Orthodox River


June 25 2020 - June 12 2020

Monk Onuphrios the Great (IV). Monk Peter of Athos (+ 734).

Monks: Arsenii of Konevsk (+ 1447); Onuphrii of Mal’sk and Pskov (+ 1492); Onuphrii and Avxentii of Vologda (XV-XVI); Stephen of Ozersk and Komel’sk (+ 1542); Vassian and Jona of Pertominsk, Solovetsk (+ 1561). Pious Princess Anna of Kashinsk (Transfer of Relics 1650, and Restoral of Churchly Veneration 1909).

Monks: Paphnutios, Timothy, John, Andrew, Herakleimon (Heraklambonos) and Theophilos of the Thebaid (IV); Zeno; Julian, Hegumen of Constantinople. Saint John, Soldier of Egypt (VI-VII).

The Vitae/Lives of the Monk Onuphrios the Great and of other hermits of the IV Century, asceticising in the inner Thebaid wilderness in Egypt (among them were the Monk Timothy the Wilderness-Dweller, and the Monks John, Andrew, Herakleimon (Heraklambonos), Theophilos and others) – was written down by their contemporary and fellow monk of the Thebaid, the Monk Paphnutios.

One time the thought occurred to Saint Paphnutios to go off into the depths of the wilderness, in order to see for himself the fathers asceticising there and to hear from them, as to how they sought after salvation. He set out from his monastery and went into the wilderness. Over the span of four days the monk reached a cave and found in it the body of a long since dead elder. Having buried the hermit, the Monk Paphnutios went on further. After another four days he came across yet another cave and from the marks in the sand he realised, that the cave was inhabited. At sundown he saw an herd of buffalo and walking amidst them a man. This man was naked, but covered over literally as though by clothing by long hair. This was the Monk Timothy the Wilderness-Dweller. Catching sight of a fellow man, the Monk Timothy thought that he was seeing an apparition, and he began to pray. Saint Paphnutios finally convinced the hermit, that he was actually a live man and a fellow Christian. The Monk Timothy readied him a guest-place and related, that he had been already asceticising in the wilderness for 30 years, and this was the first he had seen of another man. In his youth, the Monk Timothy had lived in a common-life monastery, but he was troubled by thoughts of being saved alone. The Monk Timothy left his monastery and went to live nearby a city, sustaining himself by the work of his own hands (he was a weaver). One time a woman came to him with an order and he fell into sin with her. Having come to his senses, the fallen monk went far off into the wilderness, where with patience he underwent tribulation and sickness as a merited chastisement from God. And when he was already at the point of dying from hunger, just then in a miraculous manner he received healing.

From that time the Monk Timothy had lived peacefully in complete solitude, eating dates from the trees, and quenching his thirst with water from a spring. The Monk Paphnutios besought the elder that he might remain with him in the wilderness. But he was told, that he would be unable to bear the demonic temptations which beset wilderness-dwellers, and instead he blessed him and supplied him on his way with dates and water.

Having rested up at the wilderness monastery, the Monk Paphnutios undertook a second journey into the depths of the wilderness. He went on for 17 days. His supply of bread and water was exhausted, and the Monk Paphnutios twice collapsed from weakness. An Angel strengthened him. On the 17th day the Monk Paphnutios reached an hilly place and sat down to rest. Here he caught sight of a man approaching him, from head to foot covered with white hair and with a belt of leaves about the loins. The sight of the elder frightened Saint Paphnutios, and he jumped up and fled off towards the hill. The elder sat down at the foot of the hill. And when, lifting his head, he caught sight of the Monk Paphnutios, he called out to him to come over. This was the great wilderness-dweller – the Monk Onuphrios. At the request of Saint Paphnutios, he told him about himself.

The Monk Onuphrios had lived in complete isolation in the wilds of the wilderness for 60 years. In his youth he had been raised at the Erita Thebaid monastery. Having learned from the elders about the hardships and lofty life of the wilderness-dwellers, to whom the Lord dispatched help through His Angels, the Monk Onuphrios blazed up in his spirit to copy their exploits. By night he secretly left the monastery and saw before himself a ray of light. Saint Onuphrios became frightened and decided to go back, but the voice of his Guardian Angel urged him on upon his utmost path. In the depths of the wilderness the Monk Onuphrios came upon a wilderness dweller and he stayed with him to learn of the wilderness manner of life and the struggle with demonic temptations. When the elder was convinced, that Saint Onuphrios was strong enough in this terrible struggle, he then led him off to this bidden place of exploits and left him alone. Once a year the elder was wont to come to him, and after several years, having finally come to the Monk Onuphrios, he then died.

