We Were Guests at St. Seraphim's
by Dr. A. P. Timofievich
About the Author
The author of this account of a pilgrimage to Sarov and Diveyevo, which occurred
at the very eve of the closure of these monasteries, was a gifted writer, by
profession a physician. From his childhood Dr. Anatoly Pavlovich Timofievich
dedicated his life to God, and to medicine as a way of serving the Church. He
was raised in the shadow of the Kiev Caves Lavra in Russia. He spent much of
his youth roaming this huge, ancient monastery, with its towers, its near and
far caves, its theological academy, its library, parks and cemetery, its secluded
places where ascetics were laboring, hidden away from the world. He became friends
with many of the monks. All this instilled in him a lifelong sense of awe and
trembling before the Church and monastic life. While in medical school, he spent
his time studying in the Lavra.
After the Bolshevik revolution, Anatoly Pavlovich remained in close contact
with the famous Schema-bishop Anthony at the Lavra. He was also at home in neighboring
monasteries: Goloseyevsky, Kitaev, Florovsky, Michaels, and especially
the Trinity Monastery of Righteous Jonah. He witnessed the ruthless liquidation
of monasteries, such as when hundreds of monks were thrown to their death off
bridges because the authorities thought they were not worth wasting bullets
on. He made a pilgrimage to the secret monks hiding in the Crimea, perhaps the
greatest repository of sanctity in the 20th century.
From his student years Anatoly Pavlovich was the spiritual son and a member
of the Christian commune of Fr. Adrian Rymarenko (later Archbishop Andrew),
a disciple of Optina Elder Nektary. When Fr. Adrian founded the New Diveyevo
Convent in upstate New York, Anatoly Pavlovich moved into a house right next
to his. He was the personal physician of Fr. Adrian. Being in very poor health,
Fr. Adrian would serve in the altar only under Anatoly Pavlovichs personal
supervision. Afterwards he would collapse and literally be carried out.
Anatoly Pavlovich spent his life under Fr. Adrians spiritual guidance,
and was finally buried by him in 1974.
The most interesting aspect of Anatoly Pavlovich Timofievich was that he was
a man not of this world, literally sighing for the heavenly homeland. He sighed
when he was not in prayer, and we could only glimpse him as he was between times
of prayerful contemplation. He was not inspired by contemporary life. He probably
experienced periods of depression because he was not in Holy Russia, because
he did not become a martyr, and because the American lifestyle was so far removed
from the Orthodox way of life.
Anatoly Pavlovichs burning faith is evident from his writing. He was
aflame with inspiration and zeal for the Lord, and he knew that he had a rich
inheritance to pass on. Spending the last decades of his life in America and
serving the American land through his writing, he bequeathed his transmission
to the young generation of Americans. He became a bridge to Holy Russia, which
now, 18 years after his death, rises from the ashes of 20th-century barbarism.
The account printed below was written on the occasion of the 50th anniversary
of St. Seraphims canonization. It was written right after Anatoly Pavlovich
completed a book on St. Seraphim. Later he authored a poetic, heart-rending
anthology about righteous men and women whom he had met, entitled People of
God. In due time this too will be published in The Orthodox Word.
To Her Royal Highness Grandduchess Xenia Alexandrovna,
a great venerator of St. Seraphim,
the author with reverence dedicates this modest work.
When you begin to turn over the pages of your life, already not a little written
over and perhaps near their end, then you will hurry to turn some of them over
as soon as possible, at others you will linger; and there are somefew
and rare, alas!which you eagerly read and reread, returning to them again
and again. One such happy page of my life was a stay of almost three weeks at
Diveyevo and Sarov Monasteries in the summer of 1926. I well understand the
poverty of human language and its inability to transmit those feelings and moods
which grip the heart and soul with such strength. To understand and appreciate
them, one must experience them. Not without reason does the writer S. A. Nilusto
whom Orthodox people are indebted for the discovery of such a spiritual treasure
as the Conversation of St. Seraphim with Motovilov About the Aim of the
Christian Lifeexclaim in a burst of spiritual delight:
Whoever has not been to Sarov with faith in Seraphim, whoever has not
breathed in the Sarov air, saturated with his prayer, does not grasp, does not
appreciate Sarov, even though it be described with ingenious words or painted
with an ingenious brush.
This is in no way exaggerated. But on the other hand, I myself know how dear
to the believing man is everything connected with the memory of St. Seraphim,
and therefore I have decided to share my remembrances about my trip with the
pious reader. May he not judge me, a sinner, and may he forgive my infirmity.
This description does not bear the character of a chronological journal; it
is rather separate fragments tied together with the sole aim of giving a faint
picture of the last lot of the Mother of God on earthwonderful Diveyevo
and Sarov. Much has been omitted which due to the present situation cannot be
Bless, O Lord!
New Diveyevo, New York
St. Seraphim. The mass pilgrimage to Sarov in 1926. Thoughts about the trip
to Sarov and my acquaintance with Engineer X. Preparations. Departure. At Mukhtolovo
Station. Ardatov. Pokrov Womens Monastery. Elder Anthony of Murom. Diveyevo.
A visit to the Cathedral. Mother Ludmilla, the treasurer of the monastery.
How much this name says to the Russian heart! I dont know whether anyone
could be found in Orthodox Russia whose wrinkled brow would not become smooth
at the mention of this holy name, whose bent figure would not straighten, and
whose eyes would not brighten with inner light and warmth. What is the secret
of the nation-wide veneration of this Saint of God?
It seems to me that two main principles are at work here.
They are, firstly, the justification and triumph of our Orthodox Faith, which
has been fully manifested in this chosen vessel of Gods blessing; and
secondly, the strong, inexhaustible, ever-strengthening stream of love, which,
as during the Saints lifetime, so still more after his death, embraces
all who have recourse to him for help.
Innumerable, immeasurable, are the miracles of the Saint across the face of
his native land. This is why this precious name, so near, so dear to the heart,
is reverently pronounced and invoked from the royal palace to the hut of the
I myself in my early youth experienced a miraculous intercession by the Saint
of God, and from that time there was definitively established in me a deep faith
in the strength of his prayers and swift intercession before the Throne of the
Naturally I endeavored in every way to give thanks for all the benefits shown
toward me, a sinner, even intending, if possible, to visit the place of the
Saints struggles and prayerfully attest to my love for him before his
But time passed. The tornado of revolution turned everything upside down, life
took on the most abnormal forms, there began in the full sense a struggle for
a half-starved existence, and the trip was involuntarily laid aside. So years
But then came the year 1926, a wondrous year in some respects.
Never before had a longing for the Saint embraced believers as in that year.
Both the old and young rose up and hastened to Sarov. I remember how a whole
pilgrimage set out from our city with those distinguished clergymen, now holy
martyrs, 75-year-old Fr. M., Fr. Al., Fr. An., and many others, and after them
stretched the laypeople. Some soulful, inexplicable, but powerful need to visit
the Saint enveloped everyone. Some on returning back related what they saw and
experienced, and were immediately replaced by others. And this happened everywhere.
Only in a year did everything become clear, with the closure of Sarov and Diveyevo.
The Saint invisibly but powerfully called to himself all who loved him, in
whom there burned even a feeble spark of faith in him. It was as if he were
giving us a last opportunity to rejoice in the great joy of direct contact with
him before he undertook his newest and greatest podvigto suffer the terrible
sacrilegious outrages against his relics and all the other holy things, that
were perpetrated in Sarov and Diveyevo.
One thing is certain: the mystery of this podvig was in the plan of the Divine
economy, and its meaning will be revealed only on the day of the final triumph
of Light over darkness.
I also was drawn with irresistible strength to the Saint of God, and circumstances
at that time developed favorably, to my joy. I decided not to travel alone,
but to go with my great like-minded friend K. Not knowing the way, however,
I turned to the worthy Fr. Adrian for help:
Now, my dear one, turn to Engineer X. Why, he is their own man in Diveyevo.
Blessed Maria even calls him our Mishenka, no less! He will explain and
clear up everything for you.
With joy I thanked the good father for his advice and hurried to the indicated
I found Engineer X. at home, having recently returned from Sarov.
He was, as I learned later, a remarkable individual.
After his wife was miraculously healed at St. Seraphims spring, Engineer
X. became for the rest of his life one of the Saints most devoted admirers.
Zealously devoted to Orthodoxy, direct, open, sometimes even rough in manner,
he burned with ardent faith towards the Saint, had a big heart full of love
and unbendable firmness in his convictions.
He had been arrested and interrogated many times by the Cheka and the GPU,
and in 1918 he was sentenced to death for sabotage. But he conducted himself
in such a manner that he called forth the involuntary respect even of the examining
magistrates at the interrogations.
This is who I became acquainted with, and this acquaintance later developed
into a deep and close friendship.
When I entered his apartment I was first of all struck that all the walls were
adorned with icons, like an iconostasis. In the midst of them stood out a huge,
full-length image of the Saint as he is usually representedas a stooped
elder in epitrachelion and cuffs, and with an uncovered head. There was also
a smaller icon representing the Saint in his younger years, as a hieromonk.
Hearing why I had come, Engineer X. very readily explained the whole route
to me, adding:
My dear sir, I urgently advise you not to go through Arzamas, since you
cant avoid the vanity and the crowds, but to go to Mukhtolovo station,
which is just before Arzamas. They know less about it, and you will easily reach
Sarov. And that way you wont miss the town of Ardatov with its womens
monastery, which St. Seraphim also took care of. There venerate the grave of
the renowned Elder Anthony [of Murom]. You wont regret it, added
my new acquaintance.
Now you see, he continued, dont forget to visit Elder
Isaac while you are in Sarov. Dont be surprised that this exceptional
ascetic struggler of our time, in spite of his almost 60 years, looks like a
25-year-old youth. This is already from the Lord.
I would give you a letter of recommendation, he concluded, but
you know the times: then you would have no end of trouble. Simply search out
Nun Alexandra, and in my name ask her to help you. As for the rest, the Lord
and St. Seraphim will guide your journey in every way. Have no doubts.
So it is decided, I am going. Brief preparations. A moleben for travelling
at the Lavra, and the train smoothly carried us to Moscow.
A brief stop in Moscow, and we set out at six oclock in the evening from
the Kazan railroad station. It is night. Despite the uniform rocking of the
carriage, sleep flees. Still it is hardly believable that our cherished dream
might come true, and that every minute brings us nearer and nearer to our desired
The morning was foggy and clouded over when at seven oclock the following
day our train arrived at the Mukhtolovo station (of the Moscow-Kazan
railroad). We quickly stepped down from the car to the platform and looked around.
On a hill to the left of the railroad tracks stood the small station building,
behind which a small forest was barely visible through the fog. To the right
of the tracks was a village. We were alone at the station; not a soul was around.
A low shroud of rain covered the horizon, and everything seemed dismal and unwelcoming.
In vain we walked several times around the station, hoping that at least some
kind of driver would appear. To walk to the village was not desirable, as it
might cause unnecessary suspicion.
We were particularly troubled by our rather heavy travelling bags containing
various offerings for the monastery, mainly church wine, of which there was
an acute need.
Having deliberated, we decided nevertheless to walk through the village on
foot, to look at the road to Ardatov, and thenwhatever God would send!
Meanwhile the rain perceptibly diminished, and, loading ourselves with the bags,
we bravely stepped out toward the village.
We had not gone even ten steps, however, when behind us, somewhere afar off,
a bell began to sound. Before long a small wagon came up to us. Its owner, in
an old, worn-out peasant coat and bast shoes, eyed us searchingly from head
to foot, and as if in passing threw out:
So, brothers, to Sarov no doubt?
To Sarov, to Sarov! we both joyfully cried out. Have the
goodness, dear sir, to take us. We will pay you.
Well, you see, answered the driver, its not on my way.
Im from Ardatov, and from there to Sarov I suppose it is a good thirty
We earnestly began to try to persuade him, and the peasant quickly yielded.
For three rubles he consented to convey us as far as Diveyevo, from where it
was twelve versts to Sarov. It was evident that the Heavenly Queen Herself was
directing our steps from the beginning to Diveyevo.
Rejoicing at the intercession of St. Seraphim, we quickly packed our things
in the wagon, but decided to walk as far as possible on foot. The rain stopped.
The gaunt little horse slowly dragged its feet, the driver peacefully dozed
in the coachmans seat, and we, walking far ahead of the wagon, sang an
Akathist to the Saint. The road went at first through the thick forest, but
in five versts the forest ended, and before us stretched out the endless, unbounded
fields of our vast Mother Russia.
The weather finally cleared up and beneath the rays of the hot sun a light
steam swirled over the damp earth. The shabby horse barely plodded along; all
around was uninhabited, and the coachman blissfully slept, stretched out in
the cart. But we were happy with our solitude and our journey, and loudly sang
verses to the Saint.
We passed through several villages, poor and wretched, where crowds of children
ran after us, asking for a kopeck. At this time our driver came to himself somewhat,
and said that it was not far to Ardatov. The region became more elevated, and
the road twisted among the hills, at times making rather sharp turns. Suddenly,
on our left, against the background of a dark-blue sky, there rose up as if
from under the earth a beautiful white church with a tall porch and portico
with columns. Facing it there appeared the wall of the cemetery.
What church is that? we asked.
