Holy Spirit Day at Holy Trinity Monastery
Metropolitan Hilarion serves Divine Liturgy at Holy Trinity Monastery on Holy Spirit Day (May 24, 2010)

Metropolitan Hilarion: ROCOR’s Mission and Calling Today

An Inter­view with
His Emi­nence HILARION,
Met­ro­pol­i­tan of East­ern Amer­i­ca and New York,
First Hier­ar­ch of the Russ­ian Ortho­dox Church Out­side of Russia

Con­duct­ed by Sergei Jakubov

Today marks the ninth day since the repose of His Emi­nence Hilar­i­on, Met­ro­pol­i­tan of East­ern Amer­i­ca and New York, First Hier­ar­ch of the Russ­ian Church Abroad, on May 3/16, 2022. In his hon­or and mem­o­ry, we offer below the con­clu­sion of an inter­view con­duct­ed in the spring of 2010 and first pub­lished in Russ­ian in Троицкое НаследиеNo. 2 (28), Sum­mer 2010. This Eng­lish trans­la­tion was first pub­lished in Ortho­dox LifeVol. 62, Num­ber 2 • March – April 2011. The first part, in which His Emi­nence dis­cussed his upbring­ing, sem­i­nary edu­ca­tion, and monas­tic for­ma­tion, is avail­able here.

There have been sig­nif­i­cant changes in the world dur­ing the last sev­er­al years. Rus­sia is no longer what it was; it no longer has an athe­is­tic gov­ern­ment. We again have a unit­ed Russ­ian Ortho­dox Church. What is the mis­sion of the Russ­ian Ortho­dox Church Out­side of Rus­sia in con­tem­po­rary circumstances?

It seems to me that that which has occurred in the past twen­ty years has come about through the mirac­u­lous action of the hand of God. This reminds me of the events of the Old Tes­ta­ment, when Israel left the Egypt­ian cap­tiv­i­ty and trav­eled through the wilder­ness, in the end attain­ing the Promised Land. That which has hap­pened in Rus­sia has salvif­ic impor­tance for the whole world. We could have had no idea of such events dur­ing the peri­od in which reli­gion was per­se­cut­ed in Rus­sia. It seemed that it would con­tin­ue for­ev­er. The Jews prob­a­bly expe­ri­enced such a feel­ing dur­ing the Baby­lon­ian cap­tiv­i­ty. And sud­den­ly all this changed, just as when the Per­sian king gave the Jews the free­dom to return to the Holy Land. And so, too, did the mir­a­cle of rebirth occur in Rus­sia. It is hard even to con­ceive of how quick­ly the peri­od of cru­el per­se­cu­tion changed into a peri­od of pros­per­i­ty for the Church, to which peo­ple are return­ing en masse. Maybe not quite the entire pop­u­la­tion, but still incon­ceiv­ably more as com­pared to what was before. This offers hope for greater things, because now the inner-Church mis­sion is being strength­ened for the entrance into the Church of those who have not yet attached them­selves to it or to the Lord, and spe­cial atten­tion is being shown to chil­dren and the younger generation.

The Church that found itself out­side the bound­aries of the Russ­ian land all these years has also wit­nessed to the faith, pre­serv­ing and pass­ing on church tra­di­tions. Its mis­sion has not less­ened but has, to the con­trary, increased, in con­nec­tion with the flood of new peo­ple that, for a vari­ety of rea­sons, has left the coun­tries of the for­mer Sovi­et Union. They join already exist­ing Ortho­dox com­mu­ni­ties through­out the entire world and also, by neces­si­ty, found parish­es in new places. There­fore the wit­ness of Ortho­doxy and spir­i­tu­al-pas­toral care con­tin­ue on an even greater scale than before. Through this dis­per­sal of the seeds of Christ’s faith, the het­ero­dox become acquaint­ed with Ortho­doxy, and through this means many con­vert to Ortho­doxy. There­fore there is anoth­er wave of the enlight­en­ment of the world, of the evan­ge­liza­tion of the oik­oumene, in which not only the Russ­ian Church par­tic­i­pates, but also the Greek, Ser­bian, and oth­er Local Church­es that have church­es and monas­ter­ies abroad.

