The New Martyrs and Confessors
of Russia

by Vladimir Moss

Sergius Nilus
1862-1929

     "I was born," writes Sergius Alexandrovich Nilus about himself, "in 1862 (25 August), in a family which on my mother's side counted in its midst not a few advanced people - advanced in the spirit for which the 60s of what is now already the last century was distinguished.

     "My parents were nobles and landowners - major ones, moreover. It was perhaps because of their links with the land and the peasants that they escaped any extreme manifestation of the enthusiasms of the 70s. However, they could not escape the general, so to speak platonic-revolutionary spirit of the times, so great then was the allure of the ideas of egalitarianism, freedom of thought, freedom of thought, freedom... yes, perhaps freedom of action, too, which overcame everyone. It seems that at that time there was not one home of the nobility in both the capitals where the state structure of the Russian empire was not reshaped in its own model, according to the measure of its understanding and according to the last book it had read, first from "Sovremennik, and then Otechestvennye Zapisi or Vestnik Evropy. Of course, the hard food of conversations of a political character did not much help to develop in me religious dreams, as they were then called, and I grew up in complete alienation from the Church, uniting it in my childish imagination only with my old nanny, whom I loved to distraction.

     "Nevertheless, I did not know any prayers and entered a church only by chance; I learned the law of God from teachers who were indifferent, if not outrightly hostile, to the word of God, as an intractable necessity of the school's programme.

     "That was the degree of my knowledge of God when I, as a youth who was Orthodox in name, went to university, where they already, of course, had no time for such trivialities as Orthodoxy.

     "Left to my devices in the life of faith, I reached such an abominable degree of spiritual desolation as only that person can imagine who has lived in this spiritual stench and who has then, while on the path of his own destruction, been detained by the unseen hand of the benevolent Creator.

     "But under all the spiritual abomination which accumulated in the course of the years of the freedom of religious education in family, school and, finally, public life - the silent, but loved-filled lessons of Moscow, of the country and of nanny; the boundless Christian kindness of my mother, who ceaselessly did good to her neighbour with the meekness that belongs only to Christians - all this did not allow the spark to go out in my soul, the spark of dimly recognized love for God and His Orthodoxy - although, it is true, it hardly twinkled in my soul's darkness.

     "Quite a lot of time passed. How it was passed, or rather, conducted, it is terrible to say! Terrible, of course, for a Christian. In a word, I lived a gay life!

     "I had left the service a long time ago and had settled down to keep house in the country. One Holy Week, not having fasted for seven years or more, I fasted, as they say, after a fashion and received Communion. This was not without a feeling of false shame before my 'intellectuality', perhaps more out of condescension to the 'prejudices' of my lesser brethren, the peasants, who had elected me as church warden of our village church. However, when I received Communion I had what was for me a strange, incomprehensible, secret feeling of trembling, which for a long, long time I did not want to admit to myself. And after Communion I felt as if renewed, somehow more full of the joy of life: my soul experienced something which I had known a long time ago, which felt familiar; moreover, it was something inexplicably sweet and at the same time triumphant...

     "Something came to fruition in my soul: I began to be visited more often by a thirst for prayer, a thirst which I was not clearly conscious of and which was sometimes even violently drowned out by everyday cares..."

     In accordance with the call of his heart, Sergius Alexandrovich went to the Trinity - St. Sergius Lavra - the spiritual support of the throne and the homeland:

     "There were quite a lot of worshippers. The hieromonk on duty was serving a general moleben for everyone. I fell on my knees in front of the shrine containing the holy relics of St. Sergius and for the first time in my life surrendered to a wonderful feeling of prayer without cunning sophistries. I besought the saint to forgive my spiritual weakness, my lack of faith, my apostasy. Involuntary, grace-given tears welled up somewhere deep in my heart: I felt as if I had gone somewhere far away from myself, like the prodigal son, and had then returned into the bosom of the loving Mother-Church. These few hours spent under the roof of the holy monastery, this wonderful prayerful mood sent down from above through the prayers of the saint - all this accomplished such a turning-point in my spiritual life that in itself this turning-point was nothing other than a miracle quite openly accomplished over me. I came to believe. This was a deep, irrevocable faith in which Creator and creature are invisibly united into one, in which the reverent gratitude of the creature raises it to the very One Who has created it."

     But the enemy of the human race cannot leave even one soul in peace, still less one who is on the path of conversion. In this period of his life Sergius Alexandrovich experienced many trials, doubts, uncertainties, falls.

