I recall a marvellous case of the direct and miraculous aid of God to those who remained faithful to the end. They banished a group of nuns belonging to the Catacomb Church to Solovki. The Chekists told them: Get settled now, and tomorrow you will go to some sort of work. But they received an unexpected answer: We will not go and work. “What, have you gone out of your minds? Do you know what we will do with you? screamed the Chekists. There followed the calm reply of people who in their faithfulness feared nothing: What shall be, shall be but what is pleasing unto God shall be, and not what suits you executioners and criminals. You may do with us what you please: starve us, torture us, hang, shoot, or burn us with fire. But we give you notice once and for all: we do not recognize you, you servants of Antichrist, as the lawful authority, and we will not fulfill your orders in any way!
In the morning the infuriated Chekists drove the nuns up onto the hill of death. Thus Russian nunswas called a high hill where in winter an icy wind always blew. In that wind a man would freeze to death within a quarter of an hour. The nuns, clad in their shabby ryassas, are led up the hill by Red Army men in their sheepskin coats. The nuns go happily, joyously along, chanting psalms and prayers. The soldiers left them at the top of the hill and then descended. They hear how they continue their chanting. Half hour, an hour, two, yet more all the while the sound of chanting carries from above. Night fell. The guards approach the nuns they are alive, unharmed, and continue chanting their prayers. The amazed soldiers led them home to the camp. News of this spread immediately throughout the entire camp. And when on the following day the guards were changed and yet the same thing happened, the camp authorities were bewildered and they left the nuns in peace…
Is this not a victory? Behold what it means to be faithful unto death as the marvellous words of Apocalypse say: Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. In this instance it’s an obvious miracle, as it was with the three youths in the Babylonian furnace, only there the death-bearing element was fire, but here a death-dealing and killing cold. Behold how God rewards faithfulness!
Excerpt of a letter from Saint Philaret, the new Confessor and Metropolitan of New York, to Fr. Victor Potapov