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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, Michael’s, 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 Pavlovich’s personal supervision. Afterwards he would collapse and literally be carried out.

Anatoly Pavlovich spent his life under Fr. Adrian’s 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 Pavlovich’s 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. Seraphim’s 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.

—Abbot Herman

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 some—few 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. Nilus—to 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 Life”—exclaim 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 earth—wonderful Diveyevo and Sarov. Much has been omitted which due to the present situation cannot be made public.

Bless, O Lord!
New Diveyevo, New York

Chapter One

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 Women’s Monastery. Elder Anthony of Murom. Diveyevo. A visit to the Cathedral. Mother Ludmilla, the treasurer of the monastery.

Saint Seraphim!

How much this name says to the Russian heart! I don’t 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 God’s blessing; and secondly, the strong, inexhaustible, ever-strengthening stream of love, which, as during the Saint’s 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 poorest peasant.

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 Most High.

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 Saint’s struggles and prayerfully attest to my love for him before his holy relics.

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 passed.… 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 podvig—to 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 address.

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. Seraphim’s spring, Engineer X. became for the rest of his life one of the Saint’s 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 represented—as 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 can’t 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 won’t miss the town of Ardatov with its women’s monastery, which St. Seraphim also took care of. There venerate the grave of the renowned Elder Anthony [of Murom]. You won’t regret it,” added my new acquaintance.

“Now you see,” he continued, “don’t forget to visit Elder Isaac while you are in Sarov. Don’t 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 o’clock 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 goal.

The morning was foggy and clouded over when at seven o’clock 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 then—whatever 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, “it’s not on my way. I’m from Ardatov, and from there to Sarov I suppose it is a good thirty versts.”

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 coachman’s 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 his slumber.

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 women’s 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 monastery’s holy places.

Learning that we were on our way to Sarov, the Mother Abbess remarked: “It is good that you didn’t 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 by—the 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 God’s 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 don’t 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, Matushka remarked:

“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, one’s 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 Bishop’s 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 Batiushka’s 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 women’s 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 day’s 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 horse’s 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 o’clock 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.”

“Don’t 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 couldn’t 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 didn’t 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 one’s 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.

Chapter Two

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 Kypriana was.

“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 spiritual wisdom.”

“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 1903—the 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 woman’s hand could be seen in everything—in 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 merchant’s 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. Seraphim’s 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 mustn’t..... 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. Seraphim’s orphans for each one who visits the earthly monastery of poor Seraphim.

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 monastery—and 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 don’t know about many things.”

“How wonderful—after 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 me—you’d 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 pillars—four relics!”

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 Motovilov’s 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 let’s 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. It’s 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 Alexandra’s cell, we headed for the small house where blessed Pelagia—the second Seraphim—lived.

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 again.

“That’s 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, “Listen—it 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, it’s 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 Diveyevo Monastery.

“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 Elder’s 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 Christ’s 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, that’s enough for today. I dare say you’re probably all tired out,” said Mother Alexandra, as we came outside. “You’ll still be staying with us as our guests. So tomorrow, God willing, we’ll 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. “It’s 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 up—and we were in the blessed one’s 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 God’s 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 cross.

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 Batiushka’s death by his spiritual son and friend, N. A. Motovilov, to comfort the orphans in Diveyevo.

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 objects—who 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 Batiushka’s 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 Ivanovna’s chapel, above a small table, I saw this portrait hanging on a wall. “Look, look! He’s smiling! Look how he’s 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 Ivanovna’s 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 Batiushka’s portrait, the cell also contained other icons which had been hanging there since the Saint’s 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 one’s 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.” “That’s wonderful! Pray, pray; it’s not only you, but everyone whom God brings here feels this spiritual world and holy joy from Batiushka’s 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 God’s great mercy to me a sinner, that the Lord honored me with this obedience. Nowhere is one closer to the Saint’s 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 Batiushka’s very own hands. So let’s 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 bread.

“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 Diveyevo—the 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. Seraphim’s relics.

Pilgrims were already beginning to arrive for that day. There weren’t 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 one’s 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 Diveyevo’s past, and the innumerable wonders that took place there through St. Seraphim’s prayers.

We would have to stay at Matushka Ludmilla’s for at least an entire day, otherwise Matushka’s 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.

Chapter 3

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. Seraphim’s grave. St. Seraphim’s 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 departed.

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 voice spoke:

- Well, come on, show me your guests, come on, let me see them.

- It’s probably not worth seeing them - I answered light-heartedly in place of Mother Alexandra. - It really doesn’t matter, you won’t see anything good.

- 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.

- I’ve 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 life’s 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 God’s 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 family’s 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 mother’s death, I firmly resolved to go to a monastery - but I did not know which one, and then suddenly the uncovering of St. Seraphim’s relics took place. I made it to Sarov and warmly prayed at the Saint’s 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 God’s 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 grace-filled Diveyevo.

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 free.