     "I was no longer the former man, but I had not yet become a new one. The world and its delights had lost their significance for me - I somehow became detached from people, but the emptiness left by them in my soul did not find its fulfilment. I was visited occasionally by a prayerful mood: I acquired a greater taste for reading the Holy Scriptures, and I rested my attention and meditations on them more often and more deeply than before. But I still could not tell myself with complete sincerity that my heart had found satisfaction for itself. I began to go to church more often, but neither in church did I find what I desired. This mental state continued for about a year."

     Sergius Alexandrovich heard about the great man of prayer John of Kronstadt and decided to meet him without fail. In February, 1900, when he had caught a cold and had lost his voice, Sergius Alexandrovich went to the House of the Love of Labour for an unforgettable meeting with God's righteous one. This is how he describes this visit:

     "I heard steps in the direction of my door... Someone pulled on the handle. 'Why is the door not open? Open it immediately!' sounded an authoritative voice, and with a quick, energetic stride batyushka entered my room. Behind him came the reader. Fr. John took me in in a glance... and what a glance that was! A piercing, penetrating glance like lightning which revealed all my past, and the wounds of my present, and pierced, as it seemed, even into my future! I felt so stripped that I began to be ashamed of myself and my nakedness... The reader bent towards Fr. John and said loudly: 'Batyushka, here is a gentleman from Orel province (at this point he pronounced my surname) who has come to seek your advice, but he has fallen ill and lost his voice.' 'A familiar name! How did you lose your voice? Did you catch a cold?'

     "In reply I could not utter even a sound - my throat was simply not up to it. Helpless and at a loss, I could only look at batyushka in despair. Fr. John gave me the cross to kiss, put it on the analogion, and then with two fingers of his right hand stroked my throat behind the collar of my shirt three times... My fever immediately left me, and my voice returned to me sounding fresher and purer than usual... It is hard to convey in words what took place in my soul then!

     "For more than half an hour, as I knelt at the feet of my longed-for comforter, I told him about my sorrows, opened to him the whole of my sinful soul and offered repentance for everything that lay like a heavy stone on my heart. That was the first true repentance in the whole of my life. For the first time with my whole being I understood the significance of the spiritual father as the witness of this great sacrament - a witness radically crushing, by the grace of God, the evil of the pride of sin and the pride of human self-love. For the first time I experienced with all my soul the sweetness of this repentance, for the first time I felt with all my heart that God, God Himself, was sending me His forgiveness through the lips of the pastor engraced by Him, when Fr. John said:

     "'God is very merciful - God will forgive.'

     "What ineffable joy I felt, with sacred trembling was my soul filled at these love-filled, all-forgiving words! That faith which so stubbornly had not been given to my soul, in spite of my evident conversion at the relics of St. Sergius, only flared up in me with a bright flame after this heart-felt confession of mine with Fr. John. I became conscious of myself as a believer and an Orthodox."

     Sergius Alexandrovich travelled much around Russia and its secret corners. He listened to and drank in every word that the simple people let fall - a word that may have seemed worthless, but which bore in itself the very essence of the Russian people and its hopes and joys, the spiritual strength of Orthodoxy. Often Sergius Alexandrovich - alone or with his wife, Helen Alexandrovna - stayed in Optina Hermitage. He lived for a long time in this last outpost of Russian monasticism. After these visits there poured out from under his pen the remarkable books entitled: Holiness under a Bushel, On the Banks of God's River, The Power of God and the Weakness of Man, The Optina Elder Theodosius. In these works Sergius Alexandrovich described with amazing simplicity and talent the piety of Optina, "the swansong of Russian monasticism", as Helen Kontzevich put it, not without some sorrow in her heart.

     In the book Holiness under a Bushel, Sergius Alexandrovich writes: "I offer to my pious readers materials consisting of vivid and lively examples of everyday life which clarify the true secret of the monastic mission and cast a bright light on the most secret corners of the monastic heart. They illuminate the inner cell life of the monk's soul, which in this material poured out his thoughts and feelings not for worldly honour and glory, not for the satisfaction of egotistical self-love, but spoke out of the abundance of his heart to himself and to his God." And at the end of the preface, sensing the approach of the terrible tragedy not only of Russia, but of the whole world, he speaks with pain about the untimely loss of the last lamp of Russian monasticism - Optina Hermitage and its inhabitants:

     What a lamp of reason has gone out.
     What a heart has ceased to beat.

