On May 22, the 5th Sunday of Holy Pascha, the commemoration of the meeting of the Lord with the Samaritan Woman, and then the Holy Church honors the memory of the Holy Hierarch and Wonderworker Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia, the burial of the newly departed First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America & New York, was held at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY.
The evening prior, the coffin containing the Metropolitan’s body was brought to Holy Trinity Monastery, where on May 22 Metropolitan Mark of Berlin & Germany celebrated Divine Liturgy. Concelebrated with His Eminence were: Archbishop Gabriel of Montreal & Canada, Archbishop Peter of Chicago & Mid-America, Archbishop Irenee of Ottawa (OCA), Bishop Irenei of London & Western Europe, Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan, Bishop Luke of Syracuse, Bishop Gedeon of Makarovka (vicar of the Kiev Metropolitanate UOC), and Bishop Jerome (Shaw), as well as a multitude of clergy from various dioceses of the Russian Church Abroad.
At the service, Metropolitan Mark tonsured Ilya Polouchine a reader for the Diocese of Canada, while Archbishop Gabriel ordained Deacon Mikhail Baleka to the priesthood; Fr. Mikhail will continue his service at Christ the Savior Church in London, ON, Canada.
Among those who gathered to bid farewell to Metropolitan Hilarion were monastics and laity, old and young, relatives of His Eminence from the U.S. and Canada - all for whom he was dear and in whose lives he had played a most important role, and for whom he had shown by his own example the tried and true path to salvation; for whom he had been a helper and counselor in both everyday and spiritual life. On this Sunday, everyone - in Vladyka’s presence - prayed with one heart at the Paschal Liturgy.
Liturgy concluded, and in his touching sermon, Archpriest Peter Perekrestov, rector of Joy of All Who Sorrow Cathedral in San Francisco, said of the Metropolitan, in part:
"Vladyka Hilarion will not go down in history as a great theologian; he will go down in history as one righteous, who walked along the steps of the Savior and who loved. He had a big heart. Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh (+2003) said, ‘Whenever I stop praying, the amazing coincidences stop happening.’ Today we see many coincidences: Pascha; the conversation of the Savior with the Samaritan woman, a simply woman at a well; the Holy Hierarch Nicholas and our dear Vladyka Hilarion. For us this is no coincidence, but a sign from above… and we need to pray now that our Church Abroad will continue to follow after Christ, so that the ‘little person’ will always be for us a great person, so that our Church will be a family – not an organization, not a military division, but that we should have warmth, have trust, accessibility, and so that we all might remember the precepts of our spiritual fathers… Not those who make proclamations on YouTube - we do not know them and they do not know our names. Our archpastors and pastors know our names, and we know them. That is why we must follow in this spirit and pray that the Lord show our hierarchs such a one who will be our spiritual father going forward."
After Liturgy, luncheon was served for the clergy, pilgrims, and guests in the monastery refectory.
Everyone then gathered again in the church, where Metropolitan Mark officiated the panihida. Archbishop Gabriel shared his memories of Metropolitan Hilarion, whose cell attendant he was when he began his path in the Church.
"Vladyka Hilarion touched the hearts of many - not only in America, but in Canada and in Australia, where he was the ruling bishop for 12 years, and, you could say, around the world. And of course in [Holy] Trinity Monastery, where he began his spiritual path, where he received monastic tonsure, was cell attendant to Archbishop Averky (Taushev; +1976), where in 1984 he was called to become a bishop; and here, within this monastery, he also ends his journey.
"As has already been said, there are no coincidences in the spiritual world. And in the very days of the funeral and burial we can see God’s providence. This past week, the hierarchs were discussing on which days to schedule the funeral and burial of our Vladyka, and for a long time could not come to an agreement. But they settled on Saturday and Sunday. And when I returned to my cell, I recalled that Saturday, May 21, is the feast day of the Holy Apostle John the Theologian - the apostle of love. Vladyka was also an apostle of love: he loved everyone, always smiled, never exalted himself, was always an equal of those around him, was always accessible to everyone, never turned anyone away, was generous with kind words - and a person would always come away from him with a levity of spirit.
"Vladyka considered it necessary to visit the parishes and missions as often as possible, many of which he had blessed to open or receive. He was a missionary, and considered it the important work of his life to open to people the truth and beauty of Orthodoxy. And in this Vladyka succeeded, which is testified to by the number of clergy who we saw yesterday and today. Let us remember Metropolitan Hilarion as the embodiment of this active Gospel love."
After saying farewell to the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, the reposed was buried in the monastic cemetery behind the altar of Holy Trinity Cathedral.
The Heavenly hosts grew with yet another prayerful intercessor and faithful son of God, whom Vladyka was during all the time that he spent in his earthly travels, across countries and continents. And now he has returned home – to Him Whom he loved with all his heart.
Abbot Tikhon (Gayfudinov), rector of Holy Protection Skete in Buena, NJ and Metropolitan Hilarion’s cell attendant from 2011 to November 2019, recalled after Vladyka’s burial:
"We all know the traits of Vladyka’s character. We all know of his kindness, we know of his big, kind heart, his kind eyes and kind words. No one remembers Vladyka angry or irritated, no one can say that Vladyka was vengeful or resentful. He always covered everything with love. No matter what happened, he had one reply: God’s will in all things.
"Vladyka was a man of deep inner prayer and the deepest inner asceticism. The depth of his prayer was known to those who were close to him, who helped him, who talked with him, as well as those who themselves lead a prayerful life. I remember how Vladyka would be visiting somewhere and would quietly excuse himself as though to go wash his hands, but in reality would go and be washing the dishes. Or he would help out around the church, or in the skete, where he appointed me and where at first there were no creature comforts. And this was not for show. This was his life."
Many returned to New York after the burial of their First Hierarch and spiritual father, under a rainbow after a fresh rain. And all along the way, during stops and breaks, people would encounter one another, once more greet one another with the Risen Christ, and share even brief recollections and kind words about Vladyka. As though they were all family.
Metropolitan Hilarion was interred at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY - 05/22/2022
Photography credits: Archpriest Peter Perekrestov