"Now is not the time for you to die. There will be a great disturbance. You will lie in bed a little longer so as to lighten the cup of your sins."
However, since he was now in the schema, Bishop T. was elected metropolitan in his place with his blessing. And Bishop Gregory was raised to the rank of archbishop.
Vladyka knew a great many people. And before his death, when he was already very old and weak, he visited all his friends, who were in various parts of the country. Once Bishop Vladimir (Abramov) and Bishop I. met Vladyka Gennadius at a train station and saw that he was quite unable to move. And they could not understand how in such a condition he was able to undertake these last journeys of his.
"Bishop Vladimir and I," recounts Bishop I., "led the elder Gennadius by the arm round the station and then round the carriage. In five minutes Vladyka was able to make only a few steps."
Once, in the town of Svetlograd in Belarus, some people began to slander Gennadius. Nun E. tried to bring them to their senses. It was Gennadius' nameday, and after the service everyone went up to congratulate him. But when the nun went up to him, he said:
"If you go on sticking up for me, I'll sew up your mouth."
And then she remembered that she had stood up for him the previous day. But he already knew all about it.
We may add to this that on his trips round the country, Vladyka Gennadius always took his coffin with him. He took it for himself personally, but if someone died and urgently needed a coffin, he would give away his own and then get a new one. And yet, in spite of all his many arrests and illnesses, and right up to his death and even in his coffin, as eye-witnesses testify, Vladyka always had a ruddy, healthy complexion, just as it is recorded of St. Anthony the Great.
The Lord once revealed to Vladyka that he must go to Pochayev to bring the Transcarpathian Church into unity. He was very ill, but somehow found the strength to go there. This saved the community, for their leader, Archimandrite Meletius, was on the point of death and was sorrowing greatly that after him his community would remain without a spiritual guide.
Vladyka sometimes went into churches of the Moscow Patriarchate, either in order to venerate relics or in order to draw some people into the Catacomb Church. But he never took part in their services. Once he was with a relative of Nun E. in the patriarchal Holy Trinity - St. Sergius Lavra in Zagorsk. Two foreigners came up to him and struck up a conversation with him, explaining that on the way to the Lavra they had had a revelation that in a certain place in the Lavra they would find a true priest. And there they met Vladyka Gennadius.
XI. BISHOP VLADIMIR (ABRAMOV)
One of Vladyka Gennadius' closest disciples in his last years was Bishop Vladimir, in the world Vadim Abramov. The future Bishop Vladimir was an educated man from Moscow who had been searching for the truth since childhood, His mother was an atheist - a fact which greatly upset the young boy. But his grandmother was a very religious person who lit the spark of faith in the boy. Already when he was serving in the army he wore a cross and read his prayers.
His spiritual searchings began in the patriarchate. He used to go to the "Znamenye" church at Rechnoj Vokzal in Moscow. At that time he was searching everywhere for monks, and he asked one woman to introduce him to one of the older monastics. This woman knew Vladyka Gennadius, although she did not join the Catacomb Church until later. She promised to introduce him to Gennadius. At that moment Gennadius arrived in Moscow for the last time - he wanted to visit the Trinity - St. Sergius Lavra. Vladimir met him and, it seems, accompanied him to the Lavra. Then he made his choice and joined the Catacomb Church.
Those who knew him say that by nature he was very reminiscent of a person of the 19th century. He was very open and spoke very openly on the telephone, although at that time it was very dangerous to do so. He was a jeweller by profession, and the Tikhonite branch of the Catacomb Church still uses some beautiful artefacts that he made.
He was tonsured a monk by Metropolitan Gennadius, and after the service Vladyka gave him the nickname "Vodik" or "leader". No-one knew why. Only later, when Bishop Vladimir's death was closely followed by those of Vladyka Gennadius and Vladyka Gregory, did people see in this a prophecy: "You will go before us, and we after you."
