26 October 2018
Elders of Optina - Glorification
The Glorification of the Optina Elders
Sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I Am holy [Lev 11:44; I Pet 1:16]. With these words our Lord God calls each one of us to be holy. i.e. to become a saint. Sainthood is attainable by all. Yet to do so, requires strong faith, a desire and a willingness to apply much effort and labor.
Every sphere of human life has its heroes who inspire and help us to attain certain goals. Scientists have their heroes – the Nobel laureates; sportsmen have their own, who have distinguished themselves in some way and have been awarded trophies or medals; soldiers have their heroes; students have theirs, etc. In the most important realm of our life – in the sphere of our spiritual labors – there are heros as well. These are the saints. Saints are no different than we are. The only thing that must be said about them is that their faith was strong enough, their desire for salvation great enough, and their efforts ample enough, that with God's help they were able to achieve that which we all hope to attain, i.e. sanctity. Thus, in order to help us attain this goal, the Holy Church brings to our attention spiritual heroes – that is, She glorifies, canonizes saints.
It must first be noted that those individuals who are glorified and whose names are added to the canon of saints by the Church by no means include all those who have attained sanctity and salvation. She chooses those who have distinguished themselves either by miracles, appearances, or extraordinary life struggles. These the Church brings to our attention, forour emulation and inspiration. The majority of the people who have achieved sanctity, who have become saints, remain unknown to us who live on this earth, though of course all of them are glorified with God in the heavens.
The second thing that we must note here is that there is an important aspect in which saints differ greatly from our other heros. Not only do they teach us by their historical example, not only do they inspire us, not only do they give us hope that we can attain that which they have attained – but perhaps even more importantly, they are our patrons, media- tors and intercessors before God.
During the period of her existence, [up to 1990-jh] our Russian Orthodox Church Abroad has celebrated four glorifications: St. John of Kronstadt, St. Herman of Alaska, Blessed Xenia of St. Petersburg, and the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia. Now we come to the glorification of the Elder Paisius Vchchkovsky and the Option Elders. Our bishops have decreed that the glorification ceremonies be held on Sunda, May 13, 1990, in the St. Nicholas Cathedral in Montreal, Canada. Those glorified will include Shema-Archimandrite Moses, Schema-Hegumen Anthony, Hieroschemamonks Lev, Macarius, , Hilarion, Anatoly (Zertsalov), and Joseph, Schema-Archimandrite Barsanuphius, Archirmandrite lsaacius (Antimonov), Hieroschemamonks Anatoly (Potopov), Nectarius and Nikon, and Archimandrite lsaacius (II). In celebration of the glorification of Elder Paisius and the Elders of Optina Hermitage, we offer the following brief historical overview.
ELDER PAISIUS VELICHKOVSKY (1722-1794)
During the 17th century in the struggle with Catholicism and Protestantism, Orthodox schools modeled after Jesuit institutions emerged in Malorussia and eastern Poland. The Kiev Theological academy, under the direction of Metropolitan Peter Moghila (†1647), grew out of one of these schools. Through debates with the Catholics and Protestants and the struggle against the Unia, Russian Orthodox theology was drawn into western European scholasticism. This left a deep mark on the theology of the 18th and 19th centuries. The reformation and anti-reformation brought to Russia the entire terminology of the West, and the genuine light of Orthodoxy was hidden behind scholastic formulations, which soon ceased to satisfy the active minds of the intelligentsia.
This was followed by the emergence of liberalism in the educated classes, even at the governmental level, which was combined with western absolutism. Such developments went hand in hand with the reforms of Peter I.
Elder Paisius Velichkovsky fled the Kievan Academy, where the lectures were given in Latin and the courses were copied from Latin originals. He first entered a monastery, and then journeyed on to Mt. Athos. There he became familiar with the ancient teachings of the holy fathers, with manuscripts which were once widely used in Russia. In this way he became the perpetuator of the work of St. Nil Sorsky and the entire hesychastic tradition.
Elder Paisius collected and corrected the ancient Slavonic translations, and translated Byzantine works of the holy fathers in the Ilyinsky Skete which he founded on Mt. Athos. Later, he continued this work in the Moldavian Niametsky monastery, where he became abbot. It is from here that the tradition of hesychasm and eldership was returned to Russia. An outstanding result of the spiritual tradition upheld by Elder Paisius was Optina Monastery, where the work of translation of the writings of the Holy Fathers and the spiritual practice of "inner toil" (unceasing prayer of the mind and heart) developed further.
Elder Paisius Velichkovsky gave the Slavs a collection of sayings of the holy ascetic fathers termed "The Philokalia" - (published in Russia in 1793) and introduced anew the works of St. Isaac the Syrian, St. John Climacus, St. Maximus the Confessor, St. Theodore the Studite, St. Barsanuphius, Abba Dorotheus, St. Gregory Palamas and many others. St. Seraphim of Sarov was personally acquainted with the pupils of Elder Paisius, knew the "Philokalia" and opened his heart to "inner toil," for the attainment of the Holy Spirit.
THE OPTINA MONASTERY
The monastic spiritual movement begun by Elder Paisius Velichkovsky poured into Russia in three streams which culminated in the Optina Skete of St. John the Baptist. The Optina Monastery was founded by some unknown hermits of antiquity. Later, as a result of Peter's reforms, it declined and was even closed for a time. Yet, when it was reopened, this was the place where Russian eldership developed and brought forth fruit a hundredfold.
The influence of Elder Paisius Velichkovsky through his pupils entered Russia through three closely knit branches. The southern branch of the Glinsky elders gave birth to monk Makarius (Gluharev), who was the founder of the Altai Mission. Likewise, the long time abbot of Optina, Archimandrite Moses, also came from that southern branch of the students of Paisius. The closeness of the ties between the branches is illustrated by the fact that Archimandrite Moses was acquainted with St. Seraphim, and also spent fourteen years among the pupils of the middle branch, the ascetics of Roslavl. Their most important representative, Elder Cleopas, used to live with Elder Paisius on Athos, and returned to Russia in 1778. The monastery of one of Elder Cleopas' students gave rise to 24 abbots for other monasteries! Among them was the restorer of Optina– Hegoumen Abrahamius. Just as important is the northern branch, which included the Solovetsky, Valaam, and Alexander-Svirsky Monastery, as well as the St. Alexander Nevsky Lavra in St. Petersburg. Here a central figure in the spiritual renewal was Meropolitan Gabriel, who lived in the time of Catherine II. It was he who blessed the publication of the Philokalia" in 1793, the book of spiritual sayings from the holy fathers compiled by Paisius Vclichkovsky. It was he who called forth Hieromonk Nazarius, who toiled spiritually together with St. Serapliim, from the Sarov monastery and assigned him to be abbot of the Valaam monastery. Hegoumen Nazarius chose 10 individuals from his brotherhood to become missionaries, who were all of the hesychastic spirit. The best known of these are St. Herman of Alaska and St. Juvenal, who died as a martyr in Alaska.
Eldership in Optina began from Elder Leonid (1768-1841), who was a pupil of Elder Cleopas, who reposed in Valaam. Leonid followed him there from the Roslavl forests. But in 1829, Elder Leonid came to Optina, for other ascetics from the Roslavl area were gathering in its skete (founded in 1821). This was a homecoming for Elder Leonid. as he was tonsured here. The abbots of the monastery and skete submitted all their brethren to the spiritual guidance of Elder Leonid, who had the gift of clairvoyance and worked miracles. Most important was the gift of spiritual discernment, the basis of eldership. Each day the brothers came to the Elder to open their thoughts to him (this practice must be differentiated from the Mystery of Confesion). Everything was done only with the blessing of the Elder. This deep insight into human souls began to attract many simple folk to the elder.
Certain people in authoritative positions in the Church were skeptical of what seemed to them a "novelty" at first. (In reality the practice of Eldership is no novelty at all – it can be traced to the time of the Apostles.) Slanderers did their part. So for the 12 years of his activity, Elder Leonid at times was subject to real persecution. _
When the order came to stop accepting visits from anyone, Elder Leonid at first obeyed, but soon again began to accept visitors. The following conversation took place before the door of the Elder's cell. where people had again gathered, between the elder and Abbot Moses. "Take a look at this man (a paralyzed cripple). The Lord has punished him for unrepented sins. He did such and such (the Elder saw all this clearly, as he was clairvoyant), and is now suffering for this –– he is alive, but in hell. It's possible to help him. The Lord has brought him to me for sincere repentance, so that I would chastise him and give him guidance, How can I refuse to see him? What can you say to that?"
Listening to Elder Leonid and seeing the suffering one before him, the abbot shuddered. "But His Holiness is threatening to arrest you," he said. "So what of it?" answered the Elder. "You can send me to Siberia, you can start a fire, burn me on it; I will still be the same Leonid! I ask no one to come to me, and those who do come to me I cannot turn away. Especially among simple folk, many are dying for lack of knowledge and need spiritual help. How can I disdain their calamitous spiritual needs?" The abbot instructed the Elder to act "as God Himself shows him."
