He was not afraid to speak the truth
Schema-Archimandrite Iliy (Nozdrin):
I have known Fr. Naum for a long time, probably, fifty years. He was an ascetic.
He visited us at the Pskov-Caves Monastery, when I still had obediences there.1 He had a friend, Archimandrite Anastasy in Pechory, from near Kiev, and Fr. Anastasy was very sick… We need to call the people to pray now for the repose of Fr. Anastasy. We must always pray for the loves ones of the departed Fr. Naum: His father was Alexander and his mother Pelagia.
We then constantly met throughout his whole life at Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra, or somewhere else on trips. It’s amazing that he arrived at the Lavra on the feast of the Holy Protection and reposed sixty years later on the day before the same feast.
Fr. Naum was an elder. He received the people; but this labor requires other things as well, otherwise you will “get buried” so that you cannot stand—therefore he so fervently prayed and ministered, of course, by his prayers to God.
He was not afraid to speak the truth and admonish the people. Unfortunately, not all priests dare to do this. What are they waiting for? For an infernal chasm to open again, and people to hang and kill other people? Of course, there were very many attacks against Batushka for the truth, even attempts to poison him.
Archimandrite Naum was a soldier on the spiritual front, a general; he restrained, by his word, blessings and prayers, the enemy’s strongest onslaughts against our country, and generally against man as a creation of God. People especially now must labor in asceticism, pray, read the Gospel every day, and live by it—it is purifying—and participate in the Mysteries of the Church.
Just imagine: The sin of every man has cosmic significance, propelling the world towards catastrophe; in the same way, the virtues of any of us have the power to prevent trouble.
He taught us to always be with God
There was always peace and calm radiating from Fr. Naum. People went to see him with various troubles, griefs, emergencies, accidents, and so on. But Batushka was always with God. He bequeathed this dispensation to us. The Lord is invariably peaceful. May God grant us to, at least in small measure, acquire this union with the All-Seeing and All-Knowing Creator Who guides our lives, which was characteristic of the elder, and then we won’t have to worry about the hustle and bustle. We must embrace this inheritance from the elder.
He prevented schisms
Schemanun Seraphima (Antipina), Holy Protection Monastery, Moscow:
I knew Fr. Naum for more than thirty years. He did so much good for our whole lives. My children are married. I remember when my daughter finished school, he said to her, “That’s it, enough learning—I found you a bridegroom!” and he introduced her to a seminarian. He told him, “Gennady, here is your wife!” And such families turned out to be strong and warm. How many children were born by his blessing. When people obeyed him, everything was alright. He blessed me for monasticism at first, and then for accepting the schema.
Fr. Naum was very simple in communication and always available. The only thing is that he was so quick that you had to manage to catch up with him. But if you had enough dexterity, Batushka would not refuse to comfort, guide, bless, and pray for you.
A pillar of Orthodoxy in the twentieth century
Bishop Gury (Fedorov) of Arsenyev and Dalnegorsk:
When, before Fr. Naum’s funeral, I came out from the reliquary of St. Sergius, who had had a vision of many birds, I marveled at how many had gathered over the Lavra! I myself had once been a monk of the Lavra; I lived there for many years, but such a cluster of birds as flocked to the sending off of the elder I never saw.
Batushka Naum was a great wonderworker and seer. He has spiritual children affirming Orthodoxy all over the world: abbots, abbesses, priests, and many bishops. Fr. Naum is a pillar of Orthodoxy in the twentieth century.
I knew Fr. Naum from the 1980s. Before that I went to Fr. Benedict (Penkov) for confession, and he always, wanting to share this treasure of communication with such elders, always instructed us, “Go see Fr. Naum, go see Fr. Kirill.” Then, when I had already become a subdeacon for the patriarch and it became hard for me to get away to Fr. Benedict, who had been transferred to Optina, Eldress Lyubushka of Susanino blessed me: “Go see Fr. Naum!” I have received pastoral care from him for the last couple of decades.
Sometimes the elder would scold me so severely, but it was always soul-profiting—I am grateful to him for every counsel. Batushka was gifted to move people from a bad condition to a sober and faithful constitution—it’s very valuable. He could point people to the truth path and encourage people with love.
Fr. Naum published a tremendous amount of spiritual literature. He had a spiritual child in Sergiev Posad with a small home not far from the Lavra, all crammed with books. Cars would come there to be loaded up with books to take to villages and cities to distribute to people. More than one generation of Christians will be brought up on these books. Such pearls of spiritual experience were gathered in his collections! You can open any book and start reading. Then you just have to compel yourself to fulfill what you have read, in memory of the elder.
