Fr. Eli of Optina Visits Jordanville
Schema-Igumen Eli, the spiritual father of the renowned monastery of Optina Pustyn, visited Jordanville during the third week of September 2005. Fr. Eli, who was raised within the culture of militant atheism in the Soviet Union, came to faith in Christ as a young boy by the discovery and study of the Lord’s Prayer. He later studied at the Moscow Theological Seminary and Academy before entering the Pskov-Pechersk Monastery, one of the few monasteries that enjoyed a largely uninterrupted existence under communism, serving as a refuge for numerous monastic elders who had been expelled from other monasteries, most notably Valaam Monastery, in the upheaval that followed the Russian Revolution. Fr. Eli was later transferred to St. Panteleimon’s Monastery on Mount Athos, where he lived until he was called back to Russia in 1988 to serve as the spiritual father of the newly reopened Optina Monastery, an obedience that he has maintained since.
Students and monastics gathered for an informal talk with Fr. Eli on Thursday, September 15. Fr. Eli began by stressing his long-standing spiritual ties with the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad in general and Holy Trinity Monastery and Seminary in particular, noting that for many years the majority of the spiritual literature he read had been printed in Jordanville. Fr. Eli reminded the seminarians that Christ was (and is) a Teacher, and all who desire to follow Him must become His disciples, His students, which requires study and learning. The highest level of theological knowledge, he continued, comes from prayer, making the adjacent presence of Holy Trinity Monastery an essential spiritual complement to formal study in the Seminary. Fr. Eli spoke of the struggle for existence during the communist period, the present state of Optina Pustyn and religious life in Russia in general, and much else before taking questions from the audience on a variety of topics.
Schema-Igumen Eli was accompanied by his spiritual daughter, Nun Agrippina, an award-winning producer of Orthodox television programming for the Kaluga National Television and Radio Company. Mother Agrippina recently completed a series of video programs entitled “We Have Come to the Setting of the Sun” that document the presence of Orthodox Christianity in North America, including programs on Holy Trinity Monastery and Seminary, one of which she invited the audience to view. (These videos are available for purchase on VHS format from the Holy Trinity Monastery bookstore.)
Holy Trinity Seminary would like to express its gratitude to Fr. Eli and Mother Agrippina for their visit and for agreeing to speak to our students.