He was born to a noble family of only moderate means. His father died when he was only two years old, and he was reared with his mother and the brother he spoke of. The brother, eight years older than Zossima, came under the influence of a freethinker and was soon a source of sorrow to the mother. He ridiculed her religious observances and her devout beliefs. Then, at seventeen, he contracted consumption, and the family was advised that he had but a few months to live. During the months he waited for death, a tremendous spiritual conversion took place in the boy. He became extremely pious and spoke continuously about the need to love all of God's creatures, even the little birds in the garden. He asked the servants to feel that they were his equal and often said that he wished he could be a servant to the servants. Besides his brother, Zossima says that there has been another influence on him: the Bible. This
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