The "batyushka's" purpose was to find out who went to the secret Church. For this, as we can see, he didn't shun any means.
In the house where Fr. Nicetas was living the mistress' son had returned from the army; the boys and girls were walking together; the mother suddenly saw that her son was being taken by two unknown men into the rye field. She was frightened, her heart missed a beat. Not far away she noticed a van. It turned out that the bosses had come and were trying to persuade her son:
"You've served in the army - now you're a Soviet person. Now they've released the 58-ers, watch your mother, she's an elderly person - see whether a man with a knapsack comes to herâ€¦"
The young man told all this to batyushka. He advised him: when they come the next time, ask them how much they will give you for this. When the son did this, they replied:
"We will show our gratitude."
The young man couldn't stand it: "No, I won't accept the lot of Judas!"
They left himâ€¦ But it was already impossible for Fr. Nicetas to stay in the house, which was being watched by the police.
And so once again Fr. Nicetas was living in a shack, sometimes in a store-room. Or they would section off a small roomâ€¦
Once at Pascha Fr. Nicetas was serving in a narrow little store-room, half of which was curtained off. During the Paschal service the priest has to change his vestments, and Fr. Nicetas couldn't do this without an assistant. He remembered a service in a big Moscow church where the choir alone numbered 70 chanters, - all the circumstances of his long and much-suffering life appeared in a flash before his mental gaze, - and Batyushka fell onto the altar and wept - as an eye-witness remembers - like a childâ€¦ But Batyushka was immediately consoled, for the Saviour appeared to him at that moment and strengthened him. He ordered that this incident should not be related to others until after his deathâ€¦
While ahead of him there were still more temptations.
One night the neighbour's house was on fire. The people gathered to look, as in a bazaar. Batyushka's frightened spiritual children ran up and
asked the mistress of the house where batyushka was. She didn't know. It turned out that batushka was in a shack, not knowing how he could get out when the people were all around. The neighbouring shack was already on fire, the sparks were flying; it was only 200 or 300 metres to the wood. Batyushka gave his devoted parishioner the church utensils; they finally plucked up courage to leave. Some thought that the were leading out an old man, others - that it was Fr. John Lysinsky.
It was winter; they buried the suitcase in the woods in the snow; they wanted to go on on skis, but batyushka couldn't. The parishioner's family went home from the fire and began to call out to them in the woods: they thought that he had been captured. Fr. Nicetas said:
"Go to the neighbouring village, tell them that I wasn't in the fire, I was with auntieâ€¦"
"What do you mean: you weren't in the fire, your whole back is burntâ€¦"
Later there were many rumours about that fire. The women gathered together in a huddle and put the question straight:
"Tell us, who was with you?"
Batyushka went fifty kilometres away. His spiritual children who remained in the previous placed did not dare even to ask where he wasâ€¦ They were afraid to pronounce his name aloud.
Yes, the 58-ers were released, in the big cities a "thaw" took place, a new generation of Soviet people grew up, a far more carefree generation that the previous one, and it seemed that those who were still alive from the older generation could begin to live more freely. And only for Fr. Nicetas and his faithful children did not consolation come. Many people began to come to him, once nine people at once - such meetings could not remain unnoticed. Fear for batyushka began to grow in the hearts of his children; Matushka Golovanova, who had already been released for some years now, was also worried. She wrote to batushka that it was time for him to change his flat, and he began to prepare to leave. But the owners of the house were very much against his moving, and detained him almost by force. Perhaps they liked having such a remarkable peson with them; besides, he received many parcels.
At the feast of the Annunciation there was a service, and on the next day (fortunately, not on the feast itself, when many people came), the president, the accountant and the party committee arrived. They noticed a lamp and a man's hand pulling the curtain to in the uninhabited part of the house where Fr. Nicetas lived And in the inhabited part they came upon a woman they didn't know, one of Fr. Nicetas' parishioners, who said she was a seamstress. Without wasting time to work out who she was, they began to break down the door - it was sealed from the house, and the entrance was from the courtyard.