His consecration to the episcopate was foretold him by the blessed Greek clairvoyant Leontius at the spring of the holy Martyr Basiliscus in the Caucasus.
Bishop Vladimir had very acute spiritual intuition. Once he was out of work. After a while he received an offer of work from a priest he knew, a hieromonk of the Danilov monastery in Moscow. However, as he was going up the stairs to the monastery chancellery, he unexpectedly stopped, as if listening to something, and after a while said:
"What a heavy spiritual atmosphere there is here! There's something not right here, I'm leaving!"
He turned sharply, quickly went out and never came back.
Once Vladyka Gennadius was celebrating the Liturgy on the feast of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God. Bishops Gregory and Vladimir were serving with him.
Suddenly Vladyka Gennadius asked for a golden cross to be put on him. Then he called Nun E. and said:
"A cross, holy Vladyka."
"So know this: I am dying with great sorrow, because there is no-one I can put this golden cross on."
"How can that be?" said the nun in amazement. "After all, look at those serving with you: one is thirty and the other fifty-eight. Both are fit, and they're not old. They can continue your work."
"You don't understand a thing," replied Vladyka.
It had been revealed to him by God that these people would soon depart to the Lord. And indeed, Bishops Gennadius, Gregory and Vladimir all died in the same year of 1987.
Not long before his death, Bishop Vladimir left Moscow, having decided to retreat to the mountains of the Caucasus, where he bought a house. But the KGB did not allow him to live there. He had to leave, and since had now lost his Moscow residence permit, he registered in the town of Eliste. Here he was constantly summoned by the KGB, who demanded that he immediately leave the town. He refused. At that time the tragedy at Chernobyl had just taken place, and the KGB were sending all "suspicious" people to Chernobyl through the military registration and enlistment office. But Bishop Vladimir again refused to go. As a result, a warrant for his arrest was issued. And it was while fleeing from the KGB, as he was reading the lives of the saints in front of the icons in the town of Georgievsk, that he suffered a heart attack and died instantly at about 12 o'clock on January 2/15, 1987, at the age of 33.
On the night before his death, as he related to Abbess O. he had seen a vision. He was standing at the spring of the Martyr Basiliscus in the white vestments of a bishop and an omophorion. A little old man was pouring water over him...
On the night of January 2 - 3, it was revealed to his friend Bishop I. in a dream that he had died.
"However I did not believe it. The dream was like this. Inside a church, on the balcony for the choir, a little old man in a rasson was leading me by the right hand. Suddenly I heard steps behind me and, turning round, I recognized Bishop Vladimir. Immediately a voice said: 'It is his Angel.' A few steps away from me, he turned to the right and jumped across the balustrade and began to fall. I ran up to the edge of the balcony and saw that he had not injured himself but had fallen into some kind of swimming pool with water. He jumped happily out of it and disappeared somewhere in the church. At this moment a voice said: 'You see, Father Vladimir has left us.' I went further along the balcony with the old man and as we were leaving the church it seemed to me that he was standing on an outcrop of rock. On leaving the church I saw two sculptures representing people. Further on there was some kind of garden and singing, and the dream came to an end..."
He was buried in the cemetery of the town of Georgievsk with a big green cross the height of a man over his grave. Bishop I. visited the cemetery a little more than a year after his death.
"Flowers which usually grow 20-30 centimetres were growing to a height of 1-2 metres. A blue wooden cross crowned the graves of four of the local Christians - two fools-for-Christ, one unknown 'passportless' [a branch of the Catacomb Church whose members refused to carry Soviet passports] and in the last row a 120-year-old nun by the name, I think, of Olga... It was wonderful how the Lord had united them together here by His Providence!"
However, his mother later arranged for his relics to be removed to the Mitimo cemetery in Moscow, where other victims of Chernobyl are buried.
Cases have been reported of Bishop Vladimir interceding for Christians after his death.
