September 11, 2021

Saint Ioanniki of Svyatogorsk (+ 1882)

St. Ioanniki of Svyatogorsk (Feast Day - September 11)

Hieromonk Ioanniki (in the world Trofim Nikitovich Averkiev) was born in 1823 into a family of peasants in the Livensk district of the Oryol province. The boy was distinguished by his particular intelligence and piety, he loved to be in church, and at the age of 16 he began to ask his parents to bless him to go to a monastery to become a monk. His desire for monasticism was especially intensified after one significant dream, in which he saw a church and monks in robes and hoods, ceremoniously going to a gathering in the middle of the church and singing a divine song - they took him by the hands and led him along, saying: “Go with us, do not be afraid to upset your parents, it is God's will for you to be with us."

Not having received permission from his parents, he secretly left their house and, with only one piece of bread in his bag, came barefoot to the Tolshevsky Spaso-Preobrazhensky Monastery in the Voronezh province. Here he was received by the abbot and began the process to the monastic life. However, he spent only three months there. His father, having tied his legs with a rope so as not to leave, brought his son home in this form. The poor young man was forced to submit to the will of his parents and live again in his own home. After the death of his father, his mother did not forcibly restrain him and blessed him to enter monasticism.

On October 10, 1845, he arrived at the Svyatogorsk Hermitage and was received by Archimandrite Arseny. The confessor, Hieromonk Theodosius, took Trofim as his cell-attendant and placed him in his cramped hallway. Father Theodosius taught him a lot about Noetic Prayer and the basics of the monastic life. So, under the guidance of an experienced elder, without hiding even his thoughts from him, he ascended to perfection.

Cell of Venerable John the Recluse

On March 24, 1850, Trofim was tonsured by the abbot, Father Arseny, into a ryasophor with the name Timon, and was appointed to serve the Venerable John the Recluse in his cave retreat.

On April 2, 1854 Timon was tonsured into the monastic schema and named Ioanniki. On August 16, 1857, the monk Ioanniki was ordained a hierodeacon and began to be especially diligent in the church services, continuing, as before, and secretly asceticising in fasting and prayer, and reading spiritual books. In his free time he would go to the forest and there he would retire and converse with God with the concentrated Prayer of the Heart. Soon Father Ioanniki was appointed to the Skete of the Venerable Arsenios the Great, where he continued his ministry as a deacon. Here he exhausted himself so much with the exploits of fasting and prayer that he began to weaken in health: he had bleeding from the larynx, he lost weight and finally took to his bed. Barely alive, Father Ioannik was taken to the monastery hospital, where he lay on his bed for about six months. Once, when he was very bad in health, and those around him were waiting for his imminent death, he heard the voice of the Savior: "Rise, and be half-healthy and serve for the good of the soul of your neighbors." Since then, he began to recover and became, indeed, half-healthy: thin, frail and weak, prone to frequent throat bleeding.

Skete of Venerable Arsenios the Great

On August 14, 1864, Father Ioanniki was ordained a hieromonk and appointed the spiritual father of the pilgrims. He carried this obedience unceremoniously and tirelessly, sometimes spending most of the day in the confession of pilgrims, of whom, in summertime, on feasts and fast days, there were always many in the Svyatogorsk Hermitage. The Lord bestowed on His simple-minded and humble servant a special ability and art to be a confessor: he inspired love and trust in himself, and thanks to spiritual experience, one might say perspicaciously, he immediately recognized the mental illness of the penitent and found healing with amazing ease. In addition to the constant clergy in the monastery, Father Ioanniki was often sent to the surrounding villages to administer the sick with the Holy Mysteries and perform various church requirements.

The feeling of compassion for the sick and suffering was especially characteristic of Father Ioanniki. He healed the soul with words of spiritual advice in confession, and healed the body with prayer and anointing with consecrated oil. Father Ioanniki was a true benefactor especially of demon possessed people: he healed them fearlessly by prayer, by reading exorcism prayers according to the Trebnik and anointing with oil from the lamp of the miraculous icon of Saint Nicholas, and God often performed miracles with his hands. Some possessed patients brutally reviled him with disgusting curses, others blasphemed, and there were those who rushed at him with blows, so that he suffered beatings from them. However, Father Ioanniki was not afraid, but trampled on the spirits of darkness with the weapon of fasting and prayer - and victory was on his side: the sufferers fell silent, humbled themselves, began to pray to God and cry, followed by their complete healing.

