Τρίτη, 13 Οκτωβρίου 2009

SAINTS OF THE RUSSIAN CHURCH,
June – July

Compilled by Antonios Markou

This text is under constraction

June 9
St. Alexander of Kushtsky (+ 1439)
St. Alexander, Abbot of the Kushtsky Monastery, was born on March 13, 1371, in Vologda, and was baptized under the name of Alexis.
He had left his family in his youth and set out to the Spaso-Kamenny Monastery as a pilgrim. In those days it was a famous spiritual center in North Russia. He humbly asked the monks to take him to the Abbot Dionysus of Holy Mount, who was well known for his piety and wisdom (he was Greek by origin, and lived for a long time on Mt. Athos). During his conversation with the young man St. Dionysus did not hide the difficulties and temptations that a monk confronted, though the former asked him with tears to receive him in the Monastery. Seeing that Alexis did not shy from the difficulties, the Abbot made him a novice.
Alexis voluntarily kept a strict fasting and prayer regime, and discharged every assignment with such eagerness that he soon won the love and deep respect of his brethren. The pious life of the young novice encouraged St. Dionysus to shorten the time of his probation, and a few months after his entering the Monastery Alexis took his vows as a monk under the name of Alexander.
St. Alexander lived in the Spaso-Kamenny Monastery, being spiritually guided by the experienced elder. There he was ordained. But the love and respect of his fellow monks burdened his soul, and eventually St. Alexander left the Monastery after the evening rule, though it was very hard for him to part with the Abbot and the brethren.
Wandering through the neighboring forests for some days he stayed on the lonely river Syanzhema, where he hoped to live in complete solitude. But some time later his seclusion was disturbed. People from neighboring villages, amazed by his ascetic life, began to come to him, expressing awe at his strength. The embarrassed Hermit was forced to leave the River Syanzhema and set out to the Kubenskoe Lake, hoping to find a more secluded place.
At the lake of the River Kushta (45 miles from Vologda) he suddenly discovered the cell of St. Euphimius (+ 1470, comm. on January 20), who was also a monk of the Spaso-Kamenny Monastery. For some time the two monks held joint prayers and engaged in pious conversations. St. Euphimius understood that his guest liked the place, and when St. Alexander humbly offered to exchange cells, his host agreed with pleasure, accepting the desire of his brother as Providence. After mutual blessings the hermits parted and the former Syanzhemsky and now Kushtsky ascetic continued his solitude.
Some time later an elder-monk came to the river Kushta. St. Alexander offered to live together in seclusion. When five years later another brother joined them, St. Alexander set out for the city of Rostov to ask for the Archbishop's blessing to build a Church. The Archbishop of Rostov, Dionysus of the Holy Mount, the former Abbot of the Spaso-Kamenny Monastery, who managed the Rostov Diocese during the last years of his life (1418-1425), blessed St. Alexander and gave him all that was necessary to conduct services.
After his return St. Alexander immediately began constructing a wooden Church in honor of the Assumption of the Most Holy Theotokos. At that time he became acquainted with Prince Dmitry Vasilyevich Zaozersky, whom the lands belonged to and whose charity helped for the quick arrangement of the monastery.
After Prince Dmitry's death (doing battle with the Tatars in 1380), his wife, Princess Maria, who earlier gave Icons and the Gospel to the new Church, increased her assistance to the Monastery. She greatly respected the Saint for his pious life and knew about his numerous duties, and tried to support him by sending him different foods. But St. Alexander, even being the Abbot of the Monastery, never changed his strict rules: fasting severely, he always gave everything to the sick and the poor. He usually said to the brethren, "Do you know, my beloved, that it befits us to enter the Kingdom of God through great sufferings?"
Soon the forces of the Tatars' Orda were devastating the northern territories of Russia. Yet when the advance troops reached the Kushtsky Monastery, the Saint met them calmly. Being crossed, they fainted and were revived only when St. Alexander prayed to the Holy Trinity. In response, the troops fled in great fear, amazed at the saint's miraculous power and mercy.
The life of the Saint also tells of how once a man decided to help himself to some of the good harvest of wheat the monks and the Abbot had sowed. A certain peasant, seeing no one around, decided to steal a bag of grain. But he took too much and so could not lift the bag - and at this moment St. Alexander caught him. The thief fell on his knees before the Elder with tears. The saint let him go after the fatherly precepts. Being ashamed of them the peasant lifted the heavy bag lightly and went away thanking God.
Later, feeling death coming, St. Alexander gathered the brethren and gave them his spiritual will. He entrusted the Monastery to the Intercession of the Lord and His Most Holy Mother, and ordered that a Church be built, dedicated to St. Nicholas the Miracle-worker. The monks fulfilled these requests soon after his death.
St. Alexander reposed in God peacefully on June 9, 1439, at the age of 68, and was buried in the Monastery that he had founded. Within a year a little rowan tree grew over the grave of the Saint. A lot of the pilgrims came to the Monastery on every feast of the Assumption of the Theotokos. Once, a small boy, Matthew, broke a twig off the tree for fun and his hand swelled immediately. When his parents understood the reason for it they came with him to the Saint's grave and prayed to him. The child was healed.
After that, many people collecting berries from the tree also became healthy.
One early manuscript of St. Alexander's life describes a great number of miracles that took place by his coffin. In particular, St. Alexander is known to be a healer of people with different mental illnesses.
Many people saw St. Alexander and St. Nicolas praying together and spreading incense in the Church that was built according to the Abbot's will. The service to St. Alexander was composed in 1575. In 1764 the monastery was canceled and St. Nicolas Church, where the Saint's Relics were interred, became the parish one.

