Eldress Nikodima of Diveyevo. Part 2

See Part 1

12. Ninochka

The house in Sergeyev Posad where Elder Seraphim (Batiukov) secretly lived. The house in Sergeyev Posad where Elder Seraphim (Batiukov) secretly lived.
Now more about Fr. Seraphim. They took his coffin and carried him away. This was unbelievably sorrowful of course, so Matushka's ten-year-old niece, Ninochka, who already lived with her, latched on to that cart and started running. Someone gave her the word to go and see where they would take Batiushka. So she ran and ran all the way to the end, and no one paid any attention to her. This ten-year-old girl followed them to where they brought Fr. Seraphim, then came home and told Matushka and her mother. (Her mother was Syncletica, Matushka's sister, to whom Fr. Seraphim appeared and gave the icons. She was already very ill and was pregnant with her last girl, Vera. This Vera lived with Matushka to the end. Vera was seven months old when Simochka died.) Batiushka had been flung into a common grave. They had taken his coffin and thrown it into the ditch. At night Simochka and one other woman descended into the grave, into the ditch full of corpses and pulled Fr. Seraphim out of it. They re-buried him secretly, at night, but this time without a coffin. When Vera was born, all her skin was goose-pimply; after all, her mother had experience great terror. Vera remained pock-marked like that.

Nina's fate for not allowing them to profane the elder when she was a little girl also turned out to be very complicated. She eventually married a man who was mentally ill. She never refused him, but bore with him, never turning him over to a psychiatric hospital, saying that it was her cross. She did not want that sin on her, and said she would not send him away but would endure to the end. She became very ill from anguish, underwent several operations, but the Lord led her to die on Matushka's bed in that same house where Fr. Seraphim died. She was taken out of the hospital. Gangrene had set in, and she was in terrible pain. She was given Divine Unction and Holy Communion and it all passed. It was not even necessary to give her a morphine injection but only a solution, and this calmed her down. Then the Lord arranged it so that on the feast of the Ascension, Fr. George from the St. Elias church served a Liturgy, came to them and served her Holy Communion, and she was conscious. She made her final confession and received the Holy Gifts. Fifteen minutes after had the priest had left the room, Ninochka quietly departed. Thus the Lord granted her a blessed end. Matushka said that this was by the prayers of Fr. Seraphim, because Ninochka had found out where he was and fulfilled her obedience. Later the last niece, Vera, moved him to Kukuev cemetery and re-buried him. He was buried there, together with her mother. By that time only his bones remained.

13. Fr. Seraphim's "Cell Attendant"

Here is another interesting thing about Fr. Seraphim. He was buried in the new cemetery. For a long time I could not find his grave. Matushka was already very old and could not make it to the cemetery, and Vera had no time to take me there. She only said: "Near the pond." I walked all around that pond, but I could not find the grave. They had told me how many crosses were there. Simochka and Fr. Seraphim were both buried there. It was on Radonitsa,[1] I went early in the morning to the cemetery. I went through one gate accidentally, and there was a cross over a grave, and on the cross was an icon of St. Seraphim of Sarov. I venerated that icon. There was no one in the cemetery; it was quiet and peaceful—Radonitsa. I went out of the gate. Soon I came upon another grave. In the Lavra was another elder, also Seraphim, and when he reposed, he appeared in a dream to Matushka and said: "I am your Batiushka's cell attendant." Matushka said, "Isn't that interesting—his cell attendant!" And now I had ended up within the same gate where our Seraphim from the Lavra was. We called him "little fluff." He was short, resembled St. Seraphim, and had very fluffy hair. He was also a slave of God of lofty life, and now it appears he is Fr. Seraphim's (Batiukov's) cell attendant in the other world. Now I had come upon his grave, not knowing where it was. I thought, isn't it interesting how St. Seraphim led me here. From this grave I descended a little, then saw the pond and that very gate enclosing what I had been searching for nearly five years. Then I truly understood that that dream was real, and Fr. Seraphim's cell attendant had led me to Fr. Seraphim's grave, right on Radonitsa.

Miracles occurred on Fr. Seraphim's grave. His spiritual children who came to Matushka told us about it. When Fr. Seraphim was alive, he blessed one woman's baptismal cross, and later she lost it. She was terribly grieved. It was the only thing she had to remember Fr. Seraphim by, and furthermore it was a cross, not just anything. She wept and grieved. Then she came to Fr. Seraphim's grave, wept, all in tears, and said: "Batiushka, forgive me, I lost my cross." Thus did she cry and cry, then turned around, and the very cross she had lost was hanging on the gate.

On the cross under which he lay, a number of people had seen at many different times an icon of St. Seraphim, although there are no icons there at all, only a small circle enclosing a place for an icon. When demonically possessed people come to the grave, the devil of course cannot endure it: they would scream there and become very restless. We were there once with a demonically possessed woman. We stood within the gate with the latch closed, when the enemy within her shouted "Ooh, what strong ones. Let me out of here."

14. Tonsure

The Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra. The Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra.
When the orphans grew up, they left that house. Matushka was very closely connected with the Holy Trinity St. Sergius Lavra in Sergeyev Posad. Once she happened to come to Schema-abbot Kuksha in Odessa. When she came to him he made an accusation against her, asking why she had not received the tonsure, that it was high time. That elder blessed her to receive the monastic tonsure. She was tonsured with the name Arsenia, after St. Arsenius, bishop of Tver. Her first monastic name was masculine, Arsenia, and in the schema she was Nikodima (also masculine).

