Abbot Niphont

Abbot Niphont (Abbot of Sarov Hermitage when St. Seraphim reposed)

The ninth Abbot of the Sarov Hermitage, Igumen Niphont was from the city of Temnikov, of a family of tradesmen. While still a youth he had a desire to devote himself to the ascetic life at the Sarov desert brotherhood. While yet a teenager he earnestly asked to be received, yet he was not permitted, because the rules of the monastery forbade the acceptance of young boys. Therefore, he unwillingly remained in the world until adulthood.
In 1787, upon reaching the age of twenty, he left the world and came to the Sarov monastery at the time of Abbott Pachomius, and was accepted into the brotherhood. From the very beginning he showed signs of complete devotion to the will of the Father Igumen by abandoning and rejecting his own will. Whatever he had acquired in the world, he put to the feet of the Superior Pachomius, surrendering himself along with it into obedience. That surprised Elder Superior, and he always paid special attention to this novice after that.
Having put on the monastic garb Basil (this was his name in the world) carried out the duties assigned to him at the monastery storeroom and on the church kliros with a special zeal, quietly and humbly. With the consent of the Abbott and the senior brethren, in respect of such a constant laborious and attentive life, Basil was tonsured a monk on June 19, 1792 with the name of Niphont. Soon afterwards, in 1793 he was ordained a hierodeacon, and a hieromonk in 1796, and was appointed a common confessor for the brethren. He bore this duty for the benefit of the brethren, giving the brotherhood a plentiful spiritual admonition.
While being a confessor he performed the services suitable for the rank of a hieromonk. In 1805 he was appointed a treasurer. In 1806 from among all of the brothers he was chosen to be Administrator by Father Superior Isaiah and confirmed by the diocesan authorities. In 1818, on March 12, he was chosen to be the Igumen of the monastery. In 1832 he was awarded a golden pectoral cross. In 1834 he was appointed a dean of two monasteries. In 1837 by His Majesty, the Emperor, following a petition of the Holy Synod he was graciously awarded a pectoral cross decorated with precious stones for the useful service for the church.
While administering the affairs of the monastery Igumen Niphont diligently followed the monastic rules conferred by the Founder. He had a special zeal for church services so that in spite of all duties of the superior in external matters there was not a single service to God conducted without him being present. His zeal for the church services to God was an example for all at the monastery. When increasing his zeal and diligence for the Lord God and His Holy Church, he added labors to labors. While wearying, he used the example of the Holy Fathers of the old to overcome fatigue as much as possible. In spite of his old age and the weakness of bodily strength, he was always the first and the last at church services—coming at the outset and attending till the very end with an ardent love for the glorification of the Most Holy name of the Lord.
Igumen Niphont himself followed strictly, and always demanded of the hieromonk on duty at the early and the late Liturgies, not to hurry into the hours, but wait until all commemorative lists for proskomedia1 were read to the end. When the commemorative lists read were close to the end, then the sacristan would come to the hieromonk on duty and ask a blessing to start reading The Hours before the Liturgy. At proskomedia several brothers would come daily and pray for the health or repose of the souls of the donors and benefactors of the monastery. On all of the days set by the Holy Church for remembrance of the reposed after the end of the morning and evening service a Litia2 for those fallen asleep would be served in in the narthex. The lists would be distributed to the chanters and the names of the souls written thereon would be quietly remembered. Additionally, every Saturday a Panikhida2 would be served for reposed brothers and benefactors of the monastery, and in general, for all those whose names were entered onto the lists for eternal remembrance.3 Thus, the commandment to pray for the reposed was always fulfilled unswervingly. Elder Niphont also set for himself a holy obligation to observe the love of wayfarers.
In thirty-five years of his administration, the Sarov cloister acquired many adornments for the churches, as well as additions for the monastery buildings, through the sole care of this Elder, with his zeal and much love for the house of God. The true sons of the monastery always found in him a father and a benefactor; and those who did not heed his fatherly voice suffered many temptations. (to be continued)

1. Proskomedia is a preparatory service before the Divine Liturgy in which the bread and wine are prepared to be sanctified. Names for commemoration are also read in this service.
2. Litia and Panakhida are services for the reposed.
3. This remembrance is done also during the unceasing reading of the Psalter, established at the monastery, with the exception of Sundays and feast days. Night and day the Psalter reading takes place for the health of the living and in remembrance of the reposed brothers and benefactors of the Sarov Hermitage. For that purpose 12 monks are selected, who read the Psalter taking turns for two hours, remembering the names of the brothers and the benefactors in between the sections of the Psalter as they are divided for Church use. If someone’s name is entered during their life, they pray for health and salvation, when a person passes away, and the monastery is informed about it, then a prayer is said for the repose.