She was a true ascetic and God-pleaser, she had the gift of healing and prophecy. She healed the eyes of a woman named Helen by anointing her with oil from a lampada. One nun had eczema on her arms. She was treated for three years by the best doctors in Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod - to no effect. Both her arms were covered with wounds. She became so depressed that she wanted to leave the monastery. She went to Maria Ivanovna, who proposed that she be anointed with oil from the lampada. The nun was frightened because the doctors had forbidden her to touch her arms with oil or water. But out of faith towards the blessed one she agreed, and after two anointings the wounds and even the traces from the wounds had disappeared.
Once a peasant came to Maria Ivanovna in despair. He was bankrupt, and did not know how he was going to live. She said:
"Install an oil-press."
He obeyed her, started this business and put his affairs in order.
The blessed one said about the renovationist Archbishop Eudocimus (Meshcheryakov) of Nizhny Novgorod, even before his apostasy:
"A red candle, a red hierarch."
She even composed a song about him. And she warned Bishop Barnabas (Belyaev) to have nothing to do with him.
Once a bishop decided to visit her out of curiosity, without believing in her gift of prophecy. He was just about to enter when Maria Ivanovna shouted:
"Hey, Dorothea, quick, sit me on the bed-pan."
She sat on it and began to swear and murmur and complain about her illness.
Vladyka was horrified by this reception and silently left. On the road he had a stomach upset and was sick for the whole journey, groaning and complaining.
Four years before Schema-Nun Anatolia (Yakubovich) left her reclusion, the blessed one shouted at her:
"The swine schema-nun is coming out of her reclusion. She went into reclusion with the blessing of Fr. Anatolius (Schema-Monk Basil of Sarov), but her dead sister began to appear to her. Mother Anatolia got frightened, left her reclusion and began to go to church... It is not I, but the demons, who are driving her out of reclusion."
Once a boy came to Maria Ivanovna. She said:
"Look, The priest Alexis has come."
Later he really did become the Sarov Hieromonk Fr. Alexis. He greatly venerated her and often came to visit her. Once he came, sat down and was silent. But she said:
"I don't eat meat. I began to eat cabbage and guerkins with kvas, and got better."
"Good," he replied.
He understood that she was talking about his having begun to eat meat because he was frightened of falling ill. From that moment he gave up meat.
Once a certain lady from Murom came to the blessed one. Immediately she entered, Maria Ivanovna said:
"Lady, you smoke like a peasant."
It was true, she had been smoking for 25 years. Suddenly she began to weep and said:
"I just can't give it up, I smoke also at night and before the Liturgy."
"Dorothea, take her tobacco and throw it in the stove."
She took her elegant cigarette-case and matches and threw them all into the stove. A month later, Mother Dorothea got a letter from her and a sewn dress as a token of her gratitude. She wrote that she wasn't even thinking about smoking, it was as if a hand had taken it all away.
Rimma Ivanovna Dolganova was suffering from possession by demons; it showed itself in her falling in front of the holy things and not being able to receive communion. She began to ask the blessed one to let her go into a monastery.
"What need have you of that?"
"So I'll get better?" Rimma Ivanovna asked her hopefully.
"You'll be released before your death."
That night she fell ill with scarlet fever and went into hospital saying that she would not come back. She died, and not long before her death she was healed from demon-possession.
Once Vera Lovzanskaya (later the nun Seraphima) came to Maria Ivanovna asking her to allow her to go into a monastery. She looked her and shouted:
"It's not necessary! It's not necessary! It's not necessary!.. But in your old age you will look after a father. Go to Vladyka Barnabas, he will fix you up."
Later it turned out that as the nun Seraphima she had to look after her spiritual father, the Catacomb Bishop Barnabas (Belyaev), until his death.
In the monastery there was a certain fool-for-Christ called Onesimus. He was very friendly with Maria Ivanovna. They would stroll arm-in-arm through the monastery grounds, and she would call him her bridegroom. Onesimus lived his whole life in the monastery, and even called himself "she". When Tsar Nicholas II came for the uncovering of the relics of St. Seraphim in 1903, so many people came that they had to close the gates for a time. But Onesimus stayed outside the gates and shouted:
"Hey, I'm one of ours [in the feminine gender], let me in, I'm one of ours!"
