St Feofil of the Kiev Caves

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Re: St Feofil of the Kiev Caves

Postby Barbara » Tue 31 January 2017 3:22 am

It is a relief to hear of truly repentant 'bad guys'. Here is one such narrative from the Life of St Feofil.

Each of these, by the way, would be ideal for a movie scene as they have internal drama and tension [ often between good and evil : Feofil and his either persecutors or interlocutors ].
The episodes are described in such a fresh, lively way that the reader feels right there observing the events.

Every word of conversation is related in such a realistic way that one expects that the author had followed St Feofil around throughout his life with a tape recorder in hand and transcribed everything exactly as it was said by each party.

And, with a few adjustments of accoutrements and modes of transport, the people we meet on the pages of this biography are timeless. We can easily recognize people we know today, ~ 170 years later, amongst the wide variety of colorful characters described here.


"The Profiteer

In the town of Vasilkovo, there lived a profiteer who had made a fortune in shady business dealings. All his life had been lived in depravity, dishonesty, and evil. He had built up a large estate for his old age, but having retired to take advantage of it, he became afflicted with a gnawing conscience. He resolved to repent of his sins and seek forgiveness. He had heard many stories about the great podvizhnik, Hieroschemamonk Feofil, and he set out for Kiev in the hope of spending some time with him.

The visionary Starets, foreseeing the visit of the profiteer, decided to anticipate his arrival by meeting him before he reached the hermitage. For this purpose he set out into the woods and for days awaited the merchant on the road where the Red Tavern was located. Soon the carriage appeared with the profiteer-merchant seated importantly within.


He noticed the monk walking in his direction, and he came out of the carriage and walked towards the monk.

"How do you do, Batiushka!?

"Well, and how do you do, sir merchant!"

"Is it far from here to the hermitage?"

"Which one do you want?"


"It is high unto God, far to the Tsar, but the hermitage is closest of all. What is your matter? To pray to God?"

"Something like that, but most of all I want to see the schemamonk that is called Feofil. You couldn't tell me where he lives?"

"Of what use is he to you?"

"They say that he is very holy, a visionary."

"Who, Feofil?"

"Yes, the hieroschemamonk."

"What kind of holiness is that? You have believed all that old wives' nonsense?"

"How could this be? All say..."

"You don't say ! But he is such an evil-doer, such a fornicator, you couldn't find such a villain in the whole world. He ravished other women, seduced maidens, stole his neighbours horses at night, lent money to the poor at outrageous interest rates. How many orphans he has let out into the world without any clothing, how many people he has destroyed through shady business and deception ! He has grown a fat belly on other people's goods and now he has the desire to approach God. He has come to Starets Feofil with a pile of deathly sins on stolen horses.

"Well, repent, repent. Pray to God. The Lord is merciful. He doesn't want a sinner's death, only his change to a life for Him."

But the amazed horse-dealer had already felt in his heart that this was Feofil and had already dropped to the feet of the Starets weeping tears of repentance on them.

"Forgive me, Batiushka. Absolve me, accursed murderous swindler and villain that I am."

"God will forgive, God will forgive. Go to God's saints. Bow to them. Pray to them. They will expiate you. They will forgive everything. Your father was a righteous man and for his prayers God will have mercy on you."

"No, He will not have mercy on me. I have angered His infinite benevolence too much."

"He will forgive, He will forgive. Only don't fall into errors again through carelessness and thereby litter the beneficent sources which have cleaned the soul today by your repentance.

"Don't cease praying, don't give freedom to your passions. Guard your forgiveness, love and retain the fear of God. Go!"


The merchant promptly set out for the Lavra and spent many hours telling the monks of the Caves about his encounter with Feofil>" ... art-6.html
[ illustration added by Barbara ]

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Re: St Feofil of the Kiev Caves

Postby Barbara » Sun 26 February 2017 4:23 am

"A much honoured nurse who had participated in the Turkish campaign, Alexandra Grigorievna Chernikova, related the following:

"I remember it as if it had just occurred. We came to Goloseyevo as a group. My mother knew Feofil very well and was quite close to him. The Starets was not in his cell when we came to see him and we set out to find him in the woods

Feofil was moved to the Goloseyeskaya Hermitage April 23, 1853, half a year before his blessed repose in Kitayev, due to a considerate Superior who wished to make the aged monastic comfortable here. Hence the Starets' visitors had to search for him on the grounds.