Thus Bishop I was once standing in a queue in the hall of an airport waiting to buy tickets to Moscow. He and a few other people were returning home after visiting some fellow believers in the Caucasus. There were no tickets, and yet there were three hundred people in the queue waiting for them. It was obvious that they might have to stand there for days. And then the bishop remembered the newly reposed Bishop Vladimir. In such situations Bishop Vladimir used to act very calmly; he would go to the end of the queue or to one side, and pray and wait patiently. So the Tikhonite bishop decided to follow his example, and prayed:
"If you have received favour in the sight of God, Father Vladimir, help me!"
Then a voice was heard inviting a list of names to come and get their tickets. No-one responded. The woman repeated her declaration. Again no-one responded. Then she said rather irritably:
"So no-one wants to go to Moscow?!"
At this point some people from the back of the queue, including Bishop I., went up and bought tickets. Then the woman again addressed the queue with the same invitation. And only then did the queue hear her and liven up. It was obvious that, through the prayers of Bishop Vladimir, hundreds of people had not heard her first and second calls, thereby enabling Bishop I. to buy a ticket.
XII. DEATH AND BURIAL
Not long before his death, Vladyka Gennadius went up to the window of his last dwelling-place and said with a sad smile:
"A small peasant hut, with two windows looking out onto a street, and beside it a river..."
A little later, he called Nun E. and began to treat her to some doughnuts. When she had eaten her fill and refused another helping, he made as if to dismiss her with some crude words. She asked for his blessing for this. None of those around understood what was happening. He was letting her know that his spiritual feeding of her was over and that she now had to look for another director.
A month before his death he was struck by paralysis. Matushka M. looked after him, and the bishops also served him with love and gratitude. For a while Vladyka seemed to be getting better, and everyone was filled with joy. But he just repeated:
"It's time to go home..."
Snow fell at Pascha, 1987. It amazed the inhabitants of the Caucasus, it portended something sorrowful for them. But until Radonitsa, the Tuesday of the second week of Pascha, Vladyka was his usual good-spirited self, giving help to everyone. Then, on the Wednesday after Radonitsa, he became weaker and Vladyka T. gave him Holy Unction. After the second anointing he lost his speech and the death agony began.
Fifteen people were present in the room: eleven Catacomb nuns, the two bishops and two laymen. Everyone was weeping, in a state of shock. But it was necessary to think how to bury Vladyka. After prayer it was revealed to Schema-Metropolitan T. that they should take the dying man across the river to the house of an aged nun who lived alone some tens of kilometres away. If the authorities asked her, she could say:
"The old man was my nephew. He wanted to recuperate - and died on me. He's a retired priest."
They wouldn't check her story.
But how were they to transport the dying bishop? If they put him on a cart he would die. They couldn't carry him in their arms - he was too heavy. One nun suggested putting him on a camp-bed which six or seven people could put their hands to. This was the alternative Metropolitan T. blessed.
At ten o'clock in the evening it was already dark - the weather was overcast. The old man was wheezing heavily, there was foam on his lips. His face was a pale greenish colour. They decided to take him across the river now. However they couldn't use the old, rickety bridge - he might fall into the water! So they had to wade across in complete darkness and without torches, with the water coming up to their waists. And after the river was a big meadow with ruts and pot-holes overgrown with high grass. And then a steep stony incline to the house of the nun... But they had no choice. They covered the body of the bishop with a blanket, covered his face and set off in complete silence.
Strengthened by God, they brought Vladyka to the house of the nun. On the way, he grew quieter and only groaned deeply, saying in a scarcely audible voice:
As they entered the house of the nun, there was a clap of thunder and the rain came down in torrents. They carefully laid Vladyka on a cot. His wheezing stopped. The next morning, at 7.30 (according to another source, 9.00), after receiving Holy Unction, he quietly died. His face was lit up from within, there were tears in his eyes. One by one his spiritual children came up to him for a last blessing. They kissed his hand and his forehead.
