Augustin Sokolovski

On November 12, the Church honors the memory of saint Agafangel of Yaroslavl (1854–1928). The saint was canonized among the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church at the Jubilee Council of Bishops in 2000. The November celebration in honor of St. Agafangel takes place on the occasion of the discovery of his relics in 1998. According to the name of his last episcopal see, the saint is listed in the calendar under the name Agafangel of Yaroslavl.

The ancient Church called the days of death of the righteous “birthdays.” But already in the first centuries of Christianity, a tradition also formed to celebrate the memory of saints on the days of the discovery or transfer of their relics. In this sense, the celebration in honor of St. Agafangel emphasizes this most important continuity.

Having seized power in Russia, the Bolsheviks began the systematic destruction of the Church. Parts of this campaign were: 1) an attempt to discredit the Church before the people for the alleged appropriation of church treasures during the famine provoked by the Bolsheviks themselves; 2) then the removal of holy relics, with the aim of accusing the Church of lies and inauthenticity; 3) the next step of the Bolsheviks was to encourage divisions and schisms among the Orthodox themselves. A special emphasis was placed on the so-called Renovationism.

It was at this critical moment that Metropolitan Agafangel, who, with the blessing of Patriarch Tikhon, stood at the head of church administration, opposed, simultaneously, both schismatics and Bolsheviks. What made the current situation especially complicated was the fact that at times it was unknown whether those to whom Tikhon entrusted the care of the Church were alive and whether the Patriarch himself was still alive.

After spending years in prison, in 1928 Agafangel departed to the Lord. Among the saints he is called a confessor. In accordance with the practice of the Ancient Church, this was the name given to saints who suffered torment for Christ, but who died peacefully, as a rule, as a result of previously endured suffering. Saint Agafangel himself suffered many heart attacks in recent years.

It is no coincidence that the Church calls the saints who suffered as a result of persecution from the Bolsheviks and other revolutionaries “new confessors” or “new martyrs.” To properly venerate these saints, it is important to understand what the name “new martyr” itself means.

The holy martyrs of the first centuries were persecuted by the pagans for confessing faith in the One God. Later, when ancient paganism faded into oblivion, Christians, especially preachers and missionaries, became martyrs for their confession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

In modern times, with the advent of Bolshevism to power in Russia in 1917, Christians were subjected to death for belonging to the Church. The Church is a community of believers. The Bolsheviks claimed to create a new atheistic community of people on earth.

Mysteriously, this apostolic succession of martyrdom reproduces the order of the words of the Creed, which proclaims faith in the One God, in the Lord Jesus, and then speaks of the truth of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.