“It all started with my throat and a runny
I got sick with a bad cold. As usual, it all started with
my throat and a runny nose. Then the virus began to
descend to the bronchi and chest, causing a wet cough.
Usually in such a situation a week or two of bed rest is
prescribed. It turned out that I had oil on hand, blessed
on the relics of Fr. Ambrose. It was a gift from a
brother, a novice of Kazan Monastery, after his pilgrimage
I read the evening prayer rule and prayed to Fr. Ambrose
and rubbed the oil on my sore throat and chest.
In the morning I didn’t feel even the slightest
Glory to God for his saints! Venerable
Fr. Ambrose, pray to God for us!
* * *
“My coworkers hated
P. B. Anna
A few years ago, in January 2007, I was hit by a series of
troubles at work. At that time I worked on a pretty young
team: the oldest person in our department was 37, the rest
(only women) weren’t even 30.
One of these girls concocted some gossip about me which
everyone believed. They accused me behind my back of some
terrible sins—tattling, slandering—as if I go
to the boss and report who does what, or rather as if I
tell him that everyone is lazy. I never got all the
details of the gossip, but all my coworkers together
agreed to hate me.
I can feel this old offense even now, after so many years!
I couldn’t understand what caused this silent, icy
contempt, but when I found out, I was in shock! I tried to
explain something and prove that I was innocent, but they
wouldn’t even listen to me. They just ignored
me—a boycott. I would cry at home in the morning,
not wanting to go to work. I had only one desire—to
quit! But I couldn’t quit, for material reasons.
And so, in complete desperation, I went to church for
solace. It was the church of the Ascension on Bolshaya
Nikitskaya Street, not far from my work at that time. I
went inside. There was no service. I prayed, lit some
candles and went to the look at the books being sold. I
bought one of them. It was a paperback of St. Ambrose
of Optina: Life, The Science of Salvation, A Spiritual
Alphabet. I should say that at that point I
didn’t know much about Batiushka Ambrose. I
don’t know why I bought the book.
But when I began to read it, I saw every word from several
of Elder Ambrose’s sayings as if they were addressed
to me and my situation. I can’t even describe how
light and good I began to feel. Little by little I calmed
down. Every day I would read this book, mentally
addressing Fr. Ambrose. And what happened? Gradually this
situation, that had me so depressed, faded away, and my
coworkers even apologized!
But even before that I already didn’t care—I
had such peace of
* * *
“Let’s go to Optina to pray.
They’re waiting for us.”
Natalia Kiselyova, Moscow
Two weeks…! For two whole weeks I kept hearing
around me the word “Optina” from friends and
relatives. I should say that I really have a lot of
Orthodox friends who love to visit Optina Pustyn. The last
straw was when my friend called me at night and asked:
“And what happened with Optina?” Half asleep,
I didn’t understand, “what happened with
Optina,” and asked: “And what could
The next day I was given a book, again about Optina.
I was in that beautiful place once. It was a wonderful,
unforgettable trip! I’ll keep the memory of it in my
heart and mind, it seems to me, forever. In Optina Pustyn
I felt like time stops, and you feel eternity. But
that’s a separate, lengthy story.
And now all around me I was hearing about Optina almost
every day, and it seemed to me not unintentionally.
In our church we have an icon and shrine with relics of
the venerable elders, and not long ago our church was a
podvoriye of Optina Pustyn. I went up to the icon of
Venerable Ambrose and the Optina elders and started
prayerfully beseeching: “Why is everyone talking
about Optina all around me? Maybe I’m supposed to go
there? If so, then please direct this trip for me
That evening the phone rang in my apartment. “My
dear Natalia”—it was a good friend, a friend
of the family—“Some organization has ordered
several cars for us tomorrow, and booked some space in
Optina Pustyn. I’ll wait for you in the morning;
we’ll go to Optina for prayer and some time in
piety. They’re waiting for us.”
I couldn’t utter even a word for a few minutes from
They heard me! With what speed they fulfilled my petition!
Truly, that which we ask for can come true! And we should
be ready in full armor to receive it.