     In his book, On the Bank of God's River, Sergius Alexandrovich writes: "After the publication of this book, I sent it as a gift to Bishop Theophanes of Poltava. In reply Vladyka wrote to me the following on November 24, 1915:

     "'Respected Sergius Alexandrovich! I thank you from the heart for taking thought for me by sending me your book, On the Bank of God's River. I read all your books with great interest and I completely share your views on recent events. The people of this age live by faith in progress and lull themselves with unrealizable dreams. Stubbornly and with a kind of cruelty they drive away from themselves the very thought of the end of the world and the coming of the Antichrist.

     "'Their eyes are spiritually blinded. Seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not understand. But the meaning of contemporary events is not hidden from the truly believing children of God. More than that: to those upon whom the goodwill of God rests will be revealed both the coming of the Antichrist and the end of this world... Therefore great are the merits of those who remind the people of this age of the coming great events. May the Lord help you to talk about this in the hearing of this world 'in season and out of season, with all long-suffering and exhortation' (II Tim. 4.2)!

     "'Your sincere admirer and intercessor, Bishop Theophanes.'

     "'May the Lord help you to talk about this in the hearing of this world' - these words of the bishop were fulfilled exactly in the years of the revolution. Such is the significance of a bishop's blessing and especially of such a bishop as Vladyka Theophanes."

     It is precisely to Sergius Alexandrovich that we are indebted for the discovery and deciphering of the "Conversation of St. Seraphim with Nicholas Alexandrovich Motovilov on the acquisition of the Holy Spirit".

     After the publication of the "Conversation" Sergius Alexandrovich recalled:

     "If only someone could have seen the state in which I acquired Motovilov's papers, which preserved in their hidden depths this valuable witness to the God-pleasing life of the holy elder! Dust, pebbles and dove's feathers, bird's droppings... All the papers were old, written on in a rapid and indecipherable hand, so indecipherable that I was simply horrified: what could I make out there?! Sifting through this chaos, bumping up against all kinds of obstacles - the handwriting, especially, was a stone of stumbling for me, - I remember almost giving way to despair. But then, amidst all this pulp, no, no, a phrase deciphered with difficulty would shine like a spark in the darkness: 'Batyushka Fr. Seraphim told me'... What did he tell? What did these uninterpreted hieroglyphs hide in themselves? I was in despair.

     "I remember that towards the evening of a whole day spent in stubbornly fruitless work, I could bear it no longer and cried out: Batyushka Seraphim! Did you give me the possibility of receiving the manuscripts of your 'lay brother' from such a distant spot as Diveyevo, in order that they should be consigned uninterpreted to oblivion? My cry must have been from the heart. In the morning, having set about deciphering papers, I suddenly found this manuscript and immediately received the ability to make out Motovilov's handwriting. You can well imagine my joy, and how significant seemed to me the words of this manuscript: 'I think,' Fr. Seraphim replied to me, 'that the Lord will help you to keep this forever in your memory, for otherwise His kindness would not have inclined so suddenly to my humble petition and would not have deigned to hearken so quickly to poor Seraphim, the more so since it is not given only to you to understand this, but through you to the whole world...'

     "For seventy long years this treasure lay under a bushel in trunks, amidst various forgotten rubbish. But was it meant to be published, and if so when? Before the very glorification of the holy relics of the God-pleaser!"

     Prince Nicholas Davidovich Zhevakov writes in his memoirs: "Sergius Alexandrovich did not think up or 'compose' anything. He preferred to live near the famous Russian monasteries and use the monastery libraries. He extracted from the wealthy monastic archives valuable material and reworked it."

     Being a truly Orthodox Christian, Sergius Alexandrovich fervently loved his own people and deeply understood the heavy burden of that time, sincerely experiencing it in his heart:

     "In our time, which is distinguished by extraordinary discoveries and inventions - all the so-called 'miracles' of technology with which light-minded humanity amuses itself as with brilliant trinkets, playing a dangerous game that loses for it, in the expression of Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov, the Heavenly Kingdom, - it is especially timely and useful for every believing Orthodox to oppose to all these 'false miracles and signs' the true miracles and signs worked by the Holy Spirit through the mediation of the vessels of grace chosen by Him - the saints who are pleasing to God.

