Orthodox America


  A Pair of Candles Priest-Martyr Elias and Matushka Eugenia


In the lives of saints it is not often that one comes across a  man and woman who together received the heavenly crowns which had symbolically rested upon their heads when they were married. To be sure, this should not imply that marriage is in any way an impediment to attaining sanctity. In most cases, however, the external circumstances of conjugal life raising children and supporting a household--lend themselves less readily to illustrious spiritual exploits; most often the lives of saintly couples remain hidden in God. It is, therefore, very encouraging and instructive when one can read about a husband and wife aflame with love for Christ and His Church. Such an account is found in the pages of Russia's Catacomb Saints. It is the moving story, condensed below, of Priest Martyr Elias and his Matushka Eugenia Chetverukhin who fully shared his sufferings and joys.

 

Glory to God for all things

      Matushka Eugenia was a pious girl whose desire to become a nun was discouraged by Elder Barnabas of Gethsemane Skete who counseled her to search for a husband. It was under her influence that Fr. Elias abandoned his university studies and a promising career, and entered seminary at St. Sergius Holy Trinity Lavra. Eugenia's father was against their getting married before Elias had finished seminary on grounds of financial insecurity, but he was finally persuaded that they would be able to support themselves and he gave his consent.

      The young couple spent their honeymoon at the Zosima Hermitage, having placed themselves in obedience to Elder Alexis the hermit. Returning to Moscow, they rented an apartment near St. Sergius' Monastery. They were so poor that Eugenia could not afford to put more than six pieces of firewood a day into the stove to keep warm.

     Fr. Elias finished the Academy before the Revolution broke out. After being ordained, be served for a short time in a poorhouse church and then was transferred to the church of St. Nicholas, where he served until his arrest in 1932.

     Fr. Elias was a fervent priest. He never shortened the services. He read out loud the stichera which were to be sung, and often read the canons. Matushka went to church every day and directed the choir. In that sad time after the Revolution had broken out, the church of St. Nicholas was a source of spiritual light for many believers. One woman parishioner of Fr. Elias remembers: "Oh, our church in Tolmachov, shining with purity! But it was so cold that your feet froze to the floor!" Still,in every circumstance Matushka did not lose hope in God.

     Thus, once on St. Nicholas' day Matushka returned from church and, putting her hand in her pocket, discovered that it was empty; and on this day they usually gathered the parishioners at their house for a modest meal. Matushka quickly returned to church and asked Batiushka if he had some money. With a guilty look he gave her only a few copper coins. There was nothing to be done about it, and Matushka went home; on the way she reflected how good it would be if she only had two roubles. She would buy some peas, a little oil, and something else, and there would be plenty. With such thoughts she went home.

     It was a warm spring day and in front of their porch there were immense puddles. On her Feet she had only cloths wound about, since it was impossible to get shoes in those days; and with this footwear she began to jump through the puddles. Suddenly she caught sight of some carefully folded rouble notes, which like two little boats were floatins on the water. She fished them out and began to ask the passersby whether they had lost two roubles; but they all said no. Then Matushka, thanking God and repeating once again, "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and everything else will be given you," she set about preparing a frugal meal.

      The words of Scripture which for most people were simply words from books that are learned mechanically, for Matushka were alive and real. Even when she suffered difficulty or when people took advantage of her believing heart, she would only say, "Glory to God for everything!" And this, despite the fact that her difficulties and sorrows only seemed to multiply.' She had just broken her arm when her youngest son Vanya caught a cold which turned into meningitis. His sufferings were so intolerable that he himself said: "Is it true, Mother, that I too am a martyr?" The day he died a nun congratulated Matushka: "You have one son already in paradise!"

     Times were hard and people flocked to Fr. Elias with their problems and requests for help. Matushka was his faithful helper in everything. Every day she sang in the church and they were somehow able to preserve the b ea ut y and splendor of the services.

    It was the year 1932. Batiushka was called in to the secret police who promised not to touch him if he were to give up the priesthood. Like St. Natalie, Matushka strengthened her husband for his struggle of confession. Fr. Elias was arrested on his names day. That night Matushka spent in prayer and tears. When she dozed off toward morning, the Mother of God appeared to her and said: "Do not fear. They will not do anything to your Batiushka in prison. I will intercede for him."