At the request of the Monk Paphnutios, the Monk Onuphrios told about his exploits and efforts and about how the Lord had cared for him: roundabout the cave where he lived, there grew a date-palm tree and a spring of pure water issued forth. Twelve different branches of the palm tree in succession bore fruit, and so the monk endured neither hunger nor thirst. The shade of the palm tree sheltered him from the noonday heat. An Angel brought the saint bread and each Saturday and Sunday communed him, as also with the other wilderness dwellers, with the Holy Mysteries.

The monks conversed until evening. At evening there appeared amidst the saints white bread, and they partook of it with water. The elders spent the night at prayer. After the singing of matins the Monk Paphnutios saw, that the face of the Monk Onuphrios had become transformed, which frightened him. Saint Onuphrios was saying: “God, Merciful to all, hath sent thee to me, so that thou might give burial to my body. On this present day I shalt finish my earthly course and pass over to life unending, in rest eternal, going to my Christ”. The Monk Onuphrios bid Saint Paphnutios, that he should tell the account about him to his brother ascetics and to all Christians, for the sake of their salvation.

The Monk Paphnutios besought blessing to remain in the wilderness, but Saint Onuphrios said, that this was not the will of God, and he ordered him to return to the monastery and relate to everyone about the lives of the Thebaid Wilderness-Dwellers. Having then blessed the Monk Paphnutios and made farewell, Saint Onuphrios prayed long with tears, and then he lay down upon the earth, uttering his final words: “Into Thine hands, my God, I commend my spirit”, – and he died.

The Monk Paphnutios with weeping tore off a portion of his garb and with it wrapped the body of the great wilderness dweller, which he placed in the crevice of a large rock, and in the semblance of a grave, he covered it over with a multitude of small stones. Then he began to pray, whether it was that the Lord had decided he should stay til his life’s end at the place of the exploits of the Monk Onuphrios. Suddenly the cave fell in, the palm tree withered, and the water spring dried up.

Realising that he had not been given the blessing to remain, the Monk Paphnutios set out on his return journey.

After 4 days the Monk Paphnutios reached a cave, where he met a wilderness dweller, who was there in the wilderness for more than 60 years. Except for the two other elders, with whom he asceticised, this wilderness dweller had seen no one in that time. Each week these three had gone on their solitary paths into the wilderness, and on Saturday and Sunday they gathered for psalmody. They ate the bread, which an Angel brought them. And since it was Saturday, they had gathered together. Having partaken of the bread from the Angel, they spent the whole night at prayer. In leaving, the Monk Paphnutios asked the names of the elders, but they said: “God, Who knoweth all, knoweth also our names. Remember us, that we be vouchsafed to see one another in God’s habitations on high”.

Continuing on his way, the Monk Paphnutios came upon an oasis, which impressed him with its beauty and abundance of fruit-bearing trees. And then the four youths inhabiting this place came to him from out of the wilderness. The youths told the Monk Paphnutios, that in their childhood they had lived in the city of Oxyrhynchus (Upper Thebaid) and they had studied together. They had been ardent with the desire to devote their lives to God. Making their plans to go off into the wilderness, the youths left the city and after several days journey they reached this wilderness area. A man radiant with light met them and led them to a wilderness elder. “We are living here six years already, – said the youths, – Our elder dwelt here one year and then he died. We live here at present alone, we eat of the fruit of the trees, and we have water from a spring”. The youths gave him their names: they were Saints John, Andrew, Heraklambonos (Herakleimon) and Theophilos. The youths asceticised separately from one another the whole week long, but on Saturday and Sunday they gathered at the oasis and offered up common prayer. On these days an Angel would appear and commune them with the Holy Mysteries. This time however, because of the Monk Paphnutios, they did not go off into the wilderness, but spent the whole week together at prayer. On the following Saturday and Sunday Saint Paphnutios together with the youths was granted to commune the Holy Mysteries from the hands of the Angel and to hear the words of utterance of the Angel: “Receive ye the Food Imperishable, the Bliss Unending and Life Eternal, the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, our God”.

The Monk Paphnutios made bold to ask of the Angel the permission to remain to the end of his days in the wilderness. The Angel answered, that God had decreed for him another path – to return to Egypt and to make report to all Christians about the life of the wilderness dwellers.

