This is the Eulogy delivered by Father Theodore Heckman at the Funeral Service held at the Monastery Church of Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk, South Canaan, Pennsylvania, on September 5, 1990.
Eulogy delivered by V. Rev. Theodore C. Heckman on September 5, 1990
For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If it is to be life in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me, [But] my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. (Saint Paul to the Philippians 1: 21-23)
All of us who knew and loved Father Vladimir, I am sure, deeply felt and assumed that this day would never come. This moment! Most of us who have served this Seminary have never known it with, out the presence of Father Vladimir. He seemed ageless, eternally young, his mind and spirit ever fresh and vibrant. He was so full of life that he had the effect-on countless people--of changing their lives: bringing them to a new certainty of the truth of the Gospel of Christ and a desire to serve that Gospel.
Today-a day we had hoped would never come-was cloudy, hazy, with only brief sunlight. It seemed unreal, quiet, the feeling of an end. We all live as it were in a dream. Then in one moment we awaken to the fullness of life eternal. Saint Paul expresses this in his poem to love:
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face... Now I know in part then I shall understand fully...(I Cor. 13: 12)
Throughout his whole life, Father Vladimir was seeking knowledge. In one of his many poems he said,
Here a pilgrim
I wander Seeking the Kingdom
I have found my eternal home. (Troitsa, December 31, 1969)
He captured many of his experiences in poetry, some of which he modeled after Japanese Haiku, calling them "Troirsa's"-each having three short lines. In this as in his Priesthood, he followed the example of his own father, a Priest-poet who years ago published a collection of poetry entitled Writings in the Spirit. Father Stakhy was a deeply treasured presence in Father Vladimir's life. Every day he sought to imitate his father's shining example. Seeking knowledge was a key element in both men's lives. This explains Father Vladimir's love of books. Many books. More than any dwelling could hold. But in searching through those many books he gained something more than knowledge. Many in this world have knowledge; few have insight; and fewer yet have wisdom. Father Vladimir had all three. He had knowledge about everything. The materials in his books on every subject were absorbed in his endless quest. One had the feeling that even with such a vast store of books on hand, and with all the reading he did, he came to know even more than they all contained. And he was always ready to share this store of knowledge, insight, and wisdom with everyone. In this he touched our souls and transformed our lives. All that he had, all that he acquired, he shared with others: his love, his deep concern for others, his gentleness, his good humor. These virtues were so truly natural to him that they flowed ceaselessly and effortlessly from the depths of his soul, even to the end of his days.
Add to his gifts that of prophecy. In one of his poems he spoke of this very day:
When I sleep
I rehearse for death each day
Awake--a time for Resurrection.
And there was his humility! For all his learning, there was not the tiniest shred of pride. He treasured the teachings of Christ on humility; he loved the examples and writings of the Saints on humility; he loved the very idea of humility-as something full of spiritual power. In 1954 he wrote a thesis for his degree at the Divinity School at the University of Chicago: The theme of the Humiliated Christ in the Novels of Dostoevsky. In one of the chapters dealing with the Christ of the Legend of the Grand Inquisitor, he wrote,
The vision of the Self-Humiliated Christ, hidden as it was behind the stern image of Christ Pantocrator, appealed to the imagination of the religious mind and heart of the Russian people. The young Russian nation deliberately and willfully chose the ideal of the Self-Humiliated Christ as the most expressive of the religious, ethical and cultural mind of the Russian people. Long before the time of Dostoevsky, this ideal of the self-humiliated type of personality had become an accepted facet of the Russian mind and personality.
Dear Fathers, Brothers and Sisters, did we not feel every moment the profound genuineness of this man's humility! Did we not understand that this man of utter humility was always and in every way showing us Christ!
When Father Vladimir was teaching, either formally or-more to his liking-informally, did not our hearts burn as we listened to his Godly conversation (as the Disciples' hearts burned on the road to Emmaus when Our Lord spoke to them, not having yet recognized who He was). Did we not see in Father Vladimir's infinite patience an icon of Christ's long-suffering patience. Did we not see in Father's gentleness--Christ's meekness. And in Father's love for everyone whom he met, were we not meeting Christ again and again in this man!
Christ being raised from the dead, dieth no more: Death hath no more dominion over Him. Alleluia!
Because you, dear Father, were in Christ and Christ in you always, death has no dominion over you. You sleep, but shall arise ...
Look upon me. A little while I have had tribulation and labor, and now I have found great comfort.
You, Father Vladimir, have made it much easier for all of us remaining here to face our own death-at a time which we know not. Your unquestioning, rock-like faith showed us not to be afraid, and even to welcome that moment.
On the prayer card we have received today there is a short prayer written by Father Vladimir. He loved prayer above all other activities. His wrote life. Was a prayer, and in the latter years, he came to write then almost without ceasing. This last prayer, which will be sung towards the end of this service, expresses most simply and profoundly the faith, hope, life, and spiritual love of this unique Servant of God:
O Lord, on that day when my eyes shall no longer behold the wondrous rising of the sun, grant that the eyes of my spirit shall forever be opened to the Divine Beauty of Your Everlasting Glory. Amen.