The prophetic gift of clairvoyance, which distinguished so many saints and ascetics in ages past, is rarely manifest today. Nevertheless, even in this age of impoverished faith there are those who have been found worthy of the prophet's mantle. Such as Schema-Archimandrite Lavrenty (Laurence) of the Chernigov-Trinity Convent.
With his illumining gift of clairvoyance, he proved a sure guide for hundreds of monastics and laity struggling to find their way through the manifest entanglements of these last and difficult times.
Schema-Archimandrite Lavrenty, in the world Luke Evseevich Proskura, was born in 1868 in the region of Chernigov. His parents were simple peasants. Of their seven children, Luke was among the youngest. He had a difficult childhood; his mother was often bed-ridden and, after his father died, the boy had to manage both a man's and a woman's chores.
Luke was a good student. He was especially gifted in music; he sang and played the violin. Children at that time were taught to sing in church, and here Luke found his element. He quickly learned not only the notes but also the structure of the services and soon grasped the intricacies of the typicon. He was only fourteen when he became a choir director. It was a talent which he continued to exercise for the rest of his life.
He was still young when he felt drawn to the monastic life, and he inspired a number of his friends with the same desire. Respecting his mother's wish, he waited until she died before entering a monastery. At the age of 23 he was numbered among the brethren of the Rikhla Monastery, where he fulfilled his obedience as choir director. His outstanding musical capabilities brought him to the attention of Archbishop Anthony, who requested his transfer to the Chernigov- Trinity Monastery. The archbishop not only appreciated Luke's talent; he also foresaw that the young monk would become a great man of prayer. The abbot and brethren were jealous: "What is this. Luke, always Luke. As if there's no one else." "This is not an ordinary Luke," replied the bishop, "but one whose counsel will be in demand.'' This indeed came to pass.
There in the Trinity Monastery he was tonsured and given the name Lavrenty. He was ordained a hieromonk in 1895, and then raised to the rank of hegumen. Always joyful, his face radiated the love he felt for everyone. This love was the fruit of prayer to which he had accustomed himself at an early age.
Fr. Lavrenty's niece, Evfrosinia, related that once, when he came for a visit to his village, it was a feastday, and after serving in the village church he came back soaking wet. "It's difficult for you to work the soil, but it's just as difficult for us to pray for everyone. We also perspire a good deal."
He encouraged girls from the village to sing in the parish choir. With his keen spiritual insight he sensed which girl was inclined towards monasticism; he would pray for her, invite her to sing, nurture a love for prayer. In this way his flock began to grow. Secretly he gave these girls cassocks and prayer ropes; he taught them to sing and read in church, and found them jobs.
Times changed. Churches were closed "for repair" (1930) and everyone was advised to leave. Batiushka found temporary lodging in the home of a pious widow. There he gave himself to fasting and prayer. Only at night could his spiritual children knock at Batiushka's window. He did not receive everyone, but with his gift of clairvoyance he knew beforehand who should come to him and
When the war began, Batiushka gathered his monastic children and established a women's Trinity convent where there had been a men's monastery. Later he established a second convent, the Domnitsky.
Batiushka loved all kind of work. When extensive repairs were being made at the convent, he participated everywhere: he instructed the workers and the foremen, whether they were making partitions, laying a floor, replacing a roof When the foremen complained that the boards were bad, Batiushka replied, "They'll do for twenty years, and then we'll see what God's wills."
It happened that they had to work with stucco in bad weather. The material froze and they were unable to do the job. Just then Batiushka approached. He made the sign of the cross and the material became pliable and the rest of the job proceeded smoothly.
In wartime, during the German occupation, rye was sown on the monastery fields. The land was appropriated and partitioned, and the authorities would not let them bring in the harvest. The nuns went to the office to complain, but they were roughly turned away without being given a chance to speak. The stewardess of the convent returned in tears and went to share her grief with the elder. The next morning he blessed her to go again to the office, bidding her not to speak with anyone along the way. Trusting in the elder's prayers, the nun approached the same authorities. This time they were very obliging, and gave permission for the harvesting of the rye. The nun returned, delighted, and told Batiushka of the amazing change in the attitude of the personnel. He smiled. "You see. When a person is wicked he has a demon within, but when you pray, the demon scampers away, and the person becomes kind and good."
