Hieromartyr Arcadius, Bishop Of Lubny

Bishop Arcadius, in the world Andrew Iosifovich Ostalsky, was born in January, 1888 in the village of Yanovets, Volhynia province (according to another source, in Zhitomir). His father was a priest who was arrested in 1919, contracted typhus and died soon after his release. His mother, Sophia Pavlovna, was a pious woman who supported Arcadius spiritually to the end of her life. There were three children in the family, two boys and a girl (who died at the age of three). They lived in Zhitomir in a small three-roomed house with a straw roof.

From his youth Arcadius had a calling to monasticism, but following the desire of his parents he married and became a priest, having finished his studies at the Volhynia theological seminary. From September 14, 1911 (according to another source, 1910) he was pastor of the church in the town of Old Konstantinovo, Volhynia province. During the war he was a regimental priest, and then, in 1917 (according to another source, 1920), he received a small church in the centre of Zhitomir. He was also superior of the yedinovertsy church of St. Nicholas in Poltava. When his wife left him and married a Bolshevik officer, Fr. Arcadius quietly gave her a divorce and moved in with his mother, but continued to pray for both his former wife and her husband.

He served every morning and evening, first in the Seraphimovskaya church, and then in the Nikolaevskaya church, which was not far from the Transfiguration cathedral. Fr. Arcadius was noted for his fiery sermons in defence of the Orthodox Faith, which attracted large numbers of the faithful. There were no conversations or moving about in the church; everyone prayed with concentration. Often everyone would fall to their knees spontaneously. Everyone would sing.

Women knew the strictness of Fr. Arcadius. They knew, for example, that he did not like them coming into the church in hats and with an important air - these he often drove out of the church. Everybody knew that, and for that reason they came to the church in scarves (including eminent ladies).

When one woman was bold enough to enter the church in a dress with short sleeves, Fr. Arcadius immediately asked:

"What - are you intending to wash the floor?"

Fr. Arcadius organized a lay brotherhood on the model of St. John of Kronstadt's house of labour. It was situated in Vilenskaya street, where there was a house church. The brotherhood carried out charitable activities and buried poor people. There were no paupers in the brotherhood - everyone was given the help they needed. Fr. Arcadius personally took a very active part in the work of the brotherhood.

Fr. Arcadius was an exceptionally kind, responsive person. His kindness was touching, and sometimes had an element of humour. Thus when he was still a married protopriest, he could give a pauper clothes from his wife's wardrobe. And that was not all he gave away.

Once in Zhitomir some people who were close to him decided to have a fur coat made for him. Fr. Arcadius put this coat on twice in all, then it suddenly disappeared. It turned out that he had given it to a poor widow with two tubercular children. He told the mother that the coat was hanging in the altar. And when they asked in the church where the coat was hanging, he replied:

"It's hanging where it should hang."

His mother, Sophia Pavlovna, used to say that there was nothing in her son's room. Once Fr. Arcadius came into his mother's room, saw a carpet on the wall and asked carefully:

"Is this our carpet?"

"It's ours, not yours," replied his mother, feeling that he wanted to give it to one of the needy.

Once Fr. Arcadius went from Zhitomir to Kiev in bast shoes. It turned out that on the way a pauper had asked him for boots, and they had exchanged footwear.

Once they sewed a beautiful cassock for Fr. Arcadius. Some drunkard asked him for it. A short time later, this drunkard was seen selling the cassock. Perhaps they bought it from the drunkard and returned it to Fr. Arcadius.

On seeing a pauper on a cold night with his trousers ripped, Arcadius would not hesitate to give him his own. And since he always wore his ryasa and cassock, he could get away with it without being detected. His mother, however, would discover his philanthropy when doing his laundry and would jokingly tell her neighbours:

"Last night Arkasha again came home without his trousers."

