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An exhibition dedicated to the High Hierarch of the land of Turkestan - Archbishop Zephaniah (Sokolsky) has opened in the southern capital

December 13, 2023. Alma-Ata. At the end of the Divine Liturgy in the Ascension Cathedral in the spiritual and cultural center of the Kazakhstan Metropolitan District named after Metropolitan Joseph (Chernov), with the blessing of Metropolitan Alexander of Astana and Kazakhstan, the exhibition “Archbishop Zephaniah (Sokolsky) - the first Turkestan archpastor” opened.

The exhibition is dedicated to the following memorable dates: the 225th anniversary of the birth of Bishop Zephaniah, the 20th anniversary of the formation of the Metropolitan District and the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the pan-church celebration of the Council of New Martyrs and Confessors of Kazakhstan.

The event was organized by the Alma-Ata Orthodox Theological Seminary (curators - Vice-Rector for Educational Work, Priest John Livinsky, Vice-Rector for Scientific Work, Candidate of Philosophical Sciences A.P. Solovyov, Head of the Administrative Secretariat of the Head of the Metropolitan District, Priest Georgy Sidorov).

The head of the Orthodox Church of Kazakhstan became the guest of honor at the exhibition. Among the first visitors: vicars of the Astana diocese - the manager of the affairs of the Kazakhstan Metropolitan District, Bishop Gennady of Kaskelen, Bishop Claudian of Taldykorgan and Bishop Benjamin of Talgar; dean of the churches of the southern capital, rector of St. Nicholas Cathedral, Archpriest Valery Zakharov; Dean of the Astana Church District Archimandrite Sergius (Karamyshev), Head of the Information and Publishing Department of the Metropolitan District, Acting Rector of the Alma-Ata Theological Seminary, head of the information and publishing department of the Metropolitan District, Archpriest Evgeny Ivanov; vice-rector for educational work of the Alma-Ata Theological Seminary, priest John Livinsky, vice-rector for educational work of the Alma-Ata theological seminary, priest Peter Bakhtiyarov, the clergy of the southern capital, teachers and students of the theological seminary.

The head of the Metropolitan District addressed the audience. “On the day of memory of the Apostle Andrew, called the First-Called, in the spiritual and cultural center of the Kazakhstan Metropolitan District we are opening an exhibition dedicated to the Apostle of the Great Steppe, the first archpastor of the Turkestan diocese - Archbishop Zephaniah (Sokolsky). With this event we close the year of celebration of the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Metropolitan District on Kazakhstani soil - the Orthodox Church of Kazakhstan. And the coming year is marked by the 225th anniversary of the birth of the ever-memorable Bishop Zephaniah. The creation of the Metropolitan District was a natural result of the centuries-long existence of Orthodoxy in this ancient land, where the Gospel truth was proclaimed in ancient times, at the dawn of the Christian era. There were many preachers and educators here, but the history of the establishment and active development of the Orthodox Church in Central Asia begins precisely with the activities of Saint Zephaniah. This great worker in the field of Christ arrived here at the age of 70. The elder archbishop strove in deed and word to ignite the life-giving fire of faith in the hearts of his flock, built churches, tirelessly performed divine services and preached the word of God without laziness. Bishop Zephaniah, being a very well-read, educated, erudite man in all respects, gained respect in the highest circles, and his deep knowledge of the Koran and Arabic language allowed him to win over both the religious leaders of Islam and ordinary Muslims. The Bishop’s expressive and wise words and sermons made a very vivid impression on people. Wherever Bishop Zephaniah served, everywhere he presented the image of a wise hierarch, an example of moral purity and spiritual strength. He was an ascetic of piety, a true ascetic who did not want anything personal, who lived entirely for Christ and His Holy Church. All his time was divided between prayer, fatherly concerns for his flock and difficult administrative work. The personality of the bishop became an example for clergymen performing church work on the southern border of Christian civilization. Our sacred duty is to carefully preserve the memory of Bishop Zephaniah, who through his labors contributed to the spread of God’s truth in the ancient Kazakhstani land and gave his life to the service of the Holy Church. Eternal and grateful memory to Archbishop Zephaniah of Turkestan and Tashkent - an ascetic of piety, a preacher of truth, a zealous worker in the field of Christ, an apostle of the Great Steppe and Semirechye,” noted Metropolitan.