When the Elder was still a youth and lived at home, he told his sister-in-law, Maria, "It's so difficult for a Christian to live in this world. The devil doesn't give him any peace. I'll be walking along in the evening, and he'll be right beside me. Then I cross myself and make the sign of the cross on everything around me, and he backs away. Then again he draws near."
Elder Lavrentv acquired some skill as a tailor and often worked on orders at people's homes. "I was sitting, sewing, and 'he' (a demon) was lying under the table. I couldn't tolerate it any longer, and said to the man of the house, "Do you see who is lying under the table?" "Who?" asked the man, frightened. 'A demon. Don't you see him?"
Even before becoming a monk, Fr. Lavrenty had acquired the practice of the Jesus Prayer, and he encouraged others to develop the same habit. One of his spiritual daughters, Nun M., relates:
'I worked among well-educated people There was a lot of work, mental work. In conversation with Batiushka he asked me if I do the Jesus Prayer at work. I replied -- 'No.' 'You must,' he said sternly. His words made no sense to me. I wanted to object: in such a busy place this was not possible. But, humbling down, I began to develop the habit, and, by the Elder's prayers, in time I reproached myself for being so obstinate. "Where God so wills, the laws of nature are overturned."
Another spiritual daughter, I.M., told the following about the power of his prayers:
'I often asked Batiushka to pray for my father who hadn't partaken of the Holy Mysteries for a long time. He said merely that he was repenting'. One morning, however, he got up and said, 'I must receive Holy Communion. Someone is praying for me.' That night he had had a dream 'It was as if I were lying in a grave with earth on top of me. There came a priest who began to dug me out and said, "Get up, Ivan'." And I arose.'
Later that same year the man died. Here is yet another example.
The Second World War began. A man received a summons to go to the front, and came to Elder Lavrenty for a blessing. The elder was quite ill but received the man nevertheless. "When I came in, Batiushka rose from his bed and blessed me. He then put on his epitrachelion, prayed, and said, "Always be with God, and your Guardian Angel will be with you; with his wings he will protect you from bullets on all sides. Do not doubt, and do not be afraid. Try not to be captured by the enemy, because people perish there Everywhere be first in helping your neighbor. If your comrades object, tell them these are your orders. Most importantly — don't be afraid. Nothing will happen to you."
'I was bewildered by the elder's words and only hoped in his holy prayers and likewise m God's mercy and His almighty power towards me. a weak and sinful man. When we were sent into battle, I felt an extraordinary, wonder-working power over me. There was gunfire everywhere bullets -- like rain. I crawled around boldly, carting the wounded to the first-aid station, willingly helping my comrades, and nothing happened to me. I went through the whole war without once being wounded, not even a scratch...'
The Elder's power of prayer was often united with his gift of clairvoyance. The God-fearing M. relates:
"My mother became gravely ill -- her lungs. and no one had any hope left for her recovery. Everything was being prepared for her death. My father sent me to Elder Lavrenty. I went, and with tears told him of our grief. He listened, his head bowed, and then consoled me, saying, "No, your mother will not die. She will live a long time yet: she will even outlive your father." And truly. through the Elder's holy prayers, my mother got well and lived to the age of 90.'
A young woman came to Fr. Lavrenty for his blessing to enter a convent; many of her friends had received such a blessing. But Fr. Lavrenty looked at her and said, "Get married." She began to object and wouldn't agree. Then who," asked the Elder, "will give birth to priests and bishops?" His prophetic words were fulfilled. The woman married and had a son who became an archpriest.
One mother came to Fr. Lavrenty complaining that she hadn't heard from her son in a long time. The Elder told her that she wouldn't have time to reach home before receiving a letter, and said, "Know that a mother's prayers will not burn in a fire nor drown in water." As the woman was returning home, the postman met her on the street and gave her a letter.
