Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Protodeacon Nikolai Porshnikoff

It is with great sadness that I report to you that Protodeacon Nikolai Porshnikoff has fallen asleep in the Lord. He reposed yesterday morning, November 10/23, 2004, after a long illness. At the time of his death, he was reportedly awaiting a kidney transplant. He was ordained to the diaconate by St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco -- probably the last person ordained by St. John -- and he always took the fact that he was ordained by St. John as a great and wondrous blessing.

I first encountered Fr. Nikolai at the Divine Liturgy at Holy Virgin Cathedral in San Francisco, where he served faithfully for over forty years. He was a giant of a man, with a voice that, I swear, literally shook the building at times. The stories of his physical strength abounded. He owned and operated an auto body shop; and I was regaled with tales of how he could fix dents with the hammer blow of the side of his fist; and how he could raise the front end of a car just by lifting it with his arms and legs. To see him, and to hear his wonderfully powerful and deep bass voice, made me a believer in these tales. Why not? He was legendary -- and when I became a presluzhnik (acolyte), the legend only grew greater.

He seemed to be a fierce, gruff man. What I found was that he had a heart that was at least as large -- if not larger -- than his physical frame and presence conveyed. He had a deep and profound joy in serving in the temple of the Lord; and he was willing to take the time to instruct (and, where necessary, correct) the altar servers, such as myself. This was especially true for me after I was ordained as a deacon. He took time to teach me how to serve; for which I will always be grateful. He knew of my desire to one day be a priest, even while I was still just a presluzhnik; and I have no doubt he prayed for me to become a priest, if that was God's will. I know he shared that desire, as he told me one day while we sat at the church in Russian River; he longed to be "one of the brotherhood." There is no need to say that he was far more worthy than I will ever be of that honor and privilege.

Brothers and sisters, of your mercy, pray to God for the blessed repose of this giant of a man, whose voice, and very being, were an inspiration to so many. May God have mercy, and give rest, to His servant, the Protodeacon Nikolai.

Memory Eternal!