A Lesson from Blessed Andrew

Sergei Seryubin at the relics of Blessed Andrew of Simbirsk Sergei Seryubin at the relics of Blessed Andrew of Simbirsk   

The year 2003 raged on. It could be that the year was all smooth sailing for some of you, calmly gliding away, but it was truly stormy in the life of my family.

A wrongful trial for me,1 the editor of the regional newspaper “Orthodox Simbirsk,” and the imminent danger of spending five years in prison.

I experienced restriction of travel away from my town, an endless series of hours-long interrogations in the local prosecutor’s office, and examinations by experts. Then more interrogations and examinations. It went on like that for a entire year.

Who is responsible for this? The Lord, of course! And I fully acknowledged it

But the Lord prevented it from happening.

I never expected to receive such powerful and comprehensive support! Nightly phone calls coming from everywhere from Kamchatka to Berlin with words of support. Dozens of money transfers by mail, an authorized rally of believers under the governor's windows, and the prayerful support of Orthodox people throughout Russia.

Once in winter, a man carrying two sacks of potatoes showed up at the doorstep of our apartment. He had driven all the way from Chuvashia along those icy roads for us!

Our search for a defense lawyer resulted in a totally unexpected outcome—two prominent Russian lawyers from Moscow agreed to handle my criminal case absolutely for free! Although they charge tens of thousands of dollars for their services in the capital, they have occasionally provided financial support to our family.

Who gave us all this?! The Lord, of course! And I was fully aware of that. I came to Communion every week throughout that year and prayed in earnest.


We were prepared to fight the case for at least two or three years. However, everything was resolved much sooner. Under the “iron grip”, my lawyers convinced the law enforcement officials to put an end to my “case”. The believers among the locals provided powerful support. The decision was unexpected. In the ruling, they wrote, “due to the absence of a crime in the act.”

As a result, the judge reeled off the final document and shot out of the room; all we could see was her long black robe mournfully waving us goodbye at the doorway. She never worked as a judge again from that day onwards. The prosecutor's office investigator also had to leave his position.

It was a triumph for all of us! We were exultant! The Lord heard our pleas for help and granted us victory!


The day of the uncovering of the relics of St. Andrew, 1998 The day of the uncovering of the relics of St. Andrew, 1998   

After I recovered from my feverish struggle, I looked at the church calendar and many things became clear to me. It was June 3, the fifth anniversary of the glorification and finding in Ulyanovsk of the holy relics of Blessed Andrew (Ogorodnikov), Fool-for-Christ and the miracle-worker of Simbirsk, our town’s heavenly patron saint!

In addition, it coincided with the commemoration day of Empress Helen, who is the patron saint of my wife. I alone knew how steadfastly and courageously she held on throughout that year.

Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God from the Church of the Burning Bush Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God from the Church of the Burning Bush The feast of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God is also celebrated on June 3. It so happened that a few years before that, one of the parishioners brought an ancient church icon of the Vladimir Mother of God to our local Burning Bush Church. During the years of militant atheism, their family safely kept it from desecration.

Over time, the icon's background turned completely black and its beautiful enamel patterns became practically invisible. The priests chose to place the icon inside the altar instead of the church nave. Approximately six months before the end of my trial, the icon began to renew itself. The blackness on the background enamel began to disappear as if with the wave of someone's hand, and the icon gradually appeared in its vibrant original form, right before the astonished priests’ eyes.

My friends bought a beautiful cross for this icon at the Sofrino factory near Moscow, knowing that this feast also fell on June 3. Ever since then, the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God is located, along with its cross, in the narthex of the church above the analogion for confessions.

St Andrew’s reproach

The monument to Blessed Andrew in Ulyanovsk. Scupltor: Igor Smirkin The monument to Blessed Andrew in Ulyanovsk. Scupltor: Igor Smirkin Ten days after my trial ended. My Orthodox friends decided to thank Blessed Andrew for his obvious assistance during my ordeal. They decided to commission our local wood carvers to carve a beautiful pectoral cross with decorations, to be placed over the saint’s tomb. A fundraiser was started for this cause.

One day, while I was busy going through town to meet my friends, I chanced upon Oleg, one of our fundraisers, who was hurriedly walking towards me.

Hello, Sergei! We are collecting money for the cross to be hung above the tomb of Blessed Andrew! Do you want to donate?

When I heard it, I felt equally moved and saddened. It was nice to hear about the ardent support of ordinary people. However, our family has been left practically penniless and I have not yet been offered a job.

I reached into my pocket. A solitary note rustled with a mournful sound. I took it out and looked at it, it was five hundred rubles.

I thought to myself, Not much for a family of four, as “To be sure,” sadly stated. Well, I would have gladly given him a hundred ruble note, but five hundred is too much.

After some consideration, I did give the money to Oleg. With a heavy heart. With much regret...

“Wow, Sergei,” Oleg said with surprise, “your offer was the most generous!”

I could only respond with a peevish and wry smile.

We parted ways and I continued walking. I was only ten minutes away from my friends' place.

As soon as Natalia saw me at the door of her office, she pulled something out of her desk drawer and handed it to me, “Here, take it, please!”

I only saw that she had a five hundred-ruble note in her hand when I came a little closer! That red one, the very same one...

The streetlight shining from the window blinded me, making it difficult to see anything around me. Only when I came closer did I see that she was holding a five hundred-ruble note! The red one, that very same one...

She said resolutely, “Take it, Seryozha, it’s hard for you and Lena right now,”.

I felt something inside me snap. I sank down on the sofa and thought it over slowly.

““Doesn’t it strike you, my dear Sergei Vyacheslavovich,” I thought spitefully, ‘Did you just get a sharp smack on your head?’ A gentle, fatherly slap.

As a former editor of an Orthodox newspaper, I had known about this particular episode from St. Andrew's life for seven years. And now I lived to see it materialize and try it on myself:

“Anytime an almsgiver regretted in his heart about a coin he offered to the blessed saint, Andrew would unmistakably locate it in his pocket among other coins and give it back to the giver.”2

I felt ashamed. But I did receive a first-rate lesson!

It has remained firmly in my memory for more than twenty years.

Sergei Seryubin
Translation by Liubov Ambrose



1 In 2003, Sergei Seryubin was accused of “inciting national, racial, and religious hatred” due to an article he wrote about Jews.—OC.

2 Life of the Holy Blessed Andrew of Simbirsk, Fool-for-Christ, the miracle-worker // https://mitropolia-simbirsk.ru/2022/12/09/zhitie-svyatogo-blazhennogo-andreya-simbirskogo-hrista-radi-yurodivogo-chudotvorcza

Natasha2/21/2024 5:44 pm
Anna, neither one nor the other. For God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7). And if you regret when you give, then you should reproach yourself for it and try to get rid of this feeling.
Anna2/19/2024 12:32 pm
Please someone help me understand what Sergei should have done instead. Is it better to be a grumpy giver, or to not give at all? Also where can we read his article?
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