“Orthodox America,” issue no. 88, March ’89. Translated and slightly abridged from
“Sila Bozhiya i Nemoshch Chelovecheskaya”by S. Nilus; St. Herman of Alaska
Brother hood, 1979.
account comes to us from 19th century Russia. Although some distance away in
time and space, it offers some striking parallels to our own day when we see
materialism giving way before a growing fascination with spiritism. How will it
end? Tragically, if the world continues to ignore the lessons which history has
so generously provided...
Back in my
early childhood I heard frightful tales of terrifying manifestations of the
powers of unclean spirits over people, who cooperated through willfully,
serving sin and the devil. My memory, even to this day when I am approaching
the sunset of my life, has preserved in its treasure house recollections of
those impressions gathered under the influence of my old nanny and those other
elderly women to whom even relatively recently the doors to the nurseries of
houses belonging to the old Russian nobility stood open. They had not yet lost
their ties with the vast crowd of simple people, with its simple, guileless and
childlike faith. What mysteries of the unseen world were revealed to this
faith! How much in this foreign world was accessible to the eyes of these “children”!
Who among us, whatever his profession or rank, was not acquainted in his
formative years with that mysterious unseen world—full of wonders and also
fearful—where the unclean powers operated and worked on the destruction of the
Orthodox soul? Who does not remember all these “wood demons,” “water sprites,”
“house spirits” (a “fantasy” according to the wisdom of this world) and their agents
and slaves from the human race—“sorcerers,” “witches” and their unclean
colleagues of the same ilk?
heart did not tremble, listening to these stories in the dim light of an autumn
or winter evening, illumined by the flickering of a vigil lamp? And how it
believed them! How it beat from a dread perturbation—it seemed it could burst
were it not for the old nanny’s calm and triumphant assurance that her charge
had nothing to fear, for the powers of evil could not touch him because he was
protected; this protections was by his Guardian-Angel, his pure, child’s soul
and its prayers and, finally, by all that grace present—in the form of
Theophany water, Athonite incense, holy oil from the relics of God-pleasers,
and various other holy things—in her icon corner which flickered with the flame
of her perpetually burning vigil lamp. Yes, and what child’s soul, sensitive to
every truth, would not believe these stories, when the nanny herself and her
interlocutors were even more convinced of them than her young listener; some of
them were half-dead with fright having witnessed that which they related.
And I, too,
believed them with all my young heart—until the spirit of the times, the spirit
of skepticism all but suffocated any faith in that which “smart” people called
them “old wives tales.” I had to submit to the directive of the “smart” people,
and for a long time, in place of my childhood belief in the spiritual world, to
set up another faith in other gods and in other idols before whom the “smart” people
themselves bowed down... But what a struggle in my soul I had to pay for my
disenchantments and the acquisition of that desired truth which was so simply
given and so simply accepted by the “ordinary” folk in the Orthodox Church,
through her Sacred Scripture, Tradition and Lives of God-pleasers.
stubbornly refused to be satisfied with materialism alone, which tried to
substitute for the life of the spirit the “liberation” movement or the “great”
reforms of the ’60s and the ensuing years. During this intense struggle in my
soul, I became aware of a sharp discord: at the same time that the entire
spiritual world was subject to scorn and derision (and later even denial),
“smart” people, who stood at the head of the “social” movement, by some totally
illogical jump, leapt from “transmutation of species” and “cells and
proto-plasmas,” into that very sphere which they had ostracized: materials
extended a hand to spiritism, and “smart” people considered it possible to join
these “unjoinables” into a general “kasha” (soft food made from cooked
buckwheat or similar grain, Ed.). They “ate this kasha, licked their spoons and
said ‘Thanks’.” What powerful, unseen hand threw the very cream of educated
society, even professors toward spinning tables and saucers, and turned
yesterday’s despairing materialists into today’s materializers of unseen
And now, for
the first time since my evening sessions with nanny, I heard from the lips of
educated people—who scoffed at nanny’s prejudices and superstitions—convincing
stories about that which was familiar to me from my childhood: “haunted”
houses, premonitions, the influence of the dead upon the living; how in
“haunted” houses dishes and glasses floated about in the air; knockings were
heard at night; someone’s footsteps sounded, bringing chills to the spine.
