Christ’s Light in Tolstoy’s Prison

 

 

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A Vision granted to Nun Maria concerning her brother Leo Tolstoy. Also, his apostasy, his excommunication by the Russian Orthodox Church, his tragic final days, the torturous struggle that went on in his soul at his last breath, and St. John’s of Kronstadt and St. Theophan’s the Recluse ‘examination’ of his spiritual condition

 

“I have renounced the Church that calls itself Orthodox… I renounce all the sacraments… I have truly renounced the Church, I have stopped fulfilling its rites, and I have written in my will to my close ones that they should not allow any clergymen from the Church near me when I will be dying…” (Lev Nicholaevich Tolstoy). Yet, in his final days, Tolstoy sought the most famous Russian monastery, Optina Hermitage, where ascetic elders were living. He wanted to meet with them, but at the last minute he lost his resolve, about which he regretfully told his sister, a nun of Shamordino Convent near Optina. When at Ostapovo station he felt his approaching death, he asked that a telegram be sent to Optina Hermitage with the request that they send him Elder Joseph. However, when two priests arrived in Astapovo, the writer’s followers would not allow them to meet…”

 

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“Throughout the history of Russian literature there has never been a more tragic personality than Lev Nicholaevich Tolstoy, the “great writer of the Russian land,” in the words of Ivan Turgenev. His literary works reach the heights not only of Russian, but world literature. Therefore, the pain and perplexity of many people who respect his works are understandable; these include Orthodox Christians, for whom the reason for the decision on February 20, 1901 by the Holy Governing Synod to excommunicate him may still be unclear.

The Holy Synod simply cited by its decision a fact that had already taken place—Count Leo Tolstoy excommunicated himself from the Church and completely broke off ties with it. This is something that he not only did not deny, but even resolutely emphasized at every convenient opportunity: “It is perfectly justifiable that I have renounced the Church that calls itself Orthodox… I renounce all the sacraments… I have truly renounced the Church, I have stopped fulfilling its rites, and I have written in my will to my close ones that they should not allow any clergymen from the Church near me when I will be dying…” These are just a few of the great writer’s numerous proclamations in this regard.

Furthermore, when Leo Tolstoy was twenty-seven years old, he nurtured the idea of creating a new faith, which his diary entries of the time witness. In his old age, when he felt that his aim was nearly accomplished, the writer created a small sect of his fans and wrote “The Gospel according to Tolstoy.” The main object of Tolstoy’s attacks became the Orthodox Church. His words and actions directed against the Church were horrifying to the Orthodox consciousness. Furthermore, Leo Tolstoy’s activities during the final ten years of his life were, unfortunately, truly destructive for Russia, which he loved. They brought misfortune to the people whom he so badly wanted to serve. It is no accident that the leader of the Bolsheviks extremely valued the aim of Leo’ Tolstoy’s activity, and called the writer “the mirror of the Russian revolution.”

Great ascetics of the Russian Orthodox Church—St. John of Kronstadt, St. Theophan the Recluse, and many others, admitted with regret that Count Tolstoy purposefully used his great talent to destroy Russia’s traditional spiritual and social order.

The writer’s final days speak to us about the torturous struggle that went on in his soul. He fled his family nest, Yasnaya Polyana—not to his like-minded friends, the “Tolstoyans,” but to the most famous Russian monastery, Optina Hermitage, where ascetic elders were living. He wanted to meet with them, but at the last minute he lost his resolve, about which he regretfully told his sister, a nun of Shamordino Convent near Optina. When at Ostapovo station he felt his approaching death, he asked that a telegram be sent to Optina Hermitage with the request that they send him Elder Joseph. However, when two priests arrived in Astapovo, the writer’s followers would not allow them to meet…

Nevertheless, because the writer himself never made peace with the Church (Leo Tolstoy never publicly renounced his tragic spiritual error), the excommunication by which he separated himself from the Church cannot be removed. This means that canonically he cannot be commemorated in the Church. But the compassionate heart of any Christian who holds the literary works of this great writer in high regard cannot be closed to sincere, humble prayer for his soul. (Archimandrite Tikhon, Shevkunov) Source: OrthoChristian

 

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Martyrdom Before the Crucifix

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Third in her ‘series’ of Cross-related visions, Abbess Thaisia sees a Crucifix. Always these visions take place in the midst of heavy trials and tribulations, when she begins to lose heart and starts to languish… Here, the Holy Hierach St. Nicholas visits her to sternly admonish her. Below follows another except from her Autobiography:

“Then once I had a dream. I was walking along a road in an open field. I had to turn right, but there was no path in that direction; there were only beds of planting vegetables, very long ones. They looked as they do in autumn after the vegetables have been harvested, and the furrows between the beds were dirty and wet. I stopped and considered how to turn right. To go along the furrows would mean getting dirty and wet, but to walk across the beds would be a muddy, sticky business. Suddenly, I saw an old bishop coming in my direction with a staff in his hand. I thought, ‘I’ll wait and see, and whichever way he goes I will go too.’ Coming close to me, he said: ‘Come with me, I will show you the way.’ Leaning on his staff with his left hand, he took me with his right hand and led me along a bed, saying: ‘Although it’s muddy and you will often get stuck, the path is high; look how much dirt and water there is along the low path.’ We walked together for a long time. He continued preaching, and I talked to him without fear, although I recognised him as St. Nicholas. Finally we came to some church or chapel (I don’t remember which), and went in. Inside was a large Crucifix, and on the right, hanging on the wall, was an icon of St. Parasceva. I began to prostrate myself before the Crucifix. As soon as I touched the floor with my head, the holy man struck me on the neck with such force that I thought he would chop my head off. I had hardly recovered when another blow followed, and then another, and so on to five. ‘Why is he beating me?’ I asked myself. ‘Does he really want to chop my head off? But why would he want to do that?’ ‘Don’t argue, don’t act wise,’ he answered my thought. ‘If I struck you, it was because I had to. You have forgotten that one must obey without arguing. You don’t have to show off your  knowledge.’ I stood up, and the holy hierarch looked at me, smiling kindly. He pointed at the icon of martyr Parasceva, saying: ‘Here she is, the bride of Christ. She allowed her head to be cut off as an offering to her Bridegroom; whereas you are unable to suffer even a little, and you keep on philosophising while you still don’t possess spiritual wisdom. Humble yourself; endure, and you will be saved.’ “

