Hieroconfessor Basil, Bishop Of Kineshma And Those With Him 2 of 3

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None of those present wanted these discussions to end. For many their meeting with him became the guiding star leading them for the rest of their life.

Soon the Lord began to reveal to those around that He not only gave His servant grace in his sermons, but also heard and carried out his prayers and petitions.

Thus there was a girl who fell into difficult circumstances and under the instigation of the devil became more and more despondent; and things came to such a pass that she finally decided to commit suicide. Kind people brought her to the hierarch, in whom she confided her whole story. He heard her confession in silence, and in parting blessed her and kissed her on the head. At that moment her heaviness and the tormenting thought that had oppressed her for so long fell away.

Once a couple came to the bishop and began to complain that they had no children. They asked him to pray for them. He prayed. Soon after that a daughter was born to them.

A widow with four small children fell seriously ill with dysentery. Her condition deteriorated rapidly and finally became critical. Realizing that she was dying, the widow called the hierarch to give her the last rites.

Vladyka Basil came to the house of the sick woman. The four little defenceless children surrounded their mother's deathbed. The hierarch's heart was seized with profound compassion and pity, and he began to pray fervently to the God of widows and orphans to give the woman life. After praying, he confessed her and gave her communion. And from that moment she began to get rapidly better and soon recovered completely, and she died only in deep old age.

Sometimes children came to petition for their hopelessly ill parents. Once a girl knocked at the hierarch's cell. He opened the door and recognized her. She was one of those who came to the church to learn the Law of God from him.

The whole way there she had been weeping bitterly, and when she saw him - he was her last hope - she began to weep still more. And no wonder, when her deeply beloved father was dying.

The hierarch immediately got ready and set off with her for the dying man, whom he found already in his death throes.

And the hierarch began to pray. He prayed long and fervently. Then he gave the dying man the Holy Mysteries and, leaving the rest to the will of God, departed. Immediately the illness reached crisis-point, the sick man began to improve quite rapidly and soon recovered.

In the village of Belizanets, the whole family of the churchwarden Basil P., a spiritual son of the hierarch, fell ill with typhus.

The illness dragged on, sometimes there was an improvement, sometimes a deterioration, but no final recovery. The hierarch, who was at that time, in Vichuga, was informed of this.

It was a nasty autumn day, rain was falling, and night was approaching when the hierarch left the town. His journey through the rain, in the dark, along the muddy road was long and difficult. Only late at night did the bishop reach the house of the warden. He confessed the adults, gave Communion to everyone, and went on. A few days after his departure the family had recovered.

Like many true God-pleasers, the hierarch had the gift of clairvoyance.

Once he was asked to ordain a man to the priesthood.

"Let's wait a little," replied Vladyka.

The man turned out to be ill and soon went mad.

Another time a woman came to him and asked him to bless her to go on a journey.

"No," replied the hierarch, "you must now receive Holy Unction and receive Communion."

During Holy Unction she began to lose the use of her tongue, and soon died.

One woman asked Vladyka to bless her to eat once a day during Great Lent.

"No, I don't bless you to do this, eat twice a day, otherwise you won't make it to Pascha."

It turned out that at the beginning of Great Lent both her daughters-in-law fell ill - and their recoveries were short-lived - and she had to look after not only the sick women, but also their children and their livestock. She hardly had the strength to manage.

The hierarch did not serve long in his see, one year and eight months in all, and on May 10, 1923 he was arrested in Kineshma and exiled to Ust-Kol in Zyryansk region, Komi SSR, where there were four bishops and two metropolitans at that time. One of them, Metropolitan Cyril of Kazan, gave Bishop Basil his hierarchical vestments. He carefully looked after them, and before his death gave the blessing for them to be cut up and distributed to his spiritual children as sacred objects.