How quickly St. Ambrose and the Optina elders
extraordinarily and surprisingly fulfilled and directed my
Pray to God for us, St. Ambrose and all the Optina elders!
* * *
“Fr. Ambrose has
Fr. Ambrose helped me this summer, but I stupidly and
proudly didn’t accept this help (I didn’t
realize it was from him, I wasn’t expecting it so
quickly, and I had no brains, I must confess), and
I’m still repenting for it.
At that time I had just lost my job, and they fired me
quite awfully and unfairly at that, after I had already
passed my probation period and literally the day before we
had talked about raising my pay. Fortunately, I had my
spiritual father’s blessing to settle into work at a
particular place, but I was stalling—I considered
myself “intellectually unprepared.”
Then the July Church feasts began one after another,
including the day of St. Ambrose of Optina. I was at
church and asked his help with work, given that I had a
blessing to do something I wasn’t ready for.
Suddenly that evening I saw in my email a letter from my
academic advisor, then I missed a call from him on the
phone. He wore himself out looking for me, although he
doesn’t usually call or write me—I contact him
first. It turns out that the company where his friend
works suddenly needed a journalist-redactor for their
site. I looked into the job with skepticism—it
seemed to me they were offering very little money while
demanding a lot of work. And there was a probation period
of two months with all kinds of tasks and demands for the
potential employee. Besides all that there was something I
I wrinkled my nose and said it’s some kind of
“scam.” Although later I realized I should
have snatched that job up to have something to hold me
over at least for the two months of the probation period.
My academic advisor laughed: “Well, as you know.
It’s only a question, apparently, of being afraid to
cope.” I really was afraid that they would fire me
again after the probation period. I was afraid I
couldn’t endure another such humiliation.
I had only just turned it down (the time was already
late), when suddenly I remembered that in the morning I
had been at the service and prayed before the icon of St.
Ambrose, kissed his relics and besought him during the
service, telling him about my problems. And what? The next
day the icon of Fr. Ambrose in the church disappeared
somewhere! Maybe they took it for restoration or to
another church for a while…
All these months (I wasn’t able to find work after
this for a long time—a whole four months, and I
missed out on the blessing also, having dragged this out),
no matter how much I begged and prayed and went to
monasteries, no matter how many feast day services I stood
through—nothing worked! And all these months I
realized that that work, had I not turned it down, would
have kept me afloat for a couple of months, and I
wouldn’t have lost so much money and wouldn’t
have crawled into debt and other difficult circumstances.
Whenever I went to church all these months I always went
to the reliquary with a piece of the relics of Fr. Ambrose
(we had a big reliquary with numerous small relics from
various saints, including the Optina elders), asking
forgiveness and looking with sadness at the corner where
his icon used to be. Of course, Fr. Ambrose already knew a
few months ago what would happen to me in the near future
and how I would behave. He helped me, and I should have
accepted this lesson-examination, if that’s how it
In the end, only recently I found work. Rather, the Lord
send it to me, completely unexpectedly. Moreover, it
happened that I agreed with the employer about work on a
Friday, and on the next Sunday, as usual, I went to the
Resurrection service and suddenly, at the end of the
service, I saw an altar server carrying the icon of
Venerable Ambrose, and he placed it on some wooden stand
(I don’t know what it’s properly called) that
had been empty this whole time.
I saw that Fr. Ambrose had returned! I rushed to him at
full speed to beg forgiveness. I should say that during
these months, when his icon was gone, I grew somehow
especially close to batiushka through my guilty feelings
and worries… He became a saint very close to me,
and this icon which I waited for for so long, became very
dear to me. I have no doubts about his
speedy-speedy-speedy help! Fr. Ambrose, pray to God for
* * *
“I found my way in life and to my
wife—a true friend.”
By the prayerful help of Fr. Ambrose and all the Optina
elders I found my way in life and to my wife—a true
And why is that such a big deal? I can call that period in
my life, of a relatively young age, nothing other than
“emptiness.” Like in the old song:
“Loneliness is dearer than emptiness when you live
and think about death.” All my peers lived happy
lives, dated, broke up, drank, and went for walks without
thinking too much about it.