Having made his farewell of the youths, the Monk Paphnutios after three days journey reached the edge of the wilderness. Here he found a small skete monastery, and the brethren received him fondly. The Monk Paphnutios related everything, that he had learned about the holy fathers, whom he had encountered in the depths of the wilderness. The brethren wrote down in detail the account of the Monk Paphnutios and spread it about through other sketes and monasteries. The Monk Paphnutios gave thanks to God, Who had granted him to learn about the lofty lives of the hermits of the Thebaid wilderness, and he returned to his own monastery.

The Monk Peter of Athos, a Greek by birth, served as a soldier in the imperial armies and he lived at Constantinople. In the year 667 during the time of a war with the Syrians, Saint Peter was taken captive and locked up in a fortress in the city of Samara on the River Euphrates.

For a long time he languished in prison and he pondered over what sins of his had incurred the chastisement of God. Saint Peter remembered, that once upon a time he had the intention to leave the world and go off to a monastery, but he had not done so. He began to observe strict fast in the prison and to pray fervently, and he besought of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker to intercede before God for him. Saint Nicholas appeared in a dream to Saint Peter and advised him to call for help on Saint Simeon the God-Receiver. And encouraging the prisoner in patience and hope, Saint Nicholas once more appeared to him in a dream. The third time it was not in a dream that he appeared with Saint Simeon the God-Receiver. Saint Simeon touched his staff to the chains of Saint Peter, and the chains melted away, literally like wax. The doors of the prison opened up, and Saint Peter emerged to freedom. Saint Simeon the God-Receiver became invisible, but Saint Nicholas conveyed Saint Peter to the borders of the Greek lands. And reminding him of his vow, Saint Nicholas likewise became invisible. Saint Peter then journeyed to Rome to assume the monastic form at the tomb of the Apostle Peter. And even here Saint Nicholas did not leave without his help: he appeared in a dream to the Pope of Rome and informed him about the circumstances of Saint Peter’s liberation from captivity, and he commanded the Pope to tonsure the former prisoner into monasticism.

On the following day, amidst a numerous throng of the people during Divine-services, the Pope loudly exclaimed: “Peter, thou who art come from the Greek lands, and whom Saint Nicholas hath freed from prison in Samara, come thou forth unto me”. Saint Peter stood forth in front of the Pope, who tonsured him into monasticism at the tomb of the Apostle Peter. The Pope taught Saint Peter the rules of monastic life and kept the monk by him. And then with a blessing he sent off Saint Peter thither, whence God had blessed him to journey.

Saint Peter boarded a ship, sailing to the East. The ship-owners, during a time of having come ashore, besought Saint Peter to come and pray at a certain house, wherein the owner and all the household lay sick. Saint Peter healed them through his prayer.

The MostHoly Mother of God then appeared in a dream to Saint Peter and indicated the place, where he should live til the very end of his days – Holy Mount Athos. When the ship sailed alongside Athos, it then halted of its own accord. Saint Peter realised, that this was the place he had to go, and so he went ashore. This was in the year 681. The Monk Peter then dwelt in the desolate places of the Holy Mountain, not seeing another person for 53 years. His clothing had tattered, but his hair and beard had grown out and covered his body in place of clothes.

At first the Monk Peter was repeatedly subjected to demonic assaults. Trying to force the saint to abandon his cave, the devils took on the form at times of armed soldiers, and at other times of fierce beasts and vipers that seemed ready to tear apart the hermit. But through fervent prayer to God and the Mother of God, the Monk Peter conquered the demonic assaults. Then the enemy began to resort to trickery. Appearing under the guise of a lad, sent to him from his native home, he with tears besought the monk to leave the wilderness and return to his own home. The monk was in tears, but without hesitation answered: “Hither have the Lord and the MostHoly Mother of God led me, and without Her leave I go not from hence”. Hearing the Name of the Mother of God, the demon vanished.

After seven years the devil came before the monk in the guise of a luminous angel and said, that God was commanding him to go into the world for the enlightening and salvation of people needful of his guidance. The experienced ascetic again replied, that without the permission of the Mother of God he would not forsake the wilderness. The devil disappeared and did not bother more to approach the saint. The Mother of God appeared to the Monk Peter in a dream together with Saint Nicholas and said to the brave hermit, that each 40 days an Angel would bring him Heavenly manna. From that time the Monk Peter fasted for 40 days, and on the fortieth day he fortified himself with the Heavenly manna, receiving the strength for further forty-day abstinence.