     "Faith in miracles, the search for the miraculous that transcends the greyness of everyday life, and is raised above the sphere of that which is known by our five imperfect senses, is innate to the whole human race regardless of the various degrees of its spiritual development. The semi-savage cannibal searches for the satisfaction of this faith of his in shamanism, the educated theosophist - in brahmanism or yoga. The intellectual who has lost his faith hurls himself at the miracles of spiritism and hypnosis... The human race since time immemorial 'seeks signs and miracles'. For over seven thousand years now the fallen nature of mankind has been striving to find that which it lost in the fall... but cannot find it. Only true faith finds that which has been lost, and only through it are true signs and miracles given to those who search, who have been able with the help of the grace of God to preserve their faith in purity and who have not mixed with the work of faith the proud inventions of the inconstant and limited mind of man. That is how it has been in all ages. Such is now the particular spiritual condition of the majority of mankind, when the terrible times foretold by the apostle have arrived for it. People's spiritual eyes have been closed by their lack of faith or, more precisely, their apostasy from the faith, so that 'seeing they do not see and hearing they do not hear and understand'.

     "Man's chief good on earth - and almost his only one, one might add - is faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, in God in Trinity glorified. Without this faith our earthly life is not life, but senseless vegetation."

     No one was taken by surprise by the revolution of 1917 in Russia. Some prepared it, others prepared themselves for it. The catastrophe was inevitable. Sergius Alexandrovich considered it his Christian duty to warn not only the Orthodox people, but also the whole world, about the terrible times that were coming, just as before him Dostoyevsky had given warnings in his novel The Devils.

     In 1903 there appeared the first edition of his remarkable book, The Great in the Small, in the preface of which Sergius Alexandrovich wrote:

     "The great intercessor for the Russian land, Fr. John of Kronstadt, to whom this book was dedicated during his lifetime, and to whom I now dedicate to him as to a living person, said to me on July 14, 1903 in the Nikolo-Babayevsky monastery: 'Write: I like everything that you write.' 'For whom should I write it?' I was about to object. 'Who now reads such writings?' 'God gives the blessing,' replied Fr. John, ' - and they will buy it and read it.'

     It is by this blessing of the great pastor of Kronstadt that I explain to myself the completely unexpected spread of my sketches collected in the book and called The Great in the Small.

     This book is deeply Orthodox. During his wanderings round the monasteries, Sergius Alexandrovich had many conversations with the elders and spiritual lamps of Holy Russia. This book was written with spiritual fervour during these wanderings. And it is not simply an Orthodox book, but even, one could say, a Church book. S.A. Nilus approached the question of the signs foretelling the appearance of the Antichrist in a churchly manner, on the basis of the writings of the Holy Fathers. The apostolic word: "The mystery of iniquity in action" have since early times irritated the minds of men and forced them to be watchful with regard to the activity of this mystery; and this is the duty and obligation of all Orthodox people. It was only out of love for his neighbours that Sergius Alexandrovich warned them about the danger threatening the salvation of their souls.

     "What is in store for Russia?" asked Sergius Alexandrovich.

     "The events of contemporary world and Russian life, and also my dealings with people who have devoted their whole life and all their activity to the service in spirit and in truth, in the likeness and truth of real Christianity, have revealed to me something new, great and terrible, 'the depths of Satan', which was still hidden from me in 1905, when the second edition of this book appeared. This revelation, which was drawn from observations of the current spiritual and political life of Christian peoples and the study of the secrets of the religious sects of the East, and in particular Masonry, have given me material of such enormous importance that I would consider myself a turncoat traitor of Christ my God if I did not share this material with the God-loving reader.

     "I draw the attention of my reader," writes Sergius Alexandrovich in the preface to the second edition of The Great in the Small, "to the sketch 'The Antichrist as an imminent political possibility', in which is found the solution of a great world mystery hidden until the times of its final realization. Now the mystery has been realized and the key to it found: the imminent triumph of all justified Christian hopes, the triumph of the whole Christian faith, is coming. But the imminent triumph of the faith has also brought closer the terrible antichristian time of persecutions against the faith, and it is not without the will of God that this sketch contains a forecast of that for which the Christian world must prepare itself so as to meet with the whole armour of its humility and patience the terrible ordeal of the temptation that is aiming to deceive even the elect. 'He who endures to the end will be saved.'"

     In the preface to the final, fifth edition of The Great Thing in the Small (an edition that was never brought to fruition), Sergius Alexandrovich writes:

     "My book about the coming Antichrist, which in its fourth edition was called It is Near, even at the Doors, was published in January, 1917, and already on March 2 of the same year there took place the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II from the all-Russian throne for himself and his son. The House of Romanov, as an autocratic dynasty, ceased to exist, and the provisional Russian government was not slow to declare that Russia was a republic. That which was foreseen as a possibility by my book became an already accomplished fact, the heritage of the past. He who restrains was taken from the midst of the Orthodox Russian community. One does not have to be a prophet to foretell his removal in the very near future from all the other monarchical states, too, not excluding 'victory-bearing' Germany and her allies. This cannot take place later than that universal peace congress which must bring to an end the still-continuing universal human catastrophe which is already coming to its final moment.

