Fr. Elias converted to the Orthodox Christian Faith at the age of 7, in Beijing. From 1905 to 1916 he studied at the Russian Orthodox Mission school in Beijing, and then at the Seminary there from 1916 until 1925. He was ordained a deacon in 1924, and a priest in 1925. In 1946 he became the rector of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Shanghai, and served under St. John (Maximovitch). In 1949, he fled China to Hong Kong, as the Communists took over the mainland, and in 1957 he was transferred to the Holy Virgin Cathedral in San Francisco, where he again served under St. John. He remained at this cathedral for remainder of his life.