Once Maria Ivanovna said to Vera Lovzanskaya:
"Look, Oniska is going to take my little girl far, far away."
Only when Bishop Barnabas himself took upon himself the exploit of being a fool-for-Christ and she followed him to Siberia, only then did it become clear what Maria Ivanovna was talking about.
Before going to Central Asia, Vera Lovzanskaya set off for Maria Ivanovna to say goodbye and receive her blessing. The Diveyevo monastery was closed, and Maria Ivanovna was living in a village.
Early in the morning Vera went to Arzamas - she had to go 60 kilometres from there to Diveyevo. It was December and the weather was cold. She went out onto the street and saw a peasant travelling on a low sledge. He stopped:
"Where are you going?"
"Good, I'll give you a lift."
They got as far as the village of Krugliye Pany. There was an inn there. The driver went in to get a bite to eat and got well and truly drunk. On the way he became exhausted, the sledge constantly wandered off the road and got stuck in the snow, but the horse somehow got herself out and finally stopped at the house where Maria Ivanovna lived. It was one o'clock at night. The peasant woke up and began to knock at the window with all his strength. The nuns opened up. They said what had happened. All this time the blessed one had been in a rage, thumping on the table and shouting:
"The drunk peasant is driving the girl! The drunk peasant is driving the girl!"
"But what drunk peasant, and what girl?" said the nuns, trying to understand her.
But the blessed one only shouted: "The drunk peasant is driving the girl!"
Once a lady of the intelligentsia came to Maria Ivanovna with her two boys. The blessed one immediately began to shout:
"Dorothea, Dorothea, get two crosses, put them on them."
"Why should I give them crosses? They have taken communion today."
But Maria Ivanovna began to make a commotion and shout:
"Crosses, put crosses on them."
Dorothea brought out two crosses, unbuttoned the boys' jackets and, sure enough, there were no crosses. The lady was very embarrassed when Dorothea asked her:
"How could you receive communion without crosses?"
She mumbled something in reply, saying that she had taken them off them on the road, otherwise they would disturb the children.
Immediately after her a schema-nun arrived.
"Why did she put on the schema, take it off, take it off, put on a scarf and bast-shoes, and put a cross on her," said Maria Ivanovna.
With trembling Mother Dorothea went up to her: it turned out that she was not wearing a cross. She said that she had lost it on the road.
Maria Ivanovna very much loved Misha Artsybusheva. He often came to her for spiritual direction. Once some nuns, cousins of Misha, came to Diveyevo and asked Maria Ivanovna:
"How is Misha doing here?"
She said: "Misha's got tied up with a gypsy woman."
The sisters were very worried. A short time later Misha arrived. They asked him:
"What's happened to you? Maria Ivanovna told us that you had got tied up with a gypsy woman."
Misha laughed and then explained that for many years he had not smoked, but then, recently, he had been passing by a tobacco stall and had been ensnared - he bought a packet of cigarettes called "Gypsy woman" and started to smoke them.
People would come for miles from everywhere to see her. To many she would open up their whole lives. Bishop Barnabas (Belayev), vicar of Nizhni-Novgorod diocese and future confessor of the Catacomb Church, used to visit her and had great respect for her.
Blessed Maria precisely foretold many events and private destinies. On the 31st of December, 1926, on the eve of the new year before the vigil, Maria Ivanovna asked Nun Seraphima (Bulgakova):
"Go outside and take a look. What kind of half moon is it, sharp or dull?"
When she was told, the blessed one said:
"Well, the old women will start dying."
And indeed, beginning on the first of January, in the course of two weeks many people began to die, more than one each day. Then the Blessed One began to say,
"What a difficult year is coming. Already Elijah and Enoch are walking upon the earth."
She would speak about this often, even during the vigil services.
