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New Martyrs of Optina Pustyn

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Monk Therapont (Vladimir Pushkariov)
== Monk Therapont (Vladimir Pushkariov) ==
Monk Ferapont Therapont 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.
Hierdeacon Seraphim, who personally knew Monk Therapont, recalled: "Ferapont Therapont 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 FerapontTherapont, 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." [[Image:83_Monk_Ferapont83 Monk Ferapont.jpg |thumb|left|Monk FerapontTherapont]]When details were required for the newspaper obituary, it transpired there were but two papers in Monk FerapontTherapont's personal file: an autobiography, written by him upon entering the Monastery, and his death certificate. His autobiography, dated [[September 13]], 1990, reads as follows:
:''"I, Pushkariov Vladimir Leonidovich, was born on [[September 17]], 1955 in the village of Kandaurovo, Kolyvansky district of the Novosibirsk region. I lived and worked in the Krasnoyarsk region. Served in the Soviet Army from 1975 until 1977, and from 1977 'til 1980—joined service on re-engagement. Until 1982 I worked as carpenter at the Building office No. 97. Then came studies at the forestry technical college—until 1984. After completing studies I worked in my profession as forestry technician at Lake Baikal, the Buryat Autonomous Socialist republic. From 1987 until 1990 I lived in the town of Rostov-on-the-Don. I was employed as yard-keeper at the Rostov Cathedral of the Nativity of the Most Holy Virgin. Presently am free of all worldly affairs. My mother lives in the Krasnoyarsk region with her children. My elder sister is married, has two children; the youngest sister goes to school."
:''"The blood of martyrs is still being spilt for our sins. The demons cannot bear to see the blood of martyrs, for it gleams brighter than sun and stars, scorching the demons. Presently, the martyrs are helping us, and come Doomsday they shall convict us, for to the consummation of ages there operates the law of blood: give blood and accept the Spirit. ... Each of our committed sins should be washed away with blood."
Listening eagerly to that sermon had been the future new martyr FerapontTherapont, who later was known to say: "True, our sins can be cleansed only with blood..."
Gathering material about the life of monk FerapontTherapont, those who tackled the task visited his native places in Siberia, met with his relatives, living in a distant, back-of-the-beyond woodland settlement. Here is what they gleaned from his sister Natalia:
:''"... I recollect how, after serving altogether some five years in the army in Vladivostok, Volodya then worked with a team of builders in our own village, besides driving the workers' bus. He was never prone to drink, didn't smoke, and generally enjoyed respect. To this day everyone says in our native village: 'Why did he join the Monastery? He was a saint anyway!' "
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.
It also came to be known that in the army Vladimir studied the martial arts of the Orient for five years, discovering later that they were all linked with the occult evils. One hieromonk recollects how, soon after entering the monastery, Vladimir, then a lay-brother, said with bitterness: "I was wielding a sword in my thoughts again," Monk Makarius Pavlov remembers how once the wood-carvers, of whom Vladimir was one, were sharing details of how each one of them had come to embrace the Faith, while working at what they were doing. Vladimir, already monk FerapontTherapont, listened to his brethren in silence, then told them how, after he had embraced Orthodoxy, the demons had plagued and harassed him: appearing to him, attacking and throttling him, just like in the narratives of the lives of the ancient Christians, described in the holy books.
Monk Ferapont Therapont responded to the Lord's love with all-consuming love for God in return. He gave himself to God without reserve. Immediately upon addressing God, he chose for himself the path of asceticism, rejecting all worldly cares. From now on he lived with God and had but one desire: to be with God. Throughout his brief monkhood, he prayed to the Lord for redemption of sins. The exploit of his life is the exploit of repentance.
Hieromonk Phillip recalls:
:''Once, monk Ferapont Therapont 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 Therapont: "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 Therapont 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 FerapontTherapont, 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 Therapont 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..."
Monk Therapont himself had not a whit of pretense in him, nor pharisaism. His devotion to God was sincere and complete.
:''"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 SyrianъъъSyrian]]: "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 Therapont, 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 Therapont 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 FerapontTherapont, who was just leaving the church.
One of the monastery brethren witnessed something similar. Monk Ferapont Therapont 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 Therapont. He was so shaken, he hurried away.
"Prayer should be the principal deed of a monk," wrote Holy [[Ignatius (Brianchaninov)]]. Monk Ferapont Therapont 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 Therapont to cease prayer.
Now, looking back, one can see that monk Therapont 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 Therapont 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 Therapont had told him his future.
On Easter night, before the murder, monk Ferapont Therapont was standing in church, not in his usual place, but near the table, where services for the repose of the souls are usually conducted. He stood, as if immobile, head bowed in prayer and sorrow. There were a great many people in the church. He was being shoved and crowded, yet he seemed to notice nothing. Then, he set off for the last confession of his life. A satanist struck him with a ritual knife when, together with monk Trofim, he was chiming the bells.

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