Canonization of Four Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia

The following is a recent press release regarding the canonization of several New Martyrs. I have gathered as much information about each as I could find (about one I could find no information), compiled it and translated it. The short lives of each follow the press release.

New Names Included into the List of Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia

October 6, 2008

At the October 6 session of the Holy Synod, under the chairmanship of His Holiness Patriarch Alexey, Metropolitan Juvenally of Krutitsk and Kolomna, chairman of the Synodal Commission for the Canonization of Saints, read a report regarding the canonization of new martyrs and confessors of Russia from various dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The Holy Synod approved the report of the Right Reverend Metropolitan Juvenally and added to the list of Holy Martyrs and Confessors of Russia of the 20th century the names of the following strugglers:

From the Yekaterinburg diocese: Archimandrite Ardalion (Ponomarev) 1877 – June 29, 1938

From the Moscow diocese: Priest Sergei (Spasskii) 1884 – November 27, 1937 and Novice Maria (Vinogradova) 1886 – February 17, 1938

From the Chuvash-Cheboksarii diocese: Priest Basil (Constantinov-Grishin) 1874 – March 14, 1943

The Synod also approved to inform the heads of other Local Orthodox Churches of these names to include them in the list of their saints.

Press Service of the Moscow Patriarchate

The life of St. Ardalion (Alexander Ponomarev), Archimandrite (1877 – June 29, 1938):

Mitred Proto-priest Alexander, in monasticism Ardalion

Little is known about the early life of Fr. Alexander, the earliest date found was that his daughter Maria Alexandrovna was born in 1905 in Yekaterinburg. There were a total of four children in the family of which the youngest, Gregory (born 1914 in Shadrinsk [a small town approximately 200 km from Yekaterinburg]), became a priest. Fr. Alexander’s wife was named Nadezhda. Fr. Alexander was a brilliantly educated man, having a degree in the humanities as well as in theology. This fact served him very well as after the revolution children of priests were not allowed into schools and Fr. Alexander was forced to teach the children himself. Only for Mathematics, Chemistry, and Physics did the children go to a private teacher.

Soon after the birth of Gregory, Fr. Alexander was transferred to serve in a cathedral in Yekaterinburg and was also named “Diocesan Missionary.” After the revolution everything was uneasy and always changing resulting in Fr. Alexander being often moved from parish to parish. In 1929 his son Gregory became, with the approval and blessing of His Eminence Valerian Shadrinsk, a Psalm reader in order to serve with his father in various churches of the Yekaterinburg diocese. At the same time his wife’s health was failing requiring the children to take up more responsibility.

In 1932 Fr. Alexander was transferred to the town of Nevyansk in the Sverdlovsk region (100 km North of Yekaterinburg) and served at the Exaltation of the Cross Cemetery Church. Matushka Nadezhda, who’s health was already weak, completely succumbed and her soul soon peacefully went to the Lord. Steadfastly enduring their grief, together with Gregory Fr. Alexander served the funeral in the church and at the grave which was behind the altar of the church.

Uneasy life continued and the rumor was confirmed that clergy were being arrested and exiled. The arrest of Frs. Michael Oranskii, John Pokrovskii, and Sergei Uvitskii (the daughter of whom Gregory would marry in 1936) were proof of this. Proto-priest Alexander Ponomarev was soon tonsured into monasticism with the name of Ardalion after the death of his wife. After his tonsuring he served as the dean of The Church of the Holy Trinity in the town of Miass.

On December 12, 1934, he was raised to the rank of archimandrite by Archbishop Macarius of Sverdlovsk and Chelyabinsk at the Holy Spirit Cathedral in Sverdlovsk. For a short time Archimandrite Ardalion lived in the monastery of St. Simeon Verkhoturye in the village of Saraktash (approximately 500 km South West of Yekaterinburg) but it was soon destroyed whereupon he returned to the small house in the village of Nevyansk where his son Gregory lived and served as a Psalm reader.