Policemen and frightened inhabitants were not the only ill-fated witnesses of
these outrageous happenings; entire streets, blocks and even whole towns
crowded around to stare at the mysterious events.
familiar with the phenomenon of mediums, attributed these appearances to the
activity of “playful spirits”; ardent nihilists—to pranksters; simple people of
simple heart and faith—to an unclean power. Thus, the majority were in favor of
spirits, and in my eyes this confirmed by childhood beliefs which were
destroyed by this same majority in the days of my youth— when I arrogandy
scorned aloud simple people.
At once the
forgotten world of children’s stories and the stories of nanny was resurrected
in my memory. But how much more complete was the unlearned world view of my
dear old nanny—a worldview illumined and made intelligible by the light of
faith—than the chaos in which the educated and
conducted their examinations of spiritist and mediumistic spheres. My nanny
knew of such occurrences, and with her all the common Russian people, at a time
when there was as yet no talk of psychic “science” and these occurrences were
attributed to the activity of the man-destroyer, God’s arch-enemy and
man-hater, the devil. They knew the purpose behind these occurrences: the
destruction of God’s creation, man’s soul, and its eternal torment in that
place prepared by Satan and his army...
Just look dear
reader, at what the loss of this knowledge has cost humanity! Take a look
around you, and if your soul isn’t yet devoid altogether of the ability to
respond to the activities of your contemporaries with grief at the loss of
Christian faith, then you will understand that nothing could have benefited the
Evil One more than this, and that it is now he who is in reality the king of a
depraved and possessed humanity. For how long? Woe to the inhabitants of the
earth and of the sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath,
because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. (Rev 12:12)
From one of the
elders of the great Optina Hermitage, God granted me to receive a manuscript
which, already in the days of the great Optina Elder Ambrose of blessed memory,
was under his care and editing. The person from whom I obtained the manuscript
assured me that it was destined by the Elder himself to be printed for the
edification of contemporaries, but for some reason it wasn’t done. By God’s
unfathomable providence it is only now, fifteen years later, after the death of
Elder Ambrose, that the time has come for it to be brought to light. Perhaps it
will shed a little light on the darkness of the evils and distresses under
which our land now groans. Here it is—the manuscript, already yellowed with age.
In a fine hand there is set forth the following:
I Among simple
people one not infrequently hears stories such as might seem strange and even
unbelievable. One such story, which we recorded from the words of an
eye-witness, we offer to the reader. The extraordinary nature of the story
makes it hard to believe, but neither can one completely dismiss it, because
hundreds of people were eyewitnesses of the events we describe. We purposely
indicate the place where this event took place and give the names of those
persons who in whatever way were involved in order that those who are curious
and who have the opportunity, can themselves verify what happened.
The case we
describe is not unique. He who is interested may hear similar stories among the
common people, and if he listens to them carefully and without bias, he will
find good reason to believe them.
There was in
the province of Novgorod, in the village of Mindiukin, a boy Michael belonging
to the family of the serf (an agricultural laborer bound under the feudal
system to work on his lord’s estate, Trudnikov. He was a healthy and fun-loving
lad, though rather naughty at that. In 1850, or perhaps a year earlier, when
Michael turned 15, the poor parents thought of sending him to be a shepherd;
but the boy, being accustomed only to pranks and childish amusements, to whom
even the slightest bit of serious work was a trial, began to grumble loudly
against his mother when she announced her intention. The boy’s grumbling turned
into impudence which in turn awoke fierce indignation in the heart of his
mother. In a fit of anger the unthinking peasant woman cursed her son and
harassed him as was possible only under such provocation. Willingly or
unwillingly, Michael finally had to yield to his mother’s demand. He was soon
sent to his appointed task, 35 versts from his village, to the country village
of Lentevo in the province if Ustiug. [A verst is a Russian measure of length,
about 0.66 mile (1.1 km), Ed.).
The boy lived
there for some days. Time passed in its usual course without any particular
incidents, and one could assume that he had come to terms with his unenviable
One day the
head shepherd, Ivan, left his flock in the care of his young assistant. The day
was drawing to a close and Ivan returned to his flock, only to find Michael
gone. He began calling for him loudly but only an ominous echo came in reply.
Near the place
where the flock was pastured was a lake on whose shore stood a small boat.
