A short history of Shovskoye village and the Nativity Church

Northeast of the Lipetsk region, 18 km. from Liebiedian city, on the ancient highway of Lebedyan-Ranenburg (nowadays Chaplygin city), the village of Shovskoye is located. Once very large and rich, the so-called "state village", with the numerous noble estates, was buried in verdure of gardens and groves. Lebedyansky district took the 3rd place of population, conceding only to the villages of Kind and Kuiman. At the beginning of the 20th century, about 2,5 thousand people were there.

Now after all the shocks and tragedies of the 20th century which swept the destructive tornado, out of most of all of the Russian villages it has hardly gained more than two hundred people. Also, it is thought, it only needed the era, together with small lodges and the grown ancient gardens. But there is a day in the year when people hurry to get to this village from near villages and from the distant cities. People come from Lipetsk city and its areas, from Voronezh, Moscow, Rostov on – Don, St. Petersburg and other cities and rural lands. This day is:- September the 24th, the day of memory for our fellow Countryman which, in far off 1892, left to go to Mount Athos to become a monk. Now it is the Athos devotee famous to all the orthodox world, canonized in 1987, the Reverend Silouan Afonsky. And this day became one of the patronal feast days of our village, our temple for the Christmas sake.

Our village existed in these areas from ancient times, but the first mention of it in the archives is found in 1678. The first data on Shovsky Nativity Church belongs at the time not later than the end of the 18th century. The wooden church was small, situated in a local country churchyard.

In the year of 1866, son Simeon, who became the great prayer and the lamp of Orthodoxy, the Reverend Silouan Afonsky was born in Shovskoe village into the family of Ivan Petrovich and Serafima Antonov's country family. In this church he was christened and here he prayed with the family in his childhood, then into adolescence, and then from the baptismal font, the course of his life began from these erased church porch steps. Since his childhood, the aspiration in little Simeon’s soul lit up: "I will grow up and I will go to look for God on all earth", when he heard the godless conversation of knigonosh that "God isn't present: where is your God?" For 12 years he didn't forget the pain that he had endured, and the promise he made to himself. Once after hearing the story of a pious woman about blessed Ioann Sezyonovskoy, about healings and spiritual help from his relics resting under a bushel in the neighboring village of Sezyonov in Ioanno-the Kazan monastery this pain finally left him and the pleasure came that "God is nearby and it isn't necessary to look for God anywhere". Great grace filled Simeon's heart and one desire consumed him for a long time: to only be with God. After 19 years, he decided to go to the monastery. But his wise father did not give him his blessing, telling him "You are still young. Serve conscription service in the army. If your desire stays, then I will bless you."

Simeon served in a Guard’s regiment in St. Petersburg whilst in the Conscription service of the army where he chose an athletic build and a forceful mind. But even after all the years of his service, as his colleagues told him, "His mind stayed on Athos", and he often sent money to the Athos monasteries. After having discharged from the military, he went to obtain the blessing of father Ioann Kronshtadsky, but, after failing to find him, he left a note to father Kronshtadsky, saying: "Father, I want to become a monk please, so pray that the world does not detain me". The next day, Simeon felt around him "the infernal flame shouts". It is now difficult for us living in such a different time to understand his words, not blessed with having such a spiritual experience. Probably, for us they are more like a secret. Perhaps, in what the hieromartyr Serafim Zvezdinsky called the "terrible languor of spirit and the torture of the soul" which the Lord gives before leaving the monastery or before lifting the veil some people with an especially strong and courageous spirit allows to test their fidelity?

But Simeon didn't look back any more. Only a week after having stayed at home, having taken "obetny" canvases from the monastery from the locals, with their blessing and an order of his fellow countrymen to pray for them, he left for Athos. There, in 1896, he was clothed in a cloak and in 1911, in a scheme with a name Silouan, he was in turmoil for the rescue of his soul, which he bore with a heavy obedience. He constantly prayed and slept in fits and starts, but after all even the most tested despondency, which at some times even bordered on almost godforsakenness, he managed to hold it together. Once in one such difficult moments of his personal fight, Silouan heard in his soul the answer from God: "Keep your mind in a hell, and do not despair!" Most of his life, the devotee has a main goal of all the feats he wants to follow, namely only to please God, in pronounced achievement, repentance, humility and beneficence. The Lord lets the Saint fall once into a gloom of infernal melancholy in which he stays for nearly an hour or so, but then the Lord appeared, whilst the Saint was in the last vestiges of despair, and came to the young novice in a local image in the St. Ilya prophet temple in a monastic mill. With this, his whole being was filled with the fire of Holy Spiritual good fortune and he received the gift of great love for all people, the heart pardoning any creation from the Lord. All his future life, Siluan was devoted to fighting for the received restoration of good fortune.

Knowing the Right Reverend Silouan extremely well, his pupil and follower, archimandrite Sofrony Sakharov, wrote about his teacher: "He met temptations and dealt with them with great courage and rare will-power. Without obstinacy; simplicity, freedom, fearlessness and courage with mildness and softness; humility and obedience – without humility and people-pleasing, he was an "authentic" person, a holy picture with a similarity to God".

Even before acceptance of a scheme, the monk Silouan happened to visit his homeland again. During the Russian-Japanese war (1904-1905g) he, as the natural-born Russian subject, was called from the sacred Mountain to Russia. Because of his age, he wasn't called into war and the Reverend Silouan stayed nearly a year at home. The brightest memories about him are connected with this time for his fellow Countrymen. In the family home where he lived with a large family, it was difficult for a monk to live and pray. So he constructed a small mud hut behind the house in the kitchen garden. There he prayed and fellow villagers came to ask about the far off and mysterious Sacred Mountain and to ask council of him. Remembering his stay in the world, he strengthened himself and began to carry chains and made a pilgrimage to the next monasteries in the cities of Zadonsk, Troyekurovo and Sezyonovo.

