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 up
n 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."