History of Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville (Part 2)

Now a few words about Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko), the late abbot of the monks at Holy Trinity Monastery, of whom Archbishop Anthony (Medvedev, +2000) wrote:

"He was born on the shores of Azov Sea in 1873 to the family of a poor deacon, John Vasilievich Maximenko and Evfrosinia Feodorovna; the future Vladyka was the fourth of seven children. He was baptized with the name Vasily. His father died of pleurisy contracted while fishing, and his mother a year later from a broken heart. His 'orphan's wanderings' began when Vasya was only seven years old.

"He was a good student, first at Mariupol Theological School , though he suffered from poverty. Along with fellow needy students, he was unable to leave when school was out, but fed themselves with wild plants they called 'cress salad.' His second year was easier because his brother, a seminary graduate, became the Supervisor of Vasya's religious school. Graduating seminary with honors, Vasily was accepted to Kiev Theological Academy , but suffered a setback during his second year. For participating in a protest against an unfair administrator, the straight-laced Maximenko was expelled from the Academy with a 'wolf's passport,' that is, without the right to enroll in another school. He then took a teaching job, 'in the fullness of youthful zeal.' The mothers of enthusiastic students fed him by turn, 'like a shepherd.'

"Suddenly, Vasily Ivanovich's path crossed with a young bishop (later Metropolitan) Anthony (Khrapovitsky, +1936), this veritable 'mountain of love.' Through his intercession, he shed his 'wolf's passport.' The young student was accepted to Kazan Theological Academy . There he underwent a 'monastic epiphany' and was tonsured a monk. He was then beset by tuberculosis, but Vladyka Anthony, while tonsuring him, gave him the name 'Vitaly,' which means 'full of life,' and said to him 'you shall live a long life!' Later, at St Alexander Missionary Academy, Fr Vitaly, already a hieromonk, taught theology: Liturgics, Pastoral Theology and Homiletics, and also Physics. Nearby was a hospital where the hieromonk visited those suffering from leprosy. In the seminary, Fr Vitaly once rescued a student who had spilled kerosene on himself and ignited like a torch. Suffering severe burns himself, Fr Vitaly smothered the flame; nonetheless, the poor seminarian soon died.

"Was it for this reason that Fr Vitaly, during his consecration as bishop, likened his future service as a fight against fire? Speaking of ecclesiastical division, and of some letters written in the desire to overcome them, Archimandrite Vitaly said: 'What can be done in the face of such an elevated crisis? Turn away ? No ! When there is a fire, one does not ask: Am I able to put it out? While someone is drowning, does one think: Am I a good swimmer? No, one jumps in to save the victim…" (Archbishop Anthony of Western America and San Francisco: "Archbishop Vitaly of Eastern America and Jersey City" Pravoslavnaya Rus' , No 6, 1985).

Metropolitan Anthony of blessed memory ascribed the blossoming of Pochaev Lavra in significant measure to the labors of Archimandrite Vitaly, who, in the words of the late Vladyka, "crucified himself for the people and for the Church." As soon as Vladyka Anthony arrived at the Volynia cathedra and grasped the state of affairs in Pochaev Lavra, he immediately offered to transfer Hieromonk Vitaly, who had spent three years as a teacher at Ardon Theological Seminary in the Caucasus , to Pochaev Lavra to organize a missionary and ecclesiastical press. Hieromonk Vitaly eagerly accepted his offer, and, by decree of the Holy Synod of November 29, 1902, he was released from his teaching position and appointed to serve under the Bishop of Volynia, with the elevation to the rank of archimandrite. By decision of the ruling bishop dated December 2, 1902, Fr Vitaly was appointed a teacher of the Law of God, head of the printing press and a member of the spiritual court of Pochaev Lavra. In 1903, Archimandrite Vitaly was appointed editor of the Lavra's Pochaevskii Listok [Pochaev Newsletter] and of the official section of the Volynskie eparkhial'niye vedomosti [Volynia Diocesan Bulletin], and from 1910, he edited the journal Russkiy inok [Russian Monk].

Upon embarking on his missionary activity, Archimandrite Vitaly organized a "Publishing Brotherhood," and expanded the Pochaev's publishing work. There were 360 persons at the Lavra, and the publishing concern, at its peak, employed 150 students and master printers. Archimandrite Vitaly led by strict ascetic example and tireless labor in his missionary and educational activity. In addition, Archimandrite Vitaly became the de facto head of the ecclesiastical-patriotic organization named Soyuz Russkogo Naroda [Union of Russian People], which played a benevolent role in the political, social and economic life of the Russian people in Volynia. It was mostly ecclesiastical figures who headed the sections of the Soyuz , which ensured the Church's influence on all aspects of the life of the locals. Thanks to various economic measures, the Russian people achieved independence from exploitation by the local administration which was especially harmful during this time. A network of peoples' cooperatives and reading rooms was established, thanks to which taverns emptied significantly and alcoholism levels abated. The peasants were provided with low-interest credit. A People's Bank was established in Pochaev by the Soyuz Russkogo Naroda , where the annual turnover of capital reached 2 million rubles a year by 1915. Nowhere in Russia was social assistance so firmly and benevolently established as in Volynia, and these efforts accorded with the local civil [ zemsky ] institutions. The election of candidates to the State Duma was only possible for candidates who received Archimandrite Vitaly's prior endorsement. Parish schools grew rapidly and two-grade public schools were built. Eager, enthusiastic youths were drawn to Church work during Pochaev's services and processions of the cross. Some of them assumed monasticism, others worked at the Publishing Brotherhood, while the older ones, bound by familial responsibilities, formed local cadres of supporters, joining the Soyuz Russkogo Naroda , which numbered one and a half million members.

