September 23, 2009

The Last Days of Elder Tychon the Athonite: A Blessed Repose

Elder Tychon (+ September 10/23, 1968)

By Elder Paisios the Athonite

In 1968, he [Elder Tychon] had a presentiment of his death, because he continually referred to death. Even the little bodily strength remaining had now deserted him. After the Feast of the Dormition (August 15), he took to his bed and drank only water, because he was burning inside. Despite the fact that he was in this condition, he did not want anyone to stay with him, so as not to have any interruption to his unceasing prayer.

When he had reached the last week of his life on earth, he then told me to stay by his side, because we were about to be parted, since he was leaving for true life. Even during those ten days he did not allow me to stay with him all the time, but directed me to go to the small cell next door, so that I, too, could pray after offering him just a little help. Of course, I did not have the wherewithal to relieve him properly, but since he had never given his weary body any relief, even a little help seemed a great deal to him.

One day, I had saved two lemons and made him a lemon drink. As soon as he drank it, he was refreshed and looked at me strangely saying:

"Well, well, that is good water. Where did you find it? May Christ grant you forty golden crowns."

It seemed that he had never drank lemonade, or if he had, it would have been when he was very young and had forgotten the taste of it.

He was completely bedridden by now, having lost whatever little bodily strength he had left. Since he could no longer get up to go to the Chapel of the Precious Cross, where he had celebrated with piety for so many years, he asked me to fetch the Cross from the Altar Table as a consolation. When he saw the Cross, his eyes glistened, and after kissing it with due reverence, he held it tightly in his hand with all the strength that was left in him. I had also tied a sprig of basil to the Cross and asked him:

"Does it smell nice, Elder?"

He answered:

"Paradise, my son, smells a lot better."

On one of his last days, I had gone out to get him a little water. When I opened the door of his cell afterwards, he looked at me strangely and said:

"Is that you, Saint Sergius?"

"No, Elder, it is me, Paisios."

"Just now, my son, the Mother of God, Saint Sergius and Saint Seraphim were here. Where did they go?"

I realized something was going on, so I asked him:

"What did the Mother of God say to you?"

"That we will have the Feast and then she will take me."

It was afternoon on the eve of the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos, September 7, 1968 and three days later, on September 10, he rested in the Lord.

On the second to last day, the Elder said to me:

"Tomorrow I will die and I want you not to sleep, so that I can bless you."

I felt really sorry for him that evening, because he tired himself out with his hand on my head all the time, for three hours, blessing me and embracing me for the last time. To express his gratitude for the little water I had given him in his last days, he said to me:

"My sweet Paisios, we will have love between us unto the ages of ages, my child. It is precious, our love. You will make your prayer here and I will make mine from heaven. I believe that God will have mercy on me, because being a monk for sixty years, my son, I was constantly saying: Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me."

He also said:

"Now I will be celebrating in Paradise. You pray here and I will come and see you every year. If you come and live in this cell, it will be a joy to me, but whatever God wants, my son. I also have provisions for you, tinned food for three years," and he pointed to six small tins of sardines next to him and another four tins of squid, which somebody had brought him a long time ago and had remained since then where the visitor had put them. (With me those tins would not have lasted even a week.)

The Elder again repeated:

"You and me, we will have precious love unto the ages of ages, and I will come every year and see you." And all the while tears were streaming from his eyes.

Since I had the chance actually to live with him for a while and get to know him better, it is true that those last ten days I stayed with him were God's greatest blessing for me, because I was helped more than at any other time. What made the biggest impression on me was the warmth of his interest in the salvation of the soul! Next to his bed were letters ready for me to post to bishops he knew, so that they would commemorate him as soon as he died. He also gave me instructions to bring a bishop to read prayers over his grave, and then leave him there - not to have his relics exhumed - until the Second Coming of Christ.

In the meantime, I had let the monastery know that Father Tychon was approaching his end and Father Basil came so that we could prepare him. You could see, by now, that Father Tychon was passing away like an icon lamp when the oil in the glass has run out and there is only a little left in the wick flickering its last.

Thus, his sanctified soul departed, leaving behind his body and a great emptiness. The two of us prepared him. In the morning we let the other fathers know. They came and the priests whom he knew devoutly read the burial service. Of course, his departure left us with pain in our souls, because his very presence took away pain and imparted comfort. The elder will now visit us from heaven and will help us all the more. In any case, he himself promised he would: "I will come and see you every year."

Three whole years passed without him appearing to me, and this set me thinking: "Perhaps I am at fault over something." After three years he made his first visit to me. If by "every year" the elder meant that he would start after three years, then that is a comfort to me, because then I am not to blame in the matter.

The first time was on September 10, 1971, in the evening after midnight. While I was saying the Jesus Prayer, I suddenly saw the elder come into the cell! I leapt up and embraced his feet, which I kissed with devotion. I don't know how, but somehow he freed himself from my arms and, as he was leaving, I saw that he went into the chapel and disappeared. Naturally, when events like that happen you are at a loss. Nor can you explain them logically, which is why they are called miracles. I immediately lit the candle, because I had only the candle-lamp going when this happened, so I could note in my diary the day when the elder had appeared to me and remember it. When I saw that it was the day when the elder had fallen asleep in the Lord (September 10), I was very sad and chastised myself for not even having noticed which day it was. I am sure the good father will forgive me, because that day, from dawn to dusk, I had visitors at the hut and was so tired and befuddled that I completely forgot. Otherwise, I would have done something for my own benefit and to bring a little joy to the elder with an all-night vigil.

I don't know if he had appeared to anyone else before his first visit to me. In any case, he appeared to a monk neither of us knew, Father Andrew, who used to be at the Monastery of Karakallou. It happened at my cell in the following way:

Father Andrew had come to my cell so I could help him in something he wanted. Naturally, he didn't know me and I didn't know him. So he waited outside my cell, under the olive tree, because he thought I was away. I was inside in the workshop and couldn't be heard, because I was varnishing small icons. When I had finished, I chanted the "Holy God" and went out. As soon as he saw me, Father Andrew was astonished and related the following incident with great wonder:

"While I was waiting under the olive tree, I had closed my eyes, but still aware of my surroundings. Suddenly, I see an elder coming out of the rosemary bush and he says to me:

'Who are you waiting for?'

'Father Paisios,' I answered.

'He is over there,' he said and pointed towards the cell.

Just at the moment he was pointing, I heard you chanting the 'Holy God' and you came out. He was some Saint or other, Father Paisios, because I can recognise them. I have seen things like that before!"

Then I told him a few things about the elder and said that his grave was over by the rosemary. I had planted rosemary all around and it had grown so that the grave was no longer visible; I didn't want his relics to be trodden on, since he had given me instructions not to have him exhumed....

May the prayers of Father Tychon and all the known and unknown saints help us through the difficult times in which we live. Amen.

The grave of Elder Tychon

From the book Athonite Fathers and Athonite Matters.

See also: The Cell of the Precious Cross of Papa Tychon and Elder Paisios