"...I saw a gigantic hollow oak above the precipice of a steep bank. We ran to it and looked inside, and saw a monk praying there...' The Starets saw that we were approaching and he came out to meet us. His face was so bright and clear and on his lips a blessed smile flickered. He blessed us children first of all..

Soon after this my mother, Agafiya Ivanovna Chernikova, together with a Kievan merchant's wife, Kseniya Ivanovna Mizernikova, set out to see the Blessed Starets. This time he was at home. He had high esteem for my mother and he seated her on a little bench and, turning to the merchant's wife, he said:

'Well, Kseniya Ivanovna, as soon as you return home, make me some dumplings with cabbage. But see that they are tasty. I'll send my cell-mate, Ivan, for them and you can give them to him.'

When they returned home, Mizernikova said to Mama

'For heaven's sakes fulfil Father Feofil's request.'

'But what about you ? He had asked you '

'Actually, I don't have the time. I'll send you both butter and flour and you will have only the work to do.'

Mama agreed and prepared them. On the appointed day, the cell-mate, Ivan, came and brought a huge, beautiful, soft Easter bread and two prosphora, one large and one small.

'Why did you bring prosphora, Ivan?' asked my mother.

'Batiuska Feofil sent them,' answered Ivan. 'He told me to give the widow (Mama) the Easter bread and the large prosphora and to give the merchant's wife the smaller one. The widow troubled herself and made dumplings for me, while the merchant's wife did not want to put herself to any trouble, thinking that she could fool me, an old man. So, give her the small prosphora.'

And the visionary always knew who had troubled themselves most for him." ... rt-11.html

The latter part of this story sounds so modern that it could have occurred today in any parish or other locale anywhere in the world : one person airily dismissing the need to tackle an unwelcome assigned task : "Actually, I don't have the time. You do the work."

However, a clairvoyant Elder renowned through the entire region had delegated this chore specifically to Kseniya Ivanovna. Yet she didn't consider the Starets important enough to spend a few hours or half of a day baking the dumplings for him.

Almost assuredly, St Feofil planned to offer these tasty treats to deserving visitors seeking his guidance. It is not possible that he would have requested delicious morsels for himself. A great ascetic, Feofil deliberately mixed all tastes together in the same plate : bitter and salty, sweet and sour, telling people who wondered at this mishmash that it is analogous to life itself : the good mixed with the difficult, pleasant experiences juxtaposed with trials. [ It seems to me that St John Maximovitch of Shanghai and San Francisco may have eaten his dinners the same way. ]

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Re: St Feofil of the Kiev Caves

Postby Barbara » Tue 28 February 2017 3:04 am

A recent picture of St Feofil's grave is number 38 in this series :

The website does not allow copying of photos. I would otherwise have brought it here.

This photo is quite interesting in that the only other picture I had seen of this marvelous Elder's shrine was quite different.
That image was on facebook - yes there is a page for St Feofil with appreciative notes from people all over the world - and must have been taken years ago.

Thus we can assume that the entire room has been redecorated in a way much more befitting the special treasure of Kiev, the clairvoyant Elder Hieroschemamonk Feofil, who was sought out by a powerful Tsar for guidance in ruling the Russian Empire, as well as a plethora of common folk with everyday problems.

Surely, it makes one want to take a pilgrimage to pray before the shrine in person.

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Re: St Feofil of the Kiev Caves

Postby Barbara » Sat 11 November 2017 4:55 am

Today is St Feofil's Day as well as St Paraskevi's. Apparently St Feofil was greatly devoted to the latter, and easily conversed with Praskoviya, as he called her in the informal version of the name used in Russia and Ukraine. Perhaps Saint Paraskevi of Iconium [ after all, there are several St Paraskeva's ] had been a special guardian for him throughout his monastic life.


"A week before his demise, the Starets asked the Kitayevskaya postulants to bring earth from the Dniepr and pour it near his cell in the form of a grave. Then he measured its length and width with a stick and afterwards would not part with the stick.

"I should have died a long time ago," he used to repeat, "but Praskoviya is praying to God for me."

The cell-mate, Ivan, seeing that the Starets was not jesting about the nearness of his death, began to grieve and to be sad about his future fate.

"Batiushka," he wept, "to whom will you leave us? For God's sake, ask the deputy of the Lavra to enter me into the number of the brotherhood."

"They will enter you and not only that, but they will also make you a monk.'

"Who? Me? An indecent servant? A former fugitive and tramp? Oh no! That would never happen. No!"