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For her first Vision-Encounter with our Lord’s Cross, go to The Cross-Baptism

For her second Vision-Encounter with our Lord’s Cross, go to The Fool-for-Christ and the Cross

The Fool-for-Christ and the Cross

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This is the second of many such visions Abbess Thaisia had. Predominantly with the Cross. Another excerpt from her Autobiography:

“I dreamt that I was walking along a road together with some other sisters. We were in an open place, passing by many fields, and we were walking two by two, in full monastic dress. All of a sudden, I saw two men crossing the field and coming towards us from the side. One of them looked like a monk; he was clad in a mantia and had a kamilavka on his head, the veil of which covered his face. He was holding a cross in his hands, like one who has just made his vows. The other one who was walking alongside the monk looked like a beggar. He wore a ripped shirt, and his hair was all disheveled. He was like a Fool-for-Christ; he kept leaping and jumping, and at the same time he was eating a piece of white bread that he was holding. Coming near to us, he seemed to tease us with his piece of bread, and he kept on leaping, looking at us with a smile. The monk was walking with his eyes lowered, and seemed to be completely immersed in his inner thoughts. I fixed my attention on them. When I looked around, my companions had all disappeared somewhere. I was standing alone in the middle of the road. Meanwhile, the two men came near and began walking by my side. The Fool-for-Christ looked at me intently, at first in silence, and then he said: “‘What are you thinking about? Crry your cross, like brother John is doing. Look at me, how I am leaping, carefree and gay, while I eat my piece of bread. You leap, too! Keep leaping along your way! Do people laugh at you? So what? Keep leaping, like Symeon the Fool-for-Christ! Keep leaping! Here is the church now, quite near!’ With these words, he indeed went leaping through the doors of a church we had inadvertently drawn near to. John followed him silently. I woke up. This is how I came to explain this dream: there is no need to seek salvation through complicated and tortuous ways. Instead, with a simple heart, one must walk along the path shown by Divine providence, not paying any attention to other people’s jeers and gossip, just carrying one’s monastic cross.”

For her first vision of our Saviour’s Cross, go to The Cross-Baptism. In my opinion, both of her visions are quite relevant for non-monastics too. Don’t you think so?

 

 

Winged Life

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Winged Life: William Blake’s Mystic Visions & Stunning Paintings

William Blake’s paintings are especially stunning when you see them close up.

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William Blake (1757–1827), one of the greatest poets in the English language, also ranks among the most original visual artists of the Romantic era. For Blake, the Bible was the greatest work of poetry ever written, and comprised the basis of true art.

For a slideshow of 47 paintings by William Blake, go to:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/artists/william-blake

For William Blake’s Complete Works, go to his archive at http://www.blakearchive.org/blake/indexworks.htm


William Blake’s Visions

From a young age, William Blake claimed to have seen visions. The first may have occurred as early as the age of four when, according to one anecdote, the young artist “saw God” when God “put his head to the window”. .. At the age of eight or ten in Peckham Rye, London, Blake claimed to have seen “a tree filled with angels, bright angelic wings bespangling every bough like stars.” On another occasion, Blake watched haymakers at work, and thought he saw angelic figures walking among them. As a young apprentice, he was sent to copy images from the Gothic churches in London. Blake experienced visions in the Westminster Abbey, he saw Christ and his Apostles and a great procession of monks and priests and heard their chant.

Blake claimed to experience visions throughout his life. They were often associated with beautiful religious themes and imagery, and may have inspired him further with spiritual works and pursuits. Certainly, religious concepts and imagery figure centrally in Blake’s works. God and Christianity constituted the intellectual centre of his writings, from which he drew inspiration. Blake believed he was personally instructed and encouraged by Archangels to create his artistic works, which he claimed were actively read and enjoyed by the same Archangels.

In a letter of condolence to William Hayley, dated 6 May 1800, four days after the death of Hayley’s son, Blake wrote:

I know that our deceased friends are more really with us than when they were apparent to our mortal part. Thirteen years ago I lost a brother, and with his spirit I converse daily and hourly in the spirit, and see him in my remembrance, in the region of my imagination. I hear his advice, and even now write from his dictate.

In a letter to John Flaxman, dated 21 September 1800, Blake wrote:

[The town of] Felpham is a sweet place for Study, because it is more spiritual than London. Heaven opens here on all sides her golden Gates; her windows are not obstructed by vapours; voices of Celestial inhabitants are more distinctly heard, & their forms more distinctly seen; & my Cottage is also a Shadow of their houses. My Wife & Sister are both well, courting Neptune for an embrace… I am more famed in Heaven for my works than I could well conceive. In my Brain are studies & Chambers filled with books & pictures of old, which I wrote & painted in ages of Eternity before my mortal life; & those works are the delight & Study of Archangels.