St. Dosithea the Recluse of Kiev Caves (1776).
Commemorated on September 25
She was born to landed gentry of Riazan province in 1721. Her
name in secular life is not recorded. For much of her childhood she was cared
for by her grandmother the nun Porphyria, from whom she acquired a love for the
ascetical struggle. When Porphyria took the Great Schema, the child returned
home, but continued to live as much like a nun as she could. Her parents were
eager to marry her as soon as possible, but she foiled their plans by leaving
home at the age of fifteen, dressed as a peasant boy and calling herself
Dositheus. In this guise she entered the Lavra of St Sergius. Three years later
she fled to avoid discovery by her parents, and went to the Lavra of Kiev. There
she was turned away, since she had no passport; so she took up the hermit's life
in cave near Kitayev Skete, living only on bread, water and a few wild plants.
Before long her gifts of prophecy became known, and the counsel of 'Dositheus
the Hermit' was sought out by many of the faithful. She would speak to her many
visitors through a small window that did not allow them to see her face. The
Empress Elizabeth visited her in 1744, and at her request 'Dositheus' received
monastic tonsure. When the young Prochor Moshnin — one day to be known as St
Seraphim of Sarov (January 2) — visited her, she foresaw his holy future,
blessed him and directed him to the Monastery of Sarov, instructing him to
practice the Jesus Prayer ceaselessly.
Later, the eremitic life was banned in Russia by Imperial decree, so 'Dositheus' moved to the Kiev Caves Lavra, then to a remote cell at the Kitaya Skete. When she discerned that the time of her death was near, she left her cell and greeted the brethren of the Skete. The next day she was found on her knees in her cell before an icon, with a piece of paper in her hand reading 'My body is ready for burial. I beg you not to touch it and to bury it in the usual way.' Only in preparing her for burial was it discovered that she was a woman. 'Dositheus the Hermit' is counted as one of the revivers of the Orthodox hesychast tradition in Russia, where it had been almost forgotten even among monastics.