Τρίτη, 13 Οκτωβρίου 2009

SAINTS OF THE RUSSIAN CHURCH
August – September

Compilled by Antonios Markou
This text is under constraction.

August 1
St. Bogolep, the Great Schema - child (+ 1667)
He was the son of Yakov Umakov, Head of the town of Chyorny Yar (Black Ravine, 250 versts from Astrakhan) and his wife, Aekaterina. He was born in Moscow in 1660, and was baptized as Boris.
Even in the first months of his life Boris exhibited unusual behavior. He wouldn't accept his mother's milk on Wednesdays and Fridays. And when Church bells rang, he would start crying to show that he wanted to be carried to Church. Once inside the Church, he would immediately calm down. On a day when he didn't attend Church, baby Boris would not eat anything and would cry constantly.
In 1662 a plague spread through Russia and the boy fell ill, with an ulcer appearing on his leg. Despite being lame, he continued to go to Church. His parents prayed for his health and did their best to help their son. But when the ulcer on his leg healed, another ulcer appeared on his face.
During the time he suffered with the ulcer, the boy saw a monk strolling past his parent's house. The angelic garb of the stranger made a strong impression on the boy and he began asking his parents to sow him a similar garb and to be allowed to become a monk.
He told his parents that he would recover from the ulcer as soon as he entered the monastery. His parents agreed to the request and the 7 year-old boy was clothed accordingly and given the name of Bogolep (from the Greek name Pheoprely). The next day the boy was indeed cured: there were no longer any signs of the ulcer.
But on the third day the boy-Saint was struck by fever. He died on Aug. 1, 1667, and was buried on the left side of the wooden Church of the Nativity, which had been erected in Chyotny Yar after a fire on July 24, 1632. A side-Chapel was built over the boy's tomb, and in 1750 a Church in honor of Saint and Martyr John the Warrior was built there.
The bank of the Volga River on which the Church of the Nativity was located was regularly ruined by water and wind. In light of this, in the middle of the 19th c., it became clear the Church could no longer be maintained. All of the Church's sacred objects were carried out, but the residents of Chyorny Yar hesitated to remove the coffin of St. Bogolep. In 1851, when the level of the river reached two arshins (56 inches) above average, the residents requested the Synod to bless the transfer of the Holy Relics, and the Synod gave the blessing. They found a small coffin, but as soon as the governor of the town took it, the coffin fell from his hands and disappeared into the waters of the Volga!
The loss of the coffin was understood as an act of Providence because the boy had appeared before so many people - walking along the bank of the river and falling into the water - but sending the word that his soul would forever be present with believers.
A life like that of St. Bogolep, one so simple yet so full of holy mysteries, shows the strength of the Savior's words about children. Our Lord teaches that Heaven belongs to children, and that those that do not embrace Heaven as a child, will not get there (Mark 10. 13-16; Matthew 18, 1-6; Luke 18. 15-17). The numerous recoveries under St. Bogolep's prayer are the reason for his glorification. State Councillor Nikolai Mikhailov, who was cured at the Saint's tomb in 1846, recorded miracle recoveries made under St. Bogolep's prayer. He also translated the Saint's life into French. Savva Tatarinov, the Godly resident of Chyorny Ray, had written the Saint's life story after a vow in 1731-32.

August 2
St. Basil the Blessed, Fool for Christ (+ 1557)
St. Basil, the Miracleworker of Moscow, was born in Moscow in December of 1468. His parents' names were Jacob and Anna. According to legend, the Saint was born on the churchporch of the Elokhov Church dedicated to the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God, outside Moscow, where his mother was praying fervently.
When the boy grew up, he was sent to learn the shoemaking trade. After a while the master understood that his apprentice was not an ordinary boy. Once a certain merchant who had brought bread to Moscow on a barge came into the workshop to order boots for himself and asked that they be made well, so that they wouldn't wear out in a year. Tears welled up in St. Basil's eyes when he said: "We'll make them so that you will not wear them out at all." In reply to his master's perplexed look he explained that the customer wouldn't even put on the new boots because he would die soon. In a few days his prophecy came true.
