real radiance about him.”
The office was the place where Father Vladimir carried out his obedience, where he spent most of his time. He went there after breakfast and left late at night. During Father Vladimir’s lifetime love reigned supreme in the office. Its doors were open not only on weekdays, but on Sundays, and on feast days as well. The pilgrims and the seminarians that visited Father Vladimir were greeted with the words, “Come in, come in, dearest…”
Father Vladimir undoubtedly had a gift of comforting. He loved everybody; he found a kind word for everyone; he warmed everybody no matter who they were. As an example I will tell about the following incident. Once a woman arrived at the monastery. She was fashionably dressed, wore make-up, and was, as they say, full of herself. The first person who saw her was an old and respected brother from the monastery. He very quickly saw her off to Father Vladimir thinking to himself, “What would someone like her want here? Why did she come here?” Imagine his surprise when on entering the office a little while later he saw that same woman weeping with tears of repentance after a spiritual conversation with Father Vladimir.

Seminarians in particular very often brought their troubles to Father Vladimir. To one of them who became dejected and despairing, Father Vladimir said smiling his sunny smile, “Do not be upset, brother. When you leave this place, you will forget all grievances and will remember nothing but what was good and happy; you will remember the years you spent in Jordanville with love.” Years went by and that seminarian saw the truth of the words of Father Vladimir.

Father Vladimir anointed everybody who visited him in his office with the oil from the icon lamp from the burial vault of St. John (Maximovich) who at that time had not been glorified. A photo of the Hierarch hung on one of the office walls. Father Vladimir also deeply venerated the memory of Emperor Paul I. He used to say, “Beginning with Emperor Paul I all our tsars were saints.” Every evening after Compline Father Vladimir served an Akathist to the Holy Theotokos. Many of the graduates from the Seminary who have since become clergymen themselves recall those Akathists with warmth.
Father Vladimir spoke and moved quickly and briskly. Archimandrite Cyprian who was well known for his sharp eyes used to jokingly compare Father Vladimir with a squirrel. The fact that Father Vladimir very often walked around the monastery in his slippers gave him an especial charm. The very appearance of Father Vladimir won people over as soon as they met him. His wide snow- white beard, his round face, and his kind bright eyes made Father Vladimir look like one of the Elders from the monasteries of Optina or Valamo of the XIX-th century.

After Compline Father Vladimir sat in the office until two or three in the morning answering letters. His correspondence was enormous. He tried to answer every letter with love and in an informal manner. He often began his letters even to people he hardly knew with the words, “My very dearest (name)…” This gentleness of his did not embarrass; on the contrary, it warmed and comforted people, for it was sincere, not artificial.
Father Vladimir’s kind heart was filled with love for all of God’s creation. He fed birds from the windows of his office, which is why a motley flock of his feathery friends always hovered near his window.

Father Vladimir loved not only live birds; he also collected little figurines of birds, which he kept on his windowsill. One time, a pilgrim asked him to explain what was the sin of acquisitiveness. He pointed at his figurine collection and replied, “It’s like what I have on my windowsill.”

One evening, a man recently arrived from Russia and very much in need of money came to visit Father Vladimir. On learning his problem, Father Vladimir rejoiced and handing seventy dollars to him said, “Well, that is good, I was already beginning to worry that the day was ending without my having done anything good.”
Another incident demonstrates not only the generosity, but also the clairvoyance of Father Vladimir. A servant of God was in great need of money, but he did not mention anything to Father Vladimir. By chance he ran into Father Vladimir in a corridor. The latter silently pulled out a check from his pocket and handed it to the man. The check was exactly for the sum that the man needed.

There were other incidents that proved the clairvoyance of Father Vladimir. Monk Benjamin recalls that one time the Dean of the Seminary Eugene Eulampievich Alpheriev sent him to the office to bring back some honey (some of the honey that was for sale was kept in the office). As soon as Father Benjamin crossed the threshold, Father Vladimir told him, “The honey is there, on the windowsill.”

A seminarian recalls that once while he was away from the monastery he wrote a letter to Father Vladimir, which contained spiritual questions, and soon received a reply. Imagine his surprise when upon his return to the monastery he went to visit Father Vladimir and in the pile of letters saw his own letter that had not even been opened.

Archimandrite Vladimir spent 39 years in the Holy Trinity Monastery. During World War II, as a young layman he ended up in Germany and spent some time at the monastery of St. Job of Pochaev in Munich. From there he went on to Jordanville where he arrived in March of 1949. That is how worker Basil (the lay name of Father Vladimir) first appeared in Jordanville. Soon, for the feast of Annunciation, he was dressed in a cassock by Archbishop Vitalii (Maximenko) and was made a novice.

Father Vladimir recalled that during the years of his monastic youth, the life in the monastery was very hard. The brethren had to work from morning till late evening fulfilling laborious obediences. There was almost no machinery, and most of the work was done on horseback. And meanwhile they also had to do their Seminary homework. “At times I was milking the cow and my Greek textbook was next to me on the floor. And while I was milking the cow, I read the lesson.” Monk Vladimir’s ordination into the Deaconate on the day of the Holy Spirit of 1953 was connected with the following incident. Archimandrite Averkii (Taushev) was supposed to be ordained a bishop in Jordanville. They had to find a candidate for the clergy to be ordained by the newly ordained bishop. On that day Father Vladimir was assigned to work as a cook in the refectory. He was taken straight from the kitchen, so to speak. Metropolitan Anastasii (Gribanovskii) who had arrived in Jordanville for the ordination of Archimandrite Averkii mentioned in this connection, “A deacon is the servant of the tables.”

Though the Lord had given him obvious gifts of comforting and clairvoyance, Father Vladimir remained a modest and humble monk. He did not consider himself an Elder or a clairvoyant. The fact that though he was already an Archimandrite he still signed his numerous letters “Abbot Vladimir,” demonstrates his modesty.
Father Vladimir died on August 7/20, 1988 from a brain tumor. Before his death he communed several times, and he went to meet his Lord almost immediately after receiving the Holy Mysteries. A great number of people who venerated Father Vladimir arrived for the funeral service, and the church was full. In relation to that His Grace Laurus said in his farewell speech that all the people there were gathered by the love of Father Vladimir.

The earthly path of Father Vladimir ended, and the Red Sun of Jordanville went down. It went down, though not for those who knew and loved Father Vladimir, for even today they are warmed by the tender light of his bright smile, while every affectionate word that he ever said still resounds in their hearts. Even those who did not know Father Vladimir seem to feel his presence in the monastery and in the seminary.

Many pilgrims who visit the monastery still come to Father Vladimir, but not to his office as before, but to his grave, which is located behind the Altar of the Holy Trinity cathedral.
Father Vladimir, pray to God for us!

Source: "Russian Inok", No. 48 (211) August 2006

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Holy Trinity Monastery
1407 Robinson Rd.
PO Box 36
Jordanville, NY 13361
Telephone: (315) 858-0940
FAX: (315) 858-0505