Ardatov, no doubt, said the coachman again, rubbing his eyes after
Indeed, the town was hidden in a hollow place, and only now suddenly revealed
itself to our gaze. An ordinary country town of old Russia with poorly paved
streets, dilapidated wooden sidewalks, and one-story houses. Turning into one
of the side streets, we began to ascend a hill, and soon found ourselves before
the holy gates of the Ardatov womens monastery, dedicated to the Protection
of the Mother of God. A beautiful high red brick wall with corner towers girded
the monastery. At the entrance to the monastery, the portress, an old nun, who
was sitting on a bench, arose and bowed affably. Passing through the holy gates,
we found ourselves in a comparatively spacious monastery courtyard, in the midst
of which towered the main monastery church, closely encircled on every side
by monastery cells and other buildings. Nestled up against the church itself
were small white crosses and little fences on the graves.
It appeared that our coachman was their own man here, since he instantly disappeared
into one of the rooms, from where two nuns in white apostolniks soon appeared,
and in the name of the Mother Abbess warmly welcomed us and asked us not to
disdain their bread and salt.
Forgive, for the sake of Christ, our scarcity at the present time,
the elder of them kindly remarked, but then, as it is said, better a
dish of greens with love, than a roasted ox with hatred (Prov. 15:17).
Having strengthened ourselves with the simple monastery meal, we set off to
thank the Mother Abbess for her hospitality and to ask a blessing to see the
monasterys holy places.
Learning that we were on our way to Sarov, the Mother Abbess remarked: It
is good that you didnt pass us sinners by. You see, we also consider ourselves
not to be strangers to our dear Batiushka. During his lifetime our monastery
profited much from his generosity and blessings, and not a little did he give
to our souls which were seeking salvation. And indeed, our deceased elder, Fr.
Anthony, had previously labored together with the Saint at the Sarov Hermitage.
Taking leave of the Mother Abbess, we set off to see the monastery, escorted
by the nun we had already become acquainted with.
The tall three-altared cathedral church, although not striking for its size,
was quite elegant in its architecture.
You have heard, of course, said our companion, that in his
youth, while still a novice, Batiushka Father Seraphim learned the art of carpentry
well, and was a skilled wood-carver. And look, our monastery was honored to
receive from Batiushka himself this gift of his work. She led us to one
of the columns of the left side-altar of the church and showed us where there
was hanging on it, under a small glass cover, a carved crucifix with the Marys
standing bythe Mother of the Lord and Mary Magdalene. With reverence we
kissed this holy relic.
Having visited the church, we were directed to a small wing, where once had
lived the blind elder Anthony, renowned for his God-pleasing life. We entered
through a small dark passage into a fairly small room with one little window.
Near the left wall stood a simple wooden divan, and next to it a table and some
chairs. On the right side there was also a table, but of considerably larger
dimensions, on which were displayed books, a cross, a prayer rope, and, lying
on a wooden plate, something like a kamilavka, but of a rather unusual form,
covered with black material. In a corner were many icons. Lampadas burned. Nuns
behind the analogion in the middle of the cell read the Psalter.
Right here our elder labored, said Matushka, and right here,
on the day of the Dormition of the Mother of God, the holy one also reposed.
Exceedingly difficult indeed was the path of his life, and great were his sufferings
and privations. With heavy podvigs he wearied his flesh, fighting with passions,
and with Gods help he overcame them.
Just look, continued Matushka, indicating the wooden plate, at
this hat, which Batiushka always wore during prayer as a sign of his victory
over the enemy of our salvation. And dont only look, but also put it on.
Here, receive, as it were, a blessing from the elder himself.
I approached the table, wishing to fulfill the advice of Matushka, took it,
and right then almost dropped it on the floor from surprise.
It turned out that this hat was of cast iron and only covered by
material. It weighed about twenty pounds. Only with difficulty was I able to
hold it for a few moments on my head, and I involuntarily thought, How
was Batiushka able to pray in it for so long? As if guessing my thought,
It is difficult even to picture to yourself how Batiushka could burden
himself with such a weight, but did you know that in his youth, in obedience
to his elder, he even walked to Kiev in this hat, and thereby lost his sight?
I was shocked. To bear such a superhuman podvig only to lose a most precious
gift of God, ones vision, was absolutely incomprehensible, and I openly
expressed this to Matushka.
Having listened to me and gently smiled, Matushka added:
To our feeble understanding much seems incomprehensible, and certainly
if a man would of his own will deprive himself of this great gift, it would
be an unforgivable sin. But then, a still more valuable gift than our sight
is our soul and eternal blessedness. The Lord, through the mouth of the great
elder, Hierarch Anthony of Voronezh, seeing the fervent desire of Batiushka
to save his soul, sent him precisely this podvig. Who knows what terrible temptations
or snares of the enemy might have threatened Batiushka, had he had bodily eyes.
We see this in examples from the lives of certain ascetics. The Bishops
clear understanding foresaw that while losing bodily sight, Batiushka would
instead receive spiritual vision.
Forgive me, Matushka, I could only reply, you are deeply
right, how very feeble our understanding is, to dare to comprehend the incomprehensible.
Silently we walked from the cell to the porch.
Matushka, where is the elder buried?
There, you can see Batiushkas grave by the church. We approached
nearer. Near the altar wall of the church lay a large cast-iron gravestone,
and a wooden cross stood with a burning lampada within it. Somewhere from the
window of a monastery cell wafted the harmonious singing of womens voices,
harmonizing with the all-encompassing picture.
It is our choir rehearsing, explained Matushka. I asked permission
to photograph the grave of Father Anthony. The picture came out successfully.
The sun had begun to go down, and the days heat was noticeably subdued,
when we, having thanked the mothers for their kind-hearted hospitality, set
out from the gates of the monastery. The road again passed through fields. All
around appeared shocks of cut grain. It smelled pleasantly of wormwood and savory,
and our horses little bells rang melodiously. The evening sky was painted
with delicate, light tones, and golden flocks of clouds harmoniously moved in
solemn procession to somewhere a great way off. The fading day, like departing
youth, always embraces the soul with some kind of feeling of involuntary sadness
and regret over the irrevocable past.
There was still fairly far to go to Diveyevo, and the coachman decisively seated
us on the vehicle. Having rested, the horse boldly jogged along in the evening
coolness with a gentle trot. It quickly began to grow dark, and the sky became
more and more covered over with clouds. Here and there, where they parted, a
lone star attempted to peek out, but they too were soon hidden behind the clouds.
It was sad and disappointing that we were unable to see the monastery through
the darkness, in order to bow down before it. When we arrived at last, it was
already about eleven oclock in the evening. Everything around slept. The
darkness was so thick that only with difficulty could one see a few paces ahead,
and everything further away blended into one dark shroud. Imperceptibly we entered
the enclosure of the monastery, and our coachman, who was well oriented in the
darkness, took us to a certain building and began to knock on the shutter. Soon
the door creaked and let a thin strip of light slip through. At the threshold
appeared an eldress with a candle stub who kindly invited us to enter. After
the chill of the night it was more than agreeable to enter a warm room, and
still more so one that smelled wonderfully of freshly baked bread. Evidently
we had come to the monastery bread-bakery.
Forgive me, my dears, that because of the late hour it is not possible
to welcome you as we should. But anyhow, sleep until the morning, and then the
Abbess Herself, the Queen of Heaven, will direct everything.
Dont trouble yourself, Matushka. We are already very happy that
the Lord has deemed us worthy to come to your blessed corner from far-away Kiev.
So you are from Kiev? Matushka took still greater interest. In
former times, the Saint of God Seraphim, as a young pilgrim, visited and venerated
the holy places of Kiev, and now, behold, you have taken on yourself the labor
to come to venerate the Saint. Believe that for this gift of love towards him,
the Saint will never leave you in a difficult moment of life.
In half an hour we were already fast asleep on prepared beds, worn out from
the road. Awaking early in the morning, I at first couldnt even grasp
where I was and what had happened to me. Then suddenly, like an arrow, the thought
flew by: O God, is it really not in a dream, but in reality, that I am
in blessed Diveyevo? I jumped up and rushed to the window. Before me,
in the rays of the rising sun, like a wondrous vision, stood a large church
with five cupolas. The morning fog swirled like incense. Apart from the church
rose the bell tower. No, this is a dream come true! I am in Diveyevo!
From this thought my heart began to tremble with joy. My companion also woke
up, and we, quickly dressing and not disturbing anyone, walked toward the cathedral.
Having walked up the steps of its tall porch, we entered. Beautiful, full of
light, adorned like a wonderful Diveyevo painting, the cathedral church struck
me by its spiritual beauty and the harmonious blending of all its lines. My
first thought was, of course, to bow down before the most holy object of Diveyevo,
the miracle-working icon of the Mother of God Of Tender Feeling,
before which St. Seraphim had prayed throughout his whole life, and before which
he had died. And here, glorified in gold and precious stones, she reigned on
the right side of the church.
At this early hour there was almost nobody in the church, with the exception
of a few nuns, and we could pray privately as we wished.
Soon they rang for Liturgy, and the Cathedral filled with the people who came
to pray. Liturgy passed quickly. At the end of it a novice approached us and
delivered, in the name of the mother treasurer, an invitation to tea. We had
already heard much in Kiev about Mother Ludmilla the treasurer, as about one
of the living relics of the monastery, a great woman of prayer and guardian
of Church and monastery traditions.
When we entered into a large room where several nuns were already sitting at
a table, we were met by Mother Ludmilla herself. Two novices gently supported
her by the arms. She was completely blind, of medium height, in appearance an
eldress not yet advanced in years, in a white apostolnik, radiant with some
sort of unearthly inner beauty. A slight blush covered her animated face, which
her blindness not only didnt mar, but perhaps enlivened still more.
We remembered the words of Nilus: Remarkably pleasant is old age in Diveyevo.
Come, come, my dear long-awaited ones, said Matushka quietly. Well,
thanks be to the Lord, at last you have gathered yourselves together and come
to visit the Saint, continued Matushka. He has been waiting for
you a long, long time.
Confused, not knowing what to answer, we approached silently to receive her
blessing. They handed her prepared enamel icons of St. Seraphim in metal settings.
Matushka slowly made the sign of the cross over each of us with them and, holding
her hand over our heads a little, she added, May the Lord protect you,
may the Lord keep you, may the Lord direct you, through the prayers of the Heavenly
Queen and St. Seraphim. And so much genuine kindness sounded in her eldress
voice, so welcoming was the smile on her lips, that one was drawn towards her
with all ones being. Only a loving mother could so welcome her children
after a long, long separation.
After tea and a brief conversation, Matushka called her novice, Grunyushka,
do take our guests to Mother Kypriana. Let them settle there, and they will
profit from her. She is an eldress of spiritual life, and the place is blessed,
so it will be good.
We warmly thanked Mother Ludmilla for her exceptional Diveyevo hospitality.
I dared to address her with a request to allow me to photograph some places
of Diveyevo, particularly the canal, which I had never yet seen a picture of.
Well, why not take pictures to the glory of God, answered Matushka
with a smile, taking leave of us.
The cell of Blessed Parasceva. Mother Kypriana and her account of Blessed Pasha.
The canal. Diveyevo hospitality. Mother Alexandra. Visiting the holy places
of Diveyevo. The cells of Mothers Agafia, Pelagia and Natalia. Grisha. The near
hermitage. Mother Hilaria and her account of the appearance of St. Seraphim.
The feast of the Icon Of Tender Feeling, July 28.
LONG the way we asked our companion where she was leading us to and who Mother
She is the one who was cell-attendant of Blessed Parasceva Ivanovna,
who lived with her and took care of her. She is a firm Matushka as well as an
ascetic, and no wonder, for when you live with the blessed ones you acquire
Tell me, Sister, I asked again, has Mother Kypriana been
laboring in the monastery for a long time?
Almost from her youth, and her brother is a hieromonk in Sarov; and now
her own niece is a novice with us, so the whole family has gathered under the
wing of the Saint.
Without at first noticing it, we approached a small wooden house with a tin
roof, which stood at the very gates of the monastery wall, and I at once recognized
it from a picture seen much earlier. It was a single-story house with a veranda,
in which for many years had lived the great fool-for-Christ, Blessed Parasceva
Ivanovna. The Emperor and Empress visited her right here in the memorable year
1903the year of the uncovering of the holy relics of St. Seraphim.
With some timidity we ascended the low porch. The novice who accompanied us
pushed open the door and we found ourselves in a small room with three doors.
Having said the usual prayer, the novice gently knocked at the middle door,
from where immediately was heard a responsive Amen! and then and
there at her threshold appeared a tall, thin nun in black apparel. It was apparent
that in her youth she had been very beautiful. The well-chiseled, refined features
of her emaciated face, the large sunken gray eyes, and the remarkably transparent,
waxen-hued color of skin, all spoke of the inner warfare which was conducted
in that soul.
Our sister made a bow from the waist. Bless, Matushka, here I have brought
guests from Kiev. They want to stay with us a little more and pray, so Matushka
the Treasurer blessed them to be with you.
May God bless, answered the nun, meanwhile examining us with a
vigilant eye. We are always glad to have guests. Just now a cell is free
for you, for only yesterday your Kievans departed, and she mentioned the
name of a well-known Kievan professor, the last rector of the Kiev Spiritual
Academy, Archpriest G., and priest Sh.
In my soul I regretted that I was deprived of the possibility of staying in
the monastery together with them, since both were close to my heart, especially
the first, my teacher and guide.
Learning that those who had departed were our good friends, Matushka, forgetting
herself somewhat, lost her severity, and on her face there even appeared a smile.