June 20
St. Gleb, Prince of Vladimir (+ 1175)
He was the youngest son of St. Andrew Bogolyubsky, Prince of Vladimir (1157-1174). From his earliest childhood St. Gleb, who only lived to age 19 or 20, dedicated his life to God. His father, St. Andrew Bogolyubsky, was renowned for his Godly deeds and ended his earthly life as a Martyr. St. Gleb's parents were God-fearing people, and with such worthy examples, the young Prince developed strong and sincere belief. St. Gleb was kind to everybody: He respected Priests and read holy books for hours.
He reposed on June 20, 1175, according to the inscription on the tomb holding his Relics. A number of different miracles have been associated with St. Gleb's Relics, which never decomposed.
During the Mongol invasion in 1238, Batu Khan's warriors burst into Vladimir, then under siege, and set fire to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption. But even the invaders were shocked to find no signs of fire damager on the tomb in the Cathedral housing St. Gleb's Relics.
The Cathedral's chronicles record two other events that made St. Gleb famous. In 1410, the Tatar occupiers, in conjunction with a unit of the Nizhny Novgorod Voivode (governor of the town), Karamyshev, abruptly attacked the town of Vladimir. The Assumption Cathedral was plundered, but sacrist Patriky managed to hide the treasures. The sacrist was martyred. But while searching for the hidden treasure one of the warriors uncovered the tomb of St. Gleb, and at that moment a flash came from under the cover. And the Tatars, frightened by the mysterious phenomenon, fled the Cathedral.
In 1608 the Polish and Lithuanian invaders, having taken Suzdal and Yuryev, approached Vladimir, which was then defenseless - yet the invaders failed to take the town. One night, during that time, the Cathedral's junior deacon saw Prince Gleb in a vision. The latter told him that Vladimir would be saved if the people prayed to the Saint-Prince, whose Relics were preserved in the Cathedral. Hence, soon after, with the fear of God in them, the enemy army retreated from the town.
The descriptions housed in the Assumptions Cathedral, dating from the 18th c., give grounds for the locals' reverence of St.Gleb. The All-Russia canonization of the Saint and the attestation of his Relics took place on November 30, 1702. Shortly after, a service for the Saint was composed, while his life story was written a little later. In 1774 the Chapel on the south side of the Assumption Cathedral was dedicated to St. Gleb.
St.Gleb's Relics are a sacred object in the Assumption Cathedral in Vladimir, and the Saint-Prince is widely viewed as the patron of the town.