15. "Martha"

Later Matushka worked in the Lavra feeding the monks. She had always been a good cook. The kitchen was her calling. She said: "I am Martha." But actually she was always also a deep woman of prayer. In the Lavra there were only about two or three nuns, and they fed the entire monastery and the Patriarch when he would come to visit. They fed all the respected guests and pilgrims, all with very few hands. It was a great labor, but Matushka carried it out with great love. She loved the Lavra very much, and she labored there without rest for the sake of St. Sergius of Radonezh. She said that more than one she saw St. Sergius on the cupolas of the Dormition Cathedral. Even in our own time, she would come to the Lavra and weep that the Saint was not there, he had left. "Maybe you don't see him because of your sins," people would ask. "I don't know; he's just not here, the Saint left." Fr. Seraphim foretold to her: "You will not live to the re-opening of Diveyevo, but you will have a metochion." I came to see Matushka when Mother Susannah died. She remained entirely alone. She was sad, prayed to the Mother of God for she missed her life's companion, Mother Susannah. So she again asked the Heavenly Queen to take her, an old and infirm one, under Her Protective Veil. She was already quite old—seventy-nine.

Matushka was paralyzed seven different times and to the surprise of all the doctors (according to their prognosis she should have died the first time), she did not die from paralysis.

She bore very many labors. She was very capable of working, and did not know what it meant to be tired. In the Monastery, as in the factory, she worked to exhaustion, till she dropped. People would constantly come to the house where Fr. Seraphim had lived, and she had to prepare food for them, greet them, conduct them in and feed them; at the same time, she had eleven children.

Now, about the twelfth girl. Matushka was in doubt, saying that Maria Ivanovna was mistaken, for she only had eleven children. She had one niece, Martha, who was half-orphaned. Her mother had died and her father re-married, and his second wife did not like these children. She and her husband secretly decided to give the children away to an orphanage. Martha came to Matushka and said: "Grandma Pasha, I saw a dream in which you pulled me out of a ditch by the hand." Matushka was wise; she listened to this little girl and said to her: "You know what, Martha, don't go anywhere; stay here with me today." She prayed, apparently, and the Lord revealed to her what the parents had decided to do with the child. She stayed there for a day, two days, and the parents naturally made a search for the missing girl. Then they came to Matushka and asked: "Pasha, do you know where our Marfusha is?" "Your Marfusha is here. And what have you decided to do with her?" The child's father, Matushka's brother, understood everything and immediately repented, saying: "You know, Pasha, we wanted to give her to the orphanage." "Ah!" she said, "so that's it. Well, I have eleven children, a twelfth won't hurt. I won't give her back. Let her stay and live with me." This so touched them that without judgment, but at the same time peacefully and respectfully, they took the girl, giving Matushka a promise that the child would be raised equally to their own children. They said they would not allow her to be given away, and will love her as their own. Matushka's action pushed them into deep repentance. Truly, this girl was treated well in the family, and even received some sort of education, but she died very young. Apparently, she was a chosen one of God. This is how the Lord preserved her from the orphanage, and perhaps even thus saved her soul. Then Matushka remembered and said: "Well, Maria Ivanovna, forgive me; that was the twelfth piece of candy." Here she was speaking of the salvation of the girl's soul.

It must be said, that they had a large yard and garden, and when Matushka was still strong, all the paths were cleared and sprinkled with sand, and everything was as in the Monastery during Fr. Seraphim's life, in spite of the fact that there were persecutions. One would think, how could they have paths and sand [under such adverse conditions], but there were always flowers, and the waste was always thrown behind the trees. And everything in the house had to be done for the Glory of God. She had to work in the factory, and do services, and sing, and receive guests—but she had energy enough for all of this. This is clearly a miracle of God. The Lord strengthened her.

16. On "Vacation"

When she had become elderly, and was working in the Lavra, she lay there and said one day: "Lord, how tired I am from all these labors. I have no strength." Then she heard a voice coming from the icon of the Savior "Made Without Hands" (she had a small "Made Without Hands" icon): "Well then, rest." At that moment her hands, feet and tongue went limp. On the curtains, her life was being shown from birth to that very moment when she lay down. "I lay there," she said, "and it was like a movie, like the television. Everything to the tiniest detail." Then her niece Vera came in, who was taking care of her then, and was horrified. "Mama, what's wrong with you?" "I was laughing. It was funny to me because I could understand everything, hear and see everything, but I could not move my tongue, nor my arms or legs—not one finger." She lay like this for an entire year.

It must be said that she was very fat. Once she fasted for forty days, took nothing but water, but she did not lose weight. Fr. Seraphim would laugh at her, saying: "Well, mother, nothing can help you." She said: "God gives me fatness for my simplicity." Such a large, weighty person, and she lay there for a year (Vera was not in a condition to move her around), but she had no bedsores or anything on her body. No one could give her any injections—though her body was soft, the needles broke when they entered. This is a wonder that the Lord worked in her. Thus she lay peacefully resting for a year, then everything started working again—her arms and legs. The doctor that took care of her was amazed. In any case, medical science has no explanation for it. Later she was paralyzed again, but only lightly, up to seven times. But as she said, she felt none of the pains that sick people usually feel. This may also be God's Providence.

