Arsenii Mohylyanskyi (secular name Oleksii Vasyliovych Mohylyanskyi)

Arsenii Mohylyanskyi (secular name Oleksii Vasyliovych Mohylyanskyi)

Arsenii Mohylyanskyi (secular name Oleksii Vasyliovych Mohylyanskyi) was born on March 17, 1704 (according to other sources – 1711) in Reshetylivka, Poltava province, in a family of hereditary priests (maternal line). He came from the famous family of Mohyla. He studied at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy (1721–1727) and the Kharkiv Collegium (1727–1735). In 1738–1741 he taught at the Kharkiv Collegium, and later at the Ustyuzhna and Tver seminaries. In 1741 he was transferred as a teacher to the Moscow Slavic Greek Latin Academy, the same year in the Moscow Zaikonnospaskyi monastery he received a monastic vow under the name of Arsenii – in honor of St. Arsenii, Bishop of Tver.

As a talented preacher-orator, Arsenii Mohylyanskyi became a favourite of Empress Elizabeth Petrivna, known for her pro-Ukrainian sympathies. In 1741 he was appointed court preacher and “was in this capacity with glory for about three years”; later he received from the Empress a diamond panagia and a diamond cross with rubies. In 1744 he was ordained an archimandrite of the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, and a few months later archbishop Pereslavl-Zalesskyi; at the same time he became a member of the Synod. In 1752, due to ill health, he asked to rest in the Novgorod-Siversky Savior-Transfiguration Monastery, where he was abbot.

On October 22, 1757, he was ordained a metropolitan of Kyiv and Halych, and on June 9, 1758, he arrived in Kyiv. He actively defended the rights of the Kyivan metropolitanate, participated in the conclusion of the “Points on the Benefits of the Rus’ Minor Clergy” (1767), which demanded the restoration of the autonomous rights of the Ukrainian Church, the return to the Kyivan metropolitan of all rights and privileges which he used until 1686 – the time of inclusion of the Kyiv metropolitanate to the Moscow Patriarchate. These privileges included the special title of Kyiv bishop, which at that time was changed from “Metropolitan of Kyiv, Galicia and All Rus’” to “Metropolitan of Kyiv, Galicia and All Rus’ Minor”, and after the decree (April 2, 1767) of Empress Catherine II – the words “and all of Rus’ Minor” were took away. Among the demands were: confirmation of noble rights, possessions and income of the clergy, non-interference of secular authorities in the church court and material support of churches by parishioners, exemption of clergy and church people from military service and a number of taxes, and so on. Metropolitan Arsenii also petitioned for the creation of a separate printing house for the diocese. These demands had no effect, but they testified to opposition and autonomous sentiments in the Kyiv Diocese during his reign.

During his stay at the Kyiv cathedra, bishop Arseniy issued and sent to the subordinate clergy more than 650 decrees, in particular: on the relationship between the clergy and the secular authorities, on collecting donations to fight infectious diseases, to prevent marriages of minors and adults, on the responsibility for the offense of the clergy, on the inviolability and sanctity of graves and burials. The metropolitan compiled “Akathist and the service for St. Dmitry Rostovsky”. Some of his sermons were published.

Metropolitan Arsenii attached great importance to the spiritual education of the youth. The Kyiv Academy was under his special protection, for which he did everything possible: gave teachers and students most of his own salary, defended both before magistrates, was their deputy before the top management and did not allow anyone to insult professors or students. He, as a father, was approached by the staff of the Academy with personal problems, with a request to receive clothes or shoes, to provide medicines for sick students. He repeatedly asked Empress Catherine II for subsidies for the Kyiv Academy. As a highly educated man, metropolitan Arsenii cared about raising the level of knowledge of students, enriched the library of the Academy with a large number of books. In 1763, a large stone building for poor students was built at the expense of the metropolitan. Arsenii (Mohylyanskyi) was closely acquainted with the outstanding philosopher-educator Hryhorii Skovoroda, and sent his spiritual hymns to the church; kept in touch with the famous engraver G. Levitsky-Nis, ordered from him icons and engravings for the temples of Kyiv.

Bishop Arsenii did a lot to repair and decorate the main metropolitan church – the Kyiv-Sophia Cathedral and the monastery. On August 19, 1767, he consecrated St. Andrew’s Church and appointed priests from the Sophia Monastery to officiate.

Metropolitan Arsenii was uncompromising in disorder, respected his subordinates and insisted on justice, and tried to instill in others respect for law and order. He treated the working people, especially teachers, students and servants, with kindness and indulgence – often rewarding them for their work. The archpastor took care of the poor and needy: they received a certain amount from his bounties every month.

He died in 1770 and was buried in the crypt of St. Sophia Cathedral.