The Elder Sebastian of Optina
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 Sebastian (1884-1966) was the devoted disciple of Elders Joseph and Nektary. After the closure of Optina Monastery in 1923 and the repose of Elder Nektary in 1928, he was forced to share the lot of crucified Orthodox Russia. He suffered arrest and imprisonment in 1933 and was sentenced to ten years hard labor in the Karaganda concentration camp in Kazakhstan. He emerged from this trial by fire spiritually unscathed and fully prepared for the labor that God's Providence had in store for him--to transplant the essence of what he had gained in Optina into the hearts of the exiles and former prisoners of Kazakhstan. He created a community of believers, uniting them with bonds of love, and stood up to the Godless authorit! ies, even gaining their grudging respect. Elder Sebastian instilled deep peace into the souls of his spiritual children, enabling them to rise in soul above the dehumanizing atmosphere of soviet society. He was exacting in all things, but first of all towards himself, and had the lofty gift of spiritual discernment. A longsuffering bearer of the profound vision of Optina's monastic tradition, he kept it alive through decades of communist persecution. This volume, collected from the eyewitness accounts of the Elder's spiritual children, is a testament to the victory of true Christianity, gained through the conscious bearing of the Cross. It will serve as a support for the Christians of the 21st century, as we face an uncertain future.
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