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November 6, 2019

Saint Barlaam of Khutyn (+ 1192)

St. Barlaam of Khutyn (Feast Day - November 6)

Our Venerable Father Barlaam, in the world known as Alexis Milchalevich, lived in the twelfth century, the son of an illustrious citizen of Novgorod, where he spent his childhood years. Withdrawing at an early age to the Lisich Monastery near the city, Barlaam was tonsured there. Later he settled on a solitary hill below Volkhov, in a place called Khutyn, ten versts from Novgorod.

Barlaam led a strict solitary life, occupying himself with unceasing prayer and keeping a very strict fast. He was a zealous ascetic in his labors: he cut timber in the forest, chopped firewood and tilled the soil, fulfilling the words of Holy Scripture, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thess. 3: 10).

Certain inhabitants of Novgorod gathered around him, wanting to share in monastic works and deeds. Instructing those who came, Saint Barlaam said, “My children, beware of all unrighteousness, and do not give in to envy or slander. Refrain from anger, and do not practice usury. Beware of unjust judgment. Do not swear an oath falsely, but rather fulfill it. Do not indulge the bodily appetites. Always be meek and bear all things with love. This virtue is the beginning and root of all good.”

Soon a church was built in honor of the Transfiguration of the Lord, and a monastery founded known as the Khutyn Monastery of Savior's Transfiguration. Because of his service to others, the Lord granted Barlaam the gifts of wonderworking and discernment.

Once Barlaam was given some fresh fish to eat. He wanted to taste it, but having suppressed all desires within himself, he had the fish cooked and placed in a vessel in his cell. After three days of fasting and prayer, on the fourth day, he opened the vessel and found the fish full of worms. This reminded Barlaam of his ascetic calling and complete dedication to the Lord, to turn away from all sweet foods and drinks. With this, he threw away the fish and the thought to have sweet food did not bother him anymore.

Another time, Barlaam was going to see the Archbishop, when he saw a large crowd of people and an executioner on the bridge over the Volkhov, who was preparing to throw a convicted criminal into the river (the usual death penalty in ancient Novgorod). The monk stopped the executioner, and asked the people to give him the condemned, saying: "He will make amends for his guilt in Khutyn." Everyone immediately cried out unanimously: “Give the condemned man to the Father Barlaam!” After some time, the man saved from being executed became a monk, and going on to live a godly life, he reposed in peace. However, another time Barlaam was crossing the same bridge and saw another execution was about to happen for another criminal. Relatives and many of the people, seeing the Monk, begged him to save the condemned man, but he, not paying attention to all the requests, ordered his charioteer to go as soon as possible, and the execution was completed. “What does this mean?” they said to each other, “For the Monk saved one from execution, although they did not ask for it, but did not want the other, despite all the supplications.” The disciples of Barlaam, upon returning to the monastery, asked him to explain this act. Barlaam replied: “The destinies of the Lord are many an abyss. The Lord wants salvation for everyone and does not want the sinner’s death. The first was condemned justly, but after the conviction he acknowledged his sins, and the Lord delivered him from death through my unworthiness, to give him time to repent and make amends for his the sins that he committed in the monastery. The second one was condemned innocently, but the Lord allowed him to die so that later he would not become a bad person; now, having died innocently, he received from the Lord a crown of martyrdom. Such is the mystery of God's fate: "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?" (Rom. 11:33,34).

Disciples of Elder Barlaam went fishing one day, and among many small fish, they caught a large sturgeon also and hid it, wanting to sell it, and only the small fish were brought to the Elder. Looking at them with a smile, Barlaam said: "You brought children to me, where did you hide the mother?" Confused by this denunciation, the fishermen fell at the feet of the Elder, asking for forgiveness.

