№20 (183) April, 2004

ST. SERAPHIM OF SAROV'S LOT IN NORTH AMERICA

Inok Vsevolod (Filipiev)


Bishop Andrew (Rumarenko)

The founder and builder of the Russian monastery of New Divey near New York was a well-know pastor and subsequently the bishop Andrew (Rumarenko), who in his own time did confess before his death the elder Nectarius of Optina. Father Andrew attracted and united a multitude of Russian immigrants with his example of sacrificial servitude, and created in the foothills of the "stone cliffs" of New York a spiritual oasis of prayer and monastic labor.

There is a large Orthodox cemetery near New Divey, housing a church in honor of the Dormition of the Holy Mother of God and a temple of St. Seraphim. The temple's external appearance was originally simple and humble, but gradually it was built up and was decorated more. The temple is bright, spacious and cozy. Its main treasures include the Vladimir Mother of God likeness from the Optina desert (a gift of the last elders of Optina to the town of Kiev) and a cross from the Ipatevskiy house in Yekaterinburg, where the holy family of the last Russian tsar was killed.

The temple was painted for the 200th anniversary of St. Seraphim of Sarov's birthday by the artist N.A. Papkov, by whose drawings and sketches the iconostasis, vestibule and chandeliers were built. The painting of the temple is joyous and bright - it is a genuine work of art, uplifting the spirit. In the vestibule are likenesses of St. Seraphim of Sarov, to whom the temple is dedicated. Here Fr. Seraphim prays for wandering Russian people. On another icon, it is as if the saint is coming to bid farewell to the people.


Inside the church of St. Seraphim of Sarov in New Divey

In the church of the Dormition of the Holy Mother of God is located one of the great relics of Divey - a likeness-portrait of the holy Seraphim, written during the life of this holy man of God. St. Seraphim is depicted in full height in his later years; He is leaning on his cane with his right hand, and in his left hand, lowered downwards, he holds prayer-beads. The wondrous image of Fr. Seraphim has remained completely unharmed by time. On the pale, feat-wracked face of the saint, the eyes are especially remarkable. Your entire soul is an open book before this piercing gaze, and you feel that the elder Seraphim sees all your actions, your entire past and future, and you are involuntarily overcome by a sense of reverential awe, but the love and blessings that radiate from the whole body of the holy elder calm and pacify you.

In the days of the Orthodox saint Seraphim's glorification, the Governor-martyr Nicholas II and the entire royal family prayed before this very likeness. In the time of the persecution of the inhabitants of Divey by the Bolsheviks, this image was transported to Kiev, where it was located in the church of St. Nicholas on the waterfront, and in 1943 the likeness was moved to the Protection of the Holy Theotokos Temple in Podol, open before the Germans. After the German retreat from Kiev the image was taken out by a single Russian Orthodox person to Lodz, and was then given over by him to the Russian cathedral in Berlin, where the head priest was Fr. Adrian Rumarenko (subsequently bishop Andrew).

During the time of this relic's arrival into the cathedral a miracle happened. An incendiary bomb, having broken through the cupola of the cathedral, fell somewhere in its left reaches. At the time a shroud was standing there, and on it was the image of the Saint, and they were both engulfed in flames; however neither the shroud nor the likeness suffered one bit from the flames, although everything around them burned up. The night passed. The morning service began, but burning smell did not pass, but conversely became ever stronger. Everyone started looking around once more, and there on the attic of the cathedral they discovered a second, smoldering incendiary bomb which began to burn as soon as they touched it. In this way, the fire smoldered for 12 hours, but did not die down. From this moment the cathedral did not ever suffer again, although everything around them was rubble.

When the great multitude of Russians, through God's ineffable design, streamed into the U.S. after World War II, with them came the relic of Divey - the likeness of the saint, and likewise other great relics: a piece of the relics of the holy Seraphim and a small piece of his mantle.


The sacred icon of New Divey - portrait of St. Seraphim,
painted during his life


The brief history of New Divey is such.

The dwelling place was founded in the small town of Nyack, about an hour's drive from New York City.

Soon, through the help of some kind people, a farmstead was rented for $200 per month, and this is where the cloister moved to from the original, wholly inadequate location.

But for the proper organization of monastic life it is necessary to have a permanent building. The acathist was served daily in front of the Wonder-Working Image of the Mother of God of Optina - and a miracle occurred. Completely unexpectedly, there was discovered the estate of an old Catholic women's monastery in the neighboring town of Spring Valley, which had been vacant for several years already. It also came to light that the Catholics were ready to sell the entire estate for a minimal sum - $30,000, but only on the condition that the buyers not create anything in the converted estate that would violate the sanctity of the former monastery. The Orthodox women's abode fully met the requests of the Catholics.

But a new question arose: where to get the $30,000? And a new blessing from God came! K.H. Maliev, having already previously given the start-up dwelling-place $5,000 from his own retirement savings, gave away every last remaining penny of his savings as a gift to the abode - all told, about $15,000. And the second half of the sum was borrowed from the bank, and the purchase was made. The abode was established on its own soil.

If we examine the dwelling's path from a rented building to a well-designed, beautiful monastery sanctified with prayer, the mercy of God is obvious. The most important contribution of the New Divey home is the fact that now Orthodox New York has its own Russian Orthodox cemetery.

In the temple there are some historic relics: two images of the Savior which used to belong to the holy governor-emperor Nicholas II, they resided with the royal family in Tobolsk and Yekaterinburg. One is made of wrought silver, in the form of a large medallion, and contains a likeness of the Savior writ in antiquity. This family relic always accompanied the emperor and hung at his headboard. The second image of Christ Not Made By Human Hands, is written on a board. Both of these icons were given over to New Divey abode by the great princess Xenia Alexandrova, the emperor's sister, and a constant patron of the New Divey home.

The builder and confessor of the monastery, the bishop Andrew (Rumarenko), passed away on the feast of the holy apostle Peter and Paul in 1978 and was buried in New Divey. His memory is piously revered throughout the entire Russian church abroad.

During Fr. Andrew's time, the number of sisters at the monastery reached 50, among who were many nuns who found themselves in the West at the time of World War II. However, regrettably, the number of sisters decreased significantly and today is merely ten. The mother superior of the monastery - a wise nun, the Reverend Mother Irene, who began her monastic path in her youth still in Russian China. She personally knew the prelate John (Maximovich) and often remembers his prelatic sermons.

New Divey is under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia, and the Hierarch of this part of the Russian church, the Metropolitan Laurus, loves to have services in this holy enclave of Fr. Seraphim of Sarov.

Jordanville, 2003

(Compiled on the basis of the collection "Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, 1918-1968", Volume 1, edited by A.A. Sologuba, New York, 1968)

  



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