The Metropolitans Philaret of Kiev and Philaret of Moscow defended Elder Leonid and protected him from attacks. The persecutions were a result of complete ignorance. From this incident we can discern how alien the spirit of true Orthodoxy had become at that time in some circles in Russia.
The fruits of the spirit were also exemplified by Elder Macarius (1788-1860), who became an elder even while Elder Leonid was still alive. One of the pupils of Elder Paisius had been his spiritual father. When this spiritual father died, Elder Macarius met Elder Leonid, corresponded with him, and then followed him to Optina. Elder Macarius had a huge correspondence (part of his letters were published in two volumes of 1,000 pages each). This resulted in the formation of a circle of intellectuals interested in spiritual literature. Elder Macarius had himself brought a whole series of Elder Paisius' translations from the Ploshansk monastery.
Through the insistent requests of their spiritual children, the Optina elders decided, with the blessing of Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, to prepare a publication of the writings of the holy fathers. This was essential, since from the time of the reforms of Peter I and the edicts of 1707 and 1808, publication of Orthodox literature depended absolutely on the Synod, and according to the 1804 censorship law such literature could only be printed in ecclesiastical print shops. Meanwhile, secular publishers were busy publishing translations of western pseudo-mysticism, which easily slipped by the secular censorship, though many were openly hostile to Orthodoxy. This led to a great shortage of Orthodox works of the Holy Fathers, to the point that interested individuals had to copy them by hand. The Optina brotherhood began to prepare for publication the translations brought by Elder Macarius, as well manuscripts found in the abbot's archives. Other monks and private individuals gave handwritten books for this purpose. This effort yielded 125 publications in the second half of the 19th century, totalling 225,000 texts.
Under the direction of two great elders, Leonid and Macarius, a new light shone forth in Russia: Elder Ambrose (1812 - 1891). As a novice, he revealed his thoughts every day to Elder Leonid. On his death bed, Elder Leonid passed Ambrose on to Elder Macarius. The future elder lived in complete obedience to Elder Macarius. He assisted greatly in his translations of the holy fathers and in his correspondenoe. Gradually, he took on the responsibility of caring for the many who came to Optina for advice and guidance. It was natural that after the death of Elder Macarius (1860) Elder Ambrose would take his place. He also became the spiritual father of the abbot who followed Archimandritw Moses, so there was no oonflict between the inner and outer administration of Optina. The monastery shone forth with such strength of Spirit for all of Russia that this is evident even to this day.
Elder Ambrose moved to the cell to the right of the gates of the skete. He was weak and sickly, and had narrowly escaped death. Yet here, in the course of 30 years, he accepted countless numbers of visitors. He comforted them, strengthened, healed them, brought them to conversion, to repentance, to faith, and led these people along their spiritual joumeys... and this a person who from 1868 on was so weak that he could not even visit the monastery's church! But his spirit would penetrate into the heart of each visitor and his words held power, full of spiritual might. Every day he would dictate about 50 letters. The daily visitors who sought to speak with him, or at least receive his blessing, were even more numerous. He would involve himself in even the smallest details of human problems and human life, and knew the right answer... From his spiritual vantage point the whole world was revealed to him and he could see right through it. This was a total commitment to serve an Orthodox people whose imminent sufferings he sensed and predicted. The power behind all of this was of God.
His closest pupil was Elder Joseph (1837-1191). On his way to Kiev, a 24-year-old pilgrim stopped to pay homage at Optina. Elder Ambrose urged him to stay, and be obeyed. He was a novice and cell attendant for Elder Ambrose for 25 years before he began to help him hear confessions. In 1890, Elder Ambrose went to live in Shamordino for the final year of his life. There he totally dedicated himself to the organization and guidance of the women's monastery which he had founded. He left Optina to Elder Joseph, who began his eldership following the death of his spiritual father. Just as Elder Ambrose had, he accepted visitors from morning until night, and in a few spiritually wise words he was able to impart what was necessary, opening up the doors to life in the Spirit. And just as St Seraphim and Elder Ambrose were seen by some as transfigured by heavenly light, so Elder Joseph was seen, as if this light enveloped him or emanated from his body...
Those Elders were the best known, but not the only ones which the grace of God brought forth at the Optina monastery. Let us name those who followed: Elder Anatoly (died in 1894), who was an elder at the same time as Elder Ambrose and Elder Joseph, and Elder Barsanuphius (died in 1912). When Elder Anatoly died, Elder Barsanuphius became the spiritual son of Elder Nectarius (died in 1928). Elder Barsanuphius lived as a recluse for 10 years before commencing his eldership. It was he who was sent from Optina to L.N. Tolstoy to attempt to give him Holy Communion on his death-bed.
Elder Nectarius was the last of the Optina Elders. When Optina was closed in 1923, he was chased out and then persecuted. When Patriarch Tikhon, who often sought his advice, died in 1925, the catacomb church was formed. Elder Nectarius took an active role in its development. When he died, two of his pupils were present: his cell attendant, Father Sebastian, who later was sentenced to terms in concentration camps, and later lived in exile in Kazakhstan functioning there as an elder. The second disciple was Adrian Rimarenko, who after the death of the elder went underground, joining the catacomb church. During WWII he was one of many taken out of Russia by the Nazis to work in labor camps, and became a member of the Russian Church Abroad. Upon his arrival in the USA, he founded the women's convent, Novo-Diveevo, in Spring Valley. N .Y. Later, as Archbishop Andrew – a clairvoyant, spirit-filled elder, he was the spiritual father of Metropolitan Philaret, the third Chief Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Aboad.
Another disciple of the Optina Elders, Bishop Jonah (Khankousky), was an elder in Manchuria. To this day. the Dormition Convent, along with its St. John of Kronstadt Orphanage, continues its work in Santiago, Chile. This community had been predicted by the clairvoyant Elder Nectarius. He blessed the convent's first abbess when she was yet a laywoman and had no idea that her life's path would lead her to the Holy Land, and then to found a monastery in far away Chile. Thus, the legacy of the Optina Elders continues even today, bringing forth fruit to the whole world.
Taken from the brochure "The Millennium of the Baptism of Rus'," published by Bishop Mark in Germany. Translated by Matushka Maria Naumenko for publication in "Under Thy Proection," and edited for republication in Living Orthodoxy.
Please be VERY selective with books about elders. Do not trust any of the neo-elders that are either alive today or died in the past century. Neither trust any from neo-Athos.
Acquisition of the Holy Spirit in Ancient Russia, I.M. Kontzevitch (book mentioned above)
One Thing Needful, Abp. Andrew Rimarenko of New York (author mentioned above)
Valaam Monastery has existed for more than a thousand years. It is the oldest monastery in the Russian land. In spite of all the historical vicissitudes that have been unfavorable for the thriving of its monastic life, it has nevertheless survived as a living witness to monasticism in Russia. Its heroes, monks that excelled in the virtues of Christ's humility, shine through the ages as guiding beacons to the monks of the 21st century. Valaam monasticism, through St. Herman in Alaska, is America's Inheritance and is potent to reawaken a blossoming of ascetic mysticism upon her grounds.
The Valaam Society of America, through the St. Herman Brotherhood, considers it their sacred duty to make a complete Valaam Patericon available, including visionary icons of its major heroes who also appeared on the horizon of the three "New Valaam" branches: in America, Siberia and Finland. The collection of portraits in this Valaam Book of Days has been gathered by the Society over the years, and is a graphic witness to sanctity. This photographic collection and the accompanying brief biographical sketches are enhanced by the calendar listings of all the Valaam ascetics known to us that were canonized as saints of the monastery island itself or who were her spiritual offspring and later either founded or went to other monasteries.
New Valaam Monastery on Monks' Lagoon is America's repository for her Valaam Inheritance and is available to spiritually nurture the newly rising younger generation. Its potential must be realized by the ascetic labors of God-thirsting neophytes and tapped. The Valaam Fathers who gaze at us from these pages invite all to embrace the age-old tradition of love of struggle against the powers of darkness as the modern frontier of carrying the love of Christ to the end of time.
