The last lover of the Empress – Іван Корсак

No, he didn’t invent the story; he described only what he had seen without adding anything.

He wanted to stop the way spreading the hands as for an easy-going child who was running and who didn’t see a gulf before him, he begged and asked – but in vain.

And Arceniy had nothing to stop them, only the word.

The metropolitan understood what his words would mean for him in the court. But he didn’t pity and reproach himself, because insincerity and archness (silence is often only a weak part of it) truly are born of the devil. And Arceniy wasn’t able to try on these weak clothes even when mortal danger was looming over him like a bluish thunder-cloud.

Swearing underage emperor Ivan Antonovich in 1740, he refused flatly to swear his mother-regent. On formidable demands to explain the reason he answered openly by prayer, “I acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins…”

Mother-regent was a Protestant.

But for the upheaval then scaffold would wait for him.

Arceniy, as a participant of the second Bering’s expedition to Kamchatka, happened to deal with his captain who was stubborn and obstinate and didn’t accepted any disobedience. On that day they had to put out to sea at dawn, cloudless sky favoured, but vague anxiety seized him, something invisible restrained him.

“We shouldn’t set sail now,” he said to the captain.

Stocky captain looked at the priest as if he was a small annoying bug and nobody knew where this bug came from.

“Who is captain here?” he asked in such a voice after which everybody in the expedition usually expected outbreak of headlong anger.

“You won’t put out to sea at least till noon,” father Arceniy stood across the ladder.

Light splashing of water on the shore stones was heard in evil and tense silence.

“If you interfere in the afternoon, I’ll shoot you,” captain’s brown face turned purple.

In an hour a small cloud appeared suddenly on absolutly cloudless sky, it was running up, swelling, became severer, then half of the sky was already covered, and the sky wasn’t seen at last, fitful wind turned to storm which became global mistress, piping and howling; it seemed as if flurried and bitchy sky fell on the earth and was roaring like a strange unknown beast, shore stones were rolling like a thunder before a harvest. Only the smallest blade of grass seemed to be able to save in this terrible gulf.

The storm, which appeared so suddenly, became weaker, the worst of the storm was over and it died at last in the afternoon.

The ship really started in the afternoon and the priest of the expedition didn’t have conflicts with captain any more.

Being already Tobolsk metropolitan, Arceniy met those who from their own tops looked proudly at pastors’ matters, and did their best the clerks agree with every turn of officers. On the last day of February, in 1742 the representatives of Siberian power were wide-eyed, their eyes were as round as saucers when they had read the new metropolitan’s decree. This had never been as Arceniy ordered: “ecclesiastics and churchmen can’t plead the world trial without their bishops on penalty of overthrow of Antioch cathedral according to the rule number 11.”

The metropolitan thought that Christianity outstayed when apostles were excruciated, crucified, when martyrs of belief were thrown into the cage with lions, who were roaring with hunger and licking greedily waiting for the victim. So now Christianity would outstay and keep contumacy to the world sinful power. The metropolitan confirmed his words by new circular letter in response to dignitaries’ complaints in June to save pastors: the metropolitan “ordered that none of the clergy would listen to the decrees sent by world command without permission of their clerkly command and if somebody from the world command brought clergy to trial violently, without clerkly command, to ask about evidence, to send decrees, they would soon receive particular written protests…”

The hierarchs were changing on Tobolsk pulpit, had been visiting frozen Siberian land for twenty springs, but the metropolitan’s decree was invisible defence for local clergy.

…The orchestra sounded, the sun shone on the musicians’ trumpets, on medals and ornamentals of courtier people who gathered from across the empire, the flowers were falling under the empress’s feet – they were celebrating the coronation of new Mistress Elizabeth.

New empress had already signed the decree about an appointment of Arceniy Matsievich as Rostov metropolitan; it was his turn to swear to the present Mistress of the throne.

“Your Majesty, I can’t,” the metropolitan bowed.

“I have signed the decree and you don’t want to swear me!” – Wrinkles on the Empress’s face appeared quickly and spoiled the work of all hairdressers.

“I can’t swear according to this text,” the metropolitan answered quietly but firm. “Empress Majesty can’t be the highest judge as it is said here, because only our Lord Jesus Christ has this right.”

The empress didn’t want even the smallest cloud to spoil such populous celebration, triumph of her life, and she made efforts to remove her wrinkles.

“So is it,” she tried to smile. “Go to your eparchy but prepare the project of an oath yourself.”

Then the document prepared by Matsievich was put on her table, “I confess to an oath God and our Lord Jesus Christ is the Highest Judge of this Church Government, powerful header of Church and Great Priest and czar who domineers and can judge everybody – alive and dead…”

Much time would pass and Rostov metropolitan would have to protest again for once against the robbery of churches, because the decree about the secularization of glebes was given to Empress Elizabeth to sign.

“Even the Tatar khans were hesitant at this,” lord Arceniy would forewarn.

But the empress would say, laying the pen aside, “No, I won’t sign and after me – as you like.”

…In a short break between trials the metropolitan Arceniy couldn’t reproach himself with imprudence in his serious reflections. He is a simple Christian and he doesn’t defend recusancy of the Church to the lay clerks and the state, otherwise –his faith is vain. The Church belongs to Christ, not to these people who call themselves senators, Privy Councillors or empresses. He was taught so by his father, Ivan Matsievich who was serving God honestly and people in far Volyn, in Ukraine, he was taught so in Lviv Theological Academy, in unforgettable Kiev-Mogila Academy, he told so as a preacher in Novgorod-Siversk, in Spassky Monastery in Chernihiv, in other towns and villages where the fate threw him. Because if the Church is under the heel of the official, of the state, there will be much evil in the world: the states, especially Russia, will make war and make dependent pastors bless blood. And this means betrayal of Christ, the state always makes outrageous (sometimes it repents hindsight, but only it’s always too late) and a pastor will be a companion in all crimes and enormities. And if the murderess of her husband is on the throne, stray from unknown countries that doesn’t have any rights to that throne, she will lose ecclesiastical estates at cards, estates collected sacrificially by our fathers, she will simply give them to her numerous lovers…

The metropolitan thought that he would stay the course.


Empress Catherine took a dislike to Arceniy Matsievich long before the meeting – feed the wolf or not but he looks at his way, so complained she to Orlov before the trial. Feed a Ukrainian or not but he looks at his steppe. Only Kalnishevskiy is worth…

After her coronation, after solemn service when it seemed that church choirs offered up her name to September skies, the empress was giving an audience to the highest dignitaries of the empire.

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