She opened the door on the right and showed a small snug room with little windows
facing the monastery courtyard. Two beds, several chairs, a table and a small
bookshelf made up all its furniture. In the corner was a shrine with icons and
a burning lampada. All was simple, but a womans hand could be seen in
everythingin the graceful curtains on the windows, in the throw-rugs,
the knitted tablecloth on the table and even in the modest bouquet of field-flowers
that was placed on the table.
We had not had time to properly view our future dwelling and to thank Mother
Kypriana, when she closed the door and said, First it will be good to
venerate the holy places, and she led us to the cell of Blessed Parasceva.
Its walls were completely covered with icons, and what especially attracted
our attention was a full life-size crucifix of exquisite artistic execution
that was standing in the middle of the cell.
The blessed one especially loved to pray before it, Matushka remarked,
and how many entire nights the dear one spent standing before it without
sleep, how many tears were shed, only the Lord knows.
In the left-hand corner was a rather large bed covered with a multi-colored
blanket and a multitude of pillows. On the bed were dolls of various appearances;
on some of them only the trunk remained.
The path of these fools-for-Christ is, after all, an unusual one,
continued Matushka, and they also behave like fools in different ways,
so that people will not praise them for their sanctity. They fear this like
fire. Our dear one loved to play with these dolls, dressing them and talking
to them in her own manner. At first people of little spirituality, ignorant
people, used to laugh at her, wondering why a blessed one would become like
a child; and, to add to their sin, they would at times be very scandalized by
all of this and would even use bad language. And our dear one would only rejoice
over this and increase her foolishness. Some of her children she would
beat, and with others she would caress and comb their hair. In time we began
to notice that she did not do this without reason. When she would begin to dress
some dolls and comb their hair, we would notice that someone would come to the
monastery and give up her soul to God; and when she would become enraged and
would begin to beat them, then we knew that some trouble was coming to the monastery.
Once a merchants wife came to us with her married daughter. This
lady, in order to please Parasceva Ivanovna, brought her from Moscow a large
doll dressed in silk and velvet. And as soon as she entered and bowed down before
her, Parasceva Ivanovna jumped up and began to run around the room, and then
grabbed that new doll. With one sweep she tore off one arm and stuck it in the
mouth of the daughter, screaming, Here, eat it! Eat it! The girl was
petrified, frozen stiff. The mother was also trembling, and I, the sinful one,
must admit that I too was very frightened. And Parasceva Ivanovna kept screaming
even louder: Eat! Eat!
We could barely get the guests away from her. And it turned out that
all this was not without reason. Later the mother confessed that her daughter
had had an abortion. What a great sin had taken place, and all this was seen
by the blessed one, Mother Kypriana concluded her account.
After the monastery meal, which was brought to us in our cell, we visited also
the Mother Abbess and gave her church wine for the monastery. The Abbess was
not feeling well, so we did not stay long. Soon they rang the bells for Vespers,
and we once again hastened to church.
It felt good after the hot summer day to enter and be down in the vaults, which
retained a light, cool atmosphere. There were not many people, and it was easy
to find a hidden corner in the church in order to pray without distraction.
The quiet monastic singing of the special Diveyevo chant, the heartfelt serving
of the priest, and the scent of the holy objects carried our souls somewhere
far, far away from the horrible contemporary reality.
It had already grown dark when we, having left the church, headed towards the
canal, which was sanctified, according to the words of St. Seraphim, by the
steps of the Mother of God Herself, and to which he attributed such special
significance. Slowly the silent figures of the nuns were moving along the canal
with prayer ropes in their hands, quietly whispering prayers. The canal was
actually a rather large embankment with a ditch on the outside, and on top of
it ran a well-trodden pathway planted with large trees.
The sides of the canal were overgrown with grass and field-flowers, which the
believers pick and preserve as holy objects. We also walked along the canal
with a prayer. Inexpressible was the feeling of contrition of heart when we
also touched this mystery full of grace, and were, so to speak, engulfed in
the stream of human souls which for over 100 years ceaselessly continued, according
to the commandment of St. Seraphim, to follow in the steps of the Queen of Heaven.
Many wonderful things are contained in Diveyevo.
Diveyevo itself represents a mystery, but the greatest mystery is this canal.
With the last breath of St. Seraphim this canal was finished, and it is destined
in the future to be a defense against antichrist himself. The whole meaning,
the whole completion of this sacred mystery, of course, was open to St. Seraphim
alone, but to us sinners it is given only to touch it, like the hem of a garment,
and to wholly believe the words of the Saint that not a single stone in Diveyevo
was laid without the instruction of the Queen of Heaven.
In the history of Diveyevo several cases have been recorded where St. Seraphim
himself visually appeared to some of the believers, at times as a pilgrim, at
times as a monk, and even sometimes entering into conversation and then suddenly
vanishing from their sight.
Several times we walked around the canal with prayer and did not want to leave,
so light and joyful were we in soul.
It was completely dark when we returned home. We were met, as always, by Mother
Kypriana. On the table was already a whistling samovar and about ten little
dishes with a variety of treats, including cranberry jam, marinated mushrooms,
little pickles, and other types of food.
Where is all this from, Matushka? Whom should we thank for all this attention
shown to us?
When the sisters learned that there are dear guests in the monastery,
then each one wanted to treat you with something of their own.
With gratitude we tasted this gift of love from St. Seraphims orphans.
Later, whenever we would return home, whether for dinner or supper, some kind
of consolation would always be waiting for us on the table. However,
to all attempts on our part to find out from Mother Kypriana the possibility
of personally thanking at least one of the donors of this consolation,
there always followed the same answer: Do not worry about that. The sisters,
after all, do this from a pure heart, and you want to take from them the joy
which Batiushka sends them for showing hospitality to his guests.
Once, when we had been in Sarov and returned home, all our linen had been washed,
ironed, and laid in a pile on the bed.
Mother Kypriana herself at our departure categorically refused to take a sum
of money which we insistently begged her to accept, and only on seeing our genuine
grief, finally accepted it.
Oh, what is this you are doing?This is totally unnecessary, oh,
you mustnt..... Well, alright, so be it; I will take this sin upon my
soul. Go in peace.
I write about this with tears in my eyes, remembering all the sincere and touching
love, cordiality, desire to treat kindly in every way, and the care taken by
St. Seraphims orphans for each one who visits the earthly monastery of
Early on the morning of the next day, someone quietly knocked at our cell and
there entered a middle-aged nun, still unknown to us, with a wonderfully pleasant
and kind face.
I heard that you are from Kiev, she began, and likely know
M. I. a friend of our monasteryand I wished therefore to visit with
you and possibly be of service in something.
From our souls we are pleased, Matushka, that you have come here and
we are able to make your acquaintance. The greatest service you could render
us would be to show us your holy monastery. We are here for the first time and
still dont know about many things.
How wonderfulafter church we will take a walk through the monastery!
What is your name, Matushka? I asked.
In monasticism I bear the name of Alexandra, but in the monastery everyone
calls me simply Sanya, answered our new acquaintance.
Then you are that Mother Alexandra about whom our common friend M. I.
said so much good. If it is was good, smiled Matushka, then
the words were not about meyoud better ask someone else ... well
... our M. I. does like to tell jokes.
After the morning service and a short rest we set out with Mother Alexandra
through the monastery. We began by visiting the Kazan Church. The upper church
in honor of the Nativity of Christ was not large, but light and cozy. The lower,
in honor of the Nativity of the Mother of God, built according to the particular
instruction of St Seraphim, was quite small and underground, with four pillars
supporting it. My joy, said the Saint, four pillarsfour
On the right side of the church is the grave of Nun Alexandra, the first abbess
of Diveyevo, in the world Agafia Melgunova. Next to her rests the wonderful
slave of God, Schemanun Martha, and next to her, Helen Manturov. In front of
them, surrounded by a cast-iron fence, is the grave of the great defender of
the legacy of the Saint, Servant of the Mother of God and Seraphim,
N. A. Motovilov.
Look, Matushka Alexandra suddenly remarked, look at how Motovilovs
stone is cracked in the form of a cross, and this happened not long ago. It
appears that our monastery is destined to undergo a heavy trial. Indeed,
the huge stone slab, for some completely incomprehensible reason, had a large
crack lengthwise and crosswise, in the regular form of a cross. Yes, it
is strange, we agreed.
On the left side of the church, with a small cross, was the lonely, quite modest
grave of the closest friend, sharer of the monastic mystery and beloved disciple
of St. Seraphim, Mishenka [Michael] Manturov, who during his life
bore the great ascetic labor of self-denying service to his elder and to the
community newly created by him. How dear and close to the heart all these names
were, inseparably connected as they were to Saint Seraphim.
We prayed very strongly for the repose of the great ascetics of piety, asking
their heavenly intercession for our difficult path here on earth.
Now lets go to the cell where our first abbess, Mother Alexandra,
lived, said our guide. At present this cell is located and preserved within
the building built around it.
The cell itself is partially underground, with small windows on ground level,
and one needs a ladder in order to go down into it.
At the entrance to the cell there is a life-size portrait of St. Seraphim in
a white cassock, with a small cap on his head, and blessing with his right hand.
Its an amazing piece of work.
The cell itself is divided into two parts, the large part being a kind of sitting
room containing a table, a bench, many icons in the corner, and lit lampadas.
Against a small window leans a small icon of holy Archimandrite Stephen, which
mysteriously appeared with a knock in this window to Mother Alexandra.
The other half of the cell is extremely tiny; in the middle of it is a small
bed with a headboard made of stone, which served as a resting-place for the
great ascetic. This was the very spot where the righteous one passed away the
day after being visited by St. Seraphim, who was then still a hierodeacon. From
this room a little door leads to a really tiny and dark little room where there
is barely space for one person. In the corner hangs a crucifix, illumined by
the light of a lampada. This spot, where Mother Alexandra loved most to spend
time, was the place of her secret ascetic struggles and prayers. Thanks to our
guide, we received as a blessing a small piece of the stone headboard. After
visiting Mother Alexandras cell, we headed for the small house where blessed
Pelagiathe second Seraphimlived.
Along the road a tall, hatless man in bark shoes, who appeared to be a pilgrim,
was hurriedly walking our way. He was wearing a long white shirt reaching almost
to his knees and a belt around his waist, with his gray beard fluttering in
the wind. He began waving his arms. As if reasoning something with himself,
he would sometimes stop for a moment, and then would hurriedly begin waving
Thats our Grisha, whispered Matushka, a blessed one.
And when he caught up with us, she, bowing low to him, said: Grisha, how
is your work of salvation coming along? The pilgrim, however, did not
pay us the slightest bit of attention, but restraining himself again for a moment,
poked his finger somewhere into space and said, Listenit smells
like smoke in the air. Well, well..., he added, with something ominous
in his voice, and then continued on his way. We looked at each other with an
air of surprise since there was no smoke to be seen or heard. What good
does it do? Matushka remarked anxiously, without reflection, obviously
aware that his soul sensed something. But our Heavenly Queen will not
allow such a bad thing.
But who is this Grisha, Matushka? we asked. He is a slave
of God who has been with our monastery for quite some time and has become one
of us. Meek and mild, he lives like a bird of heaven and worries about nothing.
Our sisters have great respect for him and believe that his prayers reach our
Lord. At other times, its true, he speaks as if unaware. But in fact,
you see, time will show that Grisha did not speak in vain.
Conversing in such a way, we had not noticed that we had already arrived at
the house of blessed Pelagia, where she had lived for forty-five years. Inexpressible
were the sufferings, both physical and mental, during the lifetime of this great
spiritual slave of God, who was installed by St. Seraphim himself to serve in
Go, Matushka, go right away to my monastery, Elder Seraphim had
said. Take care of my orphans and you will be a light to the world, and
through you many will be saved.
Fulfilling the Elders will in a holy way, in spite of inhuman tortures
from her own family and the slander and ridicule of those around her, blessed
Pelagia had gone to Diveyevo where she shone with unusual ascetic labors for
a period of forty-five years, the greatness and power of which the mind refuses
to comprehend. And only on January 30, 1884, when she passed away, did everyone
begin to understand just what an irreparable loss was incurred by the monastery
itself, as well as by her innumerable spiritual children. The body lay in the
church for nine days without the slightest change. Day and night, without ceasing,
panikhidas were served and crowds of people encircled the one who, casting aside
all temptations of the world for Christs sake, had conquered the snares
of the enemy of our salvation.
With feelings of trepidation we crossed the threshold of this cell. There was
a half-lit corridor, from which a door on the left led into a small sitting
room. Here next to the stove, and seated on a small rug, the blessed one would
spend practically the entire night fighting with drowsiness and sleep. From
the entrance way, three doors led into separate cells, in one of which she died
on January 30, 1884. It contains a wooden bed, covered with a blanket, where
she lay the last three weeks of her life with a mortal disease. In the corner
hang icons, and under them is a table on which lies a thick silver chain by
which the righteous sufferer was once fastened to the wall by her own husband.
A nun who was reading the Psalter tore herself away for a minute, took the chain
from the table, and gave it to us to venerate. Then, to our great joy, and again
at the request of our guardian angel, Mother Alexandra, she cut off two small
pieces of the blanket in prayerful memory of this great God-pleaser.
Well, thats enough for today. I dare say youre probably all
tired out, said Mother Alexandra, as we came outside. Youll
still be staying with us as our guests. So tomorrow, God willing, well
finish our little tour.
We finished our day by attending evening Vespers which we tried never to miss.
That evening the weather looked threatening and lightning blazed across the
sky, but the morning was wonderful, fresh, without a cloud in the sky, as we
continued our walk around the monastery with Mother Alexandra.
Today we will visit the cell of blessed Natalia, said Matushka.