     "According to the word of the Apostle Paul and the tradition of the Holy Fathers, this removal of him who restrains represents the closest and most important sign of the coming of that time when the lawless one will be revealed - he whose coming, in accordance with the working of Satan, will be with all power and signs and false miracles, and every unrighteous deception of those who perish because they did not receive the love of the truth for their salvation (II Thess. 2.7-10)."

     The most famous part of Nilus' literary output, and the part which especially drew upon him the wrath of the Bolsheviks and the opprobrium of Western historians, was the section entitled The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. These were the records of meetings in Paris of the leaders of International Masonry, in which the Masonic plan for the subjugation of the Christian nations and the establishment of Jewish dominion over the whole world was formulated in detail. First published in 1902 in a St. Petersburg periodical, they came out in 1905 in book form in Nilus' The Great in the Small and the Antichrist.

     Arguments have raged over the authenticity of the Protocols. What is undeniable is, first, that Nilus was genuinely convinced of their authenticity, and secondly, that, as the London Times pointed out, whether they were authentic records of a Masonic meeting or not, the Protocols were remarkably prescient in their description of the workings of "the mystery of iniquity" in the twentieth century.

     "In publishing this edition of my work," wrote Nilus, "I nourish no hope that I will see it in any further editions, for reasons which the reader will understand. I conclude it with the divine word of the chief of the apostles, the apostle of the Gentiles: 'But of the times and seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For ye yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as the thief in the night. For when they shall say, peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness' (I Thess. 5.1-5)."

     After the revolution, when the prophetic significance of the Protocols became clear to many, the Bolsheviks tried by all means to have the remaining copies destroyed. However, we know that the Martyr-Empress had a copy; as she noted in her diary under April 7/20, 1918: "Nicholas read to us the protocols of the free masons." And copies were smuggled out to the West, where the first translation into German appeared in January, 1920. "Before long," writes Richard Pipes, "translations appeared in Swedish, English, French, Polish; other foreign-language versions followed. In the 1920s, the Protocols became an international best-seller."

     It was only 50 years after the "bloodless" revolution that the books of Nilus began to be published in America. As E. Kontzevich writes, the appearance of Nilus' books was a clear miracle, since in those times it was highly improbably that anything could be sent out of Russia.

     There is one small, little-known book entitled The Wheat and the Tares, which was written by S.A. Nilus and published in 1908 by the Holy Trinity - St. Sergius Lavra, in the preface to which Sergius Alexandrovich wrote the following:

     "In the woes and sorrows which like a narrow, heavy ring have oppressed your wandering along the paths of life from all sides, and which have become so much more difficult in recent times, have you ever given a thought, O reader, to the final and only common end, for all those who live upon the earth, of their labours and efforts, all their sorrows and joys, disillusionments and hopes, love and hate, good and evil - everything, in a word, out of which the thorny crown of life is woven? Do you even fully know what this end is like? And if you know, do you remember it with that careful thought which its importance merits? I don't think so. So allow me, my reader and brother in Christ, to remind you, whoever you may be - a ruler of the peoples, or a poor homeless man - that there is no other end to your life than death, than preparation for death. O how great and terrible is that word, that reality! And how few people in the world think about it!

     "'Remember the hour of your death and you will not sin to eternity', calls our Mother the Church. 'You will not sin to eternity!' Do you hear what she says? We have forgotten about this hour, which none can escape: and yet what have we turned the whole world that surrounds into through our sins? We have forgotten about death.

     "Public and family quarrels, leading to bloodshed, in which sons raise their hands against their fathers and mothers, brothers against brothers, husbands against wives, wives against husbands; civil strife, in which public garbage and our youth that has been diverted and made senseless by antitheist teaching rises up in mindless blindness against the powers that be and against everyone that lives in accordance with the commandments of God, and not according to the elements of this world. Blood is shed in torrents, and the scythe of death mows down such an abundant harvest that the heart grows cold in horror. It seems that the times have come about which the faithful Christians were warned by the threatening word of Holy Scripture, that "blood will reach the horses' bridles" (Rev. 14.20), and "if those days should not be shortened for the sake of the elect, no flesh would be saved" (Matt. 24.22). And yet, people see all this, they see all the horrors of death, but few are those who think about death; as if only they, among those who are temporarily left among the living, have a guarantee of eternal life upon earth - a guarantee only they know about, and as if only those who are dead were predestined to death.

