Today, May 9/22, on the feast day of the Translation of the Relics of Holy Hierarch and Miracle-worker Nicholas, we mark the 40th day of the death of Archbishop Averky of blessed memory by commemorating three late hierarchs in all the churches of the Russian Church Abroad. These include our First Hierarch Metropolitan Anastassy (Gribanovsky), who died on this day 11 years ago; Archbishop Averky, who died 40 days ago, and his dear friend, Archbishop Savva (Raevsky), who died shortly afterwards. He had received a telegram in Sydney informing him of the death of Archbishop Averky, and, having been very ill for a long time, said to those around him: “I will not survive this,” and followed his friend four days later, on April 17.
The three late hierarchs were the glory and adornment of our Holy Church. I will now devote my words to Archbishop Averky, which I had hoped to read over his coffin, but my own illness, to I am very sad to say, prevented me from participating in his funeral. Vladyka Archbishop Averky traveled his 70-year path as a true servant of God and an angelic monk. He belonged to those few people who from his earliest childhood until his final breath lived his earthly life without straying at all from the strict path of the Church and service to God.
He was raised by his noble, refined and sensitive parents, his father a general of the military courts, one of the finest military establishments of Russia, which protected the honor of the Christ-loving Russian Army, and his wife Maria Vladimirovna, for whom Vladyka Averky had filial care during her widowed years, and she was in want of nothing until her very death. In the gymnasium, Vladyka Averky was valedictorian, and graduated with a gold medal. It seems natural that his interest during those years was in astronomy, which he knew well. However, when he became acquainted with theological studies, he abandoned his hobby, though preserved his knowledge of astronomy, and I recall how in Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, during night-time strolls, Vladyka Averky would explain to me, a person who knows little of astronomy, about the stars and constellations and their heavenly motions.
Vladyka Averky had during his student days already become friends with the great Russian hierarch Archbishop Feofan, formerly of Poltava, a great man of prayer, an ascetic and learned theologian, who had a great influence on the young man. Immediately after graduating from the gymnasium, he enrolled as a theology student at Sofia University. In addition to solid Bulgarian theologians, that department also had eminent and renowned theology professors from the Russian academies which had been destroyed by the atheist Communists in Russia. Thus, Vladyka Averky, as a student, was able to hear lectures of and study theology under such famous teachers as Professor Glubokovsky, an expert in the Holy Scripture of the New Testament, and others of his ilk, and so he received such an education in theology that he likely could not have received anywhere else.
After graduating, Vladyka Averky immediately made his monastic oath and devoted his life to pastoral service in Carpathian Russia among the pious locals who had left the Uniates and returned to Orthodox Christianity. But the increasingly complicated international situation forced him to move to Yugoslavia, where he joined the clergymen of the Russian churches of the Holy Trinity and the Iveron Icon, and the spiritual father of Metropolitan Anastassy (Gribanovsky), and the main keeper of the miracle-working Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God. He also continued his theological teaching, which he was to do for many years in various high schools in Carpathian Russia.
Vladyka Averky’s love for God was expressed in his love for the Divine temple. He loved the utter splendor of churches, and their cleanliness and order; Vladyka Averky saw to it that the influence of proper monastic iconography would spread throughout the Russian Church Abroad, reestablishing the classic Greco-Russian style of icon-painting which blossomed during our pious period. Vladyka Averky loved church singing and the order of divine services; he was able to create in the monastery the necessary conditions under which all the monastic brethren participated in the podvig of church service, and they followed their obedience without being forced, and with extreme good conscience.
Vladyka did not push his monks but in fact had to restrain them from overdoing it and exhausting themselves. Divine services on the eve of Sundays and feast days would begin at 4 pm and continue almost until midnight, and remarkably, the length of these services was no burden either to the monks or to other worshipers. The Divine grace that reigned during these services visibly inspired and strengthened the strength of everyone in attendance. During the first and last weeks of Great Lent, almost all the obediences laid upon the brethren were suspended, and the monks would spend almost all day and a significant part of the evening praying in church. Vladyka Averky saw it fit that the monastic brethren were bound for their entire lives to the monastery, and so summoning a monk from Holy Trinity Monastery to conduct divine services elsewhere, though very important, was extremely difficult.
Vladyka Averky headed the monastery print shop of St Job of Pochaev, which did a great deal of good publishing work. It is likely that the entire free world which uses Church Slavonic and Russian for divine services and missionary work have taken advantage of the publications of Holy Trinity Monastery. Only a few monks manage the print shop and book store, each of them being assigned two or even three obediences. A good deal of literature is also published in English.
Vladyka Averky’s time at and leadership of Holy Trinity Monastery had blessed significance for our Church. The graduates of Holy Trinity Seminary, having been ordained to the priesthood, note that the most important thing that a pastor needs is a churchly life; they are experts at church singing and the rule of services, having studied it through practice at the monastery, and achieved knowledge in a theology foreign to the modernism of today, which has infused some parts of the Church.
In his preaching, Vladyka Averky, was a zealous specialist in Holy Scripture and patristic literature, and his mouth and pen issued rivers of living water, impressed upon thousands of pages of his works.
In his theological views, Vladyka Averky adhered to the opinions of his beloved spiritual father and elder, Archbishop Feofan, but his theology possessed shades of his prophetic zeal for the glory of God, and now, as the untarnished servant of God, beholds the glory of God face to face, we are convinced that those prophetic words are now being made manifest in him, which St John of Kronstadt loved to repeat: “I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness” (Psalms 17:15).
Our entire Church came to love and value Vladyka Averky. His funeral was uncommon—seven archpastors served, over 50 priests gathered, a multitude of people from near and far, and the service itself lasted from 5 in the morning until 4 pm, and was less a sorrowful burial and more a triumph for the Church.
We are certain that Vladyka Averky belongs to the host of reposed souls about whom it is written: “Blessed is the way in which you shall walk today, O soul, for a place of rest is prepared for you” and of whom Christ said: “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matthew 13:43). Amen.