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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






Part 2: True Elder Arseny of Mt. Athos †1846

For almost a decade I have been searching for a prophesy I remember reading that the Holy Theotokos will leave Mt. Athos at the end times. The sign given is when her icon leaves the Iveron monastery. Some believe this has already happened, probably during the time of the murder of Br. José Muños, which was soon after ROCOR was expelled from Mt. Athos. To my joy, I finally found a recorded reference to this prophesy in a 1991 issue of Orthodox Life magazine. I've copied the account below.

In these wicked times when false elders are rife and coming off of Mt. Athos, it is good to have these examples of true elders for comparison. Our modern Church fathers said that in these wicked times there will be no true elders like there were in the old days; we should not search for them; the few true elders there will be on earth will be hidden from us.


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ASCETICS OF THE HOLY
MOUNTAIN OF ATHOS
Taken from
"A Description of the Wanderings and Travels in Russia, Moldavia, Turkey and the Holy Land
of the Athonite Monk Parthenius"
Vol IV, Moscow
1856


Now I want to describe the wealth of the Holy Mountain of Athos – bodiless, hidden in her hills and glens, in forests and valleys, that is to say – the servants of God, the Athonite ascetics.

Mt. Athos has delivered to the Heavenly King a multitude of saintly fathers, priest-martyrs and martyrs, who suffered in ancient times from the godless Arabs, Saracens, and Turks, who many times ravaged her, beheaded the brethren with swords, stole their possessions, and burned and laid waste to the monasteries. For this reason the Athonite past has been hidden from us. It is only known that monasteries were built by Emperors Constantine the Great and Theodosios the Great, and by Empress Pulcheria. But who lived in them and by what regulations – this is unknown, because all the documents were destroyed by the Arabs. Another multitude of monks on the mountain suffered from the iconoclasts. After the extermination of the iconoclast heresy, Mt. Athos began to blossom, and from that time to the present more is known. At that time on the mountain there were 70,000 monks and 130 great monasteries. But in the 14th century evil wolves came from the west and scattered the flock of Christ. They came from the Pope of Rome and ravaged the holy Mt. Athos and stained her with monastic blood. They constrained all to accept the Latin sophistry or shed their blood for the Holy Catholic Apostolic Eastern Church of Christ. The Latins attacked them all with instruments of death: the Iveron fathers they drowned in the sea; the fathers of Vatopedi they hung on trees and executed; the fathers of Zographou they burned with fire. Even at the Protaton itself they beheaded with the sword fathers of Karyes and of other monasteries. Thus they devastated the holy portion of the Heavenly Queen. The Greek Emperor Andronikos Paleologue, however, again renewed the Holy Mountain of Athos and restored the monasteries, but not all of them, only twenty, which exist to this time.

There is much written about the ancient fathers in books called "patericons." When a disciple of Gregory of Sinai, while living in the skete "Magula," was praying to the Mother of God, he asked that it be revealed to him whether many had achieved salvation on the Holy Mt. Athos. There came a voice to him at night instructing him to go outside his cell and look up at a certain high mount. He went out and saw the heavenly Queen standing on the mount, shining with ineffable light, and around her were a multitude of fiery pillars. Again there came a voice to him: "You see the numberless multitude of fiery pillars – these are Athonite fathers; and if you want to count the heavenly stars, then count the Athonite saints before you, but the latter will be greater in number."

I want now to write about the most recent fathers, who not long before me, or during my brief stay, blossomed on Mt. Athos; and of these I know only a few. But where shall I begin, or about whom will I write? It seems proper to write first about him with whom I had the most contact, and whose labors and struggles I witnessed with my own eyes, and whose soul-benefitting instructions I heard with my own ears – about my elder and spiritual father, Arseny. Great Russia raised him on the banks of the great and glorious Volga river. He was born in the Nizhegorod prefecture in the town of Balahen, into a family of average means. He was born of Orthodox parents, enlightened with baptism, and named Alexis. In childhood he was taught to read and to write. His youth passed in worldly and secular cares. But the Lord, foreseeing him to be a willing dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit, did not allow him to be defiled by worldly passions. Soon he implanted in his mind the desire to study the Divine Scriptures and the writings of the fathers, by which he quickly came to look around and realize the vanity and falsity of this world and its soul-destroying preoccupations. In his twentieth year Alexis left his home and parents and began to wander for the sake of God throughout Russia. Coming to the Moscow prefecture to the coenobetic desert of Pesnosha, he laid the foundation of monastic life, was numbered among the brotherhood and passed three years in obedience. Then there arose in him the desire to travel abroad, to the Moldavian monasteries which were then glorified with great elders and ascetics. When he revealed his desire to his spiritual father, he granted his blessing. Although the hegumen greatly disapproved, Alexis nevertheless set out on his journey. Arriving in Kiev he venerated the holy relics of the Kievan wonderworkers, and found there a fellow traveller by the name of Nikita, from the prefecture of Tula, who, until his very death more than forty years later was his companion, and shared in all his sorrows, labors and struggles. Taking a blessing from the Kievan wonderworkers, and praying to them, they set out on their journey.

Arriving in Moldavia they visited all the Moldavian monasteries and sketes. They found themselves a spiritual father and shepherd in the Balashevsky skete, four hours walk from the town Butashan, and entrusted their souls to him, together with their bodies. Within a short time their spiritual father tonsured them both into monasticism and he gave Alexis the name Abel, and his companion and co-struggler received the name Nicander. Soon afterwards their instructor and shepherd, seeing their great struggles and humility, compelled Fr. Abel to receive ordination, since he was worthy and well-versed in Scripture. This seemed to him, though, to be very burdensome, and he begged his shepherd with many tears not to lay such a heavy burden upon him, for it was beyond his powers, but to leave him to serve the Lord merely in the monastic rank. But his elder told him that one who is perfectly obedient does not presume to have his own judgment, but he must do as he is told. He must not teach his elder but be obedient even to death. Abel prostrated himself on the ground before his elder and said, "Forgive me, holy father! I have sinned before you; do as is pleasing to you." Soon he was ordained a hierodeacon, and then a hieromonk, and with the agreement of the brethren of the skete, he was made a spiritual father. Even after he was made a hieromonk his obedience and humility did not change: he submitted to his elder, even though he was not a priest, and never began anything without his blessing. Both he and Fr. Nicander submitted to their shepherd and guide, in perfect obedience, cutting off of their will, for eighteen years. Although Fr. Nicander desired to have Fr. Abel as his guide, because he was a hieromonk and spiritual father, Fr. Abel would in no way agree to be his elder, but insisted that they live in obedience to one another, as brothers.

