“It all started with my throat and a runny nose.”
I got sick with a bad cold. As usual, it all started with my throat and a runny nose. Then the virus began to descend to the bronchi and chest, causing a wet cough. Usually in such a situation a week or two of bed rest is prescribed. It turned out that I had oil on hand, blessed on the relics of Fr. Ambrose. It was a gift from a brother, a novice of Kazan Monastery, after his pilgrimage to Optina.
I read the evening prayer rule and prayed to Fr. Ambrose and rubbed the oil on my sore throat and chest.
In the morning I didn’t feel even the slightest discomfort!
Glory to God for his saints! Venerable Fr. Ambrose, pray to God for us!
* * *
“My coworkers hated me.”
P. B. Anna
A few years ago, in January 2007, I was hit by a series of troubles at work. At that time I worked on a pretty young team: the oldest person in our department was 37, the rest (only women) weren’t even 30.
One of these girls concocted some gossip about me which everyone believed. They accused me behind my back of some terrible sins—tattling, slandering—as if I go to the boss and report who does what, or rather as if I tell him that everyone is lazy. I never got all the details of the gossip, but all my coworkers together agreed to hate me.
I can feel this old offense even now, after so many years! I couldn’t understand what caused this silent, icy contempt, but when I found out, I was in shock! I tried to explain something and prove that I was innocent, but they wouldn’t even listen to me. They just ignored me—a boycott. I would cry at home in the morning, not wanting to go to work. I had only one desire—to quit! But I couldn’t quit, for material reasons.
And so, in complete desperation, I went to church for solace. It was the church of the Ascension on Bolshaya Nikitskaya Street, not far from my work at that time. I went inside. There was no service. I prayed, lit some candles and went to the look at the books being sold. I bought one of them. It was a paperback of St. Ambrose of Optina: Life, The Science of Salvation, A Spiritual Alphabet. I should say that at that point I didn’t know much about Batiushka Ambrose. I don’t know why I bought the book.
But when I began to read it, I saw every word from several of Elder Ambrose’s sayings as if they were addressed to me and my situation. I can’t even describe how light and good I began to feel. Little by little I calmed down. Every day I would read this book, mentally addressing Fr. Ambrose. And what happened? Gradually this situation, that had me so depressed, faded away, and my coworkers even apologized!
But even before that I already didn’t care—I had such peace of soul!
* * *
“Let’s go to Optina to pray. They’re waiting for us.”
Natalia Kiselyova, Moscow
Two weeks…! For two whole weeks I kept hearing around me the word “Optina” from friends and relatives. I should say that I really have a lot of Orthodox friends who love to visit Optina Pustyn. The last straw was when my friend called me at night and asked: “And what happened with Optina?” Half asleep, I didn’t understand, “what happened with Optina,” and asked: “And what could happen?”
The next day I was given a book, again about Optina.
I was in that beautiful place once. It was a wonderful, unforgettable trip! I’ll keep the memory of it in my heart and mind, it seems to me, forever. In Optina Pustyn I felt like time stops, and you feel eternity. But that’s a separate, lengthy story.
And now all around me I was hearing about Optina almost every day, and it seemed to me not unintentionally.
In our church we have an icon and shrine with relics of the venerable elders, and not long ago our church was a podvoriye of Optina Pustyn. I went up to the icon of Venerable Ambrose and the Optina elders and started prayerfully beseeching: “Why is everyone talking about Optina all around me? Maybe I’m supposed to go there? If so, then please direct this trip for me yourselves!”
That evening the phone rang in my apartment. “My dear Natalia”—it was a good friend, a friend of the family—“Some organization has ordered several cars for us tomorrow, and booked some space in Optina Pustyn. I’ll wait for you in the morning; we’ll go to Optina for prayer and some time in piety. They’re waiting for us.”
I couldn’t utter even a word for a few minutes from surprise.
They heard me! With what speed they fulfilled my petition! Truly, that which we ask for can come true! And we should be ready in full armor to receive it.