Its true that fewer people know her, but she was also a great slave
of God and walked the difficult life of great sorrow as a fool-for-Christ. Some
people, even in the monastery, were tempted by her in the beginning, yet she
showed great patience, and at the end of her life she became known to many for
her grace-filled gifts. Ah, how quick we are to judge others and how we forget
the words of our Lord: He that is without sin among you, let him first cast
a stone... (St. John 8:7).
The building where blessed Natalia used to labor for her salvation was behind
the canal, to the left of the cathedral. A small porch, a few steps upand
we were in the blessed ones cell. Everything has been preserved in exemplary
order. You understand, this does not just represent a dear memory of the departed;
rather, these are the places where occurred the great spiritual warfare of Gods
chosen one against evil spirits, which ended in victory. Today they invisibly
strengthen and bless each one who in faith calls out in prayer for the nuns
of the convent.
We stayed here for only a short while and hurried to venerate the grave of
blessed Pelagia, which is now located behind the altar of Holy Trinity Cathedral.
On top of the grave is a cast-iron slab, surrounded by a fence, and a large
Not very far from here is a wooden chapel where two small hand-operated millstones
for the grinding of grain are kept. These were once used by St. Seraphim himself,
after which he gave them to his beloved Diveyevo.
Our hearts somehow began beating more quickly as we approached the great holy
objects of the near hermitage of St. Seraphim, which were removed after Batiushkas
death by his spiritual son and friend, N. A. Motovilov, to comfort the orphans
At the present time, this little hermitage, which is more than a hundred years
old, is protected by a special encasement so as to be sheltered from inclement
weather and preserved from time. We were met by Mother Hilaria the guardian
of these holy objectswho led us inside. There was a totally dark little
entrance hall with tiny, square windows almost at eye-level, and a door on the
right leading into the cell itself. Here it was, all incensed with Batiushkas
prayers, all illumined by the great apparitions of the heavenly world, blessed
by the appearance of celestial beings, the hermitage of poor Seraphim.
The grace-filled presence of the Saint is somehow especially felt here and
his voice calls out: My joy!
Deeply moved, we entered the cell and made low prostrations. Right on the wall
was the famous portrait of the Saint, so strikingly described by S. A. Nilus
during his visit to Elena Ivanovna, the wife of N. A. Motovilov, in 1903. Here
is what Elena Ivanovna told him at the time: My husband had been asking
Fr. Seraphim for quite a while to allow a portrait of him to be made, and only
after repeated and lengthy insistence did Batiushka agree. I would like to show
you this very portrait. It is quite unusual: sometimes he looks severe, and
sometimes he smiles, even welcomingly.... Here, take a look for yourself!
In Elena Ivanovnas chapel, above a small table, I saw this portrait hanging
on a wall. Look, look! Hes smiling! Look how hes smiling!
The face, directly facing one as one enters the chapel, was smiling with such
a smile that it warmed the heart just to look at it. There was so much grace
in it, such a welcoming look, an otherworldly warmth, a purely angelic goodness.
And this smile was not the frozen smile of the portrait. I saw the face come
alive more and more or, more precisely, blossom....
This portrait, which was moved to the near hermitage following Elena Ivanovnas
death, was now here before us. It would be difficult to add anything to this
description. We venerated it with great reverence. In addition to Batiushkas
portrait, the cell also contained other icons which had been hanging there since
the Saints time. There were many lampadas.
Besides us there were no other outsiders in the cell. It was so quiet; such
calm for the soul, such light joy enveloped ones being that it seemed
as if nothing had escaped for a whole century.
My dear Matushka, I besought, please do not get angry, but
it is so wonderful here, I would love to stay longer. Thats
wonderful! Pray, pray; its not only you, but everyone whom God brings
here feels this spiritual world and holy joy from Batiushkas prayers.
After some time we finally decided to leave this grace-filled corner. Hearing
our footsteps, Mother Hilaria came out from her cell.
How lucky you are, Matushka, to live under the same roof as the Saint,
I said. Yes, this is Gods great mercy to me a sinner, that the Lord
honored me with this obedience. Nowhere is one closer to the Saints spirit
than in his hermitage. I, being a sinner, was not so honored, continued
Matushka, but several years ago one of our sisters saw Batiushka here,
as if he were alive. She came here all downcast in order to pray, to shed tears,
when the persecution of the Holy Church began and they killed the Batiushka
Tsar. You remember how the God-pleaser foretold the approaching terrible times:
You will not live to see antichrist, but you will experience the times of antichrist,
he once told the sisters, thus predicting the future.
The sisters cried and grieved and had only just left his cell when, there
by the large birch tree that grows in the corner of the hermitage, stood our
dearly beloved Batiushka, with a cap on his head and clad in white, looking
at them so lovingly and at the same time sadly.
The sisters were dumbstruck and then screamed. Then Batiushka turned
around the corner and disappeared from sight. This miraculous occurrence was
remembered for a long time in our monastery, concluded Matushka.
And now, she added, just as St. Seraphim during his life
had the custom of handing out sweets to those coming to visit him, our monastery
has retained this custom today and gives these things for a blessing as if from
Batiushkas very own hands. So lets go up to this window from which
Batiushka himself would sometimes give dry bread, and take some yourself.
We approached and saw a mountain of black, dry bread, specially cut into small
squares. We joyfully took some, and I have preserved them up to now as holy
And accept this from me in prayerful memory, said Matushka, handing
over several pieces of wood wrapped up in some paper. This is from the
hermitage. We warmly thanked Matushka for the dear gift.
The 28th of July was approaching, the Feast Day of the most important holy
object of Diveyevothe icon Of Tender Feeling. This celebration
held in Diveyevo is no less festive than the 19th of July, the day of the uncovering
of St. Seraphims relics.
Pilgrims were already beginning to arrive for that day. There werent
as many as in past years, but the entire monastery was completely full all the
same. Three bishops took part in the festive All-Night Vigil. How could I think
that this would be the last nation-wide glorification of the Queen of Heaven
before the devastation of the monastery, and that the Lord would consider me
worthy enough to attend it? In the morning during Liturgy we partook of the
Holy Gifts. The celebration came to an end, the devout pilgrims dispersed, and
life at the monastery settled down again.
There are no words to describe the good celebrations in the monasteries, with
their festive Divine Services, full of grandeur. But for me personally, even
more dear were the humble daily services, when nothing external was there to
distract and destroy ones prayerful disposition.
Our life in the monastery already took on important dimensions. In the morning
and evening we attended Divine Services, and the time in between we spent walking
around the cells of the righteous ones, the canal and the hermitage.
Gradually the circle of our acquaintances among the inhabitants of the Diveyevo
Monastery began to increase. On free evenings, after Church, we would sometimes
accompany one or two of the blessed elderly nuns, drinking in their inspiring
stories about Diveyevos past, and the innumerable wonders that took place
there through St. Seraphims prayers.
We would have to stay at Matushka Ludmillas for at least an entire day,
otherwise Matushkas cell-attendant would show up with the order to visit
her and not to forget her.
Of course we gladly accepted this invitation. Once at the sisters request,
I photographed a whole group of them together with Matushka Ludmilla.
Story of a Diveyevo nun. Arrival of Archimandrite Hermogen. Further review
of Diveyevo holy objects. Voyage to Sarov. Fr. Kyprian. Visiting the relics
of St. Seraphim. Elder Isaac and his clairvoyance. St. Seraphims grave.
St. Seraphims church cell.
One evening Mother Alexandra dropped by and invited us to visit a nun who due
to a leg ailment was not able to move about herself, yet nonetheless wanted
so much to meet us. We lost no time in taking advantage of this invitation and
Mother Alexandra said a general prayer, lingering for a moment at the doorway,
from where was heard the response Amen and then a deliberately stern
- Well, come on, show me your guests, come on, let me see them.
- Its probably not worth seeing them - I answered light-heartedly in
place of Mother Alexandra. - It really doesnt matter, you wont see
- So! What a light-hearted answer - our hostess smiled. Thank you for visiting
this old woman, whom the Lord, for my sins, has confined to this armchair, great
sinner that I am - sighed Matushka.
Soon over a cup of tea our conversation began.
- Matushka, have you been laboring for your salvation very long in the monastery?
- I began.
- Ive been living here in the monastery for some 23 years, my dear. After
coming here for the uncovering of the relics of St. Seraphim, I ended up staying
here. Batiushka captivated me, took me under his wing and did not permit me
to return to the world anymore, where my soul would have certainly perished
had it not been for St. Nicholas.
- Matushka, not out of simple curiosity, but rather for our edification, please
share with us, if possible, the story of this event in your life.
- Oh, all right, I am not keeping it a secret, all the more because the Lord
showed me, a sinner, His mercy.
- I was born in a small town. My father died early on and I was raised by my
mother who absolutely adored me - seeing I was her only child. With great difficulty
she, being a poor woman, worked hard to earn enough to live on for both herself
and me, but I understood very little of that at the time. I was already very
spoiled by mother. She would always be giving me all sorts of things: a new
dress and shoes, no matter how many sleepless nights this may have cost my poor
mother, I did not think about this at all. She also used her last cent to send
me to grammar school, as she wanted to provide me with an education. My mother
was very believing and she tried to inspire me with her faith and love for the
Lord and would also take me to church with her on Feast Days. It is true that
I enjoyed being in church, especially for Paschal Matins. I loved the sound
of the bells, but did not exhibit any particular religiousness. Dances, parties,
balls - that was my element and how indignant I was that my fate out of spite
had given me such poverty! Pride tortured me terribly. But then my studies were
finished and I firmly decided to carve a way for myself to an independent life.
To study in Petersburg, there was my salvation! In vain did my poor mother beg
me not to leave her, pointing to all of lifes many dangers for a woman
living alone in the big city - but I could not be budged. Youth is so very cruel.
My mother cried bitterly when we parted and I must admit that my soul was heavy
too, but the temptation of a free life won out over everything else. My poor
mother gave me the last crumbs of her subsistence for the road, and took down
from the wall a small icon of St. Nicholas in a silver riza - our only treasure,
and blessing me with it, said: Let Gods will be done, my daughter.
Here is how my calm mother blessed me: And now I hand you over to St.
Nicholas. I have prayed my whole life to him for your well-being, and now I
believe that he will take pity on my tears and protect you in your hour of need..
Petersburg did not receive me with open arms at first and I became terrified
that I had turned away from my familys protection. I moved into a tiny
furnished room run by a landlady, spread out my meager belongings, hung my icon
in the corner of the room and went out to look for a suitable job. But I could
not find any work. I ran around in vain, trying to find some lessons I could
teach, since I did not know how to do anything else. I already owed money on
my apartment, and my landlady rudely demanded payment, but I had less and less
hope of finding any work. Finally, things had reached such an extreme that I
had only 50 kopecks left - oh, there remained the icon of St. Nicholas in the
silver riza, which I did not have the courage to sell.
I decided to use the rest of this money to place an ad in the paper for work
and let be what will be. Before me lay either death from starvation or the shame
of the streets.
For two days I did not leave my room, expecting that someone would be right
on the verge of showing up at my door when suddenly the landlady made such a
scene that I came to the point of total despair.
It is true, I could have written to my mother, but pride did not permit me
to do so and I knew I had come to the end. And then three days after my ad appeared
in the paper, I was so terrified at my own inability to do anything that I decided
to put an end to my life. On the window ledge was a bottle of acetic acid. With
a trembling hand I poured its contents into a glass - I myself do not even remember
if there was a sufficient amount or not - and raised it to my mouth. Somehow
I involuntarily glanced at the icon of St. Nicholas. I suddenly remembered mama.
My heart was seized with pain: forgive me, my poor mama....I quietly whispered.
I walked automatically to the corner where the icon was hanging, holding out
my hand with the glass: Holy St. Nicholas, forgive me a sinner! I closed my
eyes and opened my mouth in order to swallow.
Suddenly something strong struck me on the arm: the glass fell on the floor
with a big crash and broke into many small pieces, and when I, in terrible fear,
opened my eyes, I saw the icon of St. Nicholas lying on the floor next to the
broken glass. Having torn itself off the wall, it struck me so powerfully on
the arm that I accidently dropped the glass.
My nerves were totally frazzled. I fell on my bed and sobbed, feeling that
I had been undoubtedly saved by a miracle. The icon was lying next to me on
the pillow and I literally flooded it with tears. Hardly had I calmed down,
laying there on the bed, when I suddenly heard an unexpected knock at the door.
The idea suddenly flashed through my mind that it was most probably the landlady
with another one of her unpleasant speeches.
I opened the door. On the threshold stood a well-dressed gentleman who looked
quite surprised at seeing my face all washed with tears and my disheveled hair.
- I have come about the ad in the newspaper - he said. I need a teacher for
the summer for my small daughter...
It was just like in a fairy-tale. Within two days I was like one of the family
working as a governess for some wonderful people.
I did not tell anyone at that time about what had happened to me, not even
my mother, so as not to upset her already ailing heart, but my life changed
drastically. Having earned enough money, I returned home and my mother and I
spent five more years together. After my mothers death, I firmly resolved
to go to a monastery - but I did not know which one, and then suddenly the uncovering
of St. Seraphims relics took place. I made it to Sarov and warmly prayed
at the Saints grave, beseeching his help, and on my way back I stopped
off in Diveyevo, where I went to see blessed Pasha. As soon as she saw me she
cried out: Where have you been up to now? Where have you been wandering?!
We have been waiting for you, waiting and waiting right here, and you have been
out there wandering all around, not even knowing where! - she said, threatening
me with her cane.
