In the autumn of 1861, Lahiri Mahasaya, then in his 33rd year, undertook the 30-day, 500-mile journey to Ranikhet in the Himalayas, there to meet for the first time Babaji, who materialized for his beloved disciple a golden palace and there initiated him into Kriya Yoga. Far away in America a terrible civil war was raging. But here in these sacred mountains, where peace prevailed, the great Babaji sent Lahiri forth to bring back to mankind the lost art of Kriya, the path of inner communion born out of the divinely orchestrated meeting of Babaji-Krishna and Jesus Christ.
In this same year, in Archangelsk, in the far northwest of Russia, was born another great soul, this one too destined to play a part in bringing to mankind the inner experience of Christ. His name was Rachoff. His spiritual journey began in his fourteenth year, when old man Timofei came to Rachoff’s father’s house, took the boy’s hands in his, and with deep reverence made the sign of the cross on them. When Timofei spoke, young Rachoff knew to the depths of his being that God Himself had given Timofei the words he uttered: “Vassily Osipovich Rachoff, I hereby set a seal on your hands, that you may never use them for anything evil, impure, or shameful, but only to comfort, give, and heal. Your hands shall rest tenderly on brows furrowed with pain and care; they shall gently rub weary backs. They shall carry food, drink, and warm clothes to the poor. They shall be a blessing to everyone.”
There were to be three seals in all given to Rachoff before he fully understood God’s will for this life. The second came on his eighteenth birthday, when his employer, a man of faith, lovingly presented the young man with a Bible, and his blessing: “I seal your eyes as a father would, so that God’s word be a source of comfort, wisdom, and peace. Your eyes shall see nothing in this holy book but Christ’s power and great love.” Meditating day by day on the Bible’s sacred teachings, Rachoff grew increasingly dissatisfied with his life so far, and increasingly on fire with the compassionate desire to give Christ’s love to the many who suffered.
But how? After being rebuffed again and again in his efforts to serve, Rachoff was near despair, when his path crossed that of a kindly middle-aged woman, a devotee of Christ, a being of such inner radiance that her very presence reawakened in him hope and the fire of divine love. When Rachoff asked her blessing, Irina made the sign of the cross over his heart: “I will set a seal on your heart,” she said. “Christ alone shall rule in this heart. Away with all sadness and complaining! Come, spirit of God, dwell here within this man, and grow until he is filled with Your purifying love.”
Hands, eyes, and heart sealed with Christ’s blessing, Rachoff awoke to the true mission of his life, to help all those suffering in darkness and despair to feel in their inmost being the presence of Christ as he himself now felt it — eternal love, eternal friendship. Willingly, joyfully, Rachoff worked alongside the poor, sharing their humble and often demeaning tasks, taking to himself the most repugnant of them. As he worked, he radiated Christ love into the hearts of his fellow toilers, until he came to be accepted as a true friend — even as a Christlike saint, or an angel descended. The villagers and farm workers he served began to change inwardly — despair to give way to hope, hatred and bitterness to love, cruelty to kindness. Families torn apart by destitution and drunkenness came together in newfound harmony.
Rachoff’s endless self-offering, welcome as it came to be among the oppressed and desperate, drew hostility, persecution, and even imprisonment from a church hierarchy threatened and exposed by the goodness of this humble servant of Christ, one who was so clearly doing Christ’s work when the clerics and institutions acting in Christ’s name so often were serving only their own selfish interests.
Driven from place to place by these jealous churchmen, Rachoff travelled all over Russia, sharing the love of Christ — and, even when forced out, joyfully proclaiming to those grieving ones left behind that Christ lived within each one of them just as much as he lived within Rachoff. Finally back in Archangelsk, Rachoff set up, in the most impoverished part of town, a restaurant for the needy — operating entirely on faith, never charging those who came, never begging for supplies. Always what was needed arrived opportunely — foodstuffs, fuel. No one went away hungry. And when, once again, officialdom found a way to shut his restaurant down, Rachoff cheerfully affirmed, “If the poor cannot come to me, I will go to them.” Soon equipped with horse and wagon, Rachoff made his way from one miserable hovel to the next, bringing food, blankets, coal, medicines — and always, the love of Christ.
On October 20, 1894, then 33 years old, Rachoff was seized and incarcerated 1,000 miles away, in the dreaded Suzdal monastery. The warden, a kindly old soul distressed to see such a good man wasting away in solitary confinement, moved Rachoff to a small enclosed garden. There Rachoff sat, often gently swaying, sometimes exclaiming, “I am dancing, for I shall soon see God!”—speaking incredulously, barely able to grasp such joy. One day, in the middle of a dance, Rachoff dropped to his knees, eyes upturned, face resplendent, as his soul rose in bliss to meet Christ his Beloved. And all over Russia, Rachoff’s spiritual children took up the call, setting out to care for the abandoned, the lonely, the desperate, beggars and children, everyone in need, and most of all, to awaken in hearts everywhere the living presence of Christ.
My hands were made to serve Thee willingly . . .
My eyes were made a chalice to hold Thy burning love . . .
My heart was made to respond to Thy call alone.
In divine friendship,
For Ananda’s “Thank You, God” Tithing