E., a woman of strong faith, describes another case of the Elder's clairvoyance:
"During the war I received news that my son had been killed. I decided to have him commemorated, but I had a dream in which my son contradicted me and said, "Don't, mother." I came to Batiushka with my doubts, to ask what I should do. He said it was not necessary to have my son commemorated. "You are bound to receive more news from him. But if you receive a second notice, then have him commemorated."
"And so it came to pass. Not long afterwards my son wrote that he had been wounded, and that now he was again being sent to the front and didn't know if he would return. He was killed. A second notice arrived, as the Elder had foretold. In tears I again want to see Batiushka. He blessed me to have a funeral served. As I left I met two women who were hurrying to the Elder. Curious, I stopped and heard Batiushka's voice: "What do you take me for, a fortune-teller? I'm not a fortune-teller. I don't know anything. Go, finish eating your fritters with sour cream and don't bother me." "But I want to know about my husband," said one of the women. "I don't know anything," answered Batiushka sternly, and closed the door. I later found out that one of these women was not a believer at all and had indeed gone to the Elder as to a fortune-teller; she even called him that. She had baked some fritters and taken some sour cream, but decided to eat them along the way, thinking to herself, 'What will he know. I'll eat them myself." But Batiushka saw through everything and didn't receive her."
The Elder often liked to converse with his beloved spiritual children about the end times, about how one must be vigilant. "Today we vote - that's all right; it's still not for a single leader over the whole world. But if a vote should be taken for one -- this is already [the antichrist] and one mustn't vote." He also said: "The war will be such that no one will remain anywhere, only in the ravines.'
He said there will remain only two or three governments, and they will say: "Let us choose for ourselves one king over the whole world”.
"In the last times they will banish the true Christians; then let the old and feeble at least grab onto a wheel and run after them.
Batiushka often repeated his talks about antichrist: "The time will come when they will petition for one king on earth. And people will be strictly registered. [The census takers] will come into the house, and the wife will begin to persuade her husband: 'Come, husband, let's sign up. After all, we have children, else we won't be able to buy anything for them.' And the husband will say: 'Dear wife, do as you please, but I am ready to die rather than sign up with Antichrist.' .... Such a moving picture of the future," concluded the elder.
"The time will come," said Fr. Lavrenty, "when they will renovate even the closed churches, and fix them up not only outside but also inside. They wilt gild the cupolas of both churches and belfries. But when this is finished, it will usher in the reign of antichrist. Pray that the Lord grant us an extension of time that we might strengthen ourselves, because a frightful time awaits us. Do you see bow craftily everything is being prepared? All the churches will be absolutely magnificent, as never before, but one must not go into those churches. Antichrist will be crowned like a king in a grand cathedral in Jerusalem, with the participation of the clergy and the Patriarch.
"There will be free access, both in and out of Jerusalem for everyone. But try not to go there then, because everything will be done in order to deceive.
"Antichrist will be born of a harlot -- a Jewess from the twelfth tribe "of debauchery". While still a youth he will be very capable and smart, especially after he, as a boy of twelve, walking with his mother in the garden, meets satan, who will come from the very depths and enter into him. The boy will shudder with fright, but satan will say: 'Do not be afraid, I will help you.' And this boy will mature into Antichrist in human form. At his coronation, when the Symbol of Faith is read, he will not allow it to be read correctly; where the words describe Jesus Christ as the Son of God, he will renounce this and acknowledge only himself And then the Patriarch will exclaim that this is Antichrist, and for this he will be killed...
"The prophets Enoch and Elijah will come from heaven, and they, too, will explain to all the people and cry out: 'This is Antichrist, do not believe him.' And he will kill them, but they will resurrect and fly into heaven.
"Antichrist will be very knowledgeable in all manner of satanic cunning, and he will make false signs. The whole world will hear and see him. He will "stamp" all of "his people" with a mark. He will despise all Christians. There will begin the final persecution of the Christian soul which refuses the mark of satan.
"Persecution will begin immediately on the soil of Jerusalem, and then everywhere in the world blood will be spilled for the name of our Redeemer Jesus Christ Many of you, my children, will live to this frightful time.