Six hierarchs assembled with some exiled priests who had come for the service in a small hut in the taiga. That was how the Church was adorned and strengthened. Angels descended from the heavens to participate in the hierarchical service. After the service a hierarch gave a sermon. By common consent, the hierarch Basil of Kineshma was inferior only to Metropolitan Cyril of Kazan in the grace-filled strength and depth of his sermons.

Soon Vladyka Basil's cell-attendant came voluntarily to share with him the bitterness of exile.

On May 19, 1925, his term of exile came to end and he returned to Kineshma. His spiritual children began to come to him, gathering together in small groups in the Ascension church. Here he confessed them after the evening service. The confessions lasted well into the night - many unresolved questions had accumulated, and everyone wanted to confess all his sins, down to the smallest. The hierarch did not want to hurry them, wishing to give place to the action of God and His grace.

The hierarch did not change his routines, whether in regard to services, or to preaching, or to anything else. And the Church began to grow stronger.

On January 7, 1926, the authorities, worried by the spiritual growth and strengthening of the Church, demanded that the bishop leave the town. Alexander Pavlovich suggested that they go to his homeland, the village of Polka (according to another source, Anapol, Kostroma province), and there wait till the difficult times were over. Vladyka agreed. Before leaving for the village he went to Vetluga and visited his sister there.

During the two weeks of the hierarch's stay with his sister, Alexander Pavlovich built a small house like the one he had lived in in Kineshma. There an altar was constructed on the hierarch's arrival, and daily services were then celebrated in it according to the typicon. He lived there as an exile, devoting the whole of his time to prayer. He served together with Alexander Pavlovich, no outsider being present since there was no Orthodox church in the vicinity.

Here Vladyka Basil lived in almost complete isolation for about half a year. Then he went to Sarov - to pray for the last time at the relics of St. Seraphim. From Sarov he returned by the beginning of the Apostles' Fast to Kineshma and immediately began to serve in the Ascension church.

He had served several months in all in his see when, in 1926, he was transferred to the see of Vyazniki, a vicariate of the Vladimir diocese, as temporary adminstrator. (According to one source, in 1926 he was arrested and exiled to the village of Anapol in Kostroma province.) He served half a year in Vyazniki, until 1927, when he was expelled to Kineshma. The sermons and spiritual steadfastness of the hierarch began to attract many people to the church. The authorities were frightened by the rejuvenation of church life that was taking place in front of their eyes and demanded that the hierarch leave the town.

The hierarch left for Kineshma and served there for four months, after which the order came from the authorities for him to leave the town. In June, 1927, he was expelled to Kostroma, where he lived until August, 1928 before again returning to his see in Kineshma. According to one source he signed the decisions of the so-called "Nomadic Council" of the Catacomb Church, which took place between March and August, 1928.

But now he served for an even shorter time there: after only a month, in September, 1928, he was arrested in connection with the affair of the True Orthodox Church. If until that time it had been difficult to find a "lawful" way of sentencing the hierarch to prison, now the publication of the declaration of Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky) gave the authorities ample excuse for persecuting the Orthodox. Bishops, priests and laymen were now arrested in their thousands and sent to prison, where hunger, cold, forced labour and death awaited them.

The hierarch rejected the declaration, was sent to prison in Ivanovo-Boznesenk, and in February or March, 1929 was finally condemned to three years' exile in the village of Malorechka, Urals district. According to Nicholas Balashov, in 1931 he was again given the choice: accept the declaration or go to prison. He refused, and was subjected to tortures.

In 1931, in a brochure called Ryasniki and published by the local section of the militant atheists in Ivanovo, the following was written about Bishop Basil's followers: "Among the Old Tikhonites of our region there is a branch of the so-called Basilites. They received this name after the nameof the founder of this group, Bishop Basil (Preobrazhensky). We already know

that this ryasnik was in the group of Ryashintsev. The Basilite programme

differs in no way from the programme of the Old Tikhonites, but this group is distinguished by its activism. In those places where the priests belong to the sergianists, the Basilites leave the membership of the religious communities, cease to go to the church and organize house prayer-centres,

giving as the reason for their departure the fact that the priests have changed their stripes and forgotten the true God. 'Once I went into the church,' says the profiteer Mazina, leader of the group, 'and I felt a pang in my heart, my head went dim and a voice told me to leave and pray at home' (village of Semenovskoye, Kineshma district)."

