Life of Hieroschemamonk Feofil Part 11

The life of, Fool-for-Christ's sake, blessed Hieroschemamonk, Feofil (Theophilus). Chapter 11.

Chapter 11

Back to Goloseyevo

On April 23, 1853, not long before his demise, Blessed Feofil was once more moved to Goloseyevo. This was done at the request of the superior of the Goloseyevskaya Hermitage who had a great love and respect for the Starets and felt that the aged monk would be more comfortable at Goloseyevo.

"Let it be as you wish," the Starets replied to the kind invitation of the superior. "I'll return to my old place to die."

These words were prophetic. On July 15, of that same year, three months before his death, Starets Feofil, on the orders of the Metropolitan, again returned to Kitayev.

The last days

During the last days of his earthly life, the Blessed One began to weaken noticeably, but not wishing to yield to his bodily weaknesses, the Starets avoided all rest and comforted himself with thoughts of God and with prayers, finding in them a singular source of strength and consolation. No sooner would his physical sufferings begin to oppress him than he would turn to his prayers and would be immediately restored in soul and strengthened in body. Thus, not changing his mode of life or his habits, Blessed Feofil continued to live as before. His life continued to be characterized by a meek temper, silent lips, humble heart, a spirit of tender emotion and chastity. His body was subjected to diligent toil, coarse food, a hard bed, tattered clothing, a stuffy cell and physical illness — a source of joy to his soul. Sorrow, deprivation, and need for the sake of the beloved Lord, Jesus Christ.

What a great sea of unselfish love! What a great podvig of humility and human patience!

How could he have carried out his deeply instructive example, his face illuminated by the purity of soul, meekness, humility, and simplicity which the Gospels teach? The downward gaze and the brow furrowed with deep thought, clearly testified that his mind was constantly occupied with something else, unseen. Even in the midst of people, the Starets was with God, carried away to heaven in thought. Only those having an understanding of mental activity could see that he prayed in his mind and heart, constantly and without interruption.

The first condition of spiritual life

The first condition of spiritual life is suffering and the many-sorrowed path of the cross, a struggle with one's self, with the world and with the devil. The Starets had fulfilled this podvig, and the second condition had set in — that of the deep peace and tranquility of a weary soul which, having defeated human passions by means of Christ's grace, was already purified, illuminated, and in secret communication with God. Feofil had found, while still here on earth, the guarantee of future heavenly blessedness. It is impossible for us, sinful people who have not cleansed our hearts of passions, to comprehend the wondrous mystery of this grace-filled condition of the truly righteous soul, for the standards by which we judge in this brief life on earth cannot approach the measure of spiritual grace. It is only possible for us, with true piety, to contemplate a few rays of this bright, God-likeness and purity which, inspite of the efforts of the grace-bearer himself, seem to burst forth in their own unusual actions, words, and movements. Striking into our hearts with spiritual warmth, the grace-bearer affects and subdues our minds with the rare glow of a completely different, higher order of things and draws our souls into this wonderful light of the chosen-one of God.

The character of the life of the Kitayevskaya and Goloseyevskaya Hermitages was of a patriarchal nature, that is to say, after vespers, all lay persons were required to depart and each brother could settle down freely to pray and worship, each one in his own peaceful corner surrounded by the spirit of saintly fathers of the Lavra. The well-known ascetic, Starets Parfeny, describes Goloseyevo in these words:

"Here is the spirit of our saintly fathers of the Pecherskaya Lavra. If there is any comfort and joy on earth, it is to be found in the hermitage's silence. People detract us from God, but the hermitage draws us nearer to Him."

Starets Feofil also held such a spiritual opinion and for whole days he would stay in the woods, kneeling on a large stump to pray or else he would go to an ancient hollow oak where he would hang a crucifix and a votive lamp and spend entire days and nights, imitating the podvigs of the ancient stylites. Being thus alone in silence, and being a partaker "of the fellowship that we have... with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ" (I John, 1:3) ...

Akathists to the Theotokos

In the last days of his life, Feofil was often seen in the Lavra where he went each Saturday to serve an akathist to the Theotokos before her miraculous icon, the "Chenstokhovskaya Mother of God."(4) He used to serve this akathist in an extremely original way. Entering the Great Church, he would seize from the sextons the first chasuable at hand, vest himself in it, and begin to rush through the brothers' cells, gathering singers for the kliros. If any would refuse, he would drive them along with his cane. For this reason, the akathists which Feofil conducted in the bread-room where the icon was discovered, were always ceremonious and well attended.

Conversing more willingly

During the last months of his life, the Starets conversed more willingly with people and was freer with advice and directions, beseeching everyone not to forget to pray for the "smelly" Feofil. His speech revealed a profound knowledge of the Holy Scripture, the spirit of which he comprehended not only with his mind, but with a heart enlightened by the grace of God and directed by the experience of a spiritual life.