     "'I will judge you as I find you'... Savage is the death of sinners... It is terrible for the sinner to fall into the hands of the Living God in that desired world in which the faces of the saints and the righteous shine like the stars!... No stain of flesh and spirit will enter there.

     "In my quiet retreat it is as if I hear the enemy devil whispering into the ear of him who pays attention to my words: 'Don't listen to him! Go after the educated world - that's enough of fairytales about the Heavenly Kingdom. Give us the earthly kingdom that belongs to us by right!'"

     The essence of the personality of Sergius Alexandrovich consisted in a flaming love for God expressed in love for people and a completely unacquisitive life to the end of his days. By his love he transfigured even Bolsheviks, leading them to faith in God.

     Not only the second half of Nilus' life, but also his death were wonderful and truly miraculous: he died peacefully in Soviet Russia, in which those who read his books were threatened with death by shooting. Is that not a miracle?! And being completely poor, Sergius Alexandrovich miraculously received sustenance in the Bolsheviks' land, and himself shared his last clothes with others.

     Prince N.D. Zhevakov in his memoirs describes an interesting incident from the last years of the life of Sergius Alexandrovich:

     "S.A. Nilus was preserved by God and after the revolution continued to live in the houses of his friends, in a small two-storey house in the depths of a shady park. On the upper floor of the little house was a house church and the residence of Schema-Archimandrite N., the former superior of one of the neighbouring monasteries which had been destroyed by the Bolsheviks, while on the lower floor lived S.A. Nilus and his wife.

     "In those days anyone found in possession of the Protocols (in Near, even at the Doors) would be shot on the spot, while the book became better and better known, being translated into European and Asiatic languages, spreading throughout the world and arousing the satanic spite of the world conspirators. Meanwhile, S.A. Nilus continued to live in one of the wings of an estate seized by the Bolsheviks, where, to cap it all, daily Liturgies were celebrated by a reverend elder-archimandrite who had taken refuge there!

     "It goes without saying that none of the local soviets, composed of criminals, caused S.A. Nilus the slightest concern, for, it goes without saying, they did not suspect him of being the publisher of The Protocols of Zion. Some considered that he had died long ago, while even thought that he never existed.

     "But the enemy did not slumber. The fact that the 'masters' remained on the estate, even if they had been expelled from the main house, but continued to live in one of the wings, troubled the representatives of the local Soviet, and the evildoers decided at a meeting to kill all those living in the little house in the garden.

     "One dark night in November, 1921, at the appointed hour, a band of eight Red Army soldiers under the leadership of the local bandit, armed with guns and knives, penetrated into the park and slowly began to approach the house, stealthily creeping through the bushes and looking around on all sides. They had decided to kill the aged schema-archimandrite first. But the closer they came to the house, the clearer became the sounds of a night watchman's rattle. He was walking round the house and rattling with a wooden crank that had a little sphere attached to it. The evil-doers decided to wait until the night watchman went away. But they had no success that night, and decided to try again the next night, only with ten men this time.

     "It seemed as if everything favoured them. Instead of the wind and frosts of the previous night, the weather was wonderful, quiet and almost warm. The moon shone, and everything around was steeped in a deep sleep, but... the hateful old watchman was still fearlessly walking round the house and rattling his rattle, as if he were calling for help, as if he were mocking the criminals.

     "'What are you waiting for,' suddenly shouted the leader, losing patience, 'there are ten of us and he's alone, let's go!' And the evildoers, encouraged by their leader and certain of victory, headed with guns on their shoulders towards the old man, considering it no longer necessary to hide themselves from him. They were already within a few strides of him, and they could clearly see him. He was a frail, bent-over old man with a white beard. He was walking confidently round the house and displayed not the slightest fear or concern at their approach.

     "'Get him,' commanded the enraged ataman of the band of criminals. And, coming up to the old man, with all his might he struck him on the head with his axe. The blow flew through the air, the old man disappeared, and the evildoer fell as if dead onto the earth, losing consciousness. His comrades, mortally frightened, hurled themselves towards their ataman, who displayed no sign of life, and carried him home. Several days passed, but none of the inhabitants of the house even guessed at their miraculous delivery from the death that threatened each one of them. In fact, no one would probably have known about the attempt if the wife of the criminal had not come to the schema-archimandrite and told him about the crime. Drenched in tears, she besought him to help her husband, who was lying paralyzed.

     

     "'If it were not for the night watchman,' she said, 'the criminals would have killed you all. It was only thanks to him that you were saved from death and the souls of the evildoers from eternal damnation.' For a long time they tried to convince the woman that in those times there could be no question of any night watchmen. But she insisted and asked that her husband be brought there, then he himself would tell them everything.