"The mark will be such that it will be immediately apparent whether a person has received it or not. The Christian will not be able to buy or sell anything. But do not despair. The Lord will not abandon His children. One mustn't fear!
"There will be churches, but Orthodox Christians must not go into them, because the Bloodless Sacrifice of Jesus Christ will not be offered there; instead, there will be satanic gatherings. And because of this lawlessness the earth will cease to bring forth fruit; from drought the land will crack, forming such crevices that a person could fall [into them].
They will kill Christians or banish them to desert places. The Jews will also be chased into one place. Some Jews, who truly lived according to Moses' law, will not accept the mark of Antichrist. They will wait and observe his deeds. They know that their ancestors did not recognize Christ as the Messiah, but here, God will grant their eyes to be opened and they will not accept the mark of Antichrist but will acknowledge Christ and will reign with Christ.
'But the entire feeble populace will go after satan, and when the earth will produce no harvest people will come to him with the request to give them bread, but he will answer: 'The land does not give any grain. I can't do anything.'
"There will likewise be no water; all the rivers and lakes will dry up. This disaster will last for three and a half years. But for the sake of His chosen, the Lord will shorten those days. In those days there will still be strong warriors, Orthodox pillars, who will be under the powerful influence of the Jesus Prayer. The Lord will cover them with His almighty grace, and they will not see those false signs which will be prepared for all people.
"Again, I repeat, one mustn't go into those churches; they will be devoid of grace."
Hearing this discussion, one sister asked: "What's to become of us? I don't want to live to see that time." "But you are young and can live until then," said the Elder. "How terrifying!" exclaimed the sister. "Choose one of the two -- either the earthly or the heavenly." [Fr. Lavrenty]
"There will be a war," continued Batiushka, "and where it takes place no people will remain. But before this, the Lord will send weak people minor sicknesses, and they will die. During the time of Antichrist, however, there will be no death.'
"The third World War will be not for repentance, but for destruction." A sister asked: Then all will perish?" "No, if believers are washed with blood they will be joined to the ranks of martyrs, but the non-believers will go to hell," replied Batiushka. "And until the number of fallen angels is restored, the Lord will not come to judge.
"But in the last time [i.e., at the very end I the Lord will add to the number of angels from those living who are written in the Book of Life, in order to make up the number of the fallen.
"The restoration of churches will continue up to the very coming of antichrist, and everywhere one will see unprecedented magnificence," said Batiushka. But be moderate in your renovation of our church, its exterior. Rather, pray more, go to church while there is still time, especially for Liturgy, during which the Bloodless Sacrifice is offered for the sins of the whole world. Confess and partake of the Body and Blood of Christ more often, and the Lord will strengthen you."
Batiushka spoke with a certain hierodeacon (George) about the last times, his face covered with bitter tears, and said: "Many clergy will perish at the time of Antichrist." Fr. George said: "How can I not perish, for I am a deacon? Batiushka said: "I don't know." Fr. Deacon began to weep, fell to Batiushka's feet and asked him to pray that he might escape hell. Batiushka arose, prayed, and said: "All right. It happens that a person gets sick, dies and enters the Kingdom of Heaven."
And this prophecy was fulfilled. We knew this deacon from the Kiev Caves Lavra. He was active in doing good and a singer; all of a sudden he fell ill and soon died.
Batiushka often grieved and tearfully prayed or related something with tears. The sisters comforted him, but he objected: "How is one not to weep when the abyss is full of people's souls
After an illness of a few months, Elder Lavrenty reposed on the Feast of Theophany, 1950. as he himself as foretold. His body remained in the lower church for forty days. One of the nuns related how at three o'clock in the morning she clearly heard the singing of a many-voiced choir She, ran into the cell where the reposed was lying but found that all was quiet there; only a priest who was quietly reading the Gospel. Frightened, she, told him that she had heard singing. He was amazed and said that the soul of the reposed was being met in heaven by the angels (Translated and condensed from Nadezhda #14, pps 298-304)