Centenary of the Archdiocese of Orthodox Churches of Russian Tradition in Western Europe

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Archpriest Sergius Tchetverikov

Father Serge (Tchetverikoff)

The ACER Church had been consecrated, as ACER members wished, to the Presentation of the Most Holy Mother of God in the Temple. Father Serge Tchetverikov has been appointed rector of this new church and chaplain of the Movement, to the delight of ACER leaders.

Father Serge Tchetverikov considered that the ten years of service which he had assumed in the Church of the Presentation of the Most Holy Mother of God in the Temple had been the best years of his priesthood. This service was closely linked to his pastoral activity as spiritual director of ACER. Father Serge was already 61 when he was called to settle in Paris. He had acquired a great pastoral experience in Russia. As soon as he finished his studies at the Moscow Theological Academy, he was ordained a priest in 1896 and became a teacher of catechism, first in a model school of the diocesan educational institution for girls, then in Saratov high school and finally the Pierre I Cadet Corps of Poltava where he served from 1907 to 1919. In 1911, Father Serge became president of the association of catechism teachers, so it is not surprising that in 1917 , he was offered to become vice-president of the All-Russian Congress of Clerics and Laity held in Moscow.

Father Serge's activity in Paris was essentially devoted to his pastoral activities and as a spiritual father of parishioners and members of ACER. He participated in all the congresses that the Movement was then organizing in different cities in Europe; he visited the circles of Paris, London, Riga, Revel (now Tallinn), Youriev (Tartu), Petchora, Prague, Bratislava, Brno, Sophia and many other cities, while maintaining a correspondence with all those he had met during the congresses.

Father Serge was totally involved in the life of the Movement: he warmly encouraged the organization of youth camps, in particular the very first camp which had been organized in Brittany by Sophie Chidlovsky and of which he had been chaplain. Experienced archpriest and spiritual father of the camp, Father Serge participated in the daily life of the children in all its details and knew how to instill a love of prayer, calling on the participants to indulge in it without any constraint. He was helped in this same camp by Dimitri Klépinine, who was ordained priest in 1937 and replaced, with Father Lev Liperovsky, Father Serge when he went to the monastery of Valaam.

Father Serge's theological publications dealt primarily with themes from the Old and New Testaments. He also wrote about the Church, dealing with faith, the life of saints, monastic life, the Symbol of faith, liturgical life. The "ACER Messenger" has published over thirty of his articles over several years. Currently his writings are in great demand; some articles are republished in Russia and / or can be accessed freely on the Internet.

Father Serge often went to the monastery of Optina Poustyn. Over time he had become a specialist in Russian monasticism and spiritual direction (startchestvo), a specialist in Paisi Velichkovsky who was one of the founders of the startchestvo. His first book "The Starets and Spiritual Guide Ambroise d'Optino" had been published in Moscow in 1912. In 1926, he had published in Paris a second book "Le Monastery d'Optina Poustyn '", followed in 1938 by "Païssi Velitchkovsky, a starets of Moldavia ”, which was reissued in Paris in 1976. From July 2, 1937 to June 1, 1938, Father Serge had stayed in Valaam, where he was working on the writing of the book on Paisi Velichkovsky. The calm inherent in monastic life favored this work. Father Serge became more and more absorbed in this life. In 1939 he had returned to Valaam but could not return to France because of the war. In 1940 he left with all the monks to a remote part of Finland where the monastery of Novo-Valaam was founded. At the end of his life, he became a monk and received the great habit.

Archpriest Serge Tchetverikov was rector of the Church of the Presentation from 1928 to 1936 when the church was located at 10, boulevard du Montparnasse, then from 1936 to 1937 in the new building at 91, rue Olivier-de-Serres .

The new church could have been installed thanks to the work of many members of ACER and in particular of Theodosius Gueorguievich Spassky who taught theology and liturgical practice at the Saint Sergius Theological Institute. Theodosius has long been a reader, cantor and choirmaster of the church. In Father Serge's time, the parish was distinguished by an intense life of prayer. Liturgical prayer is of infinite richness. The liturgy, like the other offices, was then daily. Many priests came to celebrate with Father Serge - some because a close bond united the parish with ACER and its chaplain, others because they did not have a regular parish in which to officiate, many took advantage of the opportunity to learn from an experienced priest. There emanated from Father Serge an astonishing calm, a great reserve. Everyone was struck by his deep gaze, by the attention he paid to everyone. During divine services, he was so focused that nothing bothered him, neither the cold, nor the heat, nor the cries of children in the yard, nor anything else. He had a vital need for these services, which took place in all simplicity and serenity. Théodose Gueorguievitch Spassky contributed with all his might by reading and singing in deep and full harmony with the celebration.

