On October 2, 2015, Protodeacon Nicholai Triantafillidis, a beloved member of the clergy of the Western American Diocese, reposed in the Lord shortly after partaking of the Holy Mysteries of Christ. Father Nicholai lived in this temporal life 3 weeks short of his 45th Birthday. Chosen of God, he labored tirelessly from his youth up to his blessed end in the service of the Orthodox Church.
The future Protodeacon Nicholai was born to George and Ekaterina Triantafillidis in San Francisco, California, on October 24, 1970. He was one of four children and the oldest son in the family. He received Holy Baptism in the Diocesan Cathedral dedicated to the Icon of the Mother of God “Joy of All Who Sorrow” by Protopresbyter John Shachneff.
His love for God began very early in life. These initial years were defined by his participation in the Saints Cyril and Methodius Gymnasia and the youth choir at the New Cathedral. As he grew into his early teens, the future Father Nicholai began to assist in the Altar as an acolyte. He was blessed with the wonderful opportunity to participate in two pilgrimages to the Holy Land in Israel during those years. At the ages of 12 and 13 years he was taken there by Archimandrite Mitrophan (Manuylov-Edlinskii), who was the family’s father confessor and a devoted disciple of Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco the Wonderworker.
One of his teachers from gymnasia, Maria Klestoff, had the following observations of the future deacon of the Church: “I first became acquainted with Father Nicholai (then he was Kolya), when he was one of my students in the 7th grade at the Saints Cyril and Methodius Gymnasia. He was always polite, quiet, but his eyes sparkled with life. He was not among the best pupils, however, he performed in Gogol’s ‘Marriage’ outstandingly. Many years later, to my surprise, as a new, young deacon, he approached me using my name and patronymic and I recognized him as my former pupil…” Politeness and respect for others, modesty, a passion for life and outstanding performance remained hallmarks of Father Nicholas’ personality throughout all the years of his life.
Kolya Triantafillidis was surrounded by love of God, and many good examples that contributed to his spiritual formation and grounded his spirit in the Sacred Tradition of the Orthodox Church. His parents have always been devoted members of the New Cathedral, so Kolya saw the struggles and pains of parish life first-hand; but he also knew the blessings that come through these struggles. Both sets of grandparents, also left their mark of piety, the joy of life, and simplicity on all their grandchildren. Additionally, mention must be made of the beloved clergy, such as Archbishop Anthony (Medvedev), Archimandrite Mitrophan, the pious priests and deacons of the New Cathedral and the teachers from the gymnasia.
Kolya’s childhood and youth passed during the last years of the Cold War and fall of the Soviet Union. The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia had glorified the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia in 1981. This was an extremely important moment in the life of the Russian Church Abroad. The Russian colony in San Francisco, the cathedral and parishes, the gymnasia all held the New Martyrs and Confessors in great honor for their struggles. So many hopes had been placed in their intercessions, and these hopes were not in vain as history has shown. The love of Holy Russia and her Church, her history and her language, became deeply ingrained in Kolya’s heart. This veneration and reverence continued throughout his life. Eventually, he would name one of his children after a New-Martyr of Russia. During Father Nicholai’s life, he visited Russia five times in total.
In 1989, given such an upbringing and upon completion of public high school, it was an obvious and natural step to pursue his higher education by entering Holy Trinity Seminary located at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY. Because of the strong monastic life and the theological school there, Archbishop Anthony (Medvedev) was fond of repeating the words of Metropolitan Anastasy (Gribanovsky) referring to Jordanville as the “fortress” of the Russian Church Abroad. Though the future protodeacon did not complete the seminary program, living in that fortress further deepened for him the beauty of the Divine Services and the practice of the science of Liturgics. It was during this period that he met his future wife, the then Nadia V. Boikov from Australia.
Love for God and love for life now began to be expressed in many magnificent ways in the adult life of Father Nicholas, from romantically wooing Nadia Boikov, to successfully raising three children in the Church, to serving as a reverent and pious deacon, to participating in the secular world in which he needed to live so as to provide for his family, to finding time outside of this for the accomplishment of so many extracurricular duties he performed for the Church. Father Nicholai was never idle and the load he carried on his shoulders with God’s help is astonishing.
The future Father Nicholai was a true romantic, seeking ways of doing things that would be special and meaningful. For example, having fallen in love with his future wife who was living in Australia at the time, he, to her great surprise, bought a plane ticket across the Pacific Ocean and showed up at her place of work unannounced with flowers. The couple married in Australia on September 6, 1992, and while living in both Sydney and the San Francisco Bay Area over the course of 23 years, they have successfully raised their children in the Faith: Anastasia, Anthony and Terrence. As young adults, all three have chosen to make viable contributions to the life of the Church.