Fr. Nicetas was hiding in the basement, in such a shallow space that he could only lie down in it. The accountant looked into the basement and saw a grey-haired old man lying there. And again, as in the train, an icon of the Vladimir Mother of God was on Fr. Nicetas' breastâ€¦
The clerk slammed the hatch down and said: "Nobody there!"
Many years later, he explained his action thus: "I didn't want him to.." - and here he added a strong expression - "on my graveâ€¦"
The visitors took two or three suitcases with ryasas, some lengths of good material, a Gospel in a golden setting, an altar cross with some precious adornments and some crosses to be worn on the breast. Although the police were informed, the investigation proceeded slowly. Perhaps they shared that which they had plundered amongst themselves, for only a part - and not the most valuable part - was displayed in the village soviet, as if in a museum. Some foreign balsam was displayed for all to see, but the altar cross, for example, had disappearedâ€¦
Now, of course, Fr. Nicetas' landlords who had so insistently detained him earlier, immediately asked him to leave. By this time batyushka was old and sick and moved with difficulty, and he had nowhere to go - everyone feared to take him in. He spent some days in an uninhabited house, then with an old woman, until that same parishioner who had led him out of the fire found him. They had to go many kilometres, but batyushka was exhausted and could go only three houses away. After asking the old woman to shelter him for a little longer, the parishioner went off in search of help. This time six people came - four men and two women. They were ready to carry batyushka and had made a stretcher. When batyushka came out to them and saw the stretcher he said:
"What kind of boards are these?"
They explained that they were going to carry him, but he refused outright. They set off on foot; one went in front as a scout while the others supported batyushka on both sides. This was after the Annunciation, at the wettest and muddiest time of the spring thaw. And they went at night because they feared to go during the day.
Batyushka's legs just wouldn't carry him, and they managed to go only about two kilometres before stopping in an uninhabited village. While batyushka was resting on some straw in the bath-house, the others tried to construct a raft made out of logs from another bathhouse. But batyushka also refused this method of transport. So they had to walkâ€¦
It was eight or nine kilometres to the next village. They stopped in an uninhabited house - to get into it they had to break down the fence and take away the roof. They found some coal and burned it, so as to get at least a little warm without drawing attention to themselves with the smoke. It was so cold that after putting on his boots on his soaked feet, one of the men stamped up and down on the same spot for half a day "like a physical culture instructor".
When they finally got to the first big settlement, from where they hoped to take batyushka out in a car, it turned out that the place was full of police - apparently they had begun to look for batyushka. Fortunately, the wind had broken the wires supplying electricity, and under cover of the darkness into which the village had been plunged they were able to take batyushka down the streets. But where to go - that was the big question. And once again Fr. Nicetas had to take shelter in a shack. Only the mistress of the house knew about this, the rest of the family, which included one of the bosses, suspected nothing. They made a nest for Fr. Nicetas in the straw of the shack, where the tormented sick man had to spend a week until his children could find a car with a reliable driver.
Finally, Fr. Nicetas was taken to where he spent the remainder of his life until his death in 1974. Surrounded by care and love, he could rest a bitâ€¦ But his illness became worse. He tried to hide his increasing sufferings, because he knew that his death and burial would impose a heavy burden on those giving him shelter. How and where were they to bury a man whom, according to Soviet power, was not supposed to exist?
For many years Fr. Nicetas commemorated Metropolitan Peter of Krutitsa, Archbishop Victor of Vyatka and Glazov and Archbishop Nectarius of Yaransk. And not having certain news of their deaths, he continued to commemorate for some years after their deaths. But then he was for a time without a bishop to commemorate. This naturally worried him. But in about 1955 he came under the omophorion of Archbishop Anthony Galynsky-Mikhailovsky. This took place as follows.