But after the revolution Fr. Arcadius' charitable activity aroused the violent displeasure of the new local authorities, and he was put in prison, where he remained for two years. At about the same time his father was also arrested, and it happened that father and son were sitting in neighbouring cells. But they did not realize it: they were taken out of the cells at different times.

On being released from prison, Fr. Arcadius threw himself into the work of the brotherhood. Those who wanted to join the brotherhood were solemnly received by giving their vow to carry out the aims of the brotherhood, which required, first of all, devotion to the purity of Orthodoxy - never to renounce it, even under threat of death; secondly, the wearing of modest attire; then fasting, and so on. The acceptance into the brotherhood was conducted very solemnly. Everyone had to make the necessary preparation for Confession and the reception of Holy Communion. Then everyone would remain in church, and before the reading of the Gospel they had to repeat the words spoken by Fr. Arcadius - the rules of the brotherhood - and to confirm them with a vow. We were then given large lighted candles, which we were to treasure until death. Afterwards we would receive Holy Communion.

In the St. Nicholas Brotherhood there were several groups: one was a missionary group, conducted by Fr. Arcadius himself, whose aim was to fight sectarians, atheists and the Living Church; then there was a group of singers; a group which visited hospitals, taking care of the lonely and sick and those poor people who had many children; then a burial group, whose duties were not only to bury the faithful and see that they received the Church's burial service, but also to obtain and deliver coffins to the grave; and since the times were very hard, often they had to drag the coffins on little carts or sleighs to the cemetery, and even dig the grave. Then there was also a philanthropical group. And to some of his novices in the brotherhood Fr. Arcadius entrusted the copying of the appeals of the bishops, including the letters from exile of Metropolitan Peter.

At that time Archimandrite Arcadius served not only in Zhitomir, but often also in Moscow and Kiev. In Moscow he loved to serve in the Pimenovsky church, and there he delivered his sermons. In the Kiev Nikolsky monastery, which used to stand next to what is now the Arsenalnaya metro station, he sometimes delivered four sermons a day. These sermons were out of the ordinary, and when he delivered them people in the crowd would shout:

"You're a Chrysostom".

His confessions were also unusual, lasting until two o'clock in the morning.

At this time the Church entered into battle with the renovationists. Archimandrite Arcadius completely shared the point of view of Patriarch Tikhon, but did not express his views openly. Fr. Boris, who was at that time serving in the Vvedensky monastery, asked Archimandrite Arcadius to lead the Tikhonite Church in Kiev, but Arcadius refused, saying: "I have no blessing for this. We are following church events very carefully. The apostolic canons have not been broken yet. If we declare ourselves too early, we could be thrown out of the Church."

However, at times this restraint was punctuated by active resistance to the enemies of the Church. Thus he was once called to the authorities and asked what his attitude was to those clergy who did not pray for the civil authorities during the services. On this score Archimandrite Arcadius expressed his position clearly and openly:

"You issue a decree that you are turning to God and are asking people to pray for you. But if you try to annihilate the Church, that means that we have to introduce a new petition into the litany: 'For our self-annihilation, let us pray to the Lord'."

In 1922 Patriarch Tikhon gave the order forbidding the giving of church vessels into the hands of unbelievers, especially the holy chalices which had been blessed by the grace of God. Fr. Arcadius, as a devoted son of the Church, obeyed the patriarch's instructions and would not give over the Church's valuables. And so, one day in Bright Week, immediately after the Divine Liturgy, he was arrested by the Cheka, the Secret Police. When the chekists took him, the whole mass of people moved together with the arrested Fr. Arcadius to the Cheka building. Then the chekist soldiers took rifles and yelled with hatred:

"Everyone go home or we will start shooting!"

Everyone was silent, clinging to one another and holding their breath. And then out stepped a nun by the name of Seraphima and bravely said:

"No! We will not leave until you release our Fr. Arcadius or arrest us all together with him."