How quickly St. Ambrose and the Optina elders extraordinarily and surprisingly fulfilled and directed my prayerful petition!
Pray to God for us, St. Ambrose and all the Optina elders!
* * *
“Fr. Ambrose has returned.”
Fr. Ambrose helped me this summer, but I stupidly and proudly didn’t accept this help (I didn’t realize it was from him, I wasn’t expecting it so quickly, and I had no brains, I must confess), and I’m still repenting for it.
At that time I had just lost my job, and they fired me quite awfully and unfairly at that, after I had already passed my probation period and literally the day before we had talked about raising my pay. Fortunately, I had my spiritual father’s blessing to settle into work at a particular place, but I was stalling—I considered myself “intellectually unprepared.”
Then the July Church feasts began one after another, including the day of St. Ambrose of Optina. I was at church and asked his help with work, given that I had a blessing to do something I wasn’t ready for.
Suddenly that evening I saw in my email a letter from my academic advisor, then I missed a call from him on the phone. He wore himself out looking for me, although he doesn’t usually call or write me—I contact him first. It turns out that the company where his friend works suddenly needed a journalist-redactor for their site. I looked into the job with skepticism—it seemed to me they were offering very little money while demanding a lot of work. And there was a probation period of two months with all kinds of tasks and demands for the potential employee. Besides all that there was something I didn’t know.
I wrinkled my nose and said it’s some kind of “scam.” Although later I realized I should have snatched that job up to have something to hold me over at least for the two months of the probation period. My academic advisor laughed: “Well, as you know. It’s only a question, apparently, of being afraid to cope.” I really was afraid that they would fire me again after the probation period. I was afraid I couldn’t endure another such humiliation.
I had only just turned it down (the time was already late), when suddenly I remembered that in the morning I had been at the service and prayed before the icon of St. Ambrose, kissed his relics and besought him during the service, telling him about my problems. And what? The next day the icon of Fr. Ambrose in the church disappeared somewhere! Maybe they took it for restoration or to another church for a while…
All these months (I wasn’t able to find work after this for a long time—a whole four months, and I missed out on the blessing also, having dragged this out), no matter how much I begged and prayed and went to monasteries, no matter how many feast day services I stood through—nothing worked! And all these months I realized that that work, had I not turned it down, would have kept me afloat for a couple of months, and I wouldn’t have lost so much money and wouldn’t have crawled into debt and other difficult circumstances.
Whenever I went to church all these months I always went to the reliquary with a piece of the relics of Fr. Ambrose (we had a big reliquary with numerous small relics from various saints, including the Optina elders), asking forgiveness and looking with sadness at the corner where his icon used to be. Of course, Fr. Ambrose already knew a few months ago what would happen to me in the near future and how I would behave. He helped me, and I should have accepted this lesson-examination, if that’s how it turned out!
In the end, only recently I found work. Rather, the Lord send it to me, completely unexpectedly. Moreover, it happened that I agreed with the employer about work on a Friday, and on the next Sunday, as usual, I went to the Resurrection service and suddenly, at the end of the service, I saw an altar server carrying the icon of Venerable Ambrose, and he placed it on some wooden stand (I don’t know what it’s properly called) that had been empty this whole time.
I saw that Fr. Ambrose had returned! I rushed to him at full speed to beg forgiveness. I should say that during these months, when his icon was gone, I grew somehow especially close to batiushka through my guilty feelings and worries… He became a saint very close to me, and this icon which I waited for for so long, became very dear to me. I have no doubts about his speedy-speedy-speedy help! Fr. Ambrose, pray to God for us!
* * *
“I found my way in life and to my wife—a true friend.”
By the prayerful help of Fr. Ambrose and all the Optina elders I found my way in life and to my wife—a true friend.”
And why is that such a big deal? I can call that period in my life, of a relatively young age, nothing other than “emptiness.” Like in the old song: “Loneliness is dearer than emptiness when you live and think about death.” All my peers lived happy lives, dated, broke up, drank, and went for walks without thinking too much about it.