Abbot Herman and the Brothers of the St. Herman of Alaska Monastery Christmas 1998
Schema-monk Sergius (Symeon Yanovsky) was converted during his term as Governor of Russian-American Alaska by the Valaam missionary, St Herman Returning to Russia, he sought the ascetic life He went to Valaam and saw the life there, and then visited Optma, where a Valaam abbot was then living in retirement But his destiny was to live a secular life, as an educator of youth He raised his own family, and his son became an Opt-ina monk, while his three daughters became nuns, one of whom was even an abbess He wrote to and received precious letters from St Herman in Alaska His Valaam correspondence with Abbot Damascene enabled the latter to create the first biography of St. Herman, which included a portrait of the saint His last years were spent as a Valaam-type schema-monk in the St Tikhon of Kaluga Hermitage, where mysterious visions encouraged his last days. He saw his own guardian angel and died at Theophany His grave was cared for by Father Gerasim, who eventually went to Alaska to take care of the grave of St Herman, who had converted Yanovsky, so that the latter himself became a monk in the spirit of Valaam.
One writer (Nemirovich Danchenko), having visited Valaam, called it the kingdom of muzhiks, pointing to the peasant make-up of its monks But in actuality he hinted at the holy aspect of the simple Russian peasantry that filled many monasteries with men of God Such was the un sophisticated ascetic Father Isaiah, hidden from the eye of the world as a simpleton, bur in actuality a saint He went through the usual severe Valaam basic training and, when ripe to be molded by God, he secluded himself m a remote skete cell to face his Master He never washed the smoke from the stove off his cell walls, he covered his windows so that his cell felt like a cave or a grave There, in the silence of his dark cell, he became a partaker of noetic mysticism But he was observable to us only in his se vere self-denial, as he endured cold, hunger and pain It was discovered after his death that his toenails had grown into his boots, a condition which he had endured as an act of asceticism This was not a deliberate self-mortification, but the result of a man's total preoccupation with visions from above (theona) to the neglect of "all below."
St. Antipas I
Elder Antipas, a Romanian monk on Mr Athos, was instrumental in founding the Romanian 'Prodromou' Skete with his Elder Niphont, who tonsured him and laid his beginning as a desert dweller Fr Antipas found an icon of the Mother of God and took it as a blessing for his travels After a few years he became the abbot of one of Niphonts monasteries but was sent to Russia to raise funds and there found Va-laam, where he decided to remain He was granted the gift of seeing into the mysteries of the souls of others, and his grace-filled life quickly drew many brothers to him for counsel He ended his days as a beloved and highly respected elder of Valaam His relics were recently discovered and he was canonized as a local saint His reliquary is located in the same church as that of the founders ofValaam In addition to being an inspirer to monks to lead an exalted way of life, he was also an inspiration to the future New Martyr Bishop Arsenius of Serpukhov The latter, on his first and only visit to Valaam, spent deep hours of prayer to decide his future at St Antipas' grave, which was located at a distance from the rest, near the Golgotha chapel.
The first Orthodox hierarch of America, loasaph Bo-lorov, graduated and taught religion in the Yaroslavl seminary. From there he went to Valaam and was the disciple of Abbot Nazarius, who chose him to head the first mission to America In Alaska he baptized thousands of natives, who eagerly sought Baptism for the salvation of their souls But when some would hesitate, St loasaph would appear to them in dreams, urging them to go to Kodiak to receive the Sacrament of Baptism. In order to better the lot of the Aleuts he went to Russia, where he was consecrated a bishop and sent back to Alaska But the ship never reached Kodiak—St loasaph and his fellow missionaries suffered a watery martyrdom, thus sealing his act of confession for posterity as the first American hierarch, who laid down his life as a sacrifice for America He wrote the first ethnological accounts of Alaska, including a thorough description of the native Aleuts and their religion, which was later published. On the centennial of his repose Bishop Tikhon, the future Patriarch of Russia, when visiting Kodiak called Hierarch loasaph "equal to the Apostles," and asked that a church school be established in his name.
In the direct line [1st generation -jh] of Paisius Velichkovsky's disciples, Cleopas, Theodore and Euthymius, the humble Abbot Damascene was placed as head of Valaam, that Athos of the North, at the insistence of such a luminary as Bishop Ignanus Bnanchaninov Abbot Damascene fortified the eremitic life by building isolated sketes with an austere typicon which bore fruit an hundred fold for generations of great ascetics Thus, Abbot Damascene is rightly called a builder of saints He is also called a saint, as he has been known to appear from the other world to console and protect those who keep his memory It is interesting to note that though he was a simple, uneducated man, Abbot Damascene possessed a great sense of appreciation of the arts he encouraged artists, musicians and students to visit Valaam and create by being inspired by Va-laam's natural beauty The painters Shishkm, Aivazovsky, and the composer Tchaikovsky were among them The latter, having been snowed-in on Valaam, had an opportunity to hearken to inspiration and wrote his first symphony, in which he depicted the blizzard and the freeze and thaw of the watery element He entitled this work "Winter Dreams."
A true disciple of Abbot Nazarius and one of his successors as abbot, Fr. Barlaam found the position of monastic leader too intense and retired so as to be with Elder Leonid in Optina, where he died a righteous death He was a close friend of St Herman of Alaska, since both of them spent time together as novices under Abbot Nazanus He retained his love for Valaam to the end of his life, describing it as a haven for desert dwellers, whom he had often visited, they sat in the bosom of silent nature, undisturbed even by the wild animals that inhabited the islands of paradisal Valaam By God's Providence, there were never any bears or other such wild animals that might have hurt the defenseless hermits The re tired Abbot Barlaam was a man of deep contemplation and inward stillness Once, meeting Elder Leonid for the first time, he inquired and learned from him that there are two paths of stillness, "the unique and the general " This intrigued his spiritual inquisitiveness, until he learned through personal experience what this meant—interior silence, when the soul is undisturbed even when surrounded by tumult.
In his childhood the future Fr Theodoritus (Theodore in schema) fell on the ice He lost consciousness and was paralyzed for several years He was healed by a certain blind clairvoyant woman, whom he later served for six years She taught him to read the Bible and sent him to Valaam, where he became a monk He was a cook for years in the remote Tikhvm Skere When ordained, he was appointed abbot of the Sts Boris and Gleb Monastery in the Tver region His hard experience as an "abba" lasted only a few years, and he returned to Valaam and lived in retirement, tending the orchard on a tiny island with a chapel dedicated to St Seraphim of Sarov He was a man of deep spirituality, and had many spiritual children He loved to serve all-night vigils in the Athonite style, in the silence of his wilderness, outdoors, amidst nature, singing aloud the divine services beneath heaven's starry vault, observed by no one but his Creator He lived on Valaam for 32 years Just as he loved to pray unobserved, so also did Divine Providence ordain that his death be seen by no one save God He appeared to his beloved disciple Joel after his repose to prepare him to follow him to his eternal rest.
A severe Sarov Monastery as cenc from the age of 17, and a counselor during the publication of the first Philoka-ha. in Russia, he revived ancient Valaam, after almost two centuries of desolation, by installing the Sarov Rule there Living such a refined spiritual life he inspired a whole army of holy monks for a century hence, including such saint-disciples as Herman of Alaska and later, Seraphim of Sarov After sending off the first Or thodox Mission to America, he left Valaam to retire to Sarov, where in the bosom of nature he wandered the forest in a state of ecstasy, truly a monk not of this world Abbot Nazarius was formed by great luminaries of his time St Tikhon of Za-donsk, Elder Theodore of Sanaxar and St Paisius Ve-lichkovsky Even during his lifetime the holy foundress of Diveyevo Convent, Alexandra, would pray before his portrait when in trouble, and he would always hear from afar Abbot Nazarius possessed a poetic gift of speech, which can be seen from his "Counsels" to monks on daily life These basic "rules" are the inheritance of American monastics, upon which to build Holy America.
Elder Justinian came to Va laam as an adolescent and was educated in the Valaam or phanage The monks raised him with prayer obedience and a strong will against the passions Once in order to con quer a temptation, he stood in cold water up to his neck until he was delivered from the at tack He had a leg disability and when his brothers mocked him, saying it was due to his sins he wept saying that he did not know what the sin was This in nocence eventually attracted the attention of the elders, and they called him to become the confessor and counselor for the youth When it came time to defend the traditions of the Old Calendar he conesponded with Mount Athos scholars, such as Hieroschema monk Theodosius of Karouha, and this resulted in an entire book, later edited by Abbot Chanron He was made father confessor for the nuns of Linrula Convent and lovingly served them until his repose, when he fell asleep in the Lord with a smile upon his face He was warmly remembered by one of his young novices, who lived the rest of his asceucal life in the presence of a life size poster of the photo at the left, so as to feel that the elder was with him.
Having arrived on Valaam during the abbacy of Damascene and having become fully absorbed by the spirit of that monastic general, Elder Sisoes (Seraphim before the schema) became an elder, directing monks souls in the art of unseen warfare, so that long lines of monks would wait at his door for counsel For fifty years he lived in Valaam and its various sketes as well as in the merochia in St Petersburg and Moscow He ended his life as a staunch defender of the Church Calendar and hesychasnc way of life so typical of the monks of Valaam Elder Sisoes had as disciples among others. Monk Justinian who left brief biographical data on his elder He claimed that Elder Sisoes was a possessor of the unceasing Jesus Prayer which would automati cally murmur in his heart, of ten accompanied by an abundance of rears He would sweetly whisper, Jesus, have mercy, and everything around him would be transformed as he lay in the infirmary with other schema monks who, dressed in their cowls and with their arms crossed, waited on the Lord's grace, for their souls to be pulled' out of them, so they could fly straight to heaven.
