12 March 2009

'Forgive, & You Shall Be Forgiven'—Holy Titus of the Kiev Caves

Today, 27 February on the Church’s calendar, we celebrate the memory of Holy Titus, presbyter of the Kiev Caves (1190). The account of his life in the Kiev Caves Paterikon is fairly brief, and as I believe it relates all that is known about him, I shall simply give it in full. It seems particularly appropriate for Lent, but it is my opinion that the story should be heard or read by all Orthodox Christians. St Titus’s Life is a vivid illustration of a central teaching of the Gospel, one that is all too apt to be taken for granted or only understood in a sentimental fashion. This is taken from Muriel Heppell, trans., The Paterik of the Kievan Caves Monastery (Cambridge, MA: Harvard U, 1983), pp. 140-2. (I should point out, for those who are confused, that the series that this translation is a part of uses a strict transliteration convention. Hence the Slavic form ‘Tit’ for ‘Titus’. I should also add, per the suggestion below, that the 'i' in 'Tit' is long, and thus it should be pronounced 'Teet'.)

Discourse 23. The priest Tit and the deacon Evagrij, two brothers who were on very bad terms with each other.

There were two spiritual brothers, the deacon Evagrij and the priest Tit. They loved each other deeply and sincerely, so that everybody marveled at their harmony and boundless mutual affection. But the devil, that hater of good who is always roaring like a lion seeking someone to devour, made enmity between them and instilled such hatred that they would not look at each other. The brethren often begged them to be reconciled, but they would not listen. When Evagrij was standing in the church and Tit came in with the censer, Evagrij would avoid the incense; and if he did not do so, Tit would go past without censing him. They remained for a long time in the darkness of sin, since when Tit was celebrating Evagrij refused to accept absolution and received communion in anger. It was the enemy that put them up to this.

One day Tit fell seriously ill, and as he lay in despair he began to weep for his loss and sent to the deacon in a spirit of contrition, saying, ‘Forgive me, brother, for God’s sake, for being angry with you!’ But Evagrij cursed him with violent words. The elders, seeing that Tit was dying, forcibly dragged Evagrij in to forgive his brother. When the sick man saw him he rose up a little and fell down at his feet, saying with tears, ‘Forgive me, father, and give your blessing.’ But the cruel and hardhearted Evagrij refused and said in front of all of us, ‘I will never be reconciled with him, neither in this world nor in the next!’ He tore himself away from the elders’ arms and
immediately fell down. When we tried to get him to his feet, we found that he was dead. We were unable to stretch out his arms or close his lips as though he had been dead for a long time. Meanwhile the sick one got up quickly, as though he had never been ill. We were filled with terror at the sudden death of the one and the rapid recovery of the other.

After much weeping we buried Evagrij with his lips and eyes open and his arms outstretched. We asked Tit what had happened, and he told us, ‘I saw some angels moving away from me and weeping over my soul, while demons rejoiced at my anger. Then I began to beg my brother to forgive me. When they brought him to me, I saw a pitiless angel holding a fiery lance. When Evagrij refused to forgive me, the angel struck him and he fell down dead, but the angel gave me his hand and lifted me

When we heard this, we were filled with the fear of God Who said, ‘Forgive, and you shall be forgiven’ (Matt. 6:14; Luke 6:37). For the Lord said, ‘Whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment’ (Matt. 5:22). And Ephraim says, ‘If any man should die in a state of enmity, he will be judged without mercy.’ If this man does not receive absolution through the holy Antonij and Feodosij [the founders of the monastery], woe unto him, vanquished as he is by such a passion.

According to the account on the Holy Trinity calendar site:

The Monk Tito increased his efforts, became known for especial humility, and became a wonderworker.

The Monk Tito reposed not earlier than 1190. His memory, besides 27 February, is celebrated also on 28 September with the Sobor-Assembly of the Monks of the Nearer Caves.


Anonymous said...

A pronunciation note should also be made: the i in Tit is long, hence, the name is pronounced "Teet."

aaronandbrighid said...

Good point!

Sarah Hodges said...

If Tit is pronounced with a long i, why doesn't it sound like "tight"? Otherwise wouldn't teet, like teeth, reflect a long e? Or are we talking some Slavic angle here where the IPA would actually come in handy?

Aaron Taylor said...

Maybe 'long' is the wrong word, but there is definitely a Slavic angle. The Slavic 'i' sounds more like 'ee' than like our short 'i'.