They had lived in such a manner for a short time when there came to them both a revelation from God, ordering them to go to the holy mountain of Athos, and there to live the remainder of their lives. They revealed to each other their revelations and began to prepare to leave. Hearing of this, the brethren of the skete and fathers of other monasteries began to converse with them and to tell them that in this troubled time it would be impossible to go, not only to the Holy Mountain, but even to Turkey, that all those who were living there had departed, that the mountain was full of Turks and bandits, the monasteries were full of Turks and were locked up, the kellias were occupied by bandits and that throughout all of Turkey there was no passage for Christians, and everywhere Christian blood flowed in streams. But Fr. Abel answered them, "Holy fathers, truly it is as you say. This is known to us. However, it is pleasing to God, so let it be." Truly had the fathers spoken to them, for not long before that the Turks had killed Patriarch Gregory [1821] and there was a great disturbance in Constantinople. Fr. Abel felt that the revelation was a calling from God and it was His holy will that he go to Athos, and he did not heed the advice of man but undoubtingly believed that God would not allow him to be tried beyond his powers. Fr. Nicander hesitated, being human, but his elder strengthened him, saying that it is better to obey God than men. They prepared to depart; what they had they distributed to the brethren, taking only money and books with them on their way.

They travelled to Galicia and there boarded a ship and set out for Constantinople. Arriving in Constantinople, they saw there only sorrow and tears; Greek blood flowed in the streets in streams. And the Greeks said to them, "Fathers, why have you come to us now? Do you want to share with us our time of grief? Where you were in Moldavia they do not slaughter rams as they slaughter us here now, every day by the hundreds; – and this is in the squares, in front of everyone, but in the streets, no one knows how many are killed. Return to Moldavia, for it is impossible to go to the holy Mt. Athos, even if you so desire. By sea the ships do not sail, and by land robbers are everywhere and Mt. Athos is filled with bandits; and Turks live in the monasteries with the monks." Our fathers, however, firmly believed and hoped that they would reach the Holy Mountain. At that time in Constantinople bread was very expensive. They had spent part of their money for the passage to Athos and the rest on food and now had nothing left, and no one wanted to buy their books. So they spent the winter in Constantinople, begging alms together. In this way not only they themselves were fed, but they were even able to feed poor Greeks. What sorrows they endured there, only He knows Who sent them. When the rains of spring arrived the fathers stored their books with a certain Greek, and set out over land for the holy Mt. Athos. Of the tribulations, misfortunes and beatings they endured along the way, God alone, Who saw their sufferings, was witness. As gold in the fire He tried them in order to make them more brilliant. Almost hourly bandits attacked them. But they had nothing to take: they had no money and their clothes were tattered. Some beat them, others took the last of their dry bread, while others tyrannized them and then let them go. Thus they continued for more than a month, finally arriving at the holy Mt. Athos.



What did they see? – The monastic settlements were abandoned; gardens had become overgrown by forest; monasteries stood locked, and the army of the heavenly Queen was dispersed to various countries: some hid themselves in impenetrable forests, hills, and caves, others were locked inside the monasteries. Very few were visible. Our fathers went directly to the Provider of Mt. Athos, to the Iveron monastery and the miraculous icon of the heavenly Queen, the Icon of the Portal (Virgin "Portaitissa"). And when they arrived at the monastery gates, the Iveron fathers received them into the monastery and led them to the church in order that they might bow before the heavenly Queen. Coming there and seeing her, they greatly rejoiced; they fell down before her and shed many tears and begged her to received them into her holy domain.

They also greatly rejoiced, as well as wondered, that in such troubled times, when her forces (monks) had all been scattered – She, the Queen and Commandress, stood in her place bright and joyful, in full attire, adorned with gold, silver, and precious stones. The monastery was full of Turks, but they could not steal her icon. Our fathers asked the Greeks, "Why have you not taken her and hidden her away? Why haven't they taken her decorations? Why haven't the Turks stolen her riches?" The Greek fathers of Iveron answered them, "But where would we take her and why? She is our defender and protector, and the guardian of holy Mt. Athos. Although she has punished us for our sins, she has not turned her face away from us; and she has not been angered with us entirely, but remains with us. And the way she looks at us so happily, we still have hope that these sorrows will pass. Now we have only the joy and comfort that she, the heavenly Queen, remains with us. And when we have unbearable sorrows from the Turks and from deprivations, we run to her and find comfort in our sorrows. You say, 'Why do the Turks not take her riches from her?' – not only can they not take her riches, they cannot even enter into this little church. This is already the third year that they live in the monastery, and still they have not set foot in this church. When they become angry with us and begin to demand from us gold, silver, and church utensils, we tell them that we do not have any (although we do have them, but they are hidden away, and we would not hand them over even if they should torture us). We show them this holy icon and say, 'Here, on this icon there is much gold, silver and precious stones. If you want, take these for yourselves.' But they, standing at the doors, say, 'We cannot approach her: see how she looks at us so angrily!' And they leave with shame. And we thank the heavenly Queen that she protects herself, and she saves and guards us sinners. Again we thank the Theotokos for sending the Turks to humble us sinners: for if they were not here, the robbers would have entirely despoiled and desolated us.

"We will tell you one more thing: about a year ago there was great confusion and anxiety on the Holy Mountain, such that all the remaining Athonite fathers wanted to flee. Before this confusion the brethren on the Holy Mountain numbered about 40,000, but now there are only about 1,000, and these wanted to leave and flee to who knows where. They contended that the Mother of God had completely abandoned the Holy Mountain and for this reason Mt. Athos is becoming desolate. But when they began to reason thus, the quick Helper, the heavenly Queen, our Commander and Theotokos, appeared to many fathers and desert-dwellers and said, 'Why are you afraid and why do such thoughts enter you hearts? All this will pass and come to an end; and again the Holy Mountain will be filled with monks. Behold, I give you notice, that as long as my icon is on the Holy Mountain, in the lveron Monastery, there is nothing to fear, so return to your cells. When I depart from the lveron monastery, however, then let each one take his bag and go where he will.' And now all the desert-dwellers come to us in the monastery every Sunday and look to see if the Mother of God is standing in her place; and seeing her, they again return to their desert cells."



Hearing this, our fathers greatly rejoiced: first, over the protection of the heavenly Queen, and secondly, that there were still so many desert-dwellers.