17. "Diveyevo Metochion"

When I came, we lived there just the two of us, but later many girls came and lived in that house. The metochion[2] naturally remained. We are very friendly with each other even today, for she united everyone with love, and we learned much in this metochion. It was like a little monastic community, and the catacomb Church continued with us. Fr. Seraphim had even told her: "You will have a metochion." There was a very strict rule. Matushka was already a schemanun, and she had very long prayer rule. She had to read the Psalter completely through every day, say 1600 Jesus Prayers and do the monastic rule besides. And how can one do all this when there are always people in the house? Very many people came to see her. She never turned anyone away. We usually rose at 5:00 in the morning. She would come and knock on our door: "Wake up kiddies, wake up, it's time for prayer." We would be grumbling with displeasure, not wanting to get up, but we did. Now I could not do such labors as we did then; it was probably possible through her prayers. We did hard work; we were given such work in the world that we had to mortify our passions. At work we would get tired, in the evening almost every day we read Vespers. We had Divine Service books at home. She would let us go to the Lavra only reluctantly, although we were eager to go there with all our might. She would say: "There's nothing for you to do there. Learn the services here. There you only act like fools, your eyes flutter all around; you should sit home and pray." So for the most part she kept us at home.

We would arise in the morning, read the rule, sometimes lasting until 12:00 noon; that is from 5:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon. We read the entire Book of Canons, plus an Akathist[3] to the saint of the day, plus the prayers before Liturgy; Liturgy of course we could not do. We read and Matushka did the Jesus Prayer, then she took up the Psalter, while we ran to the kitchen, for we had to prepare food for the people that always came after lunch and even before. The first priority was to feed them, and we often made large pots of food. I was the arch enemy of the kitchen—for me it was the greatest trial. I suffered unbelievably that they assigned me to the pots. But here is how patiently Matushka bore this: "Kiddy, kiddy, well come on my child." I would murmur: "We would do better to pray. We have our rule to do, and here's you and your pots. What do need these pots for?" "My child, my child, let me clean some carrots. Give me some carrots, and pour some water." Thus did she persuade me. But the Lord humbled me for my disobedience. All I had to do was disobey, and the people would crowd in and there would be nothing to eat. She never scolded anyone in her life, never said "I told you to do it, but you didn't do it." She would say: "Oy, quickly, quickly, Tanya hurry, people have arrived." Such humility, such patience, such love she had for us, but she was also remarkably strict with us. We could not take a cup from the cupboard without asking. At first I did not understand it and murmured much. I thought that I simply would not be able to bear it all, especially since I was used to freedom—misbehaving, to be more precise—and now I had to walk along one floorboard and obey some little old lady. I remember once I cried and said: "I can't do it anymore. You are just doing it all on purpose to mock me." But Matushka very calmly and peacefully said: "I want to teach you the real thing." So that everything would be God's will, everything with a blessing, so that obedience would be present in everything; for the Lord will not accept it if it comes from yourself. It was very hard to struggle with myself, but the Lord helped me through her prayers. It was extraordinarily easy to pray with her. The pages and books just flew. Doing it one on one was like turning a millstone, but with Matushka we just didn't even notice the time go by. I was not the only one who noticed this. When we prayed it seemed that some measure of the burden dropped from our shoulders. We felt so light after prayers.

She had the gift of clairvoyance. Because of her modesty and humility she kept it to herself, hardly revealing it to anyone. Although I was with her for a long time, only later did the Lord show it to me and I understood that I needed to obey her in everything, although there were elders in the Lavra, and I had a spiritual father. It would happen that she would say: "Tanya, go to the store and you'll see Annusha. She'll give you something." I would be off like a shot, and sure enough, Annusha would be there and give me that thing. We never went anywhere and we knew nothing. She would say: "In the Lavra, this priest is doing something wrong, and you need to tell him that." We went, and I said: "Father, please forgive me, but you mustn't do that." A deacon, Fr. Vladimir, lived next to us (he is now serving in America). I told him about it: "They are doing this thing in the Lavra. Is that right or not? Matushka told us." He would be amazed: "How does she know? You sit at home and don't go anywhere." Then the deacon said, "Ah! I know. She sits and looks out the window, and the monks walk by (they had a metochion there)." I said: "Well, sure. You look out the window and see what is going on in the Lavra?"

Matushka was very direct by nature. Bishop Serapion was her spiritual father. When Fr. Seraphim was no more, they did not acknowledge anyone to be over them, only "Papa." But Bishop Serapion guided them. He tonsured Mother Susannah and Mother Nikodima into the schema. He travelled to foreign countries; there they were afraid of "red" priests, and they told her: "Nikodima, you know, you should leave Serapion—he has a "red book."[4] She approached him and said: "Forgive me Batiushka (he was not a bishop at the time), but bless me to go to another spiritual father." "What is it?" he said, for he loved and respected her. "You have some sort of red book." He said, "It's not red, it's gray." "I don't know how it looks, it doesn't matter. But bless me to go to another spiritual father. Forgive me, I am telling you as it is, to your face. Whether you love me or don't love me, I am telling it as it is." That is the way she was: she could say something to anyone, face to face, and say it in such a way that she would not offend anyone. She had the gift of openness and directness for the sake of saving her neighbor's soul.

