June 14, 2019

Saint Elisha of Suma (+ 15th cent.)

St. Elisha of Suma (Feast Day - June 14)

Venerable Elisha of Suma was a monk at the Solovetsky Monastery, and was occupied with the weaving of fishing nets. Though we do not know about his life, one event in his life does reveal his great piety.

One day he with three other monks (Daniel, Philaret and Sava) went to the Vyga River, which was 60 versts (about 40 miles) from the monastery, in order to fish. As they were all weaving fishing nets, Daniel suddenly said to Elisha: "In vain, brother, are you working to fix these nets; you will not catch fish with them: death has come and your fishing is over." Taking these words to be a divine revelation, it struck Elisha with fear and he began to mourn, not because he feared death but because he had not yet been tonsured into the Great Schema, and there was no priest there that could do it. In his despondency, he was comforted by his brethren.

That night Elisha began to feel ill and went to sleep, and the weary brethren rested near him. But when they got up, Elisha was no longer with them in the cell. They turned to search and found him coming towards them from the forest and without a schema. On being questioned what happened, he announced: “Many demons came to our cell, attacked me with fury, I was dragged away from you by force, they tore off my schema from me, but Saint Zosima took me from them.” This was Saint Zosima of Solovetsky (+ 1478; commemorated April 17/30; founder of Solovetsky Monastery). The schema was found abandoned on a tree.

It was decided then that they were going to take Elisha back to the Solovetsky Monastery which was 60 versts away where a hieromonk was located that could tonsure him into the Great Schema. They put the sick man onto a boat and sailed along the Vyga River. The river however had a strong current, with many stones and rapids. Escaping this danger, Elisha grew more and more sick. At one point they changed ship for a larger ship with hired help. Suddenly however a storm rose up and broke apart the ship, while a thick darkness prevented them from seeing one another.

All were in despair, the mercenaries grumbled and reproached the monks, but Elisha, who was in pain, was not indignant, for he was reassured by a wondrous vision from another world. “Do not be afraid and do not grieve, brethren,” he said to the navigators, barely breathing from exhaustion. “I see Father Zosima with us on the ship, and he helps us. All this happened to us according to the actions of the devil, who wants to destroy my soul, but God through the prayers of Saint Zosima will destroy the foe." Soon after the wind gradually began to subside, the waves subsided, and calmness settled on the sea. When they came to the shore near the monastery, the elders saw with horror that the ailing man had died, and their joy instantly turned into weeping. But after some time, a movement was discovered in the dead man, and he began speaking sensibly and meaningfully. Taken to the courtyard, he was tonsured into the Great Angelic Schema and was granted the communion of the Divine Mysteries of the Body and Blood of Christ; then, glorifying God and bidding farewell to all, he again reposed in the Lord. His body was buried behind the altar of the Church of Saint Nicholas on the south side.

Years passed, and his name was forgotten by many. After more than a century, attention to the Saint arose over the fact that his coffin was discovered on the surface of the earth, and his relic became a source of healing for the sick. In order to verify that everything that was happening, in 1668 Alexander Sevastyanovich Khitrovo, a tsarist steward, was sent there and he set up a small chapel over the tomb of Saint Elisha. He was canonized in the 18th century.

In July 1929, the relics of Saint Elisha of Suma were opened by representatives of state administration bodies and transferred for storage to the Karelian State Regional Museum. In 1990, the relics were transferred to the Russian Orthodox Church and are in the Holy Cross Cathedral of Petrozavodsk. On January 7, 2019, during Great Vespers at the Holy Cross Cathedral, which was headed by Metropolitan Constantine of Petrozavodsk, a miracle happened - the relics of Saint Elisha of Suma began to give off a sweet fragrance.