Then the lveron fathers led them to the guesthouse and gave them rest for a whole week. Then they said, "Holy fathers, we have comforted you, but please do not burden us any longer, for we have now no room for our own people. We have here forty Turks and nothing to feed them. Everywhere there are robbers and we have no income. You may take a kellion in our skete, with a small chapel, stay there, cultivate a garden and take up a handicraft and thus you will feed yourselves somehow. If you need anything we will help and you may come to the monastery to spend the night." Our fathers thanked the lveron fathers for their hospitality, took a kellion in the skete and began to live there. They cultivated a garden and carved spoons, but at that time there was no one to buy their handiwork. They lived thus for more than four years in those troubled times. How they were fed, only God knows; they told no one. Bread was very difficult to obtain at that time. Many times I asked my elder, "Holy father, with what were you fed during this difficult period?" And he answered me, "And what did the Lord say in the Gospel? – Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you (Matt. 6:33). And so the Lord fed us." Thus our fathers were fed; and not only they, but more than a thousand remaining on the Holy Mountain – they were all fed by God.

In those years they gathered to themselves great spiritual treasures. Through sorrows and patient endurance of bodily deprivations they blossomed and matured and brought forth fruit. The Master, the Heavenly King rewarded them for this with gifts of the Holy Spirit, and gave them help in overcoming the enemy, the devil, our ancient adversary, and in conquering spiritual as well as bodily passions. They arrived at the quiet refuge of spiritual peace and silence, that is to say, union of the mind with God. To Father Abel the Lord gave the gift of discernment, together with clairvoyance; to Father Nicander – the gift of tears: for he wept day and night until his very death.

When, after this troubled and sorrowful time the Lord God sent peace to the land, the soldiers and armies were overcome, all the bandits disappeared, and it became quiet and peaceful here. Then the brethren again began to return to Mt. Athos, and Orthodox Christians flowed there for pilgrimages. At this time the handiwork began to be sold. A merchant came who bought everything they had. Our fathers sold all of their spoons and received for them 2,000 levs, that is 400 rubles. Father Nicander was overjoyed and said, "Now, glory to God, we will obtain our necessities." Father Abel said to him, "Yes, now we will obtain them."

Then, soon afterwards there came to him a certain layman begging alms. Father Abel asked him, "Where are you from, and what do you need?" The layman then answered him with tears, "Holy father, I am from the island of Chios, and the Turks have taken my wife and children into captivity. The Turks want 5,000 levs for them, and I have been collecting for the past year. I have collected, glory to God, 3,000, but I still need 2,000 more. God willing I will collect it little be little." Hearing this, our father said to him, "Come into my cell and I will somehow help you." He entered, and our father took out all the money he had and gave it to him. "Take this," he said, "go and buy back your wife and children." But the layman answered him, "Holy father, why do you mock me? It is already sorrowful for me without this; but give me one lev and I will go." Father Abel again said to him, "No child, I am not mocking you, I am a spiritual father, how could I mock you? Take it and go with God." The layman wept; and the father laid the money in his bosom and led him to the door, and the layman went on his way with joy. Seeing this, Father Nicander wept bitter tears and said, "Father, what did you do? Why did you give away all the money? For four years we labored and we thought to supply our needs, but we will again mourn." But our father said to him, "Oh, Father Nicander! When will we be perfect monks? Already the Lord has guided us through all our sorrows, and you are still infirm. In the most difficult times the Lord nourished us; can He not nourish us now? Now, glory to God, handiwork is being sold. Again we shall work, and sell, but the extra money we will give to the treasury of God; and why care for another's money? Already it is diverting the mind from God. We stand in prayer, but the mind is concerned with money. The Lord said, For where you treasure is, there will you heart be also (Matt. 6:21). Let it lie with God, and we will keep our heart there." Then Fr. Nicander became contrite and he fell to his feet and wept and begged forgiveness. From that hour Fr. Nicander did not get involved in anything, but only wept until his very death. Soon they were both tonsured into the great schema. Fr. Abel, the spiritual father, was named Arseny and he received the schema from a certain schemamonk Arseny. Fr. Nicander was named Nicholas, and he received the schema from Fr. Arseny, his spiritual father. They began to live as an elder with his disciple, and so they spent ten years in the skete of St. John the Forerunner, called the Iveron skete.



When the number of brethren in the skete increased, there began to be much conversation, and worldly matters needed attention because of the gardens and orchards. This became burdensome to both of the fathers. So they both decided to depart to the inner desert, to complete silence, in order to have no bodily and worldly cares and to live alone with God; for the desert-lover and hesychast cannot endure much conversation and vanity. They left the skete and kellion and took a kellion dedicated to St. John Chrysostom, situated on a hillock in the almost impassable desert which was one hour from the skete and one hour from the Iveron monastery. Formerly it had been a large kellion, but during troubled times it was destroyed almost to its foundation. They rebuilt it with their own hands, only on a smaller scale, blessed the church, and set apart two cells. There, the locks of my hair were left, for in that kellion I, the wretched one, was tonsured. They laid the foundation of their life according to rules of the desert. They were occupied with no worldly cares, neither a garden nor an orchard. Although there were olive trees, they did not look after them. When the fruit ripened the fathers hired a poor man whom they knew to collect the fruit. I am an eyewitness of their strict life and many times I spent the night in their kellion. I examined much of their way of life and desired, myself, to live with them and to learn about monasticism from them. But they did not accept anyone to live with them and would say, "No one can live with us. We have attained to this manner of life only after thirty years and even now we are tempted and we succumb: although the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak, if not for the grace of God strengthening us."

