Sainted Theophil, Archbishop of Novgorod,

Commemorated on October 26

      Sainted Theophil, Archbishop of Novgorod, was chosen by lot after the death of the Sainted-Hierarch Jona (+ 1471, Comm. 5 November) and was elevated to the dignity of Archbishop of Novgorod on 15 December 1472 at Moscow. Until his elevation to the dignity of archbishop, he pursued asceticism in the vestry of the Otensk monastery. An harsh destiny was allotted the saint in the guidance of the Novgorod flock: the "posadnitsa" (mayoress) Martha Boretskaya and her adherents stirred up and agitated the people against the GreatPrince of Moscow, Ivan III; and the monk Pimen, a Boretskaya partisan, roused in the flock enmity against the archbishop. Some of the Novgorod populace were inclined to go over to the side of Lithuania, and unfaithful to the Moscow principality, they were prepared to go into apostasy. Saint Theophil stopped the rebellious Novgorodians: "Do not betray Orthodoxy nor become a flock of apostates; I go back to my humble cell, from whence ye drew me out to the shame of rebellion". This letter of disavowal of the saint is preserved, written in 1479. But the short-sighted people did not heed the words of the pastor: between Moscow and Novgorod was ignited a fratricidal war. The defeated Novgorodians were compelled to beg for mercy, and many of them owed their life to the intercession of the saint. In 1480 Saint Theophil was dispatched by Ivan III to imprisonment in the Moscow Chudov monastery and "he sat there a full three years, and died there". By tradition, when Saint Theophil lay sick at the Chudov monastery, there appeared to him in a dream the Novgorod Saint Nyphont (+ 1156, Comm. 8 April), – buried in the Caves of the Monk Antonii of Pechersk, and the saint reminded him about a promise to venerate the Pechersk wonderworkers. And by this tradition, the holy archbishop set off to Kiev and just approached the Dniepr as his sickness increased, and he received a revelation that although he would not reach the caves alive, his body would rest in them. This was fulfilled.
      His memory is celebrated also with the Sobor (Assemblage) of the Farther Caves on 28 August and on the 2nd Sunday of Great Lent, with the General Sobor of the Kievo-Pechersk Fathers.

© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.