August 25, 2009

The "Sin" of Elder Augustine

Provata with Mount Athos in the foreground

A blessed Athonite monk, Elder Augustine the Russian (1882-1965), was very virtuous, very humble and very much a combatant. Once the devil appeared in his cell as a frightening dog. With fire coming from his mouth he rushed upon the Elder to choke him, because, as the devil told him, he was being burnt by his prayers. Elder Augustine seized him and threw him against the wall and shouted: “Wicked devil, why do you war against God’s creatures?" The devil, being frightened by the unexpected reception, became invisible. Afterwards however the most good and most simple Elder had remorse because...he assaulted the devil!

The elder agonizingly awaited until daylight to go to his confessor to confess his “sin”. Indeed once it was daylight he went to Provata (a one and half hour distance from his cell) where his confessor was located and he confessed. “My confessor was very acquiescent,” the Elder recounted later, “and he did not assign me with any penance, but he said I may receive Communion. I, out of joy, prayed with my prayer rope the whole night, and afterwards went to the Divine Liturgy and communed. When the priest was putting the holy spoon in my mouth, I saw the parts of the Holy Communion as a piece of meat and blood! I chewed it so as to swallow. Above all I felt a great exaltation so that I was not able to bear it. Sweet tears ran from my eyes and my head shone as a lamp. I left quickly so that the fathers might not see me, and the prayers of thanksgiving for the Divine Communion I read alone in my cell.”