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July 2, 2018

Saint Photios, Metropolitan of Moscow and All Russia (+ 1431)

St. Photios of Moscow (Feast Day - July 2)

Saint Photios, Metropolitan of Kiev and All Russia, was by birth a Greek from the Peloponnesian city of Monemvasia (Malbasia). While still in his adolescence he entered a monastery and was tonsured under the Elder Akakios, a great ascetic (afterwards the Metropolitan of Monemvasia). In 1408, when Photios was in Constantinople with the Patriarch on ecclesiastical matters, the question arose about a replacement for the Russian See after the death of Saint Cyprian (Sept. 16). The choice of Patriarch Matthew (1397-1410) fell upon Photios, known for his learning and holiness of life. On September 1, 1408 Saint Photios was made Metropolitan and in the next year arrived in Rus, though he did not know a word of Russian.

He spent half a year at Kiev (September 1409-February 1410), concerning himself with settling affairs in the southern dioceses of the Russian Church, then included within the principality of Lithuania, or more precisely, of Lithuania and Russia. The Saint perceived that the throne of the Metropolitan, the spiritual center of ecclesiastical life in Rus, could not remain in the Kiev lands, where everything increasingly fell under the dependence of Catholic Poland. On the day of Holy Pascha in 1410, Metropolitan Photios arrived in Moscow following the example of former Russian Metropolitans, who transferred their residence first to Vladimir, then to Moscow.

For twenty-two years the Saint labored in the difficult service of archpastor of the Russian Church. In grievous conditions of war, fratricidal strife, and pillaging incursions of Tatars he knew how to highly advance the spiritual significance, the material prosperity and well-being of the churches under the See of Moscow.

Favorable conditions in the Church allowed Saint Photios to render great assistance to the increasingly impoverished Patriarch of Constantinople, and to strengthen the international position of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian realm.

The enemies of Orthodoxy tried to subvert the ecclesiastical and patriotic service of Saint Photios more than once. In the spring of 1410, when Photios arrived in Vladimir from Moscow, Khan Edigei, having laid waste this portion of the Russian Land for two years, undertook a new campaign with the intent of capturing the Metropolitan himself. A Tatar detachment, headed by Prince Talychoi “the Exile,” suddenly and quickly took Vladimir, but God preserved His righteous Saint.

The evening before, not suspecting danger, the Saint had gone off to the Svyatoozersk (Holy Lake) Monastery beyond the city. When the Tatars attempted pursuit, he concealed himself in a small settlement, surrounded by impassable swamps, at the River Senega. Unable to capture the Metropolitan, the rapacious Tatars plundered Vladimir, especially the Dormition Cathedral. The doorkeeper of the cathedral, Patrikii, endured terrible torments and accepted a martyr’s death from the plundering Tatars, but he did not reveal where the churches sacred items and treasury were hidden.

Sakkkos of St. Photios of Moscow

Through the efforts of Metropolitan Photios the canonical unity of the Russian Church was restored. The separate Lithuanian metropolitanate, established by Prince Vitovt for the southern and western eparchies [dioceses], was abolished in 1420. In that same year the Saint visited the returned eparchies and greeted the flock with an instructive encyclical. The wise and erudite pastor left behind many instructions and letters. Of great theological significance was his denunciation of the heresy of the Strigolniki, which had arisen at Pskov prior to his time. By his wise efforts the heresy was put to an end in 1427.

Important Church historical sources compiled by Saint Photios are his “Order of Selection and Installation of Bishops” (1423), “Discourse on the Seriousness of the Priestly Office and the Obligations of Church Servers,” and also the “Spiritual Testament”, in which he tells of his life. Another great work of the Saint was the compilation, under his guidance, of the "Obscherussk Chronicle" (about 1423).

On April 20, 1430 the holy archpastor was informed by an angel of his approaching end, and he reposed peacefully on the Feast of the Deposition of the Robe of the Most Holy Theotokos at Blachernae, on July 2, 1431. His relics were uncovered in the year 1471. Photios was buried in the Kremlin Uspensky Cathedral next to his predecessor Metropolitan Cyprian. Two sakkoi (robes) of Saint Photios are preserved in the Armory Palace of the Moscow Kremlin.