In this way, the role of the Russ­ian Ortho­dox Church Out­side of Rus­sia includes the enlight­en­ment of the diaspora?

Yes, the Russ­ian Ortho­dox Church Out­side of Rus­sia must do its part in this good and salvif­ic deed. One of the goals of our activ­i­ty, accord­ing to the words of St. John of Shang­hai, is to plant Ortho­doxy in var­i­ous ends of the world. This goal has eter­nal sig­nif­i­cance. Among our cler­gy and our parish­ioners in var­i­ous coun­tries are already many local peo­ple who have con­vert­ed to Ortho­doxy. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the cler­gy from the local pop­u­la­tion, who have received their edu­ca­tion in sem­i­nary or through some oth­er means, have become authen­tic pas­tors of the Church. One may find among them many tal­ent­ed peo­ple with a deep knowl­edge of our faith and the abil­i­ty to com­mu­ni­cate it to their peo­ple. The fact that local peo­ple have already accept­ed our preach­ing – this is a very great achievement.

That is, one may divide the mis­sion of the Russ­ian Ortho­dox Church Out­side of Rus­sia into two com­po­nents: the pas­toral care of the faith­ful from Rus­sia – from ear­ly and lat­er emi­gra­tions and like­wise from the for­mer Sovi­et Union – and the con­ver­sion of local peo­ple to Orthodoxy?

When the first émi­grés left, their mis­sion was, in the first place, to pre­serve the faith among the Russ­ian peo­ple, among refuges. The sec­ond task was to plant Ortho­doxy and con­vey our faith to all who thirst for it and are inter­est­ed in it. The third kind of activ­i­ty was to help the suf­fer­ing peo­ple of Rus­sia, in part through the pub­li­ca­tion of spir­i­tu­al lit­er­a­ture and its dis­tri­b­u­tion in the ter­ri­to­ry of the for­mer Sovi­et Union. And the fourth was the neces­si­ty of wit­ness­ing to the entire West­ern world of the per­se­cu­tion of the Ortho­dox Church that was then going on, of the people’s mar­tyric strug­gle. The last two have lost their sig­nif­i­cance in our days: the per­se­cu­tion of the Church has end­ed, and reli­gious lit­er­a­ture is today being pub­lished in Rus­sia in abun­dance. But the first and sec­ond tasks of our Church’s mis­sion remain, and have even increased. There­fore mis­sion as a whole has not only not decreased but, on the con­trary, has increased in pre­cise­ly these tasks.

Tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion the Church’s mis­sion, what tasks today stand before pas­tors of the Russ­ian Ortho­dox Church Out­side of Russia? 

Pas­tors must have that which Met­ro­pol­i­tan Antho­ny (Khrapovit­sky) espe­cial­ly indi­cat­ed: the gift of com­pas­sion­ate love, that is, of hav­ing love for all those who come to church, and for those who do not come. The pas­tor must watch and care for people’s souls. Today local pas­tors must have a knowl­edge and under­stand­ing of the men­tal­i­ty of new emi­grants from the coun­tries of the for­mer Sovi­et Union. They must be sym­pa­thet­ic to those who lived in a dif­fer­ent soci­ety, where there was no spir­i­tu­al­i­ty, no reli­gious edu­ca­tion. One must always remem­ber this and always be long-suf­fer­ing and com­pas­sion­ate, teach­ing such parish­ioners car­ing­ly and care­ful­ly, as one would act towards chil­dren. At times it hap­pens that one has to start from the very begin­ning: the rules of behav­ior in church, how to approach the Mys­ter­ies. One should not be crit­i­cal of their igno­rance, but must approach them tact­ful­ly, teach­ing them to pray and lead a church life.

Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral) ordains Priest Alexei Pjawka to the priesthood
Met­ro­pol­i­tan Hilar­i­on ordain­ing Fr. Alex­is Pjawka to the priest­hood. Holy Trin­i­ty Monastery, Feb­ru­ary 12, 2009

How­ev­er, liv­ing abroad, one must not restrict one­self to the Russ­ian flock. A priest must car­ry out apos­tolic ser­vice and be ready to wit­ness to Ortho­doxy before the exter­nal, het­ero­dox world. This espe­cial­ly con­cerns the USA, where peo­ple are very reli­gious and have a keen sense of spir­i­tu­al oblig­a­tions, are inter­est­ed in oth­er reli­gions, and where Ortho­doxy has become well known today. Many Amer­i­cans rec­og­nize an Ortho­dox priest, espe­cial­ly Russ­ian ones, and say: “I just knew you were a Russ­ian Ortho­dox priest!” It is impor­tant to speak with such peo­ple and to offer them the rich­es of our faith in an under­stand­able lan­guage. Cler­gy labor­ing in the field abroad must know the local lan­guage and be able to com­mu­ni­cate with locals in their native lan­guage. It is specif­i­cal­ly the mis­sion­ary capac­i­ty of a pas­tor that is espe­cial­ly valu­able abroad.

Based on your expe­ri­ence teach­ing Com­par­a­tive The­ol­o­gy in Holy Trin­i­ty Sem­i­nary, what in Ortho­doxy is espe­cial­ly unique in com­par­i­son with oth­er reli­gious doctrines?

The unique­ness is above all the puri­ty of the Ortho­dox faith, giv­en us by God through the Apos­tles with­out any admix­ture of fal­si­ty and human con­jec­ture. From the very begin­ning of its his­to­ry, the Chris­t­ian Church has fought with false teach­ings, the so-called here­sies, which have arisen on account of human pride and self-impor­tance. The Apos­tle Paul already spe­cial­ly warned against accept­ing that which was not preached, pre­serv­ing strict­ly the puri­ty of faith (cf. 1 Tim­o­thy 6:20–21). Ortho­doxy is truth, which is pre­served and passed on to every gen­er­a­tion, enriched along the way by the strug­gles of spir­i­tu­al teach­ers, the Holy Fathers. By their spir­i­tu­al strug­gles they attained holi­ness, drew near to God, and already lived a heav­en­ly life. In holy Ortho­doxy we have great rich­es and trea­sures. Our respon­si­bil­i­ty is to con­tin­ue the work of the Holy Fathers, to pre­serve the Ortho­dox Faith in holi­ness and puri­ty, and to wit­ness to it before the entire world not only in words, but also through our deeds and our very lives. Peo­ple com­ing from oth­er reli­gious cur­rents find in Ortho­doxy that pure grace-filled water that they may have been search­ing for their entire lives, not hav­ing found in their own reli­gious con­fes­sions the full, spir­i­tu­al, grace-filled, exalt­ed faith that Christ gave.

In what way does Ortho­doxy, in com­par­i­son with oth­er reli­gions, define the char­ac­ter of the rela­tion­ship between man and God?

Inas­much as God is love, the rela­tion­ship of God towards man is a rela­tion­ship of love, and man must in turn ren­der to God the same; he must reply with the same love. God became man, abas­ing and hum­bling Him­self, in order to ele­vate man. Man is no longer a degrad­ed slave, but has become a child of God, as the Holy Fathers teach, and, as the Apos­tle says, a par­tak­er of the divine nature (cf. 2 Peter 1:4). This is close­ly relat­ed to the doc­trine of the deifi­ca­tion of man. No one from the cre­at­ed world can appre­hend God’s essence, but God, through the means of His divine ener­gies – in oth­er words through His grace – enters into com­mu­nion with His cre­ation. Through His grace, He grants us love and care. If man replies with an open heart and soul, and cleans­es him­self through prayer and strug­gle, God’s grace takes up abode in him and makes him a divine communicant.