One time an hunter, chasing after a stag, caught sight of the naked man, covered about with hair and girded about the loins with leaves. He took fright and was about to flee. The Monk Peter stopped him and told him about his life. The hunter asked leave to remain with him, but the saint sent him off home. The Monk Peter gave the hunter a year for self-examination and forbade him to tell about the meeting with him.

A year later the hunter returned with his brother, afflicted with a demon, and together with several other companions. When they entered the cave of the Monk Peter, they then saw, that he had already reposed to God. The hunter amidst bitter sobs told his companions about the life of the Monk Peter, and his brother, with but a touch to the body of the saint, received healing. The Monk Peter died in the year 734. His holy relics were situated on Athos at the monastery of Saint Clement. During the Iconoclast period the relics were hidden away, and in the year 969 they were transferred to the Thracian village of Photokami. With the name of the Monk Peter of Athos is connected the sacred testimonial of the Mother of God about Her earthly appenage – Holy Mount Athos, which even now presently remains in force: “To Mount Athos let there be its peace, for this is allotted Me by My Son and God, given unto Me, wherein let them be separated from worldly whisperings and gathered together those spiritual in the power of their exploits, with faith and love in soul calling out My Name, thereupon to pass their earthly lifetime without travail, and for their God-pleasing deeds to receive life eternal: for exceedingly do I love this place and I do wish upon it the increase of monks, and they possessing the mercy of My Son and God thereupon as monks shalt never be undone, if they observe the saving commandments: and I shalt spread them forth upon the Mountain to the south and to the north, and they shalt possess it from the world til the end of the world, and their name throughout all under the sun I shalt make praiseworthy and so defend those, which there with patience would asceticise in fasting”.

The Monk Arsenii of Konevsk was a native of Novgorod. He was a craftsman and he fashioned various items from copper. The saint accepted tonsure at the Lisich monastery near Novgorod, where he spent 11 years. From there he set off to Athos. And there the Monk Arsenii spent three years, dwelling in prayer and preparing for the Athos brethren vessels of copper.

In the year 1393 the Monk Arsenii returned to Russia and brought with him an icon of the Mother of God, which afterwards was called the Konevsk. The Monk Arsenii set out with this icon to the island of Konevets on Lake Ladoga. Here he spent five years in solitude. In 1398 with the blessing of the Novgorod archbishop Ioann, the Monk Arsenii laid the foundations of a common-life monastery in honour of the Nativity of the MostHoly Mother of God. He visited Athos a second time, and besought of the holy fathers their prayers and blessing for the monastery. In 1421 the lake flooded, wiping out the monastery structures, and it forced the Monk Arsenii to relocate the monastery to a new spot on the island. The Monk Arsenii died in the year 1447 and was buried in the monastery church. The life of the monk was written during the XVI Century by the Konevsk hegumen Varlaam. In 1850 the Life of the Monk Arsenii was published together with the service and laudation.

The Monk Onuphrii of Mal’sk and Pskov (Izborsk) founded a monastery in honour of the Nativity of the Mother of God at Mala, four versts from Izborsk and 56 versts from Pskov. The saint died on 12 June 1592 and was buried in the Nativity church, in a chapel named for him. The memory of the Monk Onuphrii is celebrated likewise on the so-called “Mal’sk Sunday” – the 1st Sunday after the Peter and Paul fast.

The Monk Stephen of Ozersk and Komel’sk was born in the latter half of the XV Century in the Vologda lands. His father served at the prince’s court, but the mundane life was not for the soul of the youth. He went off to the Glushitsk monastery of the Monk Dionysii, where he soon accepted monastic tonsure. With the blessing of the Glushitsk hegumen, the Monk Stephen made the rounds of the northern monasteries, in order to discover the spiritual customs. Having returned to the Vologda lands, he settled near the source of the River Komela. The Monk Stephen led a strict life. Once during the time of tearful prayer the monk was granted to see the MostHoly Virgin and Saint Nicholas, who besought the Mother of God to bless Saint Stephen to establish a monastery. In the year 1534 the Monk Stephen built a church in the name of Saint Nicholas. The monk reposed peacefully in the year 1542.

Holy Nobleborn Princess Anna of Kashinsk died on 2 October 1338. Her holy relics were uncovered on 21 July 1649. The solemn transfer of her relics from the wooden Uspenie-Dormition cathedral into the stone Resurrection church occurred on 12 June 1650. To the day of 12 June was appointed also the restoration of churchly veneration of Saint Anna. The account about her is located under 2 October.

© 1999 by translator Fr. S. Janos