"Love one another with a sacred love and do not hold anger against each other. Do not allow yourselves to be tempted and avoid attaching your hearts to anything earthly — we will leave all that is here behind us; good deeds alone go with us into the other world. It will be wonderful to live in paradise with God, but may God save us from hell! One must feed the soul more than the body and pray more often, weeping over one's own sins and also over the sins of those nearest one. Without this, not a single human being will be saved. Many have become unbelievers today and many have left Christ's flock. Woe unto them. For our Shepherd is the Lord and all of His sheep go after Him, following His teaching and fulfilling His words. It is true, there are ill and weak sheep, those that sin, but still, they trail along behind the flock. But faith has been lost by those who have fallen completely behind and are left to be eaten by beasts. They left Christ's flock and they do not listen to His voice for 'My sheep hear My voice and I know them and they come unto me.' But to the others He will say, 'I don't know you, go away' on His dread judgement day."

Ivan Ivanovich Troitsky remembers

In 1897, the well-known wanderer, Ivan Ivanovich Troitsky,(5) demised. Not long before the death of Feofil, he had spent an entire summer at Kitayev and remembered the Blessed One with great love and emotion.

"We spent very little time in his cell," related Troitsky to Vladimir Bobkov, a monk of the Kievo-Pecherskaya Lavra "We spent far more time in the woods. There, the Starets would have me read the Psalter aloud and from time to time he would stop me to explain it. When I would become weary, he would send me to the Goloseyevo yard for some milk which the dairy-maids were always glad to provide and which we would sip in the woods. After arriving home, the Starets would receive visitors and I prepared dumplings which were offered to all who came to him."

Here are the impressions of Starets Feofil which Troitsky conveyed in his letters to the ascetic, Starets Adrian, of the Youg-skaya Dosifeyevaya Hermitage:

"The Lord gave me the honour of serving Starets Feofil even a little. One look at the physically exhausted lover of God with his strange, incomprehensible mind, at his life which he led as a true, friendless exile from some high and brilliant world, was enough to force my sleeping mind to awaken and stand in awe. I hope to relate the details of his life and my relationship with him, for the brief period, and his edifying parables, remarks, and lessons when I see you personally. It was sad to part with him. At first he wanted me to remain until the Protection Feast and later, he even wanted me to spend the winter in Kiev and recommended that I petition the Vladika of Tver for a passport for an additional year. But my arrangements with you did not allow me to consent to his request and I wavered a great deal in my thoughts. But when I received your letter which called me to you, Starets Feofil, foreseeing the position I was in, gave his blessing when he met me and said to me, 'Now I don't need you. Go where you are being called.' I was shaken by his marvellous forevision."

A much honoured nurse who had participated in the Turkish campaign, Alexandra Grigorievna Chernikova, related the following:

"I remember it as if it had just occurred. We came to Golo-seyevo as a group. My mother knew Feofil very well and was quite close to him. She wanted very much to receive his blessing during this visit. The Starets was not in his cell when we came to see him and we set out to find him in the woods. I was six years old at the time and my little brother Shura was five. While we were romping around and playmg, I saw a gigantic hollow oak above the precipice of a steep bank. We ran to it, looking inside, and saw a monk praying there. On his head was a cap of the type with which St. Serafim is now depicted and in his hands was an open book. I did not become frightened, but ran to our group, calling, 'Come here! Father Feofil is here!' The Starets saw that we were approaching and he came out to meet us. His face was so bright and clear and on his lips a blessed smile flickered. He blessed us children first of all. He went to Shura and said:

'You are a good child — meek, kind, and obedient. May the Lord bless you. But God also needs the good ones.'

Then he stood before me, placed his hands on my head, patted it, and sighed very deeply.

'You poor, poor child. Bitter is your fate, for all your life you will toil on earth and receive thanks from no-one.'

And what happened? Shura became ill soon after and in three months he died. I have been suffering alone all my life; using up my strength for other people and receiving no gratitude from anyone.

But this is not all. My sister, Pelagia Grigorievna Yanovskaya, went up to him and the Starets chastised her:

'See how many people you have brought, silly! If only two had come, but you have brought seventeen for blessing, thinking to take the starets away from his prayers. Take them back now if you are so clever, through this pit.'

And with this, he pointed to the big precipice.

We stood still, not understanding. if we go through the pit (so the older ones thought), it is marshy and muddy. Our shoes will get dirty and the children may catch cold;' So, as soon as the Starets had returned to the tree and began praying, we went back on the dry land.