I, a sinner, understood that my fate was here and I remained in Diveyevo. The
whole time Matushka was telling her story her face changed its expression. Tears
flowed from her eyes as she relived her past, which was just as alive for her
as if it were today. We also listened just as attentively to this story of the
human soul, so wonderfully guided and protected by Gods Providence.
The days flew by one after the other and we had already been in Diveyevo for
one week without even noticing it. We lived in an atmosphere surrounded by love,
goodwill, genuine hospitality, absorbing the fragrance of the holy objects of
When will we be going to Sarov?
It was decided that we would certainly be heading in that direction the next
day. However, something came up which delayed our trip by one day.
Totally unexpectedly to me a childhood friend of mine, Archimandrite Hermogen,
the abbot of the Kiev Caves Lavra, arrived with his cell attendant, Vassily
Filipovich. Our meeting was very joyful. Unfortunately he had only a few days
After farewell visits to Mother Abbess and the Mother Treasurer, we joined
them and the nuns accompanying them to venerate the sacred objects. This time,
instead of seeing things as before, we were able to see remarkable artistic
vessels inside the altar and the sacristy of the cathedral which had been offered
by many admirers of St. Seraphim.
From here we continued into the church in honor of the Tikhvin Icon of the
Mother of God. It contained a great number of important and venerated icons
of the Mother of God. This church was closed during our stay and only once in
a while would Bishop Seraphim serve Divine Liturgy in it, being while here in
honorable exile, a deeply spiritual and light-bearing personality, who can never
be forgotten. The church was not opened to common pilgrims. This was on the
orders of the civil authorities. Then we headed for the cemetery church of the
Transfiguration. Despite its more than modest appearance, it housed many priceless
sacred objects, and most of all, St. Seraphims far hermitage served as
the altar of this church.
Inside the church were showcases where personal objects belonging to the Saint
were preserved. There was his mantle, bark shoes, hatchet, a large cross - which
St. Seraphim always wore on his chest - and the Gospels, which had been lightly-scorched
by the fire at the moment of his death.
A case was opened for us and we were able to directly venerate these material
souvenirs from the life of St. Seraphim.
Then Matushka led us to the altar. In one of its corners lay a stump of the
tree which fell down once at the prayer of St. Seraphim - in the other corner,
a piece of the stone on which St. Seraphim prayed for 1,000 days and nights.
It was considerably smaller in size in comparison with the way it originally
looked since believers would take parts of it away piece by piece.
Then Matushka led us to a small, practically unnoticeable little table which
stood behind the altar and said: This is also our great holy object. On this
little table, during St. Seraphims entire life stood the Icon of Tender
Feeling to which the Saints head bowed at the moment of his death.
Then she removed a small box from the table and added: And this is the Saints
cap, which he almost never removed from his head during the last years of his
life. And these are his cuffs. The cap was dark, with a yellow lining, and the
cuffs were a green velvet with gold lace that had darkened with time. We approached
these holy objects with great veneration. Of course it was really something
in our eyes that Matushka totally unexpectedly took out a pair of scissors and
cut off a small piece of the lining and, having pulled out a few threads from
the cuffs, handed them out to us.
Oh, how I thanked both the Lord and St. Seraphim at the time for this gift
to me, a sinner, and how I blessed the providential arrival of my friend, without
whom we could hardly have ever received so precious a holy object.
And up to this very day, in the cross with the relics of St. Seraphim, which
I had received already much later, I have preserved these holy objects as the
most precious things I have on earth.
As we were returning home, we ran into Grisha once again. This time he smiled
and, pointing with his finger to Vassily Filipovich, Fr. Hermogens young
cell attendant, who at the time was not clad as a monk but rather as a layman,
said loudly: Aha, deacon... aha, deacon and ran on further.
Fr. Archimandrite Hermogen hurried to Sarov in a horse-drawn carriage. My friend
and I decided that we must go to Sarov and back on foot, and we were only looking
for a travelling companion. Having learned of our desire to go to Sarov on foot,
Mother Kypriana completely approved of this plan.
- If you labor for the Saint, he will not abandon you, yet perhaps I will send
my niece to accompany you on the road, since she has been begging to go and
pray in Sarov for such a long time and to go by herself to visit her uncle,
my brother, that is, who is a hieromonk there. Stop by his place if you are
looking for a place to stay. He himself lives more in the woods than under a
Through the Saints prayers everything was arranged in the best possible
way. On the day following Divine Liturgy, with a large metal can to collect
water from the spring, and accompanied by our fellow traveller, and Mother Kyprianas
farewell blessings, we started out on our way.
Leaving the village, we walked along the country road, through fields and small
forests, and a few miles further on we came to a large village called Balikovo
behind which, on the horizon, one could barely see a dark patch of the Sarov
forest. The road was mainly gravel and our feet slipped on it, thereby slowing
down our pace, but we cheerfully went forward, trying especially hard not to
leave our fellow traveller behind.
At this point I would like to pause for a moment and look at a particular event
in our travels which, of itself, would not be particularly important were it
not connected to a subsequent event in Sarov. Walking along the road, my friend
and I got into a little argument. I was of the opinion that it was difficult
for a Christian to be disposed to service in any of the present state institutions
and that it would be better to be some kind of craftsman than a civil servant.
My friend objected to this, saying that in times of persecution Christians served
in the armed forces or some other service, and, when it was necessary, they
became martyrs for Christ. We spoke on this theme for a while and then forgot
all about our conversation.
Walking became considerably easier since there was no longer any gravel and
the coolness of the forest began to make itself felt.
A little more effort and we were in the forest which for tens of miles surrounded
Sarov Monastery. Enormous spruces and pines, shaggy with moss, tightly wove
their branches, forming a mysterious semi-darkness.
The road through the forest went on for about two miles and then a green wall
suddenly appeared and before us stood Sarov, all aglow with its numerous cupolas,
surrounded by towers and walls and encircled below by a river. It appeared before
us like the mysterious city of Kitezh, rising out of the deep abyss
and sparkling with the gold of the cupolas under the rays of the setting sun.
We stood as if entranced, contemplating this magnificent picture, but a powerful
ring of the bell... one, then another, then a third... rang out over the river
and the forest, awaking and calling the human heart to prayer.
We hurried and made our away across a bridge and, climbing a hill, we turned
left past the inn and after passing through the holy gates with tall bell tower
pointing straight up to the sky, we found ourselves right inside the monastery
Within the huge space enclosed by a wall and buildings towered the Summer Cathedral,
in front of which and slightly off to the side, is the Winter Cathedral of the
Life-Giving Spring; to the right - a wonderful new church in honor of St. Seraphim;
to the left - the Church of Saints Zosima and Sabbatius, behind which can be
seen the cupola of the Church of St. John the Baptist.
Fortunately we found Fr. Kyprian, Mother Kyprianas brother, at home and
he warmly invited us to spend the night there. He appeared considerably older
than his years and was much more stern in his appearance than his sister. An
ascetic by nature, he was tormented by several noisy events at the monastery,
particularly in the summertime, and he would disappear into the woods for weeks
at a time, sometimes upsetting the other brothers by this, but he obviously
found there what his soul was searching for. Not once during the two days that
we spent with him did a smile light up his face, nor was he in the least bit
From his place we went immediately to the cathedral for the All-Night Vigil.
I was struck by the splendor of its inner adornment and the altar was so big
you could place up to 100 people in it. Only later did I learn that it was remade
from the former church to which the present-day church was added.
Of course the first thing I did was to go and venerate St. Seraphims
reliquary and with tears of joy to thank him for the innumerable blessings shown
to me, a sinner.
My lifes dream was fulfilled. With the greatest veneration we kissed
the relics of the Saint, and thanks to the fact that a small square opening
was made at the head of the reliquary, it was possible to venerate his very
head and this created a special feeling of being close to the Saint.
For the entire long service we stood by the reliquary of the one whom our soul
had so longed to be close to ever since our childhood.
Fr. Kyprian felt sorry for us and blessed us not to have to get up for matins
at 3 a.m. We partook of Holy Communion at Divine Liturgy and Fr. Kyprian presented
each of us with a holy icon of St. Seraphim.
While still in Diveyevo I acquired in an icon painting workshop the icon of
Tender Feeling and a marvelous icon of St. Seraphim done in the Diveyevo style.
These were, strictly speaking, some of the last icons made in Diveyevo, since
there were very few sisters left who had mastered this art and they were already
getting quite old, as the head nun at the icon painting workshop grievingly
complained to me.
Even the hieromonk elder whose obedience it was to bless the icons on the relics
was surprised that I was still able to obtain a genuine work from Diveyevo.
I remembered an instruction given to me back in Kiev to go and visit Elder
Isaac and we decided to go and do this immediately.
Fr. Isaac lived on the second floor of a large building on the left side of
the cathedral. It did not take us long to find his cell since a long line of
people desiring to see him had formed a chain winding down the staircase and
stretching out into the courtyard. We stood at the end of the line. There was
no noise or talking going on here. Everyone was concentrated. Each person was
engrossed in his own personal feelings and sorrows and waiting for some saving
advice and comfort.
We stood for quite a long time in line, slowly moving forward, when, at last,
a certain poorly dressed woman who had been standing in front of us and wiping
the tears from her eyes with a kerchief the whole time, disappeared through
the door. After a short while the door quickly opened and there at the threshold
appeared a monk who motioned us with his hand to come in.
Although we had been forewarned, we were still quite perplexed at first upon
entering the room. In front of us stood, by all appearances, a young man of
no more than 30 years of age. His spiritualized and expressive face, with absolutely
no wrinkles, was enlivened by his amazingly penetrating eyes. A small black
beard and a moustache without the slightest trace of grey. His movements were
quick and swift like that of a young man. This elder, so young in appearance,
a disciple of the great Elder Anatoly of Sarov, was - as I was later to learn
- 58 years old. Out of humility he never agreed to be ordained a priest and
so he remained a simple monk his entire life.
We knelt down and I began to briefly expound on an important question which
concerned not only myself, but others close to me as well. Batiushka listened
attentively, sometimes throwing out a short - Yes, yes! or else,
No, this cannot be. When I finished, he grabbed me by the arm and
said: Let us go and pray. Having opened the door to the next room,
which appeared to be his own bedroom, he led us to a large, very old icon of
the Mother of God. This is my elders icon - remarked Fr. Isaac. Then he
silently plunged into prayer, having placed both hands on our heads, then quickly
going to the analoy, he took from it two icons of Saint Seraphim, and blessing
each one of us, he said: May God bless your beginning. Do not fear difficulties...
the Lord will help you. We went out into the reception room and were preparing
to leave when Batiushka suddenly and totally unexpectedly turned to my friend
and said: I also served and then gave it up. At first we did not
understand what Batiushka was referring to and then the idea suddenly came to
us that this was truly an answer to the argument my friend and I were having
on the way to Sarov! It was such a clear display of the Elders clairvoyance
that it gave me the chills.
We left under the strong impression of everything we had experienced at the
Elders and headed for St. Seraphims grave where his relics had been
venerated for 70 years. That is where the often-described chapel is located
at the altar wall of the main cathedral. In it they have now built a pathway
leading down to St. Seraphims grave and behind a large glass you can see
the coffin carved out of a log by the hands of St. Seraphim himself and in which
he was buried in 1833.
After having venerated it, we went back up and venerated another grave located
in the same chapel - that of the great ascetic schemamonk Mark.
Across from the chapel a wonderful new church was erected in honor of St. Seraphim,
incorporating in itself the cell in which the Saint lived at the monastery and
in which he died.
The church is beautiful and is magnificently adorned, both on the outside as
well as within, and was completely worthy of the name of the one to whom it
Our attention was attracted of course to St. Seraphims cell itself. The
entire structure in which Batiushka lived had been dismantled and only the cell
remained which retained the same appearance as during St. Seraphims lifetime.
On the outside it is adorned with magnificent icons in rizas and is located
in the right half of the church adjacent to its outer wall.
And what a contrast when you go from all this sparkling gold and splendor into
the small soot-covered cell with two windows where poor Seraphim lived and would
receive the Queen of Heaven Herself.
So now at the entrance to the cell on the right is the tiled stove-board, benches
and several large candlesticks. In the corner hang some small icons, already
darkened with time, among which is the icon of the Saviour not made with hands,
which belonged to St. Seraphim. Also in the corner, in a glass case, some hair
and teeth lost by St. Seraphim during a brutal attack by some robbers are preserved.
It is difficult of course to describe those feelings which each of us experienced
in this holy place. It is something that can only be experienced, but not conveyed.
- It would be nice to go directly to the spring now - said my friend as we
left Batiushkas cell - and I completely agreed with him.
Path to the spring. The near hermitage. The spring. Site of the healing of
N. A. Motovilov. On the road to the far hermitage. Farewell to Sarov. Miracle
with a bear. Schemanun Anatolia. The cemetery at Diveyevo.
N leaving the monastery and descending a small knoll, we immediately found
ourselves on the road leading to the spring. To the left of the road, like a
solid wall, there arose the powerful Sarov forest, like an ancient knight, ready
to fight hand-to-hand to defend his motherland from the inexorable and fearful
enemy. On the right, the water of Sarovs little river merrily flows its
way, caressing with its emerald bed the meadow bordering it, behind which the
forest towers once again, and more forest. And what a forest! Several men, joining
hands, would have difficulty in reaching around the trunk of a tree.
