This story was told to me in 1987 by Hieromonk Theophylact from Pskov Caves Monastery, previously known as Konstantin Nikolayevich Belyanin who had been a military doctor in Kazan. He became a monk after his son Konstantin died. He was collecting stories about miracles and saints’ apparitions. He published a samizdat book titled It Happened In Our Time under the pseudonym Nitsok (anagram to Konstantin Nikolayevic). There might be a copy of this book in the library of Pskov Caves Monastery even now. This is what he told me about the power of the Life-Giving Cross and the sign of the cross.
There was a Council of the Russian Orthodox Church in 1971, during which the bishops elected Patriarch Poemen. Students of Moscow Theological Seminary and Academy helped with maintenance and hospitality. A seminarian named K. shared the room with another seminarian who was a photographer appointed to take pictures of the Council sessions and guests. He always developed the photos after taking them, and he had two bottles under his bed: one with developer and the other with pure water.
As far as K. was concerned, he “took care of the meals,” that is, he waited on the guests during meals. There was a lot of delicious food, and the students were allowed to eat the leftovers. K. got up one morning and was getting ready to go and perform his duties. When he went out of his room, he heard his neighbor exclaim, “There’s no water in the building!” It turned out that the water supply had been cut off due to some repairs, and the seminarians had to do without water in the morning. K. was dying of thirst, having eaten a lot of spicy food the previous night. He recalled that there was pure water under his neighbor’s bed. He took the bottle, poured some liquid into a glass and crossed it — a habit that he had inherited from his pious parents. He drank it and went on to serve in the kitchen. When he returned, he found his neighbor — the photographer — agitated. He outstretched his arms and screamed so loud that it could be heard not only in the room but even in the corridor, “Who took my developer?” The developer was expensive, so K. was afraid to tell the truth.
Then he was curious what exactly the developer tasted like. In other words, what could have happened to him if he hadn’t crossed the glass? K. sneaked into the room, stuck his finger into the bottle, and licked the chemical. He later said that his tongue turned sore and burned for two days. What would have happened to him if he had drunk the full glass without crossing it first?
There were similar occasions in ancient times, too. Some residents of Bosra were envious of their bishop Julian and decided to poison him. God made their plot known to Saint Julian, so he took the poisoned cup and ordered all the citizens who took part in the conspiracy to come to him. When they came, the righteous man declared, “If you want to kill the humble Julian with poison, here I am drinking this cup in front of your eyes.” He crossed the cup three times, saying “In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” and drank the poison — and the poison didn’t harm him. The guilty citizens fell to their knees, asking him to forgive them. It happened in the 6th century. However, the story narrated by Hieromonk Theophylact happened just some forty years ago. Indeed, grace and wonders will never cease in the Church until the Second Coming of Christ!
This story teaches us two important lessons. First, the Lord “protects the little ones.” K.’s life demonstrated the truth of the words of Christ, “[I]f they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them” (Mark 16:18). Second, the Cross is verily the “Guardian of all Universe” — of our souls and bodies — and our lives, the temporary and the eternal.
Translated by The Catalog of Good Deeds