Man then has God in his heart and soul, becom­ing a co-work­er with the Lord God in the deed of his sal­va­tion. The Lord called His cre­ation to sal­va­tion, which is the free­ing from the bondage of sin. In this way, anoth­er insep­a­ra­ble part of Ortho­dox doc­trine is the neces­si­ty of labor and effort for the attain­ment of sal­va­tion. Faith alone is insuf­fi­cient in rela­tion­ship to God. In the words of the Apos­tle, faith with­out works is dead (James 2:26). The coöper­a­tion of man and God is required for salvation.

Metropolitan Hilarion tonsures Joseph McLellan to the lesser schema with the name Joasaph.
Met­ro­pol­i­tan Hilar­i­on ton­sur­ing the future head of the Russ­ian The­o­log­i­cal Mis­sion in Jerusalem, Fr. Joas­aph (McLel­lan) (1962–2009). Octo­ber 10, 2008.

In no oth­er reli­gion does God so exalt man as in Ortho­doxy. Hav­ing tak­en on human nature, and hav­ing been seat­ed at the right hand of the Father, Christ has ele­vat­ed our nature to the lev­el of divin­i­ty. In all this, man remains man and God remains God; there is no admix­ture of the divine and man, as in East­ern doc­trines, which is the cause of per­ni­cious pride. Com­mu­nion always takes place in love and by the free choice of man, who with great grat­i­tude and humil­i­ty rec­og­nizes the price­less gift of God to him, the unwor­thy one. No oth­er reli­gion teach­es such an awe-inspir­ing rela­tion­ship of God towards the human per­son; his free­dom and right of choice remains invi­o­lable to God. In the process of coöper­a­tion with God – in oth­er words, in divine com­mu­nion – an unbound­ed expanse opens to man for spir­i­tu­al growth and the per­fec­tion of self in God.

We all observe the cor­rup­tion of cul­ture. A great deal of immoral­i­ty has appeared in the sur­round­ing world. What work must the Church under­take to guard chil­dren and young peo­ple from this? Along with this, what can young peo­ple them­selves do to attract their con­tem­po­raries to the Church?

In order to pre­serve the youth, one has to start at an ear­ly age, with child­hood. Par­ents must always take their chil­dren to Com­mu­nion, rais­ing them in such a spir­it that they, from their youngest years, thirst after church fel­low­ship, and feel the Church’s influ­ence on them. A child must grow up in unin­ter­rupt­ed com­mu­nion with the Church, and for that rea­son one must go to church with one’s chil­dren often, and teach them to pray at home. To do this, par­ents must first guide by their own exam­ple. If chil­dren see that their par­ents pray togeth­er, they will fol­low their exam­ple. But if chil­dren see that their par­ents do not pray or go to church, they them­selves will con­sid­er this unim­por­tant. Those peo­ple are for­tu­nate whose par­ents raised them in the spir­it of the Church. They will pre­serve this gift all their lives.

Metropolitan Hilarion baptises an infant at Holy Trinity Monastery.
Met­ro­pol­i­tan Hilar­i­on per­form­ing the Bap­tism of an infant. Holy Trin­i­ty Monastery, March 21, 2009.

It is more dif­fi­cult for some­one who does not have such an exam­ple. He must have a strong will and a deep con­vic­tion in order to fol­low the Chris­t­ian path. It is won­der­ful to see that today many parish­es invite our youth to var­i­ous gath­er­ings; at our Syn­od there is a com­mit­tee for work with youth. Many un-churched chil­dren par­tic­i­pate in our scout camps, and there they become acquaint­ed with church life for the first time and, in such a way, they bring their par­ents to the Church. Today our youth have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to vis­it Rus­sia and coun­tries of the for­mer Sovi­et Union. These trips always leave a deep and pleas­ant impres­sion about church life. Young pil­grims return renewed and inspired. Their lives are changed as a result of these trips, as is their approach to life; this can be com­pared only with the effect of vis­it­ing the Holy Land. In this way, pil­grim­ages to Holy Rus­sia can even have a salvif­ic influ­ence. Meet­ings with local youth are arranged on such trips.