At the age of 16 he embarked on the thorny podvig of foolishness for Christ's sake. In severe frost and scorching summer heat he would walk naked and barefoot along the streets of Moscow. The way he behaved seemed odd: first he overturned a tray with kalatches (a kind of fancy loaf), then spilled a jug with kvass (a traditional Russian drink). The angry merchants beat the Blessed one, but he accepted the beating with joy and thanked God for it. After that it was revealed that the kalatches had been baked using flour containing harmful impurities and the kvass was unfit to drink. Thus, in the Blessed one's actions there came to light a special sense of instruction. It became clear that St. Basil is an exposer of falsehood and a man-of-God. Little by little he earned the respect and veneration of the people.
One merchant became to build a stone Church at Pokrovka, in Moscow, but its arches collapsed three times. The merchant appealed to the Saint for advice, and the latter sent him to Kiev: "Find wretched John there and he will teach you how to finish building the Church." Upon arriving in Kiev, the merchant found John, who was sitting in a poor hut rocking an empty cradle. "Who are you rocking?" - the merchant asked. - "My dear mother. I'm paying a debt too great to be repaid for my birth and upbringing". Only then the merchant remembered his own mother whom he had turned out of his house, and it became clear to him why he couldn't finish building the Church. On returning back to Moscow, he brought his mother back home, repented of his action, and asked for her forgiveness. After this, he successfully completed the building of the Church.
Preaching charity, St. Basil first helped those who were ashamed to beg, even though they were in dire need. There was one occasion when he gave away costly Tsar's gifts to a foreign merchant, who remained without any means of subsistence, and he ate nothing for three days, but didn't appeal for help.
St. Basil severely condemned those who gave alms for selfish purposes, instead of out of compassion for the poor and misfortunate, but rather in the hope of attracting God's blessing without any effort. Once he saw a demon who had assumed the form of a beggar. He was sitting near the Prechistenskie Gates and offered those who gave alms immediate help in their affairs. The Saint guessed the crafty intrigues of the evil one and drove him away.
For the sake of the salvation of his fellow man Blessed Basil also visited taverns. Even in the most fallen people he saw a grain of good, and he supported and encouraged them by his kindness. Many people noticed that when the Saint was passing by a house where people were partying and drinking heavily, he would embrace the corners of the house with tears in his eyes. When asked what this meant, he replied: "The sorrowful Angels are standing near the house and grieving over these people's sins, and I was entreating them with my tears to beg God for the conversion of these sinners."
Having cleansed his soul with great podvigs and prayer, Blessed Basil was found worthy of the gift of clairvoyance and wonder-working. In 1547, he prophesied the great fire in Moscow and extinguished the fire in Novgorod by his prayer. Once he accused Tsar Ivan the Terrible of having his mind occupied by thoughts about the construction of a palace on Vorobiovy Gory (Sparrow Hills) during Divine Liturgy. Once a compassionate Boyar in a severe winter frost asked Blessed Basil to accept an expensive fox fur-coat from him. The Saint, as was the custom, began to run along the street in the fur coat. Some unkind people, seeing the Fool-for-Christ in the fur-coat, decided to take it from him by deception. One of them lay down on the ground and pretended to be dead. His companions began to ask the Saint to give them something for the burial of the poor man. Sighing from the depth of his heart about their slyness, Blessed Basil asked: "Is your friend really dead and for how long has he been dead?" They answered that he had just passed away that very minute. The Saint gave away the fur coat with the words of Psalmist: "The cunning are being buried". When the righteous one left, the deceivers discovered that their friend really was dead.
