Monday, February 2, 2015

Repose of Fr Vasily Demchenko

Metropolitan Agafangel speaks about Protopriest Vasily Demchenko, rector and builder of the church of the Protection in Malin, Ukraine, who reposed on the feast of Theophany, 6/19.1.2015

If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
John 15:19
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution
2 Tim 3:12

Fr Vasily was exceptionally honest in his desire to serve God. He dedicated his entire life to God. He did not have a family. He devoted all his time to the church. He slept next to the church in order to guard the building materials, which could be stolen. He had no house - the building he slept in was more like a makeshift wooden shed than a house, not heated at all. When it rained, he would put out nine basins in his room. Because of such living conditions, he was often ill. The last time he stayed with parishioners due to illness (just before Christmas), someone came and set fire to his makeshift home….

o_demchenko_.jpgFr Vasily came to our Church by reading about the ROCA and the Catacomb Church. He distributed materials among the people, copying them manually. Of course, he was not the most educated of people, but one might say that perhaps the Church of Christ is kept alive by just this kind of person. For example, the person who was trying to takeover the church building in Malin, proudly announced “I am 33 years old and I have 3 houses already – yet you, Fr Vasily, who are old, do not even own one!” These kind of people, who call themselves priests, do not understand that their semblance of material solidity is nothing. They actually believed that it was necessary to take the church from “such an idiot”, who was building the church with his own hands. [Editors’s note: The attempt of the Moscow Patriarchate to take over the Malin Holy Protection Church has lasted 12 years.]

Fr Vasily did not leave any possessions when he left this world. It is difficult to think of a priest more unacquisitive than him! Perhaps he did have a jacket or something similar - but even that burnt in the fire! There were no savings, no money. He immediately spent whatever came to him on the Church. He made icons to sell, and all the funds went to the church. He did not spend anything on his own health – his kidneys were completely ruined. In essence, the stress of persecution over the last few years ruined his health. And who persecuted him – priests! They killed him – and then went to serve the Holy Liturgy…

malin-2.jpgWe know that our Lord, the Son of man hath not where to lay his head(Matthew 8:20). Truly, self-sacrifice is what can conquer the world -not some kind of material power. There is a long history to these kinds of problems – it is deeper than simple attachment to material goods. Indeed, in Soviet times, the policy was to appoint the most debauched people to positions of importance. This is well known, and is the second part of sergianism. The first part is servitude before worldly powers. While faithful of little faith cower before power, the government does not help at all….Instead, they intentionally plant sinfulness in the Church, in order to destroy it from within, destroying the priesthood and episcopacy by appointing the most sinful people - drunkards, unchaste ones, debaucherers, avaricious and cruel people. The idea was to have the simple people look at such clergy, and then reject Christ because of their behaviour. All these are elements of how the atheists fight the Church.

Today, it is no longer the state which promotes this order of affairs in the Church. Rather, it is the people within this strange “church corporation”. It is impossible for them to accept an honest person – either he has to become “like everyone”, or leave. All who have had to deal with church questions understand what I am describing. This is terrible. There is no more hope of fixing the system.

Therefore, a person has to run from it, in the same way as Lot ran from Sodom, in order to seek his “Sigor”, that is, a place where he can save himself. In this same way, honest priests run from the MP. They find no other solution. If they stay, it is like being crammed in a small room with many smokers, while hoping to escape the noxious fumes. Wherever the person goes, he will smell like smoke….

However, leaving means obligatory persecutions and sufferings.

We can only hope in a miracle of God. Earlier, I sometimes tried to encourage people to come to our church. Now I do not do this anymore. This is because we cannot offer these people anything. Coming to our Church means accepting persecution, slander from every direction. There is nothing we can offer anyone - except for the CROSS! A person has to be free, and decide himself.

If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. (Matthew 16:24)

malin-3.jpgAll say about our Church that we are poor and small. Indeed, it is our lot in this world to be in the minority. It is futile to think about our Church as growing large. This is because people think that they do not need salvation, God, or the Church. They have become like salt without flavour:

Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned? (Luke 14:34)

For such people, it is enough to watch football, eat, drink, sleep….spiritual questions do not concern them. In fact, in the mainstream media, spiritual concerns are misrepresented as madness.

I do not say that we are good, and others are bad. However, we must understand the time we live in. In the last 15-20 years, we see the words of our Saviour coming true:

He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth
(Luke 11:23)

Every place and country has been changed….there are no more righteous people…Now, one more righteous man has died. There is one less man praying to God. Nevertheless, Fr Vasily’s memory is joyous.

We do not know what will happen in the future for the church building in Malin, Ukraine. The parishioners, mostly old women, all trusted Fr Vasily. They saw his dedication to the Church, and followed him.

for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered
( Mark 14:27)

Anything can happen. Of course we will do what we can to keep this parish of our Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. However, we can only have hope in God. We are powerless before the powerful of this world – there are no more laws or honourable words. Now, there is only chaos….so we can only hope in God. This is our most reliable weapon against the world – let us have hope in Him, keep to Him, pray to Him. May it come true with us also, that we remain faithful to Him to our last breath!


Metropolitan Agafangel
First Hierarch of the Russian
Orthodox Church Abroad

Bishop John of Melbourne
Vicar bishop of Australia

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