She very much venerated her patron saint, St. Parasceva, always received Holy Communion on her feast day, preparing well for it. Once I went to the Lavra [to find a priest to serve her Holy Communion]. Usually they went readily, but this time there was some temptation—no one would commune her; they were all too busy. Then I turned to Fr. Platon, and he said: "I can't either, but I'll ask one of the external students, give him my Gifts, and he will go and serve her." I told this priest indignantly: "Forgive me father, but this is a Diveyevo matushka; please make an effort for the sake of Christ." I thought, well he had his own affairs, and now we have found him more work. He looked at me with surprise: "What do you mean, Diveyevo? Where did Diveyevo nuns come from?" I said: "She has been living here a long time, as she was blessed to do." He said nothing more. He had a secular look, felt like that breed. Well I took him home and stepped inside. Matushka was already in her garb, ready, and looking out the window, waiting. Then she suddenly turned around: "Bless, Vladyko![5] I said: "Well, hello—a simple priest has come to serve you. The monks refused you today. It must mean that you are doing something wrong." She just looked, saying: "I don't know, but here is a bishop!" This priest was struck with the unexpectedness of it. "Matushka, how do you know?" "Well I don't know, but here is a bishop." He said nothing, went into the room, confessed her and served her Communion.

Then they sat at the table and the priest said that he had had very great sorrows. He was persecuted in his parish and endured very much unrighteousness, temptations from the enemy. The devil had stirred up persecutions against him. He was a married priest. That very night before I met him, St. Seraphim had appeared to him in a dream. The Saint comforted him and said: "Do not grieve; you will be a bishop." He did not believe this dream, and decided that it was an attack of the devil. He would not accept it at all because of his humility. But when I invited him to commune a Diveyevo nun, and when she heard him announce "Vladyka from the doorway just as he had heard from St. Seraphim, he was of course shocked and amazed. When I returned with him to the Lavra, he said something to me that no one had ever said; it was the truth. He said: "Tanya, hold on to that nun, for there is something in her that has been practically annihilated in people. It is what the Holy Fathers call humility. This is the deepest of all virtues. But many of today's ascetics do not even know what it is. But these old slaves of God know. God's grace is not given for nothing—one must suffer and grieve; her path has probably been difficult." When he told me that, I pondered on it and began to observe her more attentively. She had profoundly deep humility; she was able to bend in all of life's conditions, to be unnoticed in everything, to quietly and without any unnecessary words see and understand God's will, and to endure everything magnanimously. When Matushka died, we reminisced about her and suddenly remembered that she never got irritated, never yelled at anyone, never got angry—just a look from her was sufficient. It was terrible to upset her. Her displeasure was expressed in just a few words: "Papa my dear, St. Seraphim, just look what they are doing." This was her punishment, but it was terrible, for we knew that these words cost a great deal. So she was always peaceful, always, always at prayer. No matter who came to see her, she would weep with the weeping, but her prayer rope always moved. Even at night we would wake up and look at her and she would be sleeping, the whistle of sleep lingering in the air, but her hand would be moving that prayer rope. How could this be? That hand never stopped working, as if it had been wound up one day and it never stopped since. She loved the Jesus Prayer very much.

18. The Mystery of the Jesus Prayer

In the last days of her life she was very grieved: "I have become so sinful, so unworthy. Earlier the Mother of God would visit me and St. Seraphim too, but now they have abandoned me; I am more sinful than all of you." She would weep and say only: "You will be higher than me, but I am worse than all of you." We were very eager to go to Church services, very much loved the Church hymnody, always tried to run out quietly first one of us, then another, and leave Matushka behind. Sometimes one of us would stay behind, but sometimes no one would—everyone would run off to church. I remember once the whole house was filled with people; many people from Sarov and Diveyevo were there. It was the feast of the icon of the Mother of God "Assuage My Sorrow." As she slept we all quietly made off, including me, the guiltiest of all. I thought, "I'll go while she sleeps, and she won't even wake up before I run back." I had one foot there, the other here. Matushka felt worse by then and we did not read the services at home so much anymore, so of course we wanted to go to church. I stood in church until they sang "Our Father,"[6] ran home, and she was not sleeping. She was lying there unable to speak. I was frightened—perhaps she was paralyzed again. I asked her: "What is it? What happened?" She said to me: "Don't touch me!" I was horrified. Should I call Vera? Should I call the doctor? She saw that I was worried and calmed me down, waved her hand at me and said that everything is alright. A few minutes passed, and I sat down and looked at her. The she said to me quietly, "You know what happened?" Well, Glory be to God, I thought, nothing happened. "Why did you all leave? Why did you all leave? I was weeping and weeping, but the Lord consoled me. You all ran away, but the Lord does not abandon His little fools." And this is what she told us: "I was lying here crying—this person hurt me and that person hurt me, and those ran off and there is no one here." Then a voice came from the icon of the Savior saying: `Why are you crying? Here you have Diveyevo, Mt. Athos, Kiev and Jerusalem. Why are you crying?'" And the Jesus prayer flowed. She said, "What a prayer that is! I was in the air." I came and that state was just ending, and that is why she held me back, so that I would not break it off. That is how the Lord visited her with His grace. She had self-moving Jesus Prayer. Because she never abandoned that prayer, the Lord showed her this mystery of the Jesus Prayer.