The history of the Church tells us that even enemies can bring a truthful witness. Once a Persian ship with a lot of people on board was sailing in the Caspian Sea when suddenly a heavy storm arose. The waves flooded the ship and there was no hope of rescue. The helmsman was no longer navigating the ship, because he had lost his direction in the raging storm. There were several Russian Orthodox Christians along with the Persians on the ship. During the danger they remembered about Blessed Basil and said to the non-Orthodox believers sailing with them: "In Russia, in Moscow, we have a Saint named Basil who walks on water, and the waves obey him. He has a great daring before Christ our God and is strong enough to save our ship from sinking under the waves, and to save us". Scarcely had they pronounced these words, when suddenly everybody saw a naked man standing on the water, who took the helm and navigated the ship through the raging waves. Soon the waves became calm, the wind stopped, and everybody was saved from impending death.
The Persians who returned home told their ruler about the miracle that had happened. The Shah wrote about it to Tsar Ivan the Terrible and when some of the saved Persians arrived in Moscow on commercial business, they met Blessed Basil and recognized in him the very man who had saved them from sinking.
Not with standing the hardships and privations he experienced in his life, St. Basil lived to a venerable old age. The saint reposed on August 2, 1557 at the age of eighty-eight…seventy-two years of which he had spent as a Fool-for-Christ. Metropolitain St. Macarius of Moscow, along with the assembly of clergy, conducted the burial services for the great Saint. His body was buried near the Holy Trinity Church, which is on the spot where the Cathedral of the Protection was erected in 1554 to commemorate the subjugation of Kazan.
St. Basil was canonized by the Local Church Council on August 2, 1588, with the blessing of first Patriarch of Russia St. Job. A side-Chapel was built in the Cathedral of the Protection in honor of St. Basil. Already before the glorification, a service was written to him by Elder Michael of Solovky.
Numerous healings and miracles took place near the coffin of St. Basil, many of which were witnessed by his contemporaries. Orthodox Moscovites revere the memory of St. Basil with particular spiritual warmth.
St. Basil's appearance is described in detail: "He is entirely naked and has a staff in his hand". Veneration for him is so great that the Cathedral of the Protection and the side-Chapel attached to it are called St. Basil's Cathedral to this day.
The penitential chains worn by St. Basil are kept in the Moscow Theological Academy.

August 21
St. Avramius of Smolensk (13th c.)
St. Avramius of Smolensk, who preached repentance and the coming of the apocalypse, was born in the mid-12th c. to a rich Smolensk family. The family, which already included 12 daughters, had long been praying to God for a son.
From early childhood he was brought up to be God-fearing and often attended Church. He also, as the son of a wealthy family, had the opportunity to study with books. His parents had hoped that their only son would marry and continue the family lineage. But the son sought another life. Following the death of his parents he donated his inheritance to various Monasteries and Churches and to the poor. He later began walking around the town and asking God to show him the path to salvation.
He took his vows as a monk in the Monastery of the Most Holy Theotokos, in a place called Selishe, five miles from Smolensk. He devoted himself to copying and collecting books, from which it is said he drew great spiritual wealth.
The Prince of Smolensk Roman Rostislavovich (died 1170) had founded the town school, where pupils were taught not only to read Slavonic, but also Greek and Latin. The Prince himself had a large collection of books, which St. Avramius would read in his spare time.
The monk had worked in the Monastery for more than 30 years, when in 1198 the Abbot persuaded him to be ordained for the Priesthood. From the time of his ordination he conducted the Divine Liturgy every day and was Confessor to both his brother monks and the laity. Soon he became widely known.
This generated a lot of envy among his brother monks and the Abbot, and as a result of this, five years later St. Avramius moved to the Smolensk Monastery of the Erection of the Cross. Using donations from pilgrims he decorated the Cathedral of this poor Monastery with icons. He himself painted two icons on the themes that troubled him most of all: The Last Judgment and the torment on the ordeals.