Besides the above, it is very impor­tant to pre­serve annu­al and local youth con­fer­ences, to which well-known cler­gy that are com­pe­tent in respond­ing to ques­tions that wor­ry youth are invit­ed as speak­ers. Var­i­ous prob­lems of the younger gen­er­a­tion are dis­cussed dur­ing these con­fer­ences. Such gath­er­ings should bear sig­nif­i­cant spir­i­tu­al fruits in the upbring­ing of the ris­ing gen­er­a­tion, and also make it more unit­ed among a dis­unit­ed world, sub­ject as it is to many dan­ger­ous temptations.

What spir­i­tu­al-his­tor­i­cal expe­ri­ences of the Russ­ian Ortho­dox Church Out­side of Rus­sia will be espe­cial­ly use­ful for the unit­ed Russ­ian Church?

The Russ­ian Ortho­dox Church is today found­ing many com­mu­ni­ties through­out the entire world. Our expe­ri­ence of parish and monastery life in the dif­fi­cult con­di­tions of exile, and the expe­ri­ence of sur­viv­ing in for­eign lands, will be use­ful for new com­mu­ni­ties aris­ing abroad. Also valu­able is our inner-parish expe­ri­ence of fel­low­ship, which in large Russ­ian cities with over­filled church­es is prac­ti­cal­ly impos­si­ble. I have now learned that in many parish­es through­out Rus­sia meals or teas are being orga­nized after divine ser­vices, so that the priest and flock can grow more close­ly acquaint­ed and talk togeth­er. This is a very impor­tant part of parish life. Fel­low­ship with pas­tors and hier­ar­chs is much eas­i­er abroad than in Rus­sia, where an immense num­ber of peo­ple vis­it a church, and the bish­op does not have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to get to know every­one. Sim­ply walk­ing by a church where every­one is packed in and strives to receive a bless­ing is itself an ordeal. Fel­low­ship with the flock is prob­a­bly pos­si­ble first of all through ser­mons; a per­son­al con­ver­sa­tion with a Vla­dy­ka about one’s needs is rarely pos­si­ble. Abroad, in parish­es of not only the Church Abroad but also of the Moscow Patri­ar­chate, much clos­er fel­low­ship with one’s hier­ar­chy and cler­gy is pos­si­ble. Such expe­ri­ence arose above all from the dif­fer­ent cir­cum­stances in Rus­sia and abroad.

While your mem­o­ries and impres­sions of your recent vis­it to Ukraine are still fresh, I would like to ask you to share your opin­ion about the changes that have occurred in the life of soci­ety and the Church in Rus­sia and the coun­tries of the for­mer Sovi­et Union in recent years.

I first vis­it­ed Rus­sia and Ukraine in 1990. These were the years imme­di­ate­ly fol­low­ing the fall of the Com­mu­nist régime in these coun­tries. The rebirth of the Church began dur­ing the years of per­e­stroi­ka. Of course, the rebirth began already after the cel­e­bra­tion of the mil­len­ni­um of the Bap­tism of Rus­sia. Even then there were sig­nif­i­cant changes in people’s rela­tion­ship to reli­gion: they had become more sym­pa­thet­ic. The restora­tion of church­es was notice­able. But then every­thing was still in its first stages. There was still a short­age of food­stuffs in stores, and some stores had near­ly noth­ing. Once in St. Peters­burg I went to buy some­thing, but there turned out to be noth­ing in the store. Already by the next time I noticed how remark­ably fast old church­es and monas­ter­ies were being restored and new ones were being con­struct­ed. The num­ber of monas­ter­ies approached the pre-rev­o­lu­tion­ary num­ber, when there were near­ly 1,000 in the Russ­ian Empire. Today the Moscow Patri­ar­chate has more than 800 monas­ter­ies, and that is won­der­ful. My last vis­it to Kiev was alto­geth­er impres­sive. The city has under­gone a remark­able change towards the bet­ter. Vis­it­ing this city, the cra­dle of our Ortho­doxy, always fills my heart with a cer­tain awe. Dur­ing my last vis­it I vis­it­ed, besides Kiev, the land of Vol­hy­nia. This is where my roots have their begin­ning. There I cel­e­brat­ed the 850-year jubilee of the city of Vladimir-Vol­hy­nia. It is quite near – a twen­ty-minute trip – to where my par­ents were born. This event was very mov­ing for me.

