It was ten years later, in 1993, when Fr Tikhon became abbot of the residence in Moscow of the Pskov Caves Monastery.

There was an old lady, Valentina Konovalova, who suffered pain in her eyes. She asked Fr Tikhon to relate to Fr John the elder, to bless her for a small operation on her eyes.

Strangely, Fr John was adamant that Valentina must not go for a surgical operation, but should wait the pain out. Fr John confided to Fr Tikhon that if Valentina were to be operated on, she would die.

Fr Tikhon went back and told Valentina about Fr John’s instructions. But Valentina seemed to have gone berserk, and said that the operation was merely a small routine one.

A couple of days later, when Fr Tikhon was going to inform Valentina about some vacation packages, Valentina’s assistant told Fr Tikhon that she was going into operation. Apparently, a nun who was also a doctor, persuaded Valentina to go against the advice of Fr John.

As it turned out, Valentina went into a major stroke and became paralyzed during what was said to be a routine surgery. Upon learning about the plight of Valentina, Fr John was nearly in tears, and told Fr Tikhon that when he said something, there was a reason behind it. Fr John would not say anything lightly.

When Valentina saw Fr Tikhon, she cried. She could no longer speak or move. Fr Tikhon gave her absolution and communion. The next day, she reposed.

Whenever we face difficulties, God gifts us with subtle signs for us to discern and obey. Whenever we become meek, still, and prayerful, our beings become more able to discern what God intends for us. Then we walk the path God lovingly laid before us. These paths are not easy or painless paths, because Christ our Lord admonished us that being a Christian is no walk in the park (St Matthew 7:14).

And when we are gifted with confessors and elders, we learn to recognize what a unique gift God has given us, for such holy blessed ones are few and far between. When our elders instruct us, they talk not as mere wise old men, but as blessed ones who can discern the Will of God for our sake (1 Peter 1:14).

When the dark clouds of our own passions and the lures of the evil one delude us often as we walk in the world, always remember that our Lord and Christ has conquered all things and gifted us with the vehicle of eternal life (St John 14:6).

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

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