Pale and gaunt from his strict monastic observance, St. Avramius in his priest's garments was said to resemble St. Basil the Great. The Saint was renowned for being as severe on his spiritual disciples as on himself. He constantly preached in Church and spoke at the same level with both the rich and poor who came to his cell.
As a result, the town nobility and clergy demanded Bishop Ignatius bring the Saint to trial: accusing him of enticing women and winning over his spiritual disciples. But the situation became more serious, and terrible, when the same groups began to accuse St. Avramius of heresy and of reading forbidden books. As punishment they suggested the Saint be drowned or burned.
At his trial before the Prince and Bishop the ascetic rejected all of the scurrilous accusations, but nevertheless was forbidden to conduct services, and was moved to his former Monastery, of the Most Holy Theotokos.
A severe drought that ensued in the province was said to be God's punishment for the unjust trial; and indeed it was only when Bishop Ignatius asked for St. Avramius to be pardoned and allowed serve and preach that rain again began to fall on the lands of Smolensk.
St. Ignatius went on to build a new monastery in honor of the Deposition of the Robe - appointed St. Avramius its Abbot - and left his Bishop's chair to settle in this monastery. In time, a large number of people asked to enter the monastery and to be guided by St. Avramius. But he was very selective in those he accepted, subjecting them all to long trials, and in the end only 17 monks became part of his monastery.
Following the repose of his close spiritual friend St. Ignatius, St. Avramius began to instruct his fellow monks to remember death and to pray during the days and nights not to be condemned in the day of the Last Judgment.
St. Avramius is believed to have passed to the Lord before 1224, after having been a monk for 50 years. At the end of the 13th c. a special Service for St. Avramius, along with one for his disciple, St. Ephrem, was composed. The destructive forces of the Mongol invasion, which many saw as God's punishment for the population's sins, did not weaken the memory of St. Avramius of Smolensk, but reminded people of his appeal for repentance and to remember the Doomsday.

August 23
New Hieromartyr John (Vostorgov, + 1918)
Archpriest John Ioannovich Vostorgov was born on 20 January 1864 in the family of a rural Priest in the Stavropol Diocese. Having graduated from the Seminary, he was ordained to the Priesthood in his native village. Later he was transferred to Tbilisi and appointed diocesan missionary of the Georgian Exarchate. The young pastor accepted the post enthusiastically, being committed to disseminating Orthodox faith. Besides his direct duties, Fr. John learned the language of Persian Nestorians, or Syrian Chaldeans, and visited Persia several times with a view to converting them to Orthodoxy. These persistent efforts were blessed with success: three Nestorian Bishops together with the congregation of 20.000 people joined the Orthodox Church.
Bishop Vladimir Bogoyavlensky, Exarch of Georgia, who was afterwards to become a Hieromartyr, did not fail to notice such a fervent adherent of Orthodoxy and got attached to him. As a result, when the Bishop was soon appointed Metropolitan of Moscow, he invited Fr. John to follow him. However, the latter probably had a calling to do more than to pursue a career, albeit successful, of an ordinary pastor. It might well be the reason why the Holy Synod soon appointed Fr. John Synodal preacher missionary, a function that he performed until the day of his martyrdom.
Sermons, public appearances and articles of Archpriest John Vostorgov always involved the analysis, from the ecclesiastical point of view, of all new trends that became so drastically evident in family, social and public life in Russia in the beginning of the 20th c. He participated in the whole spectrum of activities of Ortho-dox patriotic associations and was stigmatized for this by leftist liberal circles. As one can see from Fr. John's article, where he explained his concept of patriotism, the many accusations of obscurantism and anti-Semitism brought against him were completely unfounded.
