January 10, 2019

Saint Paul of Obnora (+ 1429)

St. Paul of Obnora (Feast Day - January 10)

Venerable Paul of Obnora, a famed disciple of Saint Sergius of Radonezh, was born at Moscow in the year 1317. From his youth he distinguished himself by his piety and kindliness towards the poor and suffering. His rich parents prepared him for marriage and a secular life, but at twenty-two years of age he secretly left his parental home and received tonsure at the Nativity Monastery on the Volga in the Yaroslav diocese.

From there Paul transferred to the Holy Trinity Monastery to Saint Sergius of Radonezh, spending several years with him as his disciple, obeying the holy Elder in all things. With the blessing of Saint Sergius, he settled a short distance from the monastery in a separate cell, where he spent fifteen years as a hermit. Having asked the blessing of Saint Sergius to go off into the wilderness for a quiet and solitary life, Saint Paul wandered about for a long while, seeking a place of solitude. He wandered a great deal in the wilderness. He spent time with Saint Abraham of Chukhloma (July 20) and finally, he remained in the Komel forest.

At the Gryazovitsa River, in the hollow of an old linden tree, the monk built a small cell and dwelt there for three years in complete silence, “not giving his body rest, that he might receive future rest.” Eating whatever plants he could find, he was soon surrounded by wild animals of all sorts who lived peacefully in his presence. It was as though the original peace of Eden surrounded the man of God. Then he moved on to the River Nurma, where he built a hut and dug a well, spending his days in vigil and prayer.

Five days out of the week he went without food, and only on Saturday and Sunday did he partake of some bread and water. The news about the hermit spread abroad, and those wishing spiritual guidance began coming to him. Despite his love for the solitary life, Saint Paul never refused anyone spiritual consolation and guidance. He was also visited by Saint Sergius of Nurma (Oct. 7), who sought solitude with the blessing of Saint Sergius of Radonezh, and who also spent his ascetic life in these places.

With the blessing of Saint Sergius and the agreement of Metropolitan Photius, Saint Paul built the Holy Trinity Church in 1414 at the age of ninety-seven, around which a monastery sprang up (later called the Monastery of Saint Paul of Obnora). Having written a strict monastic Rule for the brethren, Saint Paul entrusted the guidance of the new monastery to his disciple Alexis, while he himself continued as before to live in a solitary cell on a hill. He remained a responsive and good counsellor for anyone needing his help. Saint Paul died at 112 years of age on January 10th in the year 1429. His final words were, “Brethren, have love one for another and keep to the rule of the monastic community.”

In the following century Kazan Tatars destroyed his monastery and killed many of the monks. It was rebuilt and became a popular pilgrimage site until the communists destroyed it in the last century. The Life of the Saint was written in about the year 1546, and his glorification occurred in 1547.