Homage to Metropolitan Hilarion
It was with great sadness that on May 16, 2022—the day of commemoration of Venerable Theodosius, Abbot of the Kiev Caves, and the eve of the fifteenth anniversary of the reestablishment of liturgical communion within the Russian Orthodox Church—we received the news that our beloved First Hierarch Metropolitan Hilarion had reposed in the Lord.
Having known Vladyka Hilarion for many years, I was deeply moved by the eulogy delivered at his funeral by Archpriest Victor Potapov, who knew Vladyka from their days at Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville, New York, and so eloquently described the truly Christ-like character of our newly reposed archpastor.
The following is an excerpt from Fr. Victor’s eulogy, the entirety of which can be found at eadiocese.org (“For Us on Earth—a Loss, for the Heavens—a Gain”: On the Death of Metropolitan Hilarion, May 24, 2022):
“Vladyka was a missionary-minded hierarch. During his time as one of the monastic brethren at the Holy Trinity Monastery, he diligently translated our Russian spiritual literature into English, and became editor of the quarterly magazine Orthodox Life. During his administration, many English-speaking communities were formed in our Eastern American Diocese.
“Vladyka was Ukrainian by birth and Russian in spirit. He was a total human being, someone who made no distinction among people based on ethnic origin, skin color, or gender. All were precious to him, and in each person he saw first and foremost the image and likeness of God. He was convinced that every soul was equally in need of pastoral care and salvation.
“Vladyka was always attentive to the needs of others. If you asked him for some kind of written reference, he would always fulfill the request by the end of that day, or at the very latest, the next day.
“Several years ago, Vladyka was diagnosed with cancer. The faithful of the Church were quite alarmed by that circumstance. Yet Vladyka did not pay much attention to the state of his health. To the very end, he continued to visit parishes, to receive visitors, and to be involved in church matters.
“Knowing of the worsening state of his health, I would like to bring to your attention the Beatitudes that applied to him. It is no coincidence that that Gospel passage is read on days of commemoration of venerable saints, the holy monks.
“‘Blessed are the poor in spirit.’ Blessed poverty, which Vladyka possessed, represents the absolute openness of the person before God, freedom from all pride and belief in the power of one’s own spirit, one’s own ideas and opinions, freedom from the vain speculations of one’s heart. Our late Vladyka possessed that quality in abundance.
“‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.’ Meekness is the spiritual force that removes anger, malice, enmity, and condemnation from the heart and adorns the soul with a quiet disposition. To be meek means to be gentle and kind, free from all selfishness and worldly ambition, and in everything to reject the possibility of coercion and violence. And to have the firm and calm conviction that good is stronger than evil, and that sooner or later, it always wins. Was not our late Vladyka such a person?
“‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.’ The heart is the source and guardian of our spiritual life. The heart is the spiritual eye with which we contemplate what is invisible to bodily eyes and incomprehensible to the mind. The ability for spiritual contemplation depends exclusively on purity of the heart.
“In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord said: ‘The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness’ (Matt. 6:22–23). According to St. John of Kronstadt, a pure heart is ‘meek, humble, simple, trusting, not deceitful, unsuspicious, not malicious, kind, unselfish, not envious, unadulterous’ (My Life in Christ, v.1 p. 81).
“Vladyka was sincere, and with that quality, he calmed and encouraged his flock. How he disliked hearing condemnations! I witnessed how in his presence someone was ‘washing other people’s little bones’ [nitpicking, condemning others’ faults], and he felt uneasy, for words of condemnation wounded his pure heart. He listened in silence, perhaps while mentally reciting the Jesus Prayer. One could often notice that an accuser would tell Vladyka everything he wanted to, and suddenly, inexplicably, would lose interest in expressing further condemnation…
“‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.’ To be merciful means to be like unto God, for, according to Psalm 102, ‘compassionate and merciful is the Lord, long suffering and plenteous in mercy.’ Our Lord Jesus Christ speaks about the same thing in His Sermon on the Mount:
“‘…Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest; for He is kind to the unthankful and the evil. Be ye therefore merciful as your Father also is merciful’ (Luke 6:35-36).
“To be merciful means to have compassion for those gone astray and pity on those imprisoned by sin. To forgive those who do wrong, who not only harm others, but first of all destroy themselves, destroy their own human nature.
“How much mercy our late Vladyka demonstrated over the course of his 74 years of earthly life! He helped everyone, both prayerfully and financially. Quite often he gave his modest funds to the needy and hid that fact from others. How many amazing stories of his generosity could we tell!
“‘Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, [Vladyka,] for great is your reward in the Heavens!’ (Matthew 5:12).
“One could continue to consider in the same spirit other Beatitudes and how they applied to our deceased archpastor, but the above is already enough to outline his image.
“The earthly wandering of our Metropolitan Hilarion has come to its conclusion. For us here on earth, it is a loss, but for the Heavens, it is a gain. I am certain that even there, ‘where there is no sickness, no sorrow, no sighing,’ our dear Vladyka will not leave us, and will continue to prayerfully care for us and for the Church Abroad which is so dear to his heart.”
Thank you, Fr. Victor. May God grant to our beloved Lord and Father, Metropolitan Hilarion, eternal rest where all the saintly fathers of our Holy Russian Orthodox Church Abroad and all of the saints repose. Amen!