St Barsanuphius of Optina

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Barbara
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St Barsanuphius of Optina

Postby Barbara » Mon 15 April 2019 4:49 am

A very little known or remembered fact about the great Elder, whose Feast Day is today, is the following.

When Elder Barsanuphius was appointed the highly prestigious position of Skete Superior [ meaning head of the Optina Skete of St John the Baptist ],

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the Elder,

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from his own money, spent 30,000 Tsarist rubles -- what I estimate to be about $ 420,000 today -- to renovate it. The Skete had fallen on bad times due to the illness of Elder Barsanuphius' predecessor, Elder Joseph [Litovkin]. Thus major projects were needed to get it in shape again.

Without advertising himself the way a modern businessman/self-marketer would do -- "Look how charitable I am ! I donated to the Red Cross" -- or a contemporary company trumpeting its trendy 'caring' thus :"We are giving x percent of our profits to charity, aren't we impressive ? " -- Elder Barsanuphius plowed this astounding sum, nearly half a million dollars, into fixing up the dilapidated Skete.

Far from being grateful, a number of monks at the main Monastery [ less rigorous asceticism than the Skete ] grumbled. They had no reason to complain, but malcontents always find excuses like rabbits out of hats. Somehow the core group of disaffected monks expanded to eventually form networks reaching to the salons of St Petersburg frequented by high Orthodox Church authorities. Ridiculous rumors abounded. When one lady was sent to check them out, she only added fuel to the fire by inventing more nonsense. If Elder Barsanuphius was given flowers by his grateful followers, this was distorted into "He is living in LUXURY so great that he has flowers strewn all over his cell". If an elderly woman was on hand to facilitate that interview, "He is allowing women too close access." No mention of her age or the reason for her presence : to be beyond any doubt highly respectable. And the like.

Instead of recalling the magnificent gift bestowed on the Skete and by extension on the Monastery by the future Saint, Optina officials were unable to stand up for their famed Elder probably out of fear and indecision. Once the snowball started rolling, it gathered momentum until in January 1912, then-Bishop Seraphim {Chichagov} was sent to investigate.

While remembered for his compilation of the Diveyevo Chronicle while yet a priest, Bishop Seraphim made no attempt to conduct an unbiased investigation. Barely speaking with the Elder to get his side of the story of the silly accusations, the future Metropolitan of Warsaw and All Poland made a sweeping, condescending conclusion. He sniffed, "Fr Barsanuphius [needs] to be given a more extensive sphere of activity, whereas in the Skete he [is] turning totally sour."

Myself, I would never trust this Met. Seraphim [Chichagov], who could roll such facile statements off the tongue with seemingly no worry about their accuracy. How did the emissary of the St Petersburg Synod determine the Elder was 'going sour' ? The whole notion is demented. The Elder was not a type of yoghurt that had been kept too long.

And worse, the Elder was obviously suffering from some old-age or pre-old age infirmities. To recommend that St Barsanuphius be given a heavier burden of work than he already was shouldering was equivalent to deliberately sentencing him to a premature repose. It was well known that during the Russo-Japanese War some years earlier, Fr Barsanuphius had been forced to go to the front in the Russian Far East as a chaplain over his vigorous protestations that he was physically in far too poor condition to travel such a vast distance confined to train compartments filled with other passengers.

When the St Petersburg Synod quickly confirmed Bishop Seraphim's assessment, the Elder was sent off to the inexcusably far away Old Golutvin Monastery essentially to die. And die he did, exactly one year later, observed his loyal attendant, Fr Nicholas [Belyaev - the future Elder Nikon of Optina ]. The date was April 14, 1913.

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Barbara
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Re: St Barsanuphius of Optina

Postby Barbara » Wed 15 May 2019 4:37 am

As it was Elder Nektary of Optina's Feast Day 2 days ago, 2 references of his to Elder Barsanuphius seem in order.

1. Elder Barsanuphius confided the story of his conversion to Elder Nektary. The latter did not reveal this, unfortunately. Or if so, the transfixing tale was not recorded. It must have been quite personal to Elder Barsanuphius.

Elder Nektary did relate this astonishing anecdote, however : "See how great Elder Barsanuphius was ! And he was remarkably humble and obedient. Once, when he was a novice, he was walking past my porch and I said to him as a little joke: "You have exactly twenty years to live." I said it to him as a joke, but he was obedient and exactly twenty years later, on that very day - April 1 - he reposed. That's how great his obedience was."

2. Elder Nektary waxed eloquent and humble in the following description : "Elder Barsanuphius was so great that I stand no higher than the end of his little toenail. From a brilliant soldier, by God's blessing, he became a great Elder overnight."

That last remark helps us realize what a marvel it was that Elder Barsanuphius came to Optina at all, let alone became the Elder of the Skete with disciples amongst clergy, monastics and laity from all over.

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Re: St Barsanuphius of Optina

Postby Barbara » Mon 10 June 2019 11:46 pm

Look how MP articles overdo [ exaggerate ]. Re Elder Barsanuphius, the same quotation appears in a recent essay :

"He got pneumonia, was on his deathbed when, at his request, the orderly began to read the Gospel to him, and the patient saw Heaven open and heard a voice from above commanding him to go to Optina Pustyn. His spiritual vision was opened. In the words of Elder Nektary: “From a brilliant soldier, in one night, by the good will of God, he became an elder." -- http://orthochristian.com/121712.html

I have combed over the standard Life of the Elder and I don't remember such a grandiose statement. "The patient [The Elder ] saw Heaven open " - ??
and [ he ] DRAMATICALLY "heard a voice commanding him to go to Optina " - ???

That isn't how Elder Barsanuphius got to Optina at all [ unless some new documents have surfaced ]. Instead, the Elder related the true version. He was given a certain magazine in which there was an article about Elder Amvrosy. Colonel Paul Ivanovich Plikhankov was quite drawn to this marvelous figure. This Kazan-based Tsarist military figure immediately determined to set vacation time aside for a trip there. While his superior officers thought he was heading for a sightseeing trip such as to the Italian Riviera,

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instead, the future Elder was preparing spiritually for the trip to Russia's citadel of asceticism, a journey which he probably sensed would change his entire life.

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Then, notice how the same quotation by Elder Nektary of Optina is distorted in the MP version. The words 'GREAT Elder' are scaled down to a mere "elder" with no capital E in the English translation. Certainly Elder Nektary would have selected such an adjective, since we know he spoke of himself as having minimal spiritual attainment. His own, St Nektary modestly asserted, measured no higher than not just the toenail of Elder Barsanuphius, but the END of that toenail. I would propose that the MP still carries vestiges of the Communist worship of the common man over truly spiritual, clairvoyant Elders.


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