Perhaps Michael was there, thought Ivan. The boy—spoiled—probably thought of
taking a boat-ride. What if he had met with some calamty! With such thoughts
Ivan went to the place where the boat was moored. There, not far from shore, he
saw on the surface of the water the corpse of the unfortunate Michael, already
devoid of any signs of life. Stunned by this tragedy, the shepherd ran to his
village, a distance of four versts, with the story of his comrade’s wretched
fate. News of the drowning soon spread throughout the entire village and
brought the curiosity-seekers—both old and young—to the scene of the disaster.
The corpse, already stiff as a board, was taken out of the water. It was
arranged to inform the local militia and Michael’s mother who took no time in
coming: the first—to conduct an investigation of the accident, and the
second—to certify the truth of the matter and to mourn the unfortunate death of
The cause of
Michael’s death was evident to all and therefore, without further ado, the
deceased was given the usual Christian burial. The corpse, judging from the age
of the deceased, was not large and did not give the impression of weighing
much. For this reason all those accompanying the drowned boy to the village
were amazed that the horse was exerting such great effort in pulling him, as if
the cart held an enormous load. All wondered at such an unusual circumstance
and no one could offer any explanation.
according to the statutes of the Holy Church, the burial service was performed
over the deceased and his body was returned to the earth.
The poor mother
wept over the remains of her Misha, and the witnesses of her unexpected grief
also mourned and returned home, preserving a sorrowful remembrance of the
Time had not
yet succeeded in calming Mme. Trudnikov’s agitation when one night her son
revealed himself in a dream and related something so frightful and unbelievable
concerning his supposed death that had there not already been examples of such
occurrences in people’s minds, it would have been difficult to believe. Here is
Mme. Trudnikov went to bed and in a heavy sleep she saw her son Michael. He
approached her as if alive and said: “Mother, do not think that I have died; I
am alive, but because you cursed me I am presently under the control of demons.
If you want me to return to you, repent of your sin, pray to God for me more
often and give alms for my sake.” Mme. Trudnikov saw this dream on three
consecutive nights. The great anguish over the loss of her son, the terrifying
news of his death as a result ofher curse, hope—although slight-—of seeing him
again among the living, all this led Mme. Trudnikov to seek the advice of a
certain wise peasant who was deemed trustworthy by all the peasants in the
believe,” he counseled, “that your son is alive, but to pray to God for him, to
give alms for his sake and repent of your sin—this is your duty.
son is dead or alive, in any case your repentance, prayers and almsgiving will
benefit both you and him.”
had reason to speak thus; stored in his memory was the following case:
In the village
of Kurilov in the province of Cherepovets, there lived two merchant brothers,
one of good character and the other given over to a dissolute life. Such a
contrast in their characters led to their separation. The kindly brother began
to prosper, while the other soon became completely rotten. Once the latter went
for some reason to his brother’s and found him with a serf, distributing a
rather large sum of money.
Noticing this, he lay in wait for this serf one
evening in the woods through which there was a desolate path to his house,
robbed him of the money, killed him and, as though nothing had happened, went to
get drunk at a bar. The peasant, however, had not been mortally wounded. Upon
recovering, he made his way to his village and told the proper authorities what
had transpired. The crime was revealed, and the guilty one imprisoned.
had a wife. When this misfortune befell her, the unhappy woman wept for days on
end. But then, as if to comfort her, her husband began to come to her at night.
In response to his wife’s astonishment—how this was possible for him, a
with the prison guard has given me total freedom. But why I come at night—this
is so that people wouldn’t see; if they don’t see they won’t imagine things.”
In time the
wife herself thought of visiting her husband. During the meeting she asked him
about the night-time visitations. The husband at once suspected that something
wasn’t right. Leaving his wife’s question unanswered, he wrote a letter and
asked her not to delay in delivering it to his brother. Returning home, she
postponed fulfilling her husband’s behest until the morrow. In the morning a
crowd was drawn by the cries of the young daughter; they found the poor woman
dead. Upon being questioned, the young girl said that some man had come to them
at night and had strangled her mother. On the icon stand they found the
husband’s letter which had never reached the brother and which confirmed the
daughter’s testimony concerning the secret nightly visitations to the deceased
by some personage taking upon himself the image of the strangled woman’s
related this story to Mme. Trudnikov and persuaded her not to trust in
nighttime visions, but to pray and give alms for the soul of her son. The
mother heeded the good advice and began to pray to the Lord for her son and to
give alms to the poor, as much as her scanty means would allow.