Soon after this my mother, Agafiya Ivanen Chemikova, together with a Kievan merchant's wife, Kseniya Ivanuma Mizernikova, set out to see the Blessed Starets. This time he was at home. He had high esteem for my mother and he seated her on a little bench and, turning to the merchant's wife, he said:

'Well, Kseniya Ivanovna, as soon as you return home, make me some dumplings with cabbage. But see that they are tasty. I'll send my cell-mate, Ivan, for them and you can give them to him.'

When they returned home, Mizernikova said to Mama

'For heaven's sakes fulfil Father Feofil's request.'

'But what about you? He had asked you'

'Actually, I don't have the time. I'll send you both butter and flour and you will have only the work to do.'

Mama agreed and prepared them. On the appointed day, the cell-mate, Ivan, came and brought a huge, beautiful, soft Easter bread and two prosphora, one large and one small.

'Why did you bring prosphora, Ivan?' asked my mother.

'Batiuska Feofil sent them,' answered Ivan. 'He told me to give the widow (Mama) the Easter bread and the large prosphora and to give the merchant's wife the smaller one. The widow troubled herself and made dumplings for me, while the merchant's wife did not want to put herself to any trouble, thinking that she could fool me, an old man. So, give her the small prosphora.'

And the visionary always knew who had troubled themselves most for him.

The Kievan woman Evfrosiniya

"I was twelve years old when I first thought of going to Starets Feofil for advice," related a Kievan woman, Evfrosiniya Mikhailovna Tsybulskaya. "I was left an orphan and lived with strangers, in great want and grief. I was offended and oppressed. But having heard from good people that a 'holy batiushka' was living at Kitayev, I decided to see him, no matter what, and tell him of my grief. I didn't go alone. There were two women with me. As we were going through the woods, we met a tall, ragged monk.

'Whom are you looking for?' he asked, walking up to me. 'For Father Feofil,' I replied to him.

'Well, if you have need of him, go to his cell,' the monk said.

Along the way I wept bitterly, but my companions roared with laughter over the appearance of the starets. I was seized with annoyance that they were laughing at a man of God. 'You are silly,' I said, 'and both of you will often shed tears because of the righteous one.'

We had no sooner come to Feofil's cell than we saw that same starets coming behind us. He did not say a word to us but only looked sternly at my companions and went into his cell. In a minute he brought me a prosphora but to my companions he gave potato peelings and a dead crayfish which meant a great shame for their shameless, dissipated way of life.

'Batiushka, I want to enter the Rzhishchevsky Monastery,' I tearfully said to the Starets while accepting the prosphora.

'No!' the Starets said firmly. 'You will not live in a monastery. Near one, yes, but you will not enter it.'

'Why not, Batiushka?' I asked.

'Why? Because, until the sixty-sixth year, you will weep but in forty-eight years God will send a priest who will save you.'

I did not understand his words at that time but, in fact, a terrible misfortune did befall me. When I was eighteen, I became afflicted with a black illness and I wept dreadfully. It is a terrible, torturous illness. At first, I would be fine and well all week, working and toiling but as soon as Sunday or a feast day arrived, then the misfortune would arise. Right from morning something would begin to stick in my throat as if to choke me and my stomach would burn like fire, as if unclean spirits had taken command, and I would cry with all my strength. I tried everything and took all manner of medicines. The only relief I received was when I would run to the Great Lavra Church and come before the miraculous icon. For a while, I would feel better, but hardly would the blessing of the bread or the Cherubic Hymn begin, when I would be seized again and it would burn so terribly that I would have killed myself with a knife if only I had more strength left. I would run outside and run around the Lavra, crying at the top of my voice from the pain. It continued that way for forty-eight years, just the length of time that Starets Feofil said it would

Finally, one day I was in the Lavra, hurrying to church, weeping as usual, when an old, grey-haired priest came up to me.

'What are you weeping about, you unfortunate creature?'

I stopped and told him about my terrible grief.

'Well, don't weep,' he told me. 'The Lord is merciful. Come closer and open your collar.'

I did so and he tied my neck tightly with a lace and then removed an icon of St. Dimitry of Rostov from his chest, hung it on my neck, looked at me compassionately, gave me his blessing and walked away saying:

'Pray, servant of God, pray fervently!'

A week went by and a feast came up. I was certain that I would have another seizure but no, nothing happened. I went to church and waited. The Cherubic Hymn was sung — nothing. The 'I Believe' and 'Our Father' — still nothing. The liturgy ended and I returned home — nothing. The illness had vanished as if it had never been at all. I ran to the Great Church and fell on my knees before the icon of St. Dimitry of Rostov and began to thank him with tears of gratitude.

Why didn't I turn to Father Feofil for help? I did, and asked for his holy prayers. He would comfort me, give me a prosphora and send me home saying, 'Go and have patience. This is fated for you. For these sufferings angels in heaven will weave you a crown.

