March 27 2020 - March 14 2020
Monk Benedict of Nursia (+ 543).
Sainted Theognost, Metropolitan of Kiev and All Russia (+ 1353). Nobleborn GreatPrince Rostislav-Michael (+ 1167).
Sainted Euskhymonos, Bishop of Lampsaka (IX). Saint Frontina. Martyr Theodosius.
Theodorov (Feodorov) Icon of the Mother of God (1613).
The Monk Benedict, founder of the western monastic order of the Benedictines, was born in the Italian city of Nursia in the year 480. At 14 years of age the saint was sent off by his parents for studies at Rome, but vexed at the immorality there surrounding him, he decided to devote himself to a different sort of life. At first Saint Benedict settled near the church of the holy Apostle Peter in the village of Effedum, but news about his ascetic life compelled him to go farther into the mountains. There he encountered the hermit Romanus, who tonsured him into monasticism and directed him to a remote cave for a domicile. From time to time the hermit would bring the saint food. For three years in total solitude the saint waged an harsh struggle with temptations and conquered them. People soon began to gather to him, thirsting to live under his guidance. The number of disciples grew so much, that the saint divided them into twelve communities. Each community was comprised of twelve monks and was a separate skete-monastery. And to each skete the saint gave an hegumen-abbot from among his experienced disciples.
With the Monk Benedict remained only the new-made monks for instruction.
The strict monastic-rule, established by Saint Benedict for the monks, was not taken to heart by everyone, and the monk more than once became the victim of abuse and vexation.
Finally he settled in Campagna and on Mount Cassino he founded the Monte Cassino monastery, which for a long time was a centre of theological education for the Western Church. At the monastery was created a remarkable library. And at this monastery the Monk Benedict wrote his ustav-rule, based on the experience of life of the Eastern wilderness-dwellers and the precepts of the Monk John Cassian the Roman (Comm. 29 February). The monastic-rule was accepted afterwards by many of the Western monasteries (by the year 1595 it had come out in more than 100 editions). The rule prescribed for monks an absolute renunciation of personal possessions, unconditional obedience and constant work. It was considered the duty of older monks to teach children and to copy out ancient manuscripts. This helped to preserve many memorable writings, belonging to the first centuries of Christianity. Every new postulant was required to live as a novice-obedient over the course of a year, to learn the monastic rule and to become acclimated to monastic life. Every deed required a blessing. The head of this common-life monastery is the hegumen-abbot, having all the fulness of power. He discerns, teaches and explains. The hegumen solicits the advice of the elders and the experienced brethren, but he personally makes the decision. The fulfilling of the monastic-rule is strictly binding for everyone and is regarded as an important step, nigh to perfection.
Saint Benedict was vouchsafed of the Lord the gift of foresight and wonderworking. He healed many by his prayers. The monk foretold his end beforehand.
The sister of Saint Benedict, Saint Scholastica, likewise became famed for her strict ascetic life and was ennumerated to the ranks of the Saints.
Saint Rostislav-Michael, GreatPrince of Kiev, was the son of the Kiev GreatPrince Saint Mstislav the Great (+ 1132, Comm. 14 June), and the brother of holy Prince Vsevolod-Gabriel (+ 1138, Comm. 11 February, 22 April and 27 November). He was one of the civil and churchly figures of the mid-XII Century.
With his name is connected the fortification and rise of Smolensk, and both the Smolensk principality and the Smolensk diocese.
Up until the XII Century the Smolensk land comprised part of the single Kievan realm. The beginning of its political separateness ensued in the year 1125, when holy Prince Mstislav the Great, by way of an inheritance from his father the Kievan GreatPrince Vladimir Monomakh, gave off Smolensk into the holdings of his son Rostislav (in Baptism Michael). Thanks to the work and efforts of Saint Rostislav, the Smolensk principality, which he ruled for more than 40 years, expanded and was built up with cities and villages, adorned with churches and monasteries, and became influential in the all-Russian affairs.
