Saints that Overcame Delusion

This section presents the Saints, about whom it is known that they were in some way deceived by the Devil or had fallen into madness, and then came out of this state. It can be assumed that for this reason, these Saints have God's grace to free man from delusion of a somewhat greater extent than the other Saints.

Saint Silouan the Athonite

Archimandrite Sofronii. "Saint Silouan, the Athonite".

Commemorated on September 11, old style / September 24, new style

St. Silouan, the Athonite

I myself was twice deluded. Once the enemy showed me light and the thought tempted me: Accept what you see, it proceeds from grace. Another rime I accepted a vision and suffered greatly on that account. Once, at the end of Matins when the choir were singing 'Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord,' I heard King David in heaven singing the praises of God. I was standing in the choir and it seemed to me that there was neither roof nor dome, and that I was looking at the open sky. I spoke of this to four men of God but not one of them told me that the enemy had made mock of me, while myself I thought that devils could not be singing the praises of God, therefore my vision could not be from the enemy. But I was beguiled by vanity and began to see devils again. Then I knew that I had been deceived, and I made full disclosure to my confessor and asked him for his prayers; and because of his prayers I am now saved and ever beseech the Lord to grant me the spirit of humility. And were I to be asked what would I have of God - what gifts I should answer: 'The spirit of humility in which the Lord rejoices above all things." Because of her humility the Virgin Mary became the Mother of God, and is glorified in heaven and on earth above all others. She committed herself wholly to God's will. 'Behold the handmaid of the Lord,' she said. And we must all try to do likewise.

Saint Nicetas of the Kiev Caves Got over Delusion

Living of Saint Nicetas of the Kiev Caves, Bishop of Novgorod.

Commemorated on January 31, old style/ Febriary 13, new style and April 30, old style/ May 13, new style

St. Nicetas of the Kiev Caves

Those whose life is passed in small and modest efforts become free of dangers and have no need of special precautions. By always conquering desires they readily find the way leading to God. St. Anthony the Great 4th c.

Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light (II Cor. 11:14)

In this age of widespread spiritual indifference, a soul zealous to ascend the ladder of perfection is indeed worthy of praise. Zeal, however, must be accompanied by a profound sobriety and humility, else the soul --instead of rising to heavenly heights--will fall into a pit of vainglory, for the cunning enemy of our salvation is able to use our strengths, as well as our weaknesses, in trying to bring us to perdition. The Lives of two monks, Isaac (Feb. 14) and Nikita. from the early history of the Kiev-Caves Lavra, are often cited as examples of the spiritual deception which can blind a soul whose zeal lacks the safeguards of sobriety and humility.

St. Nikita was tonsured in the Kiev-Caves Lavra. Very early in his monastic life he secluded himself in a cave. His decision to become a recluse was based on inexperience and was contrary to the will of the saintly abbot Nikon who refused to bless such an undertaking:

"My son! at your age such a life will not benefit you. You would do much better to remain with the brethren. In laboring together with them you will surely gain your reward. You yourself saw how our brother Isaac was seduced by the demons in his seclusion and would have perished had he not been saved by the grace of God through the prayers of our holy fathers Anthony and Theodosius ."

"Never, my father," replied Nikita, ",will I be deceived. I am resolved firmly to withstand the demonic temptations, and I shall pray to the man-loving God that He grant me the gift of working miracles as He did to the recluse Isaac who, to this day, continues to perform many miracles through his prayers ."

"Your desire exceeds your powers. Take heed, my son, that you do not fall on account of your high-mindedness. I would enjoin you rather to serve the brethren, and God will crown you for your obedience."

Saint Isaac the Recluse

Saint Isaac the Recluse of the Kiev Caves.

Commemorated on February 14.

Saint Isaac was the first person in northern lands to live as a fool for Christ. His name in the world was Chern. Before becoming a monk, he was a rich merchant in the city of Toropets in the Pskov lands. Having distributed all his substance to the poor, he went to Kiev and received the monastic tonsure from St Anthony (July 10).

He led a very strict life of reclusion, eating only a single prosphora and a little water at the end of the day. After seven years as a hermit, he was subjected to a fierce temptation by the devil. Having mistaken the Evil One for Christ, he worshipped him, after which he fell down terribly crippled. Sts Anthony and Theodosius took care of him and nursed him. Only after three years did he begin to walk and to speak. He did not wish to attend church, but he was brought there by force.

Upon his return to health he took upon himself the exploit of holy foolishness, enduring beatings, nakedness and cold. Before his death he went into seclusion, where again he was subjected to an onslaught of demons, from which he was delivered by the Sign of the Cross and by prayer.

After his healing he spent about twenty years in asceticism. He died in the year 1090. His relics rest in the Caves of St Anthony, and part of them were transferred to Toropets by the igumen of the Kudin monastery in the year 1711. The Life of the Blessed Isaac was recorded by St Nestor in the Chronicles (under the year 1074). The account in the Kiev Caves Paterikon differs somewhat from that of St Nestor. In the Great Reading Menaion under April 27 is the "Account of St Isaac and his Deception by the Devil."

Hieromartyrs Theodore and Basil of the Kiev Caves

Living of Hieromartyrs Theodore and Basil of the Caves.

Commemorated on August 11 old style / August 24 new style.

