October 28, 2010

Saint Dimitri of Rostov, the Chrysostom of Russia

St. Dimitri, Metropolitan of Rostov (Feast Day - October 28 and September 21)

Bishop Demetrius (Dimitry or Dimitri) (Daniel Tuptalo in the world) was born into a Cossack family in 1651, in the village of Makarovo in the Kiev region. He enrolled in the Kiev academy, but had to give up his studies because of war and finished his education studying by himself. After taking monastic vows at one of the Chernigov monasteries, he caught the attention of Archbishop Lazarus Baranovich, who directed him to preach in his cathedral. During the next two years Saint Dimitri preached frequently, and soon became so famous for his eloquence that churches in Lithuania and Malorossia (Ukraine) competed with one another in having him come and preach.

Saint Dimitri was thirty-three years old when he started his immortal 12-volume work—Cheti-Minei, or Menologion (Monthly Readings) — which described the lives of saints for every day of the year. For 20 years (from 1684 to 1704) he diligently collected, studied, and compiled these lives of saints. The work was nearly complete by the time he became Metropolitan of Rostov in 1702, and quickly ranked among the favorite reading of Russian Orthodox believers.

After being elevated to the rank of Metropolitan, he undertook a struggle against schism in the church and wrote a detailed study about major schismatic sects under the title of Investigation of the Bryansk (Old Believer) Faith. Seven years of his archpastoral service in Rostov were filled with his labors aimed at strengthening the faithful. He visited every corner of his diocese, teaching and preaching to the people. Painfully aware of the ignorance of both his parishioners and priests, he sponsored and organized a school in Rostov, and cared for the students there with fatherly love and attention. They would often gather around him and sing spiritual hymns composed by him. Many of these sublime hymns of Bishop Dimitri were sung by people in pre-Revolutionary Russia.

Saint Dimitri led an ascetic life of prayer, very strict fasting, and kindness. His food was simple and always very meager. He was accessible to everyone, always benevolent and lenient. On the 28th of October 1709, this great devotee of learning and piety gave his soul to the Lord peacefully during his prayer in private — he was discovered on his knees before an icon of the Savior. In 1752, his relics were were found to be incorrupt and he was ranked among the saints.

In addition to the Menologion and Investigation of the Bryansk (Old Believer) Faith, Bishop Dimitri wrote a number of sermons and instructions, such as A Short Catechism, A History of the Tsars and Patriarchs, A Record of Russian Metropolitans, and other writings. A Short Confession Before One's Spiritual Father is used to this day in many parishes, as a help in the Sacrament of Confession. All the works of Bishop Dimitri are permeated with deep faith and warmth, and are easy to read, since the Russian language is polished to a wonderful legibility and refinement. He was a truly a great national writer, and our father among the saints.


A Reflection By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

St. Dimitri of Rostov was a saint in the ancient and true model of the early Fathers. Not only did he write beautiful and instructive books, but also shone forth as an example to his flock. He was a great ascetic and man of prayer.

So humble was he that he even begged the seminarians in his seminary to pray to God for him. Whenever the clock struck the hour, he stood for prayer and recited: "O Theotokos and Virgin, rejoice!" When he was ill - which, for him, was often - he begged each of the seminarians to recite "Our Father" five times on his behalf while meditating on the five wounds of the Lord Jesus Christ. On one occasion, St. Barbara appeared to him with a smile and said, "Why do you pray in the Latin manner?" - meaning, why do you pray to God with such brief prayers? At this reproach, even though it was gentle, he became despondent, but she encouraged him, saying: "Do not be afraid!"

On another occasion, St. Orestes the Martyr (November 10) appeared to him, just as St. Dimitri had finished writing the saint's life, and said: "I endured greater tortures for Christ than those you have written." He then showed him his left side and said: "This was pierced with a red-hot iron." He then showed him his left hand and said: "There I was slashed." Finally, he showed him his leg above the knee and said: "And this was cut off by a scythe." When St. Dimitri wondered if this Orestes visiting him was one of the Five Companions (December 13), the saint discerned his thought and said: "I am not the one of the Five Companions but rather the one whose life you have just written." 

Troparion in Tone 8
O lover of Orthodoxy and uprooter of schism, healer of Russia and new advocate before God, by thy writings thou didst heal the minds of the foolish. O blessed Demetrius, thou harp of the Spirit, entreat Christ God, that our souls may be saved.

Kontakion Tone 8
Let us bless Demetrius, the golden-worded teacher, the star of Russia, who shone forth from Kiev, and through Novgorod Seversky reached Rostov, and hath illumined the whole land with his teachings and miracles; for he wrote down all those things which are for our edification that, like Paul, he might win all for Christ and save our souls through the right Faith.

From Glory at Lord, I have cried
With praises let us bless the holy hierarch Demetrius, the great bishop, the Chrysostom of Russia, who, having been made a chosen vessel of the most Holy Spirit, hath been shown to be a member of the choir of the friends of God! And he prayeth that peace and length of days be granted to all Orthodox Christians, victory and triumph over their enemies, and great mercy to the world.