Then the soldiers put down their rifles and did not push them away, and the people formed a wall which began to push into the Cheka building. But since the crowd was enormous, they began to close the doors, and thus they arrested 35 women and 17 men. They put them in the basement of the building. The choir leader was there, so instantly the dark building was filled with paschal singing. Then they took them out and pushed them into the yard near the garage, and began to conduct them, one by one, to be interrogated; and then they were pushed out into the street. They were given a statement to sign which said that Fr. Arcadius had started a riot, but not one person signed it. Then a note was added to the statement, saying that the people themselves had refused to leave their spiritual father. And this every single person signed individually, as if by mutual consent. Among those imprisoned were young girls about 16 years old, who also signed.

The news of Fr. Arcadius's arrest instantly spread through the city, and the Cheka building was besieged by an endless amount of food parcels for the arrested ones. Thus all the arrested ones, as well as the guards, were fed on these parcels.

Fr. Arcadius was put on trial both for the uprising and for resisting the requisitioning of church valuables. Many witnesses were called. They all said the same thing, speaking of Fr. Arcadius as a fine man, an unmercenary, a priest who devoted his whole life solely to the service of God and men. Many examples were brought forward of his goodness and exceptional self-sacrifice. There was no evidence against him at all. But the judge, who was very young, proud and self-assured, with cynical frankness declared that the whole description of Fr. Arcadius given by the witnesses was not a justification of him, but rather added to the accusations against him; for the ideas which he so warmly preached and put into practice contradicted the ideals of the Soviet regime, and such people were not merely unnecessary to the Soviet government, but even extremely harmful to it.

During the trial Fr. Arcadius fell asleep. They sentenced him to execution by shooting - and he was still asleep. They woke him up and told him that he had been sentenced to death. He replied:

"Thanks be to God for all things. For me death is gain, I am passing to another world!"

However, members of the brotherhood went to Moscow to petition on his behalf, and one of them succeeded in changing the course of events. His sentence was changed to ten years in prison.

For five years he was imprisoned in Zhitomir, which made his lot somewhat easier, since there was constant contact between him and the St. Nicholas Brotherhood. In prison he gained the love not only of the prisoners, but also of the jailors and guards, and thanks to this he managed several times to give Holy Communion to the condemned, who were then led out to be shot. He saved many souls. And, of course, the food given him by the brotherhood helped his fellow prisoners.

On being released from prison, Fr. Arcadius went on pilgrimage to Sarov and Diveyevo. There he met the eldress Maria Ivanovna, who prophesied:

"You will become a bishop, but you will not get out of prison."

Then, in 1925, he received the monastic tonsure with the name Arcadius in the Sarov Dormition desert, and was raised to the rank of archimandrite (according to another account, this took place after his divorce from his wife).

There exist different accounts as to how Fr. Arcadius was made a bishop and sent to Solovki. According to one account, it was Metropolitan Joseph of Petrograd who consecrated him bishop of Lubny, a vicariate of the Poltava diocese, on September 15, 1926. According to this account, he was arrested in October and exiled to Kharkov, and then, in February, 1927 - to Tuapse. In April, 1927 he was arrested again, and on May 9 - yet again in Moscow. On August 23, 1928 he was sentenced to five years in the camps by the GPU, who later extended the sentence for another five years, so that he was on Solovki until January, 1937.

According to another source, however, on the way to his new flock, having arrived in the city of Lubin, he was arrested and sent to Kazan in April, 1927, from where he managed to escape, living in hiding for a long time in Petrograd, secretly celebrating Divine services at the Kiev-Caves metochion and inspiring Catacomb brotherhoods. Then he left for Moscow, where he was arrested and thrown into the infamous Butyrki prison, being later exiled to the Solovki concentration camp.

But according to a different account, in 1926 he went to Moscow, where, on September 15/28, Metropolitan Sergius consecrated him bishop of Lubny. Bishop Arcadius knew that he would not be allowed to serve in Lubny. Nevertheless, in 1927 he decided to serve Pascha in his own diocese. He arrived secretly in Lubny and at 11.30, before the beginning of Mattins, he went into the church altar. He was wearing a coat and blue goggles. In this guise he did not, of course, look like a bishop, and it was not surprising that the deacon immediately threw out the stranger - we're waiting for the bishop, he said, but you get out. But the stranger insistently asked for the priest to be called, and when he appeared, Bishop Arcadius revealed himself to him.

