March 5, 2020

Holy Venerable Martyr Adrian of Poshekhonye (+ 1550) and his fellow-ascetic Venerable Leonid (+ 1549)

Sts. Adrian and Leonid of Poshekhonye (Feast Day - March 5)

Saint Adrian of Poshekhonye was born at Rostov the Great at the end of the sixteenth century, of pious parents named Gregory and Irene. Saint Adrian received monastic tonsure at the Monastery of Saint Cornelius of Komel.

Among the brethren gathered around Saint Cornelius were some capable builders and iconographers, so the monastery churches were constructed and adorned by the saints themselves. In the final years of Saint Cornelius’s life, Kazan Tatars invaded the territory around the monastery, and he led all the brethren to the River Ukhtoma. But the Tatars did not touch the monastery, being frightened off by the sight of the many soldiers defending it, and they soon withdrew from the Vologda district. Saint Cornelius returned to the monastery with the brethren and reposed there on May 19, 1537.

Three years after the death of Saint Cornelius, Saint Adrian, then a hierodeacon, greatly desired to go into a wilderness place and found a monastery in honor of the Most Holy Theotokos. The Lord helped him fulfill his intention. A certain unknown Elder of striking appearance came to the Corniliev Monastery. Saint Adrian asked him his name, and the Elder referred to himself as “the lowly one.”

When Saint Adrian invited him to his own cell and asked him to say something beneficial for the soul, the Elder said that he would show Saint Adrian the spot where he should build the church and monastery of the Most Holy Theotokos.

Saint Adrian immediately went to the abbot Laurence, and sought his blessing to live in the wilderness. Recalling Saint Cornelius’s order that any monks who wished to withdraw into the wilderness should be released from the monastery, Abbot Laurence did not hinder Saint Adrian but gave him his blessing. He also sent with him his assistant, Elder Leonid. After they prayed at the grave of Saint Cornelius, Saint Adrian and Elder Leonid went on their way, led by the mysterious black-robed monk. Saint Adrian carried with him an icon of the Dormition of the Mother of God, which he also painted.

On September 13, 1540, the eve of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross of the Lord, Saint Adrian and Elder Leonid arrived in the wild Poshekhonye forest, near the settlements of Bely, Patrabolsha, Shelshedolsk and Ukhorsk.

They halted at the banks of the River Votkha. There the Elder leading them suddenly became invisible. The astonished travelers began to chant the Canon and Service of the Feast, with tears of thanks to God. Indeed this was a portent of the future fame of the monastery, a place where God would be glorified.

Then, in all the surrounding villages, the people heard a ringing in the dense wild forest, and after that, over many days in all the surrounding villages, they heard the same thing.

After Adrian and Leonid thanked God for all that happened, they placed the icon of the Most Holy Theotokos on a large oak tree near the Votkha River and walked for a long time through the oak grove, looking for ways to the districts inhabited by people and choosing places where they could put a chapel for prayer for the salvation of their souls.

During their walk, the Bely villagers went fishing down the Votkha River near the place where the icon of the Most Holy Theotokos was placed on an oak tree, and they caught two such big pikes that they had not previously caught, and after twelve years, such large fish did not come across, but only small ones. One of the fishermen went ashore, saw the icon of the Dormition on an oak tree and began to call his comrades. They rushed to shore, thinking that he had encountered a wild beast, but he showed them the image of the Virgin. Everyone was surprised, thinking where the image came from in these impassable places. Some believed that one of their own villagers wanted to take this place for themselves to live in. The first villager who saw the image with boldness wanted to bring down the image and take it for himself to take it home, but the Most Holy Mother of God did not allow this: an invisible force pushed him ten cubits from the image. The comrades, seeing this, began to reproach him with tears for insolence, but he lost his ability to speak and could not say anything; they began to shake his hands and feet and tried to bring him to life. When he woke up, his comrades began to ask what happened to him while being idle. He replied: “I did not do anything idle; I just got tired of fishing, went to shore and fell asleep. An old man in black robes, with gray hair, appeared to me and said: 'Do not dare, child, take the image of the Most Holy Mother of God. Go in peace to the work for which you have come out.'" And again the villagers were surprised at this miracle and glorified God and His Most Holy Mother. Having laid wheat bread and a big fish on the ground in front of the image of the Mother of God, the villagers, rejoicing, went back to fishing, singing a hymn to the Mother of God.

For three years Saint Adrian and the Elder Leonid survived in the wilderness solitude, suffering want, overcoming temptations from the devil and the whisperings of wicked folk, and then they began to fulfill their intention. Choosing a suitable moment, the ascetics went to Moscow to ask the blessing of Metropolitan Macarius to establish a monastery and church in honor of the Dormition of the Mother of God on the Poshekhonye side of the River Votkha.

Saint Macarius gave his blessing to the ascetics to build the monastery, and he gave them a written document to that effect. He ordained Adrian to the priesthood and elevated him to the rank of abbot. In the document he had given to Saint Adrian, the hierarch bade “priests, deacons, monks and laymen to listen to him and obey him in everything, as befits a pastor and teacher.”

At Moscow the Poshekhonye ascetics found generous benefactors who gave the monks abundant offerings to build their church. Returning to their wilderness spot on May 31, 1543, Saint Adrian laid the foundations for the church with a trapeza, in honor of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos.

