Abbot Pachomius of Sarov (Conclusion)
Igumen Pachomius, as was mentioned, was known for his piety, diligent care for the monastery, the salvation of the brethren’s souls, the labors of monastic feats, and strict following of the monastic charter. It was through these virtues that he not only acquired the sincere love of the brothers, but also of many laypeople. The fame of his strict life spread and attracted many pious people to him who, while coming to ask for his spiritual admonition for themselves, provided him with everything necessary. Since that time, the fame of this remote, secluded wilderness habitation grew even more. For it shone with the hidden lives of ascetics as well as the splendor of the monastery’s churches. The selfless love of Pachomius acquired many benefactors for the monastery – many commoners started to come to the service at the monastery and, thus, it became more and more adorned through the action of grace and the help of God-loving people.
Some of those tonsured by Pachomius, inspired by the feats of holiness of their superior departed to the most remote, uninhabited places – their deserts were hidden in pinewoods or thick forests. There in secluded cells the pious hermits, while hiding themselves from people, labored in piety. The famous hermits Igumen Nazarius , Hieroschemamonk Dorotheus , Schemamonk Mark came to live in huts nearby in various places, each with his disciples. With the blessing of Pachomius also the well-known hermit Hieromonk Seraphim settled down in the depth of the monastery forest. He dwelt alone in a secluded hut not far from those hermits who were struggling for salvation.
The desert-loving Igumen Pachomius conversed with the hermits regarding the effectiveness of the means of receiving the Holy Spirit in this manner – the one struggling must surrender his mind and will to the will of God; to most of all guard oneself from gluttony and idleness. Since despondency, excessive sleep, impure thoughts and all kinds of evil passions come from those vices. One should preserve himself from immoderate exhaustion by strict fasting, especially, those who are weak in body. One who is healthy and strong in the body can temporarily endure a strict fast. In general, the Holy Fathers deemed it is useful for anyone to observe moderation in partaking of food so that the soul and the body would not be exhausted in the Holy undertaking. The Grace of the Holy Spirit always surrounds us, yet, our evil deeds encircle us as a hard stone wall, preventing the Holy Spirit to abide in us; the evil passions distance Him from us. Any sin can distance us from the Holy Spirit, yet, He is especially repulsed by bodily impurity and spiritual pride. If we want to receive Him we must be pure in our hearts and guard our bodies against sinful impurity since our heart and body must be the temple of the Holy Spirit, as well as stay away from spiritual pride—do not count on our good deeds and boast about them. May he who keeps silence be diligent in examining his conscience, in self-reproach, in humility, in unceasing prayer to Jesus Christ. And in an attentive contemplation of God while daily recalling his own death, the judgment of Christ, the Kingdom of Heaven, and eternal torments. “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God” [Mat 5:8]; “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” [Mat 5:3]. Along with this do everything you are told to do, speak as if you are an unworthy slave. If anyone becomes weak in prayer, then he must engage in reading the Word of God and the books of the holy fathers, since reading focuses the dispersed mind and eradicates earthly thoughts, after reading may he engage in prayer and contemplation of God. Although you may be a man who is honest, kind, fair, and merciful, in a word, although you may have fulfilled all of the commandments of God, yet consider yourself an unworthy slave [Luke 17:10] and nothing more than a tool of God through which He acts. There is yet another way of humility, it consists of bearing all of the afflictions, sorrows, misfortunes, illnesses, ridicules and abuse patiently and meekly, considering them a punishment for your own sins, and do not say, “Oh! How unfortunate I am!”, but firmly keep in your mind that it is yet little sent for your sins; and ask God not as much to relieve you from your calamities, but especially to send you strength to bear them.”
The Most Reverend diocesan Bishop Theophilus called Elder Pachomius a father and a friend. This Most Reverend man, having received a letter about the coming passing of Pachomius, wrote to him on August 24th of 1794 a heartwarming message wishing that his passing from this life may be delayed for the spiritual benefit of the brethren, asking to pray to the Lord for them in the other, better life, if he was destined to leave this temporary world. The letter is expressed in the following words:
Most honorable Father Igumen Pachomius! Dear brother!
I have received through my mother your most amiable, yet very sad letter since you inform of your close passing from this world to eternity. Having read it I said in my heart and soul, “Woe is me, brother Pachomius! Why are you leaving us orphans, why are you leaving the monastery without a guide? Come back until your children get used to the image of your holy life. I sincerely regret and beg the mercy of God, may He show mercy to the monastery by your return, if not, may the will of the Almighty be done, Who, by calling you, may place you in His blessed dwellings in which do pray to the mercy of God, may He direct my life to the good and make me worthy of the destiny He promised for the blessed ones. Forgive all of my transgressions, which you feel I have done in word, deed, and in thought before you; I, for my part, mutually forgive you and absolve you, and wish you either health for the joy of the holy habitation and my delight, or, according to the will of God, a blessed repose.
Having accomplished the feat of a blessed life, Igumen Pachomius, feeling the exhaustion of his strength, chose on his deathbed the successor for himself, who was his associate, to be the Igumen. It was pious Elder Isaiah, who was adorned with all of the monastic virtues: his meekness, humility, brotherly love and unquestioning obedience to his Abbot were the example of monastic life for the brethren. Pachomius passed away in 1794 being 70 years old. Many at the habitation to this day revere his memory as of a pious man.
1. Venerable Nazarius of Valaam was born in the Tambov region of Russia between 1731 and 1735, his name was Nikolai. He entered the Sarov desert at a young age, he was tonsured a hieromonk there in 1776. His strict ascetic life prompted Metropolitan Gavriil of Novgorod to appoint him to be the Superior of the Valaam Monastery. The Valaam monastery grew under his guidance. At the order of Metropolitan Gabriel, Igumen Nazari chose ten missionaries from the brothers of the monastery to be sent to North America, St. Herman of Alaska was among them. In 1801 he requested to be released from his duties at the Valaam Monastery, he returned to Sarov, where he lived in seclusion until his passing in 1809.
2. Fr. Dorotheus was a hermit who lived in the woods near the monastery at the time of St. Seraphim of Sarov.
3. Venerable Mark of Sarov (1733-1817) was a contemporary of St. Seraphim of Sarov, whom he visited often. He was born in Kursk. He felt a desire to devote himself to spiritual life, seclusion, and the feats of the desert life from an early age, a spiritual vision prompted him to abandon the world. He came to the Sarov Monastery at twenty- four and was tonsured a monk in 1778. He chose a life of a fool for Christ and lived in the woods near the monastery in seclusion and complete poverty. He had many spiritual gifts, clairvoyance and healing among them.