A year passed
and then another. She again began to have dreams similar to that described
above, although no longer as clear as before. The mother sincerely repented of
her sin and did not cease to pray to God and give alms.
years passed since Mme. Trudnikov had been overtaken by grief. Not a word was heard
about the son; even the dreams themselves, offering a glimmer of hope about his
return, had long since ceased.
At this time,
70 versts from the village of Mindiukin, not far from the town of Cherepov,
there appeared from out of the blue a very strange young man from the peasant
class. He was of medium height and very lean, what you would call
“skin-and-bones”; his clothing consisted of rags. But what astonished everyone
the most was his extraordinary savagery; truly he was a creature from some other
world. He was afraid of everyone, tried to hide from everyone, and only extreme
necessity—so as not to die of hunger—forced him to go to the houses of some
peasants. “He comes,” related eyewitnesses, “and stands by the door, not saying
a word. And so he stands for several minutes. If he’s given something to eat,
he eats, if not—he just leaves, likewise without saying anything.”
stranger directed his steps towards the village of Mindiukin. About four versts
from Mindiukin he stopped for a rest in the town of Vorotishin at the house of
the peasant Vasily Yakovlevich, where he was received and comforted in a way in
which until quite recently the com¬mon Russian people knew how to receive
strangers, God’s people. The heart of the old Russian peasant, always compassionate
towards his neighbor’s distress, lead the host to offer the stranger a meal and
to treat him to whatever God had provided. Since Vasily Yakovlevich had just
heated the bathhouse, he offered his guest a bath.
And here in the
bathhouse, the host was struck and even frightened by the strangeness of his
guest: first he would let loose a very spooky laugh, then he would begin as if
to hide from someone, crawling under the benches, behind the stove. Having
somehow washed himself, he dressed, left the bathhouse and ran off somewhere.
While running he made such enormous leaps that is appeared as though he were
not running but flying through the air. Each leap lifted him three fathoms into
this astonishing phenomenon ceased and he headed towards Mindiukin, leaving his
kind host, it must be said, utterly terrified and bewildered.
Now I would ask
my dear reader to forgive me if I interrupt the account of the manuscript lying
before me and turn to some personal recollections.
faithful copier of the document entrusted to me, I cannot but feel that the
event described herein is so unusual, so terrifying, that to the reader who is
ill-prepared to take in such stories of the mysterious otherworld, it may
produce not only bewilderment but, God forbid, suspicion. I hasten to assure
you, my dear reader, I not only believe in that which is here brought to your
amazed consideration, but I recall from my childhood a conversation which I by
chance overheard between my late mother and her sister, also now deceased.
They were both
brought up in the liberal spirit of the gentry in the ’40’s; both were educated
according to the latest word in education; they tasted and even got their fill of
the materialism of the ’60s, and, of course, did not believe in anything
supernatural or miraculous. Nevertheless, I heard from their own lips about a
boy of 6 or 7—it must have been my mother’s brother, my uncle—who fell into
some mysterious state during which he had the most amazing and incredible
visions: without knowing how to play any instrument, he took into his hands the
violin belonging to the first violinist of grandfather’s home orchestra and
played—to the astonishment and even fright of all—the most exquisite, hitherto
unheard-of melodies; he spoke in foreign languages of which he had no knowledge
or understanding; he would jump from one bank to another of a stream several
yards wide and, in general, did such highly unusual things (not only for his
age but for anyone) that he baffled all those around him. The simple people
among the servants were horrified, seeing—as they firmly believed in the
simplicity of their hearts—this evidence of an unclean power. The educated and
learned, of course, thought differently, but just what it was they thought
didn’t make much sense—they couldn’t explain it themselves. Afterwards, when
people became absorbed in spiritism, “smart” people came to the idea of a
“fourth dimension.” But here, it seems, they came against a wall.
This is what I
heard in my childhood.
And what is now
going on in the realm of spiritist appearances, which “smart” people have given
themselves over to, not knowing with whom they are dealing—there, perhaps, you
would come across stories even less credible than Mme. Trudnikova’s. But they
believe those stories, they are followed up, written about, talked about;
intelligent people—professors even—are given over to them, heart and soul; they
put their complete faith in them. It’s amazing. They don’t believe those cases
when devils act openly as devils under their own clearly devilish guise, but
they place their entire faith in these same devils when they appear as “angels
of light,” the light of psychic “sciences”—in spiritism, mediumism, motivism,
or social sciences—“freedom, equality, brotherhood”...
dear reader, for this involuntary digression. I shall resume my story.