The Hieromartyrs Theodore and Basil of the Caves pursued asceticism in the eleventh century in the Near Caves of Kiev. St Theodore distributed his riches to the poor, went to the monastery and settled into the Varangian Cave, adjoining the Caves of St Theodosius. He dwelt here many years in strict temperance.

When the enemy aroused sorrow in him for giving away his possessions, St Basil comforted him: "I implore you, brother Theodore, do not forget the reward. If you want to have possessions, take everything that is mine." St Theodore repented and dearly loved St Basil, with whom he lived in the cell.

Once, St Basil was on an errand outside the monastery for three months. The devil, having assumed his form, appeared to St Theodore and indicated that there was a treasure hidden somewhere in the cave by robbers. The monk still wanted to leave the monastery to buy possessions to live in the world. When St Basil returned, the demonic illusion disappeared. From that time, St Theodore started to be more attentive to himself. In order not to be distracted by idle thoughts during moments of inactivity, he set up a millstone, and by night he ground grain. Thus, by long and zealous ascetic action he freed himself from the passion of avarice.

A report reached Prince Mstislav Svyatopolkovich that St Theodore had found much treasure in the cave. He summoned the monk to him and commanded him to show him the spot where the valuables were hidden. St Theodore told the prince that indeed he had once seen gold and precious vessels in the cave, but fearing temptation, he and St Basil had buried the treasure, and God took from him the memory of where it was hidden.

Not believing the saint, the prince gave orders to torture him to death. They beat St Theodore so much, that his hair-shirt was wet with blood, and then they hung him head-downwards, lighting a fire beneath him. In a drunken condition the prince commanded them to torture St Basil also, and then to kill him with an arrow. Dying, the martyr Basil threw the arrow at the feet of Prince Mstislav and predicted that he himself would soon be mortally wounded by it. The prophecy was fulfilled on July 15, 1099 during an internecine war with David Igorevich. On the wall of the Vladimir fortress, Prince Mstislav was suddenly struck in the chest by an arrow through an opening in the timbers, and on the following night he died. Recognizing his own arrow, the prince said: "I die because of the monastic martyrs Basil and Theodore."

Living of Saint Niphon the Wonderworker

Living of Saint Niphon the Wonderworker

Commemorated on December 23, old style / January 5, new style.

St. Niphon of the Cyprus

Niphon was born in Paphlagonia and brought up in Constantinople at the court of a commander [Sabbatius]. Falling into evil company, the young Niphon became dissolute and gave himself over to many sins and vices. Because of his sin, he could not even pray to God. By the mercy of the Most-holy Theotokos, he was brought back to the path of righteousness and was tonsured a monk. He had numerous visions of the heavenly world, and for four years he endured a difficult struggle with a demon, who constantly whispered to him: ``There is no God! There is no God!'' But, when the Lord Jesus Himself appeared to him alive on an icon, Niphon received great power over evil spirits and was freed from these grievous temptations. He was such a great seer that he saw angels and demons around men just as clearly as he saw men themselves, and he knew the thoughts of men. He often spoke with angels and disputed with demons. He built a church to the Most-holy Theotokos in Constantinople, gathered monks together, and saved many souls. Alexander, the Archbishop of Alexandria, according to a revelation from heaven, consecrated him bishop of the town of Constantia on Cyprus. At that time St. Niphon was already old. He governed well the Church of God for a short time and took up his habitation in Christ's Eternal Kingdom. Before his death he was visited by St. Athanasius the Great, then the archdeacon of the Church in Alexandria, and after his death he was seen by Athanasius, his face shining as the sun.

Saint Iakovos

Living of Saint Iakovos.

Commemorated on June 13 old style / June 26 new style

Saint Iakovos had such love for Christ, and so little regard for the things of this world, that he liquidated his entire estate and gave the proceeds to the poor without spending any of the money on himself. He gave himself over to a life of poverty, fasting and prayer. His life won him the praise of the people. Later, instead of closing his ears to this praise, he fell into a demonic temptation and became very proud. He would say, "Who knows better than I do, concerning my own salvation?" Following his own self-will and personal preferences, he lived in solitude and undertook difficult struggles without first seeking the advice of wise and experienced ascetics. This was diagnosed to be his downfall.

While in solitude with a puffed up ego, a demon appeared to him in the guise of an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). He told Iakovos that Christ was very pleased by his labors and that he was an equal of the Apostle Paul, and therefore he would come that night to reward him. "Clean your cell," the demon said, "and make ready by lighting the lamps and burning incense."

The foolish Iakovos, in his delusion, accepted all of this without question. When Satan came at midnight, Iakovos opened his door and fell down in worship before him. Satan mocked him and struck him on the head, then vanished after Iakovos made the sign of the Cross.

Iakovos fell into despair and at dawn went to visit a certain Elder to tell him what had happened. Before Iakovos could speak a single word, the Elder said, "You must leave this place, for you have been deceived by Satan."

Iakovos was heartbroken and wept bitter tears. The Elder also advised him to go to a cenobitic monastery, which he did. There he fulfilled his obedience in the trapeza with great humility and obedience. Then for seven years he sat in his cell working at some handicraft, and fulfilling his Rule of prayer.

St. Iakovos acquired the gift of discernment, learned the straight and narrow path of God, and became a great wonderworker for being an example of humility. He completed the course of his life in peace.