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February 11, 2020

Saint Demetrius of Priluki the Wonderworker (+ 1406)

St. Demetrius of Priluki (Feast Day - February 11)

Saint Demetrius of Priluki the Wonderworker was born into a rich merchant’s family in Pereyaslavl-Zalessk. Receiving monastic tonsure and ordination at one of the Pereyaslavl monasteries, the Saint later founded the Saint Nicholas Monastery on the Saints Boris and Gleb Hill at the shore of Lake Plescheevo near the city, and became its abbot.

We are told that the monk was very handsome, but tried to hide his beauty by constantly wearing a monastic veil. To fade away his beauty, he constantly fasted, however, contrary to his efforts, his face was even more brightened. He hardly spoke with the laity and never with women. Once a certain woman, who was the wife of a boyar, having heard about his beauty and chastity, tried, against the will of the Saint, to see his face, and after seeing it, she was punished by falling to ground helpless and shouting, and was healed only by his prayer. He asked to her: "Why did you want to gaze at the face of a sinner who has long been dead to the world, my child?"

In 1334 Saint Demetrius first met with Saint Sergius of Radonezh, who had come to Pereyaslavl to see Metropolitan Athanasius. From that time, he frequently conversed with Saint Sergius and became close with him. The fame of the Pereyaslavl abbot was so widespread that he became godfather to the children of Great Prince Demetrius Ioannovich. Under the influence of the Radonezh wonderworker, Saint Demetrius decided to withdraw to a remote place, and went north with his disciple Pachomius.

In the Vologda forests, at the River Velika, near the Avnezh settlement, they built a church dedicated to the Resurrection of Christ and they prepared to lay the foundations for a monastery. The local inhabitants were fearful that if a monastery were built there, their village would become monastery property. They demanded that the monks leave their territory, and wishing to be a burden to no one, they moved farther away.

Not far from Vologda, at the bend of the Priluki river in an isolated spot, Saint Demetrius decided to form the first of the cenobitic monasteries of the Russian North. The people of Vologda and the surrounding area gladly consented to help the Saint. The owners of the land intended for the monastery, Elias and Isidore, even trampled down a grain field, so that a temple might be built immediately. In 1371 the wooden Savior Cathedral was built, and brethren began to gather to form what would become Priluki Monastery.

Many disciples of the monk came there from Pereyaslavl. Saint Demetrius combined prayer and strict asceticism with kindliness. He fed the poor and hungry, he took in strangers, he conversed with those in need of consolation, and he gave counsel. He loved to pray in solitude. His Lenten food consisted of prosphora with warm water. Even on feast days, he would not partake of the wine and fish permitted by the Rule. Both winter and summer he wore an old sheepskin coat, and even in his old age he went with the brethren on common tasks. Under his clothes he wore a chain with a heavy cross. The Saint accepted contributions to the monastery cautiously, so that the welfare of the monastery would not be detrimental to those living nearby.

Once, as he and his monks were toiling at work, the Saint remarked: "Brethren, we are busy with transitory things of the earth while today Grand Prince Dimitri is no longer concerned with this life of vanity!" From that day he began to commemorate the Prince among the departed. Only much later did they learn the Prince had died on the day and in the hour the Saint had spoken of him.

On another occasion, he gave his brother his blessing to go to the Far North to trade with the pagans. Having made a very good profit there, his brother came home and, after a while, asked the holy abbot for his blessing to return to those parts. This time, however, Demetrius would not give his blessing.His brother went nonetheless, only to be killed by the barbarians.

The Lord granted His servant the gift of clairvoyance, and he attained a high degree of spiritual perfection. Saint Demetrius died at an advanced age on February 11, 1406. The brethren approaching found him as though asleep, and his cell was filled with a wondrous fragrance.

Miracles from the relics of Saint Demetrius began in the year 1409, when there was an epidemic of ergotism throughout the region of Vologda. Because of the gangrene the sick were forced to use walking sticks. Massive healings began to take place at the tomb of Saint Demetrius, and those healed on the spot left behind their walking sticks. When the epidemic ended, the monks had to remove a cart of walking sticks.

The second miracle happened during the attack on Vologda by the Vyatchans in 1417. When the attackers robbed the Dimitriev Monastery, one of the warriors began to remove the cover from the Saint’s coffin, but was knocked down by invisible force, hit the floor and died on the spot - he was buried in the monastery. Other posthumous miracles of the Saint are associated with healings.

During the fifteenth century his veneration spread throughout all Rus. And no later than the year 1440, the Priluki monk Macarius recorded his Life based on the narratives of Saint Demetrius’s disciple Abbot Pachomius.

In 1487-1493 or in 1503, the icon painter Monk Dionysius Glushitsky painted the image of the Saint Demetrius that has survived to this day with events from his life. This icon is stored today in the Vologda Museum-Reserve, and every Tuesday a prayer service is held in front of it in the museum. The chains of the Saint survived, they weigh 9.5 kg and are now stored in the diocesan church-historical museum at the monastery. The pastoral staff of the Saint is preserved in the Savior Cathedral.

On January 4, 1609, the inhabitants of Vologda solemnly brought the icon of the Saint from his tomb to the city and installed it in the Spassky Church, asking for help in the Time of Troubles.

The relics of the Saint have never been revealed; to this day they rest in the Priluki Monastery in the archway in the middle of the lower church dedicated to his name.