A Short Biography of Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky (+1936)
(Based on an article in Orthodox Russia, 1936, No. 13.)
BLESSED ANTONY, Metropolitan of Kiev and Galich, came from the old noble Russian family of Khrapovitsky, from the province of Novgorod. He was born on March 17, 1863, and at Holy Baptism was named Alexis. His father and mother were highly educated and religious people. It is known that his mother often liked to pray to God for long periods of time, and herself read the Holy Gospel to her children and explained it to them. Together with her husband, she also loved visiting churches and monasteries.
Vladika more than once recalled his childhood impressions of Novgorod: “I was still a child when my parents took me from the country to ancient Novgorod. Here I came to love the Church of Christ, in which God’s glory was revealed – in the ancient churches of Novgorod, in the relics of the saints and in the grandeur of the pontifical services. Although I could not then express it in precise concepts, I sensed with my child’s soul the greatness of God and the lofty truth of our faith, revealed in the mystical sacred actions of the bishop.”
In 1881 he finished the gymnasia (high school) and in the autumn of that year he passed the entrance examinations for the St. Petersburg Theological Academy, which he finished in 1885. Here he received the monastic tonsure with the name of Antony (after St. Antony the Roman of Novgorod, who is commemorated on Jan. 19 and Aug. 3). At the beginning of the 1886-1887 academic year, after he had defended his master’s thesis, Hieromonk Antony was chosen as assistant professor of Old Testament. Apart from his academy work, the young hieromonk frequently celebrated church services, preached throughout St. Petersburg, and visited prisons and hospitals. At the same time he took an active part in the work of the Society for Religious and Moral Enlightenment, at which he gave a number of lectures.
Fr. Antony’s sermons were mostly devoted to explaining the principles of Christian love and humility. In all the lectures which he gave to theological students over the course of fifteen years, Metropolitan Antony always stressed primarily the moral element of Christian teaching. Besides his remarkable intellectual abilities, the Lord also endowed Vladika Antony with other rare gifts – love, kindness and a heart open to every one who came to him. His loving heart not only attracted to him the student youth, but also the parish clergy who were under his jurisdiction.
There were no few occasions when Vladika Antony took off his riassa and gave it to a poor parish priest. All the money which he received from the Pochaev Lavra he gave out to various charitable causes. He sent the Lavra addresses to which the money was to be sent, and it usually went to poor students, poor priests, their widows and similar people. From his youth, Vladika Antony devoted all the strength of his richly gifted soul to the Church. Hence he came to know the significance of compassionate love, since he experienced it in his relations with his pupils, and with his flock. He took his teaching about the love which is a gift of God’s grace from the Holy Scriptures and from the works of the Holy Fathers, and he became more fully conscious of it through the experience of his own life, from his youth until his last days.
While Vladika was at St. Petersburg Theological Academy, the intellectual activities of the Academy were proceeding apace, but the students were not very enthusiastic about taking holy orders or becoming monks. In 1883 the new rector, Bishop Arseny, poined out this deficiency to his pupils, saying that the main task of a theological academy is to provide cadres of educated monks. His words were not wasted. From this moment circles of student youth sympathetic to the monastic way of life began to be formed in the St. Petersburg Academy. The future Metropolitan Antony was the soul of these circles. Not only during the academic period but also throughout the whole of his life, he always loved to surround himself with religiously and morally oriented young people, who saw in him a man with a “pure heart”, and clung to him, seeking to quench their spiritual thirst and be consoled in their sorrows. A great number of monks, priests and bishops came from under the wings of Vladika Antony.
The fervent activity of the young professor found much criticism and hindrance in the conservative milieu of the St. Petersburg academy, and this culminated in him having to leave the academy in 1889. The following academic year he was elevated to the rank of archimandrite and appointed Rector of the Moscow Theological Academy. Here his relationship with the students was based on love towards them, on their freely-given obedience, and on a common preparedness for moral struggles. Subsequently Vladika wrote to his pupils: “It was not with an ordinary human attachment that I loved you. I saw into each of you in your struggle with sin and doubts which are born from sin, in your gradual ascent towards perfection. I was not only inspired by the hope of our own salvation, but also, through you, as preachers of the good news of the Gospel, I felt my unity with the whole Catholic Church.”
During the years 1890-94, the young Archimandrite Antony started printing articles in defense of the Orthodox Faith and Church, mainly against attacks from L. N. Tolstoy, whose views were then very popular in Russia. Tolstoy was impressed by his criticism, and even said that “Only Father Antony understands me.”
Father Antony did not stay long in the Moscow academy. The same thing happened here as in St. Petersburg. After a biased investigation, which did not provide any material that could serve to condemn him, Fr. Antony was transferred to the Kazan Theological Academy in 1894, where he was also rector. Here his activities continued in the same spirit as at Moscow. He started special courses for missionaries who were to work among the local Tartar population. In 1897, at 34 years of age, he was consecrated bishop, and so had to give up his rectorship.
At first he was a vicar bishop in Kazan, then in 1900 he became ruling bishop of the see of Ufa, a distant provincial see to which bishops without higher education were usually assigned. Thus, this was also an injustice. Nevertheless, Bishop Antony attracted the hearts of everyone in Ufa, and church life started to improve noticeably. During the two years that he ruled the diocese, the number of parishes in it was doubled.
In 1902, Bishop Antony was transferred to the Volhyn cathedra (on the western border of Russia), where he remained until 1914. This period was one of the brightest pages in the age-long history of the Volhyn Diocese, and also the heyday of Valdika Antony’s activity. He immediately tried to attract experienced and inspired co-workers from among his numerous former pupils at the academies. Thus he gave new life to preaching, to education in the seminary and church schools, and to missionary work (mostly in combating uniatism). Closest to his heart were the monasteries, especially the Pochaev Lavra, where he brought about a rebirth of the monastic spirit of podvig and greatly increased the influence the Lavra had over the people. Then he organized a printing brotherhood in the Lavra1, which did much to enlighten the people by printing special popular publications. Vladika Antony did much to help the situation of the Orthodox in the Austro-Hungarian Empire (which bordered onto his diocese). In 1912 he was made Archbishop and became a permanent member of the Holy Synod.