Immediately the bishop vested himself and started the service. But he did not succeed in completing it before representatives of the authorities appeared in the church, and he was forced to hide.

This was his only service in the diocese he had been appointed to.

According to one witness, Bishop Arcadius did serve some paschal services that year in Zhitomir.

But soon he set off for the Caucasus, where he wandered in the mountains and talked with the hermits. But while there he came to understand the danger of his situation, and that he could be killed at any moment. And so he concealed his photograph in the lining of his boot, so that in the event of his death people would be able to learn about his fate.

After two years in the Caucasus, two weeks before Pascha in the year 1928, Bishop Arcadius unexpectedly turned up at the podvorye of the Kiev Caves Lavra in Petrograd, where the future Archbishop Leontius of Chile gave him lodging and accompanied him on trips round the city. But the position of Bishop Arcadius was complicated by the fact that according to the existing legislation an unregistered clergyman could not serve, and if the authorities found out about it they would tear up their agreement with the community where he served and transfer the building in which they prayed to another community, usually a renovationist one. But, to the amazement of all, the president of the community succeeded in obtaining permission for Bishop Arcadius, "who has come as a guest", to serve at the podvorye for the space of two weeks.

"On Paschal night," writes Archimandrite Benjamin (Voznyuk), our majestic church, which could hold about 2000 people, together with the embankment, was so full of people that Fr. Justin had to serve on the street, too, since it was impossible to squeeze oneself into the church because of the crowd. All the candelabras and candles were lit, and the whole numerous throng of clergy, vested in paschal vestments and headed by Vladyka Arcadius, went out of the altar chanting: 'Thy Resurrection, Christ our Saviour'; while, as a subdeacon standing near Vladyka, saw the tears streaming down his face. And I came to understand that there are moments in life for the sake of which one could sacrifice the rest of one's life, whatever lies ahead. And it was difficult to expect anything good ahead, but at that grace-filled hour he, as the leader of this spiritual festivity, was happy. For this moment at any rate he and the people, who were tormented as he was, could pray and glorify Christ the Life-Giver risen from the dead."

In 1928 Bishop Arcadius expressed his agreement with the decisions of the so-called "Nomadic Council" of the Catacomb Church, but refused to sign them.

In the same year he wrote a letter to a novice in Kiev in which he asked her to buy some icons for him in the Lavra. The novice set off for the book stall, where books and icons were being sold by Hieromonk Jeremiah. As if quite casually, Fr. Jeremiah asked the novice whether she knew where Bishop Arcadius was. At that very moment Bishop Arcadius was standing hiding in the book stall, and he heard this conversation between the hieromonk and the novice.

Suddenly she heard someone quietly calling her by name. Looking round, she unexpectedly saw Bishop Arcadius in front of her. At that moment he had come out of hiding.

Bishop Arcadius looked very ill. And in fact he had pleurisy. And his legs were very swollen. He had to be treated straightaway; so the novice suggested he stay in her flat, where she lived with her mother. The house was on the territory of the Lavra, which was convenient for Bishop Arcadius. So as not to constrain Vladyka, the novice left her flat to live with a friend of hers. In daytime, however, she visited the sick man, and together with her mother gave him the necessary medical treatment.

Bishop Arcadius lay for three weeks in this house; and here, thanks to the care of the two pious women, he recovered from his illnesses.

However, he decided against staying in Kiev. He knew that they were looking for him and would perhaps find him soon. And he decided to go to Moscow and ask Metropolitan Sergius to plead before the authorities that his previous convictions be expunged. Metropolitan Sergius did not advise him to present himself to the authorities, but Bishop Arcadius, not being conscious of any wrong-doing, went to E.A. Tuchkov at the Lubyanka.