"Unfortunately, even the rightists often interpret patriotism in the European sense, that is, in fact, in a pagan way. This is a bestial, zoological kind of nationalism, which is exclusively based on the sense of one's attachment to his or her nation, country, or State. What is this attachment rooted in? Just in the fact that one is in possession of all these things. But this is not a sound justification or the noblest of motives. In the same way an animal loves its belongings… Christianity understands, interprets, ennobles and inspires any natural feeling of good and truth… The Russian nation is a nation of Orthodox Christians and a part of the Christendom entrusted with a global mission by Providence. This mission is to preserve and disseminate the Holy Truth of Orthodoxy. Our nation belongs to the Church; therefore its death would be a blow to the Church and, consequently, to the world and the mankind and the erosion of Truth… To serve the nation in this sense means to serve God, Christ, the Church, Truth, Orthodoxy, and work for the salvation of the world and the mankind. Taken from this perspective, patriotism and nationalism is not an end in itself but rather a means to achieve the highest aim of preaching Truth… This also explains why the revolutionary parties in Russia attack Orthodoxy and the Church with much more exasperation than they attack autocracy."
Fr. John preached tirelessly all over Russia. His voice was heard by people in Irkutsk, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Tobolsk and Omsk. When the Government entrusted the Russian Church with the difficult task of spiritual patronage over the resettlers to Siberia and setting parishes in their new places of residence, the Holy Synod made Fr John Vostorgov responsible for this. He brilliantly handled this task by identifying a large number of appropriate candidates and sending them to the special seminary courses for prospective pastors.
In 1911 Fr John, acting on behalf of the Palestinian Society, had an opportunity to buy a parcel of land in the town of Bari, Italy, where the Relics of St. Nicholas were resting, and to establish a podvorie (ecclesiastical mission) there for Russian pilgrims. His persistence and initiative also made it possible to found the Women's Theological Institute in Moscow in 1913.
The events of 1917 hardly changed the way of life of Fr. John, who served as the dean of St. Basil Cathedral in Moscow at the moment. He turned the Cathedral into a center for religious groups with a sound patriotic orientation. Fr. John did not hesitate to address the most burning issues of the time, spoke of them in an eloquent manner, and encouraged people to expose and confess their faith. He also explained how to live in those days of God's visitation. In summer of 1917 he even had a chance to publish a weekly paper.
After the October coup the preacher condemned the brutal and arbitrary practices of the new authorities. While being perfectly aware that he would be martyred to death for what he was doing, he celebrated molebens on the Red Square on Sundays in the presence of a great multitude and preached to people afterwards. When Metropolitan Vladimir (Bogoyavlensky) was slaughtered on 7 February 1918, Fr. John delivered an emphatic speech: "Our people has committed a sin, which needs to be redeemed and confessed. In order to expiate a sin and make people repent, a sacrifice is indispensable; and the best, not the worst, is always chosen for this purpose. This explains the martyrdom of the elder Metropolitan."
In fact, Fr. John was soon to become a Martyr himself. In summer of 1918 he was brought to trial, charged with the so-called "anti-Semitic propaganda in Moscow's St. Basil Cathedral with regard to the relics of St Gabriel." At that time, however, the Bolsheviks did not dare to kill such an influential Priest just for his sermons.
Having failed to accuse Archpriest John Vostorgov of anything else, the Extraordinary Commission (precursor of KGB) resorted to its favorite trick, a provocation. The fabricated investigation that ensued did not last long. Fr. John was sentenced to death by shooting. The verdict hailed him as "a shady character and an enemy of the working class."
Archpriest John Vostorgov died as a confessor on 23 August 1918. Together with him Bishop Ephraim (Kuznetsov) of Selenga, Rev. Lutostansky, a Roman Catholic priest, I. G. Scheglovitov, Chairman of the State Council, Senator S. P. Beletsky, N. A. Maklakov and A. N. Khvostov, former ministers of the interior, were executed. An eyewitness of their execution wrote memoirs showing that these people faced death with dignity and genuine courage.
