The Monk Nikandr of Pskov

Commemorated on June 29, September 24

      The Monk Nikandr of Pskov (at Baptism Nikon) was born on 24 July 1507 into the peasant family of Philip and Anastasia in the village of Videlebo in the Pskov lands.
      From childhood he dreamed of continuing the ascetic exploits of his fellow villager – the Monk Evphrosyn of Spasoeleazarsk, the original Pskov wilderness-dweller (Comm. 15 May). The first in Nikon's family to accept monasticism was his older brother Arsenii. After the death of his father, the seventeen year old Nikon was able to convince his mother also to disperse the property and withdraw into a monastery, where she lived til her own end. Having made the rounds of the monasteries in the Pskov lands, and having venerated at the relics of the Monk Evphrosyn  and his disciple the Monk Savva of Krypetsk (Comm. 28 August), Nikon became firmly convinced in his striving for the hermit's life.
      In order to have possibility to read the Word of God, Nikon took employ as a worker for the Pskov inhabitant Philip, who to reward his ardour sent him off for studying to an experienced teacher. Seeing the zeal of the youth, the Lord Himself directed him to the place of ascetic effort. Intensely praying in one of the Pskov churches, he heard a voice from the altar commanding him to go into the wilderness place, which the Lord would point out through His servant Theodore (Feodor). The peasant Theodore led him off to the River Dem'yanka, betwixt Pskov and Porkhov. (Afterwards both Philip and Theodore, who helped the Monk Nikandr attain his commanded goal, were themselves to enter upon the path of monasticism, and tonsured at the Krypetsk monastery with the names Philaret and Theodosii (Feodosii).
      Having spent several years in silence and severe ascetic deeds, emaciating his flesh, Nikon went to the monastery founded by the Monk Savva of Krypetsk. The hegumen, seeing his weakened body, would not at once agree to accept him, fearing that the difficulties of monastic life would be too much for him. Nikon thereupon, falling down at the crypt of the Monk Savva, began as though to one alive beseeching him to take him into his monastery. The hegumen relented and tonsured Nikon with the name Nikandr.
      The Monk Nikandr lived through many a temptation and woe on the straitened path of asceticism. Blessed Nikolai (Comm. 28 February) while still at Pskov foretold him about the "wilderness sufferings". Through the prayers of all the Pskov Saints and the Monk Alexander of Svirsk (Comm. 30 August and 17 April), who twice appeared to him, guiding and strengthening him, and with the help of the grace of God, he overcame all the manifold snares of the evil one. By the power of prayer the monk conquered the weakness of flesh, human failings and diabolical apparitions. One time robbers nearly killed him, running off with the hermit's sole and very precious possessions – his books and icons. Through the prayers of the saint, two of them, taking fright at the sudden death of one of their comrades, repented of their wicked deeds and received forgiveness from the starets-elder.
      The Monk Nikandr did not long live at the Krypetsk monastery, and with a blessing he returned to his own wilderness. Afterwards he once again came to live at the Krypetsk monastery, where he fulfilled the obediences of rubrics-regulator and cellerer of supplies, and then thereafter again he went off into the wilderness and lived there in fasting and prayer, meditating the Word the God. Once a year during Great Lent the Monk Nikandr came to the Damianov monastery, where he made his confession and communed the Holy Mysteries of Christ. Eight years before his end he accepted there the monastic great-schema. Many people began to come to the monk "for benefit", since in the words of the Monk John of the Ladder, "monastic life is a light for all mankind". Believers turned to the Monk Nikandr for prayerful help, since the Lord had bestown on him many gifts of grace. The wilderness-dweller with love and concern had regard for all the needs of the visitors and he even built for them for night-lodging "the guest-house at the oak", and which he provided heat for. The monk did not permit himself to show off his spiritual gifts. Going secretly to his cell, people always heard that he prayed with bitter weeping. And he, perceiving the people nearby, immediately began entreaty, concealing from them the gift of tears that he had received.
      The Monk Nikandr to the end of his life remained a wilderness-dweller (and thus they praise him as "Monk Nikandr the Wilderness-Dweller"), but he gave final instructions that after his death the place of his ascetic efforts not be forsaken, promising his protection to the settlers of a future monastery. The monk gave final directions to the deacon Peter of the Porkhov women's monastery to build a church at his grave and transfer thither the icon of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Mother of God from the Tishanka church-cemetery. He foresaw his own death, predicting that he would die when enemies invaded the fatherland, and foretelling them of this immanent assault. On 24 September 1581, during the time of invasion by the army of the Polish king Stefan Bathory, a certain peasant found the monk dead: he lay on his cot with hands in cruciform position. From Pskov came out clergy and people who revered the monk, and among whom was also the deacon Peter, and they performed the rite of Christian burial.
      In 1584 at the graced place of the ascetic deeds of the Monk Nikandr, sanctified by his almost half-century of prayer, there was built a monastery, which they began to call the Nikandrov wilderness-monastery. The builder of this monastery was the monk Isaii (Isaiah), who had been healed through prayer to the saint. Under Patriarch Joakim  in 1696 occurred the glorification of the Monk Nikandr and the feastdays in his memory were established for 24 September, the day of his repose, and on the temple feast of the monastery – the Annunciation of the Most Holy Mother of God. During a reconstruction of the monastery cathedral church the relics of the Monk Nikandr were discovered, concealed in a wall: 29 June is celebrated as the day of the uncovering of his venerable relics. And at present strong bonds of prayers connect believers with the Monk Nikandr, whom they deeply venerate in the Pskov lands.

© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.

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The Monk Nikandr
of Pskov

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