Tuchkov immediately arrested (on May 9, 1928) and on August 23 he was sentenced to five years in the camps of Solovki. A group of armed soldiers conducted him to the prison car fenced with barbed wire. As the train pulled out he thrice blessed the group of women who had gathered to see him off.

Many years later, Bishop Arcadius related that they were taken out of Moscow in a livestock carriage filled to overflowing with prisoners. It was so crowded that it was even difficult to stand. Sometimes at stops the guards pulled back the bolts of the carriage and threw out those who had died.

For many years Bishop Arcadius was employed in difficult physical work digging out drainage canals on Solovki. It goes without saying that they were very badly fed. Besides, there were frequent searches to see whether they had forbidden paper or pencils on them.

His mother, Sophia Pavlovna, and the president of the St. Nicholas Brotherhood, Natalia Ivanovna Orzheskaya, went to Solovki to see him. But they were not allowed even to receive a blessing from him. Two rows of tables were placed in a large room. At one row the visitors were seated, at the other - the prisoners. Between them a whole crowd of guards were constantly walking back and forth, making such a noise that one had to scream to be heard. And, of course, they were not allowed to approach for a blessing because of the "danger of infection". Years later, Bishop Arcadius related that they proposed that he remain voluntarily at Solovki as a cashier, and that they even promised to stop spying on him - provided he renounced his priesthood. But he preferred life in total deprivation, keeping the Lord God in his heart.

Bishop Arcadius lived in a barracks with criminals. His influence on those around him was always great, and here, in the camp, he also had an influence on those next to him. Many hardened criminals, after meeting Bishop Arcadius, rethought their lives, and from wolves were turned into sheep.

Once, he decided to serve a Paschal Mattins with them (he could not serve the Liturgy - there was no antimins). During the service the criminals sang, as far as they were able helping the bishop to carry out the festive service. However, this incident was not allowed to pass without punishment for the bishop. On April 7, 1931 he was arrested, and on August 14 he was given an extra 5 years imprisonment and transferred to Pole-axe Mountain in the company of 37 Catholic priests who were also in prison.

Bishop Arcadius was released after ten years in camp, on January 26, 1937. He was an almost unrecognizable, grey-haired old man. He was forbidden to return to the Ukraine and to 15 major cities. He was also deprived of the usual Soviet identity permit, without which one's very existence becomes illegal. Finally, he was allowed to settle in the town of Klin (Tver), near Moscow (according to another source, in Kasimova, near Moscow), but under the following conditions: no one was to visit him, he was forbidden to enter the altar of the local church, and every two weeks he had to appear before the local authorities. Once he was seen by Zinaida, the daughter of the Kiev priest Sabbas Petrunevich. She wanted to come up to receive his blessing, but Bishop Arcadius made a warning gesture - he did not want to be seen talking with anyone.

And yet, in spite of these restrictions, Bishop Arcadius did go to Kiev and Zhitomir. In Kiev he stayed with Vera Vladimirovna Skachkova, a very pious woman who worked as a music teacher. She had a house in Zhitomir which was at the disposal of the brotherhood, and when Kievans went to Zhitomir on the affairs of the brotherhood they stayed there.

From Kiev Bishop Arcadius went to Zhitomir. Before his departure he asked Vera Vladimirovna to warn the novice whom he knew and her mother that he would visit them on his return. In Zhitomir he visited the graves of his father and mother, who had also died by that time. Although the last church used by the brotherhood had been closed in 1937, the members would still gather secretly in the cemetery chapel. They were served by two secret priests, Fr. Julian Krasitsky and Fr. John Sirov.

On returning to Kiev, Bishop Arcadius did not forget his promise to visit the two women who had looked after him in his illness. As the novice recalled, one winter evening he appeared in their doorway in blue goggles and with the collar of his coat turned up to hide his face. He had decided to come and congratulate her on her namesday. He sat down, ate a pie and drank some tea. That was all. He refused to drink the home-made wine:

"My heart is weak," he said, "I get drunk on kvas."