After coming to Mt. Athos, Fr. Nicholas lived nineteen years, and Fr. Arsenios twenty-four years, during which time they ate neither fish, nor cheese, nor wine, nor oil. Their food was dry bread soaked in water, and that they carried on their shoulders up the hill from the Iveron monastery. They also liked pickled eggplants, dipped in or sprinkled with red pepper. They also salted many red peppers. This was their daily fare: dry bread, peppers and eggplants, and sometimes onions if someone brought them. Salted olives and figs they offered only to guests. Such was their food and many times I partook of it. They always ate once a day, at the third hour after noon, and on Wednesdays and Fridays they went without a meal. Their rule of life was as follows: after the meal until Vespers they were occupied in their cells with the reading of spiritual writings. Then they said Vespers according to the established order. They read always with attention and with tears, quietly, meekly, and without hurrying; then came compline with a canon to the Theotokos and the prayers before sleep. The whole night they passed in vigil, prayer, and prostrations. If they became sleepy, they would give a brief period for sleep, sitting down, but not more than an hour a night, and only dozing at that. More often though they would force themselves and would walk about at night. They did not have a clock, but they would always know the time, for at the foot of the hill in the lveron monastery, the hours were struck by a bell and they would always listen. At midnight they would gather in church for common prayer and read the midnight service and matins according to the established order. After matins they would always read a canon with an akathist to the Most Holy Theotokos. After matins they remained in hesychia (quietness) until daybreak. Then they occupied themselves with handiwork; they worked in different places and each one would make ten spoons. There was no conversation between them except for what was necessary, but they remained always in silence, watching over their hearts in unceasing mental prayer. They carved spoons of the most simple sort. They would then read the Hours and a molieben to the Mother of God, which was followed by a meal. ln this way they spent days and nights in ceaseless prayer and handiwork. The elder still loved to serve Liturgy often, so whenever there were prosphora and wine there was almost always a Liturgy. Wine and prosphora were very difficult to obtain.

Most of the time they served Liturgy with only the two of them present. Many times 1 had to go out onto the porch to hear the Liturgy and their melodious singing mixed with tears. l see two elders, wearied and withered from fasting. One is in the sanctuary, standing and weeping before the altar of the Lord, and from tears he can hardly pronounce the exclamations, only managing to do so with heartfelt sighs. The other is standing on kliros and weeping; and due to the sobbing and weeping, as well as to physical infirmity, there is little that can be understood. But although little is audible to human ears, the Lord Himself hears their Liturgy, according to the promise: On whom will I look, even on him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word (Isaiah 66:2). Here they sang the "thrice-holy hymn," not having a single worldly care, and truly not a worldly thought. Here the Lord Himself was present with the pair, according to the promise: For where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them (Matt. 18:20). These two elders loved the Lord so much that they did not want to be separated from Him for one minute, but to always delight in mental, heartfelt, and oral conversation with Him. Their conversations concerned only prayer and love for God and neighbor. If someone in their presence ever began to speak disparagingly of his brother, they would stop the conversation. They loved their neighbors more than themselves, which fact was shown by their actions. They always strove so that everyone was at peace. They did not allow anyone who came to them in need to depart from their kellion in sorrow. If someone grieved because of bodily need they gave what they could, even beyond their means; they pawned their last books and later bought them back with God's help. If someone had a spiritual sorrow they comforted him with their pleasant conversation. In them the poor had helpers, the sorrowing – comforters, those infirm due to sins and passions – quick correction and freedom.

I will speak about myself. When I came to Mt. Athos I hardly had one kopek. Fr. Arseny blessed me to learn how to carve spoons, but I had no money to buy instruments. When I revealed this to him, he said to me, "Don't worry about that." He took a sack from the window, emptied the money, counted it and gave it all to me saying, "Take it, I have thirty levs, in all." I wept and said, "Holy father! but you've left nothing for yourself?" He then answered, "We will have enough; do not worry about us. God will provide for us. How much money do you need for instruments?" I said, "Fifty levs." He went to the church and brought a book back and gave it to me and said, "Go and pawn it at Koreneve's and take the money, as much as you need. I will buy it back later." Oh how many tears this cost me. I wept the whole way back, and until now I cannot forget it. Whenever I remember it I cannot keep from weeping.

His first question to everyone was, "Well, are you satisfied? You do not need anything?"

I will tell you of another instance on the feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God. One of my spiritual brothers, Theoclit, took all the money he had, one hundred and fifty levs, to the feast, in order to buy a riassa and some sackcloth. He went and lost everything and became extremely sad and mournful. Upon seeing him, the spiritual father Arseny asked, "Why are you so sorrowful?" He told him that he had lost all of his money. The elder asked him, "Do you have such a great need?" He then emptied his sack and gave him the money saying, "Here, I have only sixty levs. Go and buy what you need." Fr. Theoclit took the money and departed. Then he thought to himself, "I'm a young man and can work, but they are old and infirm and they gave me the last that they had. They trust that God will supply their needs; will God not care for me? I will go and return the money." He went and began to give the money to Fr. Arseny but he would not take it. He then fell at his feet and with many tears implored him to accept the money. Taking it the elder said, "You will not be sorry?" Fr. Theoclit replied, "I will not, holy father. I am now very happy that you took the money back."



After living some years in the desert they had the desire to travel to venerate the life-bearing tomb of Christ; and the Lord did not deprive His servants but granted their desire. In 1836, Hieromonk Anikita [Prince Shikhmatov, the great ascetic] came to Mt. Athos from Russia. He traveled around all of the Holy Mountain and visited the two ascetics in their desert dwelling. Spending some time in spiritual conversation with them he came to love them very much and chose the elder Arseny to be his spiritual father. Then he suggested: perhaps they would like to travel with him to Jerusalem? They consented, and the prince was overjoyed that he would have such companions. So they journeyed to the holy city of Jerusalem and venerated the life-bearing tomb of Christ and the other holy places. Having spent the entire winter in Jerusalem and then the Paschal period, they returned to the Holy Mountain and once again settled in their desert kellion. However, as I alone heard from the elder's own lips, God only knows the sorrows they endured in Jerusalem. They had not seen such temptations in their whole life. I asked, "What kinds of sorrows, father, and how did they happen? Perhaps from a lack of physical necessities?" He answered me, "No, we had plenty of everything from God and from people; it could not have been better. The pilgrims in Jerusalem gave us alms and we, by God's mercy, distributed them to all the poor Arabs. Our sorrows were different. Having lived for so many years in the desert we had almost forgotten the world, and there we were in the midst of vanity itself. We endured more sorrows because of fasting: everyone was treating us, inviting us to visit, honoring us. We, however, not being able to accept all this, simply grieved and did not know how we would reach Mt. Athos." After their return to the Holy Mountain Fr. Nicholas asked his spiritual father not to allow visitors into the kellion to see him so that they would not disturb him.

About a year before the death of Fr. Nicholas, both of them received a revelation during sleep. Fr. Nicholas heard a voice saying that he was sailing on a great and turbulent sea and was arriving at a quiet harbor. Fr. Arseny heard a voice saying that he was nearing a great and beautiful city and was finishing his journey. The elders revealed their revelations to one another and realized they were from God and that their deaths were drawing near. They then increased their fasting and tears and began to prepare for their departure.

