26 February 2008

Life of Our Blessed Father Theodosius

I love all of the Russian Saints' Lives, but this one is particularly dear to me. I'm going to make a pilgrimage to the Monastery of the Caves (Киево-Печерская лавра) one day.
"He did not draw near to the children playing, as is the custom of youth, but disdained their games. His clothing was poor and patched. For this reason his parents many times tried to force him to dress in clean clothing and to go out and play with the children; but he did not obey them in this, but willed even more to be like one of the poor."
oh-em-gee he recognizes that the judgment of his parents is fallible no waiiii.
"Thenceforth he began to be more persevering in his works, as when he would go away with the serfs to the country and act with all manner of humility. But his mother would hinder him, not wishing him to do such things..."
Wait what? His mother doesn't have his best interest in mind?
"She would often get angry at him and beat him; for she was strong and solid in body as a man, and, indeed, if someone could not see her but only hear her conversing, he would begin to think she was a man."
Slavic women for the win.
"Having gotten up during the night and not letting anyone know, secretly went out of the house, not taking with him anything except the clothing he was wearing, and even that was poor. And in that manner he went away behind the pilgrims. ... After three days his mother, having found out... rode hurriedly a long way, and, catching up with them, took Theodosius. And from rage and anger his mother grasped him by the hair and threw him upon the ground and kicked him with her feet. And, having severely reproached the pilgrims, she returned home leading her son tied like a villain."
A few months prior to this his father died. See what happens in the absence of a strong father figure?
"Being gripped by such great anger, even when they had arrived home, she beat him until she could no longer. And after this she led him to a room, tied him up, and locked the door as she left. The divine youth, however, accepted all these things with joy, and praying to God, gave thanks."
He's thirteen here, by the way.
"She... began with entreaty to persuade him not to run away from her, for she loved him very much more than her other children and for this reason could not bear living without him. And when he promised that he would not leave her, she removed the irons from his legs."
Love. Right.
"Having again seen him baking sacramental wafers and becoming blackened from the fire in the oven, she deplored it greatly. And from that time she began again to scold him, sometimes with caresses, sometimes with terror, and at other times beating him to make him forsake such work."
When you're beating your eldest son for baking the fucking Eucharist, the problem is probably with you.
"The blessed Theodosius, having gone to one of the smithies, ordered him to forge an iron chain; and taking it, he girded his loins with it and went about thus. And although the iron was tight and gnawed into his body, he remained as though his body were suffering no injury from it. ... And so while he was dressing himself in the clean garment, being simple in mind and not minding her presence, she was carefully watching, wishing to see more clearly; and lo, she saw on his undergarment blood, which came from the gnawing of the iron. Having become excited with anger against him and having risen with rage and torn apart the undergarment on him, beating him, she removed the iron from his loins."
Is it manly to take this many beatings from your mother?
"Then the elder went out and said to her: 'I have pleaded with him much, but he does not deign to come out to thee.' Thenceforth she began not to speak to the elder with humility, but cried out with anger: 'So! Thou art the monk who has taken my son and hidden him in a cave and thou dost not want to show him to me. Bring my son out to me, monk, so that I may see him; for if I do not see him, I cannot bear to remain alive. ... For lo, I will kill myself before the doors of this cave if thou dost not show him to me.'"
Shut the fuck uuup. Why didn't you let her, Antonius? Why?
"But the blessed one said to her: 'Then if thou wishest to see me every day, come to this city, and having entered one of the nunneries, take the veil. ... If thou dost not do this, then I tell thee the truth: from this time forth thou wilt not see my face.'"
Finally, Theo grows a pair!
"The two younger princes started fighting with their elder brother, the religious Iziaslav, and forced him out of the capital city of Kiev. When the two brothers entered Kiev they sent for venerable Abbot Theodosius... Abbot Theodosius, who knew of the injustice accorded to Iziaslav, and being inspired by the Holy Ghost, gave an answer according to the Holy Spirit. 'I shall not go to the feast of Jezebel and taste the fruit of murder covered with blood.'"
So the Russians wrote a Bildungsroman eight centuries before the Germans figured it out... of course, in the Russian 11th century version, the protagonist attains badassery instead of self-fulfillment. I think it's pretty clear which is the superior genre (not that this is fiction).