Founded by Saint Rostislav in the Smolensk lands were the cities of Rostislavl', Mstislavl', Krichev, Propoisk, and Vasil’ev among others. He was the first-ancestor of the Smolensk princely dynasty.
In 1136 Saint Rostislav succeeded with the establishing of a separate Smolensk diocese. Its first bishop was Manuel, installed between March-May of 1136 by the Kiev metropolitan Michael, with the means necessary for his needs were assured by an edict of prince Rostislav, issued in the city of Smolensk. Besides this, on 30 September 1150 in a special decree Saint Rostislav ceded the transfer of Cathedral Hill at Smolensk to the Smolensk diocese, where there stood the Uspenie cathedral and other diocesan buildings.
Contemporaries thought highly of the church construction of prince Rostislav. Even the sources that are inclined to report nothing moreso about it note, that “this prince built the Holy Mother of God church at Smolensk”. These words need to be understood not only in the sense of the rebuilding and expansion under prince Rostislav of the Uspenie cathedral, – originally built by his grandfather, Vladimir Monomakh, in the year 1101 (the rebuilt cathedral was consecrated by bishop Manuel on the feast of Uspenie (Dormition), 15 August 1150). Prince Rostislav was a “builder of the Church” in a far wider sense: he endowed the Smolensk Uspenie temple of the Mother of God materially, and transformed it from being a city cathedral into the ecclesiastical centre of the vast Smolensk diocese.
Holy Prince Rostislav was the builder of the Smolensk Kremlin, and of the Saviour cathedral at the Smyadynsk Borisogleb monastery, founded on the place of the murder of holy Prince Gleb (+ 1015, Comm. 5 September). Later on his son David, possible fulfilling the wishes of his father, transferred from Kievan Vyshgorod to Smyadyn' the old wooden coffins of Saints Boris and Gleb, in which their relics reposed until transferred into stone crypts in the year 1115.
In the decade of the fifties of the XIIth Century, Saint Rostislav was drawn into a prolonged struggle for Kiev, which involved representatives of the two strongest princely lines – the Ol’govichi and the Monomakhovichi.
Although the major contender to be greatprince on the Monomakhovichi side was Rostislav’s uncle, Yurii Dolgoruky, Rostislav as the Smolensk prince was one of the most powerful rulers of the Russian land and he had a decisive voice in the military and diplomatic wrangling. For everyone involved in the dispute, Rostislav was simultaneously a dangerous opponent and a desired ally, and moreover he was deliberately at the centre of events. This had a providential significance, since Saint Rostislav distinguished himself among his contemporaries by his wisdom regarding the civil realm, by his strict sense of justice and unconditional obedience to elders, and by his deep respect for the Church and its hierarchy. For some several generations he became personified as the bearer of the “Russkaya Pravda” (“Russian Righteous-Truth”) and of Russian propriety.
After the death of his brother Izyaslav (+ 13 November 1154), Saint Rostislav for a short while became greatprince of Kiev, but he ruled Kiev concurrently with his uncle Vyacheslav Vladimirovich. After the death of this latter figure (the end of the very same year) Rostislav returned to Smolensk, ceding the Kiev princedom to his other uncle – Yurii Dolgoruky, and he removed himself from active participation in the bloodshed of the inter-princely disputes. He occupied Kiev a second time on 12 April 1159 and he then remained greatprince until his death (+ 1167), having more than once to defend his paternal inheritance with sword in hand.
