Friday, January 31, 2020

Saint Nikita the Solitary, Who Had Been Seduced By the Devil and Thereby Became Famous as a Prophet

St. Nikita of the Kiev Caves, Bishop of Novgorod (Feast Day - January 31)

(Paterikon of the Kiev Caves Lavra, 25)

While the venerable Nikon was superior [of the Kiev Caves Lavra], there was a brother named Nikita. He wished to be honored by men and conceived a great deed, but not for God’s sake: he began to ask the superior to allow him to withdraw into solitude. The superior forbade him to do so, saying, “My son, it is not profitable for you to sit idle, since you are young. It is better for you to stay among the brethren and work for them. You will not risk losing your reward. You yourself have seen how our brother the holy Isaac the Cave-Dweller was seduced by demons. Had he not been saved by God’s grace, through the prayers of the venerable fathers Anthony and Theodosius, who to this day work many miracles, he would have been lost.” Nikita said, “I will certainly not be seduced by such a trick. I will ask the Lord God to grant me the gift of working miracles.” Nikon answered, “What you are asking is beyond your powers. Take care, brother, lest you exalt yourself and then have a fall. Our humility orders you to serve the holy brotherhood, for whose sake you will be crowned as a reward for your obedience.” Nikita remained unmoved by the superior’s words and did exactly what he wanted: he shut the door behind him and remained in the cave without going out.

Before many days had passed he was seduced by the devil. While he was singing, he heard a voice praying with him and smelled an indescribably fragrant odor. He was deceived by this and said to himself, “If this were not an angel, he would not be praying with me, nor would there be this fragrant odor of the Holy Spirit.” He began to pray dili­gently, “Show Thyself plainly to me, О Lord, that I may see Thee.” Then a voice said to him, “I shall not reveal myself to you because you are young and lest you be puffed up and then fall.” The solitary said with tears, “I shall in no way be deceived, О Lord, since I have been instructed by my superior to pay no attention to the wiles of the devil; but I shall do everything that Thou dost command.” Then the serpent, that slayer of souls, assumed power over him and said, “It is impossible for a man to behold me while he is still in the flesh. I shall send my angel to stay with you. Act according to his will.” Straightway a demon stood before him in the guise of an angel. The monk fell down and venerated him as an angel. The demon said to him, “Do not pray, but read your books. Through them you will find yourself conversing with God, and you will be able to give useful advice to people who come to visit you. I shall pray continually to my Creator for your salvation.”

Having been seduced, the monk did not pray, but applied himself diligently to reading and studying. He would see the demon continu­ously praying for him, and he rejoiced that an angel was praying for him. He conversed for the good of their souls with those who came to visit him, and began to prophesy. This brought him great fame, so that every­one marveled at the way in which his prophesies were fulfilled. One day Nikita sent a message to Prince Iziaslav, saying, “Today Gleb Sviatoslavic has been killed at Zavoloc’e. Quickly send your son Sviatopolk to rule in Novgorod.” And it happened exactly as he said; a few days later Gleb’s death became known. From then on the Solitary became famous as a prophet, and princes and boyars paid close attention to him. In fact a demon does not know what will come to pass but, act­ing on his own, instructs evil men either to kill or to steal and makes those things known; the monk would prophesy these things, which did indeed come to pass.

No one could dispute with him about the books of the Old Testa­ment, since he knew them all by heart: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Judges, Kings, and all the Prophets in order; and he knew all the Jewish books as well. But as for the Gospel and the Apostle, the holy books given to us by grace to confirm us in the faith and set our lives in the right path, he did not wish to see, hear, or read them, nor would he allow anyone else to talk to him about them. From this it became clear to everybody that he had been seduced by the enemy.

The venerable fathers — the superior Nikon, Ioann who succeeded him as superior, Pimin the Faster, Isaiah who became bishop of Ros­tov, Matthew the Percipient, holy Isaac the Cave-Dweller, Agapitus the Physician, Gregory the Wonderworker, Nicholas who became Bishop of Tmutorokan, Nestor who wrote the chronicle, Gregory the creator of the canons, Theoktestos who became Bishop of Cemihiv, and Onesephoros the Percipient — could not accept this. These God-bearers came to the man who had been tempted, prayed to God, and expelled the demon from him; after this Nikita did not see him. They led him outside and questioned him about the Old Testament, as they wished to hear something from him. He swore that he had never read these books. This man, who had known the Jewish books by heart, now did not know a single word, to put it simply. The blessed fathers could scarcely teach him letters.

From then on he devoted himself to self-denial and obedience and to living a pure and humble life, so that he excelled everybody in virtue; later he was made Bishop of Novgorod on account of his many virtuous deeds. He performed many miracles: once during a drought he prayed to God and brought down rain from heaven and extinguished a fire in the town. Now this holy and blessed Nikita is honored with the saints.