December 11, 2021

The Glinsk Pustyn* as a place of God's special presence

On our earth there are truly amazing places filled with peace, joy and grace. Here a great beauty is revealed in human souls that have not lost communion with the Creator. Such a place is the Glinsk Hermitage — a stauropegial monastery for men located near the ancient town of Glukhov - Sumy region of Ukraine. 



Monk Theodotus


For more than four centuries the Glinsk Pustyn has been healing the soul of the people with the prayers of the Glinsk elders whose traditions are passed by word of mouth from generation to generation. The name of the first hermit who came to this picturesque area has not been preserved in Orthodox history. However, rumors of miracles attracted the attention of the monks from the monasteries located near the Putivl and Molchenskaya hermitages. They built a chapel here and they can rightfully be considered the pioneers of a new monastery which was most likely named after the owners of this land the Princes of Glinsky, natives of Lithuania.


An influential spiritual figure connecting the ancient ascetics of the monastery with the elders at the beginning of the 19th century was the monk Theodotus known as the renewer of the Glinsk Nativity of the Mother of God Cenobitic Hermitage who lived in the monastery for more than 70 years. He was a native of Glukhovo county of Chernigov province. He was from ordinary Cossacs and he was illiterate. At the age of 30 he visited the Glinsk Hermitage where he was assigned to the fraternal kitchen. The monk’s deed was unquestioning obedience, a spiritual condition which is salvific for a person. The reverent monk carried out everything he was entrusted with special zeal: he chopped wood, carried water, washed dishes, worked in the kitchen. All his work was accompanied by prayer which was a powerful source of life for him.


The brothers appreciated and respected monk Theodotus for his decency, diligence, long patience and pure heart. For these qualities the Most High gave him the ability to see the future. He was approached by people he always helped. Theodotus departed to the Lord at the age of about a hundred years. He became for everyone a vivid example of how at the end of life’s journey through work, unconditional obedience and prayer a person can go to the Kingdom of Heaven and find eternal rest.


Icon of the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God**



In the 16th century the Glinsk Pustyn was located at the intersection of two principalities, Moscow and Lithuania, while Ukraine was a part of the latter at that time. The relationship between them was not always going well. The appearance of the miraculous icon of the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God was a call to unity and love in Christ of brothers and sisters of the same Orthodox faith from different principalities. It happened in a dark forest when suddenly the peasants saw an icon on a pine tree. The icon was exuding incredible light. Water began to break through from the root of the tree. This is how a healing spring appeared, a place where people still come for help, for mental and physical ailments healing.


The miraculous icon of the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God which became the main shrine of the monastery was called the Glinskaya. It depicted the parents of the Mother of God, the holy righteous Joachim, Ann and the baby, the Blessed Virgin Mary in her mother’s arms. Over time the icon was dressed in a luxurious golden robe with gems. It was lavishly decorated by those who received miraculous healing from it.


No matter how many times they removed the icon from the pine tree or brought it to the church, each time it returned to its place. When the pine tree was cut down the icon remained in the church but the spring that flowed from under its roots disappeared. Now there is a replica of the icon in the monastery. The Heavenly Queen gives Her grace and healing to parishioners, and therefore people go on coming to Her.


The essence and power of eldership


The Glinsk Pustyn has experienced different historical times, both dawn and ruin but prayer has never stopped here. The 20th century turned out to be especially difficult for it. The financial situation of the monastery during the wartime of 1812 was aggravated by the mood among the brothers. This was immediately noticed by the worshippers for whom the Glinsk Pustyn had always shone as a bright star of brotherly love and served as an example of unity. There were fewer and fewer praying people and the monastery was gradually declining. Nevertheless, the prayers of the ascetics - Theodotus who was mentioned above and Basil - helped the Glinsk monastery at that time. It was they who pleaded the Most Holy Mother of God for the new abbot of the monastery, the elder of the Sophronieva Pustyn father Filaret Danilevsky.


The power of eldership lies in the relationship between the elder and the disciple when the latter completely surrenders himself to the will of his spiritual healer. The elder is a direct guide of God’s Will. Communication with the Most High is always associated with a sense of spiritual freedom, joy and unspeakable grace in the soul. This feeling is experienced by everyone who has visited the sacred place, the Glinsk Pustyn, at least once. It is sanctified by the prayers of a whole galaxy of elders.


The 19th century is rightfully considered a time of spiritual rebirth. The ascetics of Glinsk and Optina Pustyns played I big role in this. The fates of the monasteries are closely intertwined. Many things connected them: the traditions of ancient eldership, the heritage of St. Paissy Velichkovsky. Their elders took part in spiritual and prayer communications, contacted each other. Father Moses came to the Glinsk Pustyn as far back as in 1816. In his stories he noted that he had seen elder Filaret and had conversations with him.


The spiritual unity of the elders was manifested among other things in the fact that they had many common spiritual children because they had common path of internal spiritual achievements. It is known that St. Ambrose who deeply revered the elders’ strictness noted in his instructions the exploits of the Glinsk elders and sent his followers there.


St. Ambrose had a very close relationship with the elder Eleodor of Glinsk. The collected letters kept in the Optina Pustyn indicate a deep reverence for the memory of the Glinsk ascetic.