It was a Sunday
before the Apostles’ Fast in the year 1863. In front of the cottage of the Mindiukin
peasant Feodor Ivanovich Grishin, his young children were playing about with
their companions. Here also was Feodor himself with one of his elderly
neighbors. They were approached by the mysterious and silent stranger.
“Where are you
from?” asked Feodor.
“I’m a native
of these parts,” came the answer. “I know you, old man.”
“And who are
you?” Feodor continued.
“Did you ever
know MishaTrudnikov?” asked the stranger. “What do you mean, of course I knew
same Misha—that’s me.”
Misha drowned; his body is buried.”
“No, I didn’t
really drown,” the stranger replied assuredly. They began to examine the
stranger’s face and actually found a resemblance to the face of him who had
drowned long ago. The only difference was that he had grown from a boy into a
big fellow and on the bridge of his nose he had a scar, as if from some injury.
News of this
unheard-of occurrence spread quickly through the entire village, and a large
crowd gathered around Michael. Not believing their own eyes, the astonished
peasants and especially the playful children, vied with each other in climbing
over to him, each with his own probing question: “And what’s my name?” “And
mine, and mine?....”
That’s all that
could be heard in the crowd. Michael answered all questions accurately. The
crowd’s astonishment reached a high pitch of intensity. Then a certain
Grishkinskaya stepped up:
“And do you
“How could I
not know you,” replied Michael.
“In your family
you have a blind old woman who knows only how to complain about everyone, and
for this reason ‘we’ were often at your house and did all sorts of mischief.”
“And what kind of scar have you there on your nose?” someone asked.
“I came by this
scar when I was walking in the woods with ‘Gramps.’ Suddenly I remembered about
God. As a punishment for this ‘Gramps’ grabbed me by the legs and struck me so
hard against a pine tree that even now the scar remains.”
“How did all
this happen to you? Tell us, tell us!”
listen.” And in this way Michael began his story.
mother cursed me—this was the principal reason for my misfortune—I was sent off
to herd sheep. As you yourselves know, the Lord endured my sins only one short
week. The week went by. Suddenly there came up to me some old man with a long,
grey beard and said to me: ‘Your own mother cursed you, and this maternal curse
has given me full power over you.’ Here he began to strip me of all my clothes
until I was completely naked. The only thing I had left on me was my cross; the
old man was unable to touch it and told me to remove it myself. Willing or
unwilling, I had to submit to him. Then he took an aspen log, lying nearby, put
all my clothes on it, and instantly there where my face should be (on the log)
he drew a face—the resemblance to my own was like two drops of water—and threw
this log into the lake. I saw how the people came running to look at the
corpse, how the militia arrived and how my mother came. I saw everyone’s
amazement at the horse’s great difficulty in dragging the dead body. And do you
know the reason for this?”
“What was it?”
because,” continued Michael, “there were about twenty such as myself sitting on
the cart in addition to our ‘Gramps.’ [*] And since then, since the old man
stripped me, I became like a bodiless one. Right up to the burial of my
supposed body, I stayed near it. I saw all the people who were there, heard all
their conversations, but no one saw me. Since that time I no longer felt either
hunger or cold and, although I sometimes ate and drank in great quantities, I
did so only out of habit. I ate and drank, just as those like me, where people
drink and eat without saying prayers or without the sign of the cross. This
gave us the opportunity to defile the very dishes in which the food was served.
The people couldn’t understand why the food and drink didn’t taste good; they
would have had no cause for surprise had they known that we had defiled the
“I could fly
over great distances in an instant; nothing could obstruct my path. Like a
bird, I flew over sleeping forests and inaccessible mountains; I walked on
water as if on dry land. And I shall tell you: there are a fair number of
people like me. I remember that at one place up to a thousand of us gathered.