They called her Blessed Pashenka, and apparently she did have just such a cross and podvig, because as far as I knew about the Blessed ones, they always took unbelievable obediences upon themselves. The people who later always surrounded her (her relatives) were worldly people and their presence was a burden. Matushka was already becoming exhausted and weak, but they only murmured. They were just waiting for her to depart. They did not wish it, of course, but they understood that she was already very old and it was time to be free of this metochion, because we were only needed there to take care of Matushka. Besides, they drank and were crude people. But how lovingly she related to them, how she loved each one. Vera's father gave matushka the most trouble, but she would say to him: "Tolenka, Tolenka my dear." When she was completely weak and infirm, these relatives asked everyone to leave the metochion. They wanted to move there themselves to live, and she then remained alone with them. We visited her as much as we could, and I went there very often. You could say that she saved them, costing her great self denial, until the very end. As she said herself, the monks in the Lavra blessed her to keep this house for believers. They wanted me to live there, but Matushka told me right away: "The Lord will give you a little corner. But they [her relatives] will not leave you in peace, that is, there will be big arguments over this house, and there's no need for you to get caught up in it. Your head is more precious. You still need to serve God." Furthermore, when Matushka was paralyzed, they secretly made documents assigning the house to themselves. Such a mess was cooked up, but she did not get involved and just accepted it as a cross. Thus did she have to live out her days with them. Of course it was a podvig, because they did not understand what sort of person she was.

They hid her Psalter so that her eyes would not go bad. They loved her in their own way: "Oh no, Grandma, you'll go blind—no Psalters for you." So they would hide everything, and she would be without her Psalter. She constantly used to pray for the reposed, and had many commemoration books. They hid all of her prayer books, her Book of Canons; only her Jesus Prayer was left. But she was an experienced investigator. She would pray and find everything, then return it again to where they had hidden it. Thus did she secretly continue her asceticism. I would come and she would say to me: "I found everything. Vera hid it all, but I found it."

She had cataracts, and she was nearly blind. But what faith she had! She would only ask: "Mother of God, give me my eyes so that I can finish commemorating my reposed ones." She had commemoration books from Optina, Shamordino, Diveyevo and many, many other monasteries. We would help her read, but when we were not there, she nevertheless did not abandon her commemorations, and read them all herself. Sometimes a film would cover her eyes and she saw nothing. "You go take some water from the Mother of God, from the spring there; take a dropper and drop it in my eyes." After this it would all pass. We never treated her with any medicines, only holy water. We would drop it into her eyes, and the film would break. Thus did the Heavenly Queen give her sight, and she read and never parted with her books until her very last day.

Her relatives would give her to eat whatever they were having—meat or whatever, just in order to preserve her, so that she would not develop dementia or paralysis. She understood that this was not her kind of food. So she would avoid it with various tales and histrionics. Then a seminarian turned up—how did he know about her? The Heavenly Queen must have sent him—and he passed her food through the window while he was at work. Thus did she live with the help of Kolya, Nicholai.

I came with Fr. Epiphanius to serve her Holy Communion for the last time, and she complained: "Tolya has gotten so angry with me. Well, what have I done to him? He grabbed me so hard, but I was not frightened." In a week she was no more. What had happened? Vera told us when at the funeral that she had come home at about 7:00 in the evening, and Matushka was in the holy corner, where the altar and Fr. Seraphim's baptismal font were. He loved to sit there. She was on her knees, with her elbows resting on the arms of that armchair, her head hanging, already cold and dead.

No one knew how this happened. Tolya was home, but not sober. What happened? Perhaps he frightened her? Perhaps her heart stopped? But in any case she was kneeling, it could be said, in prayer, even resembling St. Seraphim when he died—only he had an icon of the Mother of God "Umilenie." Matushka's "Umilenie" icon was in the large room, but in the small room was the Iveron icon. Thus in the room where she served all her life, just as she had always wanted, she finished her life before this icon of the Mother of God. Her death was as her life. She said that the reposed (for whom she prayed) would not abandon her. Because she herself loved them and very much loved to pray for their eternal rest, the Psalter was her favorite book. She also loved the Gospels very much, but she never parted with her Psalter, nor with those commemoration books and reposed ones. So the Lord granted her to die not long before the re-opening of Diveyevo Monastery. On the Friday Laudation of the Mother of God they had the first service in Diveyevo, in the Holy Trinity cathedral. Matushka died two weeks before, on the fifteenth of March, the feast of the "Reigning" icon of the Mother of God, the icon that took all of Russia in Her hands.[7] Thus they called Matushka the "royal nun". Her first name at tonsure was Arsenia, and she died on the commemoration day of St. Arsenius and the "Reigning icon." We buried her on Sunday, and on Saturday there was a commemoration service, for it was Great Lent and the Saturday of the dead.

