After my death our beloved Church abroad will break three ways ... first the Greeks will leave us as they were never a part of us ... then those who live for this world and its glory will go to Moscow ... what will remain will be those souls faithful to Christ and His Church. ~St. Philaret of NY


Optina Skete Graveyard

A part of the chapter "Heavenly Abodes" from Sergius Nilus' book Great Things in a Nutshell (circa 1905):

Yes, undoubtedly with God there exist heavenly dwelling places, of which He has so many, and which Christ Himself, the Savior of the world, is preparing for all those who call upon His holy name in truth...

...The Lord led me to the Skete of Optina Monastery.  In its tranquility, not far from the humble wooden church, are huddled the places of eternal rest of the Skete's men of prayer.  Nothing distinguishes this ripe field of God's chosen ones from the surrounding quiet, reclusive world: there is no fence dividing the world of those who have gone from the world of the living; nor are there magnificent headstones with loquacious epitaphs; nor are there weeping willows leaning over the graves, with which the merriment of the cheerful world so loves to overshadow their graves, as a replacement for their tears.

Everything here is in common between the living and the dead, behind the enclosure that separates them from the vanity outside.  Yes, and this is understandable: these are the living dead of the monastic vows for whom death is gain; why should they shun their dead?  These are swimmers on the stormy sea of life – why should they bar their longed-for way into the calm harbor?

The mystery of one life has departed,the mystery of another has come... They behold something now – unknown to the world, beloved of God.  What are they gazing upon now, beyond the deep blue, compassionate caress of the fathomless, limitless, unbounded sky?

The heavenly abodes – and eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him (I Cor. 2:9).

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