November 20, 2018

Saint Diodorus of Yuriev (+ 1633)

St. Diodorus of Yuriev (Feast Day - November 20)

Venerable Diodorus of Yuriev was born in the village of Turchasovo at the River Onega. His parents, Hierotheos and Maria, named their son Diomede. As a fifteen-year-old youth, he went on pilgrimage to the Solovki Monastery, and feeling called to the monastic life, he remained there as a novice and never returned home. There he received monastic tonsur when he was nineteen under the abbot Anthony. Abbot Anthony then handed him over to the priest Joseph to be his spiritual guide. When his father became older and was near death, he also was tonsured a monk, and Diodorus buried both his parents.

Upon the death of his parents, Diodorus sought greater solitude with the hermits on the desolate Solovetsky Island. For forty days he wandered, eating only grass, and having become exhausted, he rested under a tree. Brothers from Solovki Monastery, who had gone out to gather plants and berries, found Diodorus and brought him back to the monastery on a stretcher. When they noticed it was because of starvation that he nearly died, they fed him and restored his health. This did not deter young Diodorus from setting off again for solitude, and he returned to Solovetsky Island. There he occupied a cell left by an unknown ascetic. Two hermits then taught him the ways of living as a hermit, and he managed to devote his life to toil and prayer.

It was Diodorus' desire to visit all the hermits of the desolate islands and learn from them, and he fulfilled his desire. Often he would bring them food from the monastery, and those he found to be dead he buried. Once in winter, he went to the wilderness and met with the hermit Nicephorus, a layman from Novgorod. The hermit was completely nude. Turning to the young monk, he said: "Attend, attend, Diodorus, so that God himself will visit you." And he ran. The monk wanted to talk with the hermit, but he could not catch up with him. On another occasion he met a hermit named Timothy, from Alexina. He went into the wilderness in the Time of Troubles. In a small boat, Timothy arrived to the island, reached the wilderness and, having built himself a hut, settled in it. For three years in the wilderness he was suffering heavy temptations and hunger, until an aged elder appeared to show him the grass which he should eat, and the water that he should drink. Inspired by the story of the desert-dweller, Diodorus decided to finally settle in the wilderness in cohabitation with Nicephorus and Timothy.

Other monks from Solovki Monastery followed the example of Diodorus and went to the wilderness to live as hermits, causing much trouble for the monastery. But when the only physician of the monastery left also, the monks who remained had enough, so they arrested all the hermits, burned down all their huts, and had them brought to the monastery to help with all of its tasks. Diodorus they treated as a criminal, and shut him up in the hospital for five and half months, not even being allowed to attend church services. By God's mercy, Diodorus broke out and left the monastery forever, returning to the wilderness where he found all the huts burned. The monks pursued him, but God covered him and protected him. For six months Diodorus wandered to find a suitable place to settle, and the only person who knew his whereabouts was his brother, who sometimes visited him. One day his brother came to his cell and offered the prayer greeting from the shut door, and received no answer. Going inside he found his brother on the ground swollen. Diodorus explained that he been beaten by demons.

After this incident Diodorus decided to leave and practice his exploits elsewhere. He came to the mouth of the Onega River, and liked the deserted place along the Kena river, so he settled there. Trials awaited the zealous hermit however. Near that place peasants caught animals. Having met the monk, they beat him, burned his cell and boat, then they dragged him by the legs and left him barely alive. At the same time, they shouted to the ascetic: “Why have you settled here? Do you want to put a monastery here? Did you plan to take away our land and fishing by force? If you don't get out of here, we will kill you.”

The monk went away from there, praying to the Lord for his offenders. Having come to the Onega river, the ascetic began to pray the usual prayers, and at that time a wealthy Moscow merchant Nadeya Svetechnikov was coming toward the river. Seeing the elder, he bowed to him and asked who he was and where he was from. “I am a beggar and I wander,” the ascetic answered humbly. On the persistent inquiries of the merchant, the Monk Diodorus told him about his trials. The merchant was angry with the peasants, regretted they offended the innocent ascetic, and told him: "I will inform the king, and he will avenge your offenders." But the elder did not want this and begged his protector: "No, my lord, do not do this, do not inform the king." The merchant promised to fulfill the will of the meek old man, but, coming to the Kenozersk village, told the local judge about the villagers who beat the Saint, and threatened him. The guilty were afraid; they sought out the ascetic and, falling to his feet, begged him to return to their former place, agreeing to arrange for him a cell and in every possible way to settle him.

Diodorus however decided to leave and went to Mount Yuriev at Yuriev Lake. The place was beautiful and seemed to the monk convenient for hermitage. And the hermit rejoiced, thanked the Lord, set up a cross, built a cell and devoted himself to the exploits of the desert: work and prayer. For seven years Diodorus worked here completely alone. After that, a certain monk Prokhor came to him. He saw the works of the monk, was surprised at his extraordinary life and remained his cohabitant. One day a light-colored man appeared to him and said: “God wants the temple to be in the name of the Life-giving Trinity, the other in the name of the Most Pure Mother of God, the third in the name of the Monks Zosima and Savva the Wonderworkers of Solovki. Brothers will gather here, and the hermitage will multiply."

Initially Diodorus had doubts about establishing a monastery, since he had no money. To put his doubts to rests, the light-colored man appeared to him two more times to assure him that it was the will of God. Resolving to found a monastery in honor of the Most Holy Trinity on Mount Yuriev, the monk went to Moscow, where he received approval from Tsar Michael (1613-1645) and also money for the building of the monastery from the Tsar’s mother, the nun and eldress Martha. Metropolitan Cyprian of Novgorod also gave the monk his blessing and approval. Then he contracted carpenters and workers to cut wood for the church building. When the forest was ready, they began to build a wooden church in the name of the Life-Giving Trinity. In the past, there was a pagan cemetery on Yuriev Mountain, sacrifices were made to false gods, and the place was unclean. When they began to build the temple, the mountain shook, there were screams in it. The carpenters were scared and wanted to leave work. Then the Saint made a moleben on the mountain, he sprinkled the place with holy water, and the demons with noise and cries fled to Lake Yuriev, then disappeared into the forest.

At first there were only three brethren in the newly-built monastery: the Monk Diodorus, his cohabitant Prokhor and the priest who came from Novgorod to perform the services. But then, one by one, the laity began to converge towards them; they were tonsured into a monastic schema and worked in the desert monastery with humility and obedience. The monk himself diligently and lovingly labored for the brethren in the bakery and in the kitchen, washed the fraternal retinues and cared for the brethren like a father for his children. He comforted and taught the new brethren to work, struggle and avoid the idle words with which the enemy often seduces monks.

Somewhat before his death, Saint Diodorus was obliged to journey to Kargopol on monastery matters. Taking leave of the brethren, he predicted his impending death. He died on November 27, 1633 and was buried at Kargopol. After two months his incorrupt body was transferred to the Trinity Monastery and buried at the south wall of the cathedral church. Many miracles are attributed to the Saint after his repose.

The memory of Saint Diodorus is celebrated on November 20 because of the Feast of the Icon of the Mother of God “Of the Sign,” with which his repose coincides.