The years of Saint Rostislav’s rule occurred during one of the most complicated periods in the history of the Russian Church. The elder brother of Rostislav, Izyaslav Mstislavich, a proponent for the autocephaly of the Russian Church, chose for metropolitan the erudite Russian monk Kliment Smolyatich, and gave orders that he should be made metropolitan by a sobor (council) of Russian bishops, without previous recourse as formerly to the Constantinople patriarch. This occurred in the year 1147. The Russian hierarchy basically supported metropolitan Kliment and prince Izyaslav in their struggle for ecclesiastical independence from Byzantium, but several bishops headed by Sainted Nyphont of Novgorod (Comm. 8 April), did not recognise the autocephalous independence of the Russian metropolitanate and shunned communion with it, – having transformed their dioceses into a sort of unique “autocephalic” ecclesial districts, pending the examination of circumstances. The Smolensk bishop Manuel also followed this course. Saint Rostislav understood the danger, which lay hidden beneathe the idea of Russian autocephaly for these times, as aspects threatening the break-up of Rus'. The constant fighting for Kiev which occurred among the princes would tend towards a similar “fighting-over” the Kiev metropolitan cathedra-chair amongst numerous contenders, put forth by either one or another princely group.
The premonitions of Saint Rostislav were fully justified. Yurii Dolgoruky, adhering in loyalty to the Byzantine orientation, occupied Kiev in the year 1154, and he immediately banished metropolitan Kliment and petitioned to Tsar’grad for a new metropolitan. This was to be Sainted Constantine (Comm. 5 June), but he arrived in Rus' only in the year 1156, a mere half-year before the death of Yurii Dolgoruky (+ 15 May 1157). And it was a mere six months later, when on 22 December 1157 Saint Rostislav’s nephew Mstislav Izyaslavich entered the city, and Saint Constanine in turn was obliged to flee Kiev, while upon the metropolitan cathedra-seat returned the deposed Kliment Smolyatich. There began a time of Church disorder – in Rus' were two different metropolitans. All the hierarchy and the clergy came under interdict: the Greek-metropolitan suspended the Russians supporting Kliment, and Kliment suspended all the supporters of the Greek. To halt the scandal, Saint Rostislav and Mstislav decided to remove both metropolitans and petition the (Constantinople) Patriarch to install a new arch-hierarch upon the Russian metropolitan cathedra-seat.
But this compromise did not end the matter. Arriving in Kiev in the autumn of 1161, metropolitan Theodore died in spring of the following year. Following the example of Saint Andrei Bogoliubsky (Comm. 4 July), – who was attempting at this time to propose for metropolitan his own fellow ascetic bishop Theodore, Saint Rostislav put forth his own candidate, who turned out anew to be the much-suffering Kliment Smolyatich.
This fact, that the greatprince had changed his attitude to metropolitan Kliment, shows the influence of the Kievo-Pechersk monastery, and in particular of archimandrite Polykarp. Archimandrite Polykarp, an observer of the Pechersk traditions (in 1165 he became head of the monastery), was very close to Saint Rostislav personally.
Saint Rostislav had the pious custom, on the Saturdays and Sundays of Great Lent, to invite the hegumen with twelve monks to his own table, and he himself served them. The prince more than once expressed the wish to be tonsured a monk at the monastery of Saints Antonii and Theodosii, and he even gave orders to build him there a cell. The Pechersk monks, being of tremendous spiritual influence in ancient Rus', encouraged in the prince thoughts about the independence of the Russian Church. Moreover, during these years in Rus', there was suspicion regarding the Orthodoxy of the bishops which came from among the Greeks, in connection with the notorious “Dispute about the Fasts” (the “Leontian Heresy”). But the pious intent of Saint Rostislav to have the blessing of the Constantinople patriarch for the Russian metropolitan Kliment came to naught. The Greeks reckoned correctly that this appointment of a metropolitan to the Kiev cathedra was their most important privilege, which served not only the ecclesiastical, but also the political interests of the Byzantine empire. In 1165 at Kiev arrived a new metropolitan – the Greek John IV, and Saint Rostislav out of humility and churchly obedience accepted him. The new metropolitan, like his predecessor, governed the Russian Church for less than a year (+ 1166). The Kiev cathedra-seat was again left vacant, and the greatprince was deprived of the fatherly counsel and spiritual nourishing in the guise of a metropolitan. His sole spiritual solace was in recourse to the hegumen Polykarp and the holy elders of the Kievo-Pchersk monastery and the Theodorov monastery at Kiev, which had been founded under his father.
