September 30, 2017

Saint Michael, First Metropolitan of Kiev and All Russia (+ 992)

St. Michael I, Metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus (Feast Day - September 30 & June 15)

Saint Michael the first Metropolitan of Kiev, according to the Joakimov Chronicle, was a Syrian by birth, but according to other chronicles, he was a Bulgarian or Serb or Greek. In the year 989, he arrived at Korsun with other clergy following the baptism of Prince Vladimir (July 15) in 988. Prince Vladimir had requested from Constantinople after his baptism that clergy be sent to Russia to shed the light of Christ among the people entrenched in the superstition of idolatry. Ecumenical Patriarch Nicholas II Chrysoberges therefore chose Michael to lead the people of Russia, on account of his wisdom and blameless and holy way of life. He was accompanied by six bishops and a large number of clergy to assist him in his mission. From Korsun Prince Vladmir brought Michael to Kiev, the capital of Russia at the time, for the illumination of the people of Kiev.

As first metropolitan of the Russian Church his service was difficult, but grace-filled. He zealously made the rounds of the Russian Land, preaching the gospel, baptizing and teaching the newly-illumined people, founding the first churches and religious schools. He is traditionally accounted as founding the Archangel Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery in Kiev as well as the Mezhyhirskyi Monastery near Vyshhorod with Greek monks. As we chant in one of the hymns dedicated to him, Saint Michael "brought the gospel from Constantinople as a gift to the Russian land that heathendom had miserably enslaved." At first he baptized the family of Prince Vladimir as well as the government officials, then after exhorting the people to pull down the idols he encouraged them to receive baptism unto salvation. So the people of Kiev gathered on the banks of the River Dnieper, and were baptized by the Metropolitan and his clergymen, in the presence of the Prince. Thus Saint Michael became the Enlightener of Kiev, as one hymn states: "Even until now, the baptismal robe wherewith you have vested her, O holy Bishop, is the boast of the city of Kiev." The baptism of Kiev gave a firm basis for the preaching of the gospel in the other territories of Prince Vladimir.

With the success of the conversion of Kiev, Metropolitan Michael then went to Novgorod and Rostov, two other great Russian cities where they worshiped the false gods of paganism. At Novgorod in 990, he saw to the destruction of the idols, baptized, built churches and ordained priests. He did the same later in Rostov. In Rostov he established the first wooden church in honor of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos and installed Theodore the Greek there as bishop. Metropolitan Michael was a wise and gentle, but also strict hierarch. The Russian Church has preserved the memory of the Saint’s praiseworthy deeds. In the Synodikon of the Novgorod and Kiev Cathedrals of Hagia Sophia he is rightfully called the initiator.

To the great grief of Prince Vladimir, Saint Michael died in the year 992 and was buried in the Dormition-Tithe Church in Kiev. In about the year 1103, under Saint Theoctistus (afterwards Bishop of Chernigov, Aug. 5), his incorrupt relics were transferred to the Near Kiev Caves Lavra, and on October 1, 1730 into the Dormition Church of the Caves. Thus his memory is celebrated on September 30, and also June 15, the day of his repose.

Formerly, his memory was celebrated on September 2, along with Saints Anthony and Theodosius of the Caves. There is a trace of this earlier celebration in the service to Saint Michael. In the second verse of the “Praises” we sing: “Having begun the new year, we offer you our first songs, O blessed one, for you were the beginning of the hierarchy in the Russian land.”

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
The prophecy of the first-called apostle has been fulfilled today: Grace has illumined the hills of Kiev and the faith is increased. Those who were not a people, are now the people of God, a holy nation, a flock of Christ of which you, O Michael, are first shepherd, and you serve it by bringing baptism. O Hierarch, standing before God pray that all may be saved.

Kontakion in the Second Tone
You appeared as a second Moses, bringing the vine from Egyptian idolatry into the land of promise. You said of it: Faith shall be established in this land, and fruit to nourish the world shall flourish on the summits of Kiev, more than on the heights of Lebanon. Having this harvest we bless you, O Hierarch Michael.