This article lay idle for a month and a half in my desk. The composition of it involved numerous obstacles, and even after the final article version was prepared and thoroughly edited on the website in the offline mode, the text suddenly and enigmatically disappeared, so that I had to rewrite everything all over again. Nonetheless, after a while I decided to go back to this story for a reason unknown to me.
In my previous publication entitled Grace of the Most Holy Mother of God I disclosed some details of my biography associated with my past spiritual awakening, if such pathos expression would be appropriate for an ordinary non-pathos life situation. In my case I could stop on that, since I am neither a select nor awarded with any particular divine marks or signs. However, something probably clicked inside, and the memory suddenly exposed a very interesting and long-forgotten story from the same time period, which story’s directly connected with Virgin Mary or rather her manifestation during my ordeals of those days. I gave myself a while to mull over whether I should present the story to a wide audience, and if so, in which form should I do that. I was and am still harried by certain contradictions: firstly I wouldn’t like to seem immodest, and secondly I fear to dilute the emphasis, since for better understanding it’s necessary to give details of my life situation in the first part of the story, while that situation had nothing to do with spirituality. Moreover, the whole story looks rather improbable today even for me, and I’m simply astounded what a fine fellow I was in those years.
I admit the last paragraphs of the previous article, composed impromptu in blank verse, for most readers appeared blurred and tending towards sectarianism. Fine, today I’ll propose a different type of story in prosaism clear for materialists, describing the everyday modern reality with a tinge of a true miracle. Why? For the single purpose which will be stated in the last line again.
By and large, I apologize for the details, but I only follow the literary style rules.
Today I live in this world in relative peace, while in those days events whirled in a violent chaotic vortex, replenishing my life experience with further new conflict situations every day. Don’t ask me how and why, but I found myself on a position of a security manager in a Japanese restaurant opened under a very popular night club in one of Kiev central streets (now there is neither the night club nor the restaurant in that place). One jumble replaced the other. At that point, my personality was apparently “tuned” to successful functioning within such highly explosive life program, and I considered nothing else at least. After all, I had to earn my living somehow. I should clarify one point: the night club concept itself was as if “home and native” for me then. Several years before, “my team group of like-minded folks” (let me call them so) “held” an establishment. Its owner appeared there infrequently, and so we, the young vigorous sportsmen who were actively engaged in martial arts, were rightful masters of the establishment. Due to certain circumstances or rather a fortuity, in time I turned out to be the one covertly responsible for the “order”, i.e. “settling issues”, therefore, frankly speaking, I had to spend most of my leisure at the night club. Maybe, it would not be that bad, but that lasted for years, and so a particular oppressive brand was soldered into my world view. Consequently, it took me many long years to get rid of that brand of the outrageous overblown Ego.
The night life (not the one entertaining, but the one “working”) is difficult by itself, and, although many people get used to it, waves of severe emotional exhaustion come over from time to time, which is usually relieved by various means (I won’t name those in particular). Very many people degraded because of such “means of relief”, by the way, while I miraculously always managed to remain afloat.
Over the years of night life I had cultivated a solid skill of resolving absolutely any conflict issues and an extremely acute attitude towards slightest manifestations of disturbances. There were so many disturbances and disorders around that, most probably, the animal instinct of self-preservation was involved in the emergence of such skills and attitudes in me. This was like obsession. At any second being ready to fight with absolutely any opponents, internally I turned into a beast that for some reason was desperately convinced in his towering rightness and invincibility. Now it’s a total riddle for me, but over the six years of my night “activities” I almost never lost either a verbal face-off or a physical fight, though I should admit couple times I did flop and once I was “pressed during a conversation”.
It’s easier to nip a conflict in the bud than to sort out its bloody consequences with subsequent mess. For this simple reason, I had a maintained secret method of “resolving issues” without total damage: timely notice of a problem and interference between two parties for as long as they were just debaters and not fighters. My secret method required an immutable condition: extremely attentive and permanent observation of the entire establishment area. Therefore, starting from 10 p.m. when a multi-thousand army of visitors began to stuff the club and until 6 a.m. I was on my legs in the main part of the restaurant, changing locations between the bar and the outdoor summer terrace adjoining the club entrance, instead of sitting in a comfortable chair in a small office with my legs crossed and keeping an eye on the restaurant through video monitors until they would call me. About eight hours of alertness and tension. There is no need to describe details; I will only add those heated nights were significantly shortening my days of life.
A morning after such night was never wonderful; the only goal then was to quickly slip through the dense dull flow of office employees, go home and tumble into bed until the evening. Yet, in that particular gloomy foggy morning, which has become an occasion for this article, I first had to stop at Kiev Pechersk Lavra on my way home and buy a present for my friend’s birthday, namely the icon of John the Warrior. The shop and storehouse of church utensils, located close to the Near Caves, opened a little later than I managed to reach the ancient Lavra territory. I walked to the upper National Reserve area which was deserted in such an early hour and, instead of lounging on a bench, for some reason started wandering around the central Assumption Cathedral that had been recently built anew after long years of being in ruins.
Since I have described the specific character of my working nights, readers will now have a better understanding of how my appearance with predatory screwed-up eyes, red eye whites and, above all, fathomless inner emptiness and terrible exhaustion, were easily read by people around and represented a sort of a shield. And in such a frankly doltish state I stopped at the entrance to the huge majestic cathedral with golden domes, for some reason standing with my back towards the cathedral and stupidly scrutinizing a street lamp with glass cracked on it.