     "'Bring him here, let him confess, receive Communion, kiss the icon of the God-pleaser St. Seraphim, and then the Lord will release him,' said the archimandrite.

     "That day the paralysed criminal was brought on a stretcher to the house-church. But before starting confession, the archimandrite went up to him with the icon of St. Seraphim and asked him to kiss it. The eyes of the criminal met those of the kindly elder and God-pleaser Seraphim, and... a hysterical shouted filled the little church.

     "'It's him, it's him!' shouted the unfortunate criminal, recognizing in the face of St. Seraphim the old watchman walking with his rattle round the garden-house and guarding it. Tears of contrition flowed from his eyes, and the love of God not only healed him instantly, but also completely transformed him. After the Liturgy, in which he was counted worthy to commune of the Holy Mysteries, he stayed for a long time in the church and told everyone present in detail about the miracle of St. Seraphim, after which a moleben of thanksgiving was served to the saint for the miraculous deliverance from death of those living in the house."

     Maria Vasilievna Orlova-Smirnova - later the nun Mariam, the daughter of the martyred priest Fr. Basil Smirnov - shared her impressions of the last days of Sergius Alexandrovich, who spent the last two years of his life in her house and died there: "Inwardly, he was a colossus of the spirit, who stood so firmly 'on the rock of faith' that neither persecutions, nor slander were able to shake his faith and love for God. Having chosen his path, he went along it without looking back.

     "Sergius Alexandrovich got up very early: at about four o'clock, and when he had finished his special morning rule, at about seven o'clock, Helen Alexandrovna got up and they read the morning prayers together."

     Fr. John of Kronstadt knew and loved the wife of Sergius Alexandrovich. When Fr. John, during a trip down the Volga, met the newly-crowned couple, he bowed to Helen Alexandrovna and said to her: "I thank you for marrying him." It seems that he was the only person who thanked her. The rest were so hostile to them, and mocked them and their marriage so much, that they could not stay in Petersburg.

     Prince N.D. Zhevakov recalls: "The marriage between Sergius Alexandrovich and Helen Alexandrovna was concluded in their old age, when they were both over 60, or thereabouts. Its foundation was not carnal, but was rather a strengthening of their friendship of many years, which had been established on the soil of their common profound religiosity."

     The words of Sergius Alexandrovich are both simple and deeply Orthodox: "Christ the Lord and His Orthodox Church - that is the one truth that makes us free, the one source of every earthly blessing, every true, unbreakable happiness that can be attained on earth and above the earth - in the depth of the endless ages, in the height of the fathomless heavens. For him who, by the mercy of God, attains this truth, who devotes himself unreservedly to its service, life becomes clear; and he sorrows for unsettled contemporary man, who mindlessly and unwittingly drives away from himself the grace of God, without which he is dust and ashes!"

     Sergius Alexandrovich spent some years as a wanderer, and was briefly imprisoned in 1924 and again in 1927. At one point he was banished from Chernigov and was forbidden to live in the six major cities of the Soviet Union. When Metropolitan Sergius' notorious declaration submitting the Church to the God-hating atheists was published, he opposed it. Thus on January 29 / February 11, 1928 he wrote to L.A. Orlov: "As long as there is a church of God that is not of 'the Church of the evildoers', go to it whenever you can; but if not, pray at home They will say: 'But where will you receive communion? With whom? I reply: 'The Lord will show you, or an Angel will give you communion, for in 'the Church of the evildoers' there is not and cannot be the Body and Blood of the Lord. Here in Chernigov, out of all the churches only the church of the Trinity has remained faithful to Orthodoxy; but if it, too, will commemorate the [sergianist] Exarch Michael, and, consequently, will have communion in prayer with him, acting with the blessing of Sergius and his Synod, then we shall break communion with it."

     At the end of April, 1928 the Niluses arrived at the home of the Orlovs in Krutets, Alexandrovsky uyezd, Vladimir region. Sergius Alexandrovich died on January 1/14, 1929. On that day, he forced himself, with great difficulty, to go to the church in the village of Krutets, where he was counted worthy to receive the Holy Mysteries. On returning home, he fainted (from a heart attack), after which it was only with difficulty that he recovered consciousness. One hour before his death, he said that difficult times were coming for the Church and that now the doors had been opened for the coming of the Antichrist. Then, pointing at Fr. Basil Smirnov, he said:

     Ah, Father, Father, I am sorry for you."

