Sainted Innocent (Innokentii), Metropolitan of Moscow
Commemorated on September 23 and March 31
Sainted Innocent (Innokentii),
Metropolitan of Moscow (in the world Ivan Evseevich Popov-Veniaminov), was
born on 26 August 1797 in the village of Anginsk of Irkutsk diocese, into the
family of a sacristan. The boy mastered his studies at an early age and at age
7 he was reading the Epistle in church. In 1806 they sent him to the Irkutsk
seminary. Here, to the betterment of lineage, they gave the youth the family
name of Veniaminov, in honour of the deceased Irkutsk archbishop Veniamin
(Benjamin, + 8 July 1814). On 13 May 1817 he was ordained deacon for the
Irkutsk Annunciation church, and on 18 May 1821 – he was ordained priest.
The missionary service of the future Apostle of America and Siberia began with the year 1823. Saint Innocent spent 45 years at the labour of enlightening the peoples of Kamchatka, the Aleutian Islands, North America, Yakutia, the Khabarovsk frontier, performing his apostolic exploit in severe conditions and at great risks to life. Saint Innocent baptised ten thousand people, and built churches, alongside which he founded schools and he himself taught in them the fundamentals of the Christian life. And together with this, his knowledge of various crafts and arts aided him much in his work.
Saint Innocent was a remarkable preacher. In making liturgies, moliebens and the all-night vigil, he incessantly guided his flock. During his time of endless journeying, Saint Innocent studied the languages, customs and habits of the peoples, among whom he preached. His work in geography, ethnography and linguistics received worldwide acclaim. He composed an alphabet and grammar of the Aleut-Lisiev language and translated into it the Catechism, the Gospel and many prayers. One of the finest of his works was the "Directions of the Way to the Heavenly Kingdom" (1833), translated into the various languages of the peoples of Siberia and appearing in more than 40 editions. Thanks to the toil of Saint Innocent, the Yakut people in 1859 first heard the Word of God and Divine-services in their own native language.
On 29 November 1840 the Metropolitan of Moscow Philaret made the tonsuring of Father John-Ivan into monasticism with the name Innokentii (Innocent), in honour of Saint Innocent of Irkutsk. On 15 December Archimandrite Innokentii was consecrated bishop of Kamchatka, the Kurile and Aleutian Islands. On 21 April 1850 Bishop Innocent was elevated to the dignity of archbishop.
By the Providence of God on 5 January 1868 Saint Innocent succeeded Metropolitan Philaret on the cathedra-seat of Moscow. Through the Holy Synod Metropolitan Innocent consolidated the secular missionary efforts of the Russian Church (already in 1839 he had proposed a project for improving the organisation of missionary service). Under the care of Metropolitan Innocent there was created a Missionary Society, and the Moscow Pokrov-Protection monastery was reorganised for missionary work: in 1870 was set up the Japanese Orthodox Spiritual Mission headed by Archimandrite Nikolai Kasatkin (afterwards Sainted Nikolai of Japan, Comm. 3/16 February), to whom Saint innocent had passed on much of his own spiritual experience. Quite fruitful also was the guidance by Saint Innocent of the Moscow diocese. By his efforts, the church of the Pokrov-Protection of the MostHoly Mother of God was built up into the Moscow Spiritual Academy.
Saint Innocent reposed to the Lord on 31 March 1879, on Great Saturday, and was buried at the Holy Spirit temple of the Trinity-Sergiev Lavra. On 6 October 1977, Saint Innocent was glorified into the rank of the Saints by the Russian Orthodox Church. His memory is established to be celebrated twice during the year: on 31 March / 13 April, the day of his blessed repose, and on 23 September / 6 October – the day of his glorification.
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.