Life of Hieroschemamonk Feofil Part 8

The life of, Fool-for-Christ's sake, blessed Hieroschemamonk, Feofil (Theophilus). Chapter 8.

Chapter 8

Metropolitan Philaret

Metropolitan Philaret was completely to reverse his view of the Blessed One. Up until this time he had doubted the holy life and forevision attributed to Feofil but his eyes were soon to be opened.

As it is well known, the prayer rule of Vladika Filaret was exceptionally lengthy and took six to seven hours to complete.

"I don't understand," he had said in his personal talks with the Lavra startsy, "how older people in general, and monks in particular, can lead their lives if they have not acquired a taste for prayer and the practice of praying. It must be unusually difficult and lonely for them. Therefore, oh how necessary it is for everyone not wishing to spend their old age in dreariness to become used to prayer early in life."

And he himself was the first to put his own advice into strict practice.

The large Tree

It once occurred that Vladika's presence was urgently required in Kitayev. Troubled with some heavy matters the night before, he arose half an hour later than usual and hurried through his morning routine so as not to be late for his appointment in Kitayev. While he was reading the morning prayer-rule, his cell-mate, Hieromonk Nazary, came into the chapel and reported that the carriage was already waiting at the door to take him on his journey. Vladika could not delay his departure and so had no time to complete his prayers. He called for his cassock, and quickly departed. Within half an hour the carriage had entered the Kitayev woods and Metropolitan Filaret lowered the carriage window, avidly breathing in the wonderful aroma of the fresh morning air. Suddenly his gaze stopped on a large tree standing nearby. There, at its top sat Feofil, peacefully reading a prayerbook.

"What are you doing there?" shouted the amazed Vladika.

"I am finishing the reading of my cell-rule," Feofil quietly answered from above.

"What? What did you say? Speak louder! I can't hear you!"

"I said I am finishing the reading of my cell-rule!" the Blessed One shouted at the top of his voice. "I had no time at home. The trip interfered, but at least I can finish along the way!"

"Yes, yes, yes. You are talking about me," Vladika guessed at once. "Well, thank you, you culprit, for having advised an old man like me. Come on down quickly. I will finish reading it myself."

After this incident, the Metropolitan became very interested in the Starets and began to observe him attentively. He decided to visit the Starets in his cell in order to reach a final conclusion concerning the unjust slanders brought against him. The Metropolitan would set out for Feofil's cell often, but each time Feofil tried to prevent Vladika from engaging in idle curiosity. Once the Starets even walled up to the door of his cell with brushwood and smeared it with clay so that the Metropolitan was forced to turn back.

The Metropolitan visits Feofil

Finally, Vladika, accompanied by his cell-mate, managed to arrive and find Feofil at home. The Blessed One received the high guest very cordially, seating him on the little bench while he went about preparing the samovar. When the water began to boil, he carried the samovar over to the centre of the room, put it on the floor and placed an earthenware bowl under the tap. Then he took the Archpastor's wooden staff and looked at it attentively from all sides.

"And what is this stick worth?" the Blessed One asked, looking at Vladika.

"It's worth nothing," replied the Metropolitan.

"No," said the Starets. "It's worth all of twenty-five rubles."

And with these words he placed the staff on the bowl which was standing under the samovar, removed the tap and threw it into the corner. The water ran out onto the staff, filled the bowl and overflowed onto the floor. Vladika stood up in great confusion, walked across the wet floor and hurried out of the cell.

The walk

Several days passed. It was June and the weather was bright and pleasant. Vladika decided to go for a walk in the woods alone. His manner of dress was such that he looked almost no different from the monks at Goloseyevo. He wore only a simple cassock and cap, carried a plain walking stick in one hand and a Gospel or Apostle in the other. He looked more like a monastery starets than a Metropolitan.

