→Monk Ferapont (Vladimir Pushkariov)
Trofim had been ringing the bells, summoning all for Easter midnight service when the satanist by the name of Nikolay Averin struck him in the back with a ritual knife. Thus ended the almost three-year-long monkhood of Trofim.
Ferapont (Vladimir Pushkariov)==
Monk Ferapont was the third victim of the horrendous act by a satanist on Easter night in 1993. He lived to be but 35 years, 7 months old. In secular life his name was Vladimir Pushkariov.
Serafim, who personally knew Monk Ferapont, recalled: "Ferapont lived exclusively for God, and was so far removed from all earthly cares, even from among the brethren at the Monastery there were few who knew him."
Indeed, even those, who shared the same cell with him, knew very little about him. For example, the bell-ringer Andrei Suslov. When after the monk's death this man was asked to say something about Father Ferapont, he replied: "What is there to say? He would be praying assiduously the whole time in his corner, behind the curtain. He prayed and he prayed, that's all there is to tell."
It turned out that Vladimir first felt summoned by God when he was working in the Buryat Forestry on Lake Baikal. Those gathering details of his biography came across a curious incident, recounted by pilgrims from the region of Lake Baikal. The story relates that Vladimir once had an encounter with an old magician, there in the taiga woods, who offered him books on magic. The old fellow told him to study the magic books carefully and to come and meet him at the same spot in a year's time. Vladimir did not like magicians, and he did not show up for the meeting. However, he had apparently read the books. Since he did not treat magic seriously, he made use of what he had learned to amuse the local village girls. He would send them off to a neighboring cottage, instructing them to write notes, which he then proceeded to mind-read. Gifted from birth, yet knowing nothing of God, Vladimir had no notion of the dangerous forces he was playing games with.
83_Future_Monk_Ferapont_Pushkarev.jpg|thumb|right|Future Monk Ferapont]]
The game almost ended in tragedy. According to his friend Sergey, Vladimir experienced his own death. His soul had separated from his body and found itself in the kingdom of terror. He was dying. Then the Lord's angel came to him and said he would return him to earth if he would go to church after that. Immediately after this, Vladimir left the forestry office and moved to Rostov-on-the-Don, where he was christened and took on the job of sweeper at the cathedral there. Why did he not stay on in his native places? Simply because one could reach the nearest church only by plane, flying a distance of hundreds of kilometers, though sects and magicians there were in abundance! Already from Rostov-on-the-Don he wrote to his relatives in Siberia: "Where there is no Church, there is no life," and called on them to come and join him in Rostov. His sister Natalia was to grieve afterwards, and lament this decision of theirs against the move.
Hieromonk Phillip recalls:
:''Once, monk Ferapont and I were busy doing building work at the farm yard. To begin with, due to lack of building materials, we weren't making much progress, but towards evening things started to go so well, it seemed like a pity to break off. However, at that point the bell for evening service chimed. Since it was a week day, I suggested to
Ferapont: "Why don't we get some more done?" While he said to me: "What, you've repented all your sins already?" And straight away set off for church."
Witnesses say the monk
Ferapont went to confession daily. At times he would even confess twice a day. All of his monkhood passed in this tireless work of repentance.
Pilgrim Alexander Gerasimenko, who would work at Optina Pustyn for long spells, and who was acquainted with monk Ferapont, recalls:
:''At one time I was overly serious and portentous. I remember, when at Optina Pustyn, coming out of the hermitage, I loved to turn to its gates and cross myself self-consciously and then genuflect, hopefully before a group of tourists, thinking: let them marvel at how pious our youth are! Ferapont would sigh upon witnessing my show of piety, and later said to me: "Sasha, why do you pray like a Pharisee? You should pray unseen, so that nobody behold you..."
Ferapont himself had not a whit of pretense in him, nor pharisaism. His devotion to God was sincere and complete.