19. The Funeral

The Holy Spirit Church in the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra. The Holy Spirit Church in the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra.
We took her to the Lavra. This was a miracle in and of itself, just to have a nun's funeral in the Lavra. There were very many nuns in the Sergeyev Posad, but funerals were rarely served for them in the Lavra. When Matushka died, someone who worked in the Lavra said to me: "Ask the Abbot, maybe they will serve the funeral in the Holy Spirit Church." It turns out that in order to serve a funeral in the Lavra you need the blessing of the Patriarch himself. I called the Abbot, told him thus and so, a Diveyevo nun has died, does he bless to have her funeral in the Holy Spirit church. He readily, as if without even thinking about it, calmly said to me: "You are welcome. Bring her here for the funeral. Let them give you the keys to the Holy Spirit church and a car so that you can transport the coffin." It happened in an instant and no one was even surprised.

Whenever a reposed person lies in the Holy Spirit Church it is either a monk from the Lavra or rare and special person. We brought Matushka to the Holy Spirit church. Archimandrite Benjamin was still alive then. He knew her as did many, and gave us all the groceries we needed in order to have a commemoration meal. We brought all those who came to her when she was alive, who loved her. People came from all around. We did not send any telegrams, only to very close ones, but the Lord Himself brought all these people to the Holy Spirit Church. I stood there. Then I saw one, two, three people come in. How did they know? "We didn't know. We were just walking along, and we looked and saw that the Holy Spirit Church was open." "We just came from (the relics of) St. Sergius and then we saw our Matushka lying here." Even some girls who had lived with her succeeded in flying from Perm in time for the funeral. Some just made it to the cemetery. Matushka gathered all her people. As she always prayed for the reposed, on that very Saturday of the Dead she was brought to the Holy Spirit church, where they were serving a Pannikhida.[8] It had only just begun when we brought her there, and in the Trapeza church a commemoration service was beginning. Thus to the sound of all this hymnody did they carry her in.

We buried her on Sunday. It was a beautiful day, and everything went so easily, just extraordinarily easy. I went to Fr. Gleb, who was leading the choirmasters' class at the time, and asked him to give us a few girls to sing, because it was a monastic funeral. He brought an entire huge choir, and all of them were monastically inclined, so that you could say it was really like a Diveyevo metochion. Fr. Gleb himself came as well as several other priests from the Lavra, including Fr. Cosmas, who used to go to her regularly, and he served. It was an unusually good choir, and such an unusually wonderful service in the Holy Spirit Church. There was such a remarkable joy at that funeral. And what is interesting, there were very many children present. Where had all these children run in from? They surrounded the coffin and stood with candles. She had raised children, but these were some other children who perhaps never even knew her. I was seeing many of them for the first time. The church was full of people. One priest walked in just before the funeral—Fr. Athenogenes (who is now on Mt. Athos in a hermitage). I asked him to come in. "Maybe you could serve a short Litia for Mother Nikodima?" He said: "And who is Mother Nikodima?" I said: "You know, there was this elder, Fr. Seraphim Batiukov," Well it turns out that this priest had looked for the house where Fr. Seraphim had lived, and venerated the elder greatly. "What? Where is that house?" he said, "I need to go there. It's been years and I have not been able to find it. I have walked all over this entire town, but no one could tell me where it is." I said: "Then you will have to go to the funeral, and from the cemetery we will go to that house, and you will see where Fr. Seraphim lived."

When we took Matushka to the cemetery, it is interesting and strange that we were met at the gate by children. Where did they all come from? Whose children were they? It is inexplicable. There were seven or eight of them. They all walked with us to the grave—those who stood with us in the church as well as those who stood by the gate—all the way to the grave. There we buried her.

20. The Inheritress of the Diveyevo Sisters

When Mother Susannah was still alive, she and Mother Nikodima lived together, but the enemy, in order to set them against each other, sowed the seeds of discord between them. Matushka was an experienced cook, loved that work and loved to do it well, but Mother Susannah had a more spiritual make-up. She read spiritual books and was a great woman of prayer. Martha and Maria. Thus did they live. Once Matushka baked some pies but they were over-salted. Without thinking long about it, she took them to the Lavra and fed them to the pigeons. But Mother Susannah was offended that she did not get any pies. She told her spiritual father, Fr. Seraphim, that Nikodima baked some pies but could not spare a single one for her, not even to taste. Fr. Cosmas, who loves to joke around, came and announced, "Mother Susannah and Mother Nikodima, you are being summoned to trial." "What trial?" "Fr. Serapion commands that you come at this time on a certain day. Please be so kind as to come." He made the announcement and left. Mother Nikodima did not understand what trial he was talking about. But Mother Susannah understood that the judgment would be about the pies.

They came, Matushka not knowing what was going on. And who would be the judge? The judges of course were three monks from the monastery. Fr. Serapion also loved to joke and have a laugh. Matushka was also jolly, they said, she will die laughing. She never laughed, but was always joyful. She would not express it loudly, but nevertheless so fervently, so cheerfully, so childlike that we would all roll around laughing when she would get us going. It was altogether joyful and cheerful, so easy to live with her. The judges announced "Nikodima, what have you done now? How could you do it? Where is your love? You baked pies, and would not even treat your own blood sister. Explain yourself." She said: "Forgive me holy fathers, I am guilty. The pies didn't turn out and I fed them to the pigeons. I ask your forgiveness and acknowledge my guilt, but there is nothing to be done about it now." "Well, okay," said the fathers, "we will now confer amongst ourselves as to what should be done with you, how you should be punished. Of course you, Nikodima, have committed a great crime; yes, it is such a lack of love. And Mother Susannah is right (she was sitting very importantly, like a child, deeply hurt that she did not get any pies). They announced the sentence: to exile Mother Nikodima for her deed to Piukhtitsa Monastery. With sorrow, she had to accept the decision. But nothing could be done—she had to obey.