I lived with my sister in Pechersk at that time and we worked as launderesses. Our poverty was unbelievable. To make matters worse, my sister began to lose her eyesight and could not work. If it were not for Starets Feofil, believe me, I would have taken my own life in my youth. He was like a guardian angel, guiding and comforting us. Sometimes he would send his sister, who lived in the Florovsky Monastery as a postulant, to visit us with a prosphora. He would order her to see that we rose in time for matins every morning and once he came himself. When he arrived, we were already up and preparing to go to church. He praised us for our diligence, saying, 'That's right, toil my children Pray and don't be lazy.'

The little bag of peas

One time he brought my little sister Dunya a little bag of peas and said, 'Go to the monastery, Dunyasha, to bake prosphora. If you listen to me, your eyes will be healed, but if you don't listen, your eyes will be like these peas.'

'Oh Batiushka, how can I go to the monastery? It would be better if you would bless me to live with my sister.'

'That means that you do not want to go to the monastery? Well then, here is my blessing to you but you will walk in darkness until your death.'

And so it happened. After this Dunya became completely blind and I have now been living near the Lavra for fifty-five years, and was possessed by demons for forty-eight years. It has now been twelve years since I was cured."

The approaching end

October, 1853, came. The time of going to the Lord was already approaching for the Blessed Starets. Foreseeing this, Feofil stopped taking food for exactly one month before his demise and was satisfied with only a little piece of blessed bread dipped in wine diluted with water. His feet began to swell from standing so long at prayer, but he did not pay the slightest attention to this and he redoubled his podvig of prayer. When Russia was experiencing heavy trials at the beginning of the Crimean campaign, one could notice Feofil's special striving in prayer.

The arrival of sad events

Before the arrival of every sad bulletin from the theatre of war, the Starets would walk about with his head lowered and he wept unconsolably for days. Once, wishing to inform the brothers of a very unfortunate and bloody battle, he wounded his face and hands with black thorns and lay down bleeding under the over-hanging eaves of the shed.

"My God what has happened to you, Batiushka?" cried the frightened Abbess Agnia who had come by chance to Kitayev. "Nothing, nothing, my dear one. I have put one hundred leeches on my sinful body. Go! Go!"

"Good heavens! Why, Batiushka?"

"It is necessary. This is my sacrifice. A sacrifice for the Russian troops who will give their lives tonight on the battlefield for faith, Tsar, and fatherland."

But regardless of causing such torments to his body and of his great loss of strength, the Starets continued to attend the liturgy, matins and vespers as before. He partook of the Holy Mysteries of Christ almost every day, read the rules of the holy fathers, prostrated endlessly, read the Psalter and Gospel, and instructed pilgrims. At the end of winter, the Blessed One became worthy of the revelation of the time of his imminent departure and he called his cell-mate, Ivan, to himself and said:

"Ivan, what are you thinking about at this moment?"

"I'm not thinking of anything," he replied.

"And I am thinking of petitioning the Heavenly King to allow me to spend this winter on earth because Praskoviya [that was his way of calling the Holy Martyr, Paraskeva, whom he especially honoured] does not want to dig a grave for me in winter."

Ivan did not pay attention to these words until the demise of the Starets took place.

The second time, the Starets called his other cell-mate, Panteleimon, to the window of his cell and said, pointing to the monastery yard:

"Look, Panteleimon, there is a cross above the grave. Do you see it?"

"No, I don't," the cell-mate replied because, in truth, there was neither cross nor grave in the place to where Father Feofil was pointing and only after the demise of the Blessed Starets, when the cell-mate returned to Kiev from a pilgrimage, did he see the grave of the Blessed One, with a cross erected by his spiritual children, in that very spot which Feofil had pointed out.

A week before his demise

A week before his demise, the Starets asked the Kitayevskaya postulants to bring earth from the Dniepr and pour it near his cell in the form of a grave. Then he measured its length and width with a stick and afterwards would not part with the stick.

"I should have died a long time ago," he used to repeat, "but Praskoviya is praying to God for me."

The cell-mate, Ivan, seeing that the Starets was not jesting about the nearness of his death, began to grieve and to be sad about his future fate.

"Batiushka," he wept, "to whom will you leave us? For God's sake, ask the deputy of the Lavra to enter me into the number of the brotherhood."

"They will enter you and not only that, but they will also make you a monk.'

"Who? Me? An indecent servant? A former fugitive and tramp? Oh no! That would never happen. No!"

"In little faith you came to me, but the Lord will place you above many," the Blessed One replied to him.

On that same day, the Starets went to the deputy of the Lavra, Archimandrite Ioann, told him something unusual about Ivan, after which the deputy joyfully agreed to the tonsuring of the cell-mate to the monkhood and gave him the name of Dmitry.