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. Seraphim’s 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. Seraphim’s entire life stood the Icon of Tender Feeling to which the Saint’s head bowed at the moment of his death.

Then she removed a small box from the table and added: And this is the Saint’s 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. Hermogen’s 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 roof.

Through the Saint’s 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 Kypriana’s 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 itself.

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 Kypriana’s 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 talkative.

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. Seraphim’s reliquary and with tears of joy to thank him for the innumerable blessings shown to me, a sinner.

My life’s 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 elder’s 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 Elder’s clairvoyance that it gave me the chills.

We left under the strong impression of everything we had experienced at the Elder’s and headed for St. Seraphim’s 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. Seraphim’s 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 was dedicated.

Our attention was attracted of course to St. Seraphim’s 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. Seraphim’s 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 Batiushka’s cell - and I completely agreed with him.

Chapter Four

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.

Nun Rufina.

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 Sarov’s 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 cabin—the site of the ascetic labors of another great ascetic of Sarov—Schemamonk 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 state.

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. Seraphim—the 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 whatsoever.

The magnitude of this miracle recalls the Gospel account of our Saviour’s healing of the lame man at the pool of Siloam (John 5:1-9). So great was the power of St. Seraphim’s 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 enemy’s 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 men—there were three of them—quietly 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 woman’s 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 tears—tears of inexpressible joy—flowed 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 weeping—including us—unashamed 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 Saint’s 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. Seraphim—and 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 approaching—the 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 can’t leave here without Batiushka’s 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. Isaac.

Farewell, Sarov!

Despite the heavy burden we were carrying—a large can filled with water from the spring—we 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 weren’t 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 Batiushka’s grave where pictures and various depictions from Batiushka’s life are found. Perhaps you’ve 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, there’s a lot of things written. It’s the common people who keep adding bits and pieces by themselves, and that’s how you get such unbelievable tales today. I don’t 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 don’t even now.’

“Even if right now a bear were to appear in front of us, you still wouldn’t believe?’ asked the third student jokingly.

“All right, perhaps then, just maybe I’d believe it,’ laughed the first.

“And while they were discussing this they saw how one of them—the one who doubted Batiushka’s miracles—suddenly 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 wasn’t able to see them.”

But St. Seraphim helped me out here. During the German occupation, in 1943, I met one of the students—who had already been ordained a priest.

That evening at Mother Ludmilla’s, 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 Ludmilla.

“But haven’t 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.… One 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 Ludmilla.

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. Seraphim’s orphans—this being to some extent a chronicle of Diveyevo’s 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 cemetery’s stark simplicity and at the same time was surprised at how orderly and neat it was, so unlike our cemeteries in general.

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 Seraphim’s 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 Eupraxia—who had been in St. Seraphim’s 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 don’t say!” I marvelled. “I didn’t know that.”

“Yes, you can drop by for a minute if you have the time and the desire to do so.”

“I’ll say!” I answered quite readily.

With hair as white as snow, yet lively and cheerful, we were met by Mother Rufina.

“I’ve 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.

“I’ll 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 someone’s 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 obedience—we loved singing in the choir. Things looked as if they couldn’t 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 screamed—in 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 Natasha’s 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 aunt—a 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 home—to 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. Seraphim’s 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 person’s entire life, inwardly and spiritually, a living example of which was St. Seraphim himself.

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: “What’s this, Matushka, are you expecting new guests?”

“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. Someone’s footsteps could be heard, and then someone entered into Blessed Parasceva’s (Pasha’s) cell.

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 won’t 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 head.

Meanwhile, Alyosha responded to Matushka with a low bow and, pausing a moment, turned to us and said: “If you like, let’s 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. Seraphim’s 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 Mentor.

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 unnoticed—this 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 it’s the clearest and most beautiful day, everything around him will be covered with the thick gloom of cold horror and malice. But when a man’s 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. Seraphim’s 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 well.

“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. Seraphim’s 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 nun’s 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 letter’s 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 chronicles.

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 Motovilov’s 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 fullness—this 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 Melgunova—the first abbess of Diveyevo—there 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 hometown—the 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 devotion.

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. Seraphim’s 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 over evil.

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 lungs—in short, a complete picture of her beginning agony.

I immediately took some Holy Water I had brought with me from St. Seraphim’s spring and recited—as I had been taught in Diveyevo—the “Our Father” three times, the “Rejoice, O Theotokos” three times, and the Creed once, slipping one of the Saint’s 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 week’s 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, “God’s will has been done. The Lord took from the Russian people these holy places. We deserved … oh, what is the use talking about it?” Matushka said, no longer holding back her tears.

“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 Batiushka’s holy objects and his things among the faithful. Everything was dismantled. And I have Batiushka’s 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 God’s 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 in God.”

And again Alyosha’s 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 martyr’s 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. Seraphim’s 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
New Diveyevo

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 issue—which cites this pilgrimage account—can be found in the Related Articles section, above.