Fr. Ephraim. ran away from home at the age of twelve and settled in the Monastery's school for orphaned boys. After becoming a novice he was sent to a newly organized mission to Abyssinia. He soon returned to Valaam, only to be sent out again, after ordination, as a military chaplain in the service of a grand-duke. But, as the revolution raged, he was able to escape from St. Petersburg and return to Valaam. In 1919 he became a schema-monk and lived as a desert-dweller in the Skete of the Smolensk Icon of the Theotokos. He performed the full daily cycle of services in a church built for him by the grand-duke. He slept in a coffin. When the calendar controversy arose in Valaam he reluctantly agreed to be the main spiritual advisor with Abbot Chariton's administration. He was the spiritual father of the former Lady-in-Waiting of Empress Alexandra, Anna Vy-rubova, who was then a nun. In his younger days he was a close friend of Elder-confessor Michael I and was renowned as a promoter of the perpetual cycle of divine services. He left Valaam in the winter of 1939-40 with the rest of the monks and died shortly after the war, when Valaam returned once again to the Church calendar.
St. Euphrosynus of Blue J1ay Lake
A native of the Valaam region, St Euphrosynus spent his boyhood with the monks and early on assimilated an austere way of life As a result, after becoming a monk he was prepared even to give his life as a martyr for Christ, having already put his fallen nature to death through a "bloodless martyrdom" of gradual and total reorientation of his whole being towards God through love of Him The saint founded a beautiful monastery on the shore of a marshy lake where his disciples continued to uphold the Valaam ideal The Time of Troubles did not spare his monastery After his martyric death the monastery was totally destroyed, and for three centuries it lay desolate At the beginning of this century new life had Just begun, when it was again destroyed, this time by the Red Beast of communism Yet today it is once more rising from the ashes In the account of his life, there is an extremely tender passage when the Saint, having foreseen with his spiritual eyes the approaching disaster and destruction of his monastery, pleads with his disciple, Jonah, to accept a martyric crown. As a result, the disciple joined his abba.
Elder Theodore 1of Svir
A close disciple of Blessed Paisius Velichkovsky while in Neamets, he continued his tradition back in Russia in Valaam and in Svir, where miracles occur at his grave. He inspired worthy followers wherever he traveled in quest of silence and solitude. His great disciples were Leo of Optina and Euthymius of Valaam, whose own disciple was the great Damascene. Constantly persecuted, he was a true saint and an inspiration for seekers of the monastic life immersed in suffering and silence. Once he was mystically transported into the other world, from whence he beheld earthly reality in a different light than that which we see with our naked eye. When he returned from that transfigured state, he changed his opinion about people and things and spent the rest of his life weeping. His biography was written by St. Ignarius Brianchaninov, who was his disciple and bore the stamp of Paisian fervency. Theodore was childlike in his mystical apprehension of reality; a certain lyrical fragrance wafts from his image. In Svir he was surrounded by the filial love of many monks who bore witness that Fr. Theodore was truly an angel-like human being.
Abbot Philemon of Jordanville
After being expelled from his beloved Valaam with 25 other monks for refusing to accept the un-Orthodox secular calendar, he found a refuge in Serbia From there he Joined the St Job of Pochaev Monastic Brotherhood in Czechoslovakia, and later came to America to the Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, in northern New York State He became the monastery's main confessor and adhered strictly to his beloved Valaam tradition to the end He arose before all the brothers at 3 30 in the morning and performed his Valaam Rule Though he was missionary-minded, in his heart he was a poet and always longed for Valaam and its iso-lared natural surroundings Fr Philemon's poetic gift was inspired by monastic life on Valaam, surrounded by its Godly beauty Its eloquence was especially touching when it spoke of his having to part with Valaam Being clairvoyant, he foretold his own repose and the fact that it would snow "as on Valaam" when he would be buried His disciple, Father Vladimir, in whose arms Fr Philemon died, continued in the same spirit of cheerfulness and extreme sobriety, gathering devoted disciples.
A native of the Yaroslavl re gion Agapit came to Valaam and was formed by the great Abbot Damascene into a veritable bastion of spirituality saturated in the Jesus Prayer His abundant correspondence with St Theophan the Recluse shaped his ascetic world view and made him a profound ex pert in the Jesus Prayer and a teacher for several generations Having lost his natural sight, he gained spiritual sight, whereby he would recognize people at a distance by merely hearing the movement of their steps in the corridor as they walked to his cell for confession It would not be wrong to call Fr Agapit a Holy Father and teacher of the Prayer of Jesus and spiritual life, and there seems to be enough evidence for his canonization Elder Agapit s writings on sobri ety watchfulness and contem plation although brief, breathe the true Philokalic spirit of the ancients, and deserve to be remembered among the classics of spirituality He also corre sponded with many, this episco logical treasure has apparently not survived but perhaps under todays new, favorable conditions some portion of it may surface Holy Father Agapit, pray to God for us.
Elder Michael II
A true disciple of Elder Michael I the Confessor, Father Timon (Michael in schema) continued after his preceptor for thirty years in firm adherence to the Church Calendar, both within the walls of Valaam and later in the Finnish Valamo, where he witnessed the gradual death of the wounded Valaam. He led an extremely reclusive way of life, liturgizing daily in his cell. Being a true son of Holy Russia, which was then being martyred, he longed to co-suffer with it and to lay down his bones in its hallowed soil. He left for Russia, and after a few years of total re-elusion died in the Pskov Caves Monastery, and was buried in its caves. Elder Michael was the last Great Elder of Valaam. Half-blind, yet spiritually clairvoyant, he possessed all the attributes of a true son of Holy Russia. He venerated the martyred Royal Family as Great-martyrs and never abandoned suffering Holy Russia. There exists a series of recorded talks he had with the Oxford scholar Sergius Bol-shakov, which sheds a ray of light into the Interior Silence of his life. A whole book was written by one of his spiritual daughters, Nun Maria (Stakho-vich), with this as its title.
Beginning in Valaam as a devoted disciple of Abbot Damascene, Elder Alexis ended his stern life in sober prayer and asceticism He rapidly grew strong in prayer be cause he took care to converse peacefully with God,' as he used to say When he became a confessor to the brethren, it demanded much of his time, but he always prayed zealously He never abandoned his prayer, and fulfilled his dream to live a secluded life in a skete By the end of his life he radiated the beauty of an angel When in the altar he would try to hide this by pretending to be vain and distracted Elder Alexis ended his life in a state of full pre paration for the other world He was one of the pillars of Valaam asceticism He discovered the relics of Elder Cleopas, a disciple of St Paisius VeIichkovsky who was buried in All Saints Skete, to be fragrant, like those of a saint of God He requested that he be buried beside Elder Cleopas which was granted when he reposed in the fragrance of sanctity The great mystic, Archbishop Theophan of Poltava, testified to Fr Alexis great gift of clairvoyance, which he witnessed when he visited Valaam for spiritual guidance and consolation.
Elder Antipas II
Antipas II was the worthy disciple of Antipas I, the only other Valaam saint, besides the two founders, whose relics adorn the renewed Valaam of today. Antipas II was the son of an army officer, and retained his father's military precision in his monastic asceticism and became himself a great elder and leader—a "knower of hearts." A librarian by obedience, Fr. Antipas was a patristically knowledgeable spiritual instructor to the younger set of ascetics, who had in him an eager instructor. By nature he was a very private person, sealed with prayer and divine visions. Only meager glimpses of his life could be had by his sensitive disciples. He had a very long prayer rule, which he performed secretly at night while everyone was asleep, reading daily three akathists in addition to the Psalter and a canon. Among his disciples was Fr. Juvian, his biographer, who inherited from him his love of labor. From the very beginning, Valaam followed the monasti-cism of Egypt's Thebaid, coming not only from the south but also from the north by way of Celtic missionaries, who were initiated into asceticism by the same model. Thus Antipas reflected the same Thebaid.