Having embellished and consecrated the new church, Saint Adrian began the construction of the monastery. The strict monastic Rule of Saint Cornelius was introduced at the monastery. Having nothing of their own, a little being sufficient for everyone, the Saints devoted a large portion of their time to prayer, both in church and in their cells, and no small time was allotted to the reading of Holy Scripture to each other. This reading was done “not in an elegant voice, nor for effect, but in a humble and mild voice. One reads, and another speaks of what is read.” They also read in private.

In addition to his duties as abbot, Saint Adrian also occupied himself with painting icons. When his holy soul longed for complete silence, he withdrew into the depths of the forest into the cell and chapel he had built one verst away from the monastery.

Six years after the founding of the monastery, Elder Leonid reposed. Saint Adrian and the brethren buried him with reverence. The number of the brethren had increased during this time. They built three cells as dwellings, and a fourth for preparing food and baking bread.

Saint Adrian began to make plans for the construction of a large stone church, and he gathered a sum of money for this purpose. One year after the repose of Elder Leonid, during Great Lent of 1550, in the evening of March 5th, the eve of the commemoration of the 42 Ammoreian Martyrs (March 6), the inhabitants of the neighboring village of Bely, armed, came to an unfinished monastery to rob it. Some came with swords, others with bows and arrows, and others with spears. Adrian and others with him were tortured by them. They scraped them with razors and burned them with fire, interrogating where they had their property and treasures. Adrian gave them forty rubles and told them they could have the property, but to let every go to the Corneliev Monastery, and they would never return. The torturers said: “We will give you the helmet of salvation and send you to the King of Heaven!” Despising the old man’s request, they seized him and locked him in a cell with the others.

Then the martyr Adrian began to pray: “Lord, my God! Forgive the sins of these people, for they do not know what they are doing. Take my spirit in peace, do not remember my iniquities done before Thee. Do not despise my prayers, Most Holy Mother of God, and my homeland, the city of Rostov! My spiritual fathers and brethren, companions and spiritual children of mine, and great relatives, forgive and bless: I’m already going to the Judgment Seat of Christ and will no longer be with you in this world, according to the Lord’s word: 'Earth thou art and to earth you shall return.'"

After this, the villagers dragged Adrian out by the rope tied around his neck, and crushed him under their sled. By this he delivered his soul to the Lord. The robbers plundered all the property of the monastery. Finally, the body of the Holy Martyr Adrian the Abbot was thrown into a sled and taken out of the monastery. Where the robbers cast the body of the martyr, no one knew. Eventually the man who led the robbery was executed for his crime after an investigation took place, and the rest were imprisoned.

After this the surviving brethren searched for the body of their abbot, but it was all in vain. Finally, more than fifty years after the death of Adrian, Abbot Porphyrius and the brethren, with sorrow and lamentation, turned with fervent prayer to the All-Bountiful God and the Most Holy Mother of God for the appearance of the place where the body of the martyr was buried after his abduction by the robbers. And the Lord did not despise the prayers of His servants, in order to glorify His saint.

In 1612 the church clerk John Prokofiev went out to the village of Guzhneva where annually the people worshiped an ash tree in honor of Saint Paraskeva. John Prokofiev told them they should not do this, but instead to build there a church dedicated to the prophet Elias and Saint Paraskeva to worship God. The villagers liked this and asked for his help in doing so. The land of this estate belonged to Irina, the widow of Cornelius Cheglokov. God inspired John Prokofiev to go to the widow of Cheglokova and ask her for permission to create a church in the name of the Prophet Elias and the Martyr Paraskeva. The widow Irina Cheglokova not only ordered John Prokofiev to build a church, but also asked him to accept the priesthood in order to serve in that church and be its spiritual father. In 1612 the church was complete and John was ordained a priest and served there.

Not long after the death of the widow, the land of the Church of the Prophet Elias and the Martyr Paraskeva was placed under the abbot Laurence of the Holy Trinity Monastery. And it happened that a man named John Sidorov, now a monastic called Elder Jonah, was a spirtual son of Abbot Laurence. Before his death in 1626, feeling its approach, he told his spiritual father the following about the Holy Martyr Adrian: “Forgive me, Holy Father, for God's sake, I hid from you hitherto what my father Sidor told me, leaving this world. He told me: 'My son, John! In the past, in 1550, on March 5, the villagers came to the Votkha River to rob the monastery. Having tortured its abbot Adrian, they brought his body to the border of the White Village and Shigorosh on the River Ushloma and threw him into the creek of that river.' And my father Sidor, of the village of Ivanniki, and his neighbors brought the body of Abbot Adrian to an empty place to the empty church of the Prophet Elias on Uhra, where our Monastery of the Prophet Elias stands. They dismantled the platform of that empty church, dug a grave beneath it and buried Adrian’s body at night without a service, fearing the removal from by the elders. And in that church placed for signs for the future, they planted a small mountain ash, which is now a large and beautiful tree. And above all, in that tree in an empty place many healings from diseases were performed, only they did not pay attention to them and did not write them down, since there was nobody to write them, because the place was empty."

Soon after Abbot Porphyrius of the Dormition Monastery visited his spiritual father, who was Elder Laurence. Elder Laurence told him about the body of Saint Adrian and where it was located according to the testimony of Elder Jonah. After receiving permission from the authorities to look for the body and transfer it to the Dormition Monastery, the abbot and the brethren began their search. Abbot Laurence indicated a spot with his staff, and there they dug near the ash tree. The body of the Saint was miraculously found. The holy relics of the Holy Martyr Adrian were found on November 19, 1625 and found to be incorrupt. On December 17, 1626 they were solemnly transferred into the monastery church and placed in an open crypt by the right kliros (choir). Many miracles occurred at the grave of Saint Adrian.