by Count G.A. Cheremeteff
Count G.A. Cheremeteff (1887–1971) was born into one of the wealthiest and most respected noble families of Imperial Russia. Following in a long line of military leaders, he served as a cavalry officer in the First World War and in the volunteer White Army prior to its evacuation from Crimea. Count Cheremeteff, reunited in exile with his family, settled for a short time in Seis am Schlern, a mountain village in the Italian Alps. The testament below, written to his son Alexander Georgievich, takes as its theme a quartz stone that accompanied the hand-written testament.
- This is a quartz stone taken from the forest between Auchshtaudom and Alpenrose. May it remind you of Seis. You love Seis, don’t you? But if you love it, then you must even more love God who created Seis and you. How may one manifest love toward God on earth? By doing good to men and by loving them as your own self. And so, the first thing that this stone must remind you of is love, and love — God.
- This stone is from Seis. Things are good in Seis for Seis is high in the mountains. Likewise you must strive higher with your soul, up to the heavens, to everything high and noble; in one word, to God. The second reminder of this stone is the exclamation at the Holy Liturgy: “Let us lift up our hearts.”
- This stone is white, like snow on the mountains. May your soul be as white. How to achieve this? Through purity of thoughts. Chase away from yourself impure and dark thoughts that lead to temptation. Do not probe, do not be tempted to contemplate dark and impure things — once, and then again, and still another time, or else this will imperceptibly transform into a habit, and later into ill deeds. And even without deeds the impure, dark and disordered thoughts themselves become the cause of illnesses and failures in life, for they separate us from God. And so, the stone’s third reminder: [to foster] pure thoughts and chase away the dark and impure, for with pure thoughts everywhere for you will be Seis, but with impure thoughts even in Seis it will be dreary.
- May the white of this stone also remind you of white-stoned Moscow, of Russia. Remember that you are Orthodox and Russian, that you must work on yourself and improve yourself for Russia and the Holy Orthodox Church, and that these two concepts are inseparable, and that one must be faithful to the Church and the Homeland until death. This is the fourth reminder.
- This stone is created by God, and God is perfect. In striving toward God we become perfect. But there are different kinds of perfection; the whole essence is in our intention. One may strive to be better than others or one can strive to be better for others. In the former case envy appears toward the more successful; in the latter, the more successful are just an example worthy of emulation. In the former, the less successful evoke contempt; in the latter — sympathy and a desire to help. The former aims for personal glory, the latter for the glory of God, the only kind necessary. And so, the fifth reminder: to have in your deeds pure intentions and to strive not to become better than others but better for others. For in becoming better, you will bring more good to people. Regarding intentions, these determine the tone of an action. For if you give money to the poor out of vanity, this is bad; if out of a desire to help, this is good.
One may strive to be better than others or one can strive to be better for others.
- This stone is very hard, and your faith and your spirit must be just as firm. There is no place for cowardice, for not a hair of your head will perish without the will of the Heavenly Father. May His will be done. There is no place for sloth or idleness, for these are the source of every vice. If this stone were soft it would have long ago turned to dust and decomposed. But it is strong and steadfast. So likewise must you be strong and firm, and not give yourself to corrupt thoughts, fear, or sloth. You must be noble like a pure firm stone, and remember that nobility of soul is the sole nobility in life. Someone born with a noble name and title is not by this alone made noble. These only lay upon him a requirement, with all his deeds to uphold the good name of his ancestors. A scoundrel is always vile, but if he carries an honorable name besides this becomes utterly sickening. The sixth reminder of the stone: firmness of spirit and nobility of soul, for he is noble whose deeds are noble, whatsoever name he may bear.
Nobility of soul is the sole nobility in life...he is noble whose deeds are noble...
- This stone is a good example for you. With a generous hand God has sprinkled similar stones and great blessings upon men. Likewise you must be generous, for charity is a great virtue and preserves a man’s life. This is the seventh reminder.
- Wandering in the forest, perhaps you often stepped on this stone without realizing and pressed it with your foot, and nevertheless it gives you kind reminders. So should you forgive people offenses against you personally and do good to them regardless. This is the eighth reminder. But while forgiving personal offenses, you must manfully battle against those who offend the weak and destroy the churches and commandments of God. Remember that one can and should forgive only personal debts, i.e. offenses committed against you, but you have no right to forgive others’ debts and you must fight against evildoers. The Holy Fathers say: “Whosoever protects the offended will find God as his ally.” Christ himself even gave us an example in chasing the money-changers out of the temple by the lash. In the Gospel it is said: [Do not] resist an evil person (Mt. 5:39), i.e. one who offends you, and instead do good to him, but nowhere is it said that one is not supposed to fight evil, for Christ himself in His whole earthly life showed us a firm example of battle with evil, which He also conquered, despoiling Hades and death by His Resurrection.
Love God and neighbor. Be patient toward others' deficiencies, for you have your own. Pray morning and night without fail, don't be lazy. Hope in aid from God, don't boast, and above all avoid pride, for this is the mother of all vice.
In conclusion I will say this: Remember that this stone is not a holy icon and it has no miracle-working power within itself, it is only a reminder. Remember how good it was in Seis. If you fulfill all that is written here, it will always and everywhere be just as good, but if you befoul your soul, it will be bad everywhere.
Love God and neighbor. Be patient toward others’ deficiencies, for you have your own. Pray morning and night without fail, don’t be lazy. Hope in aid from God, don’t boast, and above all avoid pride, for this is the mother of all vice.
May the Lord, the Most-Holy Theotokos, and the holy intercessors protect you.
Your father, G. Cheremeteff
Following World War II, Count Cheremeteff renounced his title in favor of his son and was ordained to the holy priesthood by the hand of Bishop Afanasy (Martos) to minister to the Russians living at the Displaced Persons camp in Fischbek, Germany. Here he actively worked to both protect the émigré flock and to catechize the youth, putting special emphasis on training them in the liturgical offices and sacred music.
In 1958, Fr. George was transferred to London, where he became the spiritual father of the Holy Annunciation Convent. The reminiscences of a late abbess of that convent have been published at ROCOR Studies.
Fr George reposed in the Lord in 1971. In an issue of Православная Жизнь [No. 6 (570) June 1997] dedicated to his legacy, the editors remarked: “Fr. George offers in himself an example of how much the nobility could do for Russia and Orthodoxy if it were wholly committed to the thousand-year ideal of Holy Rus.”
More about Fr. George’s life is available in Embassy, Emigrants, and Englishmen: The Three Hundred Year History of a Russian Orthodox Church in London, in a presentation given in 2014 in connection with the release of this book, and in an interview with Fr George’s grandson at OrthoChristian.com