When Matushka Catherine Golovanova was put in the camps, she got to know a woman called Daria Pavlovna, and through her she got to know about Archbishop Anthony. Daria Pavlovna was serving an eight-year sentence and had been arrested at the same time as Archbishop Anthony, with whom she had prayed in the same house. Their places of imprisonment were not far from each other , so somehow they were able to correspond, putting little notes in holes or under logs. And Vladyka greatly consoled and strengthened Daria Pavlovna with these notes.
When Matushka Golovanova returned from the camps, she of course told Fr. Nicetas about the remarkable Catacomb hierarch. Her information was confirmed by the Catacomb batyushka Fr. Athanasius, who had returned from exile. He had served three sentences of eight years, five years and three years. He had been ordained to the diaconate by Archbishop Nectarius before the declaration of 1927; and since he had refused to sign the declaration he had been immediately arrested. On being released, he went to Vladyka Anthony in Armavir and received ordination to the priesthood from him. Since the authorities knew about him, he did not have to hide as much as Fr. Nicetas did, and batyushka sometimes went to Fr. Athanasius for help. Once a sick girl had to be united to the Church. She couldn't be taken to Fr. Nicetas, nor could batyushka, who was also sick, go to her. So he ordered that Fr. Athanasius be invited. Fr. Athanasius was able to go long distances around - for example, to Kozmodemyansk. So whoever could not go to Fr. Nicetas went to him.
So through Fr. Athanasius Fr. Nicetas came under the omophorion of Archbishop Anthony, and he now commemorated Metropolitan Philaret, first-hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, and Archbishop Anthony.
Another of the priests under Archbishop Anthony was Fr. Gurias, a good-looking, dark-haired priest who had served ten years in the camps. He had a family and lived after the camps in Kozmodemyansk. He was ordained by Archbishop Anthony. He lived openly, was very firm in his faith, but was condescending to those who had fallen. He once received the secretary of the village soviet with his wife, saying:
"They're getting old, who can I not give them communion?"
Once, on entering a small town, and seeing that a house was full of people, he began the all-night vigil with a sermon:
"You don't know me, or to what Church I belong. I want to explain."
Then he explained, citing passages from the Old and New Testaments.
According to the witness of those who knew him, at the end of his life, in the middle of the 1980s, he was killed in a hospital, where he was given a treatment from which he died. Matushka Golovanova greatly valued and loved him.
Matushka herself had been raised from childhood in a monatery, becoming a nun with the name Catherine. At the age of 21 she was forced to leave her monastery destroyed by the Bolsheviks and went round the village churches as a chanter - she was an excellent choir leader. Her bishop (this was before the Church descended into the catacombs) blessed her to give sermons. According to the witness of those who knew her, she understood even the most complex church questions, and even, so they say, was able to reply to questions on any church theme. She herself said of herself that she ate more books than bread. She was Fr. Nicetas' support during his suffering life; he respected her and listened to her opinions. Learning about Vladyka Anthony in the camps, she later went to him, was tonsured into the mantia by him with the name Antonia, and thus became, not Matushka Catherine or Aunt Katya, but Matushka Antonia. Vladyka Anthony himself said about her: "She is like a pillar with you stretching from earth to heaven."
When the six had to accompany Fr. Nicetas from the dangerous place during the spring floods, one of them set off by train to Matushka Antonia to tell her about the catastrophe. When she got on the train she was so nervous that she shook; but tiredness took its tool and she dozed off. At this point it seemed to her that someone was bending over her and whispering that everything was alright with batyushka. When Matushka Antonia heard what condition Fr. Nicetas was in she was at first very worried, but on hearing about the incident on the train she calmed down and calmed her visitor. And truly, although they had to undergo many labours and suffer many sorrows, everything ended well.
Matushka Antonia died on August 17/30, 1979, already after the death of Fr. Nicetas.
One who also received the monastic tonsure from Vladyka Anthony was Matushka S. With the blessing of Fr. Nicetas, she was appointed to carry the Holy Gifts. She carried out this very responsible duty for 28 years. She always carried the Holy Gifts in a dry form.
