The Excommunication of Leo Tolstoy
From the Orthodox Church
by Ivan M. Andreev 1961
Orthodox Life May-June 1961
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Every act of excommunication from the Orthodox Church is always an act of Divine anger of Love. The purpose of every Church excommunication is cooperation toward the salvation of the perishing soul. When nothing by bringing to reason acts upon the one being lost .. fear can help. "And of some have compassion, making a difference, and others save with fear" (Jude I, 22 - 23). So does Christ's holy Church act. In the same manner does the Lord Himself, Who is Love, being infinitely patient and unlimited in mercy, after all means used for the salvation of the soul, sends to the sinner, as the last resort towards repentance, affliction, sickness and suffering.
The great writer of the land of Russia, Leo Tolstoy, having received from God an immense, titanic talent of creative ability, permitting him to write the great historical work War and Peace, and the psychological epopee (by the appropriate expression of Ivanov-Razumnik) Anna Karenina, at the close of the seventieth years of the last century began his anti-church activity, and wrote his famous Confession and after that the well-known Criticism of Dogmatic Theology.
"The teaching of faith conveyed to me in childhood," wrote he in his Confession, "had been lost within me as with others, the only difference being that since at the age of fifteen I began to read philosophical writings, my rejection of religious doctrine became fully conscious at an early period. From my sixteenth year I ceased praying and stopped, by my own personal conviction, attending church and making preparations for the receiving of the Sacraments... I was baptized and educated in the Orthodox Christian Faith. I was taught it from childhood and during my boyhood, and youth... But when at the age of eighteen I finished the second course of study at the University, I already did not believe in anything that I was taught. Judging by some of my recollections, I never believed seriously, but only had confidence in what others professed before me, the older ones, but that trust was very weak."
This is an extremely important avowal. The childhood faith – is the foundational rock of all the subsequent religious life of man. And it was not in vain that Christ the Savior said: "do not forbid the children to come to Me." And, "if you will not be as children, ye will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven," and about him "whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in Me," He said that "it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea" (Matthew XVIII, 6).
And so this most important basis of the true Christian Faith, a child's faith, Tolstoy, according to his own words, lost forever already in the sixteenth year of his life. With the complete loss of the child's faith, man loses the basis of any religious faith, and becomes a nihilist. And so Tolstoy himself admits about this in his book, In What Is My Faith. He writes, "I lived already fifty-five years and excluding the fourteen of fifteen childhood years, I lived for thirty-five years as a nihilist, in the sense of absence of any faith." Having arrived at complete spiritual bankruptcy, and being on the verge of suicide, Tolstoy tried to become Orthodox in a formal manner: go to Church, make the sign of the Cross, fast, fulfill all the rites and take the Sacraments of the Orthodox Church. But such self-deception, of course, could not continue for long. The mechanical observance of outward ceremonial forms of Orthodoxy, without the participation of the heart, without faith in Christ the Saviour and His Holy Church – was, after all, sacrilege. If it was yet possible to outwardly formally carry out the rites, then to partake of the Sacraments and, the more so, the most sacred and the greatest in the world Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, to approach it so was morally impossible. For the unworthy ones the Sacred Sacraments burn.
"I shall never forget," writes Tolstoy in his Confession, "what I experienced that day when I partook of the Sacrament for the first time after many years... When I approached the royal doors, and the priest made me repeat after him that I believe that what I would partake of is the true body and blood, my heart was cut by, it is little to say a false note, – that cruel demand of someone, who, evidently, never knew what is faith..."
Unfortunate Tolstoy! He was deaf spiritually towards the words of the Saviour Himself: "He who eats My Flesh and drinks of My Blood hath life eternal and I shall resurrect him on the last day" and "if ye eat not of the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink not of His Blood, ye shall not have life in you."
Having lost his faith in a personal God, Tolstoy, as it always happens in such cases, began to search for idols for himself. Such an idol which he deified became the famous French philosopher-"enlightener," one of the creators of the "Great French Revolution," the enemy of the Christian faith and Church: Rousseau. In the year 1905, being already a seventy-seven year old man, Tolstoy wrote: "In my life there were two great and benevolent influences: Rousseau and the Gospel..." It was not by accident that Rousseau was placed in the first place. The influence of the personality and the ideas of Rousseau were, undoubtedly, the most colossal, decisive influence on the whole life of Tolstoy.
