Archbishop of Moscow and All Russia, Irinarkh (Parfenov) | Russian Oldbeliever Church

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Archbishop of Moscow and All Russia, Irinarkh (Parfenov)

Archbishop Irinarkh (in the world – Ivan Vasilievich Parfenov) was born on November 5, 1881 in the Pechora settlement near Nizhny Novgorod. His father was a blacksmith and his mother was a farm worker. After his father’s death in 1887, his mother put young Ivan into school, where he “studied for over three winters – 1890, 1891 and 1892” and graduated from school with a certificate of merit. Due to family poverty, continued study was impossible, so Ivan began working at the age of twelve.

Archbishop of Moscow and All Russia, Irinarkh (Parfenov)

Archbishop of Moscow and All Russia, Irinarkh

He went to work in the office of the company “U. S. Kurbatov”. During this time, he also began to serve as an altar helper in an Old-believer prayer house.

“From the very first year, I was in charge of maintaining the embers and censer, and then, over time, all the vestments and the order in the holy altar, where exemplary cleanliness was to be maintained. They were very strict with me about keeping order. In the first two years, the deacons pulled so much hair from my head that it would be possible to knit good boots… ”, bishop Irinarkh recalled.

After seven years of work in the company, he earned the post of clerk of the second category. In 1900, after marrying, he moved to the village of Bolshoe Murashkino in the Nizhny Novgorod province. He did not complete military service. On June 3, 1913 on the feast of the Holy Trinity, by an election of the parishioners in the village, bishop Innokentiy (Usov) ordained Ivan a deacon and the next day – a priest. In 1925, he became a widow.

“We lived together in married life for 24 years, 2 months and 27 days. We had seven children. Of these, five died in infancy – a girl and four boys, for who I thank the most gracious God” the archbishop Irinarkh wrote later in life in his “Autobiographical notes”. In one of his personal letters, the bishop wrote about the death of his wife, who passed away ten days before Pascha: “What supported me these moments? What uplifted me? It was only the holy prayers. We are all here on earth temporarily and the only difference is that some die earlier, others later, some die in the young years, others in the middle, some die elderly, but everybody dies. But we, Christians, need to understand that we are born to death … that is, we die, leaving behind all this vain earthly life, to enter into eternal life” (Letter to A. A. Drozhilova, printed in the book “Vo vremya ono” [Russian for: “In time’s past”], 2005, Issue 2, p. 148).

Being approved in 1928 as a candidate for bishop, in November of the same year, he accepted monastic vows with the name Irinarkh. He was given the vows by bishop Guriy of Nizhny Novgorod. The Consecrated Council of 1928 instructed archbishop Meletiy and the other bishops to ordain the monk Irinarkh in Samara. On December 23, monk Irinarkh was ordained in Samara as bishop of the Samara-Ulyanovsk and Ufa cathedra by archbishop Meletiy (Kartushin) alone, as the other summoned bishop Guriy was delayed due to the fatal illness of his son, who was urgently required to receive communion. After the ordination, bishop Irinarkh moved to Samara. On January 25, 1930 the local Old-Rite church was closed. Bishop Irinarkh served there for only 13 months. For the next two years, the bishop traveled around the diocese, having only temporary housing.

In July 1930, he was entrusted with the Semipalatinsk and Miass diocese, which was left without leadership after the exile of bishop Andrian (Berdyshev). To pay the state’s taxation, the bishop was forced to sell things. On November 20, 1932 during a search of the church gatehouse in the village of Bolshoe Murashkino, the bishops’ books and correspondence were confiscated. The bishop himself escaped arrest that day; however, on December 8 of the same year, he was arrested and in absentia convicted by the “NKVD Troika” (who sought out “enemies of the state”) for five years of imprisonment under Article 58, paragraphs 10 and 11. The term was served in Krasnovishersky camp, in Gornaya Shoria, then in the Mariinsky camp. In 1936, he was released early and in December, arrived to Kostroma, where he resided with his son and daughter. The bishop did not lead any diocese in the 2nd half of the 1930s.

In 1941, between the days of Pascha and the Holy Trinity, bishop Sava (Ananyev) of Kaluga-Smolensk was elevated to the rank of archbishop of Moscow and All Russia. Due to archbishop Sava becoming ill in that same year, archbishop Irinarkh became head of the Old-Rite Church, a position that was unexpected and humbling. As the archbishop later wrote:

“I occupied the episcopal throne, not by my own will. I was very unsettled by this post, my soul trembled to accept such a great responsibility. I did not seek it, but it found me, because at that time I was the only bishop. The second bishop, Sava of Kaluga, was ill. So by the will of God, I came to you for the [episcopal] throne of Moscow. I came not to serve me, but for me to serve you, in accordance with the word of the Lord: “whoever wants to be first among you, must become your slave” (Matthew 20:26). <…> As for my activities and my merits, then I can say here only with the words of the holy apostle Paul: “If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities”.

Shortly after the start of World War II, he turned to his flock with an archpastoral message, which among other things said:

“Old-believers have never been traitors to the Motherland. They have always defended their own homeland to the last drop of blood. We are confident that in the time of heavy ordeals, which we now have to endure, the Old-believers, also faithful to their centuries-old traditions, will unanimously rebuff the insidious enemy who has encroached on our sacred borders. The time has come, the hour has come for each Old-believer to direct all his forces and thoughts to fight the raging enemy and without sparing, to stand up for their sincere friends and to defend their great, peaceful and beautiful Motherland! Anyone who is able to hold a sword, let him go to the battlefield. Anyone who is able to work in the fields, factories and mills, let them work honestly for the good of our Motherland. Let us make the sign of the cross in the name of the Honorable and life-giving cross, the Holy and indivisible Trinity, and in the examples of previous years, in the examples of our holy warriors, with the blessing and prayers of all saints and I bless you for the feats of war.”

On October 14, 1941, archbishop Irinarkh was evacuated to Ulyanovsk and he returned to Moscow on April 7, 1942. All of his works from that time were devoted to strengthening the church leadership (from 1945 to 1948, three bishops were ordained) and restoring parishes that had been closed. Archishop Irinarkh passed away from a heart attack on March 7, 1952 in the Rogozhskoe settlement in Moscow and was buried in the nearby Rogozhskoe cemetery. The archbishop is the author of touching written sermons (some of which were published in Volumes 2 and 3 of the anthology “Vo Vremya Ono” [Russian for: “In time’s past”) and his “Autobiographical Notes”.