She was already in the corridor, the court had adjourned, and she was walking along very upset, sad as can be. Then one of the monks who had participated in the trial ran up, and she asked him, "Batiushka, I have to pack my things. When do I go?" He put some money in her hand and said: "Go to your orphans in Diveyevo. There's nothing for you to do in Piukhtitsa." Matushka was overjoyed and immediately became engrossed in thoughts of Diveyevo. These were the tests she was given—only jokes, but it was all spiritual. But here was a miracle. She did not go to Diveyevo alone. One monk, Fr. Anthony, said: "Matushka, I am going to Diveyevo." She said: "I am going with you." She even had money for the trip.

Diveyevo sisters (left to right): Schemanun Margarite, Nikodema, Susanahh, and others. Diveyevo sisters (left to right): Schemanun Margarite, Nikodema, Susanahh, and others.
So they went, and there was Blessed Mastridia, a slave of God of elevated life. She had lived 25 years in prison and exile, and was clairvoyant. As those say who knew her when she was alive, she was a wondrous doer of the Jesus prayer. Sometimes people would come to her and she would just say: "How? How? How?" No one could understand, how what? It turns out that she was speaking of how to pray the Jesus Prayer. "How?" and she would answer right away, "Ach! You don't know anything. Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner." She was a fool for Christ, even when she was in the Monastery, Matushka told us. Then she disappeared. She was in prison and exile for twenty-five years. Well, when Mother Nikodima went to Diveyevo with Fr. Anthony, this blessed fool-for-Christ, Mother Mastridia, flew out onto the porch and shouted so loud that the whole village could hear: "My mother is coming! My mother is coming!" But they did not understand what mother she was shouting about. What has she gotten into her head, what was this foolish behavior? Then Fr. Anthony and Mother Nikodima appeared. Fr. Anthony said: I have come to tonsure you all." They all accepted it eagerly, with Mastridia at the fore to set an example. She was a fool-for-Christ, so the tonsure was not required for her; but in order to set an example, to show that it was God's will, she accepted it. With tears in their eyes but with eagerness, all agreed to receive the tonsure—all those sisters who were still alive, living in various villages around Diveyevo.

Here was the miracle. Tanya was a ryssaphore nun there. She knew nothing about it; she had walked from some distant village just before the tonsure. St. Seraphim had gathered them all together, all these little birds. So Matushka stood for them and covered them all, as Mother Margarita related: "She covered all of us little hens with her mantia, and we wept and wept." But Matushka wept most of all, first of all because she considered herself to be the most unworthy of all, and secondly because it was a great responsibility, and she was deeply anxious. Seeing this anguish, Mastridia said to her: "Mother, do not be afraid—I will pray you out [of hell]." Thus Mastridia, her tonsuree, became her first spiritual daughter. Perhaps she was not tonsured first, but according to her spirituality, Matushka always considered Matridia to be the first, and the most precious. Matushka always prayed for them. There were not many of them, perhaps ten or eleven of these old nuns who were still alive. She always prayed for them with tears. They had great respect for her, and there was such love between them, such respect. They considered her to be their mother and they obeyed her uncritically. They were not in obedience to any priests, but when Matushka spoke, no fathers existed for them; they would only do as Mother Nikodima said. She always prayed for them with tears and only said: "I won't be able to pray them out! I won't be able to pray them out!" But Mastridia said, "I will not perish. She [Matushka] will pray me out."

In her last days she wept all the time. She had a great gift of tears and she only cried that she is perishing, her soul is perishing. This of course was all humility. She had only one consolation: "Mastridia, Mastridia promised me that she would pray me out [of hell], and I put my hope in her. She will pray me out." These are all the nuns, who I was able to meet when they were alive: Mother Seraphima the iconographer, Mother Alexandra of Arzamas, who lived with Blessed Mastridia, and Blessed Annushka. I did not meet Agafia. Domnica, two Domnicas—Matushka accepted one, the other was not her spiritual daughter, but she was from Diveyevo and came to see us, was also of lofty spiritual life and kept St. Seraphim's Psalter. I also never met Eusebia. All of them were God's chosen, all as one, and they all had the particular gifts of simplicity and wisdom. They had child-like faith that was unhypocritical and sincere. For example there was Raisa-Eusebia. She was blessed. In her garden she made a Jerusalem and a Bethlehem, and she would walk through it, venerating the holy places. It was like St. Seraphim in his hermitage; they imitated him in everything. Mother Nikodima was the most modest and methodical, wisest and self-controlled, and, I must say, very instructive. Perhaps that is why the Lord set her as the eldest over them all. They were all like children to her. Mother Anna loved her very much, and would say: "I wish Nikodima would come." She never even gave anyone hers scarves to wash, but she was always very affectionate with Matushka, loved her and showed respect. Blessed Anya also loved her very much. Even in our own time there were such slaves of God. We sometimes went to Diveyevo to visit these orphans. Now this spirit is departing. They were unique in spirit and simplicity, and they saved their souls in deep wisdom. Nevertheless, they were all different, each one so inimitable, so special that one could not be compared with another, yet at the same time they were if the all as same. There is nothing like that now; they had this from olden times. I do not know—will this ever be resurrected in us, the new ones? What a depth of God's Wisdom they had. They were truly vessels of the Holy Spirit on earth, and lamps of faith.  

