And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul (Matt. 10:28).
And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled (Rev. 6:11).
On July 7, 2016, a murder was committed in the scenic and ancient town of Peryaslavl-Zalesskiy, north of Moscow along what tourists call the “Golden Ring”. The victim was the abbot and sole monk of an historic monastery dedicated to St. Daniel of Peryaslavl-Zalesskiy, the founder of the Holy Trinity Monastery there. St. Daniel was especially known for his mercy toward the souls of those Christians who died unknown, without a Christian burial. He would spend whole days and nights seeking the bodies of those who died along roads and in forests and bring them to the monastery for a funeral and burial. He also prayed fervently for the poor folk buried in Russia’s “potter’s fields”.
Fr. Daniel (Sokolov), who resembled his patron St. Daniel in many ways, was murdered in the Holy Trinity-St. Daniel Monastery. On July 7 his body was discovered in one of the monastic cells with more than ten knife wounds. The alleged murderer, who fled immediately afterward but was arrested on the highway in the neighboring Vladimir province, was a monastery laborer whom Fr. Daniel had given shelter. His death resembles that of St. Adrian of Poshehonye, the founder of the Holy Dormition Poshehonye Monastery where Fr. Daniil had also served. St. Adrian was brutally murdered by local criminals in 1626.
August 15 was the fortieth day after the murder of Igumen Daniel (Sokolov; +July 7, 2016), abbot of the Holy Trinity-St. Daniel Monastery in the town of Pereslavl-Zalesskiy in Russia’s Yaroslavl region. The entire town was shocked by what happened on July 7 in this ancient Orthodox place.
This quite modest if not poor monastery instantly and involuntarily became a “star” on television, a subject of idle discussion throughout the country, which aggravated the sorrow of Orthodox Pereslavl residents who could not find any relief in their tragedy.
“What can you say about Igumen Daniel?” a reporter of one of the central TV channels asked a novice of Pereslavl monastery… The latter for a long time looked at the lifeless and indifferent “eye” of the camera lens with terror and surprise, and realizing that the horror was not a dream, he burst into tears like a child…
“He possessed all the good, inspiring, kind and pure traits which one can possess,” the novice answered…
Fr. Daniel came to the Holy Trinity Monastery to live the monastic life in 1997. Two years later he was tonsured a monk by Archbishop Mikhei of Yaroslavl and Rostov at the All Saints Church in the Holy Trinity-St. Daniel Monastery.
In the same year he was ordained a deacon and a priest. From that time on Fr. Daniel served at the altar of God for seventeen years. Initially he served at the Holy Trinity-St. Daniel Monastery. For ten years until 2009 Hieromonk Daniel was a priest at this monastery. Together with the monastery abbot, Igumen John (Kovalenko), now Bishop of Kalach and Pallasovka, and the brethren, he was involved in the restoration of the monastery, gave spiritual guidance to parishioners and had various monastic obediences there. Simultaneously, he obtained a theological education—in 2005 Fr. Daniel graduated from the Moscow Theological Seminary.
From March 2009 till January 2012, Fr. Daniel along with Abbot John and some monastery brethren worked on the restoration of the Holy Dormition-St. Adrian of Poshekhonye Monastery in the north of the Yaroslavl region. In 2012, Fr. Daniel was appointed as acting abbot of the Holy Trinity-St. Daniel Monastery. At the decision of the Holy Synod of March 19, 2014, Hieromonk Daniel (Sokolov) was appointed the Holy Trinity Monastery’s Abbot.
Over the period of his service in the Yaroslavl and Pereslavl Dioceses, Igumen Daniel earned the love and respect of the clergy, monks, and laity, and was actively involved in providing spiritual support to young people and servicemen. Below are reminiscences of Igumen Daniel by a number of people who knew him well.
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“He had everything needed for success in secular life”
Bishop John (Kovalenko) of Kalach and Pallasovka, formerly the Father Superior of the Holy Trinity—St. Daniel’s Monastery:
I met Fr. Daniel at the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra in 1997. He belongs to the generation that converted to Christ early in the 1990's [in Russia]. Some call this period “the evil nineties,” while for others it was a blessed period. These were the years of the revival of the Church, when many young people turned to God after an era of atheism, and Fr. Daniel was among those people of whom it was said: Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you (Jn. 15:16). Among such people were his numerous relatives and friends… But of all of them only he was destined to become an abbot…
He was an athlete; he had everything needed for success in secular life. First he entered a military college but soon realized that it was not his path; then for a year he served in the emergency service. After that he briefly studied at the Moscow Aviation Institute but again found it to be the wrong path for him. Finally, he chose a job which was not prestigious—he became a rescuer and worked for the fire department. He spoke of that period with some indifference. But those are people who are always willing to come to somebody’s aid and rescue others. Those who were strong, deft and true athletes were accepted to that work. And whenever Fr. Daniel had spare time he used to read Fyodor Dostoevsky, eventually reading all his works. This was a path to the holy fathers, because Dostoevsky was an author who so sincerely wrote about the human soul, about our path to God and repentance. He knew this from his own experience and was able to describe this path to repentance very well.