In 1914 Archbishop Antony was transferred to Kharkov. When the First World War broke out, he encouraged the people to fight bravely, as he feared the spiritual consequences of a demoralization among the troops and of revolution which could easily follow. When the revolution did come in 1917, he was compelled by revolutionary elements to leave Kharkov, and so he went to the Valaam monastery, intending to devote the rest of his days to theological writing and monastic life. From here he was sent to the All-Russian Church Council in Moscow, as a representative of Russian monasticism. Here he was the leading spokesman for the restoration of the patriarchate, of which he had dreamed since childhood. While a professor of the St. Petersburg academy, he had argued in favour of this, often speaking about it with his students, in sermons, lectures and articles, and also took part in a synodal committee on this question. He had also organized a Patriarchal church service when the Patriarch of Antioch visited St. Petersburg; this did much to popularize the idea of restoring the patriarchate in Russia. At the Council in 1917 he gave the members lectures on Patriarch Nikon and organized an expedition for them to the monastery of the Resurrection (founded by Patriarch Nikon); in the end, the attitude of the members of the council changed, and the council took the decision to restore the patriarchate. This was the greatest joy in the life of the great Abba Antony. Vladika Antony was chosen as one of the three candidates for the patriarchal throne – he received the greatest number of votes2.
After this he was asked to return to Kharkov, but at the end of the council he was made Metropolitan of Kiev and Galich. When the Petlura government (left-wing Ukrainian nationalists) came to power, he was imprisoned for 8 months in a Uniate monastery3, but later was able to return to Kiev. While he was in Novocherkassk (in the south of Russia) on church business, Kiev fell to the advancing Red Army, so that Vladika Antony was unable to return. Thus he did not abandon his see, as is sometimes said of the Russian émigré bishops. At Novocherkassk he led the Highest Church Administration, which was composed of bishops in the south who were cut off from Patriarch Tikhon by the civil war, and which was the precursor of the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. After the White Army had evacuated from the Crimea, Metropolitan Antony went with it to Constantinople, whence he was soon invited to Yugoslavia by Patriarch Dimitrije of Serbia. Here he spent the last 15 years of his life, as leader of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia4.
He was the senior hierarch of the Synod of Bishops at Sremski Karlovtsi which was formed in 1922. The close personal friendship of Metropolitan Antony with Patriarch Varnava, who succeeded Patriarch Dimitrije in 1930, helped the establishment of friendly relations between the Exile Synod and the local Serbian Orthodox Church5. In 1927 he drafted the Synod’s letter of protest to Metropolitan Sergius, when the latter issued his notorious “Declaration” of compromise with the Soviet power. His immense labours to establish church unity among the émigrés were not entirely successful – in 1926 Metropolitans Evlogy (of Paris) and Platon (of North America) went into schism from the Synod, and although this schism was healed in 1935, Metropolitan Evlogy again broke away from the Synod in 1936, on returning to Paris. Metropolitan Antony visited the Holy Land and Mount Athos, as well as many cities in Western Europe, where he encouraged his flock to remain true to the principles of Orthodoxy.
In exile Metropolitan Antony continued his theological and literary activities. Besides theology he also wrote on philosophical and literary questions. All his writings are dominated by one idea, the same idea he also expressed in his personal life – the idea of compassionate love6. On the basis of this idea he explained the moral aspect of the main Christian dogmas. His political views were strictly based on Orthodoxy and went further than mere party doctrine. Here he was in complete agreement with Dostoevsky, whose writings he valued very highly.
In his last years Metropolitan Antony became very weak and was unable to walk, having to be carried to council meetings and to church in an armchair. This was due to a disease of the nerves, brought on by his deep anguish over the spiritual fate of Russia7. It was this disease which led to his repose on July 28 / August 10, 1936; thus he fulfilled to the end his teaching on compassionate love.
«Orthodox Life» (Jordanville), Vol. 23, № 1 (Jan.-Feub. 1973).
1 This brotherhood was headed by Archimandrite Vitaly Maximenke), a pupil and close co-worker of Vladika Antony, later an Archbishop and Abbot of Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville.
2 But the final choice between the candidates was made by lot, and thus Patriarch Tikhon was elected.
3 Here he wrote his book on Confession, based on academy lectures, which has been translated into English and will be printed in the near future.
4 We are treating this part of his life more briefly than the pre-revolutionary period, as there is other material available in English about it. The best source of information about his activity as chairman of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Church Abroad is «A History of the Russian Church Abroad, 1917-1971», published by Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Brookline, Mass., 1971. We are hoping to print an article in a later issue of «Orthodox Life» on the last days and last sermons of Metropolitan Antony that will especially reveal his inner spiritual life.
5 See article in «Orthodox Life», 1972, No. 1, p. 15.
6 The word “compassionate” should be understood not in a vague emotional way, but as “co-suffering” – it is derived from the word “passion” which means “suffering”. Thus, compassionate love is, in the words of Metropolitan Antony, “Suffering for another person, which gives him the beginning of moral rebirth; ... suffering which pours new life-creating forces into the heart of a sinner, if, of course, he does not deliberately reject them”. See Metropolitan Antony’s «The Moral Aspect of the Most Important Christian Dogmas», Montreal, 1963.
7 See Archbishop Nikon (Rklitsky), «Biography of Blessed Metropolitan Antony» (in Russian), Vol. X, p. 215.