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February 15, 2020

Saint Paphnutius the Recluse of the Kiev Caves

St. Paphnutius the Recluse of the Kiev Caves (Feast Day - February 15)

Of the little we know about Venerable Paphnutius, we are told that he constantly wept and sighed throughout his life about the time of the separation of his soul from his body, how angels and demons would surround his soul at that hour, and reminds him of his sins by thought, word or deed, known and unknown to him. He therefore walled himself up in his cell, completely renouncing the world and its pleasures. His fellow monks at the Kiev Caves Lavra would daily leave him a cup of water and some bread at his window. This was the custom at the Kiev Caves Lavra for those who lived as recluses, and if the water and bread were left untouched, it indicated to them that the recluse had died. He reposed around the 13th century.

Saint John of the Ladder says (Step 6:1) that the gift of tears is preceded by the remembrance of death. For worldly people, this remembrance may lead to fear and distress, but for Saint Paphnutius it led to constant prayer and the guarding of his nous. By remembering the hour of death and God’s judgment, Saint Paphnutius was able to free himself from worldly distractions and passions through prayer, vigilance, repentance and fasting. This, in turn, led to tears. Now he is full of joy, having inherited his place among the saints in the presence of the Lord. His relics rest in the Far Caves.