I first saw Archimandrite John (Krestiankin) in 1982 when I visited Pechory Monastery. At the time he did not make a great impression on me: the benevolent old man in rather good physical condition (he was already seventy-two years old) was always running here and there, a bit fussed, even . . . yet ever surrounded by a crowd of pilgrims. In comparison with him, the other inhabitants of the monastery seemed much stricter, more ascetic, and somehow more dignified.
His Eminence the Novice
“Father!” She quavers in the voice of an old woman, not realizing of course that she’s speaking not just to a simple priest, but to a bishop, no less—and what’s more, a bishop from America! “Father! Please can’t you help me? Please, bless my room! This is the third year that I’ve been asking our Father Ivan, and he still hasn’t come. Maybe you’ll take pity on me? Will you come?”
At the very thought of this young monk who knew nothing of worldly life, this little angel-Mowgli, raised in the mountains and on Scripture and the holy books of the Church elders, suddenly being kept captive and tormented in a preliminary holding cell, or being packed off to our Army, to which a healthy young man would in any case otherwise be sent without further discussion, we were all horrified.
A Christian Death
The Bondarchuk family had an ancient icon of the Savior in a tarnished silver frame. Fedya and I placed it in front of Sergei Fyodorovich’s eyes, and he finally, leaving behind all that was temporal and temporary, fulfilled the sacrament to which the Lord by His Providence had been leading him for years and decades. Bondarchuk confessed before God all the sins of his life profoundly, courageously, and sincerely. After this the whole family walked into the room, and Sergei Fyodorovich, for the first time since distant childhood, partook of the Holy Mysteries of Christ.
Father Seraphim for me was one of the most mysterious people in the Pskov Caves Monastery. He was descended from a long lineage of East Prussian barons. In the 1930s he had come to the monastery and given himself in obedience to the great elder and monk Father Simeon.
The Tale of the Prayer and the Little Fox
In Egypt, in whose ancient Christian past there had once been many grand monasteries, there once lived a monk who befriended an uneducated and simple peasant farmer. One day this peasant said to the monk, “I too respect God who created this world! Every evening I pour out a bowl of goat’s milk and leave it out under a palm tree. In the evening God comes and drinks up my milk! He is very fond of it! There’s never once been a time when even a drop of milk is left in the bowl.”
Difficult Father Nathaniel
If, during the time that I was living there, someone had asked for the name of the most difficult person in the Monastery of the Pskov Caves, the answer without doubt would have been only one name: the Treasurer of the Pskov Caves Monastery, Archimandrite Father Nathaniel. What’s more, this choice would have been made unanimously by all the priests, by all the novices, all the monks, by all the ordinary civilians, by all the Communists from the local administration of the KGB, and even by all the local dissidents. As a matter of fact, Father Nathaniel was not merely difficult. No, indeed! He was extremely difficult!
The Most Beautiful Service of My Life
During soviet times there perhaps was no more horrific symbol of the devastation of the Russian Orthodox Church by Communist rule than Diveyevo Monastery. Everything about the scene said convincingly that there would never be any return to the past. The prophecies of St. Seraphim about the grand destiny of Diveyevo Monastery, which had been so beloved in all of Russian Orthodoxy, seemed to have been forever profaned and destroyed.
How We Bought Our Combines
We did not deposit our savings in the bank. We had all too vivid a memory of the financial crisis and default of 1998. Our parishioners, some of whom were quite savvy in matters of finance, suggested that we save our money for the purchase of agricultural machinery not in rubles, but in dollars. And they suggested that we keep them not in a bank account but in a safe hiding place.