"Those sentenced to death were lined up facing the grave. At the request of Fr John the executioners allowed them to pray and take leave of each other. They kneeled and started to pray fervently; then each of them came to be blessed by Bishop Ephraim and Fr John, and finally they took leave of each other. Fr John Vostorgov was the first to step up to the grave. Having said a few words to the rest, he encouraged everybody to make the last expiatory sacrifice, hoping for God's mercy and looking for the future revival of the Motherland. "I am ready," he concluded, turning to the guards. The prisoners stood were they were told to. The executioner came up to Fr John closely from behind, twisted his left arm backwards and shot in the back of the head simultaneously pushing him into the grave. The other executioners did the same to the rest…"
Thus Fr John proved by his own death his loyalty to Christ's commandments he devoted all his life to. Not long before his arrest, the last dean of St. Basil Cathedral, addressing the generations to come, said the prophetic words that are so important to us today: "We are alive. Our God is alive, so is Russia and the Russian people - now and ever. The time has not come yet to part his garments, the time has not come to bury him!"
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September 20
Sts. Michael, Prince of Chernigov, and his Boyar Theodor (+ 1245)
In 1238 Batu-Khan and his army invaded Russia, sacking many towns - including Kiev and Chernigov - and pillaging riches, destroying Churches and buildings and killing many people. Those that survived this rampage did so only by fleeing to the forests or hiding in caves. Meanwhile, many Princes and Boyars took flight to other territories.
St. Michael Prince of Chernigov was in Kiev at the time, and after he learned of the Tatar invasion, moved with his Boyar St. Theodor and others to Ugry. When the killing finally ended, those that survived began trickling back to the ruins of their homes. In mourning over his destroyed motherland, St. Michael followed them.
When the Tatars learned of his return, they ordered Prince Michael to appear before the Khan. But before being allowed to see Batu, a visitor was required to prostrate himself before heathen gods, which many Russian Princes, through faint-heartedness, did. But rather than bow down before false idols, St. Michael and St. Feodor chose another path. After receiving the blessing of their confessor, Bishop John, and taking Communion, the two proceeded to meet the invading Horde - and to die in Christ's name.
Upon reaching the Horde the two Saints refused to undertake the heathen rite. And on Sept. 20, 1245, the two men were tortured mercilessly and eventually beheaded. The Tatars then threw their bodies to the dogs - but after several days it transpired that the hungry dogs had refused to touch the bodies. Eventually, fellow Christians took the bodies of the two Martyrs to Chernigov and buried them.
Later, in the 16th c., when Chernigov was being overrun by Catholic Poland, the Saints' Relics were transferred to Moscow to ensure they would not be desecrated. On Feb. 14, 1578, the Relics were met by a procession, and accompanied by the ringing of the bells of Holy Moscow. In anticipation of the arrival of the Relics, a Cathedral had been built to house them, and it was to become one of the most venerated in the whole city. The Relics were later transferred to the Archangel Cathedral, in 1578.

September 25
St. Ilarion Metropolitan of Suzdal (+ 1698)
He was born on October 13, 1631, in Nizhny Novgorod, to the family of Priest Ananias and his wife Melania. John's father was known as a man of remarkable piety and intelligence. He began teaching his son to read and write when the boy was three years old. God granted John remarkable faculties and, after a year of instruction, he could read the Psalter and Holy Scriptures. At the age of five, he chanted in the Church and became a canonarch.
After his wife's death, Father Ananias left his parish, put the house under custody of his older sons and joined the Savior-Transfiguration Monastery together with his youngest son John. In 1652, he was one of the three candidates for the position of Patriarch of Russia together with His Eminence Nikon, who was eventually elected.
John, the future Holy Hierarch Ilarion, spent his young years in the silence of the monastery in prayer, divine services and fasts. The brothers of the monastery were not sympathetic with the young man's ascetic ambitions and talked him into marrying a Priest's daughter, Xenia. The marriage was happy, although it did not last long. Xenia died after a year and a half. This event took him back to the monastic life. His father, Hieromonk Anthony, was fully supportive of him in this decision. Before his death, his father taught him: "Do not seek a comfort here on earth, neither wealth, or glory."
