Life of Hieroschemamonk Feofil Part 9

The life of, Fool-for-Christ's sake, blessed Hieroschemamonk, Feofil (Theophilus). Chapter 9.

Chapter 9

Dislike of money

It is said that the Blessed One's dislike of money was amazing. The Starets was tied to nothing. He never took money, or if he did accept it on the strong request of the zealous, he would give it all away to the poor and wretched. One generous noblewoman offered him a sizable sum for distributing to the poor. Not wishing to offend her by refusing, the Blessed One accepted her gift but as soon as she had departed, he threw the money out the door of his cell and thus set his mind at rest. This action was seen by greedy ones who, taking advantage of the Starets' simpleness, pocketed the gold.

Countess Orlova-Chesmenskaya once met Feofil at the gates of the Lavra and asked: "Father Feofil! I am going away today. Tell me, what can I buy you, as a keepsake?"

The Starets glanced at her, smiled, and gave her some cryptic reply. Orlova did not understand his words but when she asked others about this, it became clear that the Starets had asked that he be brought a shtoff (1.2 litres) of vodka. By this answer, he gave her to understand that all earthly possessions and gifts were as disdainful for him as a shtoff of vodka.

Praying on damp ground

Another time, the tender-hearted Abbess Agnia of the Kievo-Florovsky Monastery heard that the Starets often prayed standing on the damp ground of the woods and she felt sorry for him.

"My God! How is it that he spends entire days on damp ground, praying for us sinners? We must give this pious man a little rug."

She ordered her cell-mates to sew a fine rug and when it was finished, she sent it to the Blessed One through his own sister, the postulant, Anna Novichkova. The Starets accepted the rug in order not to offend Agnia. But on the following day he set out for the woods, took the little rug with him, spread it on the ground, sat on it for a minute or two and then threw it aside and departed, leaving the rug behind on the grass. Understandably, someone soon took the abandoned gift since it was of excellent quality. The Starets, however, quickly ceased even thinking about it.

The worn out schema vestments

Among Feofil's admirers were two high-ranking field officers, Mikhail Dmitrievich Pozdniak, an officer in the Kiev administration of the Governor-General, and his friend, also a brilliant officer. Every week on Sundays and holidays, the two of them would visit the Starets, have dinner in his cell and spend the entire day in soul-saving talks.

Once, these two friends decided to play a harmless joke on the Blessed One. They secretly took his worn out schema vestments and ordered new ones in the city. The Starets was extremely grieved and regretted the loss, and when the two culprits of the theft personally brought him both the old and the new schemas, he said with a smile:

"Jokers! What did you do this for? Don't you see that you have almost led me into sin? I began to prepare for prayers to the King, but I didn't have my schema. I wanted to perform a service in church, but I didn't have my old one."

"But put on the new one! Your old one isn't suitable."

"Mockers! Who would appear to be reviewed by the Tsar with out wearing his decorations and full regalia? What rewards have I merited in this new schema, while on the old one some things even stand in beauty?"

Not putting on the new schema even once, he sent it to the vestry of the Far Caves.

Secret charity

And here is an example of the secret charity of the Blessed One.

There lived in the Lavra a postulant who was serving his obedience in the Novopasechny orchard. Upon attaining his maturity, he was called into the military service as a recruit. He was judged suitable for service and inducted. The young ascetic of piety was overwhelmed with grief at his impending separation from the cloister. He could not buy his way out of the service, because he had no money. (At that time, a recruit could pay for his obligated service instead of serving himself. This cost up to 1,000 rubles).

He happened to meet Starets Feofil soon after this and the Blessed One looked at him intently and said:

"Why have you become sad, soldier? Because you don't want to serve the earthly king? You want to become employed for service to the Heavenly King?"

"Oh, I'm not worthy of this mercy from God. There is no place for me a sinner, in this holy cloister of the Lavra," the postulant said and tears poured from his eyes like hail.

"Well, well, don't weep, don't grieve, brother. You will remain living in the Lavra," the Blessed One said, and went on his way.

Three days later, Countess Orlova Zhesmenskaya came to Kiev on a pilgrimage and, having finished her podvig of worship, she went to see Starets Feofil in order to take confession with him. She did not find him in his cell but seeing Feofil in the courtyard, she set out towards him. Having guessed Orlova's intention, the Blessed One decided to test her humility and, as if he had not noticed her, he quickly set out for the woods. Orlova did not wish to lose sight of the Starets because it was not always easy to find him, so she began to follow him. The Starets increased his pace. Orlova did the same. Making sharp turns and detours so that Orlova would lose sight of him, Feofil would again appear in the distance. The Blessed One was heading for the Novopasechny orchard and, having entered the wicket-gate, he quickly disappeared from her view.