I don’t know what was the beginning of my Church life; now it’s hard to recall. As in war, all the powers of hell take up arms against the weak man who has begun his salvation, using any means proven by military experience and refined from the time of the first fallen forefather.
At some period of life there relentlessly arose in me the conviction to choose the monastic path for my salvation. Having been in one monastery for a couple of months, I understood that there I would more quickly perish. The state of modern monasticism, with few exceptions, is known to all. I had to return to the world. But, it turned out to be a dead end.
By chance (or not?), having opened a book of Venerable Ambrose’s life, I stumbled upon the words which he said to the Troekurovskoe hermit Hilarion: “Go to Optina. You’re needed there.” Everything suddenly became clear for me—where I needed to go to understand how to live. In Optina I saw the exception, the little flock which walks towards salvation, and inflames others to go as well.
At first I was inflamed, but monasticism is not for most people. Again doubts. Batiushka Iliy resolved them by blessing me to live in the monastery for a year. Just to live, not to think about anything, for a year. It was the hardest year of my life. When you are just one-on-one with yourself—it’s scary. You don’t know who will win. Every day I went to the relics of St. Ambrose and besought, pleaded, and cried. Really, it was hard.
Through the prayers of the elders the Lord taught me which path to choose: a girl came to Optina, who I now call my wife and the mother of our two beautiful daughters.
In conclusion I want to say that the Lord is nearer to us than it seems, and through people and situations He always guides us through life by the prayers of our venerable and God-bearing father Ambrose, elder of Optina, and of all the saints—of course, for those who follow Christ.
* * *
“Deliverance came in three days.”
Valentina K. Serov
Having despaired of escaping the man who had been torturing me for three years, I was able to do so only after I read a prayer to Venerable Ambrose of Optina which I found one time in his correspondence with his spiritual children. Deliverance came in three days. These whole three days we walked as around a circle and never once collided. Only the prayer of the great elder saved me from death.
By his prayers after three years I stood at his holy relics with tears of gratitude. And now I go up on the kliros to ask his blessing. I think, not without the help of the saint, I was blessed to work for a few years at making prosphora and in the trapeza.
May the Lord save us all by the prayers of the holy Venerable Ambrose of Optina!
* * *
“My friend had a completely ruined oven.”
I just learned about this little miracle a few hours ago. I don’t know if Batiushka Ambrose helped by himself—probably all the Optina elders helped.
Two days ago I was at my friend’s, who was getting ready to move to a house with a completely ruined oven. My friend has very tight finances. We hung up flyers with requests for help everywhere, not counting on it too much. After leaving her, I stopped by the church in those parts and saw there a small icon with particles of the relics of the Optina elders. I didn’t read which ones exactly. I asked the elders to help her.
I called then and found out that the next day—that is, yesterday—a woman called and offered her some help. She said: “Measure the oven—I’ll buy you everything you need.” The poor thing until then didn’t trust in such happiness.
May God grant that everything would turn out well for this poor woman. Pray to God for us Fr. Ambrose and all the Optina elders!
* * *
“I smoked a lot.”
At the beginning of my Church life I wound up in Optina. Before my arrival at the monastery I had a serious nicotine addiction.
I communed at the monastery and didn’t smoke all day—quite a long time for me then. I prayed to Venerable Ambrose to help me quit smoking. Within a few weeks I had quit completely. I haven’t smoked for two years now. I believe the prayers of the saint helped me.
* * *
“My husband smoked for many years.”
Here is my story. My husband smoked for many years. It, unfortunately, is a tradition in his family. He wasn’t intending to quit, because he assumed he wasn’t able. When I would try to speak with him about it, he got irritated. Then I asked our teenage son to pray to Venerable Ambrose for his father to deliver him from such a destructive passion.
A little while later my husband got skin cancer, and after the operation decided himself to quit smoking. He escaped from the passion of smoking only by the prayers of the saint. Glory to God for all things!