Half a year before his death Fr. Nicholas was deprived of his physical sight, but with his spiritual eyes he saw perfectly and God revealed to him His saints who were still living on Mt. Athos. This he related to Fr. Arseny, fearing to fall into some demonic deception. Fr. Arseny warned him of this very much; however, he did not order him to verify visions but only to weep before God and ask forgiveness for his sins. Fr. Nicholas also became afflicted with other physical ailments: already he could not walk to church, but usually sat on his bed. This he forced himself to do, in no way wanting to lay on his side. However, when his spiritual father wanted to serve Liturgy on Saturday or Sunday he would come to the cell of Fr. Nicholas and say, "Fr. Nicholas, I need to serve Liturgy." With a cheerful voice he would answer, "Serve, father." Fr. Arseny would say, "How will I serve? You are sick and I cannot serve alone." Fr. Nicholas would answer, "I will come and help you." He would get up from his bed, and go and they would read the prayers for communion and serve Liturgy. Fr. Nicholas would partake of the Holy Mysteries of the Body and Blood of Christ and take a prosphora, by which he would be nourished almost the entire week. He would not eat any other food. They lived this way for half of a year. Every week there was a Liturgy, and sometimes two, the reader and chanter being sick and blind. The services were never cancelled and he was always ready to perform his obedience.

In such a way they served Liturgy on Meat-fare Saturday and Fr. Nicholas partook of the Holy Mysteries. After Liturgy he went to his cell, and Fr. Arseny to his. After a short time Fr. Nicholas came to Fr. Arseny, fell at his feet and began to say to him, "Forgive me, holy father, for coming to you now, but I need to tell you something." His spiritual father said, "May God forgive you; tell me, what is it?" Fr. Nicholas then began to tearfully relate the following, "Holy father, when I came to my cell after Liturgy and sat on my bed I suddenly opened my eyes and began to see clearly. T he door of my cell opened and the entire room was filled with light. Then three men entered my cell, two youths with candles and between them a man in priest's vestments shining with ineffable glory, who approached me. The man in priest's vestments said to me, "Bless, Fr. Nicholas." I was afraid and remained silent. He again spoke to me, "Do you recognize me? Who am I?" Then I was filled with courage and answered him, "Truly I recognize who you are." He again asked, "And who am ?" I answered him, "You are Fr. Anikita, our friend with whom we travelled to Jerusalem, and this is already the third year since you died." He then said to me, "Truly, Fr. Nicholas, I am he. Do you see with what glory my heavenly King, Jesus Christ, has rewarded me? He will also reward you with such glory: in four days you will be freed from all sorrows and sicknesses, and the Lord has sent me to comfort you." And they suddenly left the cell and I was left alone. My eyes were again closed but my heart was filled with unspeakable joy. Having heard this Fr. Arseny said to him, "Be careful that you are not tempted, Fr. Nicholas. Do not believe this vision, but hope in God and implore His mercy." But Fr. Nicholas again said, "Holy father, forgive me. May God's will be done concerning me; but my heart was filled with ineffable joy. I beg you, holy father: serve Liturgy every day now, I will prepare and receive the Holy Mysteries of the body and blood of Christ." Fr. Arseny replied to him, "All right. I will serve, but only so that there will be no interruptions for you." Then Fr. Nicholas returned to his cell.

There was Liturgy on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday; Fr. Nicholas was a communicant and it became easier for him. On Wednesday of Cheese-fare Week they only read the hours, but on Thursday they again had Liturgy. Fr. Nicholas read and sang at Liturgy, and partook of the body and blood of Christ. After Liturgy his spiritual father gave him a prosphora, as was his custom, but he did not take it. He merely said, "Father, come to me in my cell," and Fr. Arseny followed him to his cell. Fr. Nicholas sat on his bed with his back to the wall and his face began to change and blush. Raising his eyes to heaven, he seemed to be in ecstasy. Then he came to himself and began to speak. "I thank you, holy father, for enduring all of my faults until my very end, and for leading me to the heavenly Kingdom."


Fr. Arseny asked him, "Fr. Nicholas, what do you see?" He replied, "Holy father, I see that messengers have arrived for me, and they have torn up the handwriting of my sins. It is already time; bless, father." His spiritual father answered, "May God bless you." "With your hand, bless," he answered. Fr. Arseny then blessed with his hand. Taking the hand, Fr. Nicholas kissed it; and without letting it go, he lifted his eyes to heaven and softly whispered, "Lord, into Thy hands receive my spirit!" And he gave up his spirit. Fr. Arseny began to call, "Fr. Nicholas, Fr. Nicholas!" But Fr. Nicholas had already given up his spirit to his Lord, for Whom he had labored from his youth, and served with faith and love. Truly, Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints (Ps. 115:6).



He died on February 6, 1841, on Thursday of Cheesefare Week. At that time I lived in the Russian coenobetic monastery, twenty versts from their desert habitation. We received news of his death on Saturday evening and arrived there on Sunday, the fourth day. Many Russian brethren gathered for the burial, all disciples of Fr. Arseny. Everyone was amazed. Fr. Nicholas was lying there as if alive: his face had not changed at all; his hands and feet were like those of a living person and had not stiffened. All of his parts and members were soft and from his month there came a pleasant fragrance, like incense. All the brethren rejoiced and glorified God. His legs were very swollen from much standing. They buried the reposed on Cheesefare Sunday and departed, each to his own home.

Fr. Arseny was left alone with God, and prepared himself for his own departure. Many asked to come to him as disciples, many desired to live with him; but he received no one for an entire year. Then God revealed to him that he would remain to live in this world for a while longer, for the sake of the other brethren. He then began to receive all those who desired to live with him, and in a short time he gathered eight men. They then had to leave that kellion, for it was too small. At this time he went with all his disciples to a skete called "Lakou," dedicated to the Great Martyr Dimitrios, in the deep wilderness. They took there the largest kellion, and settled in. The fathers of the skete greatly rejoiced that such a candle had come to them, who could enlighten everyone with his life. The Russian brethren, however, living near Karyes and in Kapsala, were greatly grieved that their father and pastor had departed far from them, a day and a half travelling distance. But even though the way was long and difficult, they did not abandon their comforter, and they labored to travel there. Their spiritual father, Fr. Arseny, did not order them to go to such pains, but instead to find a spiritual father who was closer to them. But they answered him, "Holy father, there are many spiritual fathers; but a father and a comforter in our sorrows we cannot find."