Translation by St. Xenia Skete


[1] The first Tuesday after Bright Week, when the dead are commemorated.
[2] A metochion is a town residence of a larger monastery.
[3] An Akathist is a long, poetic prayer dedicated to the Mother of God or a saint. It is often sung, but can be chanted.
[4] This means that he carried the red passport of the Communist party, and was working in some way for the KGB. —Trans.
[5] An affectionate term for a bishop meaning literally, master. —Trans.
[6] This means she left before the end of Divine Liturgy. —Trans.
[7] This icon was miraculously found in a church just outside of Moscow on the day of Tsar Nicholas’ abdication. Therefore, it is revered as a sign that the Mother of God would now reign over Russia in place of the Tsar.
[8] Requiem.
See also
The Solemnities in Sarov and Diveyevo: 1903 and 2003 The Solemnities in Sarov and Diveyevo: 1903 and 2003
The Solemnities in Sarov and Diveyevo: 1903 and 2003 The Solemnities in Sarov and Diveyevo: 1903 and 2003
110 years ago—July 19 (August 1 new style), 1903 Batiushka Seraphim of Sarov, long loved and venerated by the people, was officially canonized a saint and his honorable relics uncovered. The solemnities that took place in Sarov And Diveyevo were a special page in the history of Russia, and Sarov and Diveyevo will forever occupy a an honored place in Russia’s spiritual geography.
What St. Seraphim Meant What St. Seraphim Meant
Fr. Stephen Freeman
“Acquire the Spirit of Peace and a thousand souls around you will be saved.” This is perhaps the most famous quote of the great Russian saint, Seraphim of Sarov. Many of his icons have this saying on them. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like it. On the other hand, I think there are many who do not understand it. And understanding what he meant can take you to the very heart of Orthodoxy.
From the Life of St. Seraphim of Sarov From the Life of St. Seraphim of Sarov
Helen Kontsevich
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Helen Kontsevich
As a beginning, Prokhor set off with five companions to the Kiev Caves Lavra, desiring to receive the blessing of the Kiev Elders. Among the ascetics of that monastery was the famous elder Dositheus (who was found to be a woman after she died). That clairvoyant elder had been in continual contact with the blessed Elder Paisius Velichkovsky, and with those monastics who were of one mind with him. Dositheus gave Prokhor spiritual instruction, counselled him to study the ancient Holy Fathers on the work of interior prayer, and directed him to go to Sarov Monastery and remain there until death, for there he would find salvation.
Eldress Nikodima of Diveyevo Eldress Nikodima of Diveyevo
† March 2/15 (1990)
Eldress Nikodima of Diveyevo Eldress Nikodima of Diveyevo
† March 2/15 (1990)
When the Monastery closed, Blessed Maria Ivanovna discerned the entire fate of each sister. Each sister came to her and she told her what awaited her. Those who were sent to prison were the special, chosen ones, and she even told them the length of their terms. But to Mother Nikodima she gave twelve pieces of candy and said: "You are assigned to raise orphans." This was her blessing from Maria Ivanovna.
Great in the Lord is Seraphim Great in the Lord is Seraphim
Father Seraphim and the American Heartland
Great in the Lord is Seraphim Great in the Lord is Seraphim
Father Seraphim and the American Heartland
In literally a few weeks, a group of Orthodox Christians established a parish in the Russian Orthodox tradition. This group included not only Russians but dyed-in-the-wool Americans. Today St Seraphim Parish also boasts Bulgarians, Serbs, Romanians and other Orthodox Christians.
The Spiritual Path of St. Seraphim of Sarov The Spiritual Path of St. Seraphim of Sarov The Spiritual Path of St. Seraphim of Sarov The Spiritual Path of St. Seraphim of Sarov
"He who truly loves God considers himself a wanderer and newcomer on earth, for in him is a striving towards God in soul and mind, which contemplates God alone." Certain people emerge as standouts in the church. Their chief characteristic is the search to live in the presence of God with every fiber of their being, and to recognize God's presence in creation and humanity. Such a saint was Seraphim of Sarov, author of the saying quoted above.
St. Seraphim on Monastic Life St. Seraphim on Monastic Life
From the book, St. Seraphim of Sarov, by Elena Kontsevitch
St. Seraphim on Monastic Life St. Seraphim on Monastic Life
From the book, St. Seraphim of Sarov, by Elena Kontsevitch
Elena Kontsevitch
“One distinguishing characteristic of the superior should be his love for his inferiors: for the true pastor, according to the words of St John Climacus, is shown by his love for his flock. For it is out of love that the Chief Shepherd was crucified on the cross.”
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