Once someone they summoned the old woman: "She hasn't communed for 30 years and is approaching death." The old woman wept from joy. On the return journey she had to run and almost missed the bus, there were absolutely no roads. But it seemed to Matushka S. that she was travelling on a flat road because the old woman was praying for her. On other occasions they led her to some villages where the old women had also not communed for 30 years. And here also after receiving communion they did not live long - it was evidently God's will; they received communion, and God took them. Matushka S. read a Lament over sins (the blessing of the community of the Three Hierarchs on Mount Athos) to them, and they sent their confession with her in envelopes. Once she was sent by Fr. Nicetas 30 kilometres to a certain village and then some more kilometres on foot by a big circuitous route.
Fr. V. was a spiritual son of Fr. Nicetas. He distributed the Holy Gifts while still a reader. Once he came to Fr. Nicetas, who told him that he was now under the omophorion of Vladyka Anthony. Later, with the blessing of Fr. Nicetas, he was ordained to the priesthood by Vladyka Anthony. A few years later, Fr. V. had to receive Fr. Nicetas' flock.
The last days of Fr. Nicetas, besides his fears for his spiritual children, were darkened by another sorrow.
The sick man, who could not leave his refuge, was also unable to see Vladyka Anthony, and he gave his confession to Vladyka only through Fr. V. Vladyka awarded him with the mitre and showered him with prosphoras; and when he heard that Fr. Nicetas could not come to him he intended to visit him himself in order to tonsure him and raise him to the rank of archimandrite.
The date of Vladyka's arrival was already decided on; everything had been collected for the journey, his vestments had been packed and a telegram had been sent to say that guests were expected. (Of course, it was impossible to announce his arrival directly; it had to be done in an allegorical form.) However, this telegram was interpreted incorrectly by the women who received it. They were frightened at the prospect of the arrival of unknown guests and, without saying a word to Fr. Nicetas, immediately sent a telegram telling them not to come. When Fr. Nicetas heard about this it was already too late, and a fitting moment for the journey did not present itself again. So the two men never met.
And then Vladyka Anthony's name was besmirched by a slander. People said that he was a name-worshipper, although Vladyka had in fact fought against this heresy, for which the name-worshippers in the Caucasus had refused to recognise him. But when Fr. Nicetas heard these rumours, living as he was in almost complete isolation and not being able to check them out, he did not know what to do. Being on the edge of death, he did not know to whom to entrust his flock. Fr. V., his spiritual son, was under the omophorion of Vladyka Anthony, and Fr. Nicetas did not know whether to satisfy the request of his flock and hand them over to him.
Fr. Nicetas served his last service, a moleben and akathist to the Mother of God, on the feast of the 40 martyrs, March 9/22. He decided to take refuge in his sorrow to the Mother of God, who had always helped him out of all difficult circumstances.
"Let us ask the Mother of God what path she indicates for us. I as a man can go wrong. She has preserved me throughout my life," said Fr. Nicetas.
They placed the lots behind an icon of the Vladimir Mother of God, one for the priests under Vladyka Anthony's omophorion, and the other for those who did not recognise him. Then they took one out after prayer - it indicated the priests of Vladyka Anthony.
The next day it became clear that Fr. Nicetas' end was near. They summoned Fr. V. He was at that time on quite a long journey confessing and communing the faithful; but, although he had not completed all that he had to do, he suddenly felt that he had to return home immediately. There they were waiting for him with the news that batyushka was dyingâ€¦
When Fr. V. arrived him, batyushka told him to accept his flock, many of whom were present there. The priests managed to talk about the most important thing, then Fr. Nicetas did confession and received communion. He sat down, embracing Fr. V., and leaning closer and closer to him. They put him to bed and he seemed to doze offâ€¦ After a time they noticed that he was departing, and Fr. V. began to read the prayers for the departing of the soul. He died very quietly. This took place on March 12/25, 1974.
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