In 1937 Archimandrite Ardalion was called to Moscow to be consecrated a bishop but on the way he was arrested. He was able to send a message to his relatives saying, “Don’t search for me, I don’t know where I’ll end up.” In order to know the fate of her father, Maria Alexandrovna, Archimandrite Ardalion’s daughter, turned to a nun with the gift of foresight. The nun sad that his case was with an investigator in a certain room in Novosibirsk but that she would not find her father there. Maria Alexandrovna went to Novosibirsk and found the investigator which was in charge of her father’s case. He was very surprised and said, “How did you know? He really was here but was sent to Kotlas (prison camp in the Arkhangelsk district, the far North of Russia).”  Maria Alexandrovna went to Kotlas. She was told that the previous day about 1000 prisoners were taken out of Kotlas and chased into a marsh where all of them died.

The life of Priest-martyr St. Sergei (Spassky) (April 10, 1884 – November 27, 1937):

Priest-martyr Sergei Spassky

Sergei was born on April 10, 1884 into the family of a priest of the Nativity of the Theotokos church in the small village of Teremets in the Serpukhov region of the Moscow province. He attended the Perervinsk Theological School and finished in 1900 after which he entered the Moscow Theological Seminary which he completed in 1906. From 1906 until 1909 he taught at the same seminary.

In 1909 he was ordained a priest and served in the village of Bolshiye Kolodezi until 1929 when he was arrested. Under statute 58-10 of the criminal code of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic he was sentenced to exile for three years. After his release he returned to Bolshiye Kolodezi where he again served as priest until his arrest on November 21, 1937.

On November 23, 1937, a troika of the NKVD of the USSR of the Moscow region sentenced him under statute 58-10 of the criminal code of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic for “counter-revolutionary agitation” and ordered that he be shot. He was shot and buried four days later at the infamous Butovo shooting range outside of Moscow. Fr. Sergei was reabilitated by the prosecuter of the Moscow region on June 30, 1989 and glorified by the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church on October 6, 2008.

The life of Martyr Nun Maria (Georgievna Vinogradova) (1886 – February 17, 1938):

Maria was born into a peasant family of the village of Likhachevo, Volokolamsk region, Moscow province in 1886 to a floor-polisher for hire. She studied for two years at a parish school.

In 1904, when she was 18 years old, Maria joined the Icon of the Joy of all Who Sorrow Women’s Monastery and lived there until it was closed in 1917. After the monastery was closed she lived together with seven other nuns from the monastery at 101 Khutorskaya Street and worked at a cooperative, which was organized in the former monastery, sewing blankets.

In 1929 she was arrested by agents of the OGPU (the KGB from 1923-1934), was searched and found to possess church literature. After a few days she was released. From 1929 to 1930 she worked for hire as a housemaid. In 1933 she was denied a passport. Nun Maria then moved to Volokolamsk where she lived until 1935 working temporary jobs.

In 1935 Fr. Paul, a priest in Vozmishche (a village in the Volokolamsk district), took on Mother Maria to work as a maid. She then worked as sexton at the church. From September 1937 until January 1938 three priests were arrested at the church in Vozmishche: Fr. Alexander Zverev in September 1937, Fr. Paul Andreev in October 1937, and Fr. Sergei in 1938.

On January 25, 1938, Nun Maria was arrested and on February 11, 1938, convicted by a troika of the NKVD of the Moscow region under statute 58-10 of the criminal code of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialst Republic for “anti-Soviet agitation” and sentenced to be shot. She did not admit to being guilty and at the interrogation said that she applied all her strength to getting more people to go to church. At the question, “What compelled you to do that?” She answered, “A calling to religion, faith in God and Christ.”

She was shot and buried four days later at the infamous Butovo shooting range outside of Moscow. Nun Maria was reabilitated by the prosecuter of the Moscow region on June 30, 1989 and glorified by the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church on October 6, 2008.

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