Fr. Naum himself pulled me out of the world; I was a hooligan, I would say. He made me a priest.2 “Go,” he said, “obey.” Thank God, I had enough presence of mind then to obey Fr. Naum! The rest was all arranged by his prayers.
Imagine, he then came to visit us in the faraway mountains of Kyrgyzstan, just for five minutes, and he wound up staying for ten days. Many came to faith then, and many more are converting, having read the book he wrote then in our mountains, Guidebook. Three of them appeared to us then, like the angels to Abraham: now-Metropolitan Nikon of Astrakhan and Enotaevsk Nikon, Bishop Sebastian of Shadrinsk (formerly Archpriest Alexander), and Fr. Naum.
Meeting the elder changed my whole life.
Acquaintance for growth
Fr. Naum is an elder of all Russia. He changed the lives of many people, and he thereby changed the life of our country. Everyone who went to see him noticed that their lives changed, divided between before and after meeting him.
His influence spreads across the entire canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church, not just in Russia, but even far beyond its borders. People would come to him from throughout the whole world. Sometimes he would bless you to meet someone, at first you didn’t know why, but after a while something would change in your life precisely in such a way that you would need this person’s help.
Fr. Naum had great love for people. When someone would go visit him, he tried to do everything to bring this soul nearer to God—he did everything so that this soul would be saved. He was distinguished by his complete lack of indifference. He had no passion, but always had a kind disposition and calmness towards everyone. I know that Batushka healed many people.
We touched the grace of God through Fr. Naum. I hope he will continue to be present in our lives.
From Adam to Potsdam
When I was still studying in the Moscow theological schools, we students once went to the village of Eliphan for the feast of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos together with Fr. Naum. It’s not far from Kulikovo Field where our fallen soldiers are buried. The elder went there to serve a Liturgy. We had to get up at 3:30 AM. For us students, it was unimaginably early.
We arrived and Batushka served the Liturgy there and gave an inspiring homily. Then we drove back; it was about 5:00 in the evening at the Lavra. We students had only one thought: to get to bed quickly and collapse and get lost in sleep.
But Batushka Naum quickly proceeded to the Holy Trinity Cathedral to participate in the singing of the Sunday Akathist. And that was not enough: After the Akathist he also gave his usual word! It included a description of the times, as they say, “From Adam to Potsdam,”3 and until the Second Coming.
“You had a wife…”
Fr. Naum was able to discern in every person what the Lord intended for him. Some needed something stricter, with others he had softer conversations, so the person would comprehend his calling. The gift of discernment that the Lord granted the elder was manifested in this. Batushka was stern with me. I went to see him for the first time somewhere in 1996. He immediately told me, “You had a wife…” “What does he mean,” I thought, “had?!” She reposed half a year later.
I was already constantly going to Batushka then, and for five years he asked me, “Will you be a monk?” “I don’t know,” I would say. Although the desire had already ripened, I still had indecisiveness. When I went to see him five years later, he already somehow saw with his inner gaze that I was confirmed in this path, and he sent me to the monastery.
Archimandrite Naum set up precise buoys for the rest of my life, beyond which I was not to “swim” in the spiritual life. He probably told all of his spiritual children everything about their futures. Times passes, and you grow to understand what he said, and the whole picture of the elder’s words is clarified. You’ve been going to Batushka for spiritual guidance for many years, something happens, and immediately his words, perhaps spoken years ago, come to mind, but they help you now. What wisdom the Lord gave him! Batushka obviously guided us, acting according to the grace of God.
“They gave you breath!”
Fr. Naum is a unique phenomenon in the history of the Church of our Fatherland. People like him, if four or five of them are born in one generation, uphold the whole world by their prayers. St. John Chrysostom said, “Of the saints, we know only that which they were unable to hide.” Batushka’s sanctity was not obvious to many, because he did not flaunt it.
There were many different people among his spiritual children: the internally unsettled, and the spiritually twisted, and even those already lost to this life. Nevertheless, he, as a true pastor, saw the pearl, hidden from unloving eyes, which is under a jumble of sins and wrong deeds in each one, digging it up and restoring in man the image and likeness of God. They just had to heed Fr. Naum.
You’re standing in line for him—and there is suddenly a spiritually resurrected man!—and no one notices it. The conversation moves on in due course, people are shifting from foot to foot in line—and suddenly someone is healed from a fatal disease!—but it’s all just in the order of things here. Another dozen people are waiting their turn, and the reception continues…
Batushka had extraordinary love for everyone. He gave the greatest consolation, combining many spiritual traditions, including those of Sts. Sergius and Seraphim, the Optina elders, and St. John of Kronstadt. And for all his spiritual vastness, he was always simple, accessible, and humble, even somehow imperceptible. He abided some defamation and responded to it peacefully (cf. Mt. 5:11).
