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The Mystery of the Patriarch 


 
Three years ago, His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia departed in the Lord. Many remember him not only as the “Great Master,” but as a father. Protodeacon Alexander Ageikin of Christ the Savior Cathedral remembers the late Primate.

A Ship After a Storm

First of all I would like to say that in no way can the previous Patriarch be compared with the present one. The Lord never created two identical people, and there could not be two identical hierarchs in the Church—each serves in his own way.

The Church is often compared to a ship traveling the sea of life, and each helmsman—each Patriarch—guides the ship his own way: one must navigate stormy seas, another through a reef filled with hazardous submerged rocks, another navigates the open seas.

The epoch of Patriarch Alexy and that of Patriarch Kirill are entirely different parts of the road, so comparing them would be wrong.

Eternal Memory to His Holiness Patriarch Alexy! He had to steer the ship of the Church after a storm, a terrible hurricane, the ship damaged, its sails in tatters, its beams and masts broken… Thanks to the tender care and the attitude of its captain, the ship of the Church, still sailing, became more and more magnificent.

Five Years in the Kremlin Cathedrals

I began my service in Peredelkino, at first, after university, I was only a security guard, but later I was ordained to the deaconate.

Six months after my ordination, I began serving in the Kremlin Cathedrals over the course of five years during all the patriarchal services. When, in 1999, while still a student at St Tikhon Institute, I traveled to a missionary festival in Lesosibirsk, one local deacon (now he is a priest), asked me: “Have you ever served with the Patriarch?” “Of course,” I was even surprised by the question. “How many times?” “I don’t know, I never counted, maybe 500 times.” “What?” he exclaimed. “I would die of fear and trepidation after serving with him once!”

I pondered this exchange. To be near the Patriarch is a great responsibility, it brings anxiety and honor. This is not granted to us by for our merits, but it does draw us near with episcopal love.

We are talking now in Christ the Savior Cathedral, restored and built, as were so many other churches and monasteries in our land, by his efforts and care. There is not one corner of this cathedral which he wasn’t well acquainted with. He toured all of it, even ascending the scaffolding, to see how the artists painted the frescoes.

Every clergyman of Christ the Savior Cathedral was appointed here by our blessed, reposed, first Rector after its restoration—His Holiness Patriarch Alexy. Each of us—five priests and four deacons, he handpicked, he tended to each of his clergymen carefully. He knew the clergymen of Moscow well (some eighty percent were ordained by him), and, picking each one of us by criteria known only to him, transferred us to his cathedral.

I think that the centuries will remember His Holiness Patriarch Alexy as a rebuilder and renovator of Christ the Savior Cathedral.

His Holiness spent all twelve years of his service in earnest effort towards the rebuilding of holy sites.

Patriarch Alexy did not deprive from his love anyone—not clergymen, not those in positions of power, not common folk. He had a special place in his heart for nuns. This was motivated by the fact that he began his service in Pyukhtitsky Convent.

Monks can take care of themselves, he would say, but convents need special care. He always took to the defense of defenseless nuns, being like a father to them.

Every meeting with His Holiness was memorable. One was especially so.

I don’t remember what year it was, but His Holiness felt particularly ill. Doctors advised him not to serve. During Great Lent, he would flee Peredelkino and attend our services: he stood there in secret and prayed in the altar.

None of the laity knew that the Primate of the Church was there praying with them. We clergymen also guarded his secret carefully.

A Candle for All

It was difficult to overcome His Holiness’ death. I spent days on end here, at his coffin, reading the funerary prayers and serving at pannikhidas. I was deeply grateful to those who came here to bid farewell to their Patriarch. The earnestness of these people, their prayers, illustrated that all his efforts were not in vain. He lived and labored for the sake of the Church of God and his people, and they came to him with gratitude.

I recall this silent, sorrowful line of people. There was no bustle, no crowding, no one tried to cut in line, and this endless stream of people from all over Russia continued…  For everyone, he was a loving father, he found time to pray for everyone.

I never met anyone with a harsh word for His Holiness Patriarch Alexy. There were some short items in the press of a critical nature, but they found no resonance. This fog quickly dissipated, for Patriarch Alexy, as the candle from the Gospel, which cannot be “put in a secret place… but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light.” And his warmth was just the same.