Saint Theodosius, the wonderworker, Archbishop of Chernigov
Life and Miracles
Saint Theodosius, Archbishop of Chernigov, was born in the seventeenth century at the beginning of the decade of the thirties in Podolsk governance. He was descended from a noble family, the Polonitsky-Uglitskys. His parents were the priest Nikḗtas and Maria. The saint was taught Christian piety in his parents’ home, and this piety remained with him throughout his life.
From childhood he was distinguished by a fervent love for God and zeal for the Church. The innate abilities of the youth came to light in the Kiev Brotherhood school at Kiev’s Theophany monastery. The school was flourishing at the end of the 1640s, when its rectors were Archimandrite Innocent (Gizel), and Igumen Lazar (Baranovich), who later became Archbishop of Chernigov. Among its instructors were: Hieromonk Epiphanius (Slavinetsky), Hieromonk Arsenius (Satanovsky), Bishop Theodosius (Baevsky) of Belorus, Igumen Theodosius (Saphonovich) and Meletius Dzik. These were the enlightened men of those days. The comrades of Saint Theodosius at the school would become future outstanding pastors: Simeon Polotsky, Joannicius Golyatovsky, Anthony Radivillovsky, Barlaam Yasninsky. The Kiev Brotherhood Theophany school was the chief center in the struggle of Orthodoxy against the assaults of Catholic clergy, particularly the Jesuits.
Saint Theodosius grew to spiritual maturity near the relics of Saints Anthony and Theodosius and other God-pleasers of the Kiev Caves, and he tried to imitate their holy life as much as he could. He devoted all his free time to prayer, meditation on God, and the reading of Holy Scripture.
It might be surmised that the saint did not finish the full course of studies, since the school ceased its activity for several years following the devastation of Podolia by the Poles. All his life the saint had a deep regard for the Kiev Brotherhood monastery where he was educated. In the Synodikon of the Kiev-Vydubitsk monastery is the following comment about Saint Theodosius: “He was a man of fine intellect, and generous to the Kiev Brotherhood monastery.”
Upon receiving his education, the future hierarch received monastic tonsure at the Kiev Caves Lavra with the name Theodosius, in honor of Saint Theodosius of the Caves (May 3).
Metropolitan Dionysius (Balaban) of Kiev made him archdeacon of Kiev’s cathedral of Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia) , and then appointed him steward of the episcopal household. Soon he left Kiev and went to the distant Krupitsky monastery near Baturino (in the Chernigov diocese), which was famed for its strict monastic life. There he was ordained to the holy priesthood, but remained there only a short time.
In 1662, Saint Theodosius was appointed Igumen of the Korsun monastery in Kiev diocese, and in the year 1664 he was made head of the ancient Kiev-Vydubitsky monastery. This monastery had fallen into the hands of the Uniates and Poles at the beginning of the seventeenth century and was in complete ruin. Thanks to the energy and initiative of Saint Theodosius, the Vydubitsky Mikhailovsk monastery was quickly restored.
He was particularly concerned with the order of church services. He formed an excellent choir, which was famed not only in Little Russia, but also in Moscow. Saint Theodosius sent his singers to Moscow in 1685 to instruct their choirs in Kievan chant.
As a strict ascetic himself, Saint Theodosius was concerned with the spiritual growth of his monks. He founded a small skete on the island of Mikhailovschina, not far from the monastery, for brethren wishing to live in solitude. He appointed the hieromonk Job (Opalinsky), one of the most zealous monks of his monastery, to organize and administer the skete.
Saint Theodosius had to live through some quite difficult days, enduring many sorrows. He and other Igumens were accused by Bishop Methodius of Mstislav and Orshansk of betraying Russia in a supposed correspondence with the enemies of Russia.
On September 20, 1668 Saint Theodosius explained the matter. On November 17, 1668 the lie was exposed, and Saint Theodosius together with the other Igumens were vindicated. Archbishop Lazar (Baranovich) esteemed the high spiritual qualities of Saint Theodosius and befriended him. He called him “a sheep of the flock of Christ, teaching by humility,” and he prophetically expressed the wish that the name of Saint Theodosius might be inscribed in Heaven.
When Archbishop Lazar became locum tenens of Kiev’s Metropolitan See in 1689, he appointed Saint Theodosius as his vicar in Kiev, while he remained at Chernigov. In his capacity as vicar of the locum tenens of the Kiev Metropolitan See, Saint Theodosius had an active role in many churchly events. In 1685 he participated with the right of a decisive vote in the election of Bishop Gideon (Chetverinsky) as Metropolitan of Kiev, and he was sent to Moscow with news of this event with Igumen Jerome (Dubin) of Pereyaslavl . In Moscow, both representatives were received with honor and esteem. Indeed, the result of this delegation was the reuniting of the Kiev Metropolitan See with the Russian Orthodox Church.