Elder Schema-monk Nicetas
An epitome of Christ's meekness and humility, this simple monk reached great heights under Abbot Dam-ascene's guidance and, hidden in the azure stillness of Valaam's islands with their sketes and desert cells, he became a saint, yet to be canonized, like many other of Valaam's men of God His wish was to die on Pascha, and God granted his request in the quiet of All Saints' Skete, in anticipation of the eternal Pascha, he died on Great Saturday to meet his risen Lord in heaven Elder Nicetas was a close friend of Elders Alexis and Agapit, both of whom contributed to Elder Nicetas' spiritual growth There are numerous accounts of his clairvoyance and working of miracles But his ever glowing spiritual icon is that of an em bodiment of meekness and hu mility of wisdom His mystical eyes were opened to the world of the angels of God and the angels of darkness Once, at prayer, he had the thought that the angel of light is on the right and the angel of darkness on the left Hardly had the thought entered his mind when he beheld the fallen one, in full armor, next to his bed He shuddered and crossed himself, saying, Let God arise and let His enemies be scattered, and the demon vanished.
Father Nicholas came ro Valaam at the age of 20, in despair because of the premature death of his wife, and laid a good beginning by waging a severe war with the prince of darkness But his despair over the loss of his young, beautiful wife caused him to forger his monastic calling One inclement night during his depression, he saw a vision of his own funeral proces sion This frightened him to such an extent that he ran to his elder, Fr Theodoritus, in the middle of the night, through the dark forest This vision caused him to cease his unseemly mourning, and he sobered up for good For many years he la bored as a schema monk in the Skete of the Konevits Icon of the Theotokos, where he was known for his childlikeness and lovingkindness towards visitors, who recalled him as a virtual saint Being bedridden, he foresaw his own death, and went to the Lord while singing by heart his favorite akathist to the "Sweetest Lord Jesus." This simple monk was a great doer of the Jesus Prayer, and was sought out as an "expert" by various learned theologians who came to Valaam, even from abroad, such as Fr. Sergius Chetverikov, who co-authored some works with Abbot Chariton.
Father Eulogius spent sixty-nine years with the Valaam brotherhood, laboring in all possible obediences and workshops, and was always simple, diligent and meek He passed quietly through all the stormy phases of twentieth cen tury Valaam history, always a loving and understanding man And God rewarded His faithful slave even in this life — not only with long years (almost a cen tury) but also with the gift of unceasing prayer He was seen enveloped in divine Uncreated Light, at times so strong that his fellow monks had to throw a towel over his head to prevent the blinding of those who were standing close to him Elder Eulogius was as simple as a child and loved animals, and they in turn loved him In his youth his left thumb was cut off, and this served him as a re minder of our earthly imperfection Fr Eulogius was also a teacher of the Jesus Prayer, which can be seen from his letters The Jesus Prayer is the mirror of the heart, it curbs ha tred and anger, dispels arrogance of the heart and depression It illumines the in tellect, dispels laziness, makes the heart tender, and brings to it fear of God and bestows the gift of tears.
The Mother of God guided Elder Boris like a child throughout his whole life He suffered greatly as a child—he witnessed the near-murder of his father, was abandoned by his mother into orphanhood and was sorely mistreated Overcoming demonic attacks, he reached Valaam where the Mother of God entered his life through a miracle-working icon, "Surety of Sinners," which he found and kept to his death Attuned to his conscience, he saw visions of Sts Sergius and Herman and heeded his inner voice concerning the looming of the new-calendar war and the revolution, and remained an old calendarist During the last ten years of his life, his disposition was such that his cell attendant remarked that he felt like a son embraced by his mother when he would go to Elder Boris for counsel A mystic full of sobriety and clear thinking, Fr Boris remained a true Valaam monk, adamant in his stand for the Orthodox world-view Once Fr Boris was occupied with the Jesus Prayer and lay down for a rest He was raised to heaven in a dream He said of this, "Archangel Michael looked at me, and they said to me, 'He calls you.' They do not speak as we do here, but a glance enters the soul and you understand everything."
Elder Michael I The Confessor
An outstanding monastery spiritual director and a leading father during the height of Valaams blossoming Elder Michael showed his integrity and genuineness when trouble struck in the twenties of this century with the forced instal lanon of the Western secular cal endar into Church life which had not changed since ancient Byzantine times He became a stalwart confessor of ecclesiasti cal firmness to the end and died as a hero in battle after being tormented by years of banish ment exile and mockery Fr Michael came to Valaam at a young age and his two brothers followed him one a poet and the other a musician and they became outstanding monks After visiting the Holy Land Me Athos Optina and other centers of living Orthodoxy Fr Michael was able to widen his spiritual vision He became a God bearing elder and enabled his monks to be zealots for Or thodoxy at a time when apostasy began to encroach upon the Or thodox Church from within In this sense he became a carrier of the apostolic gift of Prophecy as is spoken of by St Paul A man ahead of his time he is a guiding light for us and for Russia today.
The famous young Archimandrite of the Siberian monastery of St. Symeon of Verkhoturye became a monk in Valaam at a very young age. From that day on he grew steadily into quite an ascetic. Together with Fr. Jonah and Elder Elias he was sent to Verkhoturye, where he succeeded Jonah as abbot and buried his elder, Elias. He soon followed his elder into the other world in a mysterious way. One day he told those around him, "Wait for the fifteenth of May." When that day arrived he, being only thirty-eight years old, said to his cell attendant, "Well, my death has come!" He signed himself with the sign of the Cross, crossed his arms over his chest, said, "Forgive me!" and died. He had foreseen his death and was prepared to face his Lord. He spent his Valaam days amidst its great elders and was vouchsafed to see the ideal of monastic life there: realistic, unpretentious and inspired men, equal to the ancient models of monasticism. He was canonized several years ago as a locally venerated Siberian saint in his renewed monastery. Alas, his full biography does not exist. Righteous offspring of Valaam, holy Abba Arethas, pray to God for us!
An obedient monk of Valaam, he was sent way up north to the Pechenga region as an abbot for the St Tryphon Monastery, and twelve years later returned to become a schema ascetic in Valaam's severest Skete, that of St John the Baptist. He ended his life as the monastery's main father confes-sor, by that time already in Valamo in Finland. Not pretending to theologize, he pursued above all the virtue of sobriety ("nip-sis") which he felt Orthodox Christians of todays world are rapidly losing. With this in mind, he did not hesitate to write letters, which were published after his death and recently translated into a volume entitled Christ Is In Our Midst, which now is available in many languages. For convenience sake he succumbed to the New Calendar, a fact which he always lamented, but by the time he reposed Valamo had already returned to the old Church Calendar. He wrote about humility, "O blessed humility, Thou art divine, for Thou didst bow the heavens and clothe Thyself in hunanity and nail the sins of the whole world to the Cross. My soul trembles, how can I say anything about Thy greatness?"
Blessed Anthony Ivanovich
Born in 1757 and having roamed the streets of St Petersburg as a blessed Fool-for-Christ's-sake, Righteous Anthony Ivanovich (Zenoviev) came to Valaam in 1816, where he perfected the genuineness of his ascetic life with the gift of clairvoyance and exceeding meekness, enduring severe suffering before his death He observed the Paisian disciples Cleopas and Theodore and their disciple Leonid (later of Optina) and especially liked the young novice Ignatius Brianchaninov The latter's friend there, novice Michael Chikhachov, followed Ignatius to the St Sergius Hermitage, and became a saint, now canonized, incorrupt and working miracles Blessed Anthony was a miracle-wonder himself while physically in Valaam he appeared miles away to a man who, in despair, attempted suicide in a canal in St Petersburg He even told the man his name, so that the saved man could come to Valaam and see him Anthony Ivanovich foresaw his own death, telling the aforementioned Fr. Michael that he would see him before his repose. The latter arrived at Valaam the day before the blessed one died.
Abbots Sergius & Herman of Siberian New Valaam
June 11 and October 21
St. Innocent of Alaska, when naming the city of Blagoveshchensk, also initiated a missionary monastery in Siberia modelled after Valaam. A few years later the time was ripe and Valaam sent two monk-missionaries to bring St. Innocent's vision into realization. And it worked wonders: within a few years, from 1897 up to the revolution, there flourished a true coenobium, under the direction of its abbot, Sergius, and his "first mate," Herman, who were well-trained in Valaam for this holy task. It was almost a replica of Valaam, even containing a printshop for the dissemi-narion of spiritually nourishing literature. Of course, it all collapsed with the onslaught of the godless power, and was covered with martyric blood. Both fathers ended their lives, after exile and suffering, as New Martyrs. But now their prayers are working wonders—Siberian Valaam is again a monastery. It was not accidental that these two founders of the second New Valaam (the first being St. Herman's in Alaska) carried the grace of the original Valaam founders. There was even an Athonite contribution by the monk Alexis, who triggered the inception of a Siberian Athonite Lavra.