"In little faith you came to me, but the Lord will place you above many," the Blessed One replied to him.

On that same day, the Starets went to the deputy of the Lavra, Archimandrite Ioann, told him something unusual about Ivan, after which the deputy joyfully agreed to the tonsuring of the cell-mate to the monkhood and gave him the name of Dmitry.

After his tonsure, the Lavra brothers began asking Dmitry about the reason for his sudden tonsure to the monkhood, but the cell-mate replied:

"I cannot tell you. It is a secret. Only Starets Feofil, the deputy, and I know about it. If I tell about it, then, according to the words of Starets Feofil, the deputy and I will immediately die."

The Starets extended his protection to many others besides Dmitry. He personally interceded for his sister, the Florovsky postulant Anna, and was present at her tonsuring not long before his demise. Moreover, the Starets had many spiritual children in the city and he would visit them daily, giving them comfort and strengthening them with prayer. He gave them his final instructions and carried out many charitable deeds." ... rt-11.html

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Re: St Feofil of the Kiev Caves

Postby Barbara » Sat 11 November 2017 5:09 am

"Before vespers, he sent one of his cell-mates to the market place to buy three rolls of bread, incense, and honey, and to Dmitry he said:

"Don't leave the cell today and you will see something extraordinary . "

Then he requested that the cell be cleaned of all rubbish and swept up, saying that he must be received in a Christian manner. Then he asked his cell-mate to light the stove, to place some incense and myrrh on coals in a pan and to light the votive lamp before the icons. When Dmitry said it was still early and that the bell's had not yet rung for vespers, Feofil said:

"This time it is necessary. Fulfill the obedience to the end."

The lamp was lighted.

"That's right. Now it's good. Make certain that it does not go out."

Then he lay on the bench which he had placed across the threshold of his cell, with his head in the entrance hall. He asked that two wax candles be lighted and stuck to the door posts and that he be given the cross with which he used to bless those who came to him and, having blessed his cell-mates with this cross, he sent one of them to the superior of the hennitage, Hieromonk Anatoly, with the order to inform him that "Feofil has demised; toll the bell." The cell-mate obeyed and related the Starets' words to Anatoly. In the heat of the moment, Father Anatoly did not comprehend all that was said and hurried to send the bell-ringer to the belfry to inform the brotherhood of the repose of the Righteous One. But suddenly, he thought of some-thing and asked:

"Who did you say sent you to me?"

"Batiushka Feofil."

"That means that he uttered this request with his own lips?"

"His own..."

"Then how do you know that he has already died?"

And he hurried to the cell of the Blessed One to find out what had happened to him.

Meanwhile, Dmitry was left alone in the cell and, not knowing what to do, began to adjust the candles so that they would not burn the lintel. He did not leave the head of the bench upon which the dying Starets lay and he quietly wept. It was difficult for him to face the impending separation from his beloved spirituaI father under whose prayerful wing he had lived so warmly. He stood silently, with lowered head, at the death bed, listening to the last instructions of his dear teacher and he broke into loud sobs, endlessly kissing his hands. Suddenly, something flashed before his gaze and a current of cool air struck his face. Dmitry looked upwards in amazement and became petrified. In the cell, the ceiling began to rise and the blue sky, as if extending its arms, was preparing to receive the holy soul of the dying Righteous One.

"O Lord, into Thy hands I yield my spirit," said the dying Starets, in a scarcely audible whisper and in an instant, inexorable death forever closed his God-praising lips.

Dmitry could not control himself but began to tremble and with a loud cry of desperate amazement, he ran, in fear, into the courtyard. While running through the monastery gate, he collided with the superior, Father Anatoly, and the other cell-mate who were on their way to the cell of the Blessed One to see what had happened.

When they entered the cell, everything was as it had been before. The ceiling had descended and was resting in its proper place. Starets Feofil was lying motionless on the bench, his emaciated hands folded on his breast. The face of the deceased Righteous One shone with heavenly grace.... No sooner had he released his last breath than an un-definable fragrance filled the cell. Thus, he yielded up his life quietly and at peace and handed over his righteous soul into the hands of God on October 28, 1853, on the feast Day of the Nun-Martyr, Paraskeva, who is called Pyatnitsa, at five o'clock in the afternoon." ... rt-11.html

So it was a Wednesday that year of 1853, but the fact that this year it is appropriately a Friday allows us to contemplate the amazing life of the Starets - and the miraculous repose.