The burial took place at night, because the authorities forbade open services during the day. And although he was a very corpulent person, and it was hot, and many candles were burning, his body gave out no odour of corruption for three days. And when they brought him to the cemetery many people sensed a fragrance coming from the coffin.
Instead of the name and photograph of Gennadius they placed a white marble representation of the Crucified Lord on the wooden cross over the grave.
After Vladyka Gennadius' death he appeared to many monks and nuns in dreams and exhortations. Once, after a panikhida for Bishop Vladimir, Nun E. saw Vladyka Gennadius in her sleep. He was leaving the church with Vladyka Vladimir. They went into her house, and saw Vladyka Gregory there. After a brief consultation, Vladyka Gregory gave the nun a mug and demanded that she drink it up. It was a sign that something unpleasant was going to happen in her life. And indeed, within three months a very unpleasant change did take place in her life.
On another occasion, Vladyka Gregory appeared to Nun E. and told her how he had passed through the toll-houses, which, he said, every soul had to traverse. He said that it had been very difficult for him. But the prayers of Vladyka Gennadius had helped him very much...
Once a woman left her husband Arcadius, a middle-aged peasant. She became a nun and sent him a letter: "Arcadius, if you want, I bless you to visit me, but not before six months have passed." The husband could not wait that long and angrily went in search of her. From Armavir he took a taxi for almost 200 kilometres, then another three bus-rides. He was angry with his wife, who had left him with the housework and three children to look after. Three kilometres from the village of N. the taxi stopped - there was no more road, only mud. Arcadius paid, and looked round. How beautiful it was! A quiet mountain stream with an oak grove above it, and a hanging bridge. The lilac was in bloom, and the nightingales were singing...
Something stirred in the heart of Arcadius. The heaviness fell away from his heart, his anger disappeared, he was no longer jealous of his wife's cleaving to Christ and the Mother of God.
And suddenly his eyes were blinded by a vision. The heavens opened in front of him, and the figure of an elder was revealed to him in a white cloud. He was dressed royally in a rich brocade mantia adorned with gold, a cross with jewels, a mitre with pearls, two hierarchical panagias and a staff in his right hand. The elder looked severely at Arcadius, then his gaze softened, he turned his head towards the right and said:
His face shone with an indescribable beauty, and then disappeared. Arcadius froze with fear, he couldn't move. He stood without moving for a quarter of an hour. He had cramp in his right hand and couldn't open his eyes. It seemed that he had gone blind. Leaning on a wooden stick, he crawled towards the secret community - some good people showed him the way to the nuns.
He saw his wife and burst into tears. He had completely changed. He had thought of threatening her and taking her away by force. But after spending a few days there he himself decided to become a monk.
The elder in the royal vestments whom Arcadius had seen was Schema-Metropolitan Gennadius, who had died only a week before.
Priest A. recounts the following story, which took place some years later: "Julia, aged 17, was once fully awake and sober after the Liturgy when she saw an elder walking along the seashore, which was revealed to her noetic mind's eye. The elder went up to her and began to pray. Then the heavens opened and a holy angel flew down. He flew up to them and began to pray together with the elder. The elder was dressed in white. In response to their joint prayer the Lord Jesus Christ came out of the sun and approached them. He blessed Julia and healed her toothache. Then the angel flew into the heavens and the heavens closed up. And the Lord with the elder went into the sun. At that point the vision came to an end. I advised Julia to ask the elder his name. He pronounced his name and repeated it so that Julia should have no doubts about it. The name was: Hermotheus [perhaps a corruption of 'Hierotheus'].
"Julia's mother and some other parishioners were present and heard Julia's account of what she had seen in the spirit. We sat down at the table, as is our custom after the service, to drink some tea and eat some food. Julia's mother, Vera, asked me to show the photographs of our hierarchs. Julia immediately pointed at the reposed Schema-Metropolitan Gennadius and said that this was the same elder in white raiment whom she had just seen in a spiritual revelation and who had departed with the Lord into the sun...."
Holy Hieroconfessor Gennadius, pray to God for us!
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