Sainted Mitrophan, Bishop of Voronezh

Commemorated on November 23 and August 7

      Sainted Mitrophan, Bishop of Voronezh, in the world Mikhail (Michael), was born 8 November 1623. In the synodikon (memorial-list) belonging to the saint, the list begins especially with persons of priestly dignity, and this gives a basis to suggest, that he was born into priestly lineage. From the Spiritual last-testimony of Sainted Mitrophan is known, that he "was born of pious parents and was raised by them in the incorrupt piety of the Eastern Church, in the Orthodox faith". Until age 40 the saint lived in the world: he was married, had a son Ioann and served as a parish priest. The place of pastoral activity of the priest Mikhail was the village of Sidorov, situated at the River Molokhta, a tributary of the Teza flowing to the Klyaz'ma, not far from the city of Shui (now Vladimir district).
      Having lost his spouse, priest Mikhail took monastic vows with the name Mitrophan in the Zolotnikovsk wilderness in 1663. In the synodikon of the monastery the origin of Saint Mitrophan that begins with the words: "Origin of black clergy Mitrophan is of Sidorovsk". After three years of monastic life the priest-monk Mitrophan was chosen hegumen of the Yakroma Kosma monastery [cf. 14 October]. He guided the monastery for 10 years, shewing himself zealous as its head. By his efforts here they raised up a church in honour of the All-Merciful Saviour Not-Made-by-Hand Image.
      Patriarch Joakim (1674-1690), learning about the deep piety of Saint Mitrophan, raised him in 1675 to the dignity of archimandrite of the then known Makarievo-Unzhensk monastery. Under the supervision of the saint, a church was built there in honour of the Annunciation (Blagoveschenie) of the MostHoly Mother of God, together with a refectory and bell-tower. At the Moscow Sobor (Council) of 1681-1682 among the number of measures taken for the struggle against the old-ritualist schism, and with the goal in mind of improvement of Christian enlightenment among the Orthodox populace, it was resolved to increase the number of dioceses and to open up new cathedrals at: Voronezh, Tambov, Kholmogor and Great-Ustiug. Saint Mitrophan was summoned to the capital and on 2 April 1682 was ordained bishop of Voronezh by Patriarch Joakim and sixteen archpastors.
      The beginning of bishop's service of Sainted Mitrophan co-incided with a terrible time of troubles for Rus' and a Church schism. Upon his arrival at Voronezh the saint first of all sent out to the pastors of his diocese a circular missive, in which he urged his pastors to moral improvement. "Venerable priests of God Most-High! wrote the saint, Lead the flock of Christ! Ye ought to possess bright mental eyes, enlightened by the light of reasoning, in order to lead others to the correct path. In the words of the Lord, ye ought to be yourselves the light: "ye art the light of the world" (Mt. 5: 14)... Christ the Saviour, entrusting the flock to His apostle, thrice said to him: pastor, as though inspiring him that the image of pastorate is threefold: the word of teaching, prayer in benefit of the Holy Mysteries, and the example of life. Act ye also by all three methods: give example by a good life, teach your people and pray for them, strengthening them by the Holy Mysteries; above all enlighten the unbelieving by holy Baptism, and lead sinners to repentance. Be attentive to the sick, so that their lives be not deprived of the communing of the Holy Mysteries and the anointing with holy oil".
      Saint Mitrophan began his arch-pastoral activity with the building of a new cathedral church in honour of the Annunciation of the MostHoly Mother of God, replacing an old wooden temple. In 1692 the cathedral with chapels in honour of the Archistrategos Michael and Saint Nicholas was consecrated. In the 20 years that Sainted Mitrophan was bishop, the number of churches increased from 182 to 239, and two monasteries were founded: the Korotoyaksk Ascension (Voznesenie) and the Bitiugsk Trinity monasteries. And within the existing monasteries, he concerned himself about eradicating the unseeming and disorders, emphasising strict life according to monastic rule.
      The first Voronezh bishop eagerly concerned himself about the needs of his flock. He consoled both the poor and the wealthy, was a defender of widows and orphans, and an advocate of the wronged. His home served as an hostel for strangers and an hospice for the sick. The saint prayed not only for the living, but also for dead Christians, and particularly for soldiers fallen for the Fatherland, inscribing their names in the memorial list of the synodikon. Remembering them at Proskomedia [priest's preparation of the gifts preceeding Liturgy], Sainted Mitrophan said: "If a righteous soul, then be there a greater portion of worthiness; if however be a sinner, then be there a communion with the mercy of God".
      There existed a great friendship of Sainted Mitrophan with Sainted Pitirim, Bishop of Tambov (Comm. 28 July). They not only kept up correspondence, but also met for spiritual talk. The history of the founding near Tambov of the Tregulyaev John the Precursor monastery was connected with the friendship of the bishops. On 15 September 1688 Saint Mitrophan visited with Saint Pitirim. Three of them together (with them was the priest Vasilii) took a stroll, to a place of solitary prayers of the Tambov archpastor, and there they chose the place for the future monastery.
      Saint Mitrophan, a man intensely patriotic, by his own moral authority, kind‑heartedness and prayers contributed to the reforms of Peter I, the necessity and purpose of which he well understood. With the building of a fleet at Voronezh for a campaign against Azov, Saint Mitrophan urged the nation to fully support Peter I. This was particularly important, since many regarded the construction of a fleet as an useless affair. The saint did not limit himself only to advice to the tsar, but rendered also material support to the state treasury, which needed the money for the construction of the fleet, and he provided all the means, aware that they would go for the welfare of the nation.
      The patriotic feelings of the saint were combined in his soul with unflinching faith and strict Orthodox conviction, on account of which he did not fear incurring the tsar's wrath. Thus, the saint refused to go to court to Peter I, since there stood there statues of pagan gods, and although for disobedience to the imperial will disgrace threatened the saint, he remained uncompromising. Peter gave orders to remove the statues and from that time was imbued with greater respect for the bishop. Sainted Mitrophan died in 1703 in extreme old age, taking before death the schema with the name Makarii. The funeral was done 4 December. Tsar Peter I himself carried the coffin from the cathedral to the tomb. Taking leave, he said: "There remains for me no greater such holy elder. Memory eternal be to him". One of the remarkable memorials of the life and activity of Saint Mitrophan is his Spiritual Testament. In it he says: "By Divine destiny I have arrived at old age and now I have exhausted my natural strength. Wherefore I have adjudged this my final writing... When my sinful soul is released from its union with the flesh, I entrust it to the bosom of the Wisdom of God having created it, that it might find favour as the work of His hands, and the sinful bones I grant to the mother of all, in expectation thence of the resurrection of the dead". Further on, addressing pastors and the flocks, the saint says: "The simple sinner giveth answer to God for only his soul alone, but priests can come to torment for many, in neglecting the sheep, from which they do gather milk and wool... For everyone such the rule of wise men is: do work, preserve a balance ye will be rich; drink temperately, eat little ye will be healthy; do good, shun evil ye wilt be saved". The commemoration of Sainted Mitrophan was established in 1832.

1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.

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Sainted Mitrophan,
Bishop of Voronezh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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