Our favorite places to get together were various kinds of parties and indecent
spectacles, and likewise where there were quarrels and abuse—in a word,
wherever people sinned without any fear [of God]. During such gatherings I
chanced more than once to meet with a blind girl from the village of Lipenki of
the Ustiug province, who also took part in all our roguery. [**]
“In our actions
and our wicked campaigns against people a certain order was observed. When we
gathered, ‘Gramps’ divided us into squadrons and gave each squadron a special
assignment designed to harm people. We were always zealous in executing the
promptings of human passions and lusts, and speedy collaborators in people’s
wickedness and misfortunes. For example, should someone think of drowning or
strangling himself, we would help him by all means available to us. Here’s the
case of Akulina Potapova (six versts from Mindiukin in the village of
Supranov), who for some trivial reason began to grow despondent, and from
despondency she strangled herself in her cottage. Her children, in order to
avoid suspicion and trouble with the law, secretly took her dead body out of the
noose, drove it into the forest and there hung it on a birch tree.
And in this
case we were also participants. We were also present at fires and tried to
intensify the disaster. By the way, if the houses of pious people were burning
and the fire was not the result of God’s chastisement—allowed because of sin,
we could in no way interfere. If the opposite was the case, we very actively
partici-pated. For example in the village on Zimnin a peasant woman was
carrying a light as she went to feed the sheep one night, and she dropped a
small spark. She was quarrelling with her father-in-law and this gave us power
to blow the spark into a great fire which destroyed their entire property.
Vorotishino burned in the same way. I recall it was in the morning; the weather
was fine, calm, but during the fire such a whirlwind blew up as to scatter
whole logs in different directions. We tried to do all this.
In general, we
had access everywhere where the Name of God and the sign of the Cross were
disregarded. Blasphemy and the deliberate scorn of what was holy gave us power
to enter into communion with people who did this, and mock them just as we
wanted and our state allowed. By the way, prayer itself and the sign of the
cross received their power only with people of good Christian morality, while a
sinner who had no desire to abandon his sin couldn’t save himself from us
either through prayer or the sign of the cross. It happens occasionally that
even a pious peasant will forget about prayer or the sign of the cross.
However, we could not get to such a person; it was not ours even to know the
houses of such people For example, we couldn’t enter the village of Vanskoe.
Because there was a pious old woman there who had the custom every evening
of going around her village praying.”
“And you no
longer prayed to God?” someone asked.
“We prayed; we
had a daily rule of prayer, morning and eve-ning. But the prayers we recited
were a blasphemous mockery of your prayers. The Lord’s Prayer, for example, we
read as follows: Father who isn’t ours, may Thy Name not be hallowed. . .and
other prayers, all in the same spirit.
“So this is how
the Lord punished me for my brazenness and rebellion against my parents’ will.
For twelve whole years I led this miserable life, and I should never again have
seen God’s light as a Christian if the prayers and almsgiving of my mother
hadn’t helped to save me from perdition.
“When the time drew near for my release from the
power of the devil, our ‘Gramps,’ unwilling to let such a prey out of his
hands, intended to do me in. He prepared a noose and told me to get into it
myself. But no matter how bad my life was, I still had no desire to die. Well,
I thought, they might shove me into a noose against my will—but no matter what
the consequences I won’t climb into it myself for anything. I don’t know how it
all would have ended if at the last minute there hadn’t appeared to defend me a
kindly old man; he was wearing a pointed cap with a cross. ‘The mother’s threads [***] have pulled him out
from your power,’ said the old man to ‘Gramps’, and pushed him away from me.
benefactor turned to me and said: ‘Your mother cursed you, your mother prayed
you out!’ And with these words he put a cross around my neck. After this I no
longer saw the old man, and found myself in a field. I had no clothes on and
began to feel cold—not once in the past twelve years had I experienced this.
Fortunately, just then some women passed by. They took me for a crazy man and,
taking pity on me, took me to their village and gave me some clothes. And then
the Lord helped me to find my way here.”
“Why don’t you
go home?” his stupefied listeners asked.
answered the poor man.
of Michael’s miraculous return reached his mother, and as soon as she heard
about it she rushed to her son.