Returning from a campaign against Novgorod in the spring of 1167, Saint Rostislav fell ill. When he reached Smolensk, where his son Roman was prince, kinsmen urged him to remain at Smolensk. But the greatprince gave orders to convey him to Kiev: “If I die along the way, – he declared, – put me in my father’s monastery of Saint Theodore. If God shouldst heal me, through the prayers of His All-Pure Mother and the Monk Theodosii, I shall take vows at the Pechersk monastery”.
God did not deign to be fulfilled the ultimate wish of Saint Rostislav – to end his life as a monk of the holy monastery. The holy prince died on the way to Kiev on 14 March 1167. (In other historical sources the year is indicated as 1168). His body, in accord with his last wishes, was conveyed to the Kiev Theodosiev monastery.
Saint Euskhymonos the Confessor, Bishop of Lampsaka, lived in Asia Minor on the coastal region of the Dardanelles Peninsula, and was known for his virtuous and ascetic life. He suffered for his icon-veneration under the iconoclast emperor Theophilos (829-842), and having been imprisoned, he was sent off and died in exile.
The Theodorov (Feodorov) - Kostroma Icon of the Mother of God was written by the Evangelist Luke and is close in iconography to the Vladmir Icon of the Mother of God.
This icon received its name from GreatPrince Yaroslav Vsevolodovich (+ 1246), the father of Saint Alexander Nevsky, and who received in holy Baptism the name Theodore (Feodor) – in honour of Saint Theodore Stratelates. It was found, according to tradition, by his elder brother, Saint Yurii Vsevolodovich (+ 1238, Comm. 4 February), in an old wooden chaplet near the old city of Gorodets – later on at this spot was built the Gorodetsk Theodorov monastery. Prince Yaroslav-Theodore became the GreatPrince of Vladimir after his brother Saint Yurii perished in battle with the Tatar-Mongols at the Sita River, and subsequently in the year 1239, he solemnly transferred the relics of his brother from Rostov to the Vladimir Uspenie (Dormition) cathedral. And with this same icon inherited from his brother, he blessed his own son, Saint Alexander Nevsky, who that very year entered into marriage with the daughter of the Polovetsian prince Briacheslav.
Yaroslav-Theodore left behind in Russian history a remarkable memory of himself. He continued with the glorious traditions of his uncle – Saint Andrei Bogoliubsky (Comm. 4 July), and of his father – Vsevolod III Big-Nest (“Bol’shoe Gnezdo”), and he was thus connected to almost all of the significant events in the history of Rus' in the first half of the XIII Century. He inherited the legacy of Rus', burnt and hacked apart in the years 1237-1238 by the Tatar-Mongols. He raised it up from the ashes, rebuilt and embellished the cities, the holy monasteries and the churches. He restored cities along the Volga devastated by the enemy: Kashin, Uglich, Yaroslavl', Kostroma, Gorodets. The church of Theodore Stratelates at Kostroma and the Theodorov monastery near Gorodets were founded by him in honour of his patron saint. For all of eight years he stood at the helm as greatprince, but during this while he had to guide the land through a singularly difficult path for these times – maintaining a military-political balance with the Golden Horde to the East, while mounting an active opposition to Catholic Europe in the West. His closest companion was his son, Saint Alexander Nevsky, who also continued his governing policy.
The wonderworking Theodorov Icon of the Mother of God – with the blessing of his father – was constantly with Saint Alexander, and it was his prayer-icon. After his death (Saint Alexander Nevsky died on 14 November 1263 in Gorodets, at the monastery founded by his father), the icon was taken by his younger brother Vasilii.