"Rousseau was my teacher since my fifteenth year," admitted Tolstoy. "I more that exulted in him, I deified him. In my fifteenth year I carried around my neck a locket with his portrait in place of a Cross. Many pages of his are so dear to me that it seems that I myself wrote them ... Not so long ago (in 1905) it happened that I reread some of his works and I experienced that same feeling of exultation and astonishment, which I experienced when I read his works in my first youth."
It is impossible to understand the personality of Tolstoy without the main key to it: Tolstoy was most assuredly possessed. The initial terrible moment of this possession can be referred back to the time of his writing in The Diary, which Tolstoy began when yet a young officer of twenty-seven years, on March 5th, 1885, while sitting at Sebastopole, in the camp of Beelbeck, after night revelry and a loss of one thousand rubles in card playing: "...the conversation about deity and faith led me to a great colossal thought to the fruition of which I felt myself capable to dedicate my life. The thought was – the founding of a new religion corresponding to the development of mankind, religion of Christ, but purified from faith and sacraments, a practical religion, not promising future happiness, but bringing happiness on earth." To this proud idea Tolstoy dedicated the entire second half of his life (from the end of the seventies to his death in 1910).
The sister of the famous Russian philosopher prof. L.M. Lopatin, relating her conversation with the sister of Tolstoy, the nun Mother Mary, communicates very characteristic words of this nun about her beloved brother: "But Leo, what a person was he? A thoroughly striking man! And he wrote so interestingly! But now, since he sat down to interpret the Gospel, he become unbearable! Truly seems that the demon was always in him ..." And Lopatin herself add: "I never doubted this" (Bunin: The Liberation of Tolstoy, Paris 1937, p. 125).
The harsh and cynical sacrilegious attacks of Tolstoy against the Orthodox Church which began from the end of the seventies, always increased and finally took on such impossible forms, that they caused dissatisfaction of the Orthodox faithful with the excessive tolerance of the Church towards Her blasphemer and great heretic Leo Tolstoy.
In the year 1899, on the 13th of March, in the magazine Niva, Tolstoy's last novel The Resurrection began to be printed. By December 25th of that year the novel was completed.
We shall give some quotations from this novel (chapters 39-40 of the first part) which overfilled the chalice of patience of the Orthodox Church and which compelled Her to bring up the question of excommunicating Tolstoy from the Church.
The quotations given below sound exceedingly painful and insulting for the Orthodox feelings and ears, but it is necessary to furnish a small number of them in order to show all the Christian, and especially the Orthodox Christian, world what for was Tolstoy excommunicated from the Orthodox Church.
This is how the 39th chapter of the novel Resurrection begins... (We, Orthodox Life magazine editors, omit the extensive quotation given here – this mocking description of the Sacrament of Eucharist is filled with too much sacrilege.)
Then follows a like sacrilegious description of the reading of the Akathist to the Saviour...
In the 40th chapter Tolstoy writes on the occasion of the just written sacrilegious description of the Divine Service: "To no one present did it occur that all that took place here was the greatest sacrilege ( ? I.A.) and ridicule ( ? I.A.) over this same Christ in whose name all this is performed. It never occurred to anyone that the gilded cross with the little enameled medallions on the ends, which the priest carried out and gave to the people to be kissed, was nothing less than the depiction of that gibbet on which Christ was executed, just because He forbade to do that which now in His Name (of course, also with small letters) was performed here... "
Truly, never occurred to anyone that what transpired in Tolstoy's mind.
The patience of the Church was exhausted.
In February 20-22, 1901, there was made a special Decision of the Holy Synod.
"The Holy Synod in its care for the children of the Orthodox Church, for their protection from the detrimental temptations and for the salvation of the erring, having judgment about count Leo Tolstoy and his anti-Christian and anti-Church false teachings, has acknowledged it timely, in prevention of the violation of the peace in the Church to publicly make known, by printing in the Church News the following Epistle:
By God's Mercy
The Holy All-Russian Synod to the loyal children of the Orthodox Catholic Greek-Russian Church, rejoice ye in the Lord.
"Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them, which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them" – (Romans XVI, 17).
From the early beginning, the Church of Christ suffered blasphemies and attacks from the many heretics and false teachers, who aimed to overthrow and shake Her in Her essential foundations confirmed upon faith in Christ the Son of the Living God. But all the forces of hell, according to the promise of the Lord were not able to overcome the Holy Church, Which shall remain unconquerable forever. And in our days, with God's suffering there appeared a new false teacher, count Leo Tolstoy. An author known to the world, Russian by birth, Orthodox through baptism and education, count Tolstoy, by deception of his proud mind, rudely rebelled against our Lord, and His Christ and His holy domain, openly before all rejected his Mother, and the Orthodox Church, Which brought up and educated him, and dedicated his literary activity and the talent given him from God for the propagation among the people of his teaching contrary to Christ and the Church, and for the destruction in the minds and hearts of people of the faith of the Fathers, the Orthodox Faith, Which strengthened the world, by Which our forefathers lived and were being saved, and Which to the present time Holy Russia held and by Which it was made strong. In his writings and letters, distributed in plenty by him and his followers throughout the entire world, and especially within the boundaries of our beloved fatherland, he preaches with the zeal of a fanatic the overthrowing of all the dogmas of the Orthodox Church and the very substance of Christian Faith; he rejects the personal living God, glorified in the Holy Trinity, the Creator and the Providence of the Universe, rejects or Lord Jesus Christ, God-Man, the Redeemer and Saviour of the world, Who suffered for our sake and for our salvation, and arose from the dead; rejects the Divine Incarnation of Christ our Lord and the virginity before birth and after birth of the Most Pure Mother of God the Ever-Virgin Mary; does not believe in the life everlasting and its rewards, rejects all the Sacraments of the Church and the effects of Grace of the Holy Spirit in them, and, abusing the most sacred objects of the faith of the Orthodox people, did not shudder to inflict mockery upon the greatest of Sacraments, the Holy Eucharist. All this count Tolstoy preaches constantly, by word and in writing, to the temptation and horror of the entire Orthodox world, and so doing openly, ostentatiously before all, consciously and purposely renounced himself any communion with the Orthodox Church. All efforts made towards his enlightenment did not meet with success. Therefore, the Church does not consider him as Her member and cannot consider, until he repents and restores communion with Her. Now we testify about this before the entire Church for the strengthening those standing in righteousness, and for the enlightenment of those gone astray, especially for the new enlightenment of count Tolstoy himself. Many of his neighbors, who keep the faith, think with sorrow about this matter, that he at the close of his days remains without faith in God, and in the Lord Jesus our Saviour, having rejected the blessings and prayers of the Church and all communion with Her.
Therefore, testifying about his apostasy from the Church, together we pray that the Lord give him repentance to the acknowledging of truth (2 Timothy 2, 25). We pray to Thee, Merciful Lord Who wishes not the death of the sinner, hear and be merciful and turn him to Your Holy Church. Amen
Original signed by:
Humble Anthony, metropolitan of St. Petersburg and Ladoga.
Humble Theognost, metropolitan of Kiev and Galacia.
Humble Vladimir, metropolitan of Moscow and Kolomna.
Humble Jeronime, archbishop of Holm and Warsaw.
Humble Jacob, bishop of Kisheneff and Hotin.
Humble Markel, bishop.
Humble Boris, bishop.
Tolstoy's wife, countess Sophia Andreevna Tolstaya, although she was Orthodox, evidently was not yet versed well enough neither in the fundamental dogmas of the Church, nor in the writings of the literature of Holy Fathers, nor in Christian moral teaching and, in general, did not live within the Church (according to the remarkable expression of Khomiakoff), but only looked into the Church and remained most of the time only close to the walls of the Church. Only in this way can be explained her sudden reaction towards the Synod's Decision which induced her to write immediately after the publication of the excommunication the sharp letter, not deeply thought over and not in-due-form, to the Head of the Russian Orthodox Church, the First-President in the Synod, Metropolitan of St. Petersburg and Ladoga – Anthony.
On the 24th of March, 1901, at St. Petersburg in No. 17 of the Church News, issued at the Holy Synod, in the unofficial part was published the letter of countess S.A. Tolstaya to the Metropolitan Anthony and the answer of the Metropolitan.
