A Baptism on the way from Minsk to St. Petersburg

It’s nice to dream about something to the sound of train wheels. For example, to dream about the beginning of summer holidays, or about a trip to sea, which the parents will probably present you. It doesn’t matter what sea exactly. Just so to go to a resort! All Timotheus’ course mates have already been in Egypt or Turkey, while the luckiest of them have seen the Arab Emirates. The guy sighed sadly. He guessed that this time he would have to spend time in the hateful village and settle for an old bedcover spread near the patch and for drinking kvass, instead of lying on a deck chair with a sweated glass in his hand. Timotheus had a little pick at his companion. That's interesting where this man is going. To St. Petersburg probably, where else? He is not going to a remote area in the countryside, that’s for sure! He is dressed too intelligent for that and behaves somehow proudly. Timotheus looked at him closer and was surprised to note that the man’s face was quite young, while his hair were completely grey. Perhaps, the man noticed his puzzling face because he smiled friendly then:

- My name’s Anton. Nice to meet you.

Timotheus extended his hand and said his name. Why not? An easy conversation is the best way to pass the time. So he was happy to have that unexpected acquaintance, which could brighten up his three-hour-long road.

- Where are you going? – the guy asked.

- To Orsha. I have a very important business there.

- Me too, - Timotheus said with tragic voice. – My grandmother got sick. I’m going there to visit her and help her with the household. She lives in Svistelki village. It lies one and a half kilometer far from the city.

The guy looked at Anton and asked suddenly:

- What business do you have there?

Of course, one should not act like this. The question sounded too rough. However, Timotheus wanted to learn as much as possible about his companion. The man seemed strange. One can even say mysterious.

- Well then. I’ll tell if you're interested, - Anton said calmly. – Every year I visit my friend in Minsk and then I go to Kuteinsky Epiphany Monastery on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. It's tradition, friend.

Timotheus looked at Anton distrustfully. Can he be faithful? Doesn’t look like that. He seems quite respectable. The guy could not cope with his curiosity:

- Why should you come from other country to this monastery?

Anton looked at him with a smile:

- You want to hear the whole story? From the very beginning?

Is he joking? Tough to tell… Timotheus decided to nod, just in case.

- All right, - Anton said lightly, - listen…

I was drafted into the army. When I left, I had a fiancee. When I came back, she was already married to another man. My heart was heavy but there was nothing I could do. I tried to rebuild my life but nothing worked out. I had a job but it was not interesting for me. I met other girls but my heart did not respond. And then, Timotheus, I got bored. So bored that I understood: I don’t want to live. Just do not want to live. I didn’t see any sense in it. Today people call it depression. In fact, most often such a condition is absolutely normal for secular people. If you live without God, there is no sense in such life. You can’t trick your heart… There is no entertainment that can bring you joy, if there is a whole inside of you.

Anton looked in the window and continued with his plain voice:

- I decided to serve contract. Honestly speaking, there was no heroism in this decision. I just looked for a way to justify my senseless existence… And that was how I got in the “second” war in Chechnya.

Timotheus felt uncomfortable. He didn’t want to listen to anymore. Something inside of him resisted. However, Anton couldn’t know about that:

- There were four Belarusians in my squad. Most of the people were from the Ural regions. You know, before I got there I misunderstood the meaning of friendship. However, when bullets are flying over your head, everything sets in its place. You begin to understand rather clearly, what it means to love, to be a friend, to be loyal. On the top of all, my friend, I really wanted to come back home, to my old parents! Although I was absolutely unfaithful person, I began to pray: “God, help me come back home alive, I have so much to do for my parents!” Can you imagine this? I wasn’t even baptized but still I prayed with tears in my eyes and felt: Someone heard me!

Anton caught his breath and looked in Timotheus’ eyes:

- One man from Minsk, Sasha, got me out from under the burning car and carried me for more than ten kilometers to our block post. There is no need for you to know the details but the main thing was that I really managed to come back home. Alive. I wanted very much to thank God for that but I didn’t know how to do that. I thought that all those visits to church are pure hypocrisy. The main thing is to have the Lord in your heart. I prayed with my own words, I didn’t accept any literature and didn’t want to be baptized. Why should I? God knows I believe in Him. Several months later, I decided to visit Sasha. I figured out the route, bought the tickets and went on the road. I spent several days with my friend and had to go home. I was sitting in the train car already, when I felt strange anxiety. The longer I was on the way, the worse I felt. I can’t even explain now, what that was. I felt that I was missing something important in my life… You know what I did then?

- What? – Timothy asked.

- I just got out of the train, when it made a stop in Orsha. I was walking across the city with a gym bag on my shoulder without any idea about where and why I was going. I thought that I was just insane. Then I saw the domes of a church. You can’t imagine how hard my heart began to beat in my chest. I ran to the church. I came in and saw that the service was served. I stood for a while and realized that it was a feast day. I don’t remember who was standing beside me. A brother from the monastery, I guess. I asked him what the reason of all that solemnity was. “The Baptism of the Lord!” – He answered. I was so scared of those words. I thought: “How can it be the Baptism?! Why has Christ to be baptized?! He is God after all!” I knew nothing about the Orthodox faith. I just contrived a suitable religion for myself and was satisfied with it. So I had questions. Later I decided to come to a priest. We were talking for quite long… Finally, I spent there two weeks and went home being baptized. And now I am Antony, the servant of God. That’s it, pal. That was the biggest miracle in my life. Just think about it: I was literally led by hand to a foreign city, to a foreign church exactly on that feast day! Not just to a church, but to Epiphany Monastery! Since then I come here every year. This is my birth place…

- Are you bored with your life now?

Anton said firmly:

- No. Now I know what for I’ve come in this world.

On the train station, they said goodbye to each other just like old friends. Anton headed to monastery with light steps, while Timothy was going wistfully to the bus station.

Less than in an hour his grandmother will look at him excitingly:

- Why are you so sad? Aren’t you sick?

Timothy will hug her and persuade her that everything is fine. And then he will ask her:

- Was I really baptized, grandma?

January 19, 2018
St. Elisabeth Convent