|St. Athanasius the Recluse of the Kiev Caves|
(Feast Days - December 2, September 28 & Second Sunday of Lent)
Saint Athanasius (Afanasy), hermit of the Near Caves of Kiev, was a contemporary of Holy Archimandrite Polycarp of the Kiev Caves (July 24). Saint Athanasius was grievously ill for a long time. When he died, the brethren prepared him for burial, and on the second day the abbot came to bury him. However, they all saw the dead man alive. He was sitting up and weeping. To all their questions he replied only: “Seek salvation, obey the abbot in everything, repent each hour and pray to our Lord Jesus Christ, to His All-Pure Mother and to Saints Anthony and Theodosius, to allow you to end your life here. Do not ask me anything else, for I must pray.”
After this he lived for twelve years more in solitude in a cave. During that time he spoke not a word to anyone. He wept day and night, and partook of a little bread and water only every other day. Just before his death, he assembled the brethren, and repeated his earlier words to them, and then he peacefully departed unto the Lord (in about the year 1176).
The monk Babylas, who had suffered illness and an infirmity of the legs for many years, was healed at his relics. “As I lay there,” he told the brethren, “I cried out in pain. Suddenly, Saint Athanasius appeared to me and said, ‘Come to me, and I shall heal you.’ I wanted to ask him how and when he had returned here, but he became invisible. I believed his words and asked to be taken to his relics. And indeed, I have been healed.” Saint Athanasius was buried in the Antoniev Cave. His memory is celebrated also on September 28 and on the Second Sunday of Great Lent.
The Near-Death Experience of St. Athanasius
By St. Nikolai Velimirovich
"Who has ever returned from the other world to inform us of it?" Thus the unbelievers ask. One should reply to them: "Repent of your sins if you wish to find out; make yourselves worthy and you will see." For St. Habakkuk (Dec. 2) traveled with an angel, and St. Myrope (Dec. 2) saw a host of angels and among them the martyr, St. Isidore.
St. Athanasius of the Kiev Caves (Dec. 2) was dead to this world for two days and alive only in the other world. Upon the return of his soul to his body, they gathered around him and asked him: "How did you return to life? What did you see? What did you hear?" He would say nothing about it, being totally in horror at that which he had seen in the other world, and would only say: "Save yourselves!" When they pressured him to tell a little more of what he had seen in the other world after death, he replied: "Even if I should tell you, you would not believe me or listen to me." When they urged him yet further, however, he said among other things: "Repent every moment and pray to the Lord Jesus Christ and to His Most Pure Mother."
Even in our own time, there are cases of those who have temporarily died, and the visions and accounts of those who have returned to life in the body do not contradict but rather complement one another. For example, every person who dies sees one part of that other world that is vast and incomparably larger than this world. Many people, at death, see their long-dead relatives and speak with them. This is almost a common occurrence. In 1926, in the village of Vevèani, Meletije P. was on his deathbed. He spoke with his children, who had died twenty years earlier. When his living relatives said to him, "You're rambling!" he replied, "I am not rambling, but rather I am speaking with them as I am speaking with you, and I see them as I see you."