Wednesday, August 21, 2013

At Home in the South: St Amphilochius of Pochaev, Ukraine

His home was far distant from the South, yet in his faith, love for God’s creation (and its love for him), hospitality, scorn of modern technology, and in other ways, there is notable symmetry between the life this Christian saint lived and the way of life advocated by our Southern forefathers.

There is much more to his life than what is recounted below -  wisdom, bravery, persecution at the hands of the Soviet authorities, wonderworking, etc.  The reader is encouraged to order this number of The Orthodox Word (see next paragraph) so that he may know and contemplate his life in full.

Please visit here if interested:

All quotes are taken from ‘Healer of the Hopeless: St. Amphilochius of Pochaev’, The Orthodox Word, Vol. 49, Nos. 1-2 (288-289), January-April, 2013, St. Herman of Alaska Press, Platina, Ca.

May the South be blessed with many such men as he!


A note on names:  St Amphilochius began his life in 1894 as James, then was Father Joseph upon becoming a monk, then Fr Amphilochius upon his elevation to schemamonk.

‘In those days, the life of the Church was seamlessly woven into the daily agricultural life of the village [Malaya Ilovitsa, Ukraine-W.G.].  The whole family worked in the fields and cared for the animals, and everyone said prayers before going out for the day’s chores’ (p. 8).

‘In 1912, James was drafted into the Tsar’s army.  During the First World War he served in the 165th Infantry Unit in Lutsk, western Ukraine’ (p. 8).

‘James served his novitiate in this great monastery [Pochaev Monastery-W.G.] with humility and obedience.  As he had at home, he built sleighs and wheels and sang in church on the cliros, always considering himself the most sinful and unworthy of all’ (p. 11).

‘Fr. Joseph also found time to plant a number of fruit trees at the cemetery [at the gate of which he lived for around 20 years-W.G.], which can be seen to this day’ (p. 12).

‘A closed veranda was built onto the church on the garden side.  In the orchard there were apple, pear, and plum trees planted by the elder.  The ground was covered with flowers as by a carpet:  gladioli, dahlias, and roses.  Palms grew in pots.  Peacocks and peahens paraded around the kingdom of flowers.  There were also canaries and parrots, and up to two hundred pigeons lived in the pigeon loft’ (p. 25).

‘In the summertime, five hundred people, and sometimes more, visited him each day, and everyone received hospitality’ (p. 28).

‘The ascetic greatly loved nature and tried to beautify his surroundings with flowers and various trees, wherever he lived.  At the Pochaev Lavra, at the monastery cemetery, and in Ilovitsa, he left a living monument of decorative fruit trees.  For him springtime was a paradisal time, and the forest in spring was paradise.  He said that before the hay-mowing everything was verdure:  the grass, the flowers, the trees, and the bushes—they were young, tender, fresh, and bright.  But after the hay-mowing summer would come, and the leaves would lose their luster, would become rough, and would lose their youth and their former charm.  And so it is with man as well....’ (p. 33)

‘The elder did not approve of watching television, which ravages and robs the soul.  After watching television shows, a person does not want to pray, and if he forces himself to pray, he does so only with his lips, while his heart is far from God.  Such prayer, according to the elder, is unto condemnation.  He said that in the last times sorcerers (so-called psychics) will work on perfecting a system to program people through television, radio, and even electrical appliances, for they know that programmed people will submissively fulfill the will of others.  “It’s not easy to be saved.  I can’t put salvation into your head.  Labor and pray yourselves!  If you want to be saved, be blind, deaf, and mute”  [That is, guard your senses from temptation.—ED.]’  (p. 34).

‘The ascetic reposed on January 1, 1971, [19 December 1970, Julian calendar-W.G.] during a heavy snow. . . . the coffin was placed in a truck and taken to Pochaev.  They arrived at the Lavra at 3 AM, but they could not drive through the holy gates.  Three times they slid down the hill.  The God-pleaser did not want to go through the gates in a vehicle.  Thus he was carried by hand through the gates . . .’ (p. 39).

‘. . . on January 4 . . . the funeral followed.  The priests and monks went out of the altar toward the coffin.  The snow ceased, and the sun came out and danced the way it does on Pascha.  As people were giving the elder the final kiss, a woman was healed of a broken arm at the coffin’ (p. 40).

‘His grave was next to that of Fr. Svyatopolk, under the branches of an apple tree that Fr. Amphilochius had planted’ (p. 41).

‘The saint’s entire life consisted in self-sacrificing service in the name of love for God and neighbor . . .’ (p. 42).

During the uncovering of the saint’s relics on 2 April/15 April 2002:  ‘ . . . the first miracle!  The coffin had been preserved after lying in the ground more than thirty years, even though much water had run down into the opening where the cross was planted, where pilgrims had taken earth.  Why had the coffin been preserved?  The answer is simple.  The grace of God rests in relics.  The wood and the earth are nourished on it’ (p. 45).

During the Glorification service 29 April/12 May 2002:  ‘The very heavens rejoiced at the festivity.  Three crosses appeared, as though some invisible hand had drawn them in white on the light blue background of the sky.  Two of them disappeared quickly, but the third remained for a long time, amazing the believers’ (p. 49).

Hymn to the saint:  ‘Christ our God hast shown thee forth to His Church as a most glorious ascetic of the land of Volhynia, as a worthy dweller of the monastery of Pochaev, and as a superb healer of Orthodox people.  O venerable Father Amphilochius, pray thou earnestly to Him to free us from the snares of the enemy, and that our souls be saved’ (p. 50).

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