Apparently, I stopped there for quite a while, for suddenly a man’s voice hailed me from behind. He sort of asked where I was looking.
“The lamp,” I responded with indifference and turned around.
A short man of about fifty-five years old was approaching me. As I remember, he wore glasses through which a sharp, assessing and strict gaze was burning. This must have been a local guard or keeper who looked after the reserve territory in early hours.
His first question and fixed, piercing stare were followed with other questions: “Who are you?”, “What’s your name?”, “What are you doing here?”, and even “Where do you live?”
I admit I could respond with my gaze to a gaze, but… Lavra was a holy place. I did can easily close his curious mouth, but I still don’t understand why I wasn’t protecting myself then. I only made an indifferent crooked-smile face with some condescension and was uttering curt answers.
His sly X-ray gaze didn’t change even when he suddenly asked a different type of question:
“Have you been here?” he asked motioning at the cathedral.
The Assumption Cathedral of Kiev Pechersk Lavra was restored rather recently, and I didn’t even suspect it could be open to visitors. Perhaps, in the first years after the restoration it was open on grand Orthodox holidays only.
“No,” I said. “Is it ever open at all?”
The man stood in silence for a while, and then something unexpected happened: he uttered an inarticulate word, turned and headed for the tall main cathedral gate. Spellbound and silent, I observed how he, as if in a fairy tale, took out a big key resembling that of Pinocchio, put it into the keyhole, turned the key, and opened the heavy door. Then he turned around, looked at me, while I was stiffen in astonishment, and finally said what reached my consciousness:
“Well, what are you waiting for?” he invited me to the cathedral.
I interrogatively pointed my finger first at myself and then at the cathedral, meaning: me? there?
Amazement? No. My mind already drew the guard’s room where I was primitively decoyed, and for some reason I didn’t resist. I remember myself thinking what an interesting and strange man that was: he was totally unaware of the level of my readiness and protectability against any external pressure. What could he do to me in such a holy place, inside one of the main churches of the country?! We passed through the external and then the internal gate, and finally it became obvious to me he was not a guard: he simply decided to share with me the beauty of the interior, the magnificence of the restored cathedral, just like a Human with a Human. I recall the view of the giant iconostasis taking my breath away. Staggered, I was staring at the iconostasis, the ceiling and all around, perplexedly turning my head. That was a very special moment indeed.
He directed me to a reliquary with some relics, it seems those of Prince Vladimir. I went there and returned.
“Do you like it here?” he asked.
“Of course!” I answered, thawing out and opening up, now with gratitude.
He was saying something more, pointing somewhere, and then told me to come up. We stopped next to each other in the very centre of the Assumption Cathedral of Kiev Pechersk Lavra, early in the morning, just the two of us… And suddenly he started loudly saying a prayer to the Lord, directing it somewhere ahead and upwards. My memory has not preserved the prayer words, but I do remember there was a request in my favour. The shock I experienced was overwhelming, I hardly held back tears. Who was I? Where did I come from? Which haunt of vice did I creep out of? What made my life? What was I fighting for? My life contained neither love, nor righteousness, but only external and inner war for defending the Ego positions. And in that holy of holies, as it seemed to me then, where not many people had ever been at all, I stood undeservedly awarded with a personal appeal for me to the Lord Himself.
What can even the worst sinner feel in such minutes? Probably, a total repentance piercing his entire essence!
I left the cathedral without grasping anything at all, and while he was closing and locking the door I asked him in a burst of gratitude:
“Thank you very much. What’s your name at least?”
“Ivan,” he responded and added right after that: “Or Sergey. What’s the difference?”
“Why have you let me in? Why me?”
And I still remember his response word for word:
“Generally speaking, I let no one here at all. This is the first time,” he said. “I don’t know… It’s not my idea to let you in. You should thank the Most Holy Mother of God for making you this present.
He disappeared as quickly as he had previously appeared, while I went back into that foggy morning with tears streaming down my face. I still don’t know who that man was, though it’s not so important.
I was driving home, being under a great impression and failing to grasp why that had happened. I needed some explanation, because the incident was too hard to take in. It took me a day or two to analyse and digest the situation, and thereafter a surprise recollection staggered me with a new power. I recalled! I recalled my last visit to that monastery in Pechersk about which I wrote in my previous article, and the wonderworking icon of the Mother of God, thanks to which I had first believed in God. In that place desires came true, and owing to my belief in such miracles I had clung to the board of that lifeboat. But the recollection was very specific. That period of my life emotionally exhausted me, and so on my last visit, standing in front of the Mother of God, having kissed the glass and touched it with my forehead for several seconds, I desperately asked for the only thing:
- Help! Give me a sign!!!
Thus, after the miracle, mystery and authority I first encountered the real evidence of Her presence.
The above story is the exact truth. I would have never written about this, if the topic of the Most Holy Mother of God was not addressed on the website. They can say it was a fortuity, but I don’t believe in fortuities since long ago. The concept of “fortuity” is intrinsic to those who understand nothing about life at all. They, the “fortuitous”, are like blind kittens; they fortuitously get born, fortuitously live, and will once die as fortuitously, being totally unready to death. Yet, for me the entire life is now plainly visible, and everything in it has its cause and effect. This story is another evidence of the fact that Virgin Mary is not a myth. She does exist, and She is more real than you can imagine! Finally, the story is a striking example of how anyone can address Her with a request. The only thing is that one should understand how to ask and for which purpose, so that a request could reach the addressee.
Prepared by VN