Sainted Vasilii, Archbishop of Novgorod

Commemorated on July 3

      Sainted Vasilii, Archbishop of Novgorod, by surname Kalika (meaning "destitute wanderer or psalmodist"), was a priest at Novgorod and for his virtuous life was chosen to the Novgorod cathedra-seat. Saint Vasilii was ordained archbishop of Novgorod by the holy Metropolitan Theognist (+ 1353, Comm. 14 March) in Vladimir Volynsk in 1331. He headed the Novgorod cathedra during a terrible time of princely quarrels and inner factions within the city itself. Repeatedly he met with the Moscow Great-prince Ivan Kalita, inclining him towards peace with Novgorod. In 1344, when at Novgorod there gathered simultaneously two council-committees, hostile to each other, for throwing out the posadnik-mayor, the saint made peace between both sides. After two ruinous conflagrations occurred at Novgorod, Saint Vasilii displayed archpastoral concern for the devastated city: from cathedral funds he helped restore burnt-out buildings, he constructed a new bridge across the Vol'khov, and put monks at the churches. At the Borisoglebsk temple in Novgorod was preserved an icon of the holy nobleborn Princes Boris and Gleb, written by him. The self-sacrificing activity of Saint Vasilii was commented upon by a contemporary the chronicler, thus: "Grant him, O Lord, to live many years upon this world and afterwards put him at Thine right side, so much hath he toiled for Thy Church".
      The love of the saint for the flock is quite clearly shown, when at the request of the Pskov people he fearlessly went to their city during an epidemic of pestilential plague. Saint Vasilii made Divine-services in three churches, then went about the city in church procession, encouraging and comforting the fallen spirits of the inhabitants, but on the return journey to Novgorod he himself sickened and died on 3 July 1352, having like a good pastor given his soul for the sheep (Jn. 10: 11).
      From his preserved works there is known his "Missive about Earthly Paradise", written in 1347 and directed to the Tver bishop Theodore the Good. With the name of holy Archbishop Vasilii is connected the account about the white klobuk (head-piece), presented to the Vladyka as a gift from the Patriarch of Constantinople. By tradition, this klobuk was entrusted by the holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Constantine (+ 337, Comm. 21 May) to Saint Sylvester, Pope of Rome (+ 335, account about him is under 2 January). The white klobuk of Saint Vasilii was for the Russian Church a symbol of pre-eminent transfer of the spiritual centre of Orthodoxy from Old Rome, through New Rome, Tsar'grad (Constantinople), to the Third Rome, Moscow.

1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.

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