     The last thing he did was bless the little daughter of Maria Vasilievna Orlova. Then, at five in the afternoon, at the very moment when the bells were beginning to ring for the all-night vigil commemorating St. Seraphim of Sarov, he fainted again, and quietly died.

     It is obvious that the holy God-pleaser St. Seraphim took care of his great venerator and prayed the Lord that the righteous man should have a peaceful end.

     Soviet power did not forgive Fr. Basil for giving shelter to the Niluses. The same year he was driven out of his house, and the following year he was arrested, his property confiscated and his family exiled. Fr. Basil was in exile for five years. In 1936 he returned. In 1937 he was again arrested, and on February 8, 1938 he died.

     Maria Vasilevna Orlova was born in 1906, the first of six children. She married Lev Alexandrovich Orlov. After the death of her father she remained in Moscow, where she became close to Tatyana Mikhailovna N, a spiritual daughter of Abbess Tamara, the famous "Josephite" and spiritual mother of Hieromartyr Bishop Arsenius (Zhadanovsky). In 1992 Maria Vasilievna joined the "Matthewite" branch of the Greek Old Calendarist Church. In 1995 she received the monastic tonsure with the name Mariam from Bishop Kyrikos of Mesogaia. She died on July 30 / August 12, 1997.

     "On the grave of Sergius Alexandrovich," concludes Maria Vasilievna, "my brother placed a cross which he himself had made. On the cross, under the name of the deceased, was written: 'Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints', and on the other side: 'It is good to keep the secret of a king, but honourable to proclaim the works of God.'"

     At the end, or in the preface, of his books Sergius Alexandrovich always asked his readers for their prayers: "In conclusion, I again ask every Orthodox who has a liking for this book to remember the name of its sinful compiler, praying for the time being - for his health and salvation, and in time - for the repose of his soul in the heavenly dwellings of the One Tri-Personal God for the sake of the priceless merits of the One Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom be honour and worship and glory to the ages."

     Helen Alexandrovna, ne Ozerova, was the scion of an aristocratic family. Her father, Alexander Petrovich Ozerov, had many posts at court. He was, it seems, an envoy to Greece, where Helen Alexandrovna was born. He was an envoy to the Russian embassy in Persia, and thereafter the ober-hofmeister of the Court of His Imperial Majesty. He had seven children. His eldest son, Alexander, perished in Bulgaria during the siege of Shipki. His eldest daughter, Olga, the Duchess Shakhovskaya by marriage, took monastic vows after the death of her husband and died as the abbess of the Dmitrievna women's monastery of the Moscow oblast', having taken the name of Sophia in mantia. One of the sons, David, was in charge of caring for the condition of the Winter Palace.

     Helen Alexandrovich was the maid of honour at the court of Empress Maria Feodorovna. After the death of Sergius Alexandrovich, she went to Chernigov to live with a little elderly woman, to take care of her. After her repose she lived with the Orlovs in the town of Gorodok in Kalinin province. In 1938 the Orlovs had to move to Moscow, while Helen Alexandrovich was invited by her former landlady in Chernigov to move to Kola in Murmansk district. There she died.

     (Sources: Monk Boris (Ephremov), "Sergius Nilus", Pravoslavnaya Rus', N 1 (1454), January 1/14, 1992, pp. 5-9; Richard Pipes, Russia under the Bolsheviks, 1919-1924, London: Fontana Press, 1995; General Nechvolodov, L'Empereur Nicholas II et les Juifs, Paris: Chinon, 1924; Norman Cohn, Warrant for Genocide, London: Serif, 1996, p. 107; Bagdasarov, R., Fomin, S., Nyeizvestnij Nilus, volume 2, Moscow, 1995, p. 204; Schema-Monk Epiphanius (Chernov), Ekklesia Katakombon stin Rossia, Koropi, Attica, p. 39 (in Greek); Sergius Nilus, "Pis'mo otnositel'no 'sergianstva'", Russkij Pastyr', 28-29, II/III, 1997, pp. 180-189; M.V. Orlova-Smirnova, "Recollections of Sergei Aleksandrovich and Elena Aleksandrovna Nilus", translated by G. Spruksts, Russian Cultural Heritage Society, 1999; V.V. Antonov, Iosiflyanstvo, St. Petersburg: Memorial, 1999, p. 343; Priests Andrew Sindiev, "I makaristi monakhi Mariam Orlova (+1997)", Orthodoxos Pnoi, 99, August-September, 1999, pp. 133-139 (In Greek))

Gnisios True Orthodox Christian Resources Gnisios
Doctrine Spirituality Saints Icons Scriptures Church History Our Synod Links

Hosted by uCoz