Note how the cell attendant Dmitry tries to argue back to the wisest Elder in the land.... this is so typical, but surprisingly when one thinks of his proximity to the Blessed One for years. Why would he question a simple order like that, and especially at a moving moment like that = ?!

However, today being also St Dimitry Rostovsky's Day, maybe the fact this newly monastic cell attendant was present to see one of the marvels of the age could have been due to his presumed heavenly protector's care for St Feofil. I say presumed because the reader is not told for WHICH St Dimitry the attendant was named.

Then, the story of a Kievan woman who was delivered from nearly half a century of possession by horrible demons comes into memory here. St Feofil told her that at the end of the 48 long years of suffering, a Priest would be sent to free her from this terrible ailment. When the Priest passed her in the Kiev Caves Lavra and inquired about her woes, he gave her a medal of St Dimitry Rostovsky to wear around her neck. After she put on the medal, she was cured. I put the entire anecdote on another thread where it related to the topic matter : viewtopic.php?f=14&t=11948&p=69370&hilit=Evfrosiniya+Mikhailovna+Tsybulskaya#p69370

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Re: St Feofil of the Kiev Caves

Postby Barbara » Wed 4 April 2018 3:29 am

"On the Samburg farm of the Kitayevskaya Hermitage lived the postulant nun, Pelagia. She felt a sincere veneration towards the Starets and lovingly fulfilled any obedience the Blessed One might give her. If he told her to have a shirt washed, she would wash it; if he told her to harness the bullock, she would go to harness it; if he sent her to the Dnieper to wash a pair of boots, she would do so. Because of her constant service and simple obedience, the Starets loved the postulant very much and would often protect her from various temptations and troubles.

Once, a starets-hieroschemamonk from Mount Athos came to the Lavra and offered to secretly tonsure Pelagia and three other postulants of the farm. Not wishing to accept this tempting offer without the blessing of Starets Feofil, the postulants went to him for advice. The Blessed One did not say a word to them but brought out a loaf without the inside and said:

"Your thoughts are as empty as this bread," and he forbade Pelagia to be confused by vainglorious thoughts.

Another time the Starets called her to himself and gave he. a bottle. "Go and buy yourself some honey, incense, and candles," he said, "and remember the number 12." Pelagia did as she was told and as she was returning, the Starets met her near the market, surrounded by many people.

"Well, did you buy it?" he asked.

"I bought it, Batiushka," answered Pelagia.

"Well then, begin praying for my father and I will pray for your father right now."

And he began to prostrate himself in the middle of the street. Pelagia was embarrassed. People were standing all around, as if looking at some marvel, but having overcome her embarrassment, she too began to make prostrations.

Several days passed. Suddenly Pelagia received a letter from her relatives that on the twelfth of that month, her father had died after an illness.

But let us return to the aim of our story. Starets Feofil once met Pelagia on the road and ordered her to take the bullock by the rope and lead it to the Lavra while he himself turned around in the wagon towards the east and began his usual reading of the Psalter. As they were going beyond Zberints, at the place where the Holy Trinity-Ionovsky Monastery now stands, the Blessed One stopped the bullock and told his fellow traveler to give it some hay. Then he called her to himself and said:

"Pelagia! If you threw a large seine net into the depths of the Dnieper, what would you pull out?"

"Everything, Batiuska," Pelagia answered, having thought about it.

"Both large and tiny fish. There would be pike, and carp, and roach in it, and mussels and frogs as well."

"Well, then, know that on this spot God's grace will soon shine and a large monastery will be built on it. And as in the seine of the fisherman there is found everything, so in this young cloister not all will be the same in spiritual growth. There will appear in it 'pike' of high ascetic life, and there will also steal into it worthless 'shells', little caring for the purity of the soul."

And raising his eyes to heaven, the Starets blessed the place in all four directions and, having prayed for half an hour, he continued on his way to the Lavra." ... rt-10.html

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Re: St Feofil of the Kiev Caves

Postby Barbara » Sat 14 July 2018 4:58 am

Since many do not know of the Holy Trinity-St Jonah Monastery in Kiev, here is a photo. It shows how wonderful a monastic complex was built over the place St Feofil exactly indicated :


The story of this monastery's arrival on the already monastery-rich Kiev scene stems from a few appearances of the Mother of God. This means that the Heavenly Queen Herself backed up St Feofil's prediction since it was Her Plan ; the location was precisely selected by Her in the visions to Fr Jonah. Interesting story which deserves a separate thread.

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