Some of the disciples living with Fr. Arseny could not accept his life and unacquisitiveness and they made plans to leave him. They began to ask him for a blessing to leave and find on the Holy Mountain another dwelling place. He began to admonish them and said, "My children, with what are you dissatisfied? Or how have I burdened you? If you are unhappy that there is much work, then just sit, each of you in his own cell, in silence. Just do not depart from your cell rule and the communal church services. Be occupied at all times in pious thoughts and unceasing mental prayer. With all your strength, strive to purify the inner man and do not accept any kind of demonic suggestions. Reveal all of your thoughts and do not hide them, so that the devil does not overcome any of you. Or are you not satisfied with the food? Do not sorrow over this. The Lord will send us everything necessary for nourishment and comfort, for He said, Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (Matt. 6:33). Some of the disciples, however, did not obey the instructions of the elder and said, "Who can accept your unacquisitiveness? Whatever God will send us you will give away to others." He then said to them, "Whoever wants to live with me, let him imitate me. Whoever does not wish to follow my way of life, let him live wherever he wishes. l give my blessing, only it must be on Mt. Athos. I do not give a blessing to leave the Holy Mountain, except by the special will of God." After this many left him to go to various monasteries and sketes – wherever he assigned them. However, having departed physically, they all remained bound to him in spirit and in love.

Having lived in the skete for three years, for several good reasons he decided to leave there, with all of his disciples. They bought the kellion of the Holy Trinity, near Stavronikita, and began to live there. All of the Russian brethren were overjoyed that their father and pastor, and comforter in sorrows, had again returned to them, and they all gave glory and thanks to the Most High God. He lived in this kellion until his death. During his life, Fr. Arseny endured much persecution and slander and even almost expulsion, from envious and evil people. Truly, as the Apostle Paul said, all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (II Timothy 3:12).

Once there came to Mt. Athos, from the Sarov monastery in Russia, a certain hieromonk Pallady. He decided to live in the skete of the Prophet Elias where, after a short period, he died. Afterwards, among his things the Little Russians (or Huguls – people of Ukrainian descent living in Carpatho-Russia) found a leather prayer rope and a small mantia. They then became hysterical and cried out that all of the Great Russians were schismatics (they had hated the Great Russians for some time and merely sought a reason to drive them off the Holy Mountain). The Greeks and Bulgarians were greatly amazed at this for they loved the Great Russians more than the Little Russians and were much surprised with such unusual proceedings. The Little Russians, however, did their work: they slandered the Great Russians, and most of all, their shepherd and spiritual father, Arseny. They sent the little mantia and leather prayer rope to the Patriarch of Constantinople for inspection, along with the written slanderous accusation. Upon receiving this, the Patriarch was very much surprised. With his entire synod he studied the matter and they understood that this was some kind of slander; for they knew for sure that all of Great Russia was Orthodox Christian. However, the Patriarch summoned the spiritual father Arseny to appear before him in person. At that time he still lived in the desert. Hearing of this, both Fr. Arseny and Fr. Nicholas set out for Constantinople. They travelled on foot since they did not have enough money to pay for the passage by boat. By land Constantinople is one thousand versts from Mt. Athos. Arriving in Constantinople they appeared before the Patriarch. The Patriarch questioned them concerning everything and, realizing the slander, he felt very sorry for them. Then he showed them the small mantia and prayer rope saying, "And what are these?" Fr. Arseny answered that Fr. Pallady had come from the Sarov coenobetic monastery in Russia, and there they have the custom of using these items for their cell rule. The Patriarch said, "I have heard of the Sarov monastery: people approve of its way of life very much." Then he asked, "How did you come – by land or by sea?" They answered, "By land, holy master!" With tears the Patriarch said, "Oh, Fathers, how I have troubled you? Why did you not come by boat?" They replied, "We did not have the money for the fare." The Patriarch gave them money and ordered them to travel by boat. He also wrote to Mt. Athos that they disturb such fathers no more and not accept any slander against them; and that whoever dares to slander them be cut off from the Church and from the Holy Mountain. And so our fathers returned to the Holy Mountain and the mouths of the slanderers were shut.



The Elder Arseny did much in directing the life on the Holy Mountain, and no one could contradict him. According to his blessing Russians entered the Russian monastery. Many he directed to stay and spend the rest of their lives on the Holy Mountain, even though they did not want to; and many he sent away from Mt. Athos to various places. I, a sinner, was numbered in the latter group, and was sent to Russia, to the land of Siberia.

I heard wondrous stories about the Elder Arseny. In 1839, there lay a sick monk, Joasaph, at the kellion of Russians called Korenevy. One night he became much worse and, expecting to die soon, he desired to see his spiritual father. There were visitors spending the night at the kellion and two of them went with a lamp to summon the elder, a distance of more than five versts. Coming to the elder Arseny they told him that Joasaph was dying and wished to see him. They asked him to come with them for it would be quicker since they had a lamp, and it was very dark and raining. He replied, "Yes, quickly, he is dying. You go quickly ahead; I'll get ready now and I'll catch up with you with my own lamp." They asked to go together with him and hurry, but he sent them ahead and promised to catch up with them. They walked quickly and expressed their sympathy with him, travelling alone in the forest and in the rain. They also were afraid that the sick monk would die before the arrival of Fr. Arseny. When they arrived at the kellion the monk Phillip met them and told them that Fr. Joasaph had already died; and he asked them, "Why did you take so long to get here?" They answered, "We walked quickly and hurried to get here before he died." The monk Phillip said, "Why are you justifying yourselves? Did you stop and visit someone? The spiritual father arrived over half an hour ago. He has already heard his confession, given communion, and read the prayers at the departure of the soul; and this minute Fr. Joasaph has died." Hearing this they were greatly amazed, knowing that no more than an hour had transpired since they had left the kellion of Fr. Arseny. Coming in, they bowed to him and asked, "Holy father, how did you arrive so quickly? We did not see...when did you pass us?" He replied, "I could not come slowly and barely get here in time; so I came by a direct way which you do not know." They kept silent, although they well knew that there was no other path; and they wondered whether he came the same way as the Prophet Habakkuk when he brought food from Palestine to Babylon to the Prophet Daniel who was sitting in the pit. He also came, in a similar manner, to two monks in Kapsala.

