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Monday, December 16, 2019

Saint Sophia of Suzdal (+ 1542)

St. Sophia of Suzdal (Feast Day - December 16);
17th cent. wonderworking icon of the Saint


Saint Sophia, in the world known as Solomonia Saburov, the Grand Princess, was the daughter of the boyar Yuri Saburov. In the year 1505 she was chosen as a bride by the heir to the throne, the future Great Prince Basil III, out of a choice of 500 potential brides. She was the first boyar princess, as opposed to a foreigner or noble. Their marriage was unhappy, because Solomonia remained childless, so Basil divorced her with the approval of Metropolitan Daniel and the boyars. Basil perfectly understood that if he died childless his brothers would inherit the throne. In order to preclude this scenario, they were incarcerated or forbidden to marry until his own son was born. In the long term, this led to the extinction of the Rurikid dynasty and to the succession crisis known as the Time of Troubles.
Wedding of Basil II and Solomonia

In order to have an heir, Great Prince Basil III, against the wishes of the clergy, decided to wed a second time (to the daughter of the Lithuanian prince, Elena Glinsky) and on November 25, 1525 he ordered Solomonia to become a nun. Metropolitan Varlaam of Moscow, convicting the illegality of the divorce, was removed from the metropolitan throne – for the first time in Russian history – and imprisoned in a monastery, and Saint Maximos the Greek, who interceded for Princess Solomonia, was banned and also imprisoned. All the Patriarchs condemned the deed of the Great Prince, and the Patriarch of Jerusalem Mark is said to have predicted that the birth of the baby from his second marriage (Ivan the Terrible) will amaze the world with his cruelty ("If you marry a second time, then you will have an evil child: your kingdom will be filled with horror and sadness, blood will flow like a river, the heads of nobles will fall, the city will burn."). Forcibly tonsured with the name Sophia at the Nativity Convent in Moscow, she was sent under guard to the Holy Protection (Pokrov) Convent in Suzdal. At first the Grand Duchess did not reconcile herself to her new position and considered herself imprisoned against her will, so she mourned for a long time. However, by prayer and ascetic deeds she banished from her heart worldly thoughts, and totally dedicated herself to God, thus gaining peace. Venerable Sophia departed to the Lord in the year 1542, having been adorned with virtues and gradually ascending to spiritual perfection.

Solomonia tonsured a nun

Prince Kurbsky, in a letter to Ivan the Terrible, calls the blessed princess “a Venerable Martyr.” In a manuscript of the lives of the Saints she is called “the Holy Venerable Princess Sophia the Nun, the Wonderworker, who dwelt at the Protection Monastery.” Under Tsar Theodore they revered her as a Saint. Tsaritsa Irene sent to Suzdal, “to the Grand Princess Solomonia, also called Sophia, a velvet veil with the depiction of the Savior and other saints.” Patriarch Joseph wrote to Archbishop Serapion of Suzdal about serving Panikhidas and Moliebens for Sophia. The Suzdal sacristan Ananias speaks of several miraculous healings at her grave. Thus, in 1598, Princess Anna Nechteva, who suffered from blindness for six years, began to see at her tomb. In 1609, during the Polish invasion of Russia, the Nun Sophia saved Suzdal from ruin. She appeared in a formidable form to the leader of the military detachment of the Poles, Lisovsky. His hand became paralyzed from fear, and he swore an oath to leave the city and the monastery alone. Many other miracles were accomplished through the prayers of Saint Sophia. She was officially canonized by the Holy Synod in 1916.








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