I first met Fr. Daniel when I was taking exams at the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra where I was studying by correspondence. A tall, strong, broad-shouldered, smiling young man named Maxim Sokolov came up to me and said, “I have been to the elder, to the monastery’s confessor, and asked him about taking up monasticism. He has said I should speak with you.” I said “Okay,” and left a note that he should be admitted—Hieromonk Nikita was serving in my absence. I said, “If you like it here then you are welcome to stay.” He came to our monastery and obviously liked it. He quit his job and returned to our monastery in November 1997 and stayed here as a novice.
Nobody can accuse people of that generation of seeking their own gain from the Church. What were our monasteries like back in the 1990's? All around was desolation and ruin. Our motto was: Do everything with your own hands and to learn to do everything with your own hands. An abbot or an abbot’s assistant could go themselves to get building materials, for example. Fr. Daniel mastered operating a tractor and worked on farming. The monastery provided itself with its own food.
Later at the St. Adrian of Poshekhonye Monastery he took up bee keeping. Apiculture was a new trend and Fr. Daniel developed it. This man always learned something; he made beehives with his own hands. I don’t know if abbots like him still exist…
And his death is an example to us. At least it is for me. May the blood of Igumen Daniel become the seed for the revival of monastic life, including monastic life in this ancient monastery…
“There are true monasteries where people pray, labor and provide themselves with food”
Priest Andrei Ufimtsev, Rector of the Church of the Meeting of the Lord in Pereslavl-Zalesskiy:
I met Fr. Daniel in 1997. I was taking exams at the time. I studied by distance learning at the Moscow Theological Seminary (located at the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra). A young man came up to me who was looking for Hieromonk John. They finally met and had a conversation. It was Maxim Sokolov, the future Igumen Daniel. Aparently, the monastery’s confessor had blessed him to become a monk. I think it was November 1997, and a month later he already arrived here and from that time on lived at the St. Daniel Monastery.
The monastery was opened in 1994, and Fr. John was the senior priest there. They prayed, worked, and practiced asceticism. What can be said of the monastery? It was a true monastery! There are monasteries where, like in the lives of the saints, people pray, labor, provide themselves with food, and observe all the prayer rules. At that time they used to start services at four in the morning: a joint prayer service, a midnight service, and then the Divine Liturgy. And their monastic obediences started at eight in the morning.
There were few of them. Then the monastery was in a state of devastation. There were no walls, and there were only churches which had been slightly repaired in preparation for the Olympic Games of Moscow in 1980 (only the crosses and domes had been repaired). For a long time there was a depot of the civil defense at the Church of the Laudation of the Most Holy Theotokos; there were many rows of gas masks from top to bottom and these were not removed for a long time. The fathers labored: they mastered various kinds of work. They became fine diggers, stonemasons, electricians, and plumbers. They excelled in farming and gradually acquired agricultural machinery. They would procure firewood and heat the stoves themselves.
The Divine Liturgy was celebrated at the monastery every day. Despite their poverty they helped me as well—Fr. Daniel served in my church too. When our previous rector Fr. Vasily Chuyev died, the St. Daniel’s Monastery was charged with providing spiritual care to this church in 2003, and Fr. Daniel served here for some time.
We were friends. I was always welcomed very warmly at the monastery and was very pleased to see its brethren every time. Whenever I needed physical help I called the brethren, and even the father-superior and his assistant, Fr. Daniel, would run to me at once! Whenever I needed something to be delivered to my church I hurried to the monastery, and they instantly left their work and hastened to help me. Fr. Daniel would start up an engine and drive in order to take and deliver planking to my church. And every time they needed to transfer the relics from the summer church to the winter church, they asked me for help as well.
Fr. Daniel mastered numerous professions. He was a stonemason; he plastered and excelled in many other kinds of work. He operated a tractor, sowed, plowed…
In 2009 Bishop John (then the monastery’s father-superior) was transferred to the St. Adrian of Poshekhonye Monastery and the whole brotherhood followed him. There were arguments and conflicts with a benefactor here, so all of them left for the Poshekhonye monastery, while the abbot and the brethren of Poshekhonye monastery moved here. And in 2012 Fr. Daniel was transferred back here to the St. Daniel Monastery. He was practically alone here, as the former brethren had scattered in different directions. And life began to develop there, as it was under Abbot John, but now the situation was much more difficult. When Fr. Daniel was very exhausted, the brethren of the St. Nicetas Monastery in Pereslavl-Zalesskiy assisted him. They did their best to provide daily services at the monastery.