Three weeks after their wedding, the couple found themselves in the New Cathedral in San Francisco where Father Nicholai was ordained to the deaconate by Archbishop Anthony (Medvedev) on the Feast of the Elevation of the Honourable and Life-Creating Cross of the Lord, September 27, 1992. Here is an example of Father Nicholai’s strong sense of discipleship; for though Father Nicholai would begin his clerical service to the Church in Australia, he wanted to be ordained by his beloved mentor. Archbishop Anthony reciprocated this love having been a part of his disciple’s life from the latter’s first days.
Protodeacon Nicholai’s parish assignments included service at Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral in Sydney, Australia, and at his home parish, the Diocesan Cathedral of the Icon of the Mother of God “Joy of All Who Sorrow” in San Francisco. Father Nicholai’s strong, thundering baritone and princely demeanor distinguished his reverent service. He would study a great predecessor among the protodeacons before him, listening over and over to his voice recordings. He would prepare the rubrics for an upcoming Festal Service and then analyze that Divine Service after the fact to make improvements for the next time. Though he was large in stature and carried himself with majesty, he was a meek man, ever tactful, getting along with everyone in the Holy Altar. Over the years, he became well decorated by the Church; he was elevated to the rank of Protodeacon in 2003 and honored with the double orarion and kamilavka. He wore fine vestments, which were always clean and in good repair. He would care for the parishes where ever he served. For example, he would donate wine, liturgical vessels and books, and make financial contributions. Father’s Ruling Bishop while in Australia wrote of him: “He was respected not only by his relatives, friends and parishioners, but by us archpastors and pastors, who looked upon him not as an underling cleric, but as a brother and friend, which the reposed earned by his helpfulness, his kind and responsive heart, his pious and prayerful spirit” (Letter of Condolence by Metropolitan Hilarion, First-Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia).
The world has seen rapid changes in technology in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Everyone who holds down a job today must keep up with computerization in the workplace to one extent or another. As technology has developed over the last decades, so did Father Nicholai’s skills in this area. He needed these skills for daily employment by which he provided for his family. He became quite accomplished in computer technology, and he was able to bring these skills to the service of the Church through desktop publishing in the Australian Diocese (designing and printing an anniversary album and producing the diocesan journal) and through building and maintaining two websites for the New Cathedral in San Francisco. Father labored to organize two diocesan-wide choir conferences in Australia while he lived there. Here in our diocese, he upgraded and operated the Holy Virgin Cathedral Bookstore since 2011. Anyone who became acquainted with Father Nicholai admired him for his knowledge, indefatigable energy and generosity. Not wasting any days of his life, he truly fulfilled the Gospel commandment: “Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you” (John 12:35).
Protodeacon Nicholai Triantafillidis fell seriously ill in February of 2014. The doctors did not give him much hope for recovery. Father began to devote his zeal and energy to healing. His focus was not only on medical healing but also on spiritual healing and growth. Ever on the move and thinking of his family, he began planning for his family’s financial security if it was now his time to depart to the next life.
Father Nicholai performed the Divine Services as often as his condition would allow. He would become anxious if he missed a Sunday or major Feast Day. For example, this year (2015) during Holy Week he spent the entire time in the hospital. With the approach of the Feast of the Resurrection and with each passing day in the hospital bed, he became more distraught. However, by the great mercy of God, Father was discharged on Holy and Great Saturday. Our Lord gave him strength to participate in the Paschal Matins and Liturgy at the diocesan cathedral. And then to his even greater amazement and gratitude to God, he served Divine Liturgy on Bright Monday at Holy Ascension Church in Sacramento, CA, participating also in the procession and then reading the Patriarch’s Paschal Epistle from the ambo.
In the mid to late summer of 2014, having already undergone several taxing medical procedures, Father made a prolonged pilgrimage to Athos, Thessalonica, Aegina and many parts of Russia. He was deliberately gathering "grace upon grace" through prayer, and contact with holy places and churchly people. The following summer (2015) already quite worn out by his illness, he returned to Aegina and the Holy Mountain once more asking of Saint Nectarios of Pentapolis and the Mother of God healing of soul and body, and protection and care for his wife and children.
With so many labors, voluntary and involuntary, so many trials and tears, Protodeacon Nicholai peacefully reposed in the Lord on Friday October 2, 2015, after having received the Holy Mysteries of Christ and surrounded by his wife, children, parents and siblings.
Metropolitan Hilarion wrote the following: “Rest can only be sweet after difficult labors, and only those who labor are able to then eat of the fruit of their deeds. “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them” (Revelation 14:13), as we read in the Book of Revelation. And Father Nicholas labored a great deal in his life and his service; his entire life, one could say, was spent in labor. He worked greatly for the Church, for his family, and for you, the clergymen and parishioners of this cathedral. But his labors have now ceased, his ailments and sighing have ended, his life now extinguished… We will pray for the repose of Protodeacon Nicholas in the abodes of the righteous. And you, relatives and friends, pray that the Lord likewise grants us such a peaceful Christian end as He granted to Father Nicholas. Amen.”
Compiled by Archpriest Paul Volmensky, Sacramento, CA