Sainted Meletii, Archbishop of Khar'kov and Akhtyrsk

Commemorated on February 12

      Sainted Meletii, Archbishop of Khar'kov and Akhtyrsk (in the world Mikhail Ivanovich Leontovich), was born 6 November 1784 in the village of Stara Stanzhara in the Poltava district.
      In 1808 Mikhail Leontovich successfully completed the Ekaterinoslav religious Seminary. As the best student, he was sent on by the Ekterinoslav archbishop Platon to Peterburg, to the Alexandro-Nevsky Spiritual Academy [in Russia, "spiritual academy" is higher level of religious training beyond "seminary"]. Finishing the spiritual academy in 1814 with the degree of "magister" ["teacher"], he was appointed adjunct-professor of Greek language.
      On 11 March 1817 they appointed Mikhail Leontovich to the office of secretary of the Academy Building committee.
      On 30 July 1817 they transferred him to the Kiev religious Seminary, to serve in the office of inspector, as well as professor of Church history and Greek language. When the Kiev Spiritual Academy opened on 28 September 1819, Mikhail Leontovich became its first inspector.
      On 11 February 1820, on the eve of the day of memory of Sainted Meletios of Antioch, in the cathedral church of the Kievo-Bratsk monastery, he was tonsured into monasticism with the name Meletii. The tonsure was made by the Kiev metropolitan Evgenii (Bolkhovitnikov). On 22 February 1820 the Monk Meletii was ordained by metropolitan Evgenii to the dignity of deacon, and on 25 February to priestmonk.
      On 9 August 1821 Priest-monk Meletii was appointed rector of the Mogilevsk religious Seminary and head of the Kuteinsk Orshansk monastery with elevation to the dignity of archimandrite. In August 1823 they transferred him to the office of rector of the Pskov religious Seminary, and on 24 January 1824 Archimandrite Meletii was appointed rector of the Kiev Spiritual Academy.
      In October 1826 the Holy Synod followed with a decision to appoint Archimandrite Meletii as bishop of Chigirinsk, a vicar of the Kiev diocese and head of the Zlatoverkh Mikhailovsk monastery. On 19 October 1826 was his appointment as bishop, and on 21 October 1826 was made the archpastoral consecration at the Kiev Sophia cathedral.
      With a fatherly love the saint concerned himself about young foster-children, raising them in a spirit of devotedness to the Church of Christ. The saint had particular concern for the needy, and widows and orphans. He often visited the imprisoned and provided them the consolation of Divine-services in the prison-churches. The saint also was no little concerned about the spiritual nourishment of the brethren of the Mikhailovsk monastery. With edifying discourse and personal example he inspired in the monks of the monastery a spirit of true asceticism. Saint Meletii said: "Humility is the guarding sword, with which to pass over earth and hades, to reach Heaven".
      In April 1828 Sainted Meletii received appointment to the Perm cathedral.
      Strict towards himself, the saint was strict also towards others. To prepare chosen candidates for the accepting of the dignity, Saint Meletii himself wrote for them the so‑called "Ordinant's Catechism". In August 1831 Saint Meletii was transferred to the Irkutsk cathedra-seat, with elevation to the dignity of archbishop.
      The saint devoted great attention to the enlightenment of the lesser nations of Russia with the light of the Gospel teaching. The saint founded churches in the north of Kamchatka, in the northeast parts of the Irkutsk diocese and along the Aldan River, on the tract from Yakutsk to Okhotsk. He often reviewed his extensive diocese, going to the shores of the Okhotsk and Arctic Seas, to the boundary lines of North America, where there then laboured the reknown Apostle of Siberia the Priest Ioann Veniaminov, later known as the Apostle to America Sainted Innocent (Innokentii, Comm. 23 September and 31 March). Journeying through Siberia and along the shores of the Pacific Ocean, Saint Meletii frequently interacted with the native peoples who professed Lamaism. The saint with gentleness urged them to leave behind their errors and he explained the Gospel truths to these pagan peoples: the Tungus, the Buryats, the Kamchadali, and also the inhabitants of the Kurile and Aleutian Islands.
      With his untiring efforts the health of the saint began to deteriorate, and they transferred him in 1835 to the Slobodsk-Ukrainsk cathedra-seat (afterwards the cathedra of Khar'kov and Akhtyrsk).
      And here Sainted Meletii devoted great attention to the institutions of spiritual learning, and much concerned himself about the life and education of the clergy.
      He raised questions about the restoration of those monasteries and spiritual schools, which the empress Catherine II had closed up. The saint also allotted great attention to the struggle with the schismatics.
      On 2 July 1839 Saint Meletii led the solemnity in the city of Akhtyrk with the 10 year anniversary of the appearance of the wonderworking Icon of the Mother of God, named the Akhtyrsk.
      The blessed end of the saint occurred on the night of 29 February 1840. After Communion, with the words "Now lettest Thou Thy Servant depart in peace", the saint signed himself with the sign of the cross and, having turned to everyone with the words "Forgive me", he expired to the Lord.
      On 4 March 1840 Saint Meletii was consigned to the earth by the Kursk bishop Iliodor within a burial crypt beneathe the Church of the Cross at the Pokrov monastery.
      From the first days after his death believing people firmly trusted on the intercession of Saint Meletii before God, and they received the help of grace: healing in sicknesses, comfort in sorrows and deliverance from difficult circumstances. Believers in Khar'kov put especial trust in Saint Meletii during the terrible days of the "Great War for the Fatherland" (World War II). With miraculous advice the saint predicted the impending deliverance of the city from the enemy.
      In 1948, with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Alexei, the coffin with the relics of Saint Meletii was transferred to the Annunciation cathedral church, where they remain to the present day, manifesting spiritual recourse and prayerful comfort for believers.
      On the day of affirmation in 1977 by His Holiness Patriarch Pimen and the Holy Synod of a service with an akathist to sainted Meletii, Khar'kov believers hastened to the cathedral on a Wednesday evening, there to ask the prayerful intercession of the saint for the welfare of Holy Church, for peace and for the prosperity of their Fatherland.

1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.

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