In 1688 Saint Theodosius was appointed archimandrite of Chernigov’s Eletsy monastery, replacing the deceased Archimandrite Joannicius (Golyatovsky). In appointing Saint Theodosius, Archbishop Lazar told him to spare no effort in placing the Eletsy monastery in good order. This monastery had not yet been set aright after the expulsion of the Jesuits and Dominicans, and it was in great disorder.
Through the efforts of Saint Theodosius, in his two or three years as igumen, the monastery’s revenues and properties increased, the church of the Dormition was repaired, and the Elets Icon (February 5) was enshrined there.
In his new position, the saint also assisted Archbishop Lazar in many important matters. He participated in drafting a conciliar reply to Patriarch Joachim of Moscow in response to his questions about the attitude of the Kiev Metropolitan See to the Council of Florence, and its judgment on the question of the transformation of the Holy Gifts as accepted by this Florentine Council. When the Patriarch proved to be unsatisfied by these answers, the Baturino Igumen Saint Demetrius (the future Metropolitan of Rostov) was sent to him at the beginning of 1689. Saint Theodosius journeyed with him as the representative of Archbishop Lazar. He was entrusted with the delivery of a letter to the Patriarch, and to clear up the misunderstandings.
Because of his poor health, Archbishop Lazar wished to see Saint Theodosius consecrated to the episcopate, seeing in the saint a worthy successor to himself. On September 11, 1692 the election of Saint Theodosius as Archbishop of Chernigov was confirmed, and he was consecrated in the Dormition Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin two days later.
Little information regarding Saint Theodosius’s administration of the Chernigov diocese has been preserved. The saint worked incessantly to raise the level of true Christian piety in his flock. He also focused on maintaining old monasteries, and founding new communities.
At the very beginning of his episcopate, the Pecheniksk women’s monastery was established with his blessing, and he himself consecrated the monastery church in honor of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos.
In 1694, a skete was founded near Liubech. The same year, at the Domnitsky men’s monastery, the saint consecrated a temple in honor of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos. In the summer of 1695, he consecrated a majestic temple in honor of the Most Holy Theotokos, on the summit of Boldino Hill, near the ancient monastery of Saint Elias. Under Saint Theodosius there was a special enthusiasm for and strengthening of monasticism in the Chernigov diocese.
The saint also devoted much attention to the clergy, and he tried to choose worthy candidates for the priesthood. He also encouraged the pastoral education of the Chernigov clergy. He invited learned monks from Kiev, among whom was Saint John (Maximovitch), the future Metropolitan of Tobolsk (June 10), and also a helper and successor of Saint Theodosius in organizing the Chernigov clergy school.
Strict uprightness in regard to clergy and flock, deep compassion, concern and Christian love of peace were distinguishing features in the activity of Saint Theodosius. Not only did the Orthodox turn to him for help and advice, but even persons of other confessions.
Saint Theodosius did not remain with his Chernigov flock very long. Sensing the approach of death, he summoned the administrator of the Briansk Svensk monastery, Saint John (Maximovitch), and appointed him Archimandrite of the Chernigov Elets monastery.
Saint Theodosius died on February 5, 1696, and was buried in Chernigov’s Saints Boris and Gleb cathedral church, in a special crypt near the right cleros. His successor Saint John (Maximovitch), who was healed of a grievous illness by Saint Theodosius, later placed a stone plaque over his grave with a poetic inscription in gratitude for the saint’s help. The special grace which Saint Theodosius attained is shown by his ascetic life and his assistance to all who turn to him in prayer.
Immediately following his blessed departure, miracles took place at his grave and all the faithful began to consider him as a righteous and holy person, but the Holy Church canonized him as a Saint of God until the 9th of September 1896.
15 years following his canonization, our Saint Theodosius Cathedral of Cleveland was built and named in his honor.
The Holy Church makes memory of St. Theodosius every year: February 5th and September 9th.
A priest of Voronezh, in Chernigov, Stephan Andreyevich, suffered from rheumatism in his hands and legs. This illness exhausted him. On January 30, 1835, on the Feast of the Three Hierarchs, he included the name of St. Theodosius in his prayers. The next night, he dreamed he was under the power of St. Theodosius who he saw shining brightly. The priest bowed down to the ground three times at the command of some spiritual instinct, then he came closer to the saint so he could touch him and saw the face of St. Theodosius in the open, looking straight at him. Then the saint took Father Stephan’s right hand and with his own hands put some oil on it. The oil was in a bottle standing next to his grave. With unbound happiness the patient kissed the hand of the great saint a number of times and woke up im- mediately. Since then he was totally healed without the use of medicine.
In 1848, a soldier, Michael Novikov, came to the Boris and Gleb Cathedral with his sister. He announced to the priest that he had been deaf, depressed and nearly insane for one year and five months, but that during the night of the 9th of August, in a dream, he saw an anonymous saint in full archbishop’s vestments. The saint gave him something to drink and said, “Go to the Cathedral and serve a public prayer to St. Theodosius, and you will be well again.” When he woke up he felt he was under the influence of happiness and fear – he had been healed. He soon asked to see an icon of St. Theodosius and immediately recognized his anonymous saint.