I remember a case when one woman, the mother of two young children, was sick with a serious illness where her lungs were “cementing,” and healing was already impossible, but if they did the operation, the touch of the scalpel would cause her lungs to begin to crumble. And this mother, whom the doctors told she had no more than two months left to live, came to Fr. Naum in despair, stood in line, then went in to the elder. He began to talk with her, and at some point, he casually said, “Well, they gave you breath.”
Then, turning to those who were with the woman, he said, “Why did you bring her to me? You need to take her to the doctors! What am I, a doctor?” and he told her “Go to the doctors.”
When the professor who had examined her earlier did another examination, she was pronounced completely healed. What a miracle! “They gave you breath!” Such breath of spiritual life Batushka gave in abundance to all. Whoever was able to contain this gift, in receiving it, was resurrected to eternal life.
In the archangel’s rank
Elder Naum went to the morning brother’s moleben at 5:30 AM, and before that he managed to read several chapters of the Gospel in his cell. He also invariably went to the evening service, as much as he had strength to do so. For us, his male spiritual children, it was so routine that if someone didn’t manage to see him in the morning for confession, when he was receiving people, then we went to the church, stopped in, and whoever had a blessing would ask him for confession in the holy altar, where he usually prayed in the evening. You could ask many questions and solve various issues then.
Once, when I went to see him at the Great Martyr Theodore Stratelates altar in the Dormition Cathedral, at some point in the confession he asked me, “What do you think, can someone’s guardian angel be an archangel?”
Then I recalled that somewhere in hagiography or in some other source I had read that St. Anthony the Great had not just a simple guardian angel, but precisely an archangel. I answered Fr. Naum affirmatively: “I think it’s possible.”
He then said that no dogmatic theology records such mysteries, and many have audibly glorified the Lord for His mercy to us, sinful men, that He has given us insight into His ineffable mysteries.
“Diseases happen because of sins, including for the sins of the parents and grandparents,” Fr. Naum would say. “Modern doctors sometimes do not treat, but maim.” Therefore, to relieve sicknesses, we must do more good works, and not miss an opportunity to show mercy, he instructed us.
The elder, unflatteringly characterizing modern times, also would say that we must not allow reprobate teachers and atheist teachers to come near our children, for they will ruin and corrupt their souls. “To teach in school,” he would say, “the future teacher must read the Gospel, all twelve volumes of the lives of the saints, the Patristic works, and much other spiritual-ethical literature. Only then will society begin to heal, when believers will teach children in schools, and the reprobate and the godless will be barred from teaching.”
“Before the 1917 revolution there was already a similar situation,” Fr. Naum noted. “At that time, they introduced revolutionary, reprobate and godless teachers into general education schools and seminaries. They planted religious skepticism by order of their masters, and corrupted seminarians and young students.” “How can a whale swallow a man?!” the atheists exclaimed, bursting in to teach in seminary, commenting on the book of Jonah. “A whale has a small throat—they can’t eat anything bigger than a fist, so what’s written in the Bible is unscientific.” St. Philaret (Drozdov), the smartest man of his time, answered this disbelief: “If it was written in Holy Scripture that it wasn’t a whale that swallowed Jonah, but Jonah a whale, I would believe it.” But as yet unfortified minds could be tempted by the ploys of provocateurs. Fr. Naum would quote the data published at some point in the journal Around the World (I think from 1976 or earlier), where a real incident was described: A sailor from a Canadian whaling vessel who fell overboard off the coast of southern America was swallowed by a whale, and the next day they retrieved the sailor from the whale’s belly, all covered in blood, but alive and well.
It is noteworthy that the fortieth day—when the soul of a man appears before the Creator, to hear the verdict of the partial judgment, which takes place before the Universal Judgment—for Batushka falls on November 8/21—the feast of the Synaxis of the Archangel Michael and the Heavenly Bodiless Powers. I believe that Archimandrite Naum will be added to the archangel’s rank, as was the holy elder Barsanuphius of Optina so deeply venerated by him. Fr. Naum himself would say about St. Barsanuphius that he is in the rank of the archangels in the Heavenly mansions. The elder saw it.
“If you want—an angel, if you want—a demon”
Batushka would say that I grew up in his arms. I regularly went to him for guidance for thirty-five years. I was first taken to see him when I was six, in the Church of the Forerunner where he heard confessions. He started to ask me about my sins, but I was already “savvy,” so I reasoned with the elder: “It’s still early for me to confess, because I’m not even seven yet.”