The road to the spring is wide and well-trodden by the thousands and thousands
of pilgrims who have visited it. Walking along it, we suddenly came to a small
log cabinthe site of the ascetic labors of another great ascetic of SarovSchemamonk
Mark, a contemporary and sharer of mysteries with St. Seraphim.
They carried out their ascetic struggles together in the hermitage and were
buried in the same place at the time of their repose.
It was hot and we were quite thirsty. We were also quite tired, as we had been
on our feet almost all morning. The coolness of the forest was very attractive,
and it was very difficult to restrain oneself from giving in to the desire to
enter the forest for a short rest.
Turning off the road, we immediately plunged ourselves into the immense kingdom
of the forest. Our feet made no sound as they walked upon the lush green velvet
carpeting. What a pleasure it was for us to inhale the deep, resinous smell
of the trees, blended with the smell of mushrooms and the fragrant grass.
Then in the distance, under the rays of the sun, there suddenly appeared a
clearing, revealing red whortleberries which had been hidden by other berries.
We greedily ran over to them, forgetting all about the time and about being
tired. Behind the first clearing was another, even more abundant with berries.
Without even noticing, we went deeper and deeper into the woods where the thicket
became almost impossible to penetrate.
My companion unexpectedly called out to me. In the dense thicket of bushes
was a small flat rock in front of which was a newly built cross. Evidently even
now there are still some slaves of God who, in imitation of Saint Seraphim,
secretly take upon themselves the great ascetic labor of stylites.
Managing to get back to the road again, we made our way to the spring, next
to which, on a little knoll, stood a rebuilt cell, in place of the near hermitage
which had been moved to Diveyevo. The place where the actual cell stood was
fenced in and in its center two rocks were visible, upon which St. Seraphim
had knelt while praying outside his cell at night. There was also a lampada
burning on a pole. I sketched this little corner in my travel album.
Having bathed in the healing spring and having drunk of its water, we felt
delightful and totally reborn. An unusual heartiness, freshness and lightness
encompassed our whole bodies.
Our spiritual state at that moment was completely in harmony with our physical
There is a pasture of hay on the banks of the Sarov River, next to the near
hermitage. On September 9, 1831, a miracle, startling in magnitude, took place
here through the prayers of St. Seraphimthe healing of Motovilov. As Motovilov
himself described his illness: I was incurably ill for more than three
years, during which time I suffered from incredibly severe rheumatism and other
such illnesses, with a weakening of the entire body and a paralysis of the legs,
spasmatic and swollen knees, and with bedsores on my back and sides. This
almost dying man, transported on a stretcher by his own people, was completely
healed by St. Seraphim and walked back on his own, without any outside assistance
The magnitude of this miracle recalls the Gospel account of our Saviours
healing of the lame man at the pool of Siloam (John 5:1-9). So great was the
power of St. Seraphims prayers.
This whole picture ran through my mind as we sat at this spot.
The evening drew nigh and thus we had to hurry in order to still be able to
visit the far hermitage, which was only about a mile away.
A path winding between age-old pine trees replaced the wide, well-trodden track.
Halfway to the far hermitage, a wooden canopy had been built on the spot where
St. Seraphim had spent 1,000 days enduring the enemys terrible temptations.
A large rock lies in the place of the original, which was dismantled by believers
and taken in pieces to Diveyevo.
Hardly had we arrived at this spot when in the distance we heard some horrible
howling and cries. We automatically stopped, completely perplexed as to what
was going on.
Undoubtedly it was a woman who was crying, but it was difficult to make out
just what she was saying. We quickened our pace and in a few minutes we saw
a group of men with a woman whom they were having a hard time dragging. Her
face, while still young and rather pretty, was distorted by some inhuman horror
and fear so that it made one terrified just to look at her. Now her cries could
clearly be heard. Oh, it burns, it burns, she cried in some totally
unnatural voice. Her face was swollen from fearful tension, her hair was disheveled,
and her eyes practically leapt out of their sockets.
The menthere were three of themquietly but determinedly, and with
the greatest difficulty, dragged her to the rock. We understood that this woman
was possessed and we stood numb, observing for the first time in our lives such
a spectacle. Just a short distance remained to the rock. The cries of this unfortunate
woman turned into a sort of roar, like that of a wild beast, and she was foaming
at the mouth, which had been distorted from all her sufferings.
Oh, it burns! It burns!
Finally, after one more unbelievable effort, the three men, having raised the
woman up into the air, literally threw her crosswise at the rock.
After several convulsions, the woman fainted as if she were dead. One of the
men, who was not so young, and who later turned out to be the sick womans
father, wept silently and whispered a prayer. The other men also crossed themselves.
About twenty minutes had passed when a little sign coming from the woman showed
us that she was coming to her senses.
She slowly opened her eyes, looking around in amazement, and evidently not
recognizing anyone. Then she closed her eyes again for a moment and suddenly
tearstears of inexpressible joyflowed from her eyes. Oh, how her
face was changed and transfigured in a moment! What light shone now from these
recently half-mad eyes! What happiness they radiated! She fell on her knees,
pressing her head against the rock and froze in this position, clasping the
rock with her hands, indeed afraid to let go of it.
Everyone was weepingincluding usunashamed of our tears in the presence
of such a clear miracle.
How I regretted at that moment that there were no representatives from our
so-called world of official science present. I think they would
have changed their minds after seeing this.
Shocked by what we had seen, we walked further and soon reached our destination.
We were met by a small gray-haired hieromonk, to whom we related with emotion
everything that we had just experienced. He listened to us with a kind smile
on his face: Yes, yes, I know this family. Natalia has been mad for almost
five years. Her father took her to all sorts of doctors and the poor girl spent
almost an entire year in an insane asylum, yet nothing helped at all, until
the Lord gave some good people the idea to advise that she be brought to Batiushka
Seraphim. And the Lord has performed this miracle before your very eyes. This
happens here quite often, added the old hieromonk.
He lovingly showed us the hermitage. We climbed into a very small room which
had been dug out of the ground, behind the stove, where St. Seraphim loved to
seclude himself, and we took some earth from there for ourselves. Batiushka
also showed us the garden with potatoes and onions planted on the very spot
where St. Seraphim himself once planted them. A few steps from the cell there
is a huge wooden cross which designates the spot of the Saints ascetic
feat of suffering at the hands of robbers.
We wanted so very much to take something from here as a souvenir. A few steps
away from the cell flowed a little brook, and at the top of it there floated
two magnificent water lilies. We received this gift as if from the hands of
the Saint himself. It was getting dark and we needed to hurry back. We warmly
thanked the loving elder, who had received us just like a father, and asked
for his prayers and blessing.
For one last time we turned our gaze to this marvelous scene! The thick, dense
forest, the cell of St. Seraphimand the elder blessing us in the distance,
as if in the halo of the rays of the setting sun.
On our way back, at the spring, we again met up with the woman who had been
healed. She had just bathed in the spring, all trembling with joy. We could
only bow to her, and then hurried to the monastery.
The following day we decided to return to Diveyevo. August 6th was approachingthe
patronal feast of the cemetery church.
After services and a touching farewell with Fr. Kyprian, we stopped once more
at the Church of Saints Zosima and Sabbatius, where St. Seraphim had so loved
to serve and where the cypress altar had been built with his own hands.
We visited the caves which are located next to the Church of St. John the Baptist.
For some reason or other, these are not mentioned in writings on Sarov, yet
they are of great historical and spiritual value, as witnesses of the ascetic
labours of the first inhabitants of Sarov Monastery. They remind one very much
of the Kiev Caves.
Before our departure from Sarov we wanted to receive another blessing from
Fr. Isaac, but then we would lose at least two hours standing in line, and that
meant we would be late for services in Diveyevo. There was a minute of hesitation
and indecisiveness. Well, let be what will be, I said to my friend.
The Lord will forgive us if we are late, because we just cant leave
here without Batiushkas blessing.
So we took our place in line. Literally no more than ten minutes had passed
when somewhere upstairs a door slammed and Fr. Isaac came outside. He quickly
glanced at the line of people and, suddenly noticing us below, beckoned to us
with his hand and said, Please come this way! Not believing what
was happening and quite embarrassed, we climbed up the stairs past all those
people waiting in line and entered into the reception room. Batiushka quickly
glanced at us, crossed himself, kissed us on our heads and said, May an
angel accompany you on your journey! May your hearts be at peace. Blessed be
your arrival here and your departure. With tears in our eyes we left Fr.
Despite the heavy burden we were carryinga large can filled with water
from the springwe somehow managed to reach Diveyevo completely unnoticed.
We had truly returned home.
There are no words to describe how wonderful Sarov is, but one has to get used
to its rigorous way of life. We were like a child who, although he loves his
strict but just father, nevertheless hangs on with his little hands to his mother,
who will understand and forgive everything; for we were striving for affection,
warmth and light. St. Seraphim was undoubtedly more in spirit at Diveyevo. For
indeed it was none other than St. Seraphim himself who delightedly told Fr.
Basil Sadovsky, Sarov is only the sleeve, but Diveyevo is the entire fur
coat. We were therefore striving to find shelter under this very fur coat.
We were joyfully met by Mother Kypriana, and we gave her prosphora and greetings
from her brother. Mother Alexandra, after learning of our arrival, also came
running: Oh, what a shame you werent here! A short while ago two
students left us and it would have been nice if you could have met them.
What was so special about them that we should want to meet them, Matushka?
I jokingly asked.
Well, I say! I say
Matushka exclaimed in a voice that sounded
a bit offended to me. Do you mean to say you have not heard about the
miracle that St. Seraphim performed on them!
We immediately pricked up our ears. Matushka dear, tell us please, you
know how interested we are in everything relating to St. Seraphim.
You see, what did I tell you! Matushka said, immediately calming
down. Well, it happened a while back, perhaps two years ago. Three student
friends came on a pilgrimage. They were such good, happy kids, polite, and besides
that, they were believers. They were interested and would ask about everything.
All the same they would sometimes joke around and laugh. Kids will be kids.
One day they prepared to leave for Sarov, and after church they stopped by Batiushkas
grave where pictures and various depictions from Batiushkas life are found.
Perhaps youve seen them yourself? One of these shows Batiushka feeding
a bear some bread. Well, they looked at all these and then headed for the spring.
They were walking along the road and talking among themselves. Then one of them
said, Elder Seraphim was such a great man that even wild animals obeyed him.
Such ascetics were found only in ancient times. I read this somewhere in the
lives of saints.
Hey, friend, another replied, theres a lot of things written.
Its the common people who keep adding bits and pieces by themselves, and
thats how you get such unbelievable tales today. I dont deny that
Batiushka was a good man, and a faster, and that he knew how to give wise advice
to people, but to stand outside in order to feed wild animals, well, excuse
me, but I never have believed in such things and I still dont even now.
Even if right now a bear were to appear in front of us, you still wouldnt
believe? asked the third student jokingly.
All right, perhaps then, just maybe Id believe it, laughed
And while they were discussing this they saw how one of themthe
one who doubted Batiushkas miraclessuddenly became as white as a
ghost, and stopped dead in his tracks. They looked around and were stupefied.
Out of the woods came a huge bear, the likes of which no one in his born days
had ever seen in Sarov, and it headed straight for them.
Although two of the students were scared to death, they managed to run
and scramble up a tree, but the third just fell on the ground and was frozen
stiff with fear. The bear came up to the third student, stood over him, sniffed
around and slowly went back to the forest.
Our heroes were barely able to drag themselves to the monastery, and
they told everyone about what had happened to them. Since that time, they come
every year to the monastery to thank God and St. Seraphim for the miraculous
rescue and reproof from on high. On this note Matushka concluded her story.
Thanks be to God for your wonderful story. I also deeply regret that
I wasnt able to see them.
But St. Seraphim helped me out here. During the German occupation, in 1943,
I met one of the studentswho had already been ordained a priest.
That evening at Mother Ludmillas, we were delighted to relate our impressions
of Sarov and particularly our visits to Elder Isaac.
Oh yes, he is a remarkable, grace-filled elder, responded Mother
But havent you been to see our Schemanun Mother Anatolia yet?
she asked suddenly.
No, we do not even know of her existence.
How can that be? You must go and visit her. She is also a slave of God
and the Lord has sent her the gift of comforting those who grieve. She underwent
a great trial in her life. In her youth she was very zealous for ascetic labors
beyond her strength, so she was admonished more than once by the Mother Abbess
and our older nuns. For a while it seemed as if she had resigned herself to
this, but then she would once again take upon herself a very strict fast and
always be kneeling. So the Lord sent her a temptation. She decided to seclude
herself in a cell and become a recluse. No matter how hard one tried to talk
her out of it, nothing helped and so she went ahead with her idea.
day a sister brought her some food and knocked on her door. But there was no
answer. Becoming frightened, she informed the other sisters and the Mother Abbess.
With a common effort they were able to get the door open and found Matushka
lying on the floor, all covered with blood and barely alive. Only then did it
dawn on the sisters that the enemy of our salvation had clearly appeared to
her, threatened her and threw her to the ground, practically killing her. Therefore,
from that time on, Mother Anatolia completely changed. She lives in the monastery
now and has taken on the schema.
That is how dangerous self-will is in a monastery, concluded Mother
The next day we visited Mother Anatolia. Her cell attendant opened the door
for us and asked us to come in behind a partition. Here in an armchair, supporting
herself with a cane, sat a very thin schemanun with a waxen complexion, but
lively shining eyes. She warmly responded to our bows. Then we sat down and
Matushka began asking questions about our life. In a half hour we took leave
of her, loaded with lots of little crosses, and thanking her for her instructions
and asking for her prayers. We were struck by her spiritual purity and humility.