In the letters about the wonderful healings of St. Theodosius, there is a record of the healing of a severe illness of the daughter of the housekeeper of the Cathedral, Anna. Her sister told us the whole story:
“Our father was very poor. We only had two rooms. One day my sister was out- side, tripped and fell, and with her cheek slightly scratched, ran back into the room trembling. From that time on, she felt sick. The teacher was the first one to notice the sad condition of my sister and suggested to my father to go to the doctor who gave her some medicine for tapeworms, which did not do anything. Another doctor’s diagnosis was that she had a spine injury, and he started treating her. But she did not get better. Anna was still laying on her back having pains in her chest, sides and back, and having convulsions a couple of times a day. She had spasms with fever attacks, and could not sit, stand or even turn on her side. None of the medicine worked and she had plasters all over her body.
From the beginning of Anna’s illness, our father had dreams about St. Theodosius lying in his grave telling him to bring the whole family to him. My family soon journeyed, with my sister, to the grave of St. Theodosius. At the gates of the church, her convulsions began. We slowly calmed her down and got her to the shrine where my father said prayers. In a little while, to our surprise, my sister grabbed a metal railing with her hand, and stood up, listening to the prayers like that. At the end of the prayers, she stood up by herself. With just a little help, she leaned toward the holy saint’s relics Holding her father by his arm, she exited the shrine through a steep stairway, asking her parents not to take her home.
All of us sat in the carriage and went to the Monastery of the Trinity, where we listened to the public prayer in front of the icon of our Lady, the Theotokos. During the service, my sister was sitting in an armchair in front of the holy icon. After the service, my sister asked to go to the home of friends who had seen my sister when she was totally ill. They were shocked when they saw the miracle of her healing. It was a great celebration for us and our relatives, as well as for the doctor. My sister, who had suffered greatly for three years, six months and 20 days, now, in one hour, with the wondrous power of God’s saint, became completely well.”
There is a written paper about this wondrous healing, signed by the healed one herself, and by her parents, relatives and many other witnesses:
On January 2, 1856, the treasurer of Borensk, Lavrenti Golovnia, announced to the Cathedral of Chernigov: “...in 1856, my ten-year-old son got sick from fever, and then from delirium tremens, and then his tongue became numb, and his eyes closed. His right hand was writhing. He lay in such a condition for 11 weeks, only on his back, with no food or drink. There was no hope for his healing. It was predicted that we would die soon. In these sad circumstances my wife and I turned with a prayer to St. Theodosius, promising to take our son to venerate him when he got well. The next day our patient opened his eyes and could swallow a couple of spoonfuls of tea. Then strengthened by a great sleep, which he had not known throughout his illness, slowly, without any medicine, he was completely healed. On the sick leg there was a boil and when the liquid came out, his leg straightened and it was as though the sickness had never been there. Evidently, only the wonder of St. Theodosius could heal my son and save him from death.”
And here is another stirring healing in which a person of science, Dr. Matveyev, testified. In a letter that came in 1890, Dr. Matveyev witnesses to the following:
“In the middle of September 1890, in Chernigov, my son Victor – 6 years old – was sick from scarlet fever with complications of diphtheria which spread throughout the whole nasal area. It affected the eyes, which closed, and pus was everywhere. His temperature during the whole month was about 40-41 degrees C. His face was misshapen, he became too skinny although he had a normal amount of food, and his heartbeat was weak. I asked my friend, also a doctor, to help me heal the sick one. Our decision was that there was no hope for my son, and I told my wife. She was desperate and so she went to church where she received a shroud from the grave of St. Theodosius. At home, she put the shroud on our son’s head and he started to kiss it. In ten minutes, our patient asked us to put him on his bed to play. Our belief is sure that the healing of my son happened only because of the wondrous power and through the prayers before God of St. Theodosius, Archbishop of Chernigov.”
Many people witnessed the wondrous healing of a blind, nine-year-old boy who was brought to the grave of St. Theodosius. The boy could not see anything. Zealously praying, the boy had tears coming down his cheeks, and – Oh, won- der! – after kissing the incorrupt relics of St. Theodosius, the boy could see!
A great celebration of the canonization of St. Theodosius happened on September 9, 1896, in Chernigov, where his incorrupt relics are enshrined, lying in an oak coffin which was the sacrificial gift of a merchant named Gorbunov. Gorbunov was a dissenter against Christianity, but after he received healing through the holiness of the saint, he became a Christian, then made and donated this coffin.
The day of remembrance of St. Theodosius is celebrated by our Holy Church on February 5th, and the day of canonization on September 9th. Remember, every Orthodox Christian in Cleveland, these days of venerating your Protector. Leave your worries alone on these days, and hurry to church, light a candle in front of the icon of your defender, ask and pray for St. Theodosius to be your helper and protector in life. Do not forget to call on him on days of sorrow and illness, for he will hear your prayers, and he will send the healing for your ailments, and he will give you strength for your honest labor, and in the day of your end he will so- licit the Most High for your soul; for it is to rest in a place of eternal peace.