The Monk Nil of Sorsk

Commemorated on May 7

      The Monk Nil of Sorsk, a great ascetic of the Russian Church, was descended from the Maikov boyar-noble line. He accepted monasticism at the monastery of the Monk Kirill (Cyril) of Belozersk (Comm. 9 June). Here he made use of the counsels of the pious starets-elder Paisii Yaroslavov, who was afterwards hegumen of the Trinity-Sergiev Lavra. The Monk Nil journeyed much through the East, studying the monastic life in Palestine and at Athos. Returning to Rus', he withdrew to the River Sora in the Vologda lands, he made himself a cell and a chapel, where there soon grew up a monastery with a new for that time in Rus' skete monastic-rule, adopted from Athos by the Monk Nil. In accord with the command of the Monk Nil, the monks had to sustain themselves by the work of their own hands, to accept charity only in extreme need, and to shun the love of things and splendour even in church; women were not permitted in the skete monastery, monks was not allowed to leave the skete under any pretexts, and the possession of lands or estates was forbidden. Scattered about in the forest around the small church in honour of the Meeting (Sretenie) of the Lord, in separate cells of one or two but not more than three men, the skete-monks on the eve of Sundays and other feastdays gathered together a complete day for Divine-services, and the All-Night Vigil moreover, at which for each kathisma two or three readings from the holy fathers were put forth, and it indeed lasted the whole night. On other days each one prayed and worked in his own cell. The chief effort of the monk was devoted to the struggle with his own thoughts and passions, in result of which in his soul would be born peace, in his mind clarity, in his heart contriteness and love. In his written works "A Tradition for my Student, Wishing to Live in the Wilderness", and the "Ustav-Rule", the Monk Nil in detail spells out the steps of this salvific mental activity. The first step is a renunciation from the world, in particular, from every worldly distraction; the second is unceasing prayer, accompanied by the memory of death. In his own life the saint distinguished himself by his extreme non‑possessiveness and love for work. He himself dug out a pond and a well, the water of which had healing power. For his sanctity of life the Starets Nil was deeply venerated by the Russian hierarchs of his time. The monk participated in the Sobor-Councils of the years 1490 and 1503. Shunning the honours and glories of this world, before his death he bid his disciples either to cast out his body for devouring by beasts and birds or else bury it without honours at the place of his exploits. The saint died in his 76th year of life, on the day of 7 May 1508. His relics, buried in the monastery founded by him, were glorified by manifold mysteries. The Russian Church enumerated him to the rank of the Saints. [In English, fragments of his "Tradition" and "Ustav-Rule" may be found in G. Fedotov's "Treasury of Russian Spirituality".]

1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.

Close window

The Monk Nil of

Close window