Near the end of the Goloseyevo woods there was a knoll and there, near a fence, stood a plain garden bench on which Vladika always rested. This was Vladika's favourite place because from here there was such a magnificent view; both the city and the Lavra were spread out before the eyes. Enjoying the solitude, the Metropolitan used to sit here for hours at a time, and lifting his saintly hands to heaven, he would send up his secret prayers for the well-being of those living in the holy city and the Pecherskaya Lavra.

The thief

This time he wished to perform his usual prayer and knelt down, but just then a man with a club approached him from behind the bushes and, pointing to his cudgel, he asked the Metropolitan:

"And what is this stick worth?"

Vladika wanted to bless him, but the stranger quickly made his aim known:

"Don't bother, just give me what you have of value."

The Metropolitan peacefully pulled out his purse in which there were twenty-five rubles and said, while handing it over:

"Well, brother, I'm sorry for you. There is very little here."

But when Vladika had drawn the flaps of his cassock in order to pull out the purse, the robber had noticed a gold watch with a chain.

"If there is so little here, then give me your watch and chain as well."

Vladika peacefully fulfilled the demand.

"Aha!" said the stranger. "It seems to be gold."

"What of it?" Vladika began. "It would be to your advantage, brother. . ."

"How is it that you are a monk, but you have a gold watch? Or perhaps you are not an ordinary monk? Perhaps you are a treasurer or something like that?"

"No, I am not a treasurer."

"Then who are you?"

"To tell the truth, I am called Metropolitan."

"Metropolitan!!" the stranger cried dumbfounded.

"Well, yes. What is it, my dear one, that makes you so alarmed? The Lord be with you."

The stranger fell at his feet.

"Well, brother, get up and accompany me home and please don't be afraid of anything."

As they approached the herrnitage, Vladika turned to speak to the unfortunate one:

"It would be wise, brother, if you gave me back the watch and chain. You see, it is engraved with my name. Who knows what trouble you may get into when you try to sell them. It would be better if you stayed here a while. You can join us as a wanderer and I'll even add some money."

The stranger gave back the watch and Vladika proceeded on to the cottage. Meeting his cell-mate, Father Sergei, in the porch, he ordered him to go quickly to the gate where he would find a wanderer who had been kind enough to accompany him, and invite him in. The cell-mate went beyond the gates, but the stranger had vanished. "What an unkind person," the Metropolitan said. "Well, may the Lord be with hirn."

Feofil's prediction fulfilled

Having sat down for a while and gathered his composure somewhat, Vladika sent for Feofil and when he appeared, Filaret pointed his hand to his walking stick and said with a smile:

"Your prediction was fulfilled, Feofil. The stick is worth not less than twenty-five rubles. But that is not terrifying my friend. What is terrifying is that the malefactor could have let as much blood out of me as you had let boiling water out of the samovar."

"Wondrous are Thy works, O Lord!" the Blessed One answered with his favorite saying.

The Metropolitan is finally convinced

In conclusion, I will relate one more incident which finally convinced Metropolitan Filaret that Starets Feofil was not an ordinary person and that his soul was filled by the grace and gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Once, while riding through the woods in a carriage, Vladika ordered the coachman to turn off to Kitayev and, having stopped there for an hour or so, he set out for the cell of the superior of the hermitage in order to speak with him on some matters. On the way, Starets Feofil met him and instead of asking for the Metropolitan's blessings, he took a charred log from under his cassock and threw it at Vladika's feet. The other people around were astonished and thought that the Archpastor would become angered and it would turn out badly for Feofil. But the Metropolitan appeared to take no notice of the incident and continued on his way as if nothing had happened.

Soon after this, Vladika was again in Kitayev and, meeting Feofil in the monastery courtyard, stopped him and said:

"Well, mischievous one, I have not been in your cell for a long time. Today, after the liturgy, I'll drop in to your place for tea. Only see that you don't treat me with the same kind of tea as you did the last time."

"You are welcome, Your Eminence," answered the Starets, bowing to the ground before the Archpastor.