June 28
Sts. Sergius and Herman of Valaam
Holy Fathers Sergius and Herman of Valaam lived in the 14th c. There are two different presumptions about St. Sergius. According to one, he was a Slav, a resident of Novgorod, and, according to the other, he was a Greek. Blessed Father Sergius conducted his ascetic exploits in a cave, he was a Hieromonk.
Living his life in prayerful labors, Blessed Father Sergius worked to propagate Christianity in the northern part of Russia. He had baptized a certain Moong, who supposedly was a leader of a local tribe. Blessed Sergius gave him the name of Kuart. When Blessed Sergius died after sixty years of ascetic labor, Kuart buried his holy body and erected a stone cross of St. Andrew the Apostle on his grave. According to legend, St. Andrew visited Valaam to propagate Christianity.
Blessed Father Herman was a younger contemporary and companion in labor of Blessed Sergius. He also was a Hieromonk and, after the repose of Blessed Sergius, he became the Abbot of Valaam Monastery.
Holy Fathers Sergius and Herman in their earthly lives were blessed by the Lord with the gift of prophecy. Thus, for example, they predicted that Swedes would devastate the Monastery in the 17th c. (the period in the Russian History called "The Time of Troubles").
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July 11
St. Arcadius of New Torg (11th c.)
He was born in Vyazma in the beginning of the 11th c. His pious parents were common people. Showing great and sincere devotion to the Lord from his youth, Arcadius made a hard choice rarely made by people at that time - he became fool-for-Christ's sake. Day after day he wandered around the town begging, resting at night on the ground or on a Church porch. St. Arcadius was as simple and meek as child, which made him a stranger to the outside world. His blear-eyed fellow citizens used to ridicule and offend him.
St. Arcadius' life was austere and ascetic. He prayed often close to the town Cathedral. A small hill in the forest behind the town wall was his favorite place of solitude. There lied a big flat stone, upon which he prayed, sometimes for several nights in a row. As he preferred solitude and did not seek the fame of this world, he managed to conceal his spiritual gifts for some time.
Nevertheless, the cases of people receiving God's help thanks to his interces-sion became known while he was still living his earthly life. The following case struck the residents of Vyazma most of all. Once a woman and a small child were walking by the place where St. Arcadius prayed. Suddenly a poisonous snake bit the child. Hearing his mother cry, St. Arcadius came and healed the dying child. Moreover, his prayer ousted serpents from the surrounding area.
Becoming aware of that miracle, people of Vyazma changed their attitude toward the Saint. Those who were more attentive noticed that during the divine services in the Cathedral St. Arcadius transformed, with his face shining with inner light. He often shed tears because of a tender feeling. People began to pay attention to his words. He did not speak a lot, but everything he foretold came true. His criticism and instructions, far from being straightforward and obtrusive, were at times based on a parable or an allegory. Thus, he used to sweep the streets on the way from the Cathedral to the Church where a procession was to go, approximately two days before the latter. By doing this, he encouraged people to purify their souls in preparation for the Church feast and the Holy Communion.
Once St. Ephraim of New Torg was passing through Vyazma on his way to Kiev. When he met blessed Arcadius, "his inner feeling told him that this young man had indeed become fool-for-Christ." St. Ephraim encouraged Arcadius to keep up notwithstanding all the hardships and became a spiritual director of the latter, who often visited him in New Torg (now the town of Torzhok in Kalinin region) since then, seeking instruction. However, when people of Vyazma began to revere him as a Saint, Arcadius left the town, wishing to avoid the fame of this world. Together with St. Ephraim, he started construction of a new Monastery on the right bank of the Tvertsa river, crowned with the Cathedral in honor of Holy Passion-bearers Boris and Gleb.
St. Arcadius took monastic vows in the newly built monastery. During the day he worked on a par with other monks; at night he knelt down to pray and shed tears as before. Besides abstinence, wake and silence, he now practiced a complete denial of his own will and full obedience to his spiritual director. St. Arcadius, who became a keleinik (personal assistant) of St. Ephraim, never missed the Divine Liturgy and was the first to come to the service, as instructed by the latter.
After the repose of St. Ephraim (he passed away on January 28, 1053), St. Arcadius continued to practice fasting, prayer and silence according to the precepts of the Elder. A few years later he also reposed peacefully in the Lord. He was buried in a wooden coffin to the right of the stone Cathedral of the Monastery.
On July 11, 1677 the Relics of St. Arcadius were found uncorrupted, and on July 14 they were entombed again below the ground level in a side Chapel dedicated to Righteous Joachim and Anna. In July of 1785, during the construction of a new Cathedral, the coffin was moved from its place. Once the Cathedral was completed, the Holy Relics of St. Arcadius were placed into a stone coffin, the one that had contained the Relics of St. Ephraim until 1572. This event took place on August 14, 1798.
Under Metropolitan Dionysius (in 1584 - 1587), a commemoration of Sts. Ephraim and St. Arcadius of New Torg was established. Glorification of St. Arcadius was preceded by his miraculous apparitions, which took place in 1525 and 1661. First time he appeared with a green branch in his arms to Audius, who served as a cook of Gregory Bobrischev, a military leader of Vyazma. He instructed people of Vyazma to fence and guard the stone upon which he prayed, adding that the branch in his arms meant his God-granted power to protect Vyazma against "any kind of reptiles and enemies."
In 1661 Vyazma was saved from the devastation by Lithuanian troops thanks to a miraculous intercession of the Saint. As we know from his life, Lithuanian soldiers saw a young man riding on a gray horse. The man forbade them to move further, warning them that they would die anyway. Questioned by them, he answered, "My name is Arcadius, and this town is my native one."
When the peace came, citizens of Vyazma restored the Church in honor of Christ the All Merciful, built on the favorite place of prayers of the Saint in 1594. As soon as St. Arcadius was canonized, a new side altar was annexed, dedicated to the Saint. Subsequently a Monastery was built there, but it ceased to exist as early as in 18th c.
In 19th c. a Convent was founded in Vyazma, which was given the name of St. Arcadius in 1832, in accordance with the Holy Synod's decision. It had a two-storied Cathedral, the lower Church dedicated to St. Arcadius and to the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos and the upper bearing the name of Christ the All Merciful; it also had a side altar dedicated to the Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos of Akhtyr. A Chapel was built in the forest above the stone of St. Arcadius.
The memory of St. Arcadius is still cherished in Vyazma nowadays. One can find a venerated icon of the Saint in St. Trinity Cathedral, depicting him praying on the stone. Arkadievsky Monastery serves as a background on another icon. Both of them represent St. Arcadius as a meek young man.
St. Arcadius is deeply venerated by the faithful in Torzhok as well. The above mentioned Cathedral of Novotorzhsky Monastery of Holy Passion-bearers Boris and Gleb (built by A. Lvov in late 18th c.) still exists, with one of its side altars dedicated to the Saint.
The Icon-Painting Original contains the following description of St. Arcadius of New Torg: "He looks young resembling Galacteon, dressed in schema - the clothes of a Saint."

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