Abbot Niphont (conclusion)

Abbot Niphont

In the meantime, Niphont reached an old age, having never neglected his monastic rule. And having renounced the world once, he no longer cared for things which were worldly and vain. He preferred the narrow, sorrowful way to the wide one. He came to love poverty and was an example of hard work, humility and especially non-possessiveness and chastity. He especially loved to talk to the brethren about the high merit of the last two, non-possessiveness and chastity. He exhausted his flesh with difficult feats, and his naturally weak health being exhausted by endless labors and struggle with circumstances, faded like a lantern. And the strength of his life was becoming depleted from day to day.
His simplicity tied with the spiritual wisdom and a life worth imitating, brought involuntary respect for him. He was friendly and affable in dealing with others, and along with complete non-possessiveness, he was merciful and compassionate to the poor. In a word he would not let anyone leave the monastery without having a good heartfelt memory of its Igumen. As a lover of the quiet desert life, in seeking greater progress in spiritual feats, he observed a strict fast; and prayer was his constant exercise.
He was especially loved by the Abbott of St. George Novgorod Monastery, Archimandrite Photius, who wrote admonishing, brotherly, letters to him on numerous occasions. A copy of one of these letters is offered here,

“Give me a blessing, Holy Father, forgive and pray for me a sinner with my brethren. I am asking blessings and prayers from all of your venerable brethren. I, for my part, a worthless monk, remember your love for Christ and keep it in my heart.”
“All learning is vanity, all knowledge is a dream and sorrow for the soul, if there is no piety. I have learned just one thing, that there is no better, higher life on this earth than the chaste monastic life. and that the cloisters and monasteries are in fact places of God….”
“I will also say that there is nothing sweeter and more nourishing for our souls and for the monastic life than the Holy books of the fathers and the lives of the saints.”
“St. Isaac the Syrian says that no one can learn about the kingdom of God from study, but only from the grace of the Spirit and from a life of piety.”
“Woe to us, the learned know-nothings – the teaching about Christ and a holy life – this is the treasure that cannot be stolen! Alas, just like in the beginning, so in our days the Lord prefers to catch the fishermen and simple folks into His nets, rather than the high-minded ones. Father, I know the insignificance of our scholarship, therefore I do not want to envy erudition. I have always had from the beginning of the monastic life love and advice of the elder-monks and continue with it till this day. The elders will teach me the art of life, and the art in life is most important. May you be saved, Father, rejoice, Christ is in our midst and always will be.”
“Your brother, friend and co-worker in Jesus Christ,
the unworthy monk,

Elder Niphont often, especially before the Holy Great Fast, admonished all of the brothers at mealtime in the spiritual endurance of all kind of sorrows. He taught how one should live at the monastery: to cut off one’s will, to pass the narrow path of the sorrowful monastic life. Sometimes in his cell he would humbly denounce one of the brothers in concordance with circumstances and the character of each.
In every possible way he tried to arouse zeal towards enduring monastic life, he genially convinced everyone to bear all of the coming afflictions. He advised everyone to have a spiritual father and engage in strict fast, and never turn back. He used to say, “If a person who is not doing any good deeds in life hopes to be saved only because he does not have grievous sins, he deludes himself. Because he, who does not care to acquire temporary blessings, justly does not get anything at all.”
The venerable elder, Igumen Niphont, having lived his life, being weighed down by the old age and illness, he felt his transition to eternity was close. Thus, he called for one or another of the brethren at times and gave them fatherly admonition from the Gospel to be zealous in monasticism, convicted to preserve bodily purity, have love for a fellow brother, to be adorned with humility, and to engage in prayer and fasting.
At the end of his life, even in his weakness. his constant occupation was prayer. He sanctified and strengthened himself with prayer. He expressed his readiness with humble boldness, to meet Jesus Christ, Who can come with glory at any time. With prayer, he passed away on March 8th, 1842, being 76 years from birth. The last farewell with the deceased Igumen, who was a true father for the brethren, was sealed with a loud cry of the monks, and all who were present at the funeral. The body was buried by the Church of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos on the west side, next to the burial place of Abbot Ephraim, the spot, which he picked for himself. He resided at the monastery for 56 years.