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On Christian Friendship - Lessons From the Kiev Patericon  


    Do not possess a hundred rubles, goes a folk saying, but rather a hundred friends. And this is very true. How can we, for example, enter our heavenly homeland on our own, alone, without friends? It is very difficult. We meet thistles upon thistles, and stone after stone at every step of the way. The world, our own flesh and the devil fight against us, misfortunes surround us on every side, evil men also often give us no peace, instilling us with bad habits and inflicting evil upon us, and so on. What's to be done? To go alone on such a path, as you can see, is very dangerous and difficult. Who can help? Who can ease our journey? Who can guide us onto the strait and narrow way? Know, brethren, that in this case, a true, faithful Christian friend can help us better than anyone, and can prove to be of irreplaceable value in assisting us in our journey to the heavenly homeland. We shall now try to illustrate this by example.

    In the Caves monastery there lived two friends, Vassily and Feodor. It was said that the latter, while in the world, was the owner of a large estate; on deciding to become a monk he gave all his wealth to the poor. When he entered the monastery the Enemy began pricking him with doubts: Why had he given away his estate to the poor? How would he manage in his old age? What if the monastery became impoverished?--and other evil thoughts. Feodor fell into despair, but his friend rescued him. On learning of Feodor's state, Vassily endeavored by all means to save him. "Brother Feodor," he implored, "do not destroy your rewards! If you really want the return of your estate which you gave to the poor, I shall return it to you, but you must give your word before God that the reward for what you gave will go not to you but to me. But think about it. Will not the Lord punish you for this? There was a similar case in Constantinople. Someone who had given away his property to the poor began to regret his action, and another returned it to him on the condition that he publicly avow: "Lord, the reward for what I gave away belongs not to me but to him who refunded my alms!' The unfortunate man said these words and immediately fell down in the middle of the church and gave up the ghost.' And both, it is related, were utterly destroyed, 'both the gold and the body.'" 

    His friend's words brought Feodor to his senses; he repented of his greed and began warmly to thank his friend for having saved him from sin. From that time forth a great love developed between them.

    Another time the devil again attacked Feodor; he began to appear to him in the guise of his friend Vassily. Showing him heaps of gold and silver, he tried to persuade Feodor to gather this gold and silver at an appointed place and to run away from the caves into another country, for it was impossible [he claimed] to achieve salvation there in the monastery.

    Feodor was seduced into believing this 'friend'-devil and prepared to depart--he didn't know where. Fortunately, the real Vassily, his dear friend, learned of this, called together several of the elders and went with them to Feodor where they exposed to him the devil's snares and the dreadful abyss on whose edge the unfortunate monk was standing. Feodor's eyes were opened, and from that time forth he conducted an implacable warfare against the enemy of our salvation and through his holy life conclusively defeated him.

    It must be added that subsequently Vassily continued to help Feodor spiritually; he suggested that in the future Feodor never conceal from him his thoughts and that they always preserve an open communication between them in matters concerning their salvation. Their friendship ended in their being joined to the ranks of saints, "rewarded with glory and honor everlasting, and receiving a crown from the rock of Honor, even Christ."

    Yes, indeed, a true friend, faithful and holy, is an irreplaceable and incomparable treasure, above all the treasures of this world. Had it not been for Vassily, Feodor would not have become a saint. As we have seen, he saved him more than once from the devil's wiles, and more than once guided him away from the abyss of destruction. He even watched over his thoughts and led Feodor to open to him his heart. Is this not a friend, is this not a treasure?! "Let us love not in word, but in deed and in truth" (I John 3:18), says the Apostle. If God would only grant each of you to acquire such a friend! You would understand and joyfully sing together the words of David:  

How good and pleasant it is for the brethren to dwell together in unity. Amen.

If thy brother repent, forgive him. (Luke 17:3)

     There lived in the Kiev Caves Monastery two friends: the priest Titus and the deacon Evagrius. Through the activity of the devil their friendship soured and they developed such a hatred for one another that if one of them went around the church censing, the other would turn aside. If it happened that they were assigned to serve together, even then they stubbornly refused to make peace. And none of the brethren were able to move them toward reconciliation.

    Finally, by the will of God, Titus became very sick. He began to weep over his sins and called for Evagrius to ask his forgiveness. Evagrius refused to come and the brethren had to bring him by force. Bowing down before him with tears, the sick Titus entreated his old friend: "Forgive me, Father, and bless me." Evagrius only turned his back in defiance: “I never want to make peace with him, not in this life, nor even in the next’” No sooner had he said these frightful words than he fell down dead. And his body was so stiff – as though he had been dead for some time – that the brethren were unable to close his eyes or his mouth or fold his arms. At the same time, Titus rose from his bed as if he had never been ill. He then told the brethren that while he was sick he saw angels departing from him and weeping over the ruin of his soul, while he saw demons rejoicing because of the hatred he had for his brother Evagrius. This brought Titus to his senses and moved him to call for Evagrius to ask his forgiveness. When he bowed down before Evagrius and Evagrius turned away from him, Titus saw a wrathful angel strike Evagrius with a flaming spear. The same angel then gave Titus his hand and raised him form his bed, cured of his illness.

   From that time forth Titus made a special effort to live in peace and love with all his monastic brothers. And so he remained, faithfully toiling in spiritual labors, until he gave up his soul to God. The Church celebrates his holy memory on February 27.


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