How to Conquer Evil With Good

September 16/29 is the commemoration day of the famous
Moscow elder in the world, Archpriest Alexei Mechev
(1859-1923), rector of the church of St. Nicholas in
Klenniki and clairvoyant man of prayer. We present our
readers fragments from the new book,
Holy Righteous
Alexei of Moscow, published by Sretensky
Monastery.

*   *   *

 

The elder’s spiritual daughter Nun Juliania
(Sokolova) related one incident: “Once after the
early Liturgy, on a weekday, a drunken, tattered man came
up to batiushka [Fr. Alexei]. He was all shaky, and barely
able to get out the words, ‘I’ve completely
perished, I’m on a binge. My soul has
perished… save me, help me… I can’t
remember the last time I was sober… I’ve lost
my humanity…’ Paying no attention to his
despicable appearance, batiushka came very near to him and
lovingly looked him in the eye, clasping his hand on his
shoulder. ‘My dear, it’s time we stopped
drinking wine.’ ‘Help me batiushka dear, pray
for me,’ the man replied. Batiushka took him by the
right hand and lead him to the ambo, then went into the
altar, leaving him there outside it. Opening the curtain
behind the royal doors of the main altar dedicated to the
Kazan Mother
God
, solemnly opening the royal doors, he began a
moleben, pronouncing with a magnificent voice,
‘Blessed is our God…’ Then, taking the
dirty, tattered man by the hand, he placed him right next
to himself at the very threshold of the royal doors.
Falling to his knees, he began praying fervently and
tearfully to the Lord God. The ragamuffin’s clothes
were so torn that his body was exposed when he followed
after batiushka in making prostrations to the ground. At
the end of the moleben, batiushka made the sign of the
cross three times over the unfortunate man, and handing
him a prosphora, kissed him thrice.

Not long afterward, a decently dressed man came to the
candle box, and purchasing a candle asked, ‘How can
I see Fr. Alexei?’ When he learned that batiushka
was in the church he joyfully expressed the desire to
serve a moleben of thanksgiving. Coming out of the altar
batiushka exclaimed: ‘Vasily, is it you?!’ The
former drunk threw himself at his feet weeping, and
batiushka began a moleben. It turns out that Vasily had
received a good position and was doing very well.”

* * *

Nun Juliania (Sokolova) recalls how batiushka was able to
overcome evil with good: “During Matins a whole
crowd of students came to batiushka’s church.
Batiushka was in the altar and could hear men’s
voices, dance melodies. They stormed in so riotously that
the frightened acolyte barely finished the Six Psalms.
Someone advised batiushka to drive them out, but he only
fervently prayed. One of the students broke away from his
comrades and went into the altar. Batiushka, standing at
the table of oblation, quickly spun around and
affectionately met this madcap: ‘How nice to see
young people beginning their day with prayer… Did
you come to commemorate your parents?’ Struck by
such unexpected, heartfelt treatment, the youth was
stunned and could only mutter, ‘Ye-e-es
…’

Fr. Alexei Mechev serving a moleben at the founding of the rectory on Maroseika
Fr. Alexei Mechev serving a moleben at the founding of the rectory on Maroseika

At the end of Matins batiushka addressed those who had
come, reminding these youths, seeking for some great
happiness, about their families, about their parents who
loved them, who hoped in them to support them once they
received an education… He so spoke from his heart,
so sincerely and lovingly that they were moved and several
began to cry; several stayed to sing the Liturgy and
became his friends and fellow-worshipers, and several even
his spiritual children. They confessed to batiushka that
… they had come to beat him up…”

* * *

Fr. Paul Florensky wrote in 1924: “The
Maroseika[1] community was in a spiritual sense the
daughter of Optina
Pustyn
: life there was built upon spiritual
experience. Fr. Alexei taught by his own life, and
everyone around him lived, each in his own way and to
the best of his ability, to participate in the growth
of the spiritual life of the whole community.
Therefore, although the community did not have its own
hospital, nevertheless many professors, doctors,
nurses, and sisters of mercy—spiritual children
of Fr. Alexei—tended to the sick who turned to
Fr. Alexei for help. Although there was no school, a
number of professors, writers, teachers, and students,
also spiritual children of Fr. Alexei, came to help, by
their knowledge and connections, those who needed it.
Although the community had no organized shelter, all
the same the needy and those seeking help were clothed,
shod, and fed.”

* * *

Fr. Sergius Durilin recalled: “Fr.
Nektary
, another Optina elder, once asked someone:
‘Why do you come here? You have Fr. Alexei.’
It’s impossible to overestimate the great value of
this Optina testimony. In it is expressed the profound
unity of Fr. Alexei’s experiential-spiritual path
with that tread by Optina eldership, by that source
ascending to the great elder Paisius Velichkovsky and
through him to Mt. Athos and to the living patristic
Tradition of all of Orthodoxy. Fr. Alexei was an Optina
elder, only living in Moscow. In this is found the
greatest joy and greatest import.”

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