October 24, 2015

Saint Arethas of the Kiev Caves Lavra and His Terrifying Vision

St. Arethas of the Kiev Caves Lavra (Feast Day - October 24)

Saint Arethas came from Polotsk and lived as a monk in the Kiev Caves Lavra. Although outwardly he renounced all things for the love of Christ, secretly he was a covetous and avaricious man. And as the Apostle Paul writes, "covetousness is idolatry" (Col. 3:5) and "the love of money is the root of all evil" (1 Tim. 6:10). He would secretly hoard money and other precious treasures in his cell, and never gave anything for the maintenance of the monastery or the help of the poor. He wouldn't even spend his riches on himself, but only gathered and hoarded.

One day, thieves made off with his savings and Arethas took the loss so badly that he was unable to speak a good word nor listen to the advice of the other monks. He could neither be comforted nor be consoled. It was only by the grace of God that he did not kill himself. Yet his rage and bitterness ate at his soul. He began to accuse the monks of conspiring against him to take his treasure, and became a tyrant to the brotherhood. The devil had truly dominated his soul.

After some days he fell seriously ill, but would not stop grumbling against the monks and blaspheming. As he was lying on his bed, he fell into a coma and became as dead. Then some angels and a large troop of demons appeared to him and began to dispute about the likely outcome of his covetousness and avarice. The angels bewailed him, not only as a monk who hoarded money and one who refused to give alms, but even more for blaspheming when God's Providence deprived him of his treasure. For if he had given God glory for being deprived of his wealth, he would have received the reward of Job.

Arethas then began to cry out: "Lord have mercy! I have sinned, forgive me. That money belonged to You. I am glad it was stolen from me!" The demons immediately disappeared and the angels rejoiced, telling him that God would henceforth credit him with having given the stolen money as alms.

All this was done because God, in His great love for mankind, does not seek the destruction of people, but longs for their salvation, desiring to shed His mercy on His creation if they would only ask for it.

From then on, Arethas changed his way of life and everyone was amazed to see in him the fulfillment of the words of the Apostle: "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound" (Rom. 5:20). He became rich, no longer in corruptible wealth, but in the heavenly virtues. Now he was meek and full of goodness, with a penitent heart full of love for God and man, obedient in his monastic duties and earnest in prayer. He fell asleep in peace and his relics remain incorrupt.