From the day when Alexey saw the miraculous healing accomplished through Rada, he hoped for some time that he would meet her again and find out from her how she had acquired this skill. But no one knew anything about the mysterious healer and had never before seen her.
Over time, Alexey sometimes even began to feel that everything that happened was only a wonderful vision, revealed by God.
He lived — as before. In his solitary predestination before God, he tried to be like the elder Nicholas and, just like his life, saw his own future...
Autumn, winter passed... Spring has come.
The snow had already disappeared altogether. Nature awakened vigorously this year.
* * *
And one day that spring, Alexey got lost in the forest.
This happened to him for the first time! So many years already here in the taiga he lived! Always he easily noticed and remembered the road! No matter how far away, he always knew the right direction, how to go back!
But now he walked and walked, was exhausted and did not even imagine which direction to move now to. By the evening, the presence of a close wolf pack became apparent. Alexey kindled a campfire. The wolves did not approach, afraid of the fire, and then completely disappeared.
He spent the night by the fire...
... The morning was clear, everything was shining and sparkling in the light of the rising sun!
“How stupid it will be just like this — for nothing, not for anyone — to perish among this wonderful beauty!” — thought Alexey. He calmly so thought about it, without fear, without sadness.
The words of prayer flowed easily:
“God, lead me out! Show me the way — if it is Your Will!”
He had plunged himself into the inner silence — and then walked confidently and quickly in the way which, it seemed to him, God directed him.
* * *
Two strong young men, protecting the peace and security of the community, noticed a monk who was heading straight to their settlement — so quickly and confidently as if he knew the way.
After consulting each other, they decided to tie him up and lead him to the headman Blagoslav to find out where he came from, what this scout was up to and what to do with him.
With a canvas bag over his head, for him not to notice the road, Alexey was led for some time with his hands tied. He did not even have time to see those who tied him up. They acted cohesively and dexterously, they did not beat him and did not cause any pain. They walked in silence.
Because the steps were slowed down and voices were heard around — Alexey guessed that they had come to the village.
He was removed from the bag — and saw the people around.
In front of him stood a tall, white-haired and bearded, mighty despite years an old man holding a staff in his hand. Alexey, was put before this old man — apparently, the headman of this community. It seems as a court.
The old man looked at Alexey for a while as something special, as if he saw through, then spoke to the two tall guys who were still holding Alexey by the shoulder on either side.
“What have you done? Why did you bring him here? He is not a peeper, he does not think evil! Even fear is not! What to do with him now?”
“Forgive us, Blagoslav! We did not know what to do: he went straight to us, as if he knew the way. So we decided to lead him to you...”
... The people, gathered around, were sympathetic, calm, looked silently at what was happening and waited for the decision of the headman.
And then, suddenly, Alexey saw among the surrounding community members... that healer!
Everything flared up inside with great joy!
He thought: “So that’s why God led here!”
Alexey noticed that everything was clear for the headman. It seems that he read the thoughts of other people as if in an open book:
“That’s is your monk, granddaughter!... The heart is open, the thoughts are pure! Go to lay the table, Rada! We all will gather: to solve what to do with him.”
Rada bowed to the headman, gave her glance to Alexey with caress, warmth, and encouragement. And then she went to the hut.
The majestic old man looked again at Alexey, as if piercing through with his look:
“You will be our guest, Alex! Because God brought you here!
“My name is Blagoslav, I am the headman of this community and Rada is my granddaughter.”
... A barely noticeable smile touched his lips when, at the name of Rada, joy once again stirred in Alexey — from understanding the miracle and the Providence of God!
And already addressing those who held Alexey on both sides by the shoulder, Blagoslav said:
“But untie him at least, fools!”
... Then he went, without turning back, to the hut, confident of complete obedience of all around.
* * *
They sat down at a long table covered with unbleached canvas.
Many adult members of the community gathered at the table: men, women. Rada also sat next to her grandfather when she finished serving.
The food was simple: bread, vegetables boiled with fresh herbs, sauerkraut, salted mushrooms.
They ate in silence without hurrying up.
After, Rada brought brewed up scented herbs and honey.
After drinking, the headman spoke:
“You, Alex, probably think that you’ve fallen into the place of the Old Believers. And that we are hiding from punitive troops in order to survive and to preserve our faith. Right? Well, say out loud everything, how you think, what you have in your heart — so that everyone here knows about your thoughts!”
... Alexey remembered the ashes, remembered the dissenters burned alive, and he wanted these people not to suffer such a terrible fate.
He spoke warmly, sincerely:
“There is no difference in how to fold the fingers so that the cross is imposed! We all raise our prayers to Jesus and His Heavenly Father, in Whose Power are all our lives! In rituals only are differences! And this is empty! Because of this, life is not worth both picking up, and giving away!...
“I can baptize all of you according to the new rite — and there will be no oppressions and persecutions in your lives!
“Jesus commanded to have the love between people — for all to be like brothers or sisters before Him!
“So why do we share ourselves, where peace and faith must be clear?!”
... Blagoslav smiled:
“Did you see and hear? This, it turns out, can also be!...”
Then he said to Alexey:
“Not everything about us, Alex, you have understood!... We are not Old Believers!...
“In Russia also before Christianity, people lived, serving God!...”
“Are you Pagans?”
“Even before Christianity had come to Russia, the real knowledge about God began to be replaced...
“The sovereigns commanded to make idols, depicting ‘gods’, ordered to perform rituals in front of those idols — so that the people lived in submission and fear of disobedience.
“This is how Paganism had appeared.
“Those sovereigns confirmed the Paganism — instead of Knowledge, which people had directly from God.
“In order to approve their ‘order’ — it was told to sacrifice to those ‘gods’ and to priests...
“Due to this, many people have forgotten how to see and feel real Living God!
“Reality was replaced with idols, made of wood or cut out of stones...
“Communion with God had been forgotten...
“Few Magi kept memory of that Knowledge and great skills. But they left into the forests... They began to be called sorcerers...
“To such ‘sorcerers’, you have gotten into, Alex! And it is now for you to decide: whether to renounce your faith for the sake of the Great Knowledge — or not to renounce...
“Okay, enough, we have talked...
“Go in peace, friends!
“And you, Rada, bed down the guest for the night and answer his questions!”
[To be continued.]