“Next to father Victor, people began to Shine.”

“…The next minute this head, healthy Georgians two meters growth, unexpectedly falls in front of father Victor to his knees and begins to weep… and Then they talked privately for about forty minutes, and when the head came out, his first completely black from the experiences face shone. And it was still wet from tears.” Today marks 80 years since the birth of Archimandrite Victor (Mamontov). Their memories of the late father Victor shares Ilya Yakovlevich grits – Bible student, founder and first rector of the Bible College “Heritage”, the former for more than 30 years a close spiritual child of the priest.

Archimandrite Viktor (Mamontov).
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  • Died rector of St. Euphrosyne of the Church, Archimandrite Viktor (Mamontov)
  • Archimandrite Victor: Together with God, we have to create eternal life
  • Archimandrite Avvakum (Davidenko): father Viktor (Mamontov) we have experienced in Pochaev many joyful and sad moments

“He struck his iconographic appearance”

The first time I saw father Victor in pyukhtitsky monastery: still quite a young age I took there books from Moscow for distribution among the faithful. It was in the late 70’s-early 80-ies. In Moscow lived like this absolutely amazing man – Nikolai Evgrafovich Pestov, a prominent scientist, doctor of chemical Sciences, he was the rector of Institute of Chemical technology, Professor, well, a deeply religious man, a spiritual child of father Alexis Mechev.

He had a fine library, and he made it public: figured out how to issue books. Organized a clandestine “printing press”: he worked mainly young single women with young children, Pestov helped them to purchase a typewriter, so they reprinted most important book. I still, as a Shrine, kept the 6th copy of the New Testament, reprinted on papyrus paper and presented to them*…

Nikolai Evgrafovich was boy-messengers, who took a backpack full of these books, and went to Pukhtitsy, so as to transmit them to spread the nun Silwan, the novice of the monastery. That’s absolutely amazing man, known throughout the country. Through it these books were in the Urals, in Siberia and even in Central Asia.**

I was just at the request of Nikolai Evgrafovich one of these messengers. And once arriving in Puhtica, I met a young priest. He absolutely amazed me with his iconographic appearance: black-haired, very beautiful. It was father Victor (Mamontov), then still a hieromonk.

So we met him, however, the next meeting took place a very long time already in Latvia. He found my phone, called and invited me to his place.

Before parting and new meetings. Photo: Marina Grits

Since then, my wife came to visit him several times a year, every time I tried to seek temporary opportunities, and money were always yourself! Father Victor was my mentor, my teacher, my mentor, spiritual father. Today the word “spiritual” is used in some strange value. I heard with my own ears, like, say, the people ask the priest: “Father, bless compote to drink!” With his father Victor it was unthinkable. He never said “Do this and don’t do”. It was not his style. He always said, “Well, we’ll pray.”

It came to thousands of people from Siberia and from the Far East, from Australia, from Mexico, from the United States. Often people went to the priest with your question and intention immediately to answer to their. And the answer was very simple: “Let’s pray”.

Victor thought that the Confessor is not the one who takes it all on himself and the one who helps a person to go to God, slightly pushing him along the way. The Confessor is similar to tour guide, tour guide that leads a person to a place of unprecedented beauty, brings it, and he takes two steps back: now you, your heart, your soul should with this beauty to meet. It was his position. And this is the real duhovniceasca, believe me!

Being a person very educated, rather large scientist-philologist, father Victor spoke very simply and clearly. You had to have a very delicate taste, to understand by his speech that before you a candidate of philological Sciences. He had a very simple words, clear, absolutely no fine phrases, no frills, he does not allow even verbal participle phrases are not used, although for him it absolutely was not a problem. I’m not lazy, found his thesis, it is written in such scientific language in Moscow. And then he spoke so simply, like an ordinary grandmother…

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I studied with him for life. Studied the ability to listen to the voice of God, and father Victor ability, of course, had… You could say that I was attracted to it for its authenticity. As my 12-year-old daughter sometimes says, “authenticity”. “He’s real!” she says. Best of all, this explanation is illustrated by examples from life.