At the sight of
his mother, Michael was seized with a kind of terror and some unseen power
shook him, as it happens with one possessed. The mother immediately recognized
the stranger to be her son and took him home.
recovered from his terror, Michael asked those near him to send quickly for the
parish priest, Fr. Alexey, in the village of Grishkino. His desire was
from the messengers all that had happened with Michael, the priest was thrown
into bewilderment by such an extraordinary occurrence. “Could it be that a
demon, appearing in the guise of a man, is fooling the people?” the priest
wondered, and he hastened to Mme. Trudnikov’s.
priest read over Michael the prayers of exorcism from Peter Mogila’s Book of
Needs [Trebnik], but could discover no evidence of an evil spirit present in
him. The only strange thing was that ever since Michael had seen his mother, acertain
timidity had not left him. To be perfectly certain that Michael had no demon,
that he himself was not an evil spirit simply taking the form of a man, the
priest took him into church and there served a service of intercession to the
Saviour, to the Mother of God and to St. Nicholas the Wonderworker; and in the
altar he had Michael make before the Lord a full-hearted repentance of all his
sins, according to the rite of the Orthodox Church. From a sincere heart
Michael confessed to his spiritual father all that he could remember from his
former life, when his mother’s curse weighed upon him. The prayer was read absolving
him of all sins.
All this time
the priest was expecting this “vision” to disappear, but Michael remained
Michael. Nevertheless, even after all this the priest was not freed of doubt,
and he was afraid of allowing Michael to receive the Holy Mysteries. Soon
afterwards Michael was taken to the nearby Modensky Nikolaevsky monastery and
there, having twice more confessed his sins—first in front of the superior and
then before the monastery’s father confessor—he was granted, finally, to approach
the Fearful Mysteries of Christ.
of Michael’s mother, and even more the desire to assure herself of the truth of
her son’s appearance, led her to Lentevo, to the grave of the one she had
buried as her son. She wanted to ask that the grave be opened and to see what
lay there, but time had worked its own: there where the body—or that which had
passed for the body—of Michael had been buried some buildings had been
constructed and the grave could not be found.
For three weeks
after his appearance Michael lived at home. Then he was called to the district
police for questioning—was he really the person he claimed to be? Here also
Michael held fast to his story, and in order to convince the police more
strongly of its veracity he began in front of all those present to list the
policeman’s secret sins. The peasants, before whom Michael revealed the
policeman’s dark secrets, affirmed that he spoke the truth and were only amazed
how he could know all this, but the policeman was so offended by the truth that
he ordered his accuser to be beaten with rods and then shackled him like a
completed the trial and investigation, the policeman went to Mindiukin to check
up on Michael’s story.
“Is this your
son?” he asked Michael’s mother.
“Is this your
resident?” he asked the other Mindiukin peasants.
answered the crowd in one voice.
“Oh, you fools,
you fools!” admonished the policeman. “It’s time now to go to work: you’ll all
go into the fields and he’ll set fire to your village. Then you can claim him
as yours. You’ll repent, but it will be too late.”
lost courage; they scratched their heads and no one said a word. Alexis
Kuptsov, the wealthiest peasant in Mindiukin, was the first to reject Michael; others
followed. One by one everyone joined Kuptsov, and in a short time Michael was
hidden away in a home for the insane.
The day after
he had renounced Michael, Kuptsov fell ill and soon dried of dropsy. The
Mindiukin residents immediately saw here God’s chastisement, but, of course,
they didn’t lift a finger to have Michael released from the crazy house. Nevertheless,
there is a proverb, “The voice of the people is the voice of God.” Yes, and it
is also said that the proverb itself will never be destroyed, but those who
scorn God’s truth and righteous judgment are destroyed and wrecked like rotten
boats, like decayed trees.
Here ends the
In those same
years of the ’6o’s, if my memory does not fail me, in the magazine The Pilgrim,
there was printed the case of a coachman from the village of Kostin, Petersburg
province. This coachman was leading his horses to a river for a drink when
suddenly, to his unspeakable terror, he saw that the branches of some trees on
the bank were bowed down with what looked like a countless flock of ravens—they
were demons. On account of their weight the branches bent down to the very
surface of the water. Out of his mind with fright, the coachman left his horses
and ran as fast as he could to the village, while the devils called out after
him: “Our time, our will! Our time, our will!”
related this to his spiritual father or to another, what is certain is that in
its day the story appeared in the religious press. But, of course, it was soon
forgotten through the careless memory of contemporaries; and with them we, too,
One of our
contemporary righteous men, Father Ambrose of Optina of blessed memory, revived this story
in the minds of those few observant people who looked with sorrowful eyes at
the events taking place in the world and begotten in Orthodox Russia. These
events were born since the evil days of the ’6o’s, but the spirit of faith
penetrated the secret of their lawlessness and trembled before its threat.
