St. Dosithea the Recluse, of the Kiev Caves who blessed St. Seraphim to go to Sarov (1721 – 1776)
Commemorated on September 25/ October 8
She was born in 1721 in the noble Tiapkin family in the province of Riazan.Not long before Daria’s birth, her grandmother had dedicated herself to the monastic life. Fulfilling her promise, she became a nun at the Monastery of the Ascension in the Moscow Kremlin, receiving the name Porphyria.
For much of her childhood she was cared for by her grandmother the nun Porphyria, from whom she acquired a love for the ascetical struggle.
In 1730, her parents came to the Monastery of the Ascension and announced their decision: Daria would have to return home in order to be educated as befitted her noble origins.It was not possible for the enlightened Daria to adapt to this worldly environment. And her parents did not conceal their dissat-isfaction with their daughter’s attitude.
At the age of 15, fearing that she would be given in marriage and that her striving after God would be extinguished, Darya secretly left her family. She bought peasant clothing, cut off her hair, and called herself the fugitive serf Dositheus. For three years, she struggled at the Holy Trinity St. Sergius Lavra.There she was turned away, since she had no passport; so she took up the hermit’s life in cave near Kitayev Skete, living only on bread, water and a few wild plants.The Heavenly Bridegroom had completely captivated her heart.
“In the caves and dens of the earth…”
He had, however, come to love the Lord with “all his heart, and all his soul, and all his mind, and all his strength.”
With this Divine love as a guide, he valiantly battled against the snares of the Enemy and carnal mindedness.
He remained completely secluded. Only at night would he go out to gather some moss and roots to eat.
Even during winter, which is particularly heavy there, Dositheos never lit a fire in his cave. Divine Grace warmed him through his fervent prayers!
Years later, when someone asked him about that feat, he answered:
“O Lord, O Lord! By the light of Thy countenance shall we see the light. We are poor sinners. In the darkness of the night we hide ourselves from human eyes. We imagine that no one sees us.
But does God…? Do the eyes of the Lord perhaps not see the good and the bad in any place whatsoever? If the utter doom of Hell is visible to Him, how much more so the heart of man? The eyes of God see everything. Our Guardian Angel and our conscience are witnesses to all of our thoughts and actions. Being conscious of this, it is the same to me if I have a fire or not in my dwelling. I see His Divine Countenance beside me. I sense that He hears my words.”
With time, Dositheos the Hermit, that hidden treasure of Grace, became all the more well known. The gifts of the Holy Spirit began to gush forth from his cave. He proved to be a God-illumined guide of souls.
Many people hastened to the Recluse of Kitaev for comfort and spiritual guidance. And he, from a small opening and without being seen, spoke to everyone according to his or her social level.
In the 1770s, a young man went to Kiev as a pilgrim. His name was
Prochoros Moshnin, and he came from a family of merchants in Kursk. He wanted to dedicate his life to God—to become a monk. During his pilgrimage to the holy places of Kiev , he sought an answer to his prayers from God. Someone advised him to visit the wellknown hermit Dositheos, who lived as a recluse in Kitaev near Kiev, in order to seek his spiritual advice: he had a special gift from God.
The young Prochoros visited the recluse. He opened up his heart. The “answer” that he had been seeking from Heaven was finally given to him through the hermit Dositheos:
“Go, child of God, to the Monastery of Sarov and stay there. That place will be to you for salvation. With God’s help, there you will finish your human wanderings on earth. Only, struggle to acquire the unceasing remembrance of God. Continuously call upon His Name, saying: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner!’ Let all of your attention and ascetic labor be turned towards this activity. While you are walking, when you are resting or are standing in Church, have this unceasing prayer on your lips and in your heart. You will find rest in it and will acquire spiritual and bodily purity. Then the Holy Spirit will abide in you. And you will lead your life in all piety and purity. In Sarov, the Superior, Pachomios, leads a Godpleasing life. He follows in the footsteps of our own Anthony and Theodosios.”
Many years later, when he himself had become a chosen vessel of the Holy Spirit—known henceforth as St. Seraphim of Sarov —he revealed this fundamental teaching in his wonderful conversation with N. A. Motovilov:
“The purpose of the Christian life is the ‘acquisition’ of the Holy Spirit.”
When she discerned that the time of her death was near, she left her cell and greeted the brethren of the Skete. The next day she was found on her knees in her cell before an icon, with a piece of paper in her hand reading ‘My body is ready for burial. I beg you not to touch it and to bury it in the usual way.’ Only in preparing her for burial was it discovered that she was a woman.
His grave soon became a popular place of pilgrimage and a sacred place of prayer.
The following simple facts are written on the tombstone’s plaque:
“In the year 1776, 25 September, Dositheos reposed.”
The proclamation of Dositheos’ sanctity took place by a Synodical Act in 1993.
Apolytikion of St. Dositheos, the hermit of Kiev -Tone Four
From thy youth, O modest one, consecrated to God, thou didst prove to be as a gift from Heaven to the Church of Christ, o Dositheos. Having changed thine appearance, and with it thy spirit, thou didst struggle manfully unto the end in a cave. Wherefore do we honor thee, thou boast of Kiev!