The Monk Martyrii of Zelenetsk
Commemorated on November 11 and March 1
The Monk Martyrii
of Zelenetsk, in the world Mina, hailed form the city of Velikie Luki. His
parents, Kozma and Stefanida, died when he was but ten years old. He was raised
by his spiritual father, a priest of the city's Annunciation church, and the
lad all more and more became attached in soul to God.
Having become a widower, his guardian accepted monasticism with the name Bogolep at the Velikoluksk Trinity-Sergeev monastery. Mina often visited with him at the monastery, and later on he himself accepted monastic vows there taking the name Martyrii. For seven years teacher and student toiled for the Lord unrelentingly in a single cell, encouraging each other in deeds of work and prayer. The Monk Martyrii bore the obediences of "kellarios" (food-cellarer), treasurer, and "ponomar" (or "ponomonarion", – church-candler and altar-helper).
It was at this time that the Mother of God first shew Her especial solicitude for the Monk Martyrii. At mid-day he dozed off on a bell-tower and beheld on a fiery column an image of the Hodegetria MostHoly Mother of God. The monk with trembling gave kiss to it, still hot from the fiery column, and having awakened, he still sensed this heat on his forehead.
On the spiritual advise of the Monk Martyrii, the grievously ill monk Avramii went in veneration to the wonderworking Tikhvinsk Icon of the Mother of God, and he received healing. The Monk Martyrii was filled with intense faith in the intercession of the Mother of God. He began to pray the Heavenly Queen, that She would show whither he might shelter himself for going through the ascetic feat of complete silence, for which his soul did yearn. The monk secretly withdrew into a desolate place situated 60 versts from Velikie Luki. As the monk himself writes in his jottings, "in this wilderness I received great frights from demons, but I prayed God, and the demons were shamed". In a letter to the starets Bogolep, the monk besought blessing for wilderness life, but the spiritual father advised him to return to the monastic common-life, where he would be of use to the brethren. Not daring to be disobedient and not knowing, how to proceed, Saint Martyrii set out to Smolensk for veneration to the wonderworking Hodegetria (Way-Guide) Icon of the Mother of God and to the Wonderworker Avraamii (Abraham, Comm. 21 August). At Smolensk there appeared to the saint in a dream-vision the Monks Avraami and Ephrem, and they reassured him with the saying, that by the Lord it would be allotted him to live in the wilderness, "where God would bless and the MostHoly Mother of God would guide".
The monk thereupon set out to the Tikhvinsk monastery hoping, that there the Mother of God would resolve his dilemma. And actually, the monk Avramii, who in gratitude to the Mother of God for his healing remained at this monastery, told Saint Martyrii about a secret place, over which for him there was a vision of the radiant Cross of the Lord. Having received this time the blessing of the elder, the Monk Martyrii took with him two small, equally sized icons – the one of the Life-Originating Trinity and the other of the Tikhvinsk MostHoly Mother of God; he set out to the wilderness place, named Zelena (Green), since it rose up as a beautiful green island amidst a forested swamp.
Harsh and with much sickness was the life of the monk in the wilderness, but neither cold, nor deprivation, nor wild beasts, nor the wiles of the enemy were able to shake his resolve to undergo the temptation to the end. He set up an oratory place for prayer of thanks and glorification of the Lord and the MostHoly Mother of God, in which again he was granted to see in sleep an image of the Mother of God, this time – sailing on the sea. To the right of the icon appeared the Archangel Gabriel and summoned the monk to kiss the image. After his trembling the Monk Martyrii went into the water, and the icon began to sink in the sea. The monk then cried out, and a wave carried him from the image to shore.
The wilderness was sanctified by the life of the hermit, and at it there began to arrive many, not only for instruction by the word and example of the monk, but also for settling down there together with him. The increased brotherhood of students prompted the monk to build a church in the Name of the Life-Originating Trinity, wherein he set his own prayer icons. In witness to the grace of God resting upon the monastery of the Monk Martyrii, the Monk Gurii was vouchsafed to see over the cross atop the church – the Cross radiant in the heavens.
Thus occurred the beginning of the Trinity Zelenetsk monastery – "the Martyriev Green wilderness-monastery". The Lord blessed the labour of the monk, and the grace of God shone visibly upon him himself. There spread afar the fame of his perspicacity and gift of healing. Many eminent people of Novgorod began to send gifts to the monastery. On the means provided by the pious boyar-noble Feodor Syrkov an heated church was built, consecrated in honour of the Annunciation of the MostHoly Mother of God in memory of the first church at Velikie Luki, from whence the lad had begun his path to God.
From the Mother of God the monk continued to receive gracious invigoration. One time in an exquisite dream the Mother of God Herself appeared to him in his cell, at the icon-shelf whereupon stood the icons. "I glanced, not looking away, upon Her holy face, upon the eyes, filled with tears, ready to trickle upon Her all-pure face. I awoke from the dream and was in fright. Lighting a candle from the lampada, so as to look – did the MostPure Virgin indeed sit at the place, where I saw Her in the dream. I went up to the image of the Hodegetria and was convinced, that in truth the Mother of God in that image appeared to me, as She is depicted on my icon", – reminisced the monk.
Soon after this (about the year 1570) the Monk Martyrii was ordained priest at Novgorod by the archbishop (Alexander or Leonid). It is known, that in 1582 he was already hegumen.
Later on the Lord granted the Zelena wilderness-monastery still greater charitable bestowal of wealth. In 1595 at Tver' Saint Martyrii healed the dying son of the former Kasimovsk ruler Simeon Bekbulatovich, praying in front of his own icons of the Life‑Originating Trinity and the Tikhvinsk Mother of God, and then placing the image of the MostHoly Mother of God upon the chest of the sick one. By way of gratitude from Simeon there was built a church in honour of the Tikhvinsk Icon of the Mother of God and of Sainted John Chrysostom – the Heavenly patron-saint of the healed ruler's son John.
In 1595 tsar Feodor Ioannovich gave the monastery a grant of endowment, in furtherment of the monastery founded by the monk.
Having reached extreme old age and preparing for death, the Monk Martyrii dug out a grave for himself, set in it a coffin fashioned by his own hands, and there much wept. Sensing his imminent departure, the monk convened the brethren and besought his children in the Lord to have steadfast hope in the MostHoly Life-Originating Trinity and to trust implicitly on the Mother of God, as he himself had always trusted on Her. Having communed the Holy Mysteries of Christ, he gave the brethren blessing with the words: "Peace to all the Orthodox", – and in spiritual happiness he reposed in the Lord on 1 March 1603.
The monk was buried in the grave dug out by him near the church of the Mother of God, and later on his holy relics rested beneathe a crypt in the church of the MostHoly Trinity, beneathe the under-temple in honour of Saint John the Theologian. A former monk of the Zelenetsk monastery, later on Metropolitan of Kazan and Novgorod Kornilii (+ 1698), compiled a service and wrote down the life of the Monk Martyrii, making use of personal notes and the testament of the monk.
The memory of the Monk Martryrii of Zelenetsk and Velikoluksk is celebrated also on 1 March.
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.