Schema-hieromonk Theodosius of Karoulia

theodosious karoliaFather Theodosy (d. 1937) came from a religious family. He graduated from one of the seminaries in the region of the Volga, and later from the Kazan Theological Academy. As a government scholarship student, he was then obliged to serve for an appointed number of years as a seminary teacher. Where he became a monk, I do not recall. I know that after serving for several years as a hieromonk, he was awarded a gold pectoral cross. He was also an inspector of the seminary for some time. When it was about time for his obligatory service to come to an end, he was offered the rectorship of a seminary with the rank of archimandrite. In a short time he would have become a hierarch, but this Father Theodosy decisively refused. He was drawn by the desert and its inner spiritual activity. In the 1880’s, as soon as his obligatory service had ended, he handed in his resignation and went off to Athos.

On Athos he found himself in a rather difficult position. No Russian monastic community wanted to receive into the number of its brethren a learned hieromonk, and one with a gold pectoral cross at that! On Athos in those days they were opposed to accepting even simple monks from outside, and if they did, they would place them on a lesser standing than the most junior monk of their own community. And here was not only an educated monk, but one with a gold cross ! According to his rank, he should have been made senior to the tried local hieromonks who had labored on Athos for 25 or 30 years.

In a word, there was no place for the newcomer, either in the monasteries or in the sketes. Fr. Theodosy then turned to the kelliots and solitaries who lived in twos and threes in small cells scattered over the Holy Mountain. On Athos there were more than a hundred of these. But the kelliots were also reluctant to accept such an educated and experienced monk.

Finally, one hermit, an iconographer, agreed to accept Father Theodosy in the capacity of a simple novice. The latter humbly consented and became the Elder’s obedient servant. He cooked food for him, collected firewood and tidied up their dwelling. The Elder, by testing him severely, humbled him. In the presence of visitors, people who had come to buy icons, he would often shout at him: “Hey, you learned fool, put on the samovar for the guests,” and the like.

Thus passed several years. By his great humility and patience, Father Theodosy acquired the right to become an Athonite. However, he desired greater solitude and an even stricter ascetic life. Hugging a cliff high above the sea at the tip of Athos lies the area of Karoulia, noted for its severe lifestyle.There, living for the most part in caves, were some twenty exceptionally strict ascetics, They each lived separately, assembling only on Sundays and the Great Feasts for the divine services in a tiny church. The hermits had no abbot, but they had a spiritual father, an elder who lived near the church.

The Karoulian ascetics fasted strictly. During all the fasts they ate only bread and water on weekdays. On Saturdays and Sundays they would prepare hot foot, but without oil. They ate fish only on the Great Feasts, and only on Pascha did they eat a small colored egg and a piece of sheep’s cheese. Their food supplies, furnished by St. Panteleimon’ s Monastery, rarely arrived more than twice a month. To receive these supplies, the hermits let down a basket on a long rope over the rocks.
Moving about that part of Athos was difficult and dangerous. The paths were narrow, often no more than two feet wide, with an abyss of several hundred feet below. For safety’s sake ropes were stretched along the narrowest paths, especially in the slippery winter season. In this century the ropes were replaced by iron chains donated by a certain benefactor. I walked along these paths in 1926. It was frightening to look down; one’s breath was taken away at the sight of the void beneath.

It was in this desert place that Father Theodosy also lived, waiting in turn for the death of one of the inhabitants so that he could take possession of his cave. There also he received the Great Schema, with the name Theodosy, having already been a monk of the small schema for over twenty years.
karoulia hut 2
After the death of Karoulia’s elder, the hermits chose Father Theodosy to replace him as their spiritual father. Gradually other Athonite monks, and even abbots of the Russian monastic houses began to seek out his aid. (Before the First World War there were over a hundred monastic communities, large and small, on Athos. The number of Russian monks there at that time reached ten thousand.)
theodosious hut
Many began to correspond with Father Theodosy, seeking his counsel, and he made all possible efforts to answer them, imitating the renowned Russian recluse of the 19th century, Bishop Theophan of Vysha [with whom he had an active correspondence].

Father Theodosy led a very strict manner of life. He used to sleep no more than two or three hours a day, and oftentimes–even on feast days–he ate nothing at all.
theodosius karoulia
Schemamonk Elder Nikodim of Karoulia. Reposed +February 15/28, 1984. A disciple of, and here seen holding the skull of, his Elder, Hieroschemamonk Elder Theodosius of Karoulia.

Schemamonk Nikodim

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