On one beautiful, quiet morning I wanted to visit the final resting place of
St. Seraphims orphansthis being to some extent a chronicle of Diveyevos
past. After early morning Liturgy, and after having some tea and grabbing my
sketch album, I started on my way. This time I decided to go alone so as not
to distract my attention even with friendly talk.
The cemetery at Diveyevo is located in the very heart of the monastery and
is surrounded by stone posts with wooden fencing in between. Directly behind
this enclosure is the canal, encompassing it on three sides. At the very entrance
to the cemetery stands a small wooden church in honor of the Transfiguration
of our Lord. I was struck by the cemeterys stark simplicity and at the
same time was surprised at how orderly and neat it was, so unlike our cemeteries
The little hills rising above the graves were covered with a solid blanket
of green, despite it being already the beginning of autumn. In certain places
on the grass one could spot some unfamiliar forest bluebells and daisies which
had somehow landed here.
In places the newly falling leaves reflected an amber glow from the sun, and
clusters of modest white crosses stood in strict rows. Above everything towered
a forest of snow-white birch trees pensively bowing their brocades and embroidered
with their golden autumn attire. The silence was striking. You could only hear
a grasshopper chirruping somewhere or a bumble-bee lazily buzzing around.
I slowly walked along the narrow road and avidly looked at the inscriptions
on the crosses, trying to find some familiar names on them. They did not contain
many words, yet how much they spoke to my heart at times!
Mother Hermionia entered the monastery in 1829. She lived to the age
of 81, I read on one of these. That means that she began her monastic
path during Batiushka Seraphims time, I thought.
Nun Dorothea died in peace in 1879 at the age of 63. Another contemporary
of St. Seraphim.
I walked on further and read: Eldress Eupraxia. =April 28, 1868. Blessed
are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. So here is
where she rests in peace! Blessed Eldress Eupraxiawho had been in St.
Seraphims cell on the Annunciation during the appearance of the Queen
of Heaven Herself with the angels and holy maidens.
The entire life of Diveyevo filled my mind when I read these inscriptions on
the gravestones, beneath which those who today rejoice in endless light are
laid to their eternal rest, glorifying God together with our beloved Batiushka
Seraphim. But there was still another little grave almost right next to the
Church of the Transfiguration and somewhat apart from the others. I approached
it and read: Elena Ivanovna Motovilova. Died in 1910. Grant peace to her
soul, O Lord. A faithful friend in life, secretly predestined from childhood
for her favorite fellow disciple and friend, N. A. Motovilov, by St. Seraphim.
With special tenderness I prostrated on my knees before this grave.
To this day the Motovilovs grandchildren are still alive and are sacredly
preserving in their family many of the Diveyevo traditions and material memorials
of St. Seraphim. I heard many times about these from Bishop P. who had visited
them several times.
On the way home I met Mother Evdokia, a very kind and educated nun. After we
had greeted each other, she said, In our monastery we have someone from
our hometown, a sister from Kiev.
You dont say! I marvelled. I didnt know that.
Yes, you can drop by for a minute if you have the time and the desire
to do so.
Ill say! I answered quite readily.
With hair as white as snow, yet lively and cheerful, we were met by Mother
Ive wanted to see you and meet you for such a long time, and God
has brought you here, said the old lady warmly.
So, did you find out about this? she continued smiling, having
noticed that I was attentively and very curiously looking at her pictures of
Kiev hanging on the wall of her cell. There was the Church of St. Sophia and
the Kiev Caves Lavra, the Convent of the Protection, and so forth.
Ill say, I answered with a smile. I am especially delighted
to see these snapshots of my hometown right here in Diveyevo.
My attention was also drawn to a large wooden cross of surprising shape and
size located in the holy corner of the room, and I curiously moved closer to
it in order to take a better look.
Where did you get such a cross, Matushka? Never before have I seen such
a cross, either in someones home or in one of the cells here at the monastery.
It seemed to me that a certain shadow flashed across her face for a brief moment,
as if I had indiscreetly opened up an old wound which caused her to ache.
It is not by chance that I have this cross. A whole period of my life
is bound up with it
perhaps the most painful. A note of secret
grief sounded in her voice.
God forgive me if I have inadvertently and out of ignorance touched upon
something that should have been left alone.
No, why? This is a story that can teach you a lot, and it will be especially
interesting to my fellow native of Kiev to learn of it.
While still a very young girl living in Kiev, Matushka began her
story, My youngest sister, whom I just adored, and I entered as novices
into the Convent of the Protection, where Grand Duchess Anastasia served as
abbess. My sister and I were both orphans and our hearts were truly geared towards
monastic life, all the more because the sisters and the Grand Duchess were very
kind to us.
We lived together in the main complex on the second floor and had our
obediencewe loved singing in the choir. Things looked as if they couldnt
be any better. Only my sister Natasha began coughing a bit one day. She grew
thin and began eating less and less. I started to get worried, of course. As
you know, we had our own doctors at the convent. They looked at my little sister,
shook their heads and forbade her to sing in the choir and began giving her
some medicine. But the poor girl kept getting worse and worse. I kept on worrying.
Although the Mother Abbess herself comforted me, I could see that they were
upset by this illness, too, because they all loved her very much for her kindness,
cheerful disposition and good voice. When they took her to the monastery hospital
in the complex, where those with consumption were taken, I completely went to
pieces. I cried and cried and begged our Heavenly Queen for her recovery, but
it evidently was pleasing to the Lord to send me this terrible test. Less than
a month later, my beloved Natashenka quietly passed away.
She was buried on the monastery grounds and I finally stopped crying
due to my grief, not at all understanding anything that had happened to me.
I completely withdrew into myself and would sit for hours, overcome by such
great despair that I could not even pray; and at times, frightful to say, I
began to murmur and to lose faith in God! The others began to fear that I was
losing my mind, but the infinitely merciful Lord was not angry with me unto
the end. And so there I was, sitting in my cell on one of those horrible endless
nights, with my head incredibly heavy, as if it were filled with lead, not being
able to get any sleep, and with dark and horrible thoughts as if someone were
driving them into my head, and they kept creeping up one by one.
Just then I heard the door squeak and I turned my head. I almost screamedin
the doorway stood my dead sister, my Natashenka, as if she were alive and so
joyful! Then she came close to me and pointed to the corner where my icons were
hanging and clearly said, Look and believe! I involuntarily glanced
there and saw a magnificent huge cross shining with such an ineffable light
that it is impossible to describe! And I was so filled with joy and became immediately
at ease. As my sister began to depart, I ran after her, but she was already
going down the stairs. I kept running after her because I wanted to catch up
with her, but there was no way I could. We both ran into the courtyard and she
hurried away so quickly that I cannot remember anything else, except that in
the morning they found me lying on Natashas grave.
I got very ill, but later settled down and was convinced that there is
life after death and that my Natasha had died only in body, but not in spirit.
As soon as I began to recover, Mother Abbess blessed me to go and visit my aunta
nun at Diveyevo. And as you can see, I am still here visiting to this very day,
and in no way can I go back home. Obviously the time will come when I will go
back hometo Natasha, Mother Rufina said in concluding her story.
And the cross that you see I made in memory of that cross that the Lord
sent to me at that time for the salvation of my soul.
Chapter Five (Conclusion)
Feast of the Transfiguration. Alyosha. Blessed Maria. Letter of St. Seraphim
to the Tsar. Farewell to Diveyevo and departure. Miraculous healing of sister
through St. Seraphims prayers. My dream. Unexpected
arrival of Mother Alexandra and her story about events in Diveyevo.
OON it would be two weeks that we had been in grace-filled Diveyevo, and they
seemed to pass by in a split second. With sadness I thought about the approaching
day of our departure.
We spent the day of the Transfiguration in a specially prayerful state. The
church celebration was held in the cemetery church of the Transfiguration. It
was presided over by Bishop Seraphim. There were hardly any pilgrims there this
time, yet among the pilgrims were two old men in simple clothing and carrying
staffs, who had just arrived from Sarov and caught our attention. The small
church was filled for the most part by inhabitants of the monastery itself.
The Bishop spoke beautifully of the power of prayer transforming a persons
entire life, inwardly and spiritually, a living example of which was St. Seraphim
After services we went once again with Mother Evdokia to the cemetery to bow
to all the dear graves, and on our way there we passed the two pilgrims who
had been in church. Matushka bowed low to them. Do you know who they are?
she whispered to us. To our negative response she quietly added, The taller
one on the right is Bishop N. and the other is an admiral, and she named
the name of a famous Russian sailor.
Once after evening services, not long before our departure, as we returned
to our cells we noticed something unusual. The table was covered with a new
tablecloth, everything everywhere had been thoroughly cleaned. The lampadas
had been completely refilled, and everything shone festively. Quite surprised,
we asked Mother Kypriana: Whats this, Matushka, are you expecting
Just look at how curious you are! Whomever God sends, He will send,
Matushka jokingly replied.
Approximately an hour later, while we were having tea, a light knock on the
door obviously heralded the arrival of the desired guest. Mother Kypriana quickly
left her cell and opened the latch on the door. Someones footsteps could
be heard, and then someone entered into Blessed Parascevas (Pashas)
A little while later there was another knock, this time at our door. At the
words, Come in, the door opened and there at the threshold stood
a young man who appeared to be no older than sixteen or seventeen years. Behind
him stood Mother Kypriana. His well-built, lean figure exuded a kind of innate
nobility. There was a slight blush on his cheeks. His beautiful eyes, with long
eyelashes, were covered with a certain hazy sadness. There was something in
him that involuntarily and immediately evoked a feeling of deep sympathy, mixed
with respect. He entered and crossed himself in front of the icons, and a light,
charming smile enlightened his face.
I learned of your presence here already back in Sarov, he began,
and I wanted to see you for myself. You wont mind? It is always
joyful for me to meet our fellow disciples of St. Seraphim, and they were able
to tell me already about how you love Batiushka. He put out his hand,
and we embraced each other like brothers.
Mother Kypriana began bustling around the table and started pouring tea. We
invited our guest to take a seat, and we all remained silent for several minutes.
Then he began speaking about Diveyevo, Sarov, St. Seraphim, and about the ineffable
joy which the Saint gives to those who love him. He also spoke about how grace-filled
every small rock and blade of grass is here, blessed by the Mother of God and
ever-blessing all those who visit these places.
His inspirational talk was filled with irrepressible strength. His face was
transformed, which brought bright color to his cheeks, and his radiant eyes
shone with a kind of inner fire.
How enchanted we were to listen to this strange and amazing youth. Who is he?
Where does he come from? Mother Kypriana stood at the doorway, and I saw how
this orphan-nun furtively wiped away her flowing tears one by one.
Then the boy suddenly became silent, and you could feel at this time his soul
soaring somewhere on the edge of another world inaccessible to us sinners. We
sat disturbed and shocked. Having remained silent the whole time, Mother Kypriana
suddenly crossed herself and spoke almost prophetically: For your humility
and heart as pure as crystal, Alyosha, and because you have attached yourself
irresistibly to the Saint with all your soul, the Lord will keep you from all
earthly tortures and griefs.
That means his name is Alyosha, the thought flashed through my
Meanwhile, Alyosha responded to Matushka with a low bow and, pausing a moment,
turned to us and said: If you like, lets go to Batiushka at the
hermitage and pray!
Gladly, but it is already quite late, I answered indecisively.
In the monastery they have already been asleep for quite a while and the
hermitage is closed until morning.
Never mind. Batiushka will allow us to come to him, Alyosha answered
with a smile.
We quickly got ready and left together with Alyosha. It was a starry night
and was quiet everywhere, only every now and then through the windows of the
cells lampadas could be seen flickering in front of the icons. In a few minutes
we were already standing in front of the hermitage. Alyosha carefully knocked
several times at the window. After a bit of time a knock was heard in response.
In the window candles were set burning, and then we heard the old footsteps
of Mother Hilaria. Opening the door, she did not even ask who was knocking.
It was evident that these late night visits had occurred before, and they did
not seem to surprise her at all.
An inexpressible feeling of St. Seraphims closeness in his own cell,
especially in these night hours in which he himself so loved to pray, enveloped
me with great force.
We knelt down and Alyosha began reciting an akathist to St. Seraphim by heart.
But this in no way resembled an ordinary reading. There was not that element
of gushiness in it, which almost always alienates one from prayer; on the other
hand, there was none of that monotone which adds dryness. It was more of a lively
and direct-from-the-heart talk to the Elder, one from his soul to his own beloved
For the first time I felt in my heart at that moment the inexpressible power
of prayer in all its spiritual depth. Tears flowed by themselves, tears of tender
emotion, joy, and gratitude to St. Seraphim. This night-time vigil in the hermitage
was quite likely one of the most powerful experiences of my time spent in Diveyevo
and Sarov. I was not even able to thank Alyosha for his holy and wonderful gift
before he slipped away unnoticedthis mysterious messenger of wonderful
Seraphim. We left and silent joy flowed, it seemed, into everything around.
The stars sparkled joyfully in the black velvet sky, the light wind whispered
something surprisingly beautiful, and the trees swayed back and forth with their
branches, not being able, it seemed, to hold back their delight. I then began
to understand how when a man has hell in his soul, no matter if its the
clearest and most beautiful day, everything around him will be covered with
the thick gloom of cold horror and malice. But when a mans heart is touched
even by the weakest ray of grace, everything shines, sparkles and blossoms even
in the most bitter winter season.