Are you able to vis­it your par­ents’ home­land often?

After the offi­cial part of my vis­it, I vis­it­ed the vil­lage my par­ents are from, Obenizhe, which is locat­ed between Kov­el and Vladimir-Vol­hy­nia. This was my fifth trip to this loca­tion. The first time was remark­able in that my female cousin, whom I came to vis­it, gave birth to a son whom she named, in my hon­or, Igor – my name before monas­ti­cism. Now he is twen­ty, exact­ly how many years ago it was that I first had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to vis­it the home­land of my ances­tors. It was very impor­tant to me to find my roots, my rel­a­tives. Liv­ing abroad, we felt very iso­lat­ed. Rel­a­tives who remained in the home­land did not feel the same need for fam­i­ly con­nec­tions as we did, liv­ing far from every­thing. As they them­selves admit­ted to me, it was thanks to me that they grew clos­er, that they could final­ly gath­er togeth­er and get to know their kin­dred ties better.

Met­ro­pol­i­tan Hilar­i­on being met by parish­ioners at the parish church in the vil­lage of Obinizhe, Ukraine. May 16, 2010.

Thanks to these trips I was able to estab­lish my fam­i­ly tree ten gen­er­a­tions back on the sides of both my father and moth­er. In this vil­lage there is a church ded­i­cat­ed to the Exal­ta­tion of the Cross that is at least 200 years old. In it my par­ents were bap­tized and mar­ried, and all my rel­a­tives were buried near this church. In Sovi­et times the ceme­tery around the church was lev­eled and a school play­ground was built there. Now there is a new ceme­tery, where many oth­er of my rel­a­tives are buried: my grand­fa­thers and grand­moth­ers, uncles and aunts. Every time I go, my fam­i­ly and I go to the ceme­tery and look for the graves of our ances­tors. Dur­ing the Sovi­et peri­od our church was nev­er closed. In recent times the restora­tion of the church has been under­tak­en continually.

The parish church in the vil­lage of Obinizhe, Ukraine, where Met­ro­pol­i­tan Hilarion’s par­ents were bap­tized and mar­ried. May 16, 2010.

The church is sup­port­ed by the dona­tions of the vil­lagers. They are poor them­selves, but they give to the church. Twen­ty years after my first vis­it I cel­e­brat­ed the Divine Litur­gy there for the first time. This was an out­stand­ing event for my rel­a­tives, for the inhab­i­tants of this vil­lage and the neigh­bor­ing vil­lages, and for me. Priests and parish­ioners from neigh­bor­ing parish­es also came to the divine ser­vice. After the ser­vice we held a fes­tive trapeza. The vil­lagers and cler­gy spent the time in a remark­able man­ner. Tak­en as a whole, this trip left in me a feel­ing of joy and spe­cial com­punc­tion from the mir­a­cle of the rebirth of Ortho­doxy in the land where it has pros­pered for more than a mil­len­ni­um, but which for a short time found itself harsh­ly per­se­cut­ed; nev­er­the­less, peo­ple are again return­ing to church.

What were your impres­sions from vis­it­ing the Kiev The­o­log­i­cal Acad­e­my and Seminary?