Father Serge rarely preached; most often he assigned it to a concelebrant, but when he preached himself, his sermon was devoted to spiritual themes, reconciling severity and kindness, fidelity to the rule and freedom. He was called "starets" and even "the starets of starets" to use the expression of Father Dimitri Klépinine. Father Serge always had many young servants; some of them, such as brothers Alexandre and André Schmemann, later became prominent figures in the church.

Father Serge welcomed without difficulty the priests without a parish sent to him by Metropolitan Euloge. This is how Hieromonk Method and Father Georges Florovsky came to celebrate, sometimes Father Boris Stark, Father Lev Liperovsky and, from 1937, Father Dimitri Klepinin. It was not uncommon to see Father Serge serving as a servant himself. These friendly concelebrations were all the more necessary as Father Serge was often absent to visit the locals of ACER and participate in the congresses, which took place mainly in the Baltic countries.

When Father Serge left for Valaam, he wrote from there to Vassili Vassilievich Zenkovsky and Andre Vadimovich Morozoff. Eight of these letters, which have come down to us, bear witness to a continuing concern for the life of the church and of ACER. The extracts from these letters give us an idea of ​​Father Serge's concerns. He was concerned about the dampness in the church, which no one knew how to get rid of, the floor that needed to be covered, the roof covering that needed to be replaced.

In March 1938, receiving the photos of the new decorated church after the move, Father Serge was very happy with what had been done, but, at the same time, he had had a fit of sadness at the memory of what had happened. had been so close and dear to him. He had approved of all the innovations that had been made in the church, and had not forgotten to thank Sister Jeanne Reitlinger for the frescoes of the sanctuary, executed with art. He also thanked Th. G. Spassky and the whole choir for the concert of traditional religious music they had organized for the benefit of the church.

During his years of activity within the Movement and the Church of the Presentation, Father Serge wrote a great deal. The "Bulletin of the Pedagogical and Religious Cabinet" had published in the years 1926, 1927, 1928 and 1930 its articles dealing with education and religious instruction. The "Messenger of ACER" had published his articles on the Old Testament, on the Gospel, on the Movement, on life in the Church, on ACER in the service of the Church and of Russia. The tenth number of the “Messager”, in 1928, contains an article by Father Serge entitled: “Two Jubilees: Leo Tolstoy and Father John of Kronstadt”. The review "Put" - the Way - published between 1928 and 1936 Father Serge's reflections on the prayer of the heart, on the Eucharist, and a controversial discussion with N. Berdiaev.

After having left the monastery of Novo-Valaam to live with his son in Bratislava, Father Serge, despite his poor health, had written a great work: "The Truth about Christianity". In a personal letter addressed to Nina Konstantinovna Rausch, he explains: “These are talks on the twelve articles of the Symbol of Faith, in which I show that the eternal truth, without which man loses the meaning of life, is found in Christ… but the Truth of Christ and above all the Person of Christ can only be received with all his loving and sincere heart. "Several chapters of this manuscript have been published in the review" L'Éternal "(Vetchnoye), as well as" The office of the twelve Gospels "," The Image of the Mother of God in the Gospel "and" The place and the meaning of the Old Testament in Christianity ”.

On January 28, 1946, a meeting was organized in Paris to mark the fiftieth anniversary of his priesthood. Father Serge responded with a farewell letter to ACER members: “As I leave you, it is with all my love and prayer that I call for God's blessing on you all, on adults and on young people. The Lord has given me the strength to carry you in my heart, as he once gave Moses the strength to carry the people of Israel in his heart. Of course I do not claim to have the merits of Moses, but I had within me a small part of the spirit of Moses which was gaining strength and firmness in union and prayer with those who worked within the Christian action by Russian students. I can't work with you anymore but I don't feel at fault. I thank God for what He has given me to live with you, I thank those who called me to this work and the one who gave me his blessing to accomplish it. Eternal memory to Metropolitan Euloge, unforgettable and blessedly asleep in the Lord! He lovingly blessed our meetings and our work in which he took an active part. Eternal memory to the young and old members of our Movement asleep in the Lord, they burned with the same love for our holy work. The focus of our whole fraternal life in prayer has been and always will be centered on prayers in memory of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the very pure Mother of God and Ever Virgin Mary, of all the faithful actors of our fraternal life in prayer. May this memory remain in our hearts, may it warm and animate them until the moment of our joyful meeting in the other world at the feet of our Lord and His Most Pure Mother. Pray for each other! Pray for our deceased brothers! ".

Father Serge passed away on April 29, 1947 at 5 a.m.