The anxious countess had lost Feofil's track and so she stopped in confusion. To her good fortune, that same postulant-recruit was sitting near the gate and she walked up to him with the question: "Tell me, please. Did Father Feofil pass through here?"

"He has just entered the orchard," the postulant replied, bowing respectfully and he opened the gate in front of the countess.

"Allow me..." Forgetting herself from joy, Orlova took a handful of gold coins from her purse and gave it to the postulant in gratitude.

The money was not only sufficient for the paying out of the recruit's service requirement, but there was some left over for his other needs as well.

A blessed Marriage

Starets Feofil was so famous in the Kiev region that hardly a single simple, pious, and God-loving person in the area would begin his own affairs without first seeking the advice and direction of the Starets. Rarely would a wedding begin without his blessing. Each person would accept, without question, the word of the Starets, even if it was stern and uncomfortable for the hearer, and they would carry out his advice in exactness, as a prophetic voice from heaven.

There lived in Kiev a broker, Ivan N. In his youth, when he was serving as a salesman in some store, he had decided to marry. For a long time he searched for the girl of his dreams, and then, at a merchants' convention, his gaze lighted on Liubochka Z. The broker's fate was decided. He would propose to Liubochka. He got dressed in his finest clothing, went to her parents' home and declared his intentions. He received this answer from the girl's mother:

"Our Liubochka is already engaged. Her fiance is the young man Hendrick M. Although he is of the Lutheran faith, we can-not go back on our given word..."

"Oh, my God! But I love your daughter madly!"

"Well, what can be done? It's a pity that you did not speak of this earlier."

The broker was a very intelligent, business-like person, while the German was flighty but rich. Liubocka's parents, hearing the proposal of the broker, gathered their relatives to their home and held a consultation but the majority of them spoke in favour of the German. But before arranging the wedding, they decided to visit Starets Feofil. They brought some rolls, bread, incense, and candles and set out for the cell of the Blessed One. When they arrived, the Starets opened the door for them and welcomed every-one, but, not allowing the visitors to utter a word, he said:

"Ivan, Ivan. Don't dare to give her away to that blockhead Hendrick!"

The parents heeded, Liubochka married the broker and was happy all her life.

Another blessed Marriage

And there was another occasion. The widowed landowner, Fekla Tarasova, had a beautiful young daughter, Anna. Two suitors sought her in marriage. One was handsome, stately, good-natured, and prone to drink and carouse. The other had a small pox scarred face and was sullen, but of gentle and reliable nature. The first lived in Dimievka, a suburb of Kiev, the second, in the little town of Myshelovka. Anna was madly in love with the handsome one but totally indifferent towards the second one and refused point-blank to marry him. Her mother, on the other hand, insisted that she marry the one from Myshelovka.

They set out to Kitayev for the Starets' advice. The Blessed One, saying not a word, gave Anna a yoke with pails and ordered her to bring some water from Dimievka. The maiden fulfilled the order. The Blessed One poured the water into a barrel standing under the drain-pipe and again gave Anna the pails with an order to go to Myshelovka for water this time. The water was brought in half an hour.

"Where was it more difficult to bring it from?" the Starets asked the maiden.

"From Dimievka," Anna answered. "It is far from here, but it is closer to Myshelovka."

"Well remember then. The pails on the shoulder represent your life. If you listen to your mother and marry the one from Myshelovka, then your life will be light. But if you marry the one from Dimievka, you will curse your entire life from woe and needs."

Convinced by these words, Anna heeded her mother's advice and, having married the man from Myshelovka, she never repented this in her entire life.

Disobedience ends in failure

But once it was just the opposite. The Starets advised a youth to marry a certain young widow, but the young man married a maiden whom he himself had chosen.

"Why bother listening to such an old man?" he said to his comrades. "The old monk won't find out anyway."

When, in a week's time the young couple came to Kitayev, they went to see the Starets for his blessing. Feofil met them on the threshold of his cell and instead of his blessing, the newly-weds received an old, worn out basket, on the bottom of which was a pile of rubbish and on top lay two apples. Not being able to understand this, the young people went to the Kitayev spiritual father for an explanation. The spiritual father listened to them and said:

"Two fresh apples — that is you. The pile of rubbish under them — that is the unfortunate life under you."

And, in fact, not even a year passed before the young couple began to quarrel and finally separated.

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