The Reverend liked to converse with children very much. When they became older, in their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, they told their children and grandsons: "There on Bolshak lived a Saint". Of course, at that time, Ven. Silouan was a simple monk, but the purity of the children's souls remembered him as a Saint. He took them into a field and, showing them the sun, compared its beams to the Lord's "rays" of good fortune and Omniscience. He inspired into these children not to sin and to respect their parents, to love God and his Church. And when the Saint Silouan pupils had grown old, they were still surprised as to how those days and weeks before the transition to eternity, whilst forgetting the names of their own children and grandchildren, could completely, with tears in their eyes, sing prayers from the Night service, from the Liturgy, without any problem.

On a place where there was a cell of the Reverend Silouan, in 1995 the Bow Cross was put and consecrated. It makes prayers, read the acathist, often in summer near the Cross it is possible to see cars of pilgrims with registration plates of the most various and distant regions.

And the temple in Shovskoe village in the Soviet years shared a mournful fate of a set of other scolded temples. The last service was served in 1937 on Trinity, on June 20. And on the following day Whit Monday the temple was closed, the priest Nikita Petrovich Potseluyev was under arrest, he was repressed and sentenced to 10 years of camps under the 58th article of USSR law. And in 1942 the church was plundered. There, burned down icons, broke salaries, loaded with books, icons the whole supplies and carried on the collective-farm yard. About the events, Shovsky's inhabitant, the eyewitness which was 15 years old sincerely wrote.

At this time our church became a warehouse, MTS, granary, warehouse of chemicals. And since the beginning of the 90th after disintegration of state farm, it stood empty and thrown. Only the branch of a willow, birches, the lilacs every year appearing at the remained frescos of prelates John Chrysostom, Feodosiy Chernigovsky, Ven. Seraphim of Sarov, Christmas said that people remember the temple and their soul lasts to the God's house on holidays. And with the help of these people in 1997 our temple was cleared of all remained "nasty thing of desolation". In Autumn, under rain with snow, generally old people took out from the temple some carts of garbage - the rotted-through grain, beaten glass, heavy details from old tractors, dust, the mountain of a pigeon dung. But not soon spiritual life in the temple began, in the village, but slowly and difficult hardly and with heavy scratch the rusted door opens... One of the temple activists remembers how people were glad even to that she, after clarification of the temple by Easter of 1998, hung up the first unpretentious icons here and lit the first icon lamp. And in year 2000 on Easter father Nikolay Erimeev from the village of New Rakitino served the first Easter Matins. People then gathered with all the district, there was a big enthusiasm, a set of cars from neighboring villages stood at the temple with the lit headlights, and teenagers, youth on old custom lit the territory round the temple with high fires.

In 2008 the orthodox world celebrated the 70th anniversary of Ven. Silouan repose. Especially solemnly this day was celebrated in the numerous monasteries called in honor of Ven. Silouan - in England, in distant Korea, in France, in Germany, in the Dnestr republic, in Moscow - on the Athos farmstead and, of course, on Athos. In our temple too there was a solemn service, many fathers led by the lord Nikon served. There was a good weather this day, and when slanting beams of the sun, got through windows, the temple which was decorated by parishioners with the embroidered towels, laces, autumn multi-colored foliage of maples and mountain ashes, scarlet brushes of a guilder rose, in the flowers, seemed to us the most beautiful in the world.

Were flown as kites angry,
Maliciously to ruin our temple.
From an icon sadly looked
Kazan God's Mother.
Security officers swore on women,
That closer it is impossible to approach.
Guessed angry Judas
Icons of an oven to heat.
All village ran together to church,
All were distressed and sobbed,
Looked, how angry enemies
The savior was crucified again.

The temple found the voice again to awake sleeping, to please with toll on holidays, to drive away powers of darkness. It was a great pleasure, all thanked God, the donors and who grew old by this time, but found forces to come this day to the temple, those who started reviving it when not a lot of people who believed in the village rebirth. And people remembering how dumped bells from the temple both trusted and worked, and waited for this light day! Tears of pleasure flew from their eyes and everybody come to this holiday when the decent father Ignatius, having consecrated the bells decorated with flowers, rang out in them, and then it was replaced by the bell ringer and a peal, after 76 years' silence, floated it is necessary to all over the area. This moments that remain in heart forever:

Long we waited for a peal
Also waited for it, at last.
It is Supreme aspires
To reach our hearts.
In flowers the bell rises
And silently floats to heavens,
And with it and the Mother of God,
And our Holy Father Silouan.
To the temple a lot of people gathered,
All looked up, without breathing,
From the first ring pleasure
The human soul started!

In the temple works do not stop. Now, restoring domes has started. 2 gold domes with the gold crosses are already shining over the village which are highly uplifted to the sky. We trust, as over other domes Lord's Crosses will begin to shine, consecrating all, living nearby, the Sacred God's Temple will rise in all former beauty that all to whom the way to the temple was closed because of propaganda will return to it, in whom the good fortune God's spark is alive. After all we live on the Holy worshipped Land.

In the village church - the holy site.
Lasted young and old alike there
To take the sacrament and there to pray,
And good luck to return back.
The church song sounded
And God's there was a good fortune.
And people were kinder -
Tried to accept beggars.
But time has come reopened
Road to the sacred God's temple.
Likely for us prayed
Our Holy Father Silouan.
Thank you kind people!
Did not allow to be lost to church beauty.
With the God's help everything was updated,
Not for nothing we live on the earth.
That footpath will not grow with a tall weeds,
As it grew many years.
Let's trust – now will not go out
Icon lamps Divine light!