February 22, 2016

The Pharisaical Abbot: A Didactic Story From the Life of Saint Hilarion Troitsky

The true saints always struggle to keep the genuine humility of the publican. They never believe in their own holiness and gifts. And of course, even though it may be obvious they have certain gifts of God in their lives, they never advertise them. Rather they hide them, and often ask God to have them removed for fear of falling into the passion of vainglory.

In 1929, the Russian Confessor Archibishop Hilarion Troitsky reposed. His feast is celebrated in the Russian Church on December 15th.

We read in his biography that he was "a sworn enemy of hypocrisy and every kind of pietism."

During his exile in a concentration camp he was working with a group of other exiled clerics. All understood that Saint Hilarion did not welcome certain behaviors, such as "calling yourself a sinner, and making long 'pious' discussions or to demonstrate the austerity of your life.... Even more so, to think of yourself more than you were in reality."

Fr. Hilarion (second from the right) in exile in Solovki with other priests and bishops.

Once there was brought to their group a new exile, who was the abbot of a monastery. Archbishop Hilarion asked him:

"Why did they arrest you?"

"I was performing services in my house when they shut down my monastery," replied the abbot. "People would gather and miracles would take place!"

"Ah, I see, so 'miracles' would take place? And for how many years have you been exiled?"

"Three years."

"Hmmm, they are few. For the 'miracles' they should have given you more. The Soviet authorities did not take notice."

Then the biographer of Saint Hilarion, Metropolitan John Snychev, concludes:

"It is obvious, that to talk about 'miracles' which take place through your prayers, is more than impudence."

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.