REMEMBRANCES OF A FATHER’S SON
By Deacon Nicholas Trepatschko
Growing up as the son of a Russian Orthodox priest, the tenets of the Orthodox faith were instilled at an early age. Church services were always at the forefront. I remember the first time my father, Father Anatoly, walked me into the Holy Altar and said: “this is where God lives. Respect this place with all of your love. From this point forward you are an acolyte.”
He instructed us with the proper veneration of the Holy Altar by first crossing ourselves three times upon entrance, then obtaining the blessing of the priest, how to properly fold the “stikharchik” and to ask for his blessing before vesting. I was but three years old that day and remember that moment as if it happened yesterday.
Father Anatoly was one who would always encourage. One day at the age of five, I observed him singing a beautiful “song” during an all-night vigil service. I would later come to ask him what that “song” was. He told me that the song was praise for Saints Peter and Paul and it was called “To Thee We Magnify”. I asked if I could learn to sing it with him. Practice began in earnest. From that point on in my life, we always sang “To Thee We Magnify” in duet form during all Feast days and Saint’s days in accordance with the Church calendar. He encouraged me to further develop my singing talent and that encouragement of long ago still lives in me today.
I remember my father teaching us, the young children of the Holy Assumption parish in Trenton, N.J., “The Law of God”, how to read and write in Russian and how to read in Slavonic. His lessons were lively and he obtained satisfaction knowing that the language would be preserved, knowing that we knew our prayers, knowing that we knew our individual Saint’s troparions and kontakions and knowing that we knew the fundamentals of God’s teachings. In the mid 70’s, we moved from Trenton, NJ to upstate NY. We settled in the small village of Ilion, NY. The Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY, became a big part of our lives. My uncle Igumen Ignaty (of blessed memory), and grandfather Monk Jonah (of blessed memory), were part of the brotherhood there. My father was reunited with his brother and father and the re-union provided the opportunity for further spiritual advancement. Igumen Ignaty and Monk Jonah were examples of true monastics. This was exemplified through their love of God, love of neighbor and hard work. I saw and felt something different at the monastery and I only have my father to thank for this.
The monastics of that time, Archbishop Averky, Archimandrites Panteleimon, Sergius, Anthony, Cyprian, Vladimir, Protopresbyter Michael, Fathers Ignaty, Job, Flor, Gury, Mefody, Innokenty, Jonah, Germogen, Prokopy, Archdeacon John and all of the rest of the fathers and seminarians were in a sense, teachers. The word respect comes to mind as all of them respected not their position or rank but their way of life: simple, thoughtful, encouraging and always in prayer.
Never did a day go by that I did not witness my father arrive from work and venerate the Holy Cross and Gospel on the analoy in our house, crossing himself three times and thanking God for His blessings. As time and life moved on I received a job promotion requiring me to move out of New York state to Virginia. My brother along with his wife and young children already resided in Virginia. Shortly thereafter Father Anatoly retired and also moved to Virginia with my mother and we were once again re-united. Through God’s intervention, land was purchased and a home was built to accommodate everyone. And then an idea occurred to my father: let us build a house church in the home.
My brother, Father John formulated a design. Building material was purchased and construction began at a fervent pace. The Iconostasis was built and installed. Icons were obtained and placed on the Iconostasis and throughout the Church. The Altar Table and Table of Oblation were built. Wax was purchased for candle dipping. Vestments were sewn. Everyone had a hand in the construction.
Finally, in the year 2000, the Church was finished and a lesser consecration was performed. An antimens was obtained by Father Anatoly prior to moving from Jordanville to Virginia and he was given a blessing by the ruling Bishop allowing Divine Liturgies and other services to be officiated. The newly constructed house church was named the Holy Assumption Church in honor of our Most Holy and Most Blessed Ever Virgin Mary. The first service was performed on Holy Pascha of that year.
From that point on, the Church grew. New parishioners came, a website developed and subsequent ordinations. Grandchildren became acolytes and then singers and readers in the kliros. This brought much joy to my father to see a third generation being readied to be servants in God’s Holy Church. In every aspect of Church services, father provided instruction. We learned, observed and posed questions when required. We received an education equivalent to a seminary. We were blessed that we could hear his sermons, read his writings and tap into his wisdom.
In 2008, my father suffered a serious stroke leaving him partially paralyzed. Through all of his hospital stays and procedures, every doctor and nurse he encountered he would always say to them: “thank you”, letting each and every one of them know that he appreciated their due diligence and that he loved them and they loved him back for his kindness towards them. “He is such a loving and special man” they would say. When my father came home, the bulk of the caretaking fell upon the shoulders of my mother Matushka Irene. My mother did everything and was assisted along with the rest of the family. Matushka Irene always had someone to help her. I remember clearly how after being prepared for the day, and while being wheeled in his chair to the kitchen for breakfast every day, father would make a point to stop in front of the Kazanskaya Mother of God Icon located in their living room and say: “Presvyataya Bogorodize Spasi Nas”.
As my father’s condition worsened, Father John installed a camera in the church wired to a TV so that my father could see every service. He was glad for this as he felt part of the service. He received Holy Communion every Sunday and that brought him much comfort and peace.
Father Anatoly reposed on July 20, 2015 in the presence of his family and all his grandchildren. He was a staunch defender of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia and an inspiration for his family. In his last moments the prayers for the exodus of the soul were read with everyone present including his grandchildren.
There is a great void in our lives today. But we do not scorn or weep. We know peacefully that my father has earned his place with the heavenly Saints, not for his 50 years in the priesthood, but what his priesthood meant: to serve God and to make sure each person in the church be given every attention to achieve eternal life.
In a final characterization of my loving father, we would say he was: a great father, a loving father, a man of meekness, a talented writer and sermon giver, and above all, a very humble priest where recognition and awards as he always said, “come only from God and not from man.”
Father Deacon Nicholas Trepatschko
November 20, 2015