After his tonsure, the Lavra brothers began asking Dmitry about the reason for his sudden tonsure to the monkhood, but the cell-mate replied:

"I cannot tell you. It is a secret. Only Starets Feofil, the deputy, and I know about it. If I tell about it, then, according to the words of Starets Feofil, the deputy and I will immediately die."

The Starets protection

The Starets extended his protection to many others besides Dmitry. He personally interceded for his sister, the Florovsky postulant Anna, and was present at her tonsuring not long before his demise. Moreover, the Starets had many spiritual children in the city and he would visit them daily, giving them comfort and strengthening them with prayer. He gave them his final instructions and carried out many charitable deeds.

The poor widow and her daughter

One eye-witness related the following astonishing event:

"In Shulyavka, on the outskirts of Kiev, there lived a poor widow named Rudnichikha and her daughter. While her husband was alive, they had lived comfortably and well. They maintained post-horses and were engaged in business but, on becoming a widow, Rudnichikha was left without any means and fell into extreme poverty. She lived her lonely life with great effort and toil and was often without bread. Then, to complete her misfortune, her daughter took to her bed with a fatal illness. It was quite late at night and the girl was lying unconscious. The mother's heart was torn with despair. The last minutes of the dying girl were approaching and there could be no help. 'Oh God, how wretched I am,' sobbed the desperate mother. 'Everyone has abandoned me, poor and penniless that I am. If only I could go to Batiushka Feofil for advice. If only I could pour out my grief to him and ask him for his holy prayers for my beloved daughter.' But it was many versts to the Kitayevskaya Hermitage and she could not leave the side of her dying daughter.

Suddenly, it seemed to the mother as if someone had walked past the window and come into the porch. 'Who could this be as such a late hour?' Rudnichikha thought as she went to the door but when she opened it, she was left dumbfounded. There stood Starets Feofil, looking at her with great tenderness. 'Peace be unto you. Don't be afraid, it is I. You wanted to see me and so I have come to you.' He went straight to the bed and blessed the little one. Rudnichikha fell at his feet and wept loudly. 'Quiet, don't weep,' the Starets comforted her. 'Your daughter is not dying. She is only cold.' He removed his warm outer cloak, covered the girl with it and began to pray. After half an hour he put his cloak back on and silently left the hut. The troubled mother came to the bed of her dying daughter, but the girl was already looking around with a joyous smile. 'Mama! I feel so much better now. But who was just here?' 'Father Feofil, my dear one,' replied the rejoicing mother. 'Father Feofil? Why didn't you wake me up?' 'But you were near death, my child.' The girl got out of the bed and walked about the room. Within an hour she was completely restored to health to the great amazement of the neighbors."

The last 3 days

There were three days left of the earthly life of God's Starets There arose some sort of special activity within Feofil. He gave various orders, the meanings of which were understandable only to him. For example, he placed a bench across the threshold of his cell and lay down upon it. He told his cell-mate that for the first time in thirty-eight years he was lying so peacefully and that he was amazed that he had not thought of it before. Then, he called Dmitry over to himself and gave him some incense and myrrh, ordering him to take it quickly to the deputy, Ioann. This was on Monday, October 26, and by the time the cell-mate got to the Lavra, matins had already begun there. The deputy was standing in the altar of the Great Church at this time and when Dmitry handed him the incense and myrrh, he was quite startled. With unbearable curiosity, he set out for Kitayev to vlsit the Blessed One immediately after matins.

"Father Feofil, why did you send me incense and myrrh?" asked Ioann, hurriedly entering into the cell.

"On Wednesday we shall be burying... "


"Him whom God calls. Perhaps even me."

"You? The Lord be with you. What are you saying?"

"The waves of death encompass me and the snares of death prevented me " (2 Samuel 22:5; Psalm 18:5).

"If you are really preparing to leave us forever, I shall order a coffin for you. Which would you prefer, pine or oak?"

"None is necessary. It has long been ready."

"Where is it?"

"It is lying in the belfry."

Someone was sent to the belfry and, indeed, a long box, similar to a coffin, was found there. The church candles had once been stored in it and its cover was on hinges as with a trunk lid.

"Do you mean that you are to be buried in this?" the deputy asked dubiously.

"In it, my teacher. That is my will. Amen."

Last requests

After the deputy had departed, the Starets sent a messenger to the superior of the hermitage, Hieromonk Anatoly, with the request that on Wednesday, October 28, he would be brought the Holy Gifts to his cell. He repeated this several times, adding that it was to be the last time. The Starets' desire was fulfilled. He received the Holy Mysteries early in the morning and became completely at peace.