Oral exams at the Kiev The­o­log­i­cal Acad­e­my and Sem­i­nary. May 19, 2010.

I have the warmest and bright­est impres­sions from my vis­it to the Kiev The­o­log­i­cal Acad­e­my and Sem­i­nary. I vis­it­ed this school on exam day. We had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to vis­it exams in both the acad­e­my and the sem­i­nary. It was inter­est­ing for me to com­pare the expe­ri­ence of the Kiev the­o­log­i­cal schools with how exam­i­na­tions were con­duct­ed at our sem­i­nary. Today in West­ern uni­ver­si­ties and sem­i­nar­ies the prac­tice of writ­ten exam­i­na­tions is more pre­v­e­lant. I was sur­prised to see that exams in the Kiev school are con­duct­ed oral­ly, as they were dur­ing the years I stud­ied in Jor­danville. While one stu­dent is being exam­ined, anoth­er is prepar­ing his response to the tick­et he has received. All this was famil­iar to me.

Bless­ing sem­i­nar­i­ans at the Kiev The­o­log­i­cal Acad­e­my and Sem­i­nary. May 19, 2010.

Above all, in the Kiev The­o­log­i­cal Acad­e­my and Sem­i­nary I was amazed by the great size of the aca­d­e­m­ic insti­tu­tion itself, as well as of the fac­ul­ty and stu­dent bod­ies. Entry into the sem­i­nary takes place by com­pe­ti­tion: there are four peo­ple for every aca­d­e­m­ic place, as Arch­bish­op Antho­ny, the rec­tor of the Kiev the­o­log­i­cal schools, told me. Active work on the restora­tion of the schools has gone on from the moment of the rebirth of the schools, and the muse­um and library have already been reestab­lished. Their fun­da­men­tal mer­it, how­ev­er, is their imme­di­ate prox­im­i­ty to that great holy place, the Kiev-Caves Lavra with its church­es, the relics of the holy monas­tic fathers, and the icons invit­ing one to prayer – from which stu­dents can con­stant­ly draw liv­ing Ortho­dox faith. I liked all the stu­dents: they have sin­cere and lumi­nous faces and they are polite and kind.

I would like to say the same thing in gen­er­al about the faith­ful in Ukraine. I also liked the cler­gy for their soft and kind char­ac­ter. Stu­dents have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to find a spir­i­tu­al father for them­selves from the broth­er­hood of the monastery and, at any moment, to go to him for con­fes­sion or for advice in case of dif­fi­cult spir­i­tu­al prob­lems. In vis­it­ing the Kiev The­o­log­i­cal Acad­e­my and Sem­i­nary, I was all the more con­vinced that the lumi­nous work of edu­cat­ing future cler­gy for Christ’s Holy Church is being under­tak­en in our the­o­log­i­cal schools.

What part of the­o­log­i­cal edu­ca­tion in our times do you con­sid­er to be the most impor­tant and nec­es­sary for seminarians?

Met­ro­pol­i­tan Hilar­i­on with the Kursk-Root Icon of the Moth­er of God on Holy Spir­it Day in Holy Trin­i­ty Monastery. June 16, 2008.

I con­sid­er it fore­most to know Holy Scrip­ture, because the entire teach­ing of our Sav­ior is based on this foun­da­tion. It is essen­tial to know one’s faith on the basis of Holy Scrip­ture, to be able to respond to the ques­tions of peo­ple who would like to learn about Ortho­doxy. It is very impor­tant that we our­selves know our faith and can eas­i­ly and acces­si­bly explain Ortho­dox doc­trine. Many ask what the dif­fer­ence is between Ortho­doxy and oth­er Chris­t­ian con­fes­sions. In our cir­cum­stances it is par­tic­u­lar­ly impor­tant to have the abil­i­ty to explain to Protes­tants why icons are allowed, why we make the Sign of the Cross, why – unlike Protes­tants – we can­not say that we are already saved.

