Olga tried to call her holy elder in his seclusion to pour her heart out. But somehow every time she called, he was too busy to listen. So, she went to see him.
“Batiushka! Help me! I need money! Didn’t you tell me I would have no problems? I gave you everything I owned!”
“When you do merciful deeds, don’t sound a trumpet before yourself, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets… don’t let your left hand know what your right hand does! But all you’re doing here is blowing your own trumpet before me. And you blame me for your worthlessness as a business owner! That’s why you didn’t receive a reward from God!” the elder berated her. “All you want to do is beg for money. What about your soul! That’s what matters most! As for mammon, it is a sin through and through! You lead your life in sin and that’s why your daughter got sick!”
Then he asked her not to bother him in his seclusion with any earthly cares or material problems, or he’ll pray that she gets more than she bargained for! From then on he stopped answering his phone anytime she called. He was busy saving his soul in blessed silence.
“A bride should be a confirmed virgin”
Thanks be to God, Olga had her friends’ back. They loaned the “ungodly” money to her. A lot of money. Some even simply donated it. They were able to save her little one. Then she had to face the dilemma of paying the debts back. But how? She had neither a business, nor a paying job, nor an elder—not to mention a wealthy husband.
I forgot to say that one day she did mention to her blessed elder how she longed for a betrothed. Oddly enough, he supported her in this wish. Without a moment’s doubt (he was an elder, after all!) he pointed to his bearded spiritual child:
“Here’s your betrothed, daughter! May God bless you!”
The elder had painstakingly knocked together a community of faithful and obedient children of God
It should be noted that the elder had painstakingly knocked together a community of his faithful and obedient children of God.
On the face of it, the betrothed looked perfect. As Orthodox as one can be. Everything was as if on cue. But when she tried to talk to him, he blurted out some kind of a gibberish greeting in such an awkward mix of Church Slavonic and local twang that Olga even lost her bearings. Overall, the first impression turned out to be deceptive.
The second time they met, it got even worse. Later on, her bearded betrothed, looking very wise, expounded the theory that a real Orthodox bride should be a confirmed virgin. Olga still wonders how and by whom it should be confirmed. But since batiushka gave his blessing—she had no way out. He would marry her with her child—for the sake of obedience, which is higher than fasting or prayer.
Dismissing certain un-Orthodox emotions, Olga thanked both the suitor and the elder for taking her into confidence, but she declined the offer.
“You don’t realize that it is God’s will!” the elder took offense at her.
Meanwhile her would-be betrothed uttered something so unseemly in his peri-Church Slavonic that it’s the shame even to mention it.
A bag full of cash through the prayers of the priest was nowhere to be seen
But this was long ago. In these days Olga, as I said, lived on a shoestring and it wasn’t funny at all.
One day, she was standing at her Moscow church praying. She was pouring her heart out about her sorrow. The rector of the church came by. His name was Fr. Boris, the one who wasn’t an elder at all. By the way, Olga hadn’t been to her local church for a long time—ever since she found her “Wonderworker.” Why would she need this run-of-the-mill priest if she had a full-blown elder? But it didn’t work, as I had explained earlier.
So, this run-of-the-mill priest comes to talk to Olga. He asked her about her life and what troubles she had. Unexpectedly, she spilled it all out to him. She told him about the elder, and the money, and her daughter’s illness. Even about her betrothed and his confirmed virgins.
He would just sigh and lift his hands like the old man he was. No moral preaching, denunciation, or revelations whatsoever. But what could you expect? He’s not an elder, you know. Those lofty matters were beyond him. All he could do was express his fatherly sympathy, patting her on the head as if she were a small child. He even shed a few tears out from the abundance of his heart. But it was all for nothing. Olga even felt frustrated that she poured her soul out before him. Truth be told, she had to find another elder. This time around, a real one.
While Olga was fretting and feeling upset, Fr. Boris found his wallet, took all the money he had and handed it to her
And while Olga was fretting and feeling upset, Fr. Boris found his wallet, took all the money he had and handed it to her. Then, he emptied a donation box and handed its contents to her as well. Had he been an elder, he’d have prayed and all the money she needed would have materialized out of thin air! But the warrior heroes don’t walk in our midst anymore. Well, it can work this way, too. Like in the olden days, using these trivial and unoriginal ways.
Later on, batiushka talked to his flock. They also chipped in and helped. Olga managed to collect and repay half of her debt. But another half, a large sum, remained unpaid.
“Father Boris, what should I do?” she asked the priest.
Since that day, Olga took a strong liking to him. But how would he know! He was no clairvoyant of any sort.
“But, Olenka, we should pray together. And the Lord will send help. Maybe, even some job for you…”
A job… Right, what a miracle!.. Any fool with a good job would be able to repay the debt. But it’s quite another thing when it’s one, two, three, and in the bag…
Alas, Father Boris wasn’t gifted with the power of miracle making, even though he diligently prayed for Olga and her daughter, and not only by himself but also with the faithful of his parish. Sure enough, the Lord must have been rather skeptical about his efforts. A bag full of cash never materialized.
That’s when the real wonders poured in
One day a member of Fr. Boris’s parish came to see Olga. He went straight to her apartment. Of course, he called her first.
