Metropolitan Alimpiy (Alexander Capitonovich Gusev; August 14, 1929 – December 31, 2003). Metropolitan Alimpiy became the first Old-believers’ Metropolitan of Moscow after the establishment of the Metropolitanate in the landmark year for Russia, 1988 – the year of the 1000th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus’.
The future primate was born in 1929 into a pious family of Old-believers in Nizhny Novgorod. Soon after his birth, his family returned to their homeland – the village Lyskovo in the Nizhny Novgorod oblast, where they lived out their days. In particular, it was from his parents that Alexander absorbed the habit of diligence and conscientiousness in work and in prayer. It was from them that he learned deep faith in the Lord and took his first lessons of a virtuous Christian life.
During the years of the Church persecutions that had begun, the churches in Nizhny Novgorod were already closed. Still, the pious youth learned the basics of znamenny (Church “banner”) singing and the rules of Divine services in a secret home-made dugout church.
In 1946, seventeen-year-old Alexander Gusev was ordained as a reader of the Dormition Church in Nizhny Novgorod (then called Gorky). Being drafted soon after into the army, he served for five years in the Baltic Fleet, in the coastal units of Kronstadt. Upon completing his military service, Alexander returned home with an even more determined intention to serve the Church of Christ. But his desire was not immediately fulfilled: he had to work for several more years in the city’s fire brigade and as a buoy keeper on the Volga.
The future metropolitan was then accepted as choir leader of the church in the name of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos in the village of Durasovo in the Kostroma oblast, where protopriest Alexis Sergeev served as senior priest. The following three years, he then served as choir leader in the city of Gorky, during the senior priesthood of protopriest Peter Selin. After giving a vow of celibacy in 1967, Alexander, at the request of father Peter, was ordained by archbishop Joseph (Morzhakov) to the rank of deacon at the same church. From then on, the young ascetic, living in a solitary cell atop the bell tower of the church, daily fulfilled the monastic rule, with the blessing of father Peter.
At the Holy Council of 1968, deacon Alexander was elected as an episcopal candidate. However, his ordination as bishop occurred only after 18 years. All those years, deacon Alexander diligently and meekly carried out his ministry in the Nizhny Novgorod Dormition Church. In November 1985, the ninety-year-old bishop Anastasius (Kononov) went to Old Dobrudja in Moldova with several priests to discourse with the Archbishop of Moscow and All Rus’, Nicodemus (Latyshev), who was seriously ill.
Having received a blessing from him, the bishop, there in Dobrudja, ordained deacon Alexander to the priesthood. At the end of the same year, bishop Anastasius tonsured priest Alexander into monasticism with the name Alimpiy, in the St. Elijah Church of the city of Gomel in Belarus. Here, in Gomel, the hieromonk Alimpiy dwelt in his monastic enclosure and then performed his first priestly services.
On January 5, 1986, in the Transfiguration cathedral in the town of Klintsy in the Bryansk oblast, with the blessing of the ailing archbishop Nicodemus (Latyshev), bishop Anastasius of the Don and Caucasus, in cooperation with the bishop Eutychius of Kiev-Vinnitsa, promoted hieromonk Alimpiy to the rank of bishop of the Klintsy and Novozybkov diocese.
In February 1986, archbishop Nicodemus died after a prolonged illness. Many clerics gathered for his burial in the village of Old Dobrudja and the burial service was headed by bishop Anastasius in co-service with bishop Alimpiy. Returning from Moldova, bishop Anastasius, as the locum tenens, transfered his place of residence to Moscow.
He called upon bishop Alimpiy to serve as his assistant and established his residence in the building of the Archdiocese. Everyone expected that the Holy Council appointed for the summer of 1986 would promote bishop Anastasius to the throne of the primate of the Church. But the Lord judged differently: after two months, bishop Anastasius gave up his soul to the hands of the Lord, and bishop Alimpiy became the locum tenens of the throne of the Archbishop of Moscow.
In the Church, there were only two bishops left: the ill Eutychius and Alimpiy. On the feast day of the holy Myrrh-Bearers, they jointly ordained a third bishop, Timon (Domashov), to the Chisinau diocese.
By the time of the appointed Holy Council, the invited bishop Cyprian arrived from the fraternal Old-believers’ Metropolitanate in Romania. According to the decision of the Holy Council of our Church, bishop Cyprian together with bishops Eutychius and Timon, co-served in the promotion of bishop Alimpiy in the rank of Archbishop of Moscow and All Rus’.
In 1988, a particular act – which for various reasons Russian Old-believers had been unsuccessful in achieving since the late 19th century – was finally accomplished at the Holy Council. The Council decided on the establishment of the Moscow and All Rus’ Metropolitanate (instead of the Archdiocese) and archbishop Alimpiy was unanimously elected to the rank of Metropolitan of Moscow and All Rus’.
His enthronement took place on July 24. During the primacy of metropolitan Alimpiy, seven bishops were promoted, dozens of priests and deacons were ordained, and more than a hundred readers were ordained.
Almost all the churches erected and restored were consecrated during his personal prayerful primacy. Metropolitan Alimpiy constantly visited numerous parishes: he performed Divine services in most of the churches of the Moscow Metropolitanate, and in some – many times.
In 1996, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the accession of Metropolitan Ambrose (Popovich) to the Old-believers’ [the event restored in the Church the completeness of the three-tiered hierarchy], Belaya Krinitsa hosted the Ecumenical Holy Council of the Old Orthodox Christian Church with the two metropolitans of the Old-believers’ metropolitanates in attendance – Alimpiy of Moscow and Leontius of Belaya Krinitsa (Romania). One of the acts of this Council was devoted to the canonisation of Hierarch Ambrose of Belaya Krinitsa. This was a triumph of Christian love and spiritual unity.
Metropolitan Alimpiy was a genuinely modest man, simple and easy to communicate with, an ascetic with an unshakable pillar of faith who was patient and did not grumble when suffering from bodily ailments. He was a devout worshiper and endowed with the gift of spiritual perceptiveness.
The shoulders of his everyday mantle were literally worn to holes by his zealous laying of the sign of the cross upon himself. He himself never spoke of his bodily ailments and he forbade those who knew him closely to mention them, even in the form of sympathy. For many years, he was tormented by open trophic ulcers on his legs and his heart was wounded by overwhelming cares and constant feelings about the organisation of ecclesiastical life. In his final years, he was generally forbidden by physicians to stand, but during his life he had been accustomed to many hours of daily prayer and without this he could not …
Metropolitan Alimpiy was a firm adherent of the conciliar administration of the Church. Under him, Holy Councils began to congregate annually with the full participation of the clergy and the laity (one person, one vote). The delegates of the Holy Council were bishops, senior priests of churches and diocesan stewards. In addition, each community could elect at the general meeting one delegate (layman or cleric) and large communities (for example, Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod) could elect up to five delegates. This level of intra-ecclesiastical democracy is unique to Russian church history.
In February 1995, in conjunction with the appeal of metropolitan Alimpiy, the Moscow government granted the Old-believers gratuitous, indefinite use of the building and structures of the church and architectural ensemble of the 18th and early 20th centuries, the “Rogozhskoe Settlement”, situated upon the territory of a protected zone.
Metropolitan Alimpiy was distinguished by great prayer, spiritual sobriety and true Christian love. He died on December 31, 2003, in the 75th year of his earthly existence and was interred in the episcopal graves of the Rogozhskoe cemetery in Moscow.