St. Arsenius of Konevits
Originally a monk of Valaam, he undertook a pilgrimage to Mt Athos where some monks blessed him with a wonderworking icon of the Theotokos Having returned to Valaam, he founded a monastery on a horse-shaped rock where the local Karelian pagans had slaughtered horses as sacri fices to their gods When St Arsenius came to sanctify the place, demons, in the form of black ravens, fled and the whole island became holy His monas tery (Konevits) became a missionary center from which, for centuries, the monastic ideal spread acioss the wateis of Ladoga to the Russian North The last monks of Konevits saved the renowned miracle- working icon and fled from the destructive communists with the Valaam monks to the Finnish Valamo, where no new monks joined them Between the two World wars the monastery was in freedom-loving Finland, and thus it escaped the main flow of destruction The buildings are in a relatively good state today Now, glory be to God, the famous Konevits is being restored Three Konevirs monks were members of the 1794 Mission to America, among them a canonized saint, Protomartyr Juvenal.
Elder Cosmos of Riga
From his childhood Fr Cosmas knew he would be a monk — he had a prophetic dream in which a voice said, 'You are God's." Fr. Cosmas began his ascetic life in Valaam when that spiritual bastion was at its zenith He learned there not only humility and its component—wisdom—but also received the training which enabled him to carry the Valaam spirit for years afterwards This not only sustained him during the years of godless turmoil, but also enabled him to inspire others outside of Russia—in Latvia, where he became a monastic elder in a convent near Riga His successor was the great modern day elder, Fr Tavion Fr. Cosmas became a disseminator of the genuine monastic Valaam spirit at the time when Valaam slumbered in the clutches of godless communists He died in the convent as a clairvoyant elder, having spirituallv nurtured thousands of pilgrims during the hardest times for Christianity of the 20th century Many of the sisters of the convent are now heads of major monastic cen ters, such as St Seraphim's Diveyevo, Murom, Alexandrov, and others.
Fr. John "the Muscovite"
As a Moscow businessman in the world, he was miraculously saved from the abyss of sin and insanity when Sts. Ser-gius and Herman of Valaam appeared to him in his room in an insane asylum, giving him Holy Communion, whereby he was healed. Upon his release, he sought everywhere to learn who his healers were, until he recognized them on the icon of their reliquary in Valaam. In gratitude he became a monk and then took upon himself a great exploit—to take up collections to help pay for the large amount of construction that was needed in Valaam. He traveled extensively collecting alms with great fervor, and God blessed his work with numerous miraculous incidents. For his collecting of alms in Moscow he was called John "the Muscovite." Fr. John belonged to the category of hesychasts whose prayer did not cease in their hearts, in spite of the constantly busy atmosphere wherever he traveled. Soon after his tonsure into the schema he reposed with the prayer on his lips. The portrait on the left was miraculously saved by an unknown visitor to the monastic cell on Spruce Island, Alaska, where the Elder's former disciple-novice lived as a hermit.
Sts. Sergius and Herman Founders of Valaam
St. Sergius was a missionary from the West, while Herman was a local pagan priest. He was converted by St. Sergius, who named him Quartus (Herman in monasticism) as a successor to a place that was initially sanctified by the Apostle Andrew himself. They founded the monastery of Valaam and by 960, around the time of their repose, it was flourishing. Their asceticism and sobriety set the tone in Valaam that carried on for 1000 years. Shining with the qualities of Christ, they laid the foundations in Valaam for following His commandments. Valaam is the oldest monastery in Holy Russia. The year 964 was the very year that Mount Athos was established as a monastic republic. Valaam monks were always first of all lovers of the desert, such as Schema-monk Alexander (1902), shown on the left as he walks up the steep, narrow path from the rocky shore to the cave of St. Alexander of Svir, where the latter lived and sanctified the "Holy Island." This Elder Alexander, who reposed in 1910, was in the same spirit as the founders of Valaam, St. Alexander of Svir and others. They hid from the eyes of the world to such an extent that we know little about them.
Elder John the Blind
A peasant youth who came to Abbot Damascene and became an obedient disciple in the master's hand, practicing absolute devotion, humility and obedience. But when the time came and the Abbot wanted to have him ordained, love for the desert spoke in him and he said that he would rather seek silence than take upon himself the burden of speaking with people. To that, the clairvoyant Abbot said that he would "lock his mouth," and not a word was to escape until he himself would "unlock" it. And the obedient monk did not utter a word for many years. Not long before his death, Abbot Damascene "unlocked" Fr. John's mouth, but by now the silent one had achieved spiritual silence in his heart and had became a true hesychast. While roaming the woods at night in his Skete of St. John the Baptist, he accidentally poked his already ailing eye on a branch. Fr. John was always cheerful and did not hesitate, after his "unlocking," to use the gift of speech to encourage his fellow strugglers. The photo on the left shows him in his old age, standing before the humble half-earthen cell ("zemlyanka") of Elder Nicholas I (+1824), in which the latter once entertained Emperor Alexander I.
Saints of Solovki Herman, Sabbatius and Zosima
A monk of Valaam, Herman, seeking further desolate regions in the Northern Thebaid, reached its end—the White Sea in the Arctic region of Northern Russia He heard of the desolate island of Solovki and decided to go there. Another monk, Sabbatius, leaving his native St Cyril of White Lake Monastery, lived for a time on Valaam and subsequently left there too for the North It was the meeting of these two seekers that resulted in their finding Solovki. But it took the third one, Zosima, a disciple of the Valaam saint, Cornelius of Palei Lake, to make Solovki into a monastery, where Zosima became the first abbot. These three Valaam monks founded one of the most fascinating offsprings of Valaam which, however, did not escape Soviet desecration. It was turned into a brutal concentration camp full of inhumanity and destruction Having escaped this lot after seventy years, it is again a monastery today, full of spiritual power and beauty. The great Russian writer Solzhenitsyn, who was incarcerated in Solovki when it was one of the most severe concentration camps, used much of his Nobel prize assets to restore the monastery to its external, pre-soviet state.
St. Cornelius of Palei Island
A true Valaam monk in the spirit of hesychasm, St. Cornelius, having been formed there in asceticism, left Valaam and went north into the forested wilds where he lived a life of sobriety as a desert-dweller on the shore of Palei Lake, away from Valaam, but spiritually beholding its image as a guiding star and balance When similar seekers of monasticism joined him, he founded a coenobitic monastery, but he spent the end of his life in a nearby cave. Christ appeared to him there, filling his abode with Uncreated Light and blessing him and his monks. St Zosima of Solovki laid his monastic beginning with St Cornelius' disciple, Abraham. When St. Herman of Solovki visited Palei Island, he inspired him to go with him and the latter became Solovki's first abbot. At the beginning of the nineteenth century Elder Theodore of Svir labored and suffered in Palei Island Monastery. From there he went to Valaam, and thence to Svir, to die. The monastic phenomenon of the The-baid of the North that gave us such a flowering of great mystics is well described by I. M. Kontzevitch in his Acquisition of the Holy Spirit in Ancient Russia (St. Herman Press, Platina California, 1988).
St. Adrian of Andrusov
When St Alexander of Svir left Valaam and went to the Svir region for solitude, he spontaneously founded a new monastery This came about through a noble prince, Andrew Zavalishin who, while hunting in the forest, discovered St Alexander Andrew was so moved by his angelic life that he became his disciple, and later a monk in Valaam with the name of Adrian He eventually founded his own monastery, known as Andrusov This monastery is located on a peninsula in Lake Ladoga and was never rich, but was made into a flourishing monastery by Abbot Innocent of Valaam Emperor Alexander I made a pilgrimage to the saint's relics, since he had a particular interest in poor monasteries The Tsar later donated a luxurious silver reliquary for the grave of St Adrian, who has worked many miracles and is especially known as a protector of travelers across water in inclement weather The Fesenko icon at left depicts St Adrian as the protector of his monastery, praying to the Lord for his monks His prayers continue to this day, blessing those monastics who are currently reviving St Adrian's holy place.
St. Alexander of Svir
One of the greatest luminaries of the Northern Thebaid, St. Alexander, from early youth a monk of Valaam, having heard God's call, went inland and settled in a remote wilderness to live in a cave for the Lord alone. He moved to the Svir River to live as a recluse. There the Triune God appeared to him in the form of three angels, as He once appeared to the Patriarch Abraham, and St. Alexander, with fear and trembling, addressed them in the singular. Obeying the divine command, St. Alexander built a monastery, where he brought up a host of holy disciples, many of whom are great saints of God: Saints Adrian of Andrusov and Macar-ius the Roman; the Padan Saints Cornelius, Misail, Dionysius, Gennadius and others. Centuries later there were great luminaries that shone in Svir: Elder Theodore and Archimandrite Agathangelus, monks of Valaam. After the revolution his relics were lost and were recently discovered incorrupt and exuding fragrant, miracle-working myrrh. During his time at Va-laam he set the tone for desert-loving anchoritism that influenced hundreds of followers. The icon on the left is said to be based on his portrait.