Something miraculous also happened in the year 1845. On July 4 he decided to go to a feast at the Lavra of St. Athanasius of Athos, since July 5 was his feastday. Having celebrated Liturgy on the fourth, he set out, taking the route around the mountain of Athos, and he arrived at the Lavra for the all-night vigil to St. Athanasius. The distance from his kellioh to the monastery of St. Pa_ul took eight hours to walk, from St. Paul to the Lavra was fifty versts. At the Lavra, having stood through the vigil and Liturgy, which lasted sixteen hours, he did not go to the meal afterwards but took some bread and set out on his way. In the evening he arrived at his kellion, a distance of eight hours or forty versts. We all greatly marvelled at this: for a young man this would be a three day journey; but he, a seventy-year old elder, and ailing besides, with sore legs, having stood for sixteen hours, finished the journey in a day and a half. I asked him later, "Father, how could you travel so quickly, when the path goes from mountain to mountain, with sharp stones everywhere?" He answered me, "My youth will be renewed as an eagle's, not according to nature but with Divine help."



There came to Mt. Athos, in 1837, a young man by the name of Matthew, a Great Russian, who was tonsured and given the name Moses. Later he desired to go to Jerusalem, and his spiritual father, Arseny, gave his blessing. Later, having lived for a while in Jerusalem, he went to Egypt and Mt. Sinai, travelling three years all together. In that time he learned to speak Greek, Turkish, and Arabic. He then returned to the Holy Mountain, but because of the adverse effect that wandering has on monastic stability, he was no longer able to live quietly in one place. Having lived on Mt. Athos for a little while, he again wanted to wander and go to Jerusalem. Although Fr. Arseny advised against it, he continued to beg him earnestly for his blessing. Seeing his determined intention, however, he blessed him to go, only with the condition that he quickly return to Mt. Athos after Pascha. Having gone to Jerusalem, however, Moses then proceeded to Sinai, from Sinai to Egypt, and from Egypt to Rome, again travelling for three years. From Rome he again returned to Turkey. In Bosnia the Turks apprehended him and searched him. Finding many letters of recommendation written to various persons, they considered him to be a spy and they sentenced him to be beheaded. He asked for a Christian priest, and then confessed his sins, received communion and prepared for death. On the appointed day they led him to the pasha to have his final sentence read. As he was standing before the pasha, suddenly a courier entered to see the pasha, having come from Constantinople. Seeing the situation he asked, "You, Fr. Moses, why are you here?" Moses was both afraid and overjoyed, but he could not say anything. The pasha asked the courier, "Perhaps you know this man?" The courier said, "How can I not know him? This is the monk Moses from Mt. Athos, and he visited me many times in Egypt." The pasha replied, "And we thought he was a spy and intended to execute him today." They both then said to the monk Moses, "Now go quickly to Mt. Athos and stop wandering around, or you will get killed." Having received his papers he quickly returned to the Holy Mountain and went to live in the monastery of Stavronikita. Fr. Arseny told him, "Now live here until you die, and do not think about going anywhere." This happened in 1845.

In this year Fr. Arseny ordered me to go to Russia; but he gave me his blessing to first visit Jerusalem, for which I set out in the month of September. After our departure there arrived from Russia the Athonite monk Ignaty, who was collecting money for Jerusalem, and he went to stay in the monastery of Stavronikita. He began to persuade Moses to go with him to Jerusalem and be his interpreter, since he knew various languages. Fr. Moses agreed to join him and went to his spiritual father to get a blessing to go. Fr. Arseny said to him, "Fr. Moses, I already told you that Mt. Athos is your tomb. Do not think about leaving it to go anywhere. It is not the will of God and l will not give my blessing. And although you may disobey, and opposing the will of God decide to go, you still will not leave. Ignaty will go without you." Returning to the monastery, Moses told Ignaty that his spiritual father would not give his blessing. Ignaty then said, "Why do you listen to him, the false prophet? He will say anything. Let's go, don't be afraid." The monk Moses agreed to go with him and began to prepare for the journey. Some of the brothers told Fr. Arseny that Moses was planning to go with Ignaty to Jerusalem, but he answered, "Do not fear; he will not go." Later they again told him that Ignaty had hired a boat and was ready to leave with Moses. Fr. Arseny again answered, "Ignaty will go with the others, but Moses will remain here." They came again and told him that the boat had docked and the provisions and clothes were already loaded, and in the morning they would board the ship and leave. He again answered, "Everyone will board the ship and depart, but Moses will remain on the Holy Mountain. Where is Moses to go when it is not the will of God?" Several of them argued with him, saying that Moses would leave, but he said, "In the morning we will see how he hops on board." Meanwhile Ignaty and Moses prepared everything so that they could depart with the first light of dawn; and they lay down to sleep. In the morning when everyone arose they went to the cell of Fr. Moses to wake him, but he did not answer. They began to knock,... but no answer. They broke open the door and entered the room; he lay in the middle of the room, foaming at the mouth. They thought that he had died, but they looked and saw that he was still alive. He could see with his eyes but could not speak or move his limbs, being completely paralyzed. lgnaty set out on his voyage and the brethren went to Fr. Arseny to tell him what had happened to Fr. Moses. Having heard what they said he wept bitterly and said, "Here, fathers, is disobedience and opposition to the will of God." The brothers asked him to visit the ailing one, and he went. Moses wept when he saw him. With tears the fathers all began to beg Fr. Arseny to pray for him. He said, "He will live and will speak, but not as before; and he will be able to walk a little and work with his hands as before – but only if he promises to never leave Mt. Athos." Then he blessed him and returned to his own kellion. Moses' condition quickly improved: toward evening he began to speak a little, his face appeared normal and he gradually began to move his hands and feet. Moses again sent for his spiritual father, and, when he arrived, Moses fell at his feet and with tears he began to ask for forgiveness. Fr. Arseny forgave him and scolded him with these words, "In the future do not oppose the will of God. You will be healthy, but not as before; you will work but you will be unable to travel anywhere." Moses became healthy, but not completely: he remained extremely slow of speech, one leg he could not use perfectly, but his hands were as before the sickness. After returning from Jerusalem I personally saw him and spoke with him many times; he was still living when I left Mt. Athos.



In the beginning of 1846, Elder Arseny drew near to his death. At that time I was in Jerusalem. His disciples, my spiritual brothers, told me that he knew of it beforehand. During the last days before my departure, he many times reminded me that this would be the last time we would see each other in this world; and we would see each other no more in this lifetime. Also, when he was digging up the garden by himself, I asked him, "Holy father, why are you working so hard? Why dot you not tell your disciples to do this?" He answered me, "There is not much left for me to dig; my disciples will be digging without me." Then the condition of his legs worsened and he could no longer work or walk. However, he still served Liturgy four times a week, on Sunday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, although with great effort. When he came out for the entrance, his disciples supported him. On Saturday of the fifth week of Great Lent he just barely managed to serve Liturgy.