Thus he toiled much, busied himself with beekeeping and started an apiary here. He went deep into all things he undertook and was always successful. He kept everything in order. Fr. Daniel also opened a small workshop; we assisted each other in this work. He made beehives and frames with his own hands. His last invention was a wax melter…
This is how this true ascetic labored and prayed. He always went into the root of the matter, especially in spiritual things. He was also a father-confessor; spiritual children used to come to him from all different places.
“The Lord beheld a pleasant spiritual fruit in His garden”
Archpriest Andrei Kulkov, Senior Priest at the St. Vladimir’s Cathedral in Pereslavl-Zalesskiy:
From 1999 till 2009, Fr. Daniel served as a hieromonk belonging to the staff of the Holy Trinity-St. Daniel Monastery. At that time the monastery’s abbot was Igumen John (Kovalenko), now Bishop of Kalach and Pallasovka. We remember Fr. Daniel as the latter’s faithful assistant, as his “right-hand man”. It must be said that in that period the St. Daniel Monastery was probably the closest to the monastic ideals of its holy founder, St. Daniel of Peryaslavl, since the beginning of the revival of Orthodoxy in our country in the 1990's. In spite of daily morning and evening services at the monastery church and a long monastic rule, the brethren bore a very difficult burden at the monastery and its dependency, which even seemed to be beyond their strength. The repair work, building, agricultural labor—all was carried out with their own hands. Fr. Daniel was not inferior to Fr. John, the father-superior, in all respects (and even surpassed him in some respects, according to Fr. [now Bishop] John himself), and he was the model to be followed.
When in March 2009 Fr. John was transferred to the Holy Dormition—St. Adrian of Poshekhonye Monastery, Fr. Daniel followed him together with the whole brotherhood, and still more severe trials and more difficult conditions awaited them. The St. Adrian Monastery was in fact a skete completely cut off from the world. Sometimes they lacked money for candles, lamp oil, and had no food to feed the brethren. Their true saviors were zealous pilgrims from Pereslavl-Zalesskiy, who did not abandon their spiritual mentors along with relatives of some of the brethren who would often purchase food and all the necessary things for the monastery. To top it all off, a fire once blazed up at the monastery. Fr. Daniel, Fr. John and all the brethren put it out. Interestingly, one of Fr. Daniel’s secular professions was fire fighting. The Lord led him in ways known only to Him. And there is one more “stone” to be added to the destiny of Fr. Daniel: the Venerable Martyr Adrian of Poshekhonye was brutally murdered by evildoers…
On January 16, 2012, Metropolitan Panteleimon of Yaroslavl and Rostov appointed Hieromonk Daniel as acting abbot of the Holy Trinity-St. Daniel Monastery in Pereslavl-Zalesskiy. On March 19, 2014 he was appointed abbot of the monastery. Spiritually strengthened, Fr. Daniel started walking the new path that opened up before him and he was able to walk it on his own. He bore his cross, going from strength to strength in the Lord’s ways. We can only guess what the Church career of Fr. Daniel would have been had he not been killed. Perhaps in Fr. Daniel the Church has lost one of Her promising and zealous pastors. But the Lord has His own plans. He beheld a pleasant spiritual fruit in His garden. The murderer’s knife cut it off… And Pereslavl-Zalesskiy, this sleepy yet ancient town, has roused itself. It seems every single resident of Pereslavl has discussed this terrible news which is a call to the conscience of each Christian…
After the memorial service on the ninth day [after his death], at the grave of the newly-departed Igumen Daniel, who is buried behind the altar of the Holy Trinity Cathedral of the Holy Trinity-St. Daniel’s Monastery, His Eminence Bishop Theodore (Fyodor) of Pereslavl and Uglich said in his eulogy, “We must not give ourselves over to despair and despondency, which is so characteristic of this world; instead, we should offer up our fervent prayers, which will be the best intercession on Father Daniel’s behalf before the Almighty. Now, when Father Daniel is with Christ and in His love, the things that neither he nor we knew (and of which we can only guess) are revealed to him. He may have met also with the founder of this monastery, the Venerable Daniel, and they must be praying together for our ancient town and for all of us…”
It is clear that a monk “of the heavenly calling” has departed from this earthly Pereslavl Russia (of course, “weak and feeble” in many ways as it is) and has departed for the celestial Russia (“mighty and ever-flourishing” as it is). He will intercede for us sinners there, in white garments at the throne of the Holy Trinity. He will surely be granted a worthy place there, as he departed this world just after the Sunday of All Saints of Russia and the feast of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God, on the feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist…