Nilus of Sora, a great ascetic of the Russian Church, was descended from
the Maikov nobility. He accepted monasticism at the monastery of St
Cyril of White Lake (June 9). Here he made use of the counsels of the
pious Elder Paisius Yaroslavov, who was afterwards igumen of the
St Nilus journeyed much through the East, studying the monastic life in
Palestine and on Mt. Athos. Returning to Rus, he withdrew to the River
Sora in the Vologda lands, and built a cell and a chapel, where there
soon grew up a monastery with a new (for that time in Rus) skete Rule
adopted by St Nilus from Mt. Athos. Following the command of St Nilus,
the monks had to sustain themselves by the work of their own hands, to
accept charity only in extreme need, and to shun the love of things and
splendor even in church. Women were not permitted in the skete, monks were not allowed to leave the skete under any pretext, and the possession
of lands or estates was forbidden.
The monks lived in the forest around the small church in honor of the
Meeting of the Lord, in separate cells of one or two but not more than
three men. They gathered together in church for divine services.
Moreover, readings from the holy Fathers were prescribed at the
All-Night Vigil, which actually lasted the whole night. On other days,
each one prayed and worked in his own cell.
The saint struggled constantly with his own thoughts and passions. Then
peace would be born in his soul, clarity in his mind, contrition and
love in his heart. In his written works, "A Tradition for my Disciple,
Wishing to Live in the Wilderness," and the "Rule," St Nilus describes
the steps of this salvific mental activity in detail. The first step is
renunciation of the world, particularly, from every worldly distraction.
The second is unceasing prayer, accompanied by the remembrance of
The saint was distinguished for his non-possessiveness and love for
work. He dug a pond and a well, whose water had healing power. For his
sanctity of life the Elder Nilus was deeply venerated by the Russian
hierarchs of his time. He participated in the Councils of 1490 and 1503.
Disdaining the honors and glories of this world, he told his disciples
before his death either to throw his body to be eaten by beasts and
birds, or to bury it without honor at the place of his struggles.
The saint died in his seventy-sixth year of life, on May 7, 1508. His
relics, buried in the monastery he founded, were glorified by many
miracles. The Russian Church has numbered him among the saints.
[In English, fragments of his "Tradition" and "Rule" may be found in G. Fedotov's TREASURY OF RUSSIAN SPIRITUALITY.]