Once, 25 years ago, we organized a large theological conference, which rented room in Moscow in the cinema House on Krasnopresnenskaya. Arrived there many worthy people, but of particular interest was to father Victor. He was surrounded by the crowd of people, his death was necessary to talk to him, even to touch it, “taking a piece” with him. I tried to shield father Victor, not to give it to break apart.

And suddenly included the Deputy Director of this institution, a man of gigantic growth, more than two meters, a beautiful, stately Georgians, but he’s… scary dark face. Not in the sense zegarelli, but in the sense of killing: just the black face from any problems! And he did that around father Victor women flew away from the sound of his voice, said: “I Want to see who well we are doing, what it’s for Christians.” His father, Victor was incredibly thin, he’s a real monk, he ate very little for such a giant man, like the Deputy Director, could one look to break in half!

And now to meet him is Victor, as always, shines. Just a glow coming from his face! The next minute the head all of a sudden and unexpectedly, primarily, himself falls to his knees and begins to cry. You know? He just fell to his knees and felt the tears streaming down his face. Victor literally with one little finger his up: “Well let’s go talk.”

In deep prayer. Photo: Marina Grits

I accompanied them to “not steal” father Victor on the road, in the office of this gentleman. And asked: “Just close the door, and it will burst”. “Yes, I do,’ answered the Deputy Director, three minutes only to talk.” After 40 minutes both go out, father Victor leads him by the arm. It was just an incredible sight: a giant man, big, strong, a real fighter, and thin, thin priest leads him. And this man is wet from tears tie and his shirt, but shadow rise from my face! That’s the whole story… What was there for the conversation, I never dared to ask.

Such stories were – as they want. Next to father Victor, people began to Shine: they are like a mirror, reflect his radiance…

Given the freedom and waited

If he hadn’t, it wouldn’t be our daughter Katie. She became his goddaughter, she is already 12 years old. Father Victor we just begged her. We haven’t had children, and come to mind all sorts of silly ideas, where to get them – medicine is developed, there are different ways. However, when we came and told him about it, he replied: “Well, let’s pray, try”. We started to prepare and understand: no, this is not our way.

Of course, the priest knew it was wrong for us (for us wrong, I dare not say that this is all wrong). But he would never say! We just became clear: this is not our way. He gave full freedom. We came then said: “Father, we realized that it’s not ours.” “Thank God!” – answered Victor. You know? He gave freedom and waited. And pray, of course, believed that we should pray, which we did.

Duhovniceasca this is the. Even the possibility of error is not so terrible as the violation of freedom. My father loved to repeat this phrase: “God acts at a distance of two freedoms – the freedom of God and human freedom”.

This is the basic principle: one must live at a distance of two freedoms, even when we are not talking about Allah, and about the relationship with the child – it is also necessary to give freedom.

Despite the fact that Victor never gave instructions, there were extraordinary occasions when a priest on something insisted. It happened so rarely and was so amazing that we immediately agreed with him. 16 years ago we received an invitation to a year to live and work in the famous Seminary of the American city Princeton. Father Victor blessed us, although everyone was shouting that this is a disaster that we will die, not fly. The reasons for this were: for the six months prior to the trip I had two heart attacks. We went. And learned a whole lot there.

Came back after 1.5 years with the idea to create in Moscow an educational institution, Bible College. But this requires money, programs, facilities, teachers, students. We said to father Victor: “now we Have nothing, bless to start next year.” And he said, “we must Begin immediately.” “Father, we have no money penny!” “We must begin immediately.” “Father, we have programs, we don’t know how to make, it is necessary to find a competent person…” “we must Begin immediately.” We do not force to repeat this phrase a fourth time. “Well, we’ll try”. And rushed, like a head into the maelstrom. In the end, the College of biblical foundations of Church ministries “Heritage” was created and still exists.

