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Saint Alexis, Metropolitan of Moscow

On February 25th (the 12th by the old calendar) the Church commemorates Saint Alexis, Metropolitan of Moscow and all Russia, the Wonderworker.

St. Alexis of Moscow

St. Alexis, scion of the noble Pleshcheyev family, was born in Moscow in 1292 and was given the name Eleutherius. By that time all the major Russian cities has been devastated by the Tatars, but Moscow, a small and insignificant town, had been left alone. Now Moscow began to gather strength and importance, as it became populated by masses of people fleeing from the devastated cities. Eleutherius’s godfather was Prince Ivan Kalita, the future builder of the principality of Moscow. At the age of twenty the saint entered the Theophany monastery in Moscow and became a monk with the name of Alexis. Twenty years later he was ordained a bishop, and in 1354 he was consecrated a metropolitan by Philotheus, Patriarch of Constantinople.

By that time St. Alexis was so renowned as a wonderworker, that his fame spread even to the stronghold of the Tatars, the Golden Horde, and the Tatar khan ordered the saint to come there and heal his wife, who had gone blind. If not, the khan threatened to launch another attack on Russia. The prince and the nobles began to entreat the saint to comply with the khan’s command, in order to save the Church and the homeland. After praying to God for help, St. Alexis embarked on the dangerous journey. Just before his arrival, the khan’s wife Taidula saw a dream in which she was healed by Christian priests in glittering robes. The khan welcomed the saint with great honor and led him to his wife. St. Alexis served a moleben and sprinkled Taidula with holy water. And the miracle occurred: her sight returned! The grateful Taidula presented the saint with a parcel of land that belonged to her in the Kremlin and on which the saint subsequently founded the well-known Chudov monastery, (which many centuries later was destroyed by the Communist regime).

St. Alexis was of great importance to Russia, both in the secular and the spiritual fields. When Great Prince Ivan the Second died, St. Alexis became the guardian of his successor, 8-year-old Prince Dimitry, and at the same time he headed the Boyar Duma, the legal body which ruled the principality. The saint was well-aware that Russia’s liberation from the Tatars depended on its unification, and that the diverse and warring principalities could be unified only by neutral Moscow, and for this reason he was a great proponent of the Russian principalities’ uniting around a single center – Moscow. Through his efforts Russia at that time gained her first victory over the Tatars.

The saint worked just as earnestly in the religious field. He was an adherent of inner prayer according to the teaching of St. Gregory Palamas, and assisted his friend, Patriarch Philotheus of Constantinople, in the revival of this great spiritual treasure, which had nearly been lost. The saint was also friend and mentor to St. Sergius, the future wonderworker of Radonezh. St. Alexis worked hard to transform women’s convents, which until then had been dependent on men’s, into self-reliant units with independent abbesses, and these convents began to flourish. St. Alexis reposed in 1378; his incorruptible relics lie at the Theophany Cathedral in Moscow.
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