Stairs of the Dormition Cathedral

'Once a man of enormous height was brought to him,' testified the church writer AF Kovalevsky, 'a line Cossack from beyond the Kuban, with a brutally distorted face; he was hardly able to be dragged there by two stalwart Cossacks, his relatives. The demoniac roared in an inhuman voice, and the roar of a bear, and the howl of a wolf, and the grunt of a pig were alternately heard in the sounds of his voice, while his eyes sparkled with inexpressible malice. In the Svyatogorsk Hermitage, in front of the cathedral, which stands on a dais, there is a spacious stone staircase leading to the platform where the cathedral stands. Having brought the possessed man to this staircase, the companions could no longer lead him further by any means, about which one of them went to the cathedral to inform Father Ioanniki. He himself left the cathedral in the priestly stole with the relevant prayer book in his hand and, fearlessly approaching the possessed man who was spread on the ground, prepared to start reciting the exorcism prayers over him. The possessed man suddenly jumped up and, rushing to Father Ioanniki, grabbed him in by the arm and, throwing him over his shoulder, ran with him up the stairs around the cathedral. The people who were at the same time were frightened and did not know what to do: they rushed after the demoniac and saw that just opposite the western doors of the cathedral he again fell to the ground, while Father Ioanniki sat on him safe and sound and held him by the hair. The relatives rushed to tie the hands and feet of the demoniac with a rope, but Father Ioanniki forbade them, saying: “Don't touch him, leave him alone, he will no longer run; we fought with him and now you see who is on top”, - and pointed to the head of the possessed man, which he held tightly by the hair. Then he got up, covered the possessed man with his priestly stole and began to read exorcism prayers over him. The possessed man lay still, only breathing heavily, as if about to vomit something out of himself; finally, with great effort, he spewed out a stinking bloody foam, so stinking that those around him, unable to bear the stench, recoiled from him. After that, the possessed man got up, began to bow in the direction of the cathedral, entered the cathedral itself and prayed earnestly there, and the next day, he confessed to Father. In confession he explained that he was possessed by madness at the time when he dared to inflict beatings on his mother, and from then on it had been cruelly tormenting him. With full hope of recovery, he set off from the Kuban to this Holy Mountain, having received instruction from Father Ioanniki how to behave so as not to again be exposed to the actions of an evil spirit. Subsequently, Father Ioanniki said, recalling this incident, that when the demoniac threw him on his shoulders and carried him up the stairs to the platform around the cathedral, he felt in himself some extraordinary power, with which he easily overcame the demoniac, noetically invoking the sweetest name of the Lord Jesus.'

The elder devoted all his free time to prayer and reading. He always performed the prayer rule according to the Rule of the Venerable Pachomios the Great, given by the Angel: 1200 Jesus prayers during the day and 1200 prayers at night, which he managed to perform even with his obedience, among the numerous pilgrims who longed to confess and receive spiritual instruction from him. “Sometimes it is difficult,” he frankly confessed in the last year of his life to AF Kovalevsky, “but God helps, so what I will not have time for during the day, I will accomplish it at night; moreover, I took a knack with the people to handle in such a way that obedience to accomplish the rule together. Again, even during church services, without ceasing to follow it, since it is convenient to do the Jesus Prayer: there is no hindrance, look - during Matins you will accomplish five or six hundred. If only there is a desire, diligence, and God will help and will teach the person who wants to pray to Him unselfconsciously according to this rule. Here I am, a cripple, I cannot do many prostrations, sometimes the blood will spill out in my throat: how can I make up for this deprivation of my devotion of prayer, bodily, if not by a spiritual deed? At least it's not for nothing that I wear a prayer rope, I won't give an answer for it to God, that for the sake of appearance I only wore it, no, I have lent them to many."

He always advised to prepare as often as possible for the communion of the Holy Mysteries of Christ. “He who prepares often,” he said, “involuntarily becomes the best in their inner man, and this is already a considerable gain. The union of man with Christ, through the communion of His Holy Mysteries, achieved by crowning our wretched preparation, makes us better by grace, renews us, transforms us from the carnal into the spiritual, which everyone who often prepares and receives the Holy Mysteries will not hesitate to see and feel in themselves. Do not tell me that you are not ready and unworthy to receive communion often; you are not ready because you are lazy to prepare, and by doing this you do what is pleasing to the enemy, who is not so sick of anything as a person who often prepares and approaches the Lord's meal, for such is terrible and inaccessible to him. Unworthy - but which of us can recognize ourselves worthy to be a partaker of the Body and Blood of our Lord? We are all unworthy of this gift of God's mercy; but if, for the sake of our unworthiness, we deprive ourselves of it, then we will grievely sin and alienate God from ourselves. In our unworthiness, if we acknowledge it, we repent and long for the communion of the Holy Mysteries to receive help from above, the communion of the Holy Mysteries will be dignified and uncondemned.”

At the end of the life of Father Ioanniki, various accidents, which adversely affected his health, were added to his general state of health. Once, while traveling by rail, he hurried to get into the car and, having stumbled, fell under the wheels, where, thanks only to his extreme thinness, he escaped death, falling into the space between the cars and the platform, and the whole train passed over him, the wheels only slightly stroking his side. After that, he felt bad for a long time, his side seemed to be stiff and covered with bruises.

Before his death in 1882, Father Ioanniki was seriously ill with pneumonia. His spiritual father, Hieromonk Arkady, daily administered to him the Holy Mysteries; on February 8, the mystery of holy unction was performed on him. On February 10, early in the morning, Father Arkady communed him of the Holy Mysteries. Towards evening it became very difficult for him, death, apparently, was approaching, - the confessor read over him the prayer for the departure of the soul, the rector Archimandrite Germanos said goodbye to him and remained with him until the end. At 7 o'clock in the evening, quietly and peacefully, his soul was released from the union of the body and soared into the heavens.

Cave Church of Sts. Anthony and Theodosius

He was buried in the Cave Church of the Venerable Anthony and Theodosius of the Kiev Caves.

On July 7, 2008, on the day of the Nativity of the Honorable, Glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord John, the relics of Hieromonk Ioanniki were found, buried to the left of the entrance to the Church of the Venerable Anthony and Theodosius of the Kiev Caves at the grave of the confessor Saint Cyprian (Manko). Fifteen people from the Svyatogorsk brethren under the leadership of the governor of the Svyatogorsk Lavra, Bishop Arseny (Yakovenko) and Schema-Bishop Alypy (Pogrebnyak), took part in the uncovering of the relics.

Finding of the relics of St. Ioanniki

On July 12, 2008, the Venerable Ioanniki (Averkiev) was glorified by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church among the monks of the Synaxis of Svyatogorsk Saints, who are celebrated on September 11th.

His relics were placed for general veneration in the Dormition Cathedral of the Svyatogorsk Hermitage.