The Holy Hieromartyr Hilarion (Troitsky), Archbishop of Vereya, was an outstanding theologian, preacher, and valiant defender of the Church of Russia who suffered during the first decade of Bolshevik rule in Russia. A compatriot of Patriarch Tikhon, he strongly defended the Church against the attacks of the communist regime and the Bolshevik backed Living Church, its renovationists policies, and the Gregorian schism. His feast day is December 15.
Born Vladimir Alexeyevich Troitsky on September 13, 1886 into a family of hereditary clergymen in the village of Lipitsa in the Kashira district of Tula Province, the future Archbishop Hilarion was an eager student from an early age. Vladimir was raised by his mother's sister Nadezha, who was a teacher, as his mother died while he was very young. He learned to read at an early age. He began his education in the local church school. Then, he continued on at the seminary in the Tula Province, before being sent to the Moscow Theological Academy.
Vladimir was noted as an excellent student who always earned the highest marks in all his courses. He graduated from the Moscow Academy in 1910 with a Candidate degree in Theology with honors, and then remained at the academy with a Professorial scholarship. In 1913, Vladimir received his Master's degree in Theology based on his paper An Overview of the History of the Dogma of the Church.
The year 1913 was also the year Vladimir made his commitment to Christ. On March 28, 1913, he received his tonsure as a monk in the Skete of the Paraclete of the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra and was given the name Hilarion. On June 2, 1913, he was ordained and became a hieromonk. Fr. Hilarion was then raised to the rank of archimandrite a month later on July 5, 1913. Completing the year 1913, Archm. Hilarion was appointed inspector of the Moscow Academy on May 30, 1913 and then was confirmed as Professor of Holy Scripture in December.
His theological works were an enrichment of ecclesiastical scholarship and his sermons resounded like bells calling on the people of God to faith and moral renewal. During the Local Council of 1917-1918, he made an inspiring stand in favor of the restoration of the Patriarchate, noting that the Church of Russia was never without a first hierarch nor being conciliatory until the decrees of of Peter I abolished the position. After the election of Abp. Tikhon as patriarch, Archm. Hilarion became his fervent supporter.
After the Bolsheviks came to power in early November 1917, they began to persecute the Church. By March 1919, Archm. Hilarion had already been arrested. His imprisonment lasted three months. On May 23, 1920, Archm. Hilarion was elected to the episcopate and then the next day, May 24, he was consecrated Bishop of Vereya, a vicariate of the Diocese of Moscow. From the time of his consecration Bishop Hilarion was to see less than two years of freedom. His episcopal service became a path to the cross.
Bp. Hilarion enjoyed great authority among the clergy and his fellow bishops and had gained great respect for his mind and steadfastness in the Faith. But, before two years had passed since his consecration, Bp. Hilarion was sent into exile in Archangelsk. After a year he returned to Petrograd and became Patr. Tikhon's closest like minded advisor along with Abp. Seraphim (Alexandrov). Patr. Tikhon raised Bp. Hilarion to the rank of archbishop upon his return from exile. With this appointment Abp. Hilarion's activities broadened. He engaged in discussions with Yevgeny Alexandrovich Tuchkov, the plenipotentiary for Church affairs of the GPU, on the need for a ordered life in the Russian Orthodox Church on the basis of canonical law and labored to restore the ecclesiastical organization, without success.
Abp. Hilarion became a thorn in the side of the renovationists. On July 5, 1923, he threw the renovationists out of the Sretensky Monastery as they tried to serve an All-night Vigil for the feast of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God, and then after re-consecrating the cathedral, returned the monastery to the Church. Abp. Hilariion had heated debates in Moscow with the Living Church priest Alexander Vvedensky during which he exposed Vvedensky's cunning and lies. Recognizing Abp. Hilarion's influence, the renovationists exerted their influence with the Bolshevik government to have Abp. Hilarion sent to exile. In December 1923, Abp. Hilarion was sentenced to three years in prison and was sent to the Solovki prison camp (formerly the Solovetsky Monastery) on the White Sea.
At Solovki Abp. Hilarion preserved all the good qualities of the soul that he had gained through his ascetic labors, both before and during his monastic life and as a priest and hierarch. One eyewitness related when a group of six clergy, of bishops and priests including Abp. Hilarion, were laboring as net-makers and fisherman, Abp. Hilarion paraphrased the hymns of Pentecost, remarking "Formerly, the fishermen became theologians. Now the theologians have become fishermen."
Abp. Hilarion was one of the most popular inmates of the labor camp. He is remembered as tall, robust, and with brownish hair. Personal possessions meant nothing to him, so he always gave his things away to anyone who asked for them. He never showed annoyance when people disturbed him or insulted him, but remained cheerful.
During the summer of 1925, Abp. Hilarion was moved from Solovki to a less severe prison in Yaroslavl. There he was able to receive spiritual books and so was able to read patristic literature and keep notes. These notes he was able to pass on to friends for safekeeping. While at Yaroslavl, Abp. Hilarion was approached, through the GPU, to join the Gregorian schism. Seeing through the offer, he steadfastly refused, but his refusal resulted to three more years of imprisonment at Solovki, where he arrived again in the spring of 1926.
In June of 1927, he was transferred to Moscow for discussions with Abp. Gregory and various secular persons who insisted that he "gather courage" and head the Gregorian "Supreme Church Council." This, Abp. Hilarion categorically refused, explaining that the actions of the council were unjust and a waste of time, and he further advised Abp. Gregory, as a brother, to abandon his plans as they were not necessary and harmed the Church. Abp. Hilarion was returned to Solovki.
In December 1929, he was transferred to Alma-Ata in Central Asia for a term of three years. Traveling under guard, he arrived in Leningrad, in rags after being robbed on the way, infested with parasites, and very sick with typhus. Lying in the Leningrad prison he wrote "on Saturday, December 28, my fate will be decided (the crisis of the illness). I am unlikely to survive.” When told that he needed to be shaved, he replied, "You may now do with me whatever you wish." Our confessor of Christ died on December 28, 1929, at the age of forty four.
After obtaining permission to take his body for burial, Metr. Seraphim (Chichagov), who occupied the Leningrad see at the time, brought white hierarchical vestments and a white miter to the prison hospital. They vested him and took him to the church at the Novodevichy Monastery in Leningrad for the funeral and burial services in which Metr. Seraphim and Abp. Alexei (Simansky), Bps. Ambrose (Libin) of Luga, Sergius (Zenkevich) of Lodeinoe Polye, and three other bishops participated.
On May 10, 1999, Holy Hieromartyr Hilarion, Archbishop of Vereya, was glorified as a saint by the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church. On the eve of his canonization, the Holy Hieromartyr’s relics were translated from St. Petersburg to Moscow and placed in the church of the Sretensky Monastery.