Michael the Silent
Silence is an image of the fu-ture age, while words are mere implements of this world," said the ancient Church Father, St. Isaac the Syrian, whose mystical book was always of great importance to Valaam monks, especially after the arrival there of the Paisian students, who settled in the Skete of All Saints. The ascetic exploit of silence as a means to obtain nearness to God's perfection always held an immense attraction for Valaam monks, and many practiced it with the blessing of their elders. But there was one, who died in the late 1930s, who, once he stepped on the holy ground, never spoke a word until his death. This was novice Michael, who came to the monastery when already an adult, to repent. He was a cook for the workers. He never sat down to eat with the rest and often was seen weeping. He seemed a total enigma, but served as an example of how words are useless and silence speaks of the age to come. The photograph on the left shows him in the workmen's kitchen in Old Valaam, in the 30s. His silence aroused great interest among the novices, one of whom preserved this photo and related this account to the Valaam Society of America.
As a companion and helper of Blessed Nazarius in building up that great Valaam Lavra, Fr. Innocent frequented St Petersburg on business He also took part in restoring the neighboring Andrusov Monastery, whose holy founder, St Adrian, saved him from drowning and later appeared from the other world to remind him of a promise he had to keep, being the virtual co-abbot of Andrusov Monastery Abbot Innocent, due ro his holy life, was vouchsafed to see a vision of the Valaam founders, Sts Sergius and Herman, accompanied by angels, blessing the building of the new catholi-con After Abbot Nazanus' retirement, Innocent succeeded him and invited to Valaam the Paisian disciples Theodore and Cleopas, who returned from Moldavia and settled in the Skere of All Saints, thus placing Valaam under the direct influence of St Paisius It was hard at first for Abbot Innocent to comprehend the spiritual freedom these elders from Moldavia exercised, but it was eventually revealed to him that love is above the law this misunderstanding caused one monk to re-examine his concept of monasticism Upon doing so he, Elder Euthemius, became himself a saint and the father of that father of saints, Abbot Damascene.
Fr. Gerasim of New Valaam
Originally a monk of the Opntia tradition of St Tikhon of Kaluga Monastery, the young Fr Gerasim, after a trip to Mt Athos, wanted to go to Valaam But a missionary duty to go to America prevented him He was forced to remain in America due to the raging Russian Revolution, and eventually settled in New Valaam on Spruce Island in Alaska, where the basic monastic input had been made by Valaam monk St Herman a hundred years earlier St Herman had prophesied the arrival of Fr Gerasim, saying that "a monk like himself" would come and live in his hermitage The love for traditional monas-ticism had been passed on to him through his Elder Ioasaph, who laid his own monastic beginning on Valaam This made Fr Gerasim the right man to install the fullness of Valaam mo-nasticism in the New World, but difficulties with church politics hindered him greatly Nevertheless he has an important place in the Valaam Paten-con, especially because there are sufficient grounds for his canonization He possessed unquestionable literary talent, as is evident from the hundreds of pages of his correspondence with contemporary writers.
Elder Euthymius trained the future Abbot Damascene from novicehood to be steadfast in his ascetic labors. He would walk to awaken his novice every night for nocturns, even through the thickest of snow. He began his own monastic life on Valaam as a devoted disciple of Abbot Nazarius, but later entered a deep period of almost fatal despondency, until he was rescued by the counsels of Elders Theodore and Cleopas. Praise of them and their counsel of humility, simplicity, and self-abasement rarely ceased from his lips, and he entered his spiritual path of much silence—giving up his priesthood. This act of humility was not easily understood, but the purity of heart that it bore soon cleared all doubt. When his life ended, he appeared from the other world on the very same day, as he had promised, to confirm his state of blessedness. The vivid sanctity of humble Blessed Euthymius is an eloquent statement for his glorification. The rare engraving on the left is taken from Fr. Juvian's work, "Desert Dwelling on Valaam." Although written in 1921, it was never published in its entirety until 1994, by the Valaam Society of America ("Russian Pilgrim" No. 10).
At the age of seventeen Fr. Roman left the world of life without God and joined the first mission to re-open Valaam after it had been desecrated and secularized for fifty years. In his youthful zeal he heeded the call to martyrdom four years later. He was an idealist and a romantic poet—known for his frequent departure from this world into prayer, even to the sometimes humorous oblivi-ousness of his monastic obediences. He was zealous in his labor for God and his salvation, striving to help his superiors as much as he could. His spirit was joyful and light, but his deep and sober soul heard a call when the Orthodox Serbians were being cruelly and lawlessly killed by the Bosnian Moslems and the Catholic Croarians. He entered the front lines and was martyred in 1994, thereby joining the saints of Valaam in heaven. There were quite a few monk saints who, when need arose, would exchange their monastic garb for that of a warrior to save Holy Russia from the onslaught of apostates or pagans. These Christ-loving warriors considered it their duty to follow in the steps of the disciples of St. Sergius of Radonezh, who went to the Kulikovo battlefield and saved Russia.
Elder Leonid of Optina
Elder Leonid began the long line of eldership in Optina Monastery. He lived on Valaam and later in Svir, learning from his elder Theodore, the Paisian disciple, the joy of obedience and self-accusing humility based on patristic wisdom. Christ endowed him with humor, simplicity and boundless love, which brought flocks of spiritual children to him, to open their hearts and gain real help on the path to salvation. Because of the westernization of the 18th century, strict adherence to the ancient ways was regarded with suspicion. He was persecuted for following the Paisian model, but overcame all difficulties and became a spiritual leader, influencing pre-revolutionary Russia for over a century. Recently canonized as a saint, he is now regarded as a modern-day Church Father, together with the lineage of holy Optina Elders that followed him. The editor of the second edition of the Elder's biography, a convert from Lutheranism, Fr. Clement Sederholm, included the letters of Fr. Leonid, which in their tenor are equal to the classics of patristic literature, and undoubtedly contribute a future volume of the Little Russian Philokalia.
From childhood the future abbot loved to copy quotes from books he was reading. This eventually led him to copy excerpts from patristic books, especially on the Jesus Prayer. Two thick volumes of quotes resulted. An encounter with St. John of Kronstadt finalized his entry into Valaam Monastery. When Abbot Paulinus retired in 1927, Fr. Chariton was chosen as abbot and had to face trials bound up with the enforcement of the secular calendar by the Finnish Church. He chose this rather than repatriation to Russia. One night the monks saw a vision of angels sadly marching across the frozen lake, which turned out to be prophetic. It was Abbot Chariton's lot to move with all the monks in the dead of winter across frozen Lake Ladoga to Finland, as the Red Army was about to invade Valaam. The monastic life was transplanted to New Valamo, and after WWII they joyfully returned to the Church Calendar, but the wounds of the calendar break were fatal. Valaam never really recovered. Chariton remains in the history of Valaam as a true abbot, having steered well the helm of its mighty ship.
The highest virtue sought by Valaam monks was humility of wisdom, called in Valaam "simplicity." Such was the meek caretaker of the monastery bath-houses, who was later placed in charge of watching the lighthouse on St. Nicholas Skete, where he carefully concealed his achievement of prayer of the heart. As his brethren, after a long day's toil, were resting, and the whole world was submerged in deep slumber, Fr. Anikita would keep his hesychastic night watch, blessing the rising and setting of the sun. Externally there was nothing "outstanding" about this schema-monk. But the cross this confessor of the Church Calendar bore made him a great flower in the spiritual meadow of Valaam. Together with other monks he moved to New Valamo in Finland, where he was forced to endure much in adjusting to the unmonastic lifestyle of the new church administration. But this caring visionary remained as a spiritual beacon, watching over those who care for the "House of the Lord." There exists a beautiful photograph of Elder Anikita reflecting on the vast-ness of Ladoga. It was an inspiration for a famous painting by Nesterov.
Elder Hilarion of Sarov
A close disciple of Elder Naz-arius and his belovedcell-attendant during Naz-arius' stay as a recluse in the wilderness of Valaam, Fr. Hilarion accompanied him also to Sarov Monastery, where he was to defend St. Seraphim's orphans to such an extent that he was even banished for several years from Sarov. St. Seraphim had all the nuns of his Diveyevo Convent tonsured only by Fr. Hilarion, who was also to lay the beginning of St. Seraphim's glorification, finding his own final resting place near those of St. Seraphim and his beloved Abbot Nazarius. Elder Hilarion was a writer and left a brief "Ladder of Divine Ascent" which was published together with the Counsels of Abbot Nazarius. Since the latter did not know how to write, Fr. Hilarion took down Nazarius' teachings. The engraving on the left is taken from the Sarov Patericon which, although regrettably brief, nevertheless shows clearly that the Paisian influence upon Russia did not fall on barren ground. There were deep spiritual currents that consciously preserved me national holiness of St. Tikhon of Zadonsk and the elders of the Roslavl and Sarov forests and welcomed the Athonice spirit which came from Moldavia.
