Andrew (Rymarenko) of Rockland
Archbishop Andrew (Russian: Архиепископ Андрей, secular name Adrian Adrianovich Rymarenko, Russian: Адриан Адрианович Рымаренко; 15 (27) March 1893, Romny, Poltava Governorate - July 12, 1978, Spring Valley, NY)
Adrian Rymarenko was born on March 15/28, 1893 and raised in a wealthy and pious family in the town of Romny, Poltava province. As he recollects,
I grew up in a pious family… I was surrounded by that Orthodox way of life which for generations had been created by Holy Russia. In our family, life proceeded according to the church calendar, according to the yearly church cycle. Feast days were as it were the signposts of life. At home there were constant Divine services, and not only molebens, but all-night vigils also. … When I remember those years there inevitably rises before me an unforgettable picture: early morning, it’s still dark. I have only just woken up and I see in front of the icons, half-illumined by a lampada, my mother. She prays for a long time. But a still stronger impression was made on me by the early-morning Divine services, to which our mother often took us and to which we went no matter what the weather, autumn or winter! After these Divine services one always felt a kind of extraordinary inspiration, a kind of quiet joy.”
He recalls that this way of life was not only characteristic of his family but of all society around him. Following the Revolution of 1905 all this changed. He says that peoples’ joy was now replaced with “disillusionment and desolation.” During this time he attended the St. Petersburg Polytechnical Institute and studied engineering where those all-pervading feelings of despair started to affect him. During this time he found his soul to cry out: “I cannot.” He says,
“I felt that I could not live as people around me were living. I felt that I was lacking that life, the Orthodox way of life, which had surrounded me in my childhood and youth, that lightness of heart which I felt. I had the impression that I had been deprived of the air which I had breathed.” From this moment on he started to seek out ways to revive this in his life.
This new life was given to him in the person of Archpriest John Egorov who was the leader of a student group. He spent five years under the tutelage of this Archpriest and found opened up to him the “elemental reality of the life of Christ’s Church by which Holy Russia lived.” Of this “elemental reality” which was imparted to him, he says, “I understood that the Divine services are not merely a ritual, but in them are revealed the dogmas of the faith. They are the foundations of man’s reception of Divinity. Then, the examination and study of the works of the Fathers of the Church and the Patrisitic writings revealed to me the paths of life. When I had gone through the whole course taught by Fr. John, I had literall come back to life. I sensed the elemental power of Orthodoxy, I sensed the breath of life which it gave. I understood in what this life consisted.”
After this time he went to Optina where he met the Elder, Anatoly the Younger in 1921. At this time Eugenia Grigorievna was now in his life and she had gone to Optina before him to resolve questions about their marriage and his priesthood. Fr. Anatoly blessed both of these decisions and later in the summer Adrian came to ask more questions about the same subjects.
Matushka Eugenia Rymarenko was the daughter of prominent landowners in the province of Poltava. She studied in St. Petersburg and later transferred to Moscow. She had slowly moved away from the Church but after the death of her parents and her experiences connected with the Revolution she returned to the city of Romny, in the province of Poltava. There she met her future husband who had given her several religious books and inspired her to go to Optina. In recalling her first visit to Optina Monastery, she said: “Why I went to Fr. Anatoly at that time, I do not know. I had almost no understanding of eldership. I had only read Lodyzensky’s Trilogy: Higher Consciousness, Light Invisible and Dark Forces and Sergei Nilus’ book On the Bank of God’s River. Actually I wanted to visit the elder in order to get a look at him and hear from him some prediction of the future… Instead of a prediction of the future, I experienced joyful moments of repentance, and an unusual, peaceful state of mind and submission to the will of God. I was so won over by Batyushka that later, it was enough just to think of him in order to acquire a peaceful, bright state of mind.”He describes his first meeting with the Elder thusly: “I arrived at Optina on the day of SS. Peter and Paul at 6 o’clock in the morning, and stayed at the guest-house with the wonderful Monk Theodulus. He told Fr. Eustignius, Fr. Anatolius’ cell-attendant, that I had come. Batyushka immediately sent for me and blessed me to come to him after the Liturgy. Vladyka Micah celebrated the Liturgy. The service in the church of the Entrance was triumphant, and after the service I immediately went to Batyushka. There was a whole crowd of people around Batyushka’s house. They were mainly nuns. I was immediately let through and went to the Elder… He was friendly and affectionate. In one moment I completely forgot about what I had only just seen: through his questions the whole of my life was handed over to him. The conversation was mainly about my inner life. We talked about my pastorship. Feeling my unworthiness, I asked the Elder to forbid me to think of the priesthood, to which he, just like Elder Nectarius later, said to me: ‘Accept the priesthood without fail, otherwise you will suffer.’ When Batyushka asked me about my life, he suddenly said to me: ‘Go to the holy things in the holy corner.’ There he began to read the prayers of confession, and I thought that I would do confession, but Batyushka summarized everything that I had said, I confirmed my sinfulness, and he read the prayer of absolution. This was for me an unexpected prayer, I felt that I was reborn.”In 1921, Fr. Adrian began his pastoral duties in his native Romny at the Church of Alexander Nevsky. One of his parishioners describes this time of being surrounded by social unrest and the closing of churches. He says that Fr. Adrian served with feeling and that his sermons ignited the hearts of their listeners. Even though churches and monasteries were being closed this church was being filled with people. In no other church was there found such a spiritual life and devotion.In 1926 the church in Romney was closed and Fr. Adrian was sent to Kiev where he was “under surveillance.” He says that at the beginning of this time there was very difficult but then he became close to a group of “pastor-ascetics” whom he described as his instructors and friends. In them he found the same preservation of that which he had longed for from back in his childhood. “All of them gave up their lives for what was already in my heart.” And they literally did. “With these clergy there went to prison, exile and death thousands of their flocks, who wanted to live in God and with God. On my shoulders lay the heavy responsibility of continuing the work of the martyred ascetics…”After the repose of Elder Anatoly of Optina Matushka Eugenia and Fr. Adrian became the spiritual daughter of Elder Nektary of Optina. They came often to visit and stay for weeks with the Elder. The Elder would often tell Matushka, “[Fr. Adrian] is full of Orthodoxy… I rejoice that [Fr. Adrian] is fully Orthodox,” and often spoke of him “with such affection.” Matushka had more time to stay due to Fr. Adrian’s responsibilities in the parish. She would often read to the Elder as well as write correspondence for him and copy various passages from books.
During his time in Kiev, Fr Adrian says that God had mercy on him and spared him from prison but this was only at the present time. In 1929 he was imprisoned for a short term then released and continued his priestly duties, though much more cautiously due to being closely monitored by the government.
As the Revolution in Russia progressed and Optina was slowly being liquidated Fr. Nektary was evicted from the monastery and came to live in a home in the village of Holmische in Briansky Province with a widower and his two boys. Here Matushka and Fr. Adrian would visit often until the Elder’s repose. For this Matushka would not be there but the Elder told her that Fr. Adrian would be and he was. Fr. Adrian left at two o’clock in the morning and, after much difficulty, arrived at four in the afternoon on April 29, 1928 on the day of the Elder’s repose. After his arrival, Fr. Adrian was present to read the Psalter for the Elder while he lay on his bed. As others were helping in assisting to turn the Elder in his bed icons of the Great-martyr Panteleimon and Saint Seraphim were brought from the reception room. One young lady said to the Elder, “Batyushka, bless Father Adrian with this.” With difficulty Batyushka reached out his hand, took the icon and put it on Father Adrian’s head. Then Father Adrian asked Batyushka to bless his whole family with the icon of Saint Seraphim. Shortly thereafter the Elder became unconscious. In her recollections of Elder Nektary, Matushka Eugenia says that when the Elder’s condition changed, “Father Adrian saw that Batiuhka indeed was dying. He read the Canon for the Departure of the Soul; Batyushka was still alive. Falling on his knees, Father Adrian pressed himself to him, to his back under his mantle. Batyushka was still breathing for a little while, but his breaths became fewer and fewer. Seeing that Batyushka was dying, Father Adrian rose from his knees and covered him with the epitrachalion. After a few minutes Batyushka passed away. It was 8:30 on the evening of April 29, 1928.”
While serving the flock in Kiev the Soviets were soon to invade and Fr. Adrian and those who were close to him fled to Germany where he was made Rector of the Resurrection Cathedral in Berlin. Here they faced constant bombings but nonetheless the Divine services were held every day in the cathedral. From here the small group was evacuated to the south of Germany in Würtemberg. Here, as in Berlin, a small group of people would gather, under Fr. Adrian’s guidance and a church was built and they immediately began to perform the Divine services, in each place building the Orthodox way of life which was surrounded by the confusion of a foreign land. About these communities that would grow up in Kiev, in Berlin and now in Würtemberg Fr. Adrian says, “Many at first looked on us as naïve people who did not live in accordance with the times. But we lived, we lived in God. Little by little attitudes towards us changed. Pilgrimages began. People who had come to the depths of despair acquired amongst us peace of soul and a quiet joy, and went away enlightened and in peace.”
The next move was now to be to America. In 1949, Fr Adrian came with a small group of Russia immigrants and settled one hour north of New York City in Nayack in Rockland County. In the Fall of the same year, Archbishop Vitaly of Jordanville and Archbishop Nikon asked that Fr. Adrian establish a women’s monastery to gather together nuns that had been scattered throughout the Diaspora and to establish the Orthodox way of life in this remote area. Fr. Adrian says that not only nuns but a significant number of the thousand displaced persons from Europe, came to settle around the monastery and became a large Orthodox family.