Church People Clergy and Monastics Deacon Andrei Psarev

New Hiero-Confessor Varsonofii (Yurchenko)

Like One of the Ancient Fathers

The relics of New Hiero-Confessor Varsonofii (Yurchenko) were translated on this day in 2007.

Archimandrite Nektarii (Chernobylʹ) was a direct link between the ROCOR and the Catacomb Church in Russia. He passed away in 2000 in the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem. Archimandrite Varsonofii Yurchenko was Fr. Nektarii’s spiritual father. Fr. Nektarii was born in 1905 in Oleksandriya in Kherson Province of the Russian Empire. Fr. Varsonofii was born in 1880 into a peasant family in the same province. He was tonsured a monk in the Kiev Caves Lavra. He was a person of unshakable faith. Fr. Varsonofii told Fr. Nektarii that he was arrested in 1918 and expected to be placed before a firing squad. When monks delivered the ransom requested by the Bolsheviks, Fr. Varsonofii felt sad as he had wished to be united with the Lord. He fought against Renovationist schismatics in Ukraine. Fr. Varsonofii did not recognize the so-called declaration of loyalty to the authorities of the USSR issued by Metropolitan Sergii (Stragorodskii) on July 29, 1927. He joined Metropolitan St. Joseph of Petrograd, who ceased ecclesial communion with Metropolitan Sergii. Fr. Nektarii recalled Varsonofii’s pastoral style as follows: “Fr. Varsonofii treated his spiritual children with great tenderness and condescension, but if necessary, he could impose strict penances and could excommunicate them for a whole year. And when it came to fulfilling Orthodox canons, he was unshakable.” Seemingly, Fr. Nektarii also adopted this style.

Fr. Varsonofii was interned multiple times in a GULAG camp in Magadan Region. Fr. Nektarii was relieved to meet Fr. Varsonofii during his incarceration:

“I know Father Varsonofii (Yurchenko) prayed regularly while in prison. During my first imprisonment in Oleksandriya, when Fr. Varsonofii was confined in the same prison, albeit in a different cell, while walking around the prison yard, I saw Father Varsonofii many times standing at the window of his cell in prayer. Despite the noise, obscene language, and heavy tobacco smoke, he prayed for hours as if not noticing anything outside.”

Fr. Varsonofii endured several months of long and difficult travel in prison cars at 40 degrees below zero before he arrived at his place of imprisonment. In Kamchatka he became very ill; his condition was such that he was considered dead and his body was thrown away. The next morning, he was found sitting among the corpses. Fr. Varsonofii spoke about this incident: “When I woke up, I felt warm. The light illuminated the night sky – Christ Himself appeared, Who extended his hand to him and said: ‘Be of good cheer, I still need you on earth to preach the Gospel.’”

In 1942, Fr. Varsonofii was released from prison. He passed away in 1954. In 1945, Fr. Varsonofii, along with some other confessors of the faith, recognized Patriarch Alexis I, elected at the Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church. This information reached Fr. Nekatrii, but he was unsure whether the same “Fr. Varsonofii who left for the Moscow Patriarchate” was his spiritual father. Otherwise, Fr. Varsonofii would not have been glorified by the ROCOR in 1981 as a venerable martyr in the synaxis of the new martyrs of Russia. In 2008, he was canonized as a venerable confessor by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

 

Sources:

Pravolsavnoe tserkovnoe soprotivlenie v SSSR: Biograficheskii spravochnik (1927-1988) [Orthodox Church Resistance in the USSR: Biographical Reference] M.V.Shkarovskii, D.P.Anashkin, (Moscow: Rospan, 2013).

Varsonofii (Iurchenko). Drevo: Open Orthodox Encyclopedia.

Archimandrit Nekatrii (Chernobyl’), Vospominania. Orthodox Donbass.

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