Juvian the Chronicler
The chronicler and librarian of Valaam, humble monk Juvian was at heart a lover of desert-dwelling, and made a survey of desert-dwellers at Va-laam from the monastery's inception, discovering ancient sites where hermits once dwelt. A staunch defender of the Church Calendar, he also was banished and persecuted for this by the uncanonical reformers in Orthodox garb, as he called the militant usurpers ofValaam tradition, which today is almost lost. A man of great kindness, he was close to a young pilgrim lad and wrote letters to him; years later this lad became Patriarch Alexis II of Russia. Monk Juvian, in his humility, foresaw the importance of pouring a constant stream of Valaam input into the young lad at the time of the severe soviet persecution of monasticism, when even Valaam no longer existed. His writings are voluminous. He wrote on St. John of Kronstadt, World War I, the New Martyrs of Russia, the calendar question, animals, etc., and especially a biography of his own Elder, Antipas II. The tone of his life was that of a truthful man, calm within and extremely balanced, who with a diagnostical precision was able to assess right from wrong.
St. Herman of Alaska
A monastic since age twelve in the wilderness of Sarov, he became close to Abbot Nazarius and followed him to Valaam, where he lived as a desert-dweller. He was sent with the Mission to America and, as a true disciple of Blessed Paisius Velichkovsky, practiced and spread the Paisian tradition in America. He even reposed on the same date as St. Paisius, November 15, and was buried a month later, on December 13, remaining incorrupt the while, as his young Aleut disciples testified. St. Herman combined apostleship and desert-dwelling, as well as a loving care for orphans and young people, thus becoming their patron as the first Orthodox saint of America. He taught the Jesus Prayer from his copy of the Philokalia in America, where he founded a New Valaam Monastery on Spruce Island, Alaska, where the monastic lamp is still burning. His repose in the Lord was that of a saint: he foresaw its day and time, and at the moment of his death a halo of Uncreated Light played about his head. The humble cell became filled with divine fragrance and, as the Scripture was read, his soul left his body. At this moment a pillar of light was seen by natives at a distance.
Father Photius, from the very beginning of his stay in Valaam, was trained in iconography and he painted frescoes. Being an accomplished artist, he went into the world on one such mission and while painting fell from the scaffolding. As a result of this fall he became color-blind, a condition which brought about his return to normal monastic life. He came back a changed man—deeply immersed in prayer and silence, he attained a high degree of spirituality. When the controversy over the calendar question occurred, although he sympathized with the traditional monks, he accepted the position of father confessor for the sake of peace, remaining in the monastery proper. His disciple Paul saw him one day surrounded by the light of Mount Tabor. "One late hour I came to his cell and saw that he had been deep in prayer. There was a miraculous light glowing in his face. I was permitted to see something I was not worthy to behold," concluded Paul, subsequently Archbishop Paul of Finland. Fr. Photius was vouchsafed to repose on the Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple.
Hospitality in Valaam was upheld as a great virtue. Usually very sensitive and strong personalities were chosen for this obedience. At the turn of the century thousands of pilgrims visited Valaam and all had to be met with love and a perception of what each individual pilgrim came for. The monastery had room for a thousand pilgrims. One such host was Fr. Luke. He labored all his life as guestmaster, full of compassion and warmth. Once he said, "What wonder! The Lord entrusted the keys to the Heavenly Kingdom not to the pure Apostle John the Theologian, but to Peter who denied Him thrice, for he would know the fallen state from experience and would be kinder to sinners." He was a firm defender of the Church Calendar. He left for Valamo in Finland during World War II. Luke was promised that he would be able to return to Old Valaam but he never saw Valaam again and died in Pskov Caves Monastery in 1965 as a righteous elder confessor. The monk in whose arms Fr. Luke reposed testified that Fr. Luke had achieved the blessed state and the Kingdom of Christ as a result of his conscientious reading of the works of St. Isaac the Syrian.
When he was 18 years old [his future Abbot of Valaam came to Abbot Damascene, who sternly said that "if one comes to a monastery and says he wants to be a monk, that means serious business – there should be no change until death!" And the youth made a vow right then, which he kept for the rest of his life. At a relatively young age he lived in the severesr Skete of St. John the Baptist, with the great ascetic and hermit, John the Blind. This experience later enabled him to promote an-choretism. Eventually he became abbot of Valaam. After 37 years there, he was transferred to the beautiful Alatyr Monastery along the Volga River, that was in need of restoration. Having done much for its betterment, he died a sudden but peaceful death seven years after he left Valaam. In the photograph on the left he is shown with (from left to right): schema-monks Alexander, Alexis, Sergius and John the Blind at the grave of the great Elder Nicholas I. The latter once entertained Tsar Alexander I, who came to Valaam in 1819 seeking spiritual consolation for his sorrowing soul, for he had consented to the murder of his father, Emperor Paul I. The clairvoyant elder consoled the Tsar. He reposed in 1824.
A Valaam ascetic, who for years labored as an anchorite in the most distant Skete of Prophet Elias, and was even named after its patron. Later, when the St. Symeon of Verkhoturye Monastery was established, an outstanding Va-laam monk, Job, was sent to be the abbot. He needed an experienced elder, and so Fr. Elias was sent, and he at once renewed the monastery. In his Valaam seclusion, Fr. Elias read the Philokalia and kept a journal which was filled with untold treasures—unfortunately lost now forever. During his 31 years on Valaam, he accumulated many disciples. He would teach them thus: "Let no one say that now there is no grace of God, that it was only in the past. No! Now also grace is available as before and moves with great power with Godly people, with the saints." Living in the Siberian monastery, he in time settled deep in the dense forest with another anchorite nearby. He died peacefully when he had attained the age of 70 years, 38 of which were spent as a monk. This rare photo of the Elder shows him working in the garden in the St. John the Forerunner Skete. It is the only picture of him in existence taken while he was still alive.
St. Juvenal Protomartyr of America
December 12 and July 2
A fervent member of the Valaam Mission to America, St Juvenal was originally a novice of Konevits Monastery and together with his brother Steven joined the mission They both were ordained in St Petersburg on the way to Alaska He was filled with apostolic zeal to such an extent that he himself baptized thousands of natives, instructing them in the law of God, which the Alaskans readily accepted According to one tradition, reported to St Innocent Veniaminov, Fr Juvenal was martyred at Lake Iliamna by natives who considered him to be a deceiver When attacked, he surrendered himself without any kind of resistance, asking only that his companions not be harmed The natives related that Juvenal, after having been killed, rose up and followed after his murderers, continuing to exhort them with apostolic preaching. Only after his body was hacked into pieces was his voice silenced In the place where his remains lay, a pillar of smoke immediately appeared, extending from earth to heaven, and remained for some time. St Herman wrote to Abbot Nazarius, "The hieromonks are truly exceptional Fr. Macarius and Fr. Juvenal are always aflame with zeal and anxious to go off in all directions to preach."
Joel the Gardener
A gardener by obedience, Hieromonk Joel was of a very friendly disposition and a kind monk who tended his or-chard as if it were the garden of Eden, working it with prayer and trepidation. His elder was Schema-abbot Theodore, who lived in the desert. After his death Fr. Joel settled in his cell and lived there for several years. One night his elder appeared to him and said lovingly, "Go away from here, to the monastery"—and two days later he left, only for the other world. His elder called him to the heavenly "garden of Eden" and Fr. Joel was found dead. He was walking in his cell with a box of matches in his hand and suddenly died. Few people acquire such a righteous repose, for which Fr. Joel was ready. This was also very typical of the love Valaam monks had for one another—a love which extended even to the other world. It is considered God's favor when a monk dies on his obedience. An example would be a baker who dies with dough on his hands, as did St. Nicodemus the prosphora baker of the Kiev Caves. He was laid in his coffin without being washed, as a proof of his total obedience, for which he will be rewarded by God.
A close disciple of Abbot Damascene from his youth and a fellow novice with the future great hesychast of Valaam, Fr. Agapit, the zealous Agathangelus, was also destined to revive the great Lavra of St Alexander of Svir in the vicinity of Valaam His correspondence with Fr Agapit shows that the mighty re-builder of Svir, who had an excellent administrative mind, was also a deeply patristic strug-gler in the ascetic realm As a pastor of his monastic flock, Agathangelus was also remarkable, at times very warm and hu man, so rare nowadays when huge obstacles could be avoided through a little bit of humility of wisdom on behalf of the leaders Fr Agapit's correspondence with St Theophan the Recluse was also shared with his friend Agathangelus While on Valaam, being full of ascetic zeal, the young Agathangelus spent some time alone in one of the sketes where previously great elders had battled evil. He was tormented the whole night with anxiety until he realized the evil nature of that phenomenon and used that experience later when he was an "abba," giving counsel to inexperienced ascetics in order to bring about nobility of spirit.