 

Full trust

My wife and I have published three books by Victor’s father. In 1990-e years his wife worked in Christian children’s publishing “Narnia”. Leaving to father Victor, it is, of course, call in sick all the time from superiors. And her supervisor was an American, Donald Marsden, a Presbyterian, a very clever man, very decent. He realized that you don’t have to haul in their faith, and just did that service: published for quality Christian children’s literature. One day the wife says to him: “Donald, come with us!”

It was a real shock from a meeting with father Victor: he never did anything like this in my life not seen. Then took his entire family, he has three children. And one day, Donald called and asked: “I wish you had written with his father Victor book of childhood”. We felt that this call over, although experience with the preparation of such books was not.

I had based several books – “Conversations with Patriarch Athenagoras” Olivier Clement and the book of his father, Giovanni Guaita (it was an Orthodox priest, an Italian, many years living in Russia, he served in Moscow in the Church of Cosmas and Damian) “a person’s Life: the meeting of heaven and earth. The conversation with the Catholicos of all Armenians Karekin II”. This for me was a kind of samples. That it should be a book of conversations, it was clear at once.

Father Victor gave his consent, and we visited him quite often, I prepared questions, recorded the conversations on tape. So he published a book “the Mystery of childhood.” And then the father himself wished to prepare a book “Mystery of life”, my wife edited and published it themselves.

In the course of this collaboration we are again convinced that the Confessor is not the one who directs and oversees every detail: he trusts you. We could say: “Father, we give you a list of questions brought, we’ll see.” And he said: “I will Not watch, let’s talk”. Full trust in us! I brought it already converted into an instance of: “Father, look through”. Father Victor I scanned a book with one thumb, you know, flipping book children, and said, “All right! Good.” Without looking at any page. Inside me everything tingled because I knew that all the responsibility is now on us.

Kate, the daughter of his father Victor, reflects like a mirror, the radiance of the father. Photo: Marina Grits

Preface to the first and the second book was written by a good friend, a wonderful priest and spiritual writer, father Vladimir Zelinsky. We have long and patiently waited for his introduction, and when received, I immediately went to Karsava on the weekend. People, as always, very much, and the confession began at seven in the morning and lasted for many hours even after noon.

Over the Liturgy after three, all, as usual, invited to the meal. I was very worried – in the evening have to go to Moscow, the time is not to show the priest the text of the Foreword. Father Victor took notice of my condition, understood everything and said: “Please, before tea, read the text aloud.”

All listened very intently, the people were quite prepared sermons and conversations of the priest. No one hesitated to criticize and make comments, if there was a reason. But then all in one voice said: a great text! “Why are you so worried? – asked the priest. – Tell, father Vladimir our gratitude.”

There was a thick collection of his articles, reports – the book “the Lord is my Shepherd”, the father of Victor chose the name. Our work has been editorial and technical. Many of his articles included in this book were published in local Newspapers. Latvia, first Soviet, then Soviet, but still malopeschanka country, so there was not much located to Orthodoxy, and even Christianity. But when I asked father Victor, the local, the regional newspaper is published all that he wants! Of course, without the help of his parishioners, his spiritual children, we would work on reconciliation – who published, when, the exact date and newspaper failed. We can say that this work was common.

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There is a remarkable book – “the Heart of the desert”: of the great elders, with whom Victor knew personally – on Archimandrite Seraphim (Tyapochkin), Archimandrite Tavrion (Batozsky). These books he gave us as a gift left. Now they are not very in Vogue, but I know for sure: this book tomorrow.

“You need someone to pray?”

No matter what was said to father Victor, he always spoke about love. The love of God he saw everywhere, and to this we are called to live with open eyes. Taught us to see the will of God not only from the fact that someone is blessed: it manifests itself through people, through the phenomena of nature.

18-20 years ago my father Viktor was very bad: it was suspected that he had cancer. We all together agreed – those who love him, who worship in Moscow – has collected money to make him fast to bring in the shortest possible time to carry out all the surveys. It’s not free, but very quickly and efficiently.