    After Batiushka's arrest, new misfortunes came to Matushka. They were thrown out of their apartment, and for some time they wandered about, until they were taken in by a certain family. The children were thrown out of school; their immense library was

 

 

 

 

      The words of Scripture which for most people were simply words from books that are learned mechanically, for M at u s hk a were alive and real. Even when she suffered difficulty or when people took advantage of her believing heart, she would only say, "Glory to God for everything!" And this, despite the fact that her difficulties and sorrows only seemed to multiply.' She had just broken her arm when her youngest son Vanya caught a cold which turned into meningitis. His sufferings were so intolerable that he himself said: "Is it true, Mother, that I too am a martyr?" The day he died anuncongratulated Matushka: "You have one son already in paradise!"

     Times were hard and people flocked to Fr. Elias with their problems and requests for help. Matushka was his faithful helper in everything. Every day she sang in the church and they were somehow able to preserve the beauty and splendor of the services.

    It was the year 1932. Batiushka was called in to the secret police who premised not to touch him if he were to give up the priesthood. Like St. Natalie, Matushka strenghened her husband for his struggle of confession. Fr. Elias was arrested on his namesday. That night Matushka spent in prayer and tears. When she dozed off toward morning, the Mother of God appeared to her and said: "Do not fear. They will not do anything to your Batiushka in prison. I will intercede for him."

    After Batiushka's arrest, new misfortunes came to Matiushka. They were thrown out of their apartment, and for some time they wandered about, until they were taken in by a certain family. The children were thrown out of school; their immense library was stolen. Their greatest loss, however, was the death of their only daughter, Mashenka, who, at five years of age, was unable to fight against the hunger and cold, and succumbed to a simple children's disease. Through all of this Matushka was strengthened by repeating unceasingly the prayer of St. John Chrysostom: "Glory to God for everything."

     It was only after two years that Matushka was able to visit Fr. Elias who had been exiled to an isolated northern village. She brought him a Gospel which was immediately confiscated, but was able to give him some holy water.

    What had happened in the two intervening years was hard to imagine. From the filthy, crowded prison cell, Fr. Elias had been driven to this northern village over the barely frozen snow; with every step the prisoners broke through the thin layer of ice and fell up to their waists in the deep snow. Soaked to the bone, having had nothing to eat or drink all day, they were forced to go for the night into a hut. The exhausted men immediately dropped to the floor and fell asleep.

    But to Fr. Elias sleep did not come. In the deep night a groan burst out from his very heart: "O Lord, why hast Thou forsaken me? I served Thee faithfully; I gave my whole life to Thee..." Suddenly, a divine visitation, like fire, touch ed the soul of the sufferer with unearthly consolation, and the light of Faith mystically illumined his heart and began to burn with an unutterable, all-consuming love towards Christ. After this night he could no longer live an ordinary life. At their farewell, Batiushka Elias told his Matushka: "Here I have come to understand that there is ultimately nothing better, nothing more wonderful than Christ. I would die for Him!" Matushka found a telegram waiting for her when she returned. There had been a fire in the camp, and Fr. Elias had burned' together with eleven other men. How fitting--the very name Elias means "aflame"!

    The rest of Matushka's life was not easy. With the coming of the Second World War new misfortunes piled upon her. One son was arrested and two others were sent to the front, from which the elder one never returned. But she always remained the same calm Matushka, hoping in God.

    The years passed. Matushka led the same kind of life as before. Always there were people around her, because after the death of Batiushka, at his request, she had taken upon herself the guidance of his spiritual children. God helped her in this task by granting her the gift of clairvoyance.

    Matushka Eugenia lived a long and extraordinarily difficult life. She never spoke loud words, never taught anyone; but the very manner of this quiet, humble old woman was the best lesson in Christian piety for those who, in our godless times, wish to live according to the commandments of Christ. Just like St. Natalie who outlived St. Adrian and died in peace, she also was a martyr with her martyred Batiushka, Father Elias.

    Holy New Martyrs, Father Elias and Matushka Eugenia, pray to God for us.


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