It took John some time to find a place for his monastic labors. One time, when visiting the Florischev Hermitage, where there were only four residents, he made himself a promise to settle there. The founder of the Hermitage, Schema Monk Methodius, predicted that John would establish a Monastery there. The Hermitage was located in a pristine forest on the Florischev hill, not far from the village of Gorokhovets.
John's relatives learned about his intentions and tried to talk him out of the monastic life. He hesitated and was almost ready to marry again, but all of a sudden, lost his eyesight. This happened to him three times: as soon as John was close to breaking his pledge, God punished him with blindness.
In complete despair, John went to the Holy Trinity – St. Sergius Lavra and tearfully prayed to St. Sergius for his intercession before God for healing. Most Venerable Father Sergius appeared to him in a dream and ordered him to go back to the Florischev Hermitage and promised his help. After this, John regained his eyesight.
On his way back from the Holy Trinity – St. Sergius Lavra, he stopped to visit his wife's brother Bishop Paul, who tonsured him a monk with the name of Ilarion on December 11, 1653. Bishop Paul wanted to keep the newly tonsured monk by his side, but brother Ilarion strove to get back to the Florischev Hermitage, as the will of God had indicated.
His reunion with the Florischev Elders was truly moving. In his absence, the Elders built a Church in honor of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos with a side Chapel dedicated to St. Ephrem the Syrian. In May, 1654, upon the request of the brothers, Patriarch Nikon ordained Ilarion as a Hieromonk. The Patriarch was deeply impressed by Brother Ilarion's knowledge of the Holy Scripture.
The spiritual endeavors of Father Ilarion were astonishing even for experienced ascetics: he prayed all night long making a thousand prostrations, had meals only every other day, sometimes once in three days, or one meal a week during fasting seasons. He would wear his body out with hard work on improving the Hermitage, and spent short breaks in work reading holy books.
In 1654, an outbreak of anthrax took the lives of all the brothers, except for Ilarion's. He was the only one to survive. He lived alone for a certain time, but then moved closer to the village of Afanasievo. Peasants from the neighborhood helped him to build a log hut, but the logs were so wet that Ilarion had to live the winter in cold and dampness. When spring came, he went back to the hermitage together with a certain Jonah, a monk, who joined him in ascetic labors. Shortly after that, new brothers joined them and soon their number reached fifteen. The brothers cut roads through the forest and built bridges over rivers and creeks which made the place accessible for pilgrims. The old Church built by the Elder Methodius had burned down and the brothers built a new Church, which was warm and suitable for winter-time. The brothers put a fence around the re-arranged Monastery.
During his unceasing hard work for the well-being of the Hermitage, Hieromonk Ilarion had to undergo many severe temptations. When building a new stone Church, serious disagreements occurred among the builders. Father Ilarion grieved immensely about that and even started having doubts whether he was doing the right thing. With these thoughts he was dozing off one morning in the Church after the Service. The Mother of God appeared to him in the dream saying: "Take my icon called "Our Mother of Vladimir" from the warm church and put it into the one under construction. I will be helping you there."
St. Ilarion summoned the brothers and all together they moved the Icon with the singing of holy hymns and ringing bells. They placed the Icon in the stone Church on the scaffoldings, and things went much better. At nighttime, when the builders were resting, the monks would help the construction by bringing stones and sand and by cutting planks.
One evening, when Father Ilarion and a Deacon were in the Church reading their night prayers ("the night monastic rule"), a gang of robbers broke into the Church. They killed the Deacon and, in an attempt to get money from the Priest they burned him. But the Most Holy Mother of God did not leave her servant in deadly danger. Suddenly the robbers heard the noise of many voices, as if there were a crowd. Tey fled in fear, although there were no people around.