We do not know for certain whether the Metropolitan merely wanted to talk with the Blessed One or, remembering the charred log thrown under his feet, wanted to discover from him the significance of this act, but the fact is that after leaving the church at the end of the liturgy, Vladika went directly to Feofil.

And how did the Blessed One receive him? Upon returning to his cell, he immediately ordered his cell-mate to fill a barrel with water and then add sand to it. When a fairly good "gruel" was thus obtained, the Blessed One smeared the walls of his dwelling with the mud, also the door and door-post and then he spread the mud thickly on the floor. He then covered himself with mud and sat down on the stool in the middle of the room, solemnly awaiting his high guest.

In half an hour the door to the cell opened and the Metropolitan, having stepped in, stopped near the threshold in amazement.

Mud and disorder were everywhere and the master of the cell did not look like a monk but like someone who had just climbed out of a smoke-pipe.

"What is this?" the Archpastor asked angrily.

"Have no doubts, Your Eminence. Please. It's like this after the fire. I had a fire and I kept watering and watering it and so I became dirty."

The angered Archpastor threw a scornful glance at Feofil and retreated hastily. But just before he sat down in his carriage to depart, Feofil's cellmate, Ivan, ran up to him and presented him with three bottles of water.

"From whom is this? What is it for?" the Metropolitan asked.

"From Starets Feofil, Your Eminence. He ordered me to give this present to you and tell you that it will come in handy to pour on the charred log."

"To pour on the charred log? What is all this now? And what did he pour into these bottles? Try it!"

"Water," replied the cell-mate, "plain water, holy Vladika."

"Plain water?"

"Truly it is, Your Eminence."

"Well, place it in front of the coachman. It is evident that the culprit wanted to prophesy something."

The fire

Several weeks passed during late autumn. At twelve o'clock midnight on 18-19 November, 1844, Roman Baranov, a postulant at the Lavra, lighted the stove in the prosphora bakery, and together with the other postulants, began preparing the dough for baking prosphora. The supervisor of the prosphora bakery, ryasaformonk Vasily Titov and the general supervisor of the bakery, ryasaformonk Leonid Zatvorny, were preparing to partake of the Holy Mysteries and set out for matins. Upon leaving the church, they went to their cells to read the appointed prayers.

Suddenly, at three o'clock in the morning, the watchman, a postulant of the bakery, Iosif Alferov, noticed the pungent smell of smoke while walking along the corridor dividing the prosphora bakery from the main bakery. Alferov ran to investigate the back part of the courtyard where the wood was kept and where the wooden outbuildings stood, but finding nothing amiss, he glanced through the keyhole of a door which led up a ladder into the attic and saw a raging fire. He grabbed for the key but when he opened the door, the smoke hit him in the face with such force that Alferov recoiled in fear. On closer examination, it could be seen that the wooden scaffold had caught fire near the horizontal flue which led from the stove of the prosphora bakery to the smoke stack. The brothers came running with buckets and strove to extinguish the fire, but their efforts were hampered by the inconvenience of the route to the fire and because of the arrangement of the metal roof. The fire grew stronger and stronger and soon encompassed the entire prosphora bakery. To complete the misfortune, such a strong storm was raging that night that burning wood was carried all the way to Podol and even as far as the Florovsky Monastery.

On the morning of 19 November, the fire spread still farther and penetrated under the metal roof of the Lavra printing shop. The frightened Metropolitan, seeing that the fire was increasing in size and was threatening not only the remaining buildings, but the Great Lavra Church itself, no longer hoped in the weak power of humans. He ordered the doors of the Great Church to be opened and he went there to pray. For a long time he knelt praying tearfully before the holy miraculous icon of the Dormition of the Mother of God, and he called to her in a loud voice, beseeching her help and intercession. After a while he arose, exhausted.

A sacristan had entered the church and stood at a respectful distance.

"Well, what is it?" the Metropolitan asked with a trembling voice.