By order of the authorities, the hierarch settled in a small taiga hamlet twenty-five kilometres from the district town of Taborovo, Sverdlovsk province.

Here, too, Alexander Pavlovich shared all the difficulties of exile with the hierarch. The two of them set up an altar in the little house, the hierarch consecrated it, and they celebrated Divine services there every day.

Prayer, Divine services and heavy work in the woods - all this was like the strictest form of skete life. Life was poor, and Alexander Pavlovich earned some extra by making wooden wash-tubs and catching fish.

They conversed little with each other. Sometimes they had a kind of break for an hour, and they sat amidst the woods in the fading twilight. Fish splashed in the dark waters of a little river. A bonfire burned, lightingup the concentrated face of the hierarch, whose soul was totally immersed in

prayer. The gloom of the woods wrapped them round every more closely, andit was then that Alexander Pavlovich wanted to strike up a conversation withthe hierarch, to ask him something, but on looking at Vladyka, he decided notto trouble him.

Three years passed in isolation, prayer and work, and the fourth was

already coming to an end. The hierarch's thoughts began to incline towards the idea of staying forever there, where they had acquired a desert.

But it turned out that it was impossible to choose exile voluntarily. He only decided to ask the local authorities for permission to stay when they themselves had begun to demand his departure.

"Give us permission to stay," he asked.

"No, you can't stay here. Leave. You can go to any town except the forbidden ones."

"I must think about it," said the hierarch and went out into the street where his cell-attendant was waiting for him:

"Well, Alexander Pavlovich, where shall we go?"

"I'm not the one who gives the orders, holy Vladyka, you choose."

The hierarch pondered. But where, where were they to go? What place of exile should he choose? Desolate Sarov... Diveyevo... Optina desert. Alexander Pavlovich often used to tell the hierarch about his stay in Optina, and he loved listening to stories about the monastery so beloved by the Russian people. He loved to hear about the obediences Alexander Pavlovichhad to labour in.

"Tell me, where was the baker Photius from - the one you helped in Optina?"

"From Orel."

"Well that's fine then - let's go to Photius' homeland.

They lived for in Orel from September, 1932 to March 31, 1933, when they were summoned by the NKVD, who demanded that they leave the town.

"Where shall we go?" asked the hierarch.

"Go to Kineshma."

For the last time the hierarch entered his native diocese, where he had sown so many good seeds. Although physically separated from his flock, hehad never been separated from it spiritually, and by prior agreement they even prayed at the same time.

It was the last time that Vladyka Basil beheld his native town, because immediately after his arrival he and his cell-attendant were thrown into prison.

This time it was the atheists' intention to kill them. But the Lord judged otherwise. The schoolchildren who had been called to the trial to witness against Vladyka Basil and his cell-mate refused to give evidence,

saying that they did not know the men in the dock and were seeing them for the first time. After the failure of the prosecution, the judged sentenced the hierarch Basil and his cell-attendant to five years in a hard labour camp for belonging to a branch of the True Orthodox Church. This was in July, 1933. He served his term not far from the town of Rybinsk, in a camp whose inmates worked on the construction of a canal. Alexander Pavlovich was exiled to the vicinity of Murmansk.

The third and cruellest persecution against the Church had begun. The atheists planned that it would end by crushing and annihilating Orthodoxy. Bishops, priests and lay confessors of Holy Orthodoxy were shot.

Vladyka Basil was also called to suffer torments.

The hierarch refused to sign the declaration of Metropolitan Sergiusand recognize it as Orthodox. At that the enraged torturers set about beatinghim with the buckles of their soldier's belts.

