Sainted Alexei, Metropolitan of Moscow and All Russia the Wonderworker
Commemorated on February 12
Metropolitan of Moscow and All Russia the Wonderworker, (in the world
Elevtherii), was born in the year 1292 (or by another source 1304) at Moscow
into the family of the boyar-noble Theodore (Feodor) Byakont, a descendant of
the Chernigov princely line.
The Lord early on revealed to the future saint his lofty destiny. At twelve years of age Elevtherii ha set a snare for the netting of birds, and imperceptibly he dozed off and suddenly he heard quite distinctly a voice: "Alexei! Why toilest thou in vain? Thou art to be a netter of people".From this day on the lad tended towards seclusion, he frequently visited church, and at age fifteen he decided to become a monk. In 1320 he entered the Moscow Theophany monastery, where he spent more than twelve years at strict monastic efforts. As guides for him and his companions there were the reknown ascetics of the monastery, the startsi-elders Gerontii and Stefan, brother of the Monk Sergei of Radonezh. Metropolitan Theognist then bade the future saint to leave the monastery and manage the juridical affairs of the Church. The saint fulfilled this office for 12 years as vicar of the metropolitan. Towards the end of 1350 Vladyka Theognist had Alexei ordained as bishop of Vladimir; upon the death of the metropolitan he became his successor in the year 1354. During this period the Russian Church was torn amidst great rifts and quarrels, in part because of the pretensions of the metropolitan of Lithuania and Volynia, Roman. In 1356, in order to put an end to the troubles and disturbances, the saint set off to Constantinople to the OEcumenical Patriarch. Patriarch Kallistos gave Saint Alexei the right to both be called and to consider himself Archbishop of Kiev and Great Russia with the title, "All-Venerable Metropolitan and Exarch". On the return journey during the time of a storm at sea the ship was in danger of shipwreck. Saint Alexei prayed and gave a vow to build a temple to the saint of that day, when the ship should come to shore. The storm subsided, and the ship arrived on 16 August. Moscow delightedly came out to meet the saint.
In spite of problems on every side, Saint Alexei concerned himself everywhere over his flock: he sent forth bishops, he established life-in-common monasteries (on the model of the Trinity Lavra, founded by the Monk Sergei), and he brought order to relations with the khans of the Horde. The saint himself occasioned more than once to journey to the Golden Horde. In 1357 the khan demanded of the greatprince, that the saint should come to him and heal the blindness of Taidul, his spouse. "The request and the matter is beyond my powers, – said Saint Alexei, – but I do believe in Him That gaveth the blind man to see, and that He shalt not disdain my prayers of faith". And actually, through his prayer, and being sprinkled with holy water, the wife of the khan was healed.
When Greatprince Ioann died, his young son Dimitrii (the future Donskoy), still in age a minor, was taken under the saint's guardianship. The holy vladyka had much toil in reconciling and appeasing princes obstinate against accepting the authority of Moscow. Nor did the metropolitan neglect the work of organising new monasteries. In 1361 he founded the Saviour Image Not-Wrought-by-Hand monastery at the Yauza in Moscow (the disciple of the Monk Sergei – Andronikov by name – was the first hegumen of the monastery), from the vow he had given back on his return journey from Constantinople, when the ship had suffered woe. There was also the Chudov monastery – in the Moscow Kremlin; likewise, ancient monasteries were restored: the Annunciation monastery at Nizhni-Novgorod, and the Konstantino-Eleninsk [Constantine and Helen] at Vladimir. And in 1361 there was built a women's life-in-common monastery after his name (the Alekseev).
Saint Alexei reached the advanced age of 78, having spent 24 years upon the metropolitan cathedra-seat. He reposed on 12 February 1378 and was buried in accord with his last-wishes at the Chudov monastery. His relics were uncovered in a miraculous manner 50 years later, after which there began the veneration of the memory of the great Sainted-Hierarch and Man of Prayer for the Russian Land.
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.