"Glory be to God!" answered the sacristan. "By your holy prayers the Lavra is saved."

The Metropolitan crossed himself and sighed with relief. Then he walked out of the church and set out for the sight of the inferno. A large gathering of police, firemen, serfs, and armoury and garrison commands had been working together and the fire slowly began to die down. In several hours the flames in the printing shop and other buildings were completely extinguished.

The losses in buildings from the Lavra fire were quite insignificant since only the roofing had burnedwhile the walls remained intact. But when the losses of the huge storage of books and printing machines were calculated, the sum was quite significant, about 80,000 rubles (Archives of the Kievo-Pecherskaya Lavra, Matter No. 2520).

The chambers of the Goloseyevskaya cottage

After this event, Vladika became so attached in spirit to the Blessed One, that, as proof of his esteem and love, he placed Feofil together with Hieroschemamonk Parfeny and himself in the chambers of the Goloseyevskaya cottage.

"I have only the two of you. You — a schematic, Parfeny — a schematic, and I — a schematic, we shall live in the name of the All-Holy Trinity," said the Metropolitan with a fatherly tenderness, to the Blessed One while settling him into the cottage. (We may note that seventeen years before his repose in God, the Arch-pastor Filaret took the great angelic image, the schema, with the name of Feodosy and he guarded this secretly to the last days of his life.)

But the Blessed One had no desire to prolong this close contact, and on the first convenient occasion brought such dampness and mud into the room that he damaged the wallpaper and the painted floor, and he introduced a mass of insects into the living quarters. Not a day went by when he did not throw out some "thing." In addition, when they would all three sit down to eat, Feofil tried to spill as much as possible on the table cloth, for which purpose he would sometimes upset his dish on the table as if by accident, and thus force Vladika and Father Parfeny to leave the table early. If this was insufficient, he pretended to be ill and began to hiccough loudly and often, trying in this way to spoil Vladika's appetite. The Starets annoyed Parfeny by putting on Parfeny's boots at night, leaving only a pair of bast sandals or felt boots in their place. Then he would disappear into the woods for the entire day. Or else, in the middle of a peaceful night when all the inhabitants of the cottage were sleeping deeply, he would leap from the bed and sing at the top of his voice "Behold the Bridegroom cometh at midnight, and the wise servant stands waiting to greet him..."

As if it were not enough, from the very first day of his arrival at the cottage, not regarding that it was summer, Feofil commenced heating the stove in his room, and he always did so just when Vladika was occupied with prayers or with his correspondence. Moreover, his fire let out so much pungent smoke that the cell-mates had to open doors, windows, and vents in order to air the rooms at least a little. Vladika would sit in the garden all this time in wearisome waiting.

Starets Parfeny usually conducted the early liturgy in the house-chapel of the Metropolitan's cottage, but often Feofil would appear there a quarter of an hour before his arrival and, having robed himself in his priestly vestments, he would commence the service with the sacristan. When Parfeny would arrive in church, he could only be a witness to the divine service, but could not participate in it. And Feofil, fool-for-Christ's-sake, did much more and by that he attracted large crowds of people.

Return to Kitayev

When Metropolitan Filaret saw, on the one hand, that pilgrims constantly massed near the porch of his cottage, impatiently waiting for the appearance of the beloved Starets Feofil, and, on the other hand he did not wish to cause himself and those with him the daily distractions of Feofil's actions, he no longer tried to keep the Starets with him. He finally called Feofil in after the morning tea and said:

"Well, brother Feofil, God blesses you. Get ready old sparrow, for your former nest in Kitayev. You will be freer there."

"Direct my steps according to your word," answered Feofil as he had always said when he was to be moved from one place to another, and having diligently prayed before the icons, he set out on the indicated path.

The Blessed One returned to Kitayev and lived there peacefully for a long time. No one complained about his way of life again and no one tried to end his foolish escapades. The hidden light was again placed on the candle-stand and began to shine on everyone.

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