Before vespers, he sent one of his cell-mates to the market place to buy three rolls of bread, incense, and honey, and to Dmitry he said:

"Don't leave the cell today and you will see something extraordinary . "

Then he requested that the cell be cleaned of all rubbish and swept up, saying that he must be received in a Christian manner. Then he asked his cell-mate to light the stove, to place some incense and myrrh on coals in a pan and to light the votive lamp before the icons. When Dmitry said it was still early and that the bell's had not yet rung for vespers, Feofil said:

"This time it is necessary. Fulfill the obedience to the end."

The lamp was lighted.

"That's right. Now it's good. Make certain that it does not go out."

The demise of the blessed Starets

Then he lay on the bench which he had placed across the threshold of his cell, with his head in the entrance hall. He asked that two wax candles be lighted and stuck to the door posts and that he be given the cross with which he used to bless those who came to him and, having blessed his cell-mates with this cross, he sent one of them to the superior of the hennitage, Hieromonk Anatoly, with the order to inform him that "Feofil has demised; toll the bell." The cell-mate obeyed and related the Starets' words to Anatoly. In the heat of the moment, Father Anatoly did not comprehend all that was said and hurried to send the bell-ringer to the belfry to inform the brotherhood of the repose of the Righteous One. But suddenly, he thought of some-thing and asked:

"Who did you say sent you to me?"

"Batiushka Feofil."

"That means that he uttered this request with his own lips?"

"His own..."

"Then how do you know that he has already died?"

And he hurried to the cell of the Blessed One to find out what had happened to him.

Meanwhile, Dmitry was left alone in the cell and, not knowing what to do, began to adjust the candles so that they would not burn the lintel. He did not leave the head of the bench upon which the dying Starets lay and he quietly wept. It was difficult for him to face the impending separation from his beloved spirituaI father under whose prayerful wing he had lived so warmly. He stood silently, with lowered head, at the death bed, listening to the last instructions of his dear teacher and he broke into loud sobs, endlessly kissing his hands. Suddenly, something flashed before his gaze and a current of cool air struck his face. Dmitry looked upwards in amazement and became petrified. In the cell, the ceiling began to rise and the blue sky, as if extending its arms, was preparing to receive the holy soul of the dying Righteous One.

"O Lord, into Thy hands I yield my spirit," said the dying Starets, in a scarcely audible whisper and in an instant, inexorable death forever closed his God-praising lips.

Dmitry could not control himself but began to tremble and with a loud cry of desperate amazement, he ran, in fear, into the courtyard. While running through the monastery gate, he collided with the superior, Father Anatoly, and the other cell-mate who were on their way to the cell of the Blessed One to see what had happened.

When they entered the cell, everything was as it had been before. The ceiling had descended and was resting in its proper place. Starets Feofil was lying motionless on the bench, his emaciated hands folded on his breast. The face of the deceased Righteous One shone with heavenly grace and death could not place its gloomy stamp on the grace-adorned face of the Blessed Starets. No sooner had he released his last breath than an un-definable fragrance filled the cell. Thus, he yielded up his life quietly and at peace and handed over his righteous soul into the hands of God on October 28, 1853, on the feast Day of the Nun-Martyr, Paraskeva, who is called Pyatnitsa, at five o'clock in the afternoon.

The burial

News of the repose of the Blessed Feofil brought great crowds of people to the Kitayevskaya Hermitage, not only from Kiev and the outlying settlements, but also from other cities in the region. The dense crowd surrounded the coffin of the deceased Starets in a tight ring and the walls of the Kitayevskaya Church resounded with the uninterrupted singing of services for the repose of his righteous, much-suffering soul. Each person wanted to pay his last respects to the departed and to touch, if not his body, then at least his coffin or to take as a remembrance and blessing some-thing from his garments or from his cell. And the coffin of the Starets was completely covered with wax candles which were stuck to the sides by his numerous followers.

Few people wept. Everyone stood with calm faces, breaking the pious silence only with deep sighs of contrition about their endless sins.

"It is not with weeping that we bid farewell at the death of the holy ones," says St. Basil the Great, "but in triumphant praising we rejoice at their coffins, because, for the righteous, death is a sleep or, rather to say, their departure is to a better life." Thus it was here. Each person consciously felt that, although the Starets had demised, although he had left for the Heavenly Father, he did not take away with him the love for the living. Although he passed away in body, in spirit he remained on earth with those true to him.

