October 20, 2022

Glinskaya Hermitage and the life of Father Ilarion

The Glinska Wilderness Stavropegic of the Nativity of Holy Mother of God men`s monastery, also known as Glinskaya Pustyn (1) was founded in the 17th century where the miraculous icon “Nativity of the Theotokos (2)” was found on a tall pine tree. Because of its location in what is today Northeast Ukraine, it was on the road frequently traveled by religious pilgrims moving between Moscow and Kiev. As the popularity of visiting this shrine grew, so did the monastery. Seraphim of Sarov was a contemporary of Glinsk Hegumen Philaret and would send some of his disciples to become monks at Glinsk, calling it a “great school of monastic life. The Glinsk Monastery also established close ties to Optina Monastery, providing guidance and spiritual strength to many pilgrims.

Above is a picture of the Glinsk Monastery complex at its peak, in the late 19th century.

Then the Bolsheviks came and closed the monastery in 1922, killing, imprisoning or scattering the monks in all directions, and destroying 7 of the 8 churches there, while the remaining church was turned into a club! With the beginning of the Second World War, the site was abandoned, and twelve monks, led by the exiled Archimandrite Nektary, returned to revive the monastery. Life was hard there, without electricity or running water. The monastery maintained strict rules for prayer and daily life. But the monastery attracted many people looking for spiritual guidance. One of those people was a young monk named Ilarion.

Above is a chapel built where the Nativity of the Theotokos icon was found in a pine tree.

In 1961, the monastery was ordered closed, according to a decree by Nikita Khrushchev to persecute Christians. Once again the monks were scattered; some to other regions of Russia and Belarus, and some to Georgia where there was less religious persecution.

Ilarion, the youngest of the monks was one of the last to leave. He first made his way to the Troitse-Sergiyeva Lavra (The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius of Radonezh (3)) in Sergiev Posad near Moscow. His fiery sermons and unwillingness to sign agreements with KGB to be an informer, resulted in him getting kicked out, due to lack of “residence registration.” Ilarion then moved to St. Petersburg seminary because he was required to be seminary trained before becoming a priest. He was the oldest student in the class, and became a mentor for the other seminary students. But once again the KGB forced him to leave due to “lack of residence registration.”

Left: Ilarion serving at the Transfiguration Church in Bronnitsa.

Ilarion served for a while in Nikolsky (St. Nicholas) Cathedral in St. Petersburg, and then in Pskov- Pechory (Pskov-Caves) monastery, but it never lasted long before the KGB had him kicked out again. Then he was assigned to the Apostle Philip Church in the provincial city of Veliky Novgorod. Once again, his fiery sermons began drawing many people to God, and enraged the local communist authorities. They complained that if he kept preaching in Novgorod, that everyone in the city would become a Christian! So once more, Father Ilarion was relegated to the small village church in Bronnitsa, approximately 20 kilometers outside of Novgorod, where he drew a small but loyal crowd of believers.

When the Soviet Union collapsed and persecution of the church stopped, Ilarion remained in Bronnitsa, but he was elevated to Archimandrite, and designated as the spiritual confessor of all priests in the Novgorod Diocese by Bishop Lev. In 1994, a young monk Father Antony, visited Ilarion to ask his advice and blessing to re-establish the Glinsk Monastery. Father Ilarion blessed Antony’s request, and offered prayers and spiritual advice. With that, the mantle of the Glinsk Monastery passed to Father Antony to revive the Glinsk Monastery once again. Father Ilarion reposed in 2008, and is buried at the Varlaamo-Khutynsky monastery (St. Varlaam of Khutyn’ monastery) near Veliky Novgorod.

Above, Father Antony (Center) visits the grave of Father Ilarion at the Varlaamo- Khutynsky Monastery.

Under Father Antony the Glinsk Monastery (which had fallen into disrepair over many years, began renovation works, re-implementation of the Glinsk Typicon (a liturgical book which contains instructions about the structure and order of the worship serviсes), and began to attract new monks to this brotherhood. Living quarters for the brothers, a new church (left), and brick walls around the exterior of the monastery were rebuilt. Father Antony was first elected as Неgumen, and later ordained Bishop of the Glinsk Monastery.

Father Antony worked tirelessly to document and have the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) canonize 7 of the monks who worked miracles at the monastery during the period 1942-1964, and their bodies were brought back to the monastery from wherever they had been buried. Many of these saints' bodies were not corrupted, and are displayed in glass coffins which are periodically opened for pilgrims to venerate.

Father Ilarion prophesied to Father Antony that the Glinsk Monastery would one day again be fully revived and have many monks living there again, as it once did in the 19th century. Father Antony continues to develop the monastery, building a new cathedral, as the brotherhood grows and the Glinska Wilderness (4) is serving as a place for spiritual pilgrimage for many people who visit this monastery. The monastery itself works hard to support its own needs with dairy products from their own cows, honey from own beehives, a pond serving as a fish farm, and many acres of land growing vegetables. Still the monastery is in need of external support to help it grow and develop into the spiritual center for Orthodoxy which is needed.

Above: Glinsk Monastery entrance archway.

Cupola over the special well for drawing water at the Glinsk Monastery (left).

We want Father Ilarion's life and sermons to become accessible, to help, support and inspire Orthodox Christians all over the world. By making a donation on our website, we will send you a book about the life of Father Ilarion (A Champion of Good) or a book with his heartfelt and wise sermons (A Beacon of Hope) in English. All funds raised will go to help the Stavropegic monastery of the Glinskaya Pustyn. The book will be a wonderful gift for you or your friend. Save you God!

We will be able to send the book if the donation is not less than the amount of sending the book. Therefore, we invite you to make a donation of at least $30 so that we can send you the book. All funds raised will go to help the Glinskaya Pustyn.

(1) The Glinskaya Pustyn – in the Russian language
(2) The Theotokos is the Greek word for the Birthgiver of God
(3) St. Sergiy Radonezhsky - in the Russian language
(4) The Glinskaya Pustyn – in the Russian language- the same about the Glinska Wilderness Stavropegic of the Nativity of Holy Mother of God men`s monastery

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Dear brothers and sisters! Join us and find solace with like-minded people, with those who care about the welfare of monasteries, churches and other shrines. After all, a church is not only golden domes and beautifully painted icons. This is all of us when we live in Christ!