We cite those letters.
"Your Eminence! Having read yesterday in the papers the cruel order of the Synod about the excommunication from the Church of my husband count Leo Nikolaevitch Tolstoy, and seeing among the signatures of pastors of the Church likewise Your signature, I could not remain altogether indifferent. There is no limit to my sorrowful indignation. And it is not from the viewpoint that because of this paper my husband perishes spiritually: this is not the concern of people, but of God. The life of a person's soul from the religious point of view, is unknown to and happily not subject to anyone except God. But from the viewpoint of that Church to Which I belong and from Which I never retreat, Which is built by Christ for the blessing in God's name of all the most important moments of a person's life: birth, weddings, deaths, sorrows and joys of people... Which should loudly proclaim the law of love, all-forgiveness, love toward enemies, who hate us, pray for all – from this point of view the order of the Synod is incomprehensible to me. It will evoke not sympathy (unless only in the Moscow News) but indignation in people and greater love and sympathy toward Leo Nikolaevitch. Already we are receiving such expressions, – and to them there will be no end – from the whole world. I cannot refrain from mentioning also about the sorrow I felt from that meaningless thing about which I heard earlier, namely: about the secret order of the Synod to the priests not to hold requiem services in the church in case of Leo Nickolaevitch's death. Whom do they wish to punish? – the dead one who can no longer feel anything human, or those surrounding him, who believe and are his close friends. If this is a threat, then to whom and why? Is it possible that, in order to have requiem services for my husband and pray for him in church, I will not find either an honest priest, who will not fear the people before the real God of love, or a dishonest one, whom I will bribe for this purpose with big sums of money? But I do not need this. For me the Church is an abstract idea, and as its servitors I recognize only those who truly understand the meaning of the Church. If the Church is to be recognized as people who dare by their malice to violate the higher law – the love of Christ, then all of us, the true believers and those attending Church, would long ago have left Her. And not those who went astray, seeking the truth, are guilty of sinful departure from the Church, but they who proudly recognized themselves to be at Her head and in place of love, humility and forgiveness, become spiritual executioners of those whom more truly God will forgive for their life of humility, full of self-denial from worldly goods, for love and help to people, although outside of the Church, than those carrying diamond mitres and stars but punishing and excommunicating from the Church, Her pastors. To refute my words by false hypocritical deductions is easy. But a profound understanding of the truth and the real intentions of people will deceive no one.
February 26, 1901 Countess Sophia Tolstaya
This letter is widely known. It is cited by Alexandra Lvovna Tolstaya, the daughter of Tolstoy, in her work of two volumes, Father, published by the company named after Chekhv, New York 1953. But the wise, calm, in due form, profound and spiritually tactful answer of Metropolitan Anthony Vadkovsky – is usually nowhere cited. Nor did Alexandra Lvovna cite it. This lies on her conscience. It is necessary to hear the other side, i.e. the judgment of the Orthodox Church by the lips of Her chief bishop.
Most Gracious Madam countess Sophia Andreevna!
