The Good Pastor. In memory of Archpriest Valentin Amphiteatrov

But the helpless missed not whatever need they had, and I did not cause the eye of the widow to fail. And if too I ate my morsel alone, and did not impart of it to the orphan;
(for I nourished them as a father from my youth and guided them from my mother’s womb.)

Job 31:16–18

Archpriest Valentin Amphiteatrov
Archpriest Valentin Amphiteatrov
There have been many wonderful pastors in the Russian land, but among them there were those who are especially revered and remembered by the people. The Moscow priest Valentin Amphiteatrov was one of these pastors.

Archpriest Valentin Amphiteatrov (1836-1908), the famous Moscow priest, preacher and confessor, was born to a well-known priest’s family of Orlov province. This family has given the Russian Orthodox Church a number of prominent clerics and workers in the field of religious education. Valentin Amphiteatrov attended Orlov Seminary from 1847 to 1853 and then transferred to the Kiev Seminary, graduating in 1854. He continued his studies at the Moscow Theological Academy and received his Doctorate in Theology in 1858.

After receiving his degree, Amphiteatrov combined teaching with administrative duties in the theological schools in Kaluga.In Kaluga Seminary Father Valentin met with Alexander Ivanovich Chuprov, the future famous economist and political scientist with whom he maintained a friendship throughout his life. Amphiteatrov married Chuprov’s sister Elizaveta Ivanovna in 1860, and he was ordained an Orthodox priest soon after that. This was a happy marriage, and the Amphiteatrovs were blessed with a son Alexander and three daughters, Alexandra, Lyubov and Vera.

The first parish where Fr. Valentin began his ministry was the Annunciation Cathedral in Kaluga. The church has not survived to the present day as it was demolished in 1930s and the building material was used in the construction of a kindergarten and a bakery. Now the Karpov’s Park is in the place where the church used to be. Father Valentin continued to work in the church schools of the Moscow and Kaluga diocese until the mid-1870s.

In 1874 Father Valentin was appointed a Rector of the Church of Saints Constantine and Elena that used to be located by the Kremlin Gate of the Savior. The Church was more commonly called “Unexpected Joy” after the name of the venerated icon of the Mother of God. There weren’t many houses near the Church and it used to be almost empty. However, as some time passed it began to fill with worshipers. Father Valentin proved that a zealous priest can attract faithful people to the “abandoned” temples.

In 1892, Fr. Valentin became a Rector of St. Michael the Archangel Cathedral in Moscow Kremlin, where he served until 1902.

In 1902 Fr. Valentin was no longer able to serve because of the gradual loss of his eyesight. From this point until his death in 1908, he welcomed everybody willing to come to him at his house, even when he was seriously ill. He was buried at the Moscow Vagankovsky cemetery. However, the exact location of the grave is unknown. His canonization has been discussed since the late 1990s.

Fr. Valentin’s charitable deeds were abundant throughout his whole life.

Entire Families were benefited by Father Valentin. There were times when he helped people to get their jobs back after they had been fired and their families left without an income. He helped widows to find jobs. In another case, a husband’s death left a wife and three young children without any means of living. Father Valentin found wealthy people who were willing to help and financially support the struggling family.

Father Valentin especially cared about orphans. He helped children left without parents get to schools and paid their tuition. Father Valentin’s spiritual children taught the orphans; their free tutoring helped the children to get accepted to various schools. There was another example of a family in a desperate situation where a sick widow couldn’t provide for her children. Father Valentin helped one of the daughters to meet a good man, whom she later married.

Often children of deceased parents didn’t have anywhere to go, and Father Valentin helped find good foster families for them. And those families cared for the adopted children as for their own, justifying Father Valentin’s trust. One family had eleven children of their own, but they took in an orphan girl named Sasha, who they treated the same way they treated their own children, surrounding her with care and affection. And there were many such children whom Father Valentin helped.

Father Valentin tried to bring out empathy, compassion and love for the others in all his spiritual children. And his parishioners gladly helped their pastor in his charitable deeds using their professional knowledge and skills.

Father Valentin had many devoted helpers who supported his charities. His friend and spiritual son Mitrofan Nikolaevich Maslov actively participated in charities and helped many of the poor. If anyone was undergoing hardships or needed legal help or counseling there were people to help them. Father Valentin had a spiritual daughter who visited the sick and tried to help them in every way. Another spiritual daughter had the task of visiting families who might need help; she learned about their situation and where help was needed she brought aid and advice from Father Valentin.

Paramedic Nadezhda Nikolaevna Meshkova, who had been working in hospitals for many years, knew many of the doctors. She would help Father Valentin organize medical care for sick parishioners. Nadezhda Nikolaevna not only helped to place people in hospitals, but also looked after them.

With Father Valentin’s active participation, the nurses community, “Assuage My Sorrows”, was organized in Lefortovo by Princess Natalia Borisovna Shakhovsaya. For many years, Natalia Borisovna carried out charity work. She helped in the Police Hospital for the poor and homeless where she cared for the sick with love and skill. This hospital was opened thanks to the efforts of a famous doctor Fedor Petrovich Haas. She founded the nursing community afterwards, which provided Moscow citizens with tremendous help during the epidemics of cholera and typhus in the second half of the nineteenth century. Thus, the community became one of the sources of aid for Father Valentin’s charity work.

Father Valentin’s personal charity deeds and philanthropy are significant. He never distinguished between the poor and the rich; he never gave special preference to anyone and was loving and caring for everybody equally. The poor crowded the area around the church where Father Valentin served, knowing that they would not be refused help. But Fr.Valentin himself was actively looking for the disadvantaged and was fast to help them. He was not satisfied by just giving money to the poor; he would make great efforts to bring a person back to normal life. And the poor people’s lives were revived; they began to engage in meaningful activities again.

The life and the work of Archpriest Valentin Amphiteatrov is a striking example of an outstanding pastoral ministry.

Irina Sergeyenko
Translation by Ksenia Dolgova

20 сентября 2012 г.

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