At the end of the 19th century, the publication of spiritual books was organized in the Glinsk Pustyn, that also united it with Optina. These books were distributed free of charge as a blessing to the worshippers. The library included more than 1000 volumes. Only a few have reached us. Looking through their pages today we can directly touch the very history of the monastery. Feeling its spiritual and historical unity with Optina we understand that it was in them that the real traditions of eldership based on service to one’s neighbour flourished.


Service to one’s neighbour has always been versatile in the monastery. The ultimate example was concern for one’s neighbour which could be comparable to caring for yourself. That was exactly the kind of love that the Glinsk elders were calling for. Having experienced many tribulations by God’s will the elders were filled with a deep understanding of all parishioners. They always patiently listened to their sorrows and troubles, sought to console everyone, provided support, gave a piece of wise advice and guided them on the right path.


In addition, in times of peace the monastery provided not only spiritual but also financial support. Poor residents from the surrounding area and praying pilgrims came here. They were given food, necessary medications, clothes and shoes. A workhouse was operating here where peasant children could learn crafts. Children could choose an activity to their liking. They were engaged in carpentry and locksmithing, painted icons and sewed.


Father Filaret the reviver of the Glinsk Pustyn


Abbot Filaret was a disciple of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra and the Sophronieva Hermitage. His contemporaries called him the Sun of the Glinsk Hermitage, the reviver of the monastery. On June 6, 1817 he took over the priory of the monastery. For almost 25 years he was the abbot and achieved good results in its revival.


He had to see a very sad picture at this place: time-damaged wooden cells placed carelessly in a clearing amidst centuries-old trees. The only stone building was a church. The church construction that started was complicated by the lack of the necessary materials. Since the trees of the forest surrounding the desert were state property there was no right to use them for the construction of the church.


Emperor Alexander I who met with the abbot personally in 1821, got into this problem. Filaret’s request to supply he monastery with materials for construction was granted. The staff of the monastery was replenished with new brothers. The father repeatedly made various requests to the emperor. One of the most serious reasons for Filaret’s visit to St. Petersburg was to defend the fundamentals of Orthodoxy. This was due to the Western European culture penetration into Russia and the appearance of people who did not realize the inner essence of the church and monasticism itself. Such phenomena as false mysticism and freemasonry were widespread everywhere.


Monk Filaret managed to resist these terrible phenomena. He held discussions with the dissenters, conducted spiritual conversations which made it possible to open the true path to the church. As a result of Filaret’s efforts the opening of secret societies was legally prohibited. The legendary father, the highly spiritual way of life of his and other elders attracted the attention of benefactors, thanks to whom the improvement of the monastery continued.


Through Filaret’s relentless work the monastery became prosperous and that could be proved not only by a number of rebuilt constructions but also by their internal structure. The monastic charter similar to that of Athos and its eldership very soon glorified the Glinsk Pustyn throughout Russia.


For their exploits, the Most High gave the ascetics incredible gifts: healing from diseases to some, the gift of epiphany to others, wise advice to the rest. All the elders were noted for unquestioning humility and forbearance to conquer any challenges for the sake of the Saviour.


The revolution made its mark


Glinsk Pustyn was closed in 1922. Many monks died. Others were taken into the camps.


After the Great Patriotic war, the monastery was not closed. It was working again. Prisoners from the camps and novices returned here. In those difficult times when most monasteries and churches were destroyed, the hermitage served as the only place for Orthodox Christians. In 1962, the hermitage was closed again.


The third stage of the revival of the Glinsk Pustyn began in the 1990s. The monastery was active but remained half-destroyed. And only by the end of the 1990s monastic community began to replenish with newcomers.


The Glinsk Pustyn today



Today the prayers never cease day or night. And the monks of the Glinsk Pustyn pray for our and their salvation. Perhaps it is thanks to these tireless prayers that our sinful world is still alive.


Despite the construction, today the monastery fits its name “pustyn (wilderness)” perfectly. It is literally being restored from ruins. It’s surrounded by forests on one side and rivers on the other. In the silence of a pine forest far from the hustle and bustle of the world, in labours and prayers, God’s service is being done. The brothers are trying to revive traditional agriculture which makes it possible to feed themselves and treat pilgrims.


Monastery has to be reconstructed from scratch. A large-scale monastic complex is being built. The project includes building for brothers and pilgrims, as well as a bell tower and a historical spiritua; museum of the saint place and it’s history. Unfortunately, the buildings of the pre-revolution period have not been preserved. Since that time, only the house of Father Superior, a refectory and a couple of buildings in a state of disrepair have remained. At the moment, a church in named after St. Nicholas has been built as well as the gate church in honour of the icon of the Mother of God. A lot of work is yet ahead.


Dear Christians! We have a wonderful opportunity to take part in the Glinsk Pustyn restoration project. Let’s show nobility and contribute to such a great cause. Without donations and charitable contributions, it is very difficult to make things happen. Each of us can help the greatest church with an amazing history! Remember that the Heavenly Father is always with us and any good deed He returns to us a hundredfold! The monks here pray for all the benefactors and donators . In addition, you can spread the word about the project on media so that even more people will know about the needs of the monastery. Join the prayers for the speedy revival of the monastery!

* The Glinskaya Pustyn – in Russian; The Glinska Pustyn – in the Ukrainian language.
**Mother of God Mary 

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