A significant part of the event was the presentation of the book “The lips of the righteous speak wisdom,” published with the blessing of Metropolitan Alexander of Astana and Kazakhstan. The head of the information and publishing department of the Metropolitan District, Archpriest Evgeny Ivanov, told those present about the collection of teachings and words of Archbishop Zephaniah (Sokolsky). “His teachings are a striking monument to the preaching art of the 19th century. According to the content, the words and speeches of the saint can be classified as moral and practical; all of them are filled with an explanation of the ethical commandments of the Holy Scriptures and church institutions, and often contain denunciations. Being himself a strict executor of the Divine Law, he ardently and sincerely wished that his listeners would be equally zealous people in spiritual life. In his sermons, Archbishop Zephaniah reveals to his flock the positive content of the foundations of the Orthodox faith, connects dogmatic truths with everyday life and convinces parishioners to carefully reflect on the teachings of the Church of Christ. Despite the fact that over the many years of his archpastoral service, the Bishop’s listeners included people of different social and class backgrounds, different cultural and intellectual levels, all his speeches are distinguished by a high, noble style. Whether the Right Reverend addresses clergy or seminarians, townspeople or peasants, parishioners of cathedrals or believers gathered in a modest rural church, he always and everywhere strives to help people overcome everyday life and worldly vanity, to captivate them to the heights of the spirit, from the earthly to the Heavenly. To do this, he combines with natural eloquence, traditional oratorical techniques, richness of style and poetry, an abundance of precisely selected biblical quotations and fragments of liturgical texts. A reverent attitude towards the Holy Scriptures and an excellent knowledge of the books of the New and Old Testaments permeate all the preaching work of the Turkestan archpastor. He tries to instill love for the word of God in his listeners, each time offering his flock a variety of apostolic and prophetic sayings, both direct and in the form of paraphrases and allusions. Another characteristic feature is the appeal of Bishop Zephaniah not so much to the mind, but to the heart and feelings of a person. The tone of the sermons is sincere and emotional; The saint often addresses those present in the church with paternal warmth: “beloved brothers.” Whatever topic he touches on in his teachings, everywhere one hears a call to see and know the greatness of God’s love for man and to respond to this love with a genuine Christian life. The hierarch speaks with special inner strength about the suffering and death on the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, which He endured for the salvation of the human race. Here, Archbishop Zephaniah certainly connects the events of the Gospel with the life of his contemporaries, emphasizing that the Savior suffers terrible torment precisely “for the sins that we commit,” that the passion of Christ is a sacrifice of propitiation “for our madness and arrogance, for our criminal dreams and plans.” Many sermons are dedicated to the Most Holy Theotokos, in which the archpastor glorifies the Queen of Heaven with the most sublime epithets, reveals the greatness of Her earthly life and gives examples of maternal intercession. But at the same time, the Bishop reminds his flock that “the worthy praise of the God-glorified One consists not in words of red, but in pious deeds, not in the calculation of Her holy virtues, but in the imitation of Her holy life.” In the collection of sermons of Archbishop Zephaniah (Sokolsky), which was published by the publishing department of the Kazakhstan Metropolitan District for the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the apostolic acts of the saint at the Turkestan See, only part of his homiletical heritage is presented. For the convenience of the modern reader, the text has been slightly edited to reflect modern spelling; The interlinear translation provides a translation of archaic words and expressions, the meaning of which is completely or partially lost today. The works of Bishop Zephaniah should be read slowly and thoughtfully in order to feel the depth and power of his thoughts, to understand the special style and beauty of the author’s style. Acquaintance with the teachings of the ever-memorable Turkestan hierarch, which are presented in figurative and vivid language characteristic of church writers of the 19th century, will be interesting and useful for clergy and laity, as well as lovers of Russian literature and connoisseurs of spiritual literature.”

The publication contains unpublished archival materials, ancient photographs of the archpastor’s places of service, as well as modern footage from the life of the Kazakhstan Metropolitan District. For the convenience of the modern reader, the text has been edited to reflect modern spelling; The interlinear translation provides a translation of archaic words and expressions, the meaning of which is completely or partially lost today. This collection of sermons will serve as a useful and edifying guide for clergy and laity, will also be of interest to lovers of Russian literature and connoisseurs of spiritual literature.

The head of the Orthodox Church of Kazakhstan presented copies of the book to the clergy. Further, the vice-rector for scientific work of the seminary A.P. Soloviev told those present about the concept of the exhibition and gave a tour.

The stands contain photo and text information about the main milestones in the life of Archbishop Zephaniah (Sokolsky). The banners, designed by the seminary staff, display photocopies of the Bishop’s protege bishop’s letter, his correspondence with Saints Ignatius (Brianchaninov) and Innocent (Borisov), documents on the establishment of the Turkestan diocese and other rare archival materials.

The video recording of the event was made by the Orthodox television studio "Semirechye" director - Honored Worker of Culture V.L. Posadneva; photographic recording was carried out by A. Shcheglov.

The exhibition will continue until January 7, 2024, admission is free.