October 23, 2017

Translation of the Relics of Saint James of Borovichi, Wonderworker of Novgorod, in 1544

Most of the details of the life of Saint James are unknown, though he is said to have been a Fool for Christ from his youth and a ship-worker who died young perhaps by being struck by lightning, but the Lord glorified him after death.

In the year 1540, on the third day of Pascha, a large block of ice floated up against the current along the River Msta to the village of Borovichi (in the district of Novgorod), and on this block of ice stood the coffin (made from an oak log) without cover, in which the incorrupt body of the youth lay. Shunning the holy relics, peasants with poles pushed the block of ice back into the river, but it returned to the shore. This was repeated three times. That night the youth appeared in a dream to the elders of the village, who had seen him upon the ice-flow, and said, “I am also a Christian just like you. Don’t push me away. My name is James. I am the namesake of Saint James, the Brother of God.”

The relics of the holy youth were first placed in a chapel, then in 1544, after a commission was established by Archbishop Theodosius of Novgorod to examine the relics and six reliable miracles attributed to them, it was decided they be transferred to the Descent of the Holy Spirit Monastery (built in 1345). Then in 1545 the commission established an annual commemoration of the Saint every year on October 23 with his namesake Saint James the Brother of God (he is also celebrated on the Tuesday of Bright Week). The Lord, having glorified His God-pleasing one, granted the relics of Saint James a curative power. A feast day with Matins was established in 1572. The Iconographic Manuals describe Saint James: “A youth, bare, girded with a piece of cloth.”

But as if in punishment for the unbelief and cowardice of the Borovichi inhabitants, rendered by them during the arrival of the incorrupt relics of Saint James, the Lord did not favor that this treasure forever remain with them. His Holiness Patriarch Nikon learned of the miracles that took place at the relics of Saint James the Righteous, but, having received information that they are in Borovichi in great neglect, wished to transfer the relics to the newly created Iveron Monastery in Valday. The transfer took place in February 1654.

On the eve of the transfer, the Patriarch had a vision in a dream, about which he himself told the clergy: "I saw a great light in the place where this monastery is being built, and in the midst of this light lies a man on a high ground, with a bright body; considering him dead, I approached him, to cover up the nakedness of his body; but approaching, I saw the hands in blessing, and he, as if alive, folded them on his chest."

The next day, Patriarch Nikon personally transferred the relics of Saint James from the dilapidated wooden coffin into a new, silver one. As soon as he approached the coffin, he saw the boy exactly like he did in the dream - with hands in blessing position. Then the Patriarch folded the hands of the righteous James on his chest as he had seen in the dream.

In the autumn of 1918, the Bolsheviks took from the monastery a golden garment from the miraculous Iveron icon, old precious utensils, and personal belongings of Patriarch Nikon. However, by order of the Commissar of the People's Commissariat of Education in 1919, the valuables were returned to the monastery, which was transformed into the Iversky Labor Artel. At the same time, the Nikon Museum was placed in the premises of the western wall of the monastery.

In the same year, in March, the relics of Saint James were twice publicly publicized in order to accuse the Church of quackery. After this, the relics of the holy youth mysteriously disappeared. According to legend, they were buried in the ground on the eve of the destruction of the monastery.

According to a current monk at the monastery, Hieromonk Panteleimon: "In 2002, a woman wrote a letter that she had a vision. Several times she dreamed of a handsome young man who said that his relics are still in the Iveron Monastery, under the porch of the Church of the Epiphany. Every day we read the Akathist to the Saint. Everything was dug, but nothing was found."

In the Svyatodukhovsky (Decent of the Holy Spirit) Cathedral in Borovichi there is a reliquary with portions of the relics of Saint James. In the Church of the Apostles Peter and Paul in the city of Valday is kept his icon with a portion of the relics, before which there have been prayers performed for many years for the finding of the relics of the Borovichi wonderworker.

Descent of the Holy Spirit Monastery

Portion of the relics of St. James at Dormition of the Holy Spirit Cathedral

Iveron Monastery in Valday

Relics of St. James in Iveron Monastery before the Soviets plundered it and when the relics went missing