"Stop, behold, and learn!" the unbreathing body of the Blessed Starets Feofil advised those surrounding it. "Leave the vanity of this world for its wells are useless, they cannot hold within themselves saving water. Yesterday, my eyes saw, my ears heard, my lips spoke, and my body moved. But the spirit of life has left it and what is now before you? And so remember my friend, to live in fear for all our earthly life is nothing but a daily death. Yesterday, we were not as we are today. Tomorrow we will not be as today. Each day, a part of our life vanishes and at the very time when we are growing, life is receding and diminishing. Your brother has died today and tomorrow you will die. The route is the same for all. All the earth is sown with bones of the deceased like a field of wheat and the living cannot find a spot upon which to step without disturbing with their feet the remains of the deceased. Do not seek delights for sight and hearing, for tomorrow your eyes will close and your ears will stop hearing. Do not give will to your hands' and feet. Tomorrow the hand of death will bind them and you yourself will be welded to your death-bed from which you will rise. Do not desire splendid clothing or grand houses, for tomorrow you will be clothed in a shroud and a coffin will be your house. Do not desire rewards and distinction, for they will be displayed only temporarily near your coffin, as if laughing at your vainglory. Do not tie yourself down to the earth or to anything earthly, for tomorrow the scythe of death will sever all such ties and against your will and desire, you will go to the distant country of another world where everything is different and will remind you of nothing of your earthly riches and treasures. Keep vigil and hurry to settle over there in good time in thought and heart so that at that hour when you are led to this region, you will not find yourself in a strange place, unfamiliar with the order there."

In accordance with the orders of the departed Starets, his emaciated body was garbed in his schema and placed in that old coffin in which he had asked to be buried. The burial was ceremoniously carried out by the deputy of the Lavra, Archimandrite Ioann (who later became Bishop of Poltava), together with the superior of the hermitage, Hieromonk Anataly and many startsy, with the participation of the kliros singers of the Lavra under the direction of the regulator, Hieromonk Modest. The Holy Trinity Church and the entire monastery yard were full of worshippers. Before the beginning of the last kissing, the deputy of the Lavra gave a touching, deeply edifying oration and upon completing it, the coffin, with the dear remains of the reposed Righteous One, the beloved spiritual father of all, was carried from the Church into the monastery yard. The weather on that day was wonderful — warm, quiet, sunny, and bright. There was not the least breeze in the air and the wax candles in the hands of the worshippers burned brightly with peaceful flames as if testifying that the soul of the deceased Starets, like a bright, unflickering candle, was now standing before the face of Vladika, the Lord Himself. The funeral procession was made around the Holy Trinity Church, preceded by banner-bearers, and the Holy Gospel. Then the coffin was lowered into the bowels of the earth while the bells of the Kitayevskaya Hermitage tolled and "Holy God" was sung.

The grave of Hieroschemamonk Feofil, fool-for-Christ's-sake, is located in the Kitayevskaya Hermitage near the Holy Trinity Church on the northern side next to the grave of the Kievo-Lavra eremite Dosifei. On its tombstone are inscribed the following words:

"Here lie the remains of Hieroschemamonk Feofil who was tonsured into monkhood in the Kievo-Bratsky Bogoyavlensky Monastery in 1821, on December 11; ordained hierodeacon on September 30, 1822; ordained hieromonk on January 6, 1827;(6) tonsured into the schema on December 9, 1834, there (at the Kievo-Bratsky Monastery). And deceased in the Holy Trinity Kitayev-skaya Hermitage on October 28, 1853, in the sixty-fifth year from his birth. O Lord, settle his soul in the dwellings of the righteous and grant that his memory be eternal."

Hieroshemamonk Feofil was rather tall. His light face and bright blue eyes did not at all harmonize with the sullen countenance which he sometimes took on himself in dealing with people. He had a short, narrow beard which he did not cut but rather, he pulled hairs out of it. He spoke in a monotone and quite quickly, usually using the Little-Russian dialect. No-one ever saw him laughing, but often weeping and these constant tears, like expensive beads, served as atonement before the eyes of th e Lord for the multitude of our sins.

Still helping

The memory of Blessed Feofil's God-pleasing life and wonderful deeds did not cease with his demise. He is still quick and incessant in giving help in illness and grief to all who call to him. This is eloquently witnessed to by the numerous panikhidas which are still sung at the grave of the deceased Rightous One at the request of various people who come from the remotest corners of Russia. Many of the sick and afflicted, for whom human help was powerless, were convinced in dreams to turn to Blessed Feofil in their prayers and through their faith, they were worthy to receive healing.

Here are only two of the many incidents which were related to the compiler:

l. A Greek doctor from Jerusalem suffered from gout and was confined to a wheelchair for several years and he had no hopes of recovering. Once, Starets Feofil appeared to him in a dream and said: "Go to Kiev, pay reverence to the saints and then go to the Kitayevskaya Hermitage and have a Panikhida served at my grave and you will be healed. I am Hieroschemamonk Feofil."

The Greek paid no attention to the dream, but on the following night, the same thing occurred. On the third night Feofil appeared and sternly demanded that his directions be fulfilled. The doctor awoke in fear and gave his oath to make the journey. He immediately felt a certain easing so that he could already walk on crutches instead of using his wheelchair.

He arrived in Kiev in 1882, accompanied by his wife, but not knowing the Russian language, he turned to Metropolitan Platon for aid. The Metropolitan directed him to Kitayev and told him to have a panikhida served at the grave of Starets Feofil. The doctor complied with this, then venerated the relics of the holy saints of the Lavra and left for home completely cured.

2. Matfei Vasilievich Kocherzhinsky, a native of the Kiev-Podol province, related the following details in a dreain:

"In 186? I entered the M-- Monastery. At that time I was still a young lad and my heart was filled with strong zealousness for monastic podvigs and toils, but I was without the guidance of an experienced supervisor-starets and it was very difficult for me to reach my goal. I was very much grieved in spirit about this, being carried away in thought to the days of the ancient desert life when each beginning monk had his own experienced starets-instructor. Having prayed fervently, I decided to give myself up to God's will and the Lord heard me.

One night while I was in my cell sleeping serenely, a tall, old schemamonk appeared before me. He had a cane in his hand and, walking up to my bed, he said:

'Is this how you are conquering your lascivious passions, Matfei? Is this how you, are preparing to be Christ's warrior? Is this how you are starting your salvation? No, that is not the way, not like that! This is how...' And with these words, he threw my quilt onto the floor, then my pillow and my sheet and so on. I awoke in confusion. Beads of perspiration ran down my brow. My feet and arms were trembling. My heart trembled and beat rapidly.

'My God, who is it? Where am I?' I thought crossing myself. In the morning I gave my bed away to the needy and decided, from that day on, to sleep on the bare floor, placing a small roll of felt under my head. Some time passed but the stern starets did not leave my mind. Whether I was working or just walking, his accusations weighed on my soul. I once encountered one of the young monks, Pavel, the candle-maker, who was very friendly towards me. He asked me to visit him for a cup of tea and when I arrived, we sat down to converse. Suddenly my gaze, which had been roaming over the walls, stopped on the portrait of an old starets and having taken a good look at it, I became dumbfounded.

'It is he!!' my lips whispered. 'Yes, he! This is the very same starets who appeared to me in a dream — who is he?'

The master of the cell quickly explained about the portrait of Blessed Feofil and in a minute, I was kissing the portrait with grateful lips. Soon, I had a copy made which hangs in my cell above my sleeping place and there it will hang until the end of my life as an obvious, graphic accuser of human whims and passions and a constant witness that man needs very little while he as an earth.

With those words, my interlocutor brought out the portrait of Blessed Feofil and we sank into deep, silent contemplation.


(4) The finding of this icon occured in the 1840's under the following circumstances:

An ill peasant woman from Voronezh province arrived at the Lavra and stated that the Mother of God had appeared to her in a dream and ordered her to go to the Lavra to find the "Chenstokhovskaya" icon of herself which would be found in oblivion in the bread-house. "If you have a molieben served before the icon, then you will be cured," said the Queen of Heaven. On the persistent requests of the woman, the Lavra monks made a careful search and, indeed, amongst some old things preserved in the store-room, the icon was found. The ill woman immediately had a molieben served before it and went home completely recovered. From that time, the icon was placed, with honour, on the wall and many cures were granted to those who came to her with faith. A child from the town of Kotelva in Kharkov province, Gregory Krivusha, suffered from tormenting rheumatism for five years. His father vowed to have an expensive silver mounting made for the icon if his child was healed. The child was cured and the grateful father ordered an expensive silver mounting from Moscow for the icon in 1867 and had Archimandrite Levky and the monk Amfilokhy construct an expensive gilded, carved icon case for it.

(5) Ivan Ivanovich Troitsky had graduated from the Tver Ecclesiastical Seminary and wandered for more than fifty years. Just before his death, he fasted and took communion at the Sophia Monastery for women in Rybinsk. Then, the ill man, accompanied by his spiritual father, went to Moscow where he stayed with strangers. The mistress of the house became concerned about the condition of his health and feared that something unfortunate might happen to him, but Ivan Ivanovich said, "Don't worry, my dear woman, because angels will be in your home for six weeks. A certain Feodor Feodorovich will come from Bezhetsk for me." After this, the ill man, disregarding his extreme weakness, went to the all-night vigil from which he was brought back unconscious. He awakened at 7 A.M. in bed and asked, "For which liturgy are they ringing the bells?" He was answered with, "For the early one, but lie until the late one and we will wake you up." The ill man fell asleep again, but he no longer woke up. Informed about the death of the starets-wanderer, the merchant Feodor Feodorovich came to Moscow and took the body to Bezhesk for burial.

(6) This conflict in date appears in the original. On page 13 the date of Feofil's ordination is given as February 6, 1827. The translators could not correct this error, not knowing which one is accurate.

From: Hieroschemamonk Feofil, Fool-for-Christ's-Sake, Ascetic and Visionary of the Kiev-Caves Lavra. Compiled by Vladimir Znosko.