"He would counsel to worshipers tirelessly in the Lavra's churchyard," remembered Archbishop Anthony, "and as far as church-building was concerned, with the aim of preserving the remains of Bogdan Khmelnitsky's Cossacks massacred by the Poles (with whom the Cossacks often, and often victoriously, battled), which had been found in the local swamps, Archimandrite Vitaly erected a church, known as the 'Cossack Graves,' near Berestechka. This temple would become the large altar for an enormous, open-air church on feast days. As far as the press was concerned, where the Archimandrite both lived and worked endlessly, he was forced to evacuate it to Zdolbunovo during the second year of World War I, where it continued operations. Petliura looted it in Zdolbunovo, and what remained in Poland was seized by the Bolsheviks.

"The Revolution profoundly stunned Fr Vitaly. He left for Mogilev , wishing to serve a liturgy in the presence of the Tsar, but he was not permitted entry.

"In January 1918, during one of his trips, apparently, from Zdolbunovo to Kiev , he served in the ruined Great Lavra church, along with Holy Martyr Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev. This was the final liturgy served by the martyr, performed only a few days before his martyrdom.

"But then Archimandrite Vitaly was arrested, twice. The first time was when he was imprisoned along with Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of Kiev and Galicia and Archbishop Evlogy of Volynia in the Uniate monastery of Buchach. His second arrest was inside the walls of the church of the 'Cossack Graves.' They did not allow him to finish serving liturgy and led him to the brutal underwater casemate [dungeon] in Demblin. There he suffered interrogation and beatings. Fr Vitaly performed a liturgy there, using his own chest in place of an antimension. He partook of the Holy Gifts this way. Thank God, kind people interceded for him when he was in danger of execution. The accusations against him were absurd: he was accused of leading Ukrainian rebels. When he was finally freed, he served for a time in the diocese of Vladyka Vladimir of Belostok.

"Once again, Metropolitan Anthony came to his aid. It was impossible to stay in Poland . Thanks to the help of His Holiness the Serbian Patriarch, Metropolitan Anthony sponsored his protégé to come to Serbia . From Serbia , Fr Vitaly moved on to Czechoslovakia , to Ladomirovo, which the Russians called Vladimirovo. He first settled in a peasant hut, but gradually, a monastic brotherhood gathered around him, a monastery was formed, a print shop was set up thanks to the Lemkovo Student Committee, which gave Fr Vitaly a printing press once belonging to the Chervono-Russian League. In 1932, the Serbian Bishop Damascene consecrated the premises, and in 1933, the Russian Church Press of St Job of Pochaev was incorporated and registered with the government. 'So, after a 15-year effort,' wrote Vladyka Vitaly later, 'God helped me, and the monks and kind people assisted in restoring the historic press of St Job of Pochaev. It had been founded in 1618 and existed until 1918. And it was reestablished in 1933.'

"Concurrently with his publishing work, he performed his pastoral work in the Carpatho-Russian parishes that had returned to Orthodoxy from the 'Unia.' At first there were eight, then twenty-four such parishes. The Serbs had jurisdiction over these parishes, while the Russian Church Abroad had jurisdiction over the monastery and press.

"Archimandrite Vitaly was strict with himself and his monks, more so than he would later be in America , when he was forced to pass on some of his duties. The archpastor had a special love for Vladimirovo and this period of his life. The publication Pravoslavnaya Rus' , ecclesiastical calendars and church service books were all projects of his. An icon of St Job, shown working at the printing press among manuscripts and fonts, was sent as a blessing from Pochaev and is displayed in the print shop building. The brethren, beginning each day's work, approached this icon for his blessing before each day's work.

"That same year, 1933, when the Pochaev Press was reestablished, Archbishop Apollinary of North America and Canada , who had inherited consequences of the 'Platon schism,' passed away. Circumstances required the election of a firm archpastor to America . Until then, Archimandrite Vitaly, who was known throughout Russia, declined to accept consecration to the episcopacy first for Russia, to the Kremenets cathedra, then to the Uman cathedra, then abroad, when he was asked four times to accept appointment in America. But then Metropolitan Anthony put the question firmly to Archimandrite Vitaly: should Archimandrite Vitaly refuse consecration, the Metropolitan would refuse to be his spiritual father. After a few sleepless nights, Archimandrite Vitaly responded in the affirmative to his Abba by means of a single postcard. He was then 60 years old, of which 35 he spent as a priest, but youth and energy was still sensed in his words and epistles. Here are his words before being sent to America : 'Before my consecration to the episcopacy I made this vow to God: I will expend all my efforts towards making peace in the Church.'

"As Vladyka said, so he did. In 1934, for the sake of peace, the suspensions imposed by our archpastors on Metropolitan Platon and his vicars were removed posthumously. In 1935, the American Diocese, growing by now into a metropoliate, returned to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, where it remained for 20 years, until the Cleveland Council" (Archbishop Anthony of Western America and San Francisco: "Archbishop Vitaly of Eastern America and Jersey City," Pravoslavnaya Rus' , No 6, 1985).