In vain did we wait for Alyosha the next day. He did not come. I could not
find out much about him from Mother Kypriana either. I only learned that he
has family in St. Petersburg, but the greatest part of his life was spent here
in Diveyevo and Sarov and who knows where else. No one knows when he will show
up, but everyone rejoices at the arrival and visit of this young man chosen
by God, one of St. Seraphims servants.
We still had one unrealized intention remaining: the meeting with Blessed Maria,
the spiritual director at Diveyevo at the time, who had received the right of
succession after the death of Blessed Parasceva (Pasha), but the realization
of this aim became exceptionally complicated.
The situation was that the reputation and authority of Blessed Maria were so
great that people flocked from all corners of Russia to receive spiritual comfort
from her, but the authorities considered it necessary to meddle wherever they
saw the danger of propaganda, as they called it. The Abbess of the
monastery was summoned, and in the most sharp and rude form she was informed
that even if one person would visit the blessed one, then instantly she would
be arrested, together with the blessed one, and exiled wherever necessary. After
this, no one dared come to see Blessed Maria due to the danger of having the
civil authorities threat put into action. Clearly, we also did not feel
we had the right to insist on such a meeting, although it was sad to have to
leave without seeing the blessed one.
On the eve of our departure, our guardian angel, Mother Alexandra, came by
as usual, and said, Do you know what I was thinking? Although it may be
difficult, I will still try to get a blessing from Mother Abbess to hand your
questions in writing to the blessed one and to try to receive answers to them.
I will do this very late at night, since it is very difficult now for our sisters
to get to see her. Indeed, Mother Abbess has still not recovered from this shock.
We of course were extremely grateful for this offer. I wrote a short note about
our work and what we had sought advice on from Fr. Isaac in Sarov, and also
wrote down a few names of people close to me, asking for prayers and a blessing.
The Mother Abbess gave a blessing for the letter to be transmitted, and I awaited
the answer with a certain amount of trepidation. I knew that the blessed one
was far from receiving everyone affectionately: some she would chase away with
her cane, others she would threaten or scold; sometimes she would fly into such
a rage that her cell-attendants had a time trying to calm her down. In this
way she would somehow express the spiritual state of those coming to see her.
That evening we had hardly laid down to sleep when Mother Alexandra finally
returned. We understood by the look on her face that everything had turned out
The blessed one was totally calm, Mother Alexandra recounted. Your
letter was read to her, then she herself ordered that an answer be written;
and here it is, added Matushka, handing me a small piece of paper.
And you know, she continued, when she was read the names
of your close ones, the blessed one crossed herself and said, Indeed, among
them will be bishops!
The answer received by me and preserved as a holy object contained a full blessing
for our work. I was very amazed at the prediction about bishops, but it was
fulfilled exactly. Fifteen years later, the young cell-attendant of my childhood
friend, whom we had met in Sarov and whose name figured earlier in these memoirs,
became a bishop, just as the blessed one said, and today leads one of the bishoprics
abroad [Archbishop Leonty].
Many mysteries are preserved in Sarov and Diveyevo. In concluding my recollections
concerning my trip, I should touch upon one which, perhaps, there might not
be enough time to talk about, but since Professor Ivan Andreyev has already
referred to it in his interesting brochure entitled St. Seraphim of Sarov,
published in 1946 in Munich, I shall try to state concisely what I know about
this subject. So the reader will understand what I am talking about, I am including
the following lines:
We also met an eldress who told us that in 1903, at the uncovering of St. Seraphims
relics, she handed to His Majesty Tsar Nicholas II a letter from St. Seraphim,
addressed to the fourth Tsar who would come here. The letter had been preserved
at Sarov Monastery during the course of four successive reigns. The Emperor
was profoundly shaken when he read the letter. No one is acquainted with its
contents. The nuns story deeply struck me, for never before had I heard
about this fact.
If I expound in some other writing on the communication of this letter to the
Emperor, the very fact of this letters existence and its being made known
to me at least are not subject to any doubt, as well as the very idea of this
incredible event itself, which is being carefully preserved in the Diveyevo
As is known, St. Seraphim accurately predicted the arrival of the Royal Family
for the celebration, that is, not only the Tsar himself, but his family, and
in the summer time.
The Tsar will come to us with his entire family. What joy there will be and
Pascha will be sung in the summer.
Further in the Diveyevo chronicles the following is recounted:
Before his repose, St. Seraphim handed to N. A. Motovilov a letter with instructions
to hand it to the Tsar who would visit Sarov. After Motovilovs death,
the letter was preserved by his faithful spouse Elena Ivanovna. When Tsar Nicholas
II came from Sarov in 1903 to visit Diveyevo, he was met by the Diveyevo nuns,
standing in long lines on both sides of the road leading to Sarov, with the
marvelous Eldress Elena Ivanovna at the head, who handed the letter from St.
Seraphim to the Tsar on a plate. After their visit to Sarov and to Blessed Parasceva/Pasha
everyone noticed that the Tsar left highly upset.
This startling fact has yet to be revealed in all its fullnessthis is
something for the future, but undoubtedly, its significance in the historical
fate of Russia is great.
Finally the day of our departure arrived. On the eve of our departure we had
a touching farewell with the Mother Abbess, Mother Ludmilla and the sisters,
whom we had grown close to and come to love during our time there as the closest
and dearest people. We asked for their holy prayers and thanked them for their
love, warmth and hospitality.
At 6:00 a.m. early the next morning many came to see us off. Besides Mother
Kypriana, who had presented me with a wonderful small portrait of the Eldress
Agafia Melgunovathe first abbess of Diveyevothere was also Mother
Alexandra and other sisters. Alyosha also popped up from who knows where. This
was an especially unexpected pleasure for us. We parted with him in a brotherly
fashion, asking him to come visit our hometownthe mother of all Russian
towns. He smiled in a mysterious kind of way, hugged each of us once again,
and quietly whispered: I have both Kiev and Jerusalem right here. If there
is no more Diveyevo and Sarov on earth, I will beg Batiushka to call me to himself,
but I will never leave Diveyevo and Sarov. This is the power of love and
A few more minutes of saying our farewells and we moved on. Our hearts grew
sad as our gracious little home and the sisters crossing us from afar and the
monastery churches slowly began to disappear into the distance.
No one has been able to express these feelings of parting with Diveyevo in
a more heartfelt manner than S. A. Nilus: Farewell Diveyevo! Farewell
your kindness, your gentleness! Farewell your incomparable holiness! Shall I
ever see you again on this earth! Or shall I be granted to see you in all your
glory being raised up from the encroachment of the unclean hands of antichrist?
To see you in the spirit, of course!God only knows, but I shall never
forget you to the end of my days.
We returned safely to Kiev and once more encumbered ourselves with the dark
actuality of daily life. Here and there churches were being closed, holy objects
destroyed, and an endless line of believers sent to Golgotha for Christ.
Every now and then we would receive short letters of an upsetting nature from
Mother Alexandra, and one year later, in 1927, both Sarov and Diveyevo were
destroyed in one blow.
This horrible news struck us like a thunderbolt. In the very heart of the Russian
people a hostile blow was dealt which bled from its freshly inflicted wound.
Violence could be done to St. Seraphims relics: they could burn his grave,
break up the hermitages, chop down the forest, muddy his spring, yet no force
on earth could tear from the blood-stained heart of the people or destroy their
love for St. Seraphim. And the God-pleaser answered them with a flood of such
grace-filled help and miraculous healings that it could not help but raise our
spirits, and our belief was strengthened in the nearness of the final victory
I dare not remain silent about the miraculous assistance from St. Seraphim
that took place in my own family that same year.
My sister, who was living at the time with her husband, her son and my mother,
was taken very ill with typhoid fever, complicated by pneumonia. Threatening
signs in the second month of the illness grew with each day. Her heart gave
up and injections every two hours almost completely stopped having any effect.
The doctors were already preparing mother for the inevitable. I was contacted
urgently by telegram. With unbelievable difficulty I succeeded in getting only
one day off, and I went to my dying sister.
Having arrived, I found this picture: my sister was unconscious and her whole
body was completely blue in color as a result of her heart failure, with a wheezing
and gurgling sound in her lungsin short, a complete picture of her beginning
I immediately took some Holy Water I had brought with me from St. Seraphims
spring and recitedas I had been taught in Diveyevothe Our
Father three times, the Rejoice, O Theotokos three times,
and the Creed once, slipping one of the Saints little rocks into the holy
water. After having trouble prying her parched mouth open, I poured in several
teaspoonsful. Mother was also tearfully praying to St. Seraphim.
And here is what happened! Literally within a few hours my sick sister regained
consciousness, opened her eyes and recognized me. Although she was not able
to say anything due to her weak state, the tears in her eyes alone spoke of
how difficult it was for her. Her breathing became much more peaceful and her
phlegm started to break up. I once again gave her Holy Water to drink. That
evening I was forced to return home.
The next day I had a startling dream! There, in the distance, at the horizon,
a horrible glow ominously blazed, encompassing half of the sky. In the foreground,
with his back to me, stood St. Seraphim, across from whom stood Mother Agafia,
the first abbess of Diveyevo. A long line of nuns were walking towards them
one by one, and it was as if both of them raised up each one, helping them to
tear themselves away from the earth, and they went to heaven. Unexpectedly,
on one side of St. Seraphim, my sister was approaching and St. Seraphim, turning
around and glancing at her, said: She is not yet ready! and my sister
went away. My dream was vivid and produced an indelible impression on me.
That day I received a telegram from my family saying that my sister was better,
that her temperature was dropping by the hour, and that the danger had passed.
And in one weeks time, my sister was sitting up in bed and could thank
the one who had miraculously rescued her from death.
Another year passed and then one morning someone quietly knocked on the door
of my apartment. I opened the door and was totally taken by surprise. In front
of me stood Mother Alexandra, alive, safe and sound.
Matushka, is it you? were the only words I was able to mutter.
After the first joyful moments of this moving encounter I flooded Matushka
with questions concerning the fate of Sarov, Diveyevo, and other places close
and dear to me.
Well, began Matushka, Gods will has been done. The
Lord took from the Russian people these holy places. We deserved
what is the use talking about it? Matushka said, no longer holding back
Tell me, Matushka, did you expect the total destruction of the monastery
or did it take you by surprise?
Oh, we knew! If we had not known, the grief would have been even worse.
St. Seraphim also besought the Lord to save the holy objects.
Even several months before its closing there were signs in the monastery.
Suddenly the bells would start ringing all by themselves, or the cathedral would
be all lit up inside at night and everyone would become alarmed and think a
fire had broken out, but in fact everything became quiet and dark again. And
this happened more than once. And once when our blessed one [Maria] flew into
a rage, she clearly began to foretell that misfortune was coming. Then our elderly
nuns got together and decided to hide all of Batiushkas holy objects and
his things among the faithful. Everything was dismantled. And I have Batiushkas
small bench hidden away, the one he had in his cell.
And how then did the main holy object, the wonderworking icon of Tender
Feeling, escape destruction?
The Lord helped to save it, and we believe that He will not be angry
with us unto the end and when the monastery rises out of its ashes, the icon
will be returned to its place. At one time an exact copy of the icon was made
and placed in the riza, and the real icon was taken far away where those committing
sacrilege could not get their hands on it.
And where are the sisters of the monastery? I continued probing.
What happened to all of them? Where are Mother Ludmilla, Mother Kypriana,
Mother Hilaria and the others? What happened to the blessed one?
Many, many of them the Lord has called to Himself at this time, although
it is really hard to believe this. Mother Ludmilla was the first to go to the
Lord. Mother Kypriana followed soon thereafter, and then Blessed Maria, who
was already living in another village at the time, and after them
and Matushka began naming the names of the late-lamented orphans of Diveyevo.
Immediately I recalled my dream when St. Seraphim and Mother Agafia led a continuous
line of Diveyevo nuns walking towards them to the heavenly abodes.
Mother Hilaria, through Gods mercy, is still alive and living with
some good people.
And Elder Isaac and Fr. Kyprian?
Both went to the Lord.
I could only cross myself in silence.
Perhaps something is known about Alyosha, Matushka?
Upon hearing that name Matushka brightened up.
Saint Seraphim gathered his holy soul unto himself. He really loved his
Sarov and our monastery. He just could not go on living anymore. He came down
with a lung infection and quietly, quietly passed away. And how blessed was
his repose as his soul broke away to join itself to the Saint. Everyone around
him was crying, but he rejoiced and celebrated. Only the righteous ones die
in such a way, those for whom death is already the beginning of eternal life
And again Alyoshas words came to mind when we bade each other farewell:
If there is no more Sarov, I too will be no more.
Memory eternal to his pure and holy soul.
Many of our sisters, Matushka continued, dispersed all throughout
Russia and were saved, but some were judged by the Lord to receive a martyrs
crown. I myself am now living with relatives in the Urals, but I have decided
to come see you and others. This was something I really had to do.
Matushka remained in our city about three months. All of St. Seraphims
devoted disciples had joy in meeting her and received directly from her words
of courage, faith and hope that the Resurrection of Russia will come festively,
along with that of wonderful Sarov and Diveyevo.
Dr. A.P. Timofievich
From The Orthodox Word, Nos. 156-157 (spanning 1991-1992). Copyrighted by the
St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, Platina,
California. Used with permission. Posted July 4, 2006.
Those who have a special love for St. Seraphim should consider purchasing a copy of
the Summer 2003 issue of Road to Emmaus, which was
dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the canonization of St. Seraphim. A link to the lead article from
that issuewhich cites this pilgrimage accountcan be found in the Related Articles section, above.