In the years of poor harvests, the brethren suffered from a shortage of bread, and the monks grumbled that Father Ilarion would feed pilgrims and strangers. The Abbot, however, always put his trust in God's help and indeed received it: when the last reserves were gone, a new supply would come from a certain benefactor.
Besides outward temptations, St. Ilarion had to fight severe inner struggle. For three years, he was attacked by evil thoughts of sensuality and despair. The Heavenly Queen and the Saints of the Lord also helped him in this struggle. Thus, when being tempted by evil imaginations he ceased to serve Divine Liturgies, Nicholas the Wonderworker appeared to him in his dream and commended him to serve Liturgies daily, ignoring the work of demonic forces. In time, when neither hard work nor the strictest fasting helped him escape the attacks of the evil spirits, he fell into despair. The Most Pure Virgin herself visited him in a dream and uplifted his spirit.
The severest test was related to an event which almost estranged the Abbot Illarion from the Orthodox Church. In the early fifties of the 17th c., under the leadership of Patriarch Nikon of Russia, church authorities started making corrections in the liturgical books and ceremonies to comply with the Greek Church. New service books were printed and distributed to all churches and monasteries. St. Ilarion's soul was tormented with doubts. On one hand, he did not believe in the modified liturgical books, while on the other, he did not want to disobey the Patriarch. He entered a strict fast and tearfully prayed to God to reveal the truth to him. His prayer was accepted and the All-Merciful God blessed him with a revelation. One day, after having partaken of the Holy Gifts, he saw blood in the Holy Cup and heard a voice saying: “The power of the Sacrament remains unchanged, no matter what books are used, new or old." From this very moment, all his doubts were dispelled, and he remained obedient to the Patriarch.
Abbot Ilarion established very strict rules for monastic living in his Monastery: everything was to be shared among the brothers: they had common meals; everybody, except for the sick and disabled, had to labor in monastic obedience. During services, the monks would stand quietly as if there were no one in the Church. God glorified His servant Ilarion for his righteous living and humility and granted him gifts of prophecy and power over evil spirits.
The Monastery of St. Ilarion attracted a great number of pilgrims. Tsar Theodore Alexyevich visited the monastery several times, for he loved soul-profiting conversations with Father Ilarion. The Tsar gave the Monastery several icons by iconographer Simon Ushakov, who was a relative of St. Ilarion's.
On December 11, 1682, St. Ilarion was consecrated Archbishop of Suzdal and Yuriev, and was soon promoted to the position of Metropolitan. Holy Hierarch Ilarion built , restored and decorated Churches in his Diocese. In the city of Suzdal, five new Churches were built with his support and supervision and an old Cathedral was restored. Church services acquired special grandeur during his reign as Metropolitan. He introduced processions in the worship practice, with special icons and lanterns, which are still used today.
Holy Hierarch Ilarion delivered beautiful edifying sermons and was a remarkable guide and comforter for those who sought his counsels. He was particularly caring about widows and orphans, and never forgot the poor and needy. The evidence of his non-acquisitiveness was the fact that, after his death, no more than seventy-five kopecks were found in his possession.
Holy Hierarch Ilarion was the head of the Suzdal Diocese for twenty-five years. On September 25, 1698, with the blessing of Patriarch Adrian (1690-1700) he opened the Holy Relics of Venerable Mother Euphrosinia of Suzdal (+ 1250, comm. September 25). Shortly before his death, he lost his eyesight because of many tears, but he never ceased to conduct services.
Holy Hierarch Ilarion passed away on December 14, 1707 and was buried in the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos in Suzdal. Many miracles and wondrous healings took place at his holy shrine. About twenty of them are described in the biography of the Saint. For example, two residents of Suzdal, Ivan Siluanov and Ivan Bolotnikov, were miraculously healed from throat tumors, and a Priest's, wife Maria Stephanova ,regained her eyesight.
The biography of Metropolitan Ilarion was composed by his disciples and first published in 1868.

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