The Elders of Optina Monastery have had a tremendous impact on Russian society, evoking a nationwide blossoming of sanctity. During the course of a century, their prophecy and God-illumined counsel attracted spiritual seekers from far and wide.
Elder Nektary (1853—1928) was the last elder to function as such at Optina. He was in Optina when it was forcibly closed by the communists in 1923, and spent his remaining years in exile from his spiritual home. He lived through a time of persecution worse than any other in the thousand-year history of the Russian Orthodox Church. At this time of immeasurable sorrow for Christian believers, God gave Elder Nektary to Russia as both a consoler of souls and a voice of prophecy.
Marked by simplicity, childlikeness, spontaneity and creativity, Elder Nektary radiated joy to the thousands of suffering souls who came to him. Having reached the summit of spiritual life, deification, he was beheld in Uncreated Light by his disciple, Fr. Adrian (Archbishop Andrew) Rymarenko. He passed on his Optina inheritance to many worthy disciples, who later transmitted it to America. Among these were Fr. Adrian, Bishop Nektary Kontzevitch, and the author I. M. Kontzevitch—all of whom were the preceptors of the American editors and publishers of this volume.
Through the eyewitness accounts of Elder Nektary's life contained in these pages, this "spiritual grandfather" of Orthodoxy in America can help to ground Orthodox converts in sober spirituality, rooted in unfeigned humility and repentance, which marks all true followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
PART I: THE PRIMA VITA OF ELDER NEKTARY
1. The Definition of Eldership
4. The End of Optina
6. Clairvoyance and Miraculous Help
PART II: THE LETTERS OF ELDER NEKTARY
PART III: A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF ELDER NEKTARY
1. The Young Monk
2. Elder ship (1911-1923)
3. The Sayings of Elder Nektary
4. Exile (1923-1927)
5. Last Days and Righteous Repose
6. The Uncovering of His Holy Relics
PART IV: A GATHERING OF WITNESSES
1. Glimpses into the Unseen World
2. The Wisdom of Foolishness For Christ's Sake
3. The Sermon
4. Conversion of a Spiritist
5. Preserving a Boy for Optina Transmission
6. Belev Convent
7. The Heavenly Chancery
8. Shamordino Convent
9. You Shall Have Many Children
10. An Evening Party
11. The Jesus Prayer
12. "Step by Step"
13. How to Retain a Confessive Life
14. The Mystery of Spiritual Searching
15. A Trip to Kholmishche
16. Movie Actor
17. The Power of Love
18. The Virtue of Patience
19. Parting With the Elder
20. In the Light of the Elder's Sunset
21. At the Grave