Vasilii Yaroslavich was the “little-est”, that is, he was the youngest (eighth) son of Yaroslav Vsevolodovich. In 1246 after the death of his father, (prince Yaroslav was poisoned in the capital city of Mongolia – Karakorum), when he was but five years old, he became prince of the Kostroma appanage-holding – the least important in the domains of his father. But in the year 1272 God destined for him to become GreatPrince of Vladimir. His four years as greatprince (1272-1276) were filled with the typical for these times princely fratricidal quarrels. For several years he waged war against Novgorod with an unruly nephew Dimitrii Alexandrovich. In becoming greatprince, however, Vasilii did not journey off to Vladimir, but remained under the protection of the wonderworking icon at Kostroma, regarding this place more hopeful in case of new outbreaks of strife.
He had occasion also to defend Rus' against external enemies. In 1272, during the course of a Tatar incursion, a Russian army came forth from Kostroma to engage them. On the example of his grandfather, Saint Andrei Bogoliubsky – who took with him on military campaigns the wonderworking Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God, – prince Vasilii went off into battle with the wonderworking Theodorov Icon. Bright rays shot out from the holy image, striking the enemy; the Tatars were routed and expelled from the Russian land.
The chronicles relate, the GreatPrince Vasilii had an especial love for the Church and the clergy. After the martyr’s death of the Vladimir bishop Mitrophan during the storming of Vladimir by Tatars on 4 February 1238, the Vladimir diocese had for a long period of years remained as though widowed. This grieved GreatPrince Vasilii. With his help in 1274 there was constructed in Vladimir the large Cathedral church. This was apparently in connection with the consecration as bishop of Vladimir of Sainted Serapion (+ 1275, Comm. 12 July) – who was an hegumen from Pechersk; this was presided over by Metropolitan Kirill III (+ 1282) and a sobor-council of Russian hierarchs. The purpose of the council’s actions was quite extensive – this was the first Sobor in the Russian Church since the time of the Mongol invasion. Many a problem and disorder had arisen in church life, but the Russian Church was just barely beginning to recover from the woe that had befallen it. A chief task for it was the rebirth of Russian churchly literacy, and the restoration of the tradition of the ancient Russian “princely order”. Without books the salvific activity of the Church would be well nigh impossible: they were needed for the Divine-services, and for preaching, for cell meditation by monks, and for at-home reading by believers. With the efforts of Metropolitan Kirill together with the Russian bishops and monk-scholars, this task, – the most important for the subsequent Christian enlightenment of Rus', was successfully undertaken. The Sobor adopted a new redaction of the essential books – the fundamental canonical codex of Orthodox churchly life.
In the year 1276 prince Vasilii finished his life’s journey, the most important steps along the way of which were beneathe the overshadowing blessing of the Theodorov Icon of the Mother of God. He died at Kostroma and there also found the place of his final rest. The holy icon has been from that time in the Kostroma cathedral of Saint Theodore Stratelates.
Renewed interest in the Theodorov Icon of the Mother of God and the wide spreading about of its veneration throughout all Russia is connected with events of the beginning of the XVII Century – with the cessation of the Time of Troubles. In the year 1613 the wonderworking Theodorov Icon from the Kostroma cathedral was used in blessing the selection of Mikhail Romanov as the new tsar. In memory of this historic event there was established under 14 March the general commemoration of the Theodorovsk Icon of the Mother of God. Numerous copies were made from the Kostroma Theodorovsk Icon, and one of the first was commissioned and brought to Moscow by the mother of tsar Mikhail – the nun Martha. From the second half of the XVII Century, various copies of the Theodorov Icon received an enlargement with vignettes, depicting events from the history of the wonderworking icon.
In the year 1670 the monk-deacon Longin from the Kostroma Ipat’ev monastery wrote the “Narrative concerning the manifestations and miracles of the Theodorov Icon of the Mother of God in Kostroma”. Not all the things contained in its information co-incides with things previously stated, reflecting the people’s memory as regarding chronology and laws.
The Theodorov Icon is two-sided. On the reverse side – is the image of the holy GreatMartyress Paraskeva, depicted in the splendid attire of a princess. It is conjectured, that the image of Paraskeva on the reverse of the icon is connected with the spouse of Saint Alexander Nevsky.
© 1999 by translator Fr. S. Janos