One of the women, a pilgrim by the name of Lidya, said of him: "He was not a man of this world, so pure—like crystal. He lived by the Bible laws, and in our day—this is martyrdom."
Ferapont had notes in his cell, where he put down excerpts from the works by the Holy Fathers of Orthodoxy. He would write out that, of which he later said with conviction: "This has to be lived out in deed." The walls of his cell were covered with pages featuring quotations from the Holy Fathers, and he would often reread them, trying to implement all their commandments.
As an example, here is a quotation from the Holy Gregory of Nisso:
:''"Perfection lies in removing oneself from wanton life not out of fear of punishment, or doing good in anticipation of rewards, thus trading ones' virtuous life and arguing the conditions, but rather in seeing only one terror—that of losing God's friendship, and coveting only one priceless gift—that of becoming God's friend. Therein, I believe, lies the perfection to aspire to in life."
Another quote, copied out by monk
Ferapont, from the teachings of the Blessed Diadochius:
:''"Rather like the doors of a steam bath which, if often opened, let out the steam and warmth, thus the spirit, if it is consumed by a desire to speak often, albeit to speak good, loses warmth through the 'door' of the tongue."
Another quotation from Father Isaac the
Syrian: "Silence is the secret of life of the future century."
The world inevitably cultivates a pre-conceived notion of monastic life, and can have an oppressive influence on the monastery. In newspaper publications one is immediately confronted with their groundwork thesis: the monks are useful to society since they take care of the needy and sick and take gifts to foster homes. Of course, all this is a part of the routine at Optina Pustyn. Still, to assess the value of monkhood by deeds of charity is akin to assessing the merits of a microscope for cracking nuts. This is a debate that goes way back when—on the social merits and Christian love. The archives of great Russian writer [[Fyodor Dostoevsky]] contain a letter by violinist of the Imperial theatre, who censured Christ for not having turned stones into bread. The violinist wrote with indignation that one should first feed humanity and only then talk of Love and Christ. In a reply letter Fyodor Dostoevsky roughly outlined a picture of sated humankind, without any belief in God, and asked if we would not then be in danger of turning into overfed swine, unable to raise our heads to the heavens? And then prophesied: "bread shall then be turned to stone."
As for monk
Ferapont, he strove for the principal monastic deed: prayer for oneself and all of mankind. He particularly liked to pray in solitude, in one of the small chambers of the church, where the relics of one of the Optina elders were kept. Church service would be over, yet monk Ferapont would still be there in front of the relics, praying.
At one time, one of the visitors approached the person on duty in the church, and told him he had found himself there quite by accident, that he had always had serious doubts about God's existence. "Now I know, God exists!" he said in great agitation to the one on duty, "I saw one monk praying here. I saw what could only have been the face of an angel, talking to God! Do you know you have angels here amongst you?" "What angels?" the confused person queried. The visitor pointed to monk Ferapont, who was just leaving the church.
One of the monastery brethren witnessed something similar. Monk Ferapont was praying at the relics in the empty church, convinced nobody could see him. The brother quietly came out from behind the altar and chanced to throw a glance at the glowing, angel-like face of monk
Ferapont. He was so shaken, he hurried away.
"Prayer should be the principal deed of a monk," wrote Holy Ignatius
Bryanchaninov. Monk Ferapont had such a thirst for prayer, even the lengthy church services could not alleviate it. His cell-mates recollect how he would pray and genuflect at night, too. Just as it is so difficult for us sometimes to go and pray, so it was incredibly hard for the monk Ferapont to cease prayer.
Now, looking back, one can see that monk
Ferapont saw the approach of his own death. Not long before he died, he started to give away his warm clothes with the words: "I shall not be needing this any more." Right on the eve of Easter, he distributed his carpentry tools among the brethren.
On the eve of Easter, monk Ferapont was in a state of radiant joy, obviously having received from the Lord the gift of enlightenment and foresight. In any case, some of the monks testified that he could read their minds, while one young lay-brother admitted Ferapont had told him his future.