I don’t know what was the beginning of my Church
life; now it’s hard to recall. As in war, all the
powers of hell take up arms against the weak man who has
begun his salvation, using any means proven by military
experience and refined from the time of the first fallen
At some period of life there relentlessly arose in me the
conviction to choose the monastic path for my salvation.
Having been in one monastery for a couple of months, I
understood that there I would more quickly perish. The
state of modern monasticism, with few exceptions, is known
to all. I had to return to the world. But, it turned out
to be a dead end.
By chance (or not?), having opened a book of Venerable
Ambrose’s life, I stumbled upon the words which he
said to the Troekurovskoe hermit Hilarion: “Go to
Optina. You’re needed there.” Everything
suddenly became clear for me—where I needed to go to
understand how to live. In Optina I saw the exception, the
little flock which walks towards salvation, and inflames
others to go as well.
At first I was inflamed, but monasticism is not for most
people. Again doubts. Batiushka
Iliy resolved them by blessing me to live in the
monastery for a year. Just to live, not to think about
anything, for a year. It was the hardest year of my life.
When you are just one-on-one with
yourself—it’s scary. You don’t know who
will win. Every day I went to the relics of St. Ambrose
and besought, pleaded, and cried. Really, it was hard.
Through the prayers of the elders the Lord taught me which
path to choose: a girl came to Optina, who I now call my
wife and the mother of our two beautiful daughters.
In conclusion I want to say that the Lord is nearer to us
than it seems, and through people and situations He always
guides us through life by the prayers of our venerable and
God-bearing father Ambrose, elder of Optina, and of all
the saints—of course, for those who follow Christ.
* * *
“Deliverance came in three
Valentina K. Serov
Having despaired of escaping the man who had been
torturing me for three years, I was able to do so only
after I read a prayer to Venerable Ambrose of Optina which
I found one time in his correspondence with his spiritual
children. Deliverance came in three days. These whole
three days we walked as around a circle and never once
collided. Only the prayer of the great elder saved me from
By his prayers after three years I stood at his holy
relics with tears of gratitude. And now I go up on the
kliros to ask his blessing. I think, not without the help
of the saint, I was blessed to work for a few years at
making prosphora and in the trapeza.
May the Lord save us all by the prayers of the holy
Venerable Ambrose of Optina!
* * *
“My friend had a completely ruined
I just learned about this little miracle a few hours ago.
I don’t know if Batiushka Ambrose helped by
himself—probably all the Optina elders helped.
Two days ago I was at my friend’s, who was getting
ready to move to a house with a completely ruined oven. My
friend has very tight finances. We hung up flyers with
requests for help everywhere, not counting on it too much.
After leaving her, I stopped by the church in those parts
and saw there a small icon with particles of the relics of
the Optina elders. I didn’t read which ones exactly.
I asked the elders to help her.
I called then and found out that the next day—that
is, yesterday—a woman called and offered her some
help. She said: “Measure the oven—I’ll
buy you everything you need.” The poor thing until
then didn’t trust in such happiness.
May God grant that everything would turn out well for this
poor woman. Pray to God for us Fr. Ambrose and all the
* * *
“I smoked a lot.”
At the beginning of my Church life I wound up in Optina.
Before my arrival at the monastery I had a serious
I communed at the monastery and didn’t smoke all
day—quite a long time for me then. I prayed to
Venerable Ambrose to help me quit smoking. Within a few
weeks I had quit completely. I haven’t smoked for
two years now. I believe the prayers of the saint helped
* * *
“My husband smoked for many
Here is my story. My husband smoked for many years. It,
unfortunately, is a tradition in his family. He
wasn’t intending to quit, because he assumed he
wasn’t able. When I would try to speak with him
about it, he got irritated. Then I asked our teenage son
to pray to Venerable Ambrose for his father to deliver him
from such a destructive passion.
A little while later my husband got skin cancer, and after
the operation decided himself to quit smoking. He escaped
from the passion of smoking only by the prayers of the
saint. Glory to God for all things!