But they could not shake his resolute, pure and Orthodox confession of Christ, which could not be deflected by any worldly enticement.

Some priests who were summoned for interrogation after him were toldby the torturers: "That Preobrazhensky is not like you, he's straight, he's not for turning, while you are for us to our face and against us behind our backs."

In January, 1938, Vladyka Basil settled in Rybinsk, and then, after a short period, he moved to the village of Kotovo, near Uglich, where he had the intention of ending his days. He served in the church in Kotovo and in a secretly constructed house church.

In 1943 the metropolitan of Yaroslavl offered him a see.

"I don't recognize Sergius as Orthodox," wrote Basil to him in reply. "And I ask you not to offer me any other sees, because I am old and too worn out by exiles."

The metropolitan promised.

But the very thought that a hierarch who was faithful to God and His

Holy Church was still at liberty terrified the torturers, and on November5, 1943, three months after this correspondence, Vladyka Basil was again arrested, in Kotovo on November 5, 1943. From November 7, 1943 to January, 1944 he was in the inner prison of the NKVD in Yaroslavl, and then from January 26 to July, 1944 - in the inner prison of the NKVD in Moscow. From July 13, 1944 he was in the Butyrki prison, and in the same month, because of his unbending confession of Orthodoxy, he was sentenced to five years' exile in the village of Birilyussi in Krasnoyarsk region.

The little Siberian village was in a remote area surrounded by boundless wood and a network of rivers. The young people had already been deeply corrupted by atheism and made cruel by the war. Even young children became savage in the surrounding cruelty. For a long time the bishop was not able to find a suitable flat for himself, and finally he settled in the house of a widow who had three young children. When he was praying, they used to gather little balls of horse manure and throw them at him, saying:

"There you are, granddad, eat."

Soon the Lord gave him some alleviation from his sufferings: some believing women found another flat for him. The landlady was single, and an exiled nun was living with her at the time.

The hierarch's ascetic labours and years of imprisonment and exile had undermined his health, and he began to fall seriously ill. In Birilyussi he had a minor paralytic fit which made it difficult for him to walk and necessitated nursing.

The war was coming to an end, and the authorities were establishing a concordat with the Church based on a compromise whereby from the Church was demanded everything while the authorities promised in exchange not to kill bishops and priests or subject them to imprisonment, and to open a certain number of churches and seminaries. Once again the authorities tried to compel Vladyka Basil to recognize Sergius' Synod.

"You know why you're in exile. Recognize the Synod and we will immediately free you and take you by air to Moscow, where you will be treated and will be able to live."

The hierarch refused.

"Then stay where you are, we have no right to let you go."

Seeing that the bishop was seriously ill, the believing women asked the local bishop to send a priest with the Holy Gifts. This was done. But Vladyka refused to receive Communion from the sergianist priest.

At Pascha, 1945, he wrote to one of his spiritual daughters, congratulating her on the feast and saying:

"My child! Once more I congratulate you on the feast. Christ is risen indeed!.. I met Pascha very well. The Lord has blessed me with all good things - all you wishes were fulfilled. Glory to the Creator for His mercies and kindnesses.

"... My child! Do not be upset, everything is in the will of God, I

have already reached the term of human life, 70 years, and from now on life has little of interest to offer me. Of one thing I am certain, that I will not last five years in Birilyussi. I am not frightened of death. I would like to die surrounded by children and relatives, so that I can talk with and bless them all. Or at least have one person who is close to me by my side, someone to whom I can entrust my will and instructions with regard to my burial.

"Alas! There is not one such person. Complete isolation is a heavy burden. I am being treated, I am taking iodine, but I received the most precious medicine on Great Thursday. I thank the Maker for all these joysand consolation. I am choking with a cough, it's difficult to breathe, I lie down most of the time. But I shouldn't lie down too much. Still, complete immobility helps my breathing, I can inhale with my whole chest.

End of part 2
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