On the Sunday of the Pharisee and Publican, 1926, the communists came to destroy Sarov. It continued until the fourth Sunday of Great Lent. Hieromonk Marcellinus had the obedience of guarding the relics of St. Seraphim. At that time, the ruling hierarch of Tambov was in Diveyevo. He called Fr. Marcellinus and ordered him to take the relics and to hide with them in the Caucasus. But he refused, saying that he had spent so many years before the relics, and had seen so many miracles that he was convinced that the Saint even now would not allow the relics to be stolen. For this Fr. Marcellinus was dismissed and in his place came Hieromonk Cyprian. Finally, on Monday of the week of the Cross, the communist authorities came and gathered all the holy things into a heap: the miraculous icon of the Life-Giving Spring, the cypress log in which for 70 years St. Seraphim's relics had rested in the earth, the coffin in which this log lay, and other things. They burned these in a bonfire near the northern exit from the Dormition Church, between the church and the Royal Suite. Novice Boris managed to photograph this.
But the relics of St. Seraphim, that is, his bones, just as they were tied in his mantia and clothing - all this the authorities tied together and placed in a blue chest. They sealed the relics and then divided into four groups, going off in various directions. They wanted to conceal where they were carrying the relics. They brought the chest with the holy relics to Arzamas by way of Unuchino. There they stopped, lodged for the night and fed the horses. No matter how hard they tried to conceal things, when the troika with the holy relics entered the village of Kremenki, they began to peal the alarm.
The relics were brought straight to Moscow, where they were received by a scientific commission. Fr. Vladimir Bogdanov managed to join himself to this commission. When they opened the box, according to the witness of Fr. Vladimir, there were no relics. That is what his spiritual children said. The reposed Vladyka Athanasius, who was later in exile together with Fr. Vladimir in Kotlas, said the same thing.
They said that when the blasphemers arrived at their place of rest for the night, they locked the box with the holy relics in a barn, and took the keys themselves. But they were very drunk...
In February, 1991, the supposed relics of St. Seraphim were brought from the former Kazan cathedral in St. Petersburg to Moscow, and later in that year they were returned to Diveyevo. However, Archbishop Lazarus of Tambov has another story: "In 1966 I was in Diveyevo with some Tambov and Diveyevo nuns. We arrived on the day of St. Seraphim, July 19 / August 1. We prayed a cell rule, as laypeople usually do when they are without a deacon or priest. The next day we went to the Kazan spring. Then Matushka Anna (Troyegubova) led me round the canal. Two nuns came up to us and told us about the place in Diveyevo where the relics of the saint are hidden. Not all the Diveyevo nuns knew about this, but only certain chosen ones.
"'We are old, we could die, but you are young, and we are handing this knowledge on to you,' they said.
"And they showed me the place. The story of the acquisition of the relics from the godless is as follows: Matushka Anna had lived since the age of ten in the monastery. Her brother, Fr. Gideon, later a martyr, lived in Sarov. In 1927 the monastery was closed, and he lived nearby as a woodcutter. When the godless came to take the relics away to Moscow, he learned about this and sent his sister, Matushka Anna, to Diveyevo, to tell the abbess:
"'They're taking away the relics of St. Seraphim'.
Then the abbess prepared her nuns, and they came to Arzamas, where the monastery had a guest-house which the Bolsheviks had taken away, although nuns continued to occupy part of it. In the evening the chekists came with the box. The nuns stuffed them with sausage and vodka so that they were lying around senseless. Then they nailed up the box, took the relics of St. Seraphim, loaded them onto a horse and took them to Diveyevo. There they hid them, and only a few trusted people know about the place. That is the story, exactly as they told me. When they brought the relics from Moscow in 1991, the inhabitants of Diveyevo did not believe in their authenticity, and one nun, Matushka Euphrosyne, who knows the truth, cried out when they brought the relics:
"'Don't believe them.'
But they locked her up."
Fr. Marcellinus would often come to Diveyevo. He could not forgive himself his disobedience to the Bishop and was close to having a nervous breakdown. In 1931-32 he was arrested and sent to Alma-Ata. There, in a transit camp, he spent Great Lent of 1932, and on Passion Saturday he was sent further on, where he soon died (April 14).
