The Monk Nil of Stolobensk
Commemorated on December 7 and May 27
Monk Nil of Stolobensk was born into a peasant family in a small village of
the Novgorod diocese. In the year 1505 he took monastic vows at the monastery
of the Monk Savva of Krypetsk near Pskov. After 10 years in ascetic life at the
monastery he set out to the River Sereml', on the side of the city of
Ostashkova; here for 13 years he led a strict ascetic life in incessant
struggle against the snares of the devil, who took on the appearance of
apparitions – reptiles and wild beasts. Many of the inhabitants of the
surrounding area started coming to the monk for instruction, but this became
burdensome for him and he prayed God to point out to him a place for deeds of
quietude. One time after long prayer he heard a voice: "Nil! Go to Lake
Seliger. There upon the island of Stolobensk thou canst be saved!" From
people that came to him the Monk Nil learned the whereabouts of the island;
when he arrived there, he was astonished at its beauty.
In the midst of the lake – the island was covered over by dense forest; on it the monk found a small hill and dug out a cave, and after a certain while he built himself an hut, in which he lived for 26 years. Exploits of strict fasting and quietude [ie. hesychia] he accompanied with another and unique effort – he never lay down to sleep, but permitted himself only a light nap, leaning on a prop set into the wall of the cell.
The pious life of the monk many a time roused the envy of the enemy of mankind, which evidenced itself through the spiteful action of the local inhabitants. One time someone set fire to the woods on the island where stood the hut of the monk, but the flames upon reaching the hill in miraculous manner went out. Another time robbers forced themselves into the hut. The monk said to them: "All my treasure is in the corner of the cell". In this corner stood an icon of the Mother of God, but the robbers began to search there for money and became blinded. Then with tears of repentance they begged the monk for forgiveness.
Many other miracles done by the monk are known of. He was wont to quietly refuse an offering if the conscience of the one offering it to him was impure, or if they were in bodily impurity.
In an awareness of his end, the Monk Nil prepared for himself a grave. And at the time of his death they came to him on the island an hegumen from one of the nearby monasteries and communed him with the Holy Mysteries. Before the departure of the hegumen, the Monk Nil for a last time made prayer and censed round the holy icons and the cell, and gave up to the Lord his immortal soul on 7 December 1554. The glorification of his holy relics (now venerated at the Znamenie Icon of the Mother of God church in the city of Ostashkova) was done in the year 1667, with feastdays established both on the day of his death and on 27 May.
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.