The Religion Of Sister Helen
Sister Helen Petrov, of the convent of Pskov, declared in a moment of
"divine illumination" that the Church had no hierarchy, that priests
were harmful, that God had no need of intermediaries, that men should
not communicate, and should, indeed, absolutely refrain from entering
It was the vision of an inspired soul, or of a diseased mind--for the
two extremes may meet. A pure religion, based upon the direct
communion of man's spirit with God, free from false and artificial
piety, having no churches or ceremonies, but exhaling the sentiment of
brotherly love--what a "vision splendid" is this, so often sought but
never yet attained!
In the age preceding the birth of Christ many of the finer spirits were
already rebelling, like Sister Helen, against the use of agents between
the human soul and God. Simeon the Just, Hillel, Jesus, son of Sirach,
and many others, like Isaiah of old, besought men to cease importuning
God with offerings of incense and the blood of rams. "What is needed,"
they said, "is to have a pure heart and to love virtue." No one,
however, succeeded in formulating this teaching in so sublime a fashion
as Christ Himself. For what is pure Christianity, as revealed by Him,
if not the divine aspiration towards Heaven of all men as brothers,
without fetters of creed and dogma, and without intermediaries?
In the name of the Divine Messenger, Sister Helen protested against the
errors of men. She reproached them with their sins and their mistakes.
But though the same teachings eighteen centuries before had brought
about a moral renaissance, repeated by Helen they only caused untold
miseries to descend upon her head. Driven from the Church and
threatened with a prison-cell, her heart grew bitter within her, and
her once pure spirit was clouded over.
A vision came to her, in which she learnt that the end of the world was
drawing near, Anti-Christ having already made his appearance.
"We must prepare for the Last Judgment," she declared. "All family
life must be renounced, wives must leave their husbands, sisters their
brothers, and children their parents. The Day of God is at hand!"
After being expelled from the convent, the beautiful Helen--for she was
beautiful when she first gave herself to God--carried her sacred
message to the simple-minded peasants. By them she was understood and
venerated, and their admiration filled her with ecstasy.
Two priests and several other nuns were attracted by the reports of her
sanctity, and came to join her. She still repeated that Anti-Christ
was already upon earth, and that the end was near. One day she saw him
face to face and tried to kill him, for the glory of Heaven, but he
escaped. However, she remembered his appearance, and was able to
describe him to her followers.
"He is no other," she said, "than Father John of Cronstadt who,
although a great worker of miracles, is in fact an evil genius in the
service of Satan."
And all her hearers rejoiced, and paid homage to Helen's clairvoyant
powers. Their enthusiastic adulation, together with the conviction of
the love Christ bore her, threw the good sister into a frenzy of
intense excitement, until she, who formerly had only desired to
ameliorate the lot of mankind, suddenly perceived in herself an
incarnation of the divine. But she sought, nevertheless, to resist the
idea, and said to her followers, "I am only a poor daughter of the
Lord, and He has chosen me to spread the truth about His sufferings,
and to proclaim the great punishment of mankind--the end of the world."
She spoke with such emotion that her hearers, visualising the agony to
come, shed tears abundantly, and prayed and fasted. But now the
prophetess had another vision, for on the night before Good Friday
Christ Himself appeared to her.
"Weep not, _Helenouchka_ (little Helen)," He said. "The end of the
world approaches for the wicked, and for those who knew Me not--the
pagans, Jews, and priests. But you, my faithful Bride, shall be saved,
and all who follow you. On the day when the world is darkened and all
things crumble into ruins, the true kingdom of God shall dawn for the
beloved children of heaven."
Another time Helen was overcome with joy because her heavenly Spouse
visited her by night.
"Dost thou not see," said the divine Lover, "with what brilliance the
sun is shining, how the flowers are opening, and every face is
illumined with joy? These are the 'last rays' bidding farewell to
life. But thou, Helen, shalt peacefully enjoy the raptures of love.
On the appointed day thy celestial Spouse, accompanied by His angels,
shall come to rescue thee, and thou shalt dwell with Him three hundred
One of the priests who had adopted Helen's religion composed numerous
hymns in her honour, and these were chanted in chorus by the believers.
The opening line of one which was sung to greet her when she awoke each
morning, ran as follows: "Rejoice, Saint Helen, fair Bride of Christ,
Poor Saint Helen! She was not allowed to enjoy her heavenly idyll for
long. Just when the new religion promised consolation to so many, the
believers and their prophetess were delivered up to the rigours of the
justice of this world, which called down upon their heads in turn the
catastrophe of the "day of judgment."
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