Before the destruction of the monastery Hieromonk Gideon, a native of Kherson district, had the obedience of looking after the monastery's farmstead in the woods. He died in exile in Alma-Ata on Palm Sunday, March 26, 1933 at 8 o'clock in the morning. The night before he twice appeared to his sister, the Diveyevo nun Anyuta, and asked her:
"Don't forget to commemorate me at the Liturgy. Today this is particularly important for me."
He appeared to her in the same clothes that he was vested in when he was buried in the cemetery of Alma-Ata. On March 9/22, 1946, during a pannikhida, he was seen again by his sister in the corner in front of the icons. Then she remembered that he had been tonsured on that day. He remained visible until the end of the pannikhida.
During the fourth week of Great Lent Sarov was closed.
The church services in Sarov stopped and the monks left in various directions. Abbot Rufinus and some of the brothers were arrested and sent to Arzamas prison, where they were tortured. According to the witness of fellow-prisoners, when Fr. Rufinus was once brought into their room after a long interrogation, none of the prisoners could recognize him. His whole face was puffed up, especially his chin. All the hairs of his beard had been pulled out. Soon after that he died under torture.
Hieromonk Isaac, a clairvoyant elder of Sarov, was arrested after the closure of the monastery and died in exile. In 1927, during the closure of the monastery, an old monk who used to sit by the holy spring, Fr. Basil, was killed. His obedience had been to give holy water to the pilgrims - a terrible crime in the eyes of the Bolsheviks. They destroyed everything in the monastery and turned it into the Temnikov concentration camp.
After Pascha, the authorities came to Diveyevo. They began to search the whole convent, all the buildings, registered all the inventory, and examined all private belongings. It was spring, everything was in bloom, but the sisters saw nothing and noticed nothing...
In these difficult days, Mother Seraphima went to see Blessed Maria Ivanovna:
"Maria Ivanovna, will we still live peacefully for a while?"
"We shall," she answered.
"But for how long?"
"For three months."
The authorities left, and it seemed as if everything was fine. But once the three months had passed, on the eve of the Nativity of the Mother of God, in September, 1927, the nuns were thrown out with only the clothes they were standing in. Everything was closed, and the monastery was turned into a collective farm.
During that whole summer, the monastery life during the day had experienced no unusual changes. But the moment the night would come, from somewhere owls would fly, sit on the roof of all the convent buildings and fill the whole monastery with ominous hooting; and so it was each night. When they announced the closure, all of the owls disappeared somewhere.
At that time two Bishops lived in the convent: Zenobius of Tambov and Seraphim of Dmitrov, the future hieromartyr. The former served the Liturgy on the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos, in the Nativity of the Theotokos church. When the singers began to sing the stichera, 'Now upon the noetic altars abides God...', no one could continue to sing further. Everyone wept; the whole church was in tears.
Bishop Seraphim served in the big cathedral. After the Liturgy, he gave a sermon with the following words:
"Now each of us is presented with a cup. But each will accept it in a different way. Some will only touch it with their lips; others will drink one quarter, or half, or the whole cup to the dregs... Now in the monastery we are all burning as one huge candle, but now the time has come when this flame will be divided into small, separate candles."
That night both bishops, the abbess and the elder sisters were arrested and sent to Nizhni-Novgorod and then Moscow. But then they were released and allowed to choose their place of residence as long as it was not the same place.
On the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, the last service was held in the church of the Joy of All Who Sorrow. After the Liturgy the singers began to sing, as on Forgiveness Sunday, the "Lamentations of Adam". Everyone in the church wept.
The sisters had to hide in various places in Diveyevo, Vertianova and local villages. With the blessing of Bishop Barnabas, a cell was built for Maria Ivanovna in the village of Puzo, some 18 versts (14 miles) in the direction of Arzamas. There she was brought immediately after the closure of the monastery, and stayed for three months. Maria Ivanovna's affairs were managed by Valentina Dolganova, and things were arranged in such a way that no one was allowed access to the blessed one. When Abbess Alexandra settled in Murom, Mother Dorothea came to her:
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