Not that is cruel what the Synod did by declaring about the apostasy from the Church of your husband, but – is cruel that what he did with himself, having renounced his faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, our Redeemer and Saviour. Upon that renunciation your sorrowful indignation should have been discharged long ago. And, of course, your husband perishes not from a scrap of printed paper, but from having turned away himself from the Source of eternal life. Life without Christ for a Christian is inconceivable according to Christ';s words: "whosoever believeth in Him hath life everlasting and passeth from death unto life, and he that believeth not shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John III, 15-16, 36; V, 24). and, therefore, about one who renounces Christ only one thing can be said, that he has passed from o)life to death. In that consists the perdition of your husband, but in this perdition he himself alone is to be blamed, and no one else. The Church is composed of believers, for its members, the Church blesses in God's name all the significant moments of human life: births, weddings, deaths, human sorrows and joys, but never does this and cannot do for the unbelievers, for pagans, for those who blaspheme the name of God, those who renounced Her and do not wish to receive from Her neither prayers, nor blessing, and in general, for all those who are not Her members. And, therefore, from the view point of this Church, the order of the Synod is fully comprehensible, understandable and clear as God's day. And by this the law of love and all-forgiveness is in no way violated. The love of God in infinite, but even it forgives not all and not for everything. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is not forgiven neither in this, nor in the world to come (Matthew XII, 32(. The Lord is always seeking with His love, but man, at times, does not desire to meet that love and runs away from the face of God and, therefore, perishes. Christ prayed for His enemies on the cross, but even He in His prayer as high priest pronounced a bitter word for His love – that the son of perdition was lost (John XVII, 12). About your husband, while he is alive, it cannot be said that he is lost, but the complete truth has been said about him, that he fell away from the Church and is not Her member until he repents and reunites with Her. In its epistle, speaking of this, the Synod but witnessed the existing fact and, therefore, only those can be indignant towards it who do not understand what they are doing. You receive expressions of sympathy from the whole world. I am not surprised at this, but I think that you should not be consoled by this. There is the glory of man and there is the glory of God. "The glory of man is as the flower of grass: the grass withereth and the flower thereof falleth away; but the word of God endureth forever" (I Peter, I, 24-25). When last year the papers carried the news of the count's illness, then for the clergy in all its force arose the question: is it permissible to honour with Christian burial and prayers him who fell away from the faith and the Church? There followed appeals to the Synod and, for the direction of priests, it secretly gave and could give but one answer: it is not permissible, if he dies not having renewed his communion with the Church There is no threat here to anyone, and there could not be any other answer. And I do not think that there could be found any priest, even a dishonest one, who would decide to perform Christian burial service over the count's body, and if such a service would have been performed for an unbeliever it would be a criminal profanation of the sacred rites. And why commit violence over your husband? For, without doubt, he himself does not desire the performance of the Christian burial for him. Once you, a living person, wish to consider yourself a member of the Church, and She is truly a union of the living, intelligent beings in the name of the living God, then your declaration falls of itself that the Church for you is an abstract idea. And in vain do you reproach the servitors of he Church of malice and in the violation of he higher law of love, commanded by Christ. In the Synodal Act there is no violation of this law. This, on the contrary, is an act of love, an act calling your husband to return to the Church and the faithful to pray for him. Pastors of the Church are appointed by the Lord, and not they themselves proudly, as you say, recognized themselves as Her heads. They wear diamond mitres and stars, but this is not essential in their office. They remained pastors clothed in rags, persecuted and pursued, they will remain as such always, even if they would have to be clothed in rags once more, no matter how much they would be blasphemed and with what contemptuous words they be called.
In conclusion I ask forgiveness that I did not answer immediately. I waited until the first sharp impulse of your affliction would pass. May God bless and keep you and may He have mercy on the count, your husband.
Anthony, metropolitan of St. Petersburg
Alexandra Lvovna Tolstaya, in her work of two volumes, Father (Chekov Publishing Company, New York City, 1953), as I have pointed out above, did not cite this letter of Metropolitan Anthony, but only limited herself to two lines: "Metropolitan Anthony's answer did not satisfy Sophia Andreevna, and Tolstoy simply did not read it."
At first, Tolstoy did not want to answer the above mentioned Synodal declaration, but later, on April 4th, 1901, he, nevertheless, answered. The Answer to the Synod is widely known and there is no need to present it is full. Therefore, we will only cite those places where Tolstoy, in spite of his indignation, convicts himself and admits the main points of accusation because of which the Orthodox Church had to excommunicate him.
"That I renounced the Church which calls itself Orthodox," writes Tolstoy in his Answer, "is perfectly true."
"That I reject the incomprehensible Trinity, the meaningless in our times fairy tale about the fall of the first man, sacrilegious ( ? I.A.) history of God, born of the Virgin, redeeming mankind, that is perfectly true."
"It is also said that I reject all the sacraments. This is perfectly true."
" to believe that the will of God is more clearly, most intelligibly of all expressed in the teaching of the man Christ, whom to regard as God and to whom to pray, – I consider the greatest sacrilege."
"And I truly renounced the Church, ceased to fulfill Her rites and write in my will to my close friends, that when I shall be dying they should not admit to me Church servitors, and my dead body be removed as soon as possible without any exorcism or prayers over it, as every foul and unnecessary thing is taken out in order that it might not be in the way of the living."
