On Tuesday morning, September 4, a monk quietly reposed in the Lord. He wrote no great theological essays, neither was he renown for brilliant sermons, or for a magnificent serving voice. His hands were rough and calloused from decades of working on farm machinery and cattle. His pedrasnik was much patched and ragged on the bottom from catching on machinery in the barn. His boots bore the unmistakeable odor of 90 weight gear oil, which inevitably spilled on him while repairing one of the monastery's tractors.
When visitors came to the Cathedral on Sundays and Holidays, he would quietly sneak out through the monastery kitchen or through the back door. When not serving Liturgy, during services he could be found sitting up in the empty choir loft, huddled over his chotki, lost in prayer.
He rarely spoke, unless spoken to, and even then usually only to answer a question. In the years I knew him, I never heard him raise his voice or even to engage anyone in conversation. The only time I really heard him talk was with his friend, Archmandrite Iov, and then it would be about the best way to plow a field or should they plant soybeans or corn in a particular field.
He was born Vasily Vanko near the village of Ladimirovo, in what is today Eastern Slovakia. At a young age, he became a novice at the Orthodox Monastery in Ladimirovo, and in 1946 moved along with the brethren to Jordanville when the Red Army descended on the Monastery.
The 2 local boys, Vasily(Vanko) and Vasily(Skurla, later Metropolitan Laurus) were tonsured together bearing the names of the twin brother 2nd century martyrs Laurus and Florus, together with the novice Alypy(later Archbishop Alypy (Gamanovich).
As was my habit as a new seminarian, after Evening prayers and an hour or 2 of studying, I would venture over to the monastery kitchen for a cup of tea and one was lucky, some bread left over from dinner. Igumen Flor, as was his clerical rank at the time, would often be there, having missed the evening meal due to some problem in the barn, subsisting on tea and a few bread crusts. It took me months to work up the courage to speak to him. When I did, I spoke in the Presov dialect of his youth. When I spoke, Father Flor slowly looked up at me, his eyes softening and I actually saw him smile. In a quiet voice, speaking Great Russian, he asked me where I learned to speak po'nashemu. I briefly explained my family's history, and he nodded, giving me his blessing and retired for the night.
As the life of a seminarian was one of constant studying, Services and work, the chance to really speak again to Igumen Flor never really came again, unless it was work related in the cow barn. Then one Sunday, my senior year, I was assigned to serve Liturgy. One of the things we did was to assist the celebrant in reading through the thousands of requests and remembrances at proskomedia. Hundreds and hundreds of little pamyatniki books were stored in boxes, and each name, whether for the living or the dead was read. I had gone through about 50 or so books, when I picked up an old tattered one. I recognized the spidery script of Igumen Flor as he listed his departed family members. And much to my amazement, was a remembrance to myself and all the family members I had mentioned to him in passing 6 years earlier. All these years, he had been praying for me and my family who he had never met or would meet, after a simple 30 second conversation.
Graduation Day finally arrived, and tears flowed as I bade goodbye to the Brotherhood who had spiritually nourished me for so long. Many, I knew, I would never see again in this life. But Igumen Flor was nowhere to be found.
As I slowly drove away from the Monastery for the last time, my route took me past the potato field. And there, working in the field was Igumen Flor. I wanted to stop and get his blessing, but the 2 seminarians I was driving to the train station said it would just embarrass Fr Flor. So I said a silent prayer of thanks for having known such a man, and as I put the car back in gear, I glanced over one last time at Igumen Flor, who recognizing us and my car, stopped what he was doing and making a huge sign of the cross, blessed us as we drove away.
Yes, Archmandrite Flor reposed in the Lord yesterday. And I now have a new Heavenly intercessor before the Almighty.
Вечная память Батюшка