Over ten years ago there was the following incident at our parish. I was an altar attendant at the time, serving with the rector of the Church of the Mother of God “of the Don” in the town of Mytischi (just north of Moscow), Fr. Anatoly (Proskurin).
A man came to him and said, “Father, life is hard. Bless me to hang myself.”
You can imagine father’s surprise. However, Fr. Anatoly listened to him, heard him out, and explained to him that taking one’s own life by suicide is a terrible sin, and that human life is a priceless gift of God. But the man would not hear it, and continued trying to bend the priest’s will to give a blessing for suicide.
Then Fr. Anatoly said, “Alright. Only, when you hang yourself, say this: ‘Lord, I give my spirit to Thee, and my body to you demons’.”
Why Fr. Anatoly gave him that advice and what he was percieving at that moment is still a mystery to me. But the man was satisfied with this answer, and he went off with a precise plan. Of course, now I understand that Fr. Anatoly undoubtedly began praying for the hapless man. Of course, father could not allow someone to commit such a terrible sin, which would destroy both the man’s soul and his own, because he had taken responsibility for the unfortunate fellow before God.
But now comes the most interesting part. Not long afterwards that man came running (exactly running!), trembling like an autumn leave, and began in his confusion to relate what happened to him after he had left the church were he spoke with Fr. Anatoly:
“I came home. Took the noose. Stood on the stool. Put the noose around my neck and said word for word what you told me to say, that is: ‘Lord, I give my spirit to Thee, and my body to you demons.’ After saying this I felt the icy coldness of some beings next to me. They were demons, and they said to me, ‘What do we need your stinking body for? We need your soul’.”
Needless to say, after this revelation the poor wretch jumped out of the noose and ran back to the church, to Fr. Anatoly. I don’t know where he is now, but I hope that all is well for him. God saved him then.
This happened in the early part of this century. In 2004, Fr. Anatoly departed to the Lord, and now prays for us at the throne of the Most High.