In 1902 (a year after the excommunication) Tolstoy wrote a sacrilegious legend, The Destruction and Restoration of Hell. Here is what the wife of Tolstoy, Sophia Andreevna wrote in Diary:
"This composition is saturated with a truly devilish spirit of denial, malice, mockery of all on earth, beginning with the Church... And the children – Sasha, as yet unwise, and Misha, alien to me – seconded with diabolical laughter the malevolent laughter of their father, when he finished reading his devilish legend, and I wanted to cry... "
In that same year, 1902, Tolstoy wrote his famous Address to the Clergy, filled with such cynical sacrilege that even in Soviet Russia it was published only once and then in the 90 volumes of his complete collection of works, (namely in the 34th volume), which is accessible only to specialists, learned philologists. Abroad, the Legend of the Restoration of Hell and the Address to the Clergy were published in the renown Berlin edition of Heinrich Caspari. The Address answered Father of John of Kronstadt, the renowned priest – the most humble and pure, full of love, priest of God. Never did against anyone write against Fr. John, as did Tolstoy, and with such unusual wrath.
Here are the words of Father John of Kronstadt from his Diary:
"Tolstoy thinks, speaks and writes on the ground of atheism and complete denial of all that is sacred which carries in itself the stamp of God's revelation; pride, self-opinion, self-glorification, contempt toward God Himself and the Church – that is his first basis, – he has no other basis. Before us is a sophist, and the ignorant in the truths of faith, not having themselves experienced the saving power of Christ's faith, he can easily seduce from the true faith and lead them to destructive disbelief... Under the lively impression of anathematization from the Church he decided to cast upon Her dirt as much as possible upon all the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, all the services, all the sacraments and especially the clergy of all Churches. Tolstoy, who distorted the meaning of the Gospel, distorted the meaning of the Old Testament and relates the distorted events in a mocking tone, undermining in the readers every respect to the Holy Scriptures; he insolently ridicules all that which is dear to the Christian, all which a Christian is accustomed to look upon from childhood with deep reverence and love as the Word of God.
"Tolstoy transfers his abuses to the clergy, the Church, the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, and the Lord Himself, and says: "was there such a harmful book in the world, having done so much harm, as the book of the Old and New Testament." This directly refers to Tolstoy's works, there were none more harmful than they; Renans, Büchners, Schopenhauers, Voltaires, – are nothing in comparison with our godless Russian Tolstoy The Address to the Clergy, written by Tolstoy, from the viewpoint of Christianity, is – plain madness." (See the book Father John of Kronstadt and count Leo Tolstoy, Jordanville, 1960.)
On January 4th, 1908, the priest Troitsky arrived at Yasnaya Poliana. After he left, Tolstoy, during luncheon in the dining room, began to relate about his visit. According to his words, the priest told him that the Church rites – are the shell of the egg. If the shell bursts before the time arrives, the chick will not hatch.
"I told him," continued Tolstoy, "that the shell – is my body, the chick – the spirit, and your teaching – the excrements of the shell. He felt very much hurt. I spoke even more sharply ... "
On January 20th, 1909, Tolstoy was visited by the Bishop of Tula, Partheny. In his Diary, after the Bishop's visit, Tolstoy wrote, among other things: "... Especially unpleasant was that he asked to let him know when I will be dying. One might fear that they will think of something to convince the people that I "repented" before death. And, therefore, I declare, it seems to me – I repeat, that to return to the Church, to partake of the Eucharist before death, I cannot, just as I cannot speak before death obscene words or look at obscene pictures, and, therefore, all that they will say about my repentance before death is a lie ... I repeat on this occasion also this, that I also ask to be buried without any so called church service, but to bury my body in order to avoid bad odor." (Biriukov. I quote from the book of the then Archimandrite John who is later known as Bishop John Shakhovskoy) – Tolstoy and the Church, Berlin, 1939.)
A.N. Nazaroff in his book in English language Tolstoy, That Unconstant Genius (New York 1929) quotes a characteristic phrase of Tolstoy: "Miracles? Resurrection from the dead? Ah, don't you understand that all this is the invention of contemporary persons, and especially that ... Magdalene?" ("We find it difficult to repeat the sacrilegious words of Tolstoy," adds professor I.M. Kontsevich, from whose highly valuable book we quote the indicated phrase. See I.M. Kontsevich, The Sources of the Soul's Catastrophe of L. N. Tolstoy, Müchen, 1960.)