“That’s when the real wonders poured in,” Olga roused my curiosity.
“Father Boris put it simply: “You and I.” As if he treated Olga’s troubles as his own
His name was Georgiy. He and his wife owned a flower business. Fr. Boris told them about Olga’s troubles. He shared her story with many other people. But the team of florists decided to help her: They hired her as a florist, but first, they taught her how to do it, for free. As for her, she had enjoyed making flower arrangements since childhood. Unfortunately, her parents didn’t take their daughter’s talent seriously enough and insisted on her getting a professional degree. She got married and then had a child, got divorced, and later fought for survival… All in all, she had no time to follow up on her childhood dreams. But go figure: a blast from the past!
Yet she was on the fence. She could make a living as a florist. But those debts… In the absence of a real clairvoyant elder, she sought advice from Fr. Boris.
“Listen deary, you should wait to voice your doubts. Let’s pray, and the Lord will somehow arrange everything. Like it or not, but you and I haven’t got any other options on the table yet.”
That’s exactly what he said: “you and I,” as if her troubles had become his own. He was right, too, since she had no other options at the time.
Olga went through a study course. She enjoyed mastering the trade and put her heart into work arranging lively, fresh, and creative compositions. Even her employers were impressed:
“Look at this bouquet! It’s not just a bouquet, it’s fully-fledged ikebana!”
“If you need anything—appeal to God directly!”
The further—the better. She finally went to work independently at their florist shop. Busy with buyers, Olga worked hard arranging flowers.
A buyer, a respectible, wealthy man, was so impressed with Olga’s creations that beyond leaving a fair amount of money for his order, he also left her with a hefty tip. On that same day, a few more customers left good tips.
In the evening she rushed to Fr. Boris to share the good news.
“Why are you jumping around like a goat?” asked the same old Baba Manya who prophesied about her inability to marry anyone because she was a single mom.
“But you see? Batiushka and I prayed and the Lord sent money my way.”
“What a thing to say! Why would our batiushka want to pray about money? We should ask God about salvation for our souls!”
It was true… The elder, by the way, had also mentioned that it was almost a mortal sin to pray to God about money or any profit-seeking: It is mammon, as we know. Of course, he accepted Olga’s money offerings without any disgust. But that was another thing… What if it was a sin? Oh well, our passions, oh, all those passions…
Father Boris sneaked up on them and accidentally overheard them talking.
What’s interesting is that as soon Olga paid off her debt, the flow of hefty tips dried up and later stopped altogether
“What do you think, doesn’t the Lord know about our needs?” he sighed. “Should we play a double game or lie to Him? If you need money right away—ask Him for help and He will sort it out up there. Sure, we shouldn’t forget about our souls. But we shouldn’t be devious as we pray either—pretending to do it for the sake of the spiritual matters while in reality, it isn’t. If you need anything—just say it. He is our Father. Won’t He take pity on us, His children? And you, Olenka, should continue praying and working. Our merciful God won’t forsake us.”
“Us…” Overall, Fr. Boris had never before spoken as long as he did then. It was quite an extraordinary thing!
Olga prayed and worked. And her customers grew so fond of her bouquets that she was tipped daily, and not once. Her bosses appreciated what she did and rewarded her with sizeable bonus payments. So, in a little more than a year, she was able to repay everything she owed.
Once she repaid her debts, the tips gradually died off. And then they dried up completely. At first, Olga was upset and even complained to Fr. Boris:
“Why did God forsake me?”
“Don’t say that!!!” batiushka flapped his hands in alarm. “You shouldn’t even allow yourself to think like that. He helped you so many times! What, are you starving?”
“I confess that I thirst for blood and I still can’t help it …”
Olga wasn’t starving. She even got promoted at work. She was appointed to work as a manager at a new flower shop opened by her bosses. So, things were looking up.
And got even better! She got married to a new flower supplier. A good-looking, decent man, and a believer sans beard. It didn’t deter him that she had a daughter or that she wasn’t a confirmed virgin. Maybe, it was because Fr. Boris had prayed about it? Yet, he wasn’t an elder… But what if?..
Fr. Boris officiated at their wedding ceremony to the joy of the parish and utter surprise of Baba Manya. Later on, he baptized their son Boris. They named him in batiushka’s honor.
Batiushka has grown quite old these days. He can’t see well and his legs hurt. But he prays just as diligently for everyone and helps anytime he can. And he always treats the sorrows of others as his own. Whenever someone is tempted to go and see the elders, he advises them:
“I can’t forbid it. God created every man to be free, so how can I violate your freedom! But, to be honest, I wouldn’t advise you to do it. Let’s better pray together and the Lord will fix it. He knows what we need. As for the elders… God willing, you will meet them one day. As long as you keep your sanity in check. You know, there are all kinds of people out there…”
That was the story Olga shared with me during our meal in the monastery refectory. It was the story of a mighty, powerful elder in seclusion, the run-of-the-mill Fr. Boris, a miracle of flowers, and her new life.
“I know, I know, it was totally my fault, I should have had a mind of my own. But even today, anytime I hear about the blessed elders I am ready to commit a crime. I do confess that I thirst for blood but I still can’t help it.”