On that day, March 23, they sent word throughout all of Mt. Athos, to all of his disciples, that the elder was extremely sick and that everyone should come to receive his last blessing. On Sunday, March 24, all of his spiritual children set out early: from the Russian monastery hieroschemamonk and spiritual father Jerome, from the Skete of Prophet Elias hieromonk hegumen Paissy, and a multitude of others. One disciple, Fr. Paul, who was crippled, came up to him and began to ask him, "Holy father, do you want to go away and leave us?" He answered, "Yes, the time has come; I must pay my debt." Fr. Paul again asked, "Father, do you fear the hour of death? Do you tremble and fear to give an answer to the Righteous Judge? You have been a spiritual father for over thirty years." He looked at him with joy and said, "I do not have fear and terror, but a certain joy fills my heart and I have great hope in my Lord and God, Jesus Christ, that He will not deprive me of His mercy, although I have done no good works, for in what can I glory, except my infirmities? I did nothing according to my own will; what I did was with the help of the Lord and according to the will of God." Then he directed all of his spiritual children to approach him, one by one, and each one he forgave and absolved, and gave the last blessing and instruction, where to live the rest of his life. He continued in this manner almost to the last minutes of his life. At this time he was lying on a large balcony, and he ordered everyone to leave him and they all went downstairs. He began to pray, but they could not understand what he was saying. He raised his hands three times to heaven; then he dropped them and became quiet. When they approached they saw that he had already died and commended his spirit into the hands of his Lord Whom he had loved from his youth, and for Whose sake he had exhausted his flesh until the very end. Truly, Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.

Seeing this, many fathers rushed to him, and fell on his much-laboring body and washed it with tears of sorrow, that they were deprived of their father and shepherd, instructor, teacher, and comforter in sorrows. Many wept. They then began to prepare him for burial. When they uncovered his legs they saw a terrible sight: on both legs, from the knee down, there were almost only bare bones; the skin had rotted from much standing and the sores of many years. And everyone was amazed that he could stand and that he could walk so quickly. The disciples with whom he lived did not know that his legs were ailing, and he never mentioned that his legs hurt. He always stood on his feet and fl‚ew around the Holy Mountain like a bird. Furthermore, there was never an unpleasant odor coming from them. They buried him next to the altar at the kellion of the Holy Trinity, which belongs to the monastery of Stavronikita, on March 25, 1846.

The Holy Mount Athos was thus deprived of such a shining pillar and candlestick. For twenty-four years he supported and enlightened the entire Russian brotherhood on Mt. Athos, and not only the Russians, but also the Greeks, Bulgarians and Moldavians. The Greeks said, "Arseny is a great elder." To describe all of his struggles, virtues and the events of his life it would be necessary to write a huge volume. It is sufficient to say that there lived on Mt. Athos the Elder Arseny and he showed his disciples a way of life which he taught not with words but by example.

Fr. Arseny was of medium stature, his beard was average length with streaks of grey and he always held his head leaning to the right side. His face was clear and bright, his eyes were filled with tears; he was very lean and his face was always flushed. Especially when he served Liturgy, everyone was amazed that his face was so fiery. His speech was meek, precise, and mixed with salt (Matt. 9:13, Mk. 9:5), and he would bring someone to tears with just a few words. He was very well versed in the Holy Scriptures and the writings of the holy fathers and always quoted them by heart, something that always amazed educated people. The disciples with whom he lived never saw him sleeping or lying on his side, but he was seen most often standing, and sometimes sitting. He gave his body little sleep, and that while sitting, although it was almost not noticeable. He was always occupied in prayer, reading, and handiwork. Truly he gave no sleep to his eyes and no slumber to his eyelids, nor rest to his body. The teaching and instructions of Fr. Arseny were in full agreement with the ancient holy fathers. He taught everyone to live according to the will of God, according to the advice of elders, and not according to his own understanding and desire. His teaching appeared burdensome to many because he strictly inspired others to do and arrange everything according to the will of God, just as he himself strove to do. At the time of his death there was no other such elder left on Mt. Athos among the Russians, unless one appeared later on. Although there are many ascetics, they are more simple and have not acquired such discernment. In three years, according to Athonite tradition, they uncovered his bones. They were yellow, like wax, and very fragrant.


In the book of the travels of Parthenius there were also some accounts concerning holy fathers who were unknown even to the Athonite monks...


On the Holy Mountain there are many absolute hermits and desert-dwellers living in the deep deserts and in inaccessible places, around the mountain of Athos itself, on hills and in dales and precipitous places where people seldom go. They live in caves; their clothes are tattered from much wear, and they go half naked; and others are covered with hair. They are fed with wild grasses and greens, and some are fed by God Himself. They are hidden from people and are revealed to very few. It sometimes happens that one may find their kellia, but to find them is rare.

In my time some monks came upon one of these desert-dwellers and conversed with him. They asked him, "Have you lived in the desert for long and where did you come from?" He answered them, "You don't need to know my worldly life, only that in my youth I left the world and came to Mt. Athos, and have lived here for fifty years: I passed ten years in a monastery living in obedience, and forty years I have lived in this desert, and during that time have not seen any of the Athonite fathers except for you and your brethren." They asked, "Surely you do not live alone in this desert, do you?" He answered, "No, there are forty of us living here, fed by God." And they asked him again, "But how did you live during the course of the six years when Mt. Athos was nearly laid waste with Turks and robbers everywhere?" He answered, "We did not see or hear anything." Then he bowed and departed into the inner desert.

In the year 1844, fathers from the Skete of Kapsokalyvia were going about the inner desert collecting medicinal grasses to sell. Among them was one Russian, my spiritual brother, schemamonk David. He told me afterwards that they found one desert-dweller, already dead and lying on the ground, not having any clothes. It was not known if he had been dead for long, but his body had not decayed in any way, and it even gave off a pleasant fragrance. They sang burial hymns and buried him, but they did not learn his name.

In the year 1846 three of us went to the very peak of Athos, and we stopped by the cave where St. Peter the Athonite struggled. We realized that a desert-dweller was living in it, but we were not granted to see him. Perhaps, hearing us coming he left. We looked at his belongings: one icon, a prayer rope, a bowl with water and grass for eating. He had no bread; his bed was the bare earth. Having seen this, we went on our way.
Translated at Holy Trinity Monastery
Orthodox Life magazine 1991 (4)