Archpriest Evgenii Sapronov reposed in the Lord at 11:20 a.m. on Saturday, May 19, 2012. He was 64. Father Evgenii had been gravely ill for a long time and underwent a serious operation. Many hundreds of Orthodox fathers, brothers, and sisters throughout the entire world had been praying that the Lord would grant healing to our favorite instructor and spiritual father. Glory to God for everything, especially for the time that was given us to turn to him and to be nourished by his wonderful spiritual bread. It is difficult to think and write in the past tense as we grieve and place our trust in our all-merciful Lord Jesus Christ.
His widow, Matushka Evgenia, remains in Brussels, along with their four sons, Ivan, Adrian, Timofei, and Gavriil, while his gravely ill mother is in Petersburg.
Father Evgenii was born in St. Petersburg, where he met Evgeniia, his future matushka, a daughter of a French military diplomat who was working in the USSR at the time. Once they were married, the young newlyweds moved from St. Petersburg, first to France and then to Germany. For three years Fr. Evgenii served at the Monastery of St. Job of Pochaev in Munich, having been ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany. Fr. Evgenii’s twenty-fifth anniversary serving in the priesthood came during Holy Week, on Holy Thursday, May 12, 2012,
We became acquainted with Fr. Evgenii back in 1992, when he was serving at the parish of the Protection of the Holy Mother of God in Berlin. I can state with absolute certainty that he had tremendous influence upon us unchurched people. He showed us another world of Orthodoxy which was very different from the one we had known and seen before that. First of all, there was the absolute love, patience, and humility in his dealings with us. I remember well the time when we were absent from a Saturday evening service, and on that same evening Fr. Evgenii phoned us and asked gently if everything was all right with us, since he was worried that we were not in church. We became ashamed that we forced him to worry and that he was obliged to go to the public telephone and make a call to us, foolish ones. After this happened, we would simply run to services at our small prayer-filled church that is so precious to us. I remember how he would make the most of the cramped space in the very small house church kitchen, which was totally unsuited to living accommodations. I remember our Thursdays, when we would have tea after a moleben and would not run out of things to talk about. Questions were asked that were sometimes silly and amusing. Fr. Evgenii had extensive education in theology and the humanities and could spend hours speaking about the history of Christianity and the Church, narrating the lives of the saints for us, and discussing church art and music. In the same way he could discuss literature, architecture, general history, and classical music. It would be hard to find a branch of humanities or arts which Fr. Evgenii could not discuss in depth and almost professionally with someone. I can provide one example — one of our parishioners is a famous opera singer, and I can recall Father analyzing with him from memory the part and role of the principal character in a certain little-known opera.
His self-education never ceased. Literally before our departure for the funeral in Brussels we met a parishioner of another Berlin parish who is involved in book distribution. She recounted that in the early nineties Fr. Evgenii was about the only priest who ordered and acquired books. He encouraged us as well to engage in serious reading with gentleness and love, and in our discussions he would often ask what books we were currently reading, giving us advice.
We, parishioners of the Protection Parish, still feel that in those very years our dear Batiushka gave us so much love and kindness that we are living with it to this day. A deep faith, sincere repentance, connected with worldly wisdom and genuine simplicity, the same kind of which St. Ambrose of Optina said, “Where there is simplicity there are a hundred angels,” always distinguished our Batiushka. Two priests have developed through Father Evgenii’s prayers and efforts from among our parishioners of those days. They are Fr. Andrei Trufanov, who died of a heart attack in the night on Bright Monday morning in Bari at the age of 44 and Fr. Andrei Zaitsev, a priest from Wiesbaden who took part in the funeral of his spiritual father and instructor. From among Father Evgenii’s spiritual children of that time, who literally fought each other for the privilege of serving under him, one became a reader. I believe that had Father Evgenii been with us this list would have been more extensive.
After Berlin Father bore his obedience at many parishes in Germany and France. His last assignment was at the Memorial Church of Righteous Job the Long-Suffering in Brussels, and the Lord gave rest to our patient and uncomplaining Batiushka on the day of his commemoration. For those who are unaware of it, I will mention that St. John of Shanghai was the first rector of the Brussels Memorial Church.
The funeral and burial took place on May 23. We arrived in Brussels from Berlin at 8:15 and went straight to the church. From Monday, May 23 the casket with the body had been in the church since Monday, May 21. In accordance with Orthodox tradition Batiushka’s face was covered with a church cloth. A cross and gospel book lay on his chest. I was amazed by Father Evgenii’s hands, since they were so soft. Liturgy was served by the ruling hierarch, Archbishop Michael of Geneva and Western Europe. Archbishop Simon of Brussels and Belgium prayed in the altar. Hierarchs of the Constantinople Patriarchate came for the funeral. An entire assembly of priests concelebrated with Vladyka Michael. The wonderful parish choir sang with great feeling. The liturgy was followed by a funeral service for a priest. Many clergymen and parishioners were weeping. Archbishop Michael read the Prayer of Absolution and placed the scroll containing it into Batiushka’s hands. He conducted the final preparations for burial with exceptional concern and love. The casket was carried to the hearse as the bells tolled in the solemn manner intended for funerals. Archbishop Michael, fully vested, accompanied our dear Batiushka in the same vehicle to the cemetery, where the burial was held. The cemetery is very near to the church. On behalf of the family Matushka invited everyone present to the memorial meal, which was well attended. The conversations were about Father Evgenii. People we had not known before told us that they had all been his parishioners at various times in various places. They had now come to Brussels from various places in Europe to the funeral of the ever-memorable Archpriest Evgenii.
A builder has gone to our Lord, but his spiritual activity and his memory will remain with us till the end of the age.
There is God’s providence for everything. Such is the start of Father Evgenii’s priestly service as well as its conclusion, linked with the name of Venerable Job, to whom our Batiushka became likened in the feat of long-suffering and faith. Father Evgenii served his last liturgy on the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman. The services of that day recall our Lord Jesus Christ’s conversation with the Samaritan woman. The Sunday Gospel reading tells how our Lord Jesus Christ transformed people’s souls through his wise discourse, restored the spiritually fallen who had gone astray from the true straight path. Thus, the Samaritan woman, “having come to know the goodness of the Lord,” who had given her the water of life, and “having partaken in abundance of the water of God’s wisdom,” inherited the Kingdom of God and became “ever glorious.” Batiushka was placed into the casket in the priestly vestments that had been prepared by the sisters of the Mount of Olives Ascension Monastery in Jerusalem. The circle was complete.
“On that day the angels will place thy throne, o Judge, and thou shalt shine in the glory of thy Father, bearing recompense to every person. Oh, gaze mercifully then upon thy humble servant, Archpriest Evgenii, saying to him, ‘Come to my right side.’” (Akathist for a single decedent)
With the saints, give rest, o Lord, to the archpriest who has fallen asleep, our beloved and unforgettable Batiushka, Father Evgenii.