Χριστὸς ἀνέστη! Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη! Christ is risen! Truly He is risen! Христос Воскрес! Воистину Воскрес!
The life of, fool for Christ’s sake, blessed Hieroschemamonk, Feofil (Theophilus) of Kiev.
The high respect and esteem in which Feofil was held by his admirers was bound to arouse some covetousness and jealousy.
Hieroschemamonk Iov, the superior of the hermitage, was especially embittered against the Starets.Having decided that all the Blessed One did was the result of bigotry and superstition, he proceeded to cause him all the difficulty and annoyance he possibly could. The superior made Vladika weary with his constant reports and complaints. When he would see a crowd of worshippers surrounding Feofil, he would hurry outside and reproach them for their superstition and drive them away. When that did not help matters, the superior would order the monastery gates to be locked after dinner so that the curious crowd could not go up to Feofil’s cell. Iov even went so far as to rush into the Blessed One’s cell to take away his linen so that it would not be given to laundry women. To all this harassment the Starets would meekly make a reply from the Gospels. Often Feofil would have his cell-mate, Panteleimon, bolt the door when he knew Iov was coming to harass him
Finally, Iov, in order to glory in his power and demonstrate his authority, moved the Starets to the bottom of a large building, nearer to himself. The new accommodation was very comfortable, consisting of four large rooms. Nevertheless, the new living place was very unsatisfactory to the Starets because it interfered with the work which God had called him to.
When the Lavra sent Hierodeacon Feodosy Tupitsin to the hermitage because he was mentally ill and required special attention, he was placed in the same cell with the Blessed Feofil. But the Starets promptly drove him away. Irritated by this act of self-will. the superior, Iov, personally led Feodosy back to the cell of the Blessed One. “Father Feodosy! With a saint you will be a saint, with a chosen one, you will be chosen.” But Feofil ran out of the back room and again drove Feodosy away. Turning to the superior he shouted:
“Do you know how to read and write?”
“If I didn’t know,” Iov smirked, “I would not have become a superior.”
“And you’ve read the books of the Bible? Well?”
“Not only read them, but memorized many of them.”
“Then tell me, for what reason did Cain kill his brother Abel? Tell me, for what reason?“ And with that he led Iov out of the door and slammed it behind him. Outraged to the depths of his soul, the superior promptly reported all this to Metropolitan Filaret and asked that Feofil be sent away from the hermitage.
From all the complaints about the Blessed One which appear in the archives of the Kievo-Pecherskaya Lavra, it is easy to see how little understood Feofil was by those close to him. But he who does not know his own soul could hardly understand the soul of his brother. For when the world with all its earthly wisdom failed to know God… (I Cor. 1:21) then one could hardly expect the world to recognize a true servant of the Lord. But pride, vanity, and jealousy blinded many eyes to the fact that Feofil was a great servant of the Lord, chosen from his mother’s womb to be a lamp of the faith.
It is not so amazing, then, that the world lies in evil. It refuses to see in the piety of these ascetics truly active sons of God. Instead, the world despises and hates those who have given themselves to praying for the world. We are surrounded with inexhaustible sorrows, uncountable troubles, and endless grief. The enemy struggles constantly against us. Yet, those who struggle hardest against the enemy and seek to save man from the wrath of God are universally condemned, despised, and persecuted. Never the less, these ascetics patiently remember the words of the Gospel, If you were of the world, the world would love its own, but because you are not of the world the world hates you (John 15:19).
So even his fellow monk, the superior, Iov, failed to recognize Feofil and instead persecuted him out of jealousy. Finally realizing that abuse and pejorative would accomplish nothing, Iov conceived a new idea for ridding himself of the Blessed One. He began to gather various slanders against him, hoping to have the Starets at least removed from the hermitage.
As the Scripture warns, the oppressor says, “Let us lie in wait for the virtuous man, since he annoys us and opposes our way of life… Before us he stands, a reproof to our way of thinking, the very sight of him weighs our spirit down; his way of life is not like other men’s, the paths he treads are unfamiliar. Inhisopinionwearecounterfeit...” (Wis. 2, 12-16).
We do not know if Iov recognized that the slanders he gathered against the Blessed One were false or not, but from his reports one thing is evident.He wanted to give these slanders the appearance of truth and so he interpreted the life of the Starets to suit his own ends. He wrote to Metropolitan Filaret that Hieroschetnamonk Feofil “abuses monasticism and, through his carelessness of rank, he completely separates himself from it.! He spreads superstition and bigotry. In concealing the inner part; of his life with insolence and even violence, he gives rise to doubts about the state of his religious beliefs and his mental health.” Was it not in this very same way that false witnesses were gathered against Jesus Christ?But the souls of the righteous are in God’s hands. As hard as his enemies strove against Feofil, they could never achieve their goals.
The Blessed One was not grieved by this vain slandering. To the contrary, he rejoiced, recalling the words of the Scripture: It is a blessing for you when they insult you for bearing the name of Christ because it means that you have the Spirit of glory, the Spirit of God resting on you…On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified (1 Peter, 4:14)…Happy are you when people abuse you ant persecute you and speak all kinds of evil against you on My account. Rejoice and be glad for your re-ward will be great in heaven: this is how they persecuted the prophets before you (Matt. 5:11-12).
Enduring sorrows and injustice
When the cell-mate, Ivan, came to him, moved with compassion for the Starets, and asked how he could face such sorrow with seeming indifference, the Blessed One replied:
“Ah, Ivan, Ivan. It is better to endure injustice than to commit it oneself.”
“And what if these things are endured in vain, for nothing, Batiushka?”
“What about it? One cannot destroy an evil person. It is sinful to give up to sadness. We are exiles on earth. Exiles do not wonder at insult and injury. We are under God’s penance and a penance consists of deprivations and difficulties. We are ill in soul and body and bitter medicine is useful for the ill.”
In order to quench all hostility his heart might feel towards his offenders and to fulfill in reality the directions of the Scripture: Do not let the sun go town on your anger (Eph. 4:26), the Blessed One would react to Iov’s attacks by composing a letter confessing that he was truly guilty in the bitter incident which had taken place. Never-the-less, he increased still more his podvig of foolishness….
The fair minded and peace-loving Vladika(Metropolitan Filaret of Kiev) called Feofil to him privately and questioned him.
“Feofil!” said the meek Archpastor to him. “Complaints about you have come to me again.” “The strong have risen against me and the mighty are seek-ing my soul,” the Blessed One quietly answered, lowering his eyes to the ground. “Still, what will you direct me to do with you?” “Marvelous are Thy works, O Lord!” Feofil replied. “They write that you are spreading superstition and tempting the brotherhood and the people.” “Deliver me from the slanders of men.” “Now then, don’t go about ‘delivering’ but reason, brother. The superior is badgering me and asking for your punishment.” “The Lord is my Refuge and my Saviour, of whom shall I be afraid?” “Will you tempt me?” finished Metropolitan Filaret, “I’m dismissing you, you mischievous one.” “In the Lord is my reward and my comfort is in the Most High.” With this the conversation came to an abrupt end and, having bowed to the Metropolitan, the Blessed One quickly left the chamber, leaving the venerable Archpastor in the same confusion concerning his innocence as he was in before.