Father Ambrose did not comfort his widespread flock, his children according to
the spirit, with hopes for the enlightenment of Russia’s horizon, for even then
Russia was troubled by the rotten breath of wind from the West. Calling to mind
the Kolpinsk coachman, he gravely repeated the ominous demonic threat of the
victory of the demonic will, demonic times.
And when you
now lift from the earth your gaze, downcast and sorrowful, when you look around
with fright at that demonic activity to which the young energies of this
country are given over, a country which only recently was Orthodox, only
through the story of Michael Trudnikov, related here, will you be able to
explain the satanic hold upon our unfortunate, perishing, destructive youth.
Is it not upon
it and upon us, their fathers and mothers, that there lies heavy the almost
universal curse of our fathers and mothers, whose will and obedience we
repudiated with such cruel hatred, scorning and trampling all that was holy,
all that they lived by, all they believed and prayed and upon which they built
in bygone days that which we destroyed with such furious hatred—a destruction
we are now in the process of completing? But in Michael Trudnikov the demonic
power which took possession of him through his mother’s curse acted secretly,
concealing for twelve whole years both itself and its weapons; now it acts openly:
then it operated in the carelessness of a “backward” mass of simple people, but
with fear before the light of [this people’s] faith; now it operates in the
“educated” crowd and its leaders, openly and boldly in the darkness of its
apostasy and disbelief. But Satan and his dark powers are still the same as
they were 7,500 years ago. Alas! Those people who have been seduced by them,
who have fallen away from Christ, are also the same, and just as once in
Paradise before their expulsion, so also now they sell the blessedness of
eternity for the fruit of knowledge—of evil.
pitiable, blind, foolish Michael Trudnikovs! Who is there to pray for you?
Whose “thread,” offered for you in Christ’s name, can tear you from the devil’s
claws? The majority of your fathers and mothers have forgotten how to pray, how
Have mercy on
us, O Lord! Lord, have mercy!
Monastery, July 13th, 1906 Epilogue
I hadn’t had
time to prepare my manuscript for the printer before there burst upon the unfortunate
Sizran a terrible misfortune: The large flourishing city with its fifty
thousand inhabitants was enveloped by flames and in a single night burnt to the
ground, carrying away in its destruction many human victims. Let us look at the
following excerpt from the official news story of a Count A. Tolstoy:
“A part of the
city was burning, but although this was a great disaster it was not a
catastrophe. Suddenly, about five o’clock in the afternoon, there appeared over
the city, travelling from north to south, a tornado, a cyclone or hurricane—in
a word, something unimaginable. It flattened haystacks in the fields and
carried metal sheets from the roofs of houses a distance of fifteen versts from
the city. It is hard to say what meteorological phenomenon this storm should be
classified as, but the testimony of the stunned inhabitants in this case is
unanimous—it was something altogether unimaginable. Lifting all the dust and
heat from the burning part of the city, the hurricane in some 30 minutes set fire
to the entire central part of the city simultaneously, so that within an hour
the whole city was enveloped in flames...” “It seems to me,” writes the author
of this news story, “that this brief description is sufficient to convince the
reading public that this catastrophe should be attributed to the category of
And you, dear
reader, to which category of disasters or me-teorological phenomena would you
assign Sizran’s punishment after having read my manuscript? Do you not hear in
the belfries’ booming alarm, floating over the scene of the conflagration, the
mischievous satanic laughter: “Our time, our will! Our time, our will!”...
Eν κατακλείδι, παρακαλώ με ταπείνωση, Πατέρες και αδελφοί, να βοηθήσετε και εμένα τον αμαρτωλὸ και αδιάφορο για την σωτηρία μου, με την προσευχή σας…και έτσι να ξυπνήσω απο την αναισθησία μου και να καλώ το όνομα του Κυρίου μας για βοήθειά μου. Αμήν. (Ιερομ. Κλεόπας Ηλίε, Ρουμάνος)......
Υπενθυμίζουμε ότι όλη η προσπάθεια γίνεται προς ''δόξαν Θεού'' και χωρίς κάποιο όφελος. Εάν, δίχως την πρόθεσή μας θίγουμε πνευματικά δικαιώματα, παρακαλούμε για την ενημέρωσή μας.
Είς δόξαν του έν Τριάδι Θεού και της Υπεραγίας Δεσποίνης ημών Θεοτόκου. Είς κοινήν απάντων των Ορθοδόξων ωφέλειαν.