My wife took the day off for a few days, accompanied him everywhere. He enters the hospital, goes to the window, where must be recorded to pass the tests, tests. Ordinary people how to respond to the person in the window? You come to register, in the window – a young woman, it is for you – order, you probably were taken to a treatment room. But my father treated people differently: “Hello! What’s your name? You need someone to pray? I’ll write names down and we’ll pray.” Popping up out woman, in tears: “I’ll walk you out”.

When made him what he needs, he asked: “Maybe someone else got any problems?” Wrote down the name of everyone who responded. The people for him was never a tool! Then he walked outside a few dozen people from the clinic. And after several times we called, asked: “who is it? What is it?” We brought to this clinic and gave them books by Victor’s father.

Preaching Christianity is not the words, that’s life. Victor preached with his life. So no matter who came to him – at least for him.

Father Victor was known throughout Latvia. Latvia – such an amazing country, unique in Europe, where there is no religious majority: about a third of the population – Orthodox, one-third Catholics, one third Protestants. It came all in a row: Catholics and Lutherans. Never, he never refused. Of course, this is for the bosses was strange, even unacceptable. But if the person came, he did not himself come, and inspired: how can I refuse him? So was the elder Silouan of Athos.

Father Victor with his goddaughter. Photo: Marina Grits

Therefore, all the local Catholic, Lutheran priests belonged to the priest not just with reverence, and with great love. In Latvia there is a place of Aglona, where the revered icon of the Aglona mother of God. In appearance it is absolutely Orthodox. In Poland there is a tradition of pilgrimages to Czestochowa, the monastery to the famous our lady of Czestochowa icon of the Mother of God, in Latvia palonnikau to Aglona. From Riga go there, it is 300 kilometers! And a group of pilgrims made a big hook, 60 kilometers of, in Karsava, to take a blessing from father Victor. They are there fed, watered, the priest anointed with oil, some warm words spoken, and for them it was very important.

But to himself he calmly, with a smile, in the new Testament – did not judge himself: as the Apostle Paul writes, “I do not judge about yourself.” The priest did not pay attention to what somebody says about it…

I don’t remember the last meeting with his father Victor, because… she was not the last! Even after because of the state of my health we were forced to move to Jerusalem, and I became a “nieletni”, the feeling of living in intimacy with father Victor was every day. Although between us – a few thousand kilometers. This is not so important.

9 days ago Victor is gone (memories recorded in 2016. – Ed.). His wife and daughter were going to Latvia for the funeral, and started some completely stupid pads. Suddenly they get a call from the firm and reported that they cancel the ticket, return the money, because I was missing some documents. Someone had hurt this trip, not wanted, that they were driving – well, of course, who. “Quietly say. – Let’s pray father, help us”. It was not a drama, a tragicomedy: while the wife was looking for paper, she found that a year ago lost a pearl necklace that I gave her. I said to her, “This is from your father Hello!” And all went well, they were able to fly to Latvia.

Understand his presence in our lives never stopped. It is impossible to prove, to argue, but we feel that, for us it is absolutely clear. It was not the last meeting, and while we are alive, will not, I’m sure.

After The Liturgy. Looking to the future. Photo: Marina Grits

* Nikolay Pestov he mastered the bookbinding business, invented a new very simple method of binding using children’s cloths. Every day, he bound some books. It was his Ministry that he never took money. “My pension is enough, he said. – Books should be cheap as possible”. Paper and everything you need for a typewriter, plus a fee to typists. That’s all cost. Thus, if some book was very much needed, he often gave her, or gave, saying, “there Will be money – will bring”.

** A nun by Saint Silouan was the spiritual daughter of the now canonized by the Athonite elder Siluan, was in correspondence with him. Father Victor, with her consent, copied the letters, studied them. The fruit of his labors – a small but very important little book, “Prayers and Psalms of the elder Silouan”. After her death all these treasures she bequeathed to father Victor.

Prepared By Valeria Mikhailova

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