He did not stay long in Kiev, he had to return to Klin. The authorities did not notice his absence. But he could not stay in Klin and continued his wandering life.

Once, when his strength was undermined from this constant loneliness, homelessness and fear of the next day, being secretly in Moscow, he was tempted to visit Metropolitan Sergius. In order to see the metropolitan, one had to go through great difficulties and dangers. And when he finally saw him and told him about his situation, the metropolitan, without listening to him, asked abruptly:

"Have you registered with the GPU? Until you are registered there, I will not speak with you."

As Vladyka Arcadius was leaving the metropolitan's office, he noted that both the metropolitan and all his clergy were well fed and wore clean clothing. And when he looked around at the miserable, destitute people who were waiting outside his office in the hope of seeing the metropolitan and receiving some help from him, he understood that his path was different, and that he had to return to his wandering...

According to one account, in 1937 he was appointed Bishop of Bezhetsk, but refused to accept the appointment.

He was secretly tonsured into the schema with the name Anthony.

Two accounts exist of his final arrest. According to one, he was spotted in the city of Kostroma on the Volga in 1938, was arrested, and never heard of again. According to another, he had bought a ticket for a train leaving Klin. However, his intention was in some way known to the authorities, probably from his landlady. They rang the station and stopped the train. Together with the landlady they searched the train and found Bishop Arcadius in the first carriage from the locomotive.

On the same day they wanted to catch his cell-attendant, too, but he escaped through a window into the garden. Nobody knew his name, so it is unlikely that they caught him at that time.

In the same year of 1938, according to one source, Bishop Arcadius was seen walking with a knapsack on his back out of Butyrki prison. And according to another, he died in the 1940s.

However, it is now known that he was shot on December 29, 1937 in Butovo field, near Moscow.

According to one source, Bishop Arcadius took the schema with the name Anthony.

Bishop Arcadius wrote a series of works. Here are the names of three of them:

1. "On the existence of God". 2. "Is it true that scientists do not believe in God?" (In this work the opinions of 140 scientists affirming the existence of God were cited.) 3. "Is it true that religion hinders culture and the development and establishment of the life of a free people?"

He also wrote a guide for preachers and a work on church oratory.

(Sources: I.M. Andreyev, Russia's Catacomb Saints, Platina: St. Herman Monastery Press, 1982, chapter 18; "Episkop Arcadius Ostal'sky", Vestnik Russkogo Khristianskogo Dvizheniya, No. 144, I-II, 1985; Russkiye Pravoslavnye Ierarkhi, Paris: YMCA Press, 1986, p. 15; M.E. Gubonin, Akty Svyateishego Patriarkha Tikhona, Moscow: St. Tikhon Theological Institute, 1994, p. 963; "Zhizneopisaniye Arkhiepiskopa Leontiya Chilijskago", Pravoslavnaya Zhizn', N 3 (555), March, 1996; Lev Regelson, Tragediya Russkoj Tserkvi, 1917-1945, Moscow: Krutitskoye patriarsheye podvorye, 1996, pp. 566-568; Sinodik postradavshikh za vyeru i Tserkov' Khristovu v Butovo, Moscow, 1995; Bishop Ambrose (von Sievers), "Katakombnaya Tserkov': Kochuyushchij Sobor 1928 g.", Russkoye Pravoslaviye, N 3 (7), p. 7; "Episkopat Istinno-Pravoslavnoj Tserkvi 1922-1997gg.", Russkoye Pravoslaviye, N 4(8), 1997, pp. 12-13; Za Khrista Postradavshiye, Moscow: St. Tikhon's Theological Institute, 1997, p. 104; I.I. Osipova, "Skvoz' Ogn' Muchenij i Vody Slyoz", Moscow: Serebryanniye Niti, 1998, p. 269)

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