It seems to the out­side observ­er that we pay too much atten­tion to out­ward rites. But if we know Holy Scrip­ture, the his­to­ry of the Church, and apolo­get­ics (and know­ing it is very impor­tant), then we can explain why we act as we do, and not oth­er­wise. This is extra­or­di­nar­i­ly nec­es­sary for con­tem­po­rary pas­tors. At the same time, the­o­ry alone is insuf­fi­cient; insep­a­ra­bly con­nect­ed with the­o­log­i­cal edu­ca­tion is spir­i­tu­al prac­tice. Liv­ing in a monastery, the stu­dents’ great­est advan­tage is that they have the oppor­tu­ni­ty for spir­i­tu­al for­ma­tion, for con­stant con­tact with the spir­i­tu­al life, and to have near­by a spir­i­tu­al instruc­tor to whom they can turn at any time. This is also very valu­able for the edu­ca­tion of future ser­vants of the Church.

What advice would you give to the con­tem­po­rary seminarian?

I think that a sem­i­nar­i­an, like any young per­son, needs direc­tion. There­fore, first and fore­most, it is essen­tial to have a spir­i­tu­al father who can help in the spir­i­tu­al life. This is an age at which one has con­tra­dic­to­ry inner expe­ri­ences, when one is over­come by var­i­ous pas­sions, and it is essen­tial for spir­i­tu­al for­ma­tion to have close con­tact with a spir­i­tu­al father and instruc­tor. One should occu­py one­self with spir­i­tu­al read­ing, and not be lazy. We, who have already been through the­o­log­i­cal school, often regret that when we were young we were too lazy to read more and study more zeal­ous­ly, not tak­ing full advan­tage of our time by study­ing some­thing valu­able. With the pass­ing of years one rec­og­nizes the val­ue of neglect­ed time, espe­cial­ly at moments when one feels the lack of essen­tial knowl­edge. There­fore one must use this pre­cious time, as long as it is in one’s power.

Return­ing to a theme from the begin­ning of our con­ver­sa­tion about your sem­i­nary and monastery years, I would like to sum up with this ques­tion: what to you is the her­itage of Holy Trin­i­ty Monastery and Seminary?

The her­itage of our monastery has become for me the most pre­cious dis­cov­ery in my life. It became its foun­da­tion. In the begin­ning, with­in the walls of the monastery, we learned how to walk, as in child­hood. Under the influ­ence of the brethren and the teach­ers we grew up, fre­quent­ly mak­ing mis­takes and falling, but get­ting back up. The monastery and sem­i­nary gave us a very rich and mul­ti­fac­eted prepa­ra­tion, both the­o­ret­i­cal and prac­ti­cal. The acqui­si­tion of book learn­ing in the­ol­o­gy and litur­gics was accom­pa­nied by spir­i­tu­al expe­ri­ence and prac­tice in the divine ser­vices. We had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to study fol­low­ing the exam­ple of the pious brethren and fathers of the monastery. Such a rich source for spir­i­tu­al expe­ri­ence as Holy Trin­i­ty Monastery and Sem­i­nary is dif­fi­cult to find, espe­cial­ly in our con­di­tions abroad. Our task is to pre­serve this source and to attract the new gen­er­a­tion to it so that, like pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions, it can grow spir­i­tu­al­ly and pre­pare for ser­vice to the Church with­in the walls of the monastery. This is indeed a unique opportunity.

Met­ro­pol­i­tan Hilar­i­on vis­it­ing Holy Trin­i­ty Sem­i­nary. May 20, 2008.

At the time this inter­view was con­duct­ed, Sergei Jakubov taught Apolo­get­ics and Com­par­a­tive The­ol­o­gy at Holy Trin­i­ty Seminary.

Pho­tographs gra­cious­ly pro­vid­ed by the Holy Trin­i­ty Sem­i­nary Archives.