"The Good Shepherd" - In Hallowed Memory of Archpriest Peter Motscharsky
On Tuesday, August 29, 2017, the feast of the Holy Image of the Savior "Not Made by Hands," the Eastern American Diocese prayerfully marked the 40th anniversary of the repose of Archpriest Peter Motscharsky (long-time rector of Holy Trinity Church in Astoria, NY). In honor of this anniversary, the diocesan Media Office would like to offer our readers the eulogy spoken at Fr. Peter’s funeral, delivered by his son-in-law, Protopresbyter Valery Lukianov, and translated into English for the first time.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit! When we deliver a word at the casket of the departed, we try to offer praise in their memory; but, in the Christian understanding, our words should be said strictly for edification. And so, examining today the half-century path of the priesthood of Batushka Father Peter, we find a true source of edification.
Father Peter descended from a spiritually unversed family, but nevertheless he embarked on his own spiritual path of to the priesthood completely independently, which was his great achievement. Having received a seminary education, he left to serve in the blessed southwestern province of Russia: to the grace-filled Volhynia [also known in English as Lodomeria – trans.]. At that time, a well-developed church life was underway there, church activity was bustling, and fervent popular prayer was observed, when the whole church "with one mouth and one heart" sang the divine services. As so, Fr. Peter wholly immersed his passionate young heart in this incredible, constructive work of the Church. But the War began. The battle for the preservation of his required enormous effort from the young priest in order to circumvent all the horrors of war with his family and children. Then came refugeehood, when everything had to be abandoned and the wonderful churches and their well-developed parishes had to be left behind, and service were held in camp barracks, in the worst conditions of camp life, and Fr. Peter began his pastoral activity over, acquiring a new flock, many of whom are in this church today*.
Then: America… But how did Father Peter come here? Normally, like everyone else? No: Fr. Peter came to America, carrying an iconostasis on his shoulders – in the literal sense of the word – for a future church, which he was committed to founding in the new country. Everyone was awed by this feat. In the course of a short period of time, St. Nicholas parish in New York was founded by him, whereat the prayer-filled iconostasis brought by him from Europe was erected…
Of course, Father Peter didn’t forget those early days of his, when he was witness to the peoples’ singing in church, when pilgrimages arranged by him were made with processions to the miraculous healing springs and to places where wonderworking icons were found: and here, in America, he organized and took part in pilgrimages, undertaken with great enthusiasm. I remember how it was when, early in the morning, Father Peter would serve the moleben before a journey, how the parishioners would fill the busses and embark on pilgrimage to the holy places, accompanying the journey with spiritual hymnody…
Father Peter loved to participate in church celebrations and was the first to support all joint services.
After enormous efforts, Father Peter was able to acquire the first spacious church in New York City, to the great joy of parishioners and the ecclesiastical authorities. This was Holy Trinity Church in Manhattan. However, with this he also received the difficult lot of facing many sorrows, but the Lord transformed them into great joys. Leaving the so difficultly acquired Holy Trinity Church in New York, Fr. Peter was assigned to a small, shabby parish in Astoria. Some of the flock faithful to him follow him there, and immediately Father begins the search for new, more suitable accommodations for the church. And for his hard work and patience, the Lord sent him great succor. The search culminated in an extraordinary success. Exquisite church accomodations with an attached rectory were found. Here Fr. Peter began upraising the sublime and magnificent Holy Trinity Church. Can one recount all those labors, hardships, sufferings, and personal sacrifice which Father came to suffer, producing the new, astonishingly well-adorned church? The Lord Himself will undoubtedly consider the righteous élan of His servant.
What, then, was the spiritual character of this outstanding pastor? First of all, Fr. Peter possessed preëminent humility and simplicity. He always had a virtuous disposition. No one ever heard dirty jokes or unpleasant language leaving his lips. Alongside this was the fact that he was a cheerful person, able to transmit his joyful mood to those around him. Everyone knew Fr. Peter for his outstanding hospitality. It gave him true succor to shelter, feed, and comfort a person, to arrange for that persn to stay the night. Father’s home was always open for all. Being unmercenary, he, without thinking, gave to the last, and the Lord again and again bountifully provided for him for his kindness. Father Peter had an inherent sense of duty and integrity. We will always remember our ever-memorably Father as a kind-hearted, merciful person, empathetic to the misfortunes and needs of others.
As a clergyman, Fr. Peter was an example of devotion to his sacred calling. Having a fervent prayerful temperament, he displayed zeal toward serving God. He was the first to enter the church. Throughout the whole course of Great Lent, he performed the required morning and evening services daily, sometimes being completely alone in church. Father Peter’s favorite activity was the adornment of his church, and the results of these efforts are before our eyes. He was a member of the Diocesan Council and, in his final years, was chairman of the Spiritual Court.
The years passed. Fr. Peter was visited by malady, his heart and nerves began to give out. As if foreseeing his imminent departure, he directed his steps to Holy Trinity Monastery, and within its walls observes his nameday for the last time. At the hermitage he confessed, communed, and prepared himself to cross over into eternity. However, he wholeheartedly wished to die in the line of duty, and the Lord granted him His mercy. Father died in the position of rector of his own beloved church. And another mercy did the Lord present to him, delivering him from suffering, which was unceasingly aggravated by his worsening infirmity. Brothers and sisters! We know from Holy Scripture that, at the Final Judgement, the Lord will say to the righteous: “Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave Me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in: Naked, and ye clothed Me: I was sick, and ye visited Me: I was in prison, and ye came unto Me… Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me” (Matthew 25:34-36,40). We will not be asked then how many majors we completed, although this is a good thing, if the sciences brought us to knowledge of God, but we will be asked how many good deeds we did. Batushka Fr. Peter did not indulge in great orations, but performed acts of mercy, travelling along the path of life. Thusly, praying now for the repose of the soul of the newly departed servant of God Archpriest Peter, we hope that the Lord will vouchsafe him to hear the desired words at the Judgement: “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:23). Amen.
Archpriest Valery Lukianov
* Holy Trinity Church in Astoria, Queens, NY [- ed.]