Barlaam visited the Archbishop of Novgorod one day. At parting, the Archbishop ordered him to come back in a week, to which Barlaam replied: “If God blesses, I will come to your shrine in the sleigh on the heels of the first week of the fast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul.” The archbishop was surprised. On the eve of a certain day, deep snow fell in the night, and on Friday there was severe frost all day. Monk Barlaam arrived in Novgorod on a sleigh. Seeing the Archbishop’s sadness on the occasion of such untimely bad weather that could cause the freezing of bread, Barlaam told him: “Don’t be sad, Vladyka, don’t grieve, but give thanks to the Lord. If the Lord had not sent this snow and frost, there would have been hunger in the whole country with which the Lord wanted to punish us for our sins, but through the prayers of the Virgin and Saints he was merciful to us and sent frost so that the worms that undermined the roots of the bread would die out. In the morning, warmth will come again, this snow will melt and water the earth. By the grace of the Lord, there will be fertility." The next day it was warm. The archbishop was brought from the field rye ears with roots, on which there were many dead worms. That year was an unprecedented crop.

A seriously ill child from Novgorod was brought to Barlaam, but he died on the road. Having heard moaning in the monastery courtyard, Barlaam came out of his cell and ordered the dead child to be taken to his cell, and comforted his father, ordering him not to lament, and sent him to prepare the coffin. The boy's father left, and the Saint began to pray. When the crushed father returned for the body of his son and went into the cell of the abbot, he saw how his son, as if he had never been sick, was sitting and talking with Barlaam. The happy father rushed to the abbot's feet and began to give thanks. But Barlaam stopped him, saying that the father “was seduced by sadness, like he was drunk with wine, not with reason. The son is not dead, but livelier, and the spirit lurks within him.” The father reasonably objected to the Saint that he himself had sent him to prepare a coffin for the lad. Seeing that it would not be possible to hide the miracle, Barlaam strictly, under pain of the death of his son, ordered his father not to tell anyone about what had happened.

Once in the wilderness, Prince Yaroslav arrived at Monk Barlaam, who blessed him, and said: "Be well, prince, and your noble son." This greeting amazed the prince, who did not yet know about the birth of the baby. Having soon received the joyful news of the birth of his son, he asked the Monk to be the godfather of the newborn, to which Barlaam readily agreed. That was in 1190.

Later the Saint became a patron of the city of Vologda. He was also an accomplished painter, and painted several murals in the Gothic style in Novgorod, none of which survived destruction during the Second World War.

When Barlaam’s life was drawing to a close, the hieromonk Anthony came from Constantinople by divine Providence. He was of the same age and a friend of Barlaam. The Saint turned to him and said, “My beloved brother! God’s blessings rest upon this monastery. Now I leave this monastery in your hands. Watch over it and care for it. Although in the flesh I am leaving you, I shall always be with you in spirit.” After he instructed the brethren as follows: “The time has come, my children, for my departure to the Lord, but I will not leave you orphans and will always be with you in spirit, and if you live in love, this monastery after my death will have no shortage." Saint Barlaam fell asleep in the Lord on November 6, 1192.

After his repose, a servant of Prince Vasili Vasilievich became gravely ill and begged to be taken to the Saint's grave. He further instructed them that, if he should die on the way, they should carry his dead body to the Saint. And thus it happened - he died on the way and they carried him dead to the monastery, where he returned to life, stood up and prostrated before the grave of the Saint.

In the year 1471, Tsar Ivan the Terrible ordered that the Saint's grave be dug up. As soon as they began to dig, a flame sprang from the grave and flared up along the walls of the church. The Tsar was so frightened that he ran out of the church and, in his haste, forgot his staff, which is still preserved beside the grave of the Saint. The commemoration of this miracle is celebrated on the Friday after the Sunday of All Saints.

In 1505 the following vision took place: Venerable Barlaam, whose relics were hidden in the Transfiguration Cathedral of the Khutyn Monastery, appeared at night to the sexton Tarasi. The Saint showed the sexton that Lake Ilmen threatens to flood the city during the spill. Barlaam prayed to the Theotokos to save the city and revealed to Tarasi that for the sins of the townspeople they would be punished with pestilence, three years after which a fire would follow.