The Mother-Orthodox Church, with tears of anger of love, has excommunicated the great blasphemer Tolstoy in 1901 for the sacrilegious 39th and 40th chapters of The Resurrection, and also for his cynical sacrileges. The Church had to excommunicate him, who had excommunicated himself from his Mother-Church, and impudently mocked Her. Only Lenin could compete with Tolstoy in these sacrilegious ridicules. And, nevertheless, when Tolstoy became deadly sick and lay dying at the station Astapovo, the Mother-Church, in the person of Her chief, Metropolitan Anthony (Vadkovsky), and the holy fathers of the Monastery of Optina, Herself came to the deathbed of the great dying heretic, and with great sorrow awaited but for one word: "I repent," in order to forgive all and accept him into Her loving bosom.
Metropolitan Anthony sent a telegram to Astapovo (No. 170, from Petersburg, on November 4th, 1910, at 11:4 A.M.): "From the very first moment of your separation from the Church I constantly prayed and pray now, that the Lord restore you to the Church. Perhaps He will soon call you to His judgment, and I now beg you who are sick, to reconcile yourself with the Church and the Orthodox Russian people. May God bless and keep you. Metropolitan Anthony."
This telegram, by the order of Alexandra Lvovna, was not given to Tolstoy. To the question of Father Joseph of Optina about the possibility of his coming for a visit, was answered at the order of Alexandra Lvovna: "The family asks you not to come. It is impossible to see him." Father Varsonofy and Hieromonk Panteleimon (physician), who arrived from Optina, were not admitted to Tolstoy.
On November 7th at 7:10 a.m., Abbot elder Varsonofy telegraphed to Bishop Benjamin of Kaluga: "Count Tolstoy died today, November 7th at 6 a.m. ... He died without repentance. I was not invited."
In another telegram Abbot Varsonofy communicated: "In accordance with the wish of the count, his body will be transferred tomorrow to Yasnaya Poliana and buried without church rites in the garden."
When elder Varsonofy was surrounded by correspondents and asked: "Your interview, father?" – the elder replied to them: "Here is my interview and write it thus: Although he is Leo (lion), but he could not break the ring of that chain with which satan had locked him."
Very few know that the first act of the so-called "Living Church" in Soviet Russia, under the presidency of Archbishop Eudokim, was the reunion of Tolstoy to the "Church."
By the way, in the quarters of the station-master of Astapovo, I.I. Ozolin, where Tolstoy was dying, there were no ikons, for Ozolin was a Lutheran.
Only Sophia Andreevna, the wife of Tolstoy, made the sign of the cross over him, and suffered from the impossibility of serving a requiem.
About the heavy sufferings of Tolstoy's sister, Mother Mary, a nun at the Shamordine Monastery, writes in his recollections, Tolstoy's son Ilia Lovich.
"A very heavy trial suffered aunt Masha, when elder Joseph , to whom she was in obedience, forbade her to pray for her dead brother, excommunicated from the Church... It is unknown how this spiritual conflict of hers might have ended, if her moral torture, would not have permitted her to pray for her brother, but not unless she was alone in her room, in order not to lead others into temptation."
The question about prayers for heretics, for those excommunicated from the Church, for those who committed suicide, is a difficult question, especially when brought up by close relatives. Elder Leonid of Optina (who died in 1841), gave this instruction to his pupil who turned to him for comfort upon the death of his father which occurred from suicide: "Pray to the good Creator, fulfilling the obligation of love and filial duty."
"But in what manner should one pray for such?" asked the novice.
"According to the spirit of the virtuous and wise, thus: "Recall, O Lord, the lost soul of my father, and if it is possible, have mercy! Unfathomable are Thy ways. Do not place this prayer as sin unto me. But may Thy holy will be done."
Evidently, such a prayer, or one similar to it, of course only in the cell, did Hieromonk Joseph of Optina permit Tolstoy's sister to pray for the "lost soul" of her brother.
Prof. I.M. Andreev