In the 4th century, the Byzantine emperor Valens decided to persuade all of the empire's Orthodox bishops to accept the heresy of Arianism. Through intrigues, threats and coercion, he managed to achieve his goal in all areas of the empire, with the exception of Caesarea, where St Basil the Great was archbishop.
The emperor instructed his aide Modestus to break the stubbornness of the recalcitrant bishop at any cost. Modestus was a cruel and rude man. The official summoned the saint and learned that he was immune to persuasion and promises. He then decided to change his tactics and began to threaten Basil with deprivation of his possession, exile, torture and execution. This "set" of threats usually worked flawlessly. This time however, Modestus received from the Saint an answer that he had never heard before:
“If you take away my property, you will neither enrich yourself with it, nor desolate me. I doubt that you need these shabby clothes and the few books that constitute all my wealth. There is no exile for me, because I am not bound by place and ready to accept any dwelling. What can suffering do to me? I am weak and I will probably faint after the first blow. To me, death is a blessing, as it will bring forward my encounter with God, something that I have been waiting for all my life.
Modestus was amazed by this answer and reported to the emperor about the failure of his mission. The church of Caesarea was left alone.
In the summer of 1921, a trial was held in Tashkent over a group of doctors. The charge of sabotage brought against them was fabricated, but the process was conceived as a demonstrative reprisal, so the outcome of the trial was a foregone conclusion. The head of the Tashkent Cheka, Yakob Peters, acted as public prosecutor at the trial. The slandered victims had no chance of salvation. However, the chief physician of the Tashkent hospital, Valentin Voino-Yasenetsky, who had recently taken holy orders, unexpectedly came out in defence of his colleagues. In just a few sentences, he undeniably refuted all the bungling accusations against them. Outraged, Peters tried to take revenge:
- Tell me, priest and professor Yasenetsky-Voino, how do you pray at night, and then cut people up during the day?
- I "cut them up" to save them, but I do not see what makes a public prosecutor do the same.
The audience greeted the sharp reply with laughter and applause. All sympathies were on the side of the priest-surgeon. Both the workers and doctors applauded him. The next question, according to Peters' plan, was supposed to change the mood of the working-class audience:
- How do you believe in God, priest and professor Yasenetsky-Voino? Have you ever seen your God?
- I have not seen God, Sir. However, I have operated on the brain many times, and when I open a braincase, I never see the mind there either. Neither do I see the conscience.
The chairman's bell drowned in the long unceasing laughter of the entire hall. The doctors' case failed miserably.
The well-known elder Archimandrite Pavel (Gruzdev) used to walk several kilometres to the bathhouse barefoot in cold winter weather. When asked by his parishioners why he was doing this, the priest would laugh it off in his usual manner: "You see, the boots are new, it grieves me to wear them down" or, "It keeps me on my toes". Once, a chorister from the church where Fr Pavel served observed: “I was riding a bus and saw a man in a sheepskin coat and a furry hat running barefoot. His trousers were rolled up to the knees, as he was carrying his boots over the shoulder. I caught up with the man, and he turned out to be Father Pavel returning from the bathhouse. The snow was already melting, but so much of it had fallen overnight, the mud was almost knee-deep. The driver stopped the bus and said, "Get on, father Pavel!" He jumped in and stood with his bare feet on the iron floor. I told him to sit down, and he just shook his fist at me. Then he jumped off at his stop and ran home." That was Fr Pavel’s way of acting like a God's fool. Only once, in a frank conversation, he told one of his spiritual children the truth about his barefoot walks in the snow: “When I was in prison, we cut firewood. When everyone sat down to rest or smoke, I would run away from the fire and pray to God in the woods. Once they saw me doing this, tied me to a birch and took off my boots. The snow was knee-deep. I stood there until it melted under my feet all the way to the ground. I thought that I would get sick and die. However, I did not even cough once. Since then, my feet have never been cold. I could walk barefoot all the time, but I try to avoid embarrassing people.”