Then when I was sixteen, I remember he firmly scolded me once for some of my youthful deeds, so I didn’t go see him for a long time. But when I was twenty I started to have the burning desire to serve God. I had a zealous and pious grandmother, and since our whole family, including my father, a priest, was pastored by Fr. Naum, she told me, “Don’t go anywhere without Batushka’s blessing!” so I went to the elder, already ready for him to seriously berate me. So he did, but I prepared myself, and was not terrified (Ps. 118:60). I started going to him again, having understood that I couldn’t serve God otherwise—he wasn’t just going to pat you on the head.
I remember, one time Svetlana Ivanovna Romanenko from the choir directing school went to see him in his cell; she was standing there, and I was in front of Batushka on my knees, and he, pointing to me, said to her, “This is raw clay which you can take in your hands and fashion, if you want an angel, or a demon.”
I tried not to depart from Fr. Naum—it was better for him to sculpt me. He taught me everything, lead me to everything, and saved me from everything by his prayers.
Archimandrite Ambrose (Kravchuk) serves in Khotkovo now; he used to be called Fr. Ananias. I remember we were sitting in the waiting area, waiting for Batushka to receive us. There was some woman next to me who tried to start talking to me, and suddenly started telling me about how she was an investigator… I immediately pricked my ears, thinking, “I have to tell Batushka that there’s some spy here.” This was still Soviet times. Then the bells rang for the late Liturgy, and Batushka left, saying, “Everyone go to the service, commune…”
He saw Fr. Ananias and asked, “Who knows who Ananias is in the New Testament?” and began to say, “It is he to whom the Lord appeared and said, ‘I will bring Saul to you now, you lay hands on him and induct him into the number of the brethren.’ And remember what Ananias thought, like a little child! ‘Lord, Thou knowest not, but I will tell Thee a secret: He is a spy!’” (cf. Acts 9:10-16).
And I listened and felt it was me Batushka was convicting! I bowed and said, “Batushka, forgive me, I understand.”
Batushka is a clairvoyant; his mind worked like the most powerful computer. He always considered everything and acted so that no one would be offended. I remember once standing in line to see Batushka; I was with an abbess. Matushka moved ahead, and a man with a somewhat cantankerous nature named Anatoly was standing at the door. Father looked out, and said to me, “Anatolia, come in!”
Anatoly apparently thought he was being called and stepped ahead. Batushka immediately understood everything and, facing him with a gaze, he straight away said to him, “Oh! I need you. He has a problem over there—go help him.”
He thus destroyed the budding temptation.
Batushka greatly revered the hierarchical rank. He never said anything against those above him. I had one situation: I was learning to bake prosphora at the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra with Fr. Kronid. I returned to my parish, where I was still in the world as a choir director, and was planning to bake some prosphora there, but the rector told me I had to do everything completely differently. I dug in: “They taught me at the Lavra! I’ll go ask Batushka right now…” But I couldn’t tell him that the rector told me otherwise; I knew that Batushka would immediately put me in my place. I decided to cunningly ask.
“Batushka, should I bake prosphora this or that way?” I asked with interest.
“You should consult with your rector—bake however he blessed,” Fr. Naum answered.
About St. Sergius it is said that, as a soldier before his commander, as a son before his father, as a slave before his master, he walked before God and taught all thus—so Batushka Naum taught us not to invoke the idea that the times are different now: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever (Heb. 13:8).
The elders are taken from the people
Fr. Naum is an entire epoch in the life of the Church and our country. His ordination as a hierodeacon in 1958 occurred on the day of St. Sergius, and his ordination as a hieromonk exactly a year later, and ever since then he himself learned from St. Sergius and taught and nourished the people.
One after another, Elders Kirill (Pavlov) and Naum (Baiborodin) have left us this year. Fr. Kirill said long ago, “Fr. Naum and I will depart in the same year.”
It’s a sign of the times: The elders are taken from the people, because the people are not able to perceive the will of God. They turn to the ascetics for selfish purposes, to beg a blessing for something that pleases them. “It’s what we need, we need it…” they jabber. No one says, “Whatever the will of God; as you bless, Batushka, so it will be.”
We believe there is still hope for the correction of the people. Although one of the bishops that was directed by the elder told us he heard a word from the lips of Fr. Naum spoken angrily: “Today’s people are already irredeemable; they are subject to extermination.”
Such fearsome words are prophetic. It is concerning and obliges us to keep Batushka’s precepts and admonitions in mind and to live as he taught—according to the Gospel.
Fr. Naum was a clairvoyant. This was repeatedly confirmed.
I remember one time (fifteen years ago), there was a conversation about the Divine services, and one of the priests asked Batushka whether it was possible to abbreviate the services. Fr. Naum quite threateningly said, “If you want the Lord to abbreviate your life, then you can abbreviate the services.”
Memory eternal, Fr. Naum!
As humans we mourn, but as Christians we hope that we have gained an intercessor in Heaven.