March 31, 2020

Saint Jonah the Wonderworker, Metropolitan of Moscow and All Russia (+ 1461)

St. Jonah of Moscow (Feast Day - March 31)

Saint Jonah was born in the city of Galich into a pious Christian family. His pious father was named Theodore. The youth received monastic tonsure at the Annunciation Monastery in Galich when he was only twelve years old. From there, he transferred to the Moscow Simonov Monastery, where he fulfilled various obediences for many years.

Once, Saint Photius, Metropolitan of Moscow (May 27), visited the Simonov Monastery. After the Molieben, he blessed the archimandrite and brethren, and also wished to bless those monks who were fulfilling their obediences in the monastery.

When he came to the bakery, he saw Saint Jonah sleeping, exhausted from his work. The fingers of the Saint’s right hand were positioned in a gesture of blessing. Saint Photius said not to wake him. He blessed the sleeping monk and predicted to those present that this monk would be a great hierarch of the Russian Church, and would guide many on the way to salvation.

The prediction of Saint Photius was fulfilled. Several years later, Saint Jonah was made Bishop of Ryazan and Murom.

Saint Photius died in 1431. Five years after his death, Saint Jonah was chosen Metropolitan of Kiev and All Russia for his virtuous and holy life. The newly-elected Metropolitan journeyed to Constantinople in order to be confirmed as Metropolitan by the Uniate Patriarch Joseph II (1416-1439). Shortly before this the nefarious Isidore, a Bulgarian, had already been established as Metropolitan by the Patriarch. Spending a short time at Kiev and Moscow, Isidore journeyed to the Council of Florence (1438), where he embraced Catholicism.

A Council of Russian hierarchs and clergy deposed Metropolitan Isidore, and he was compelled to flee secretly to Rome, where he died in 1462. Saint Jonah was unanimously chosen Metropolitan of Kiev and All Russia. He was consecrated by Russian hierarchs in Moscow, without the consent of the Uniate Patriarch Gregory III (1445-1450) of Constantinople. This was the first time that Russian bishops consecrated their own Metropolitan. Saint Jonah became Metropolitan on December 15, 1448. While the failure to obtain the blessing from Constantinople was not intentional, this signified the beginning of the de facto independence (autocephaly) of the Moscow (North-Eastern) part of the Russian Church. Like his immediate predecessors, he permanently resided in Moscow, and was the last Moscow-based primate of the Russian Church to keep the traditional title with reference to Kiev. With archpastoral zeal he led his flock to virtue and piety, spreading the Orthodox faith by word and by deed. Despite his lofty position, he continued with his monastic struggles as before.

In 1451 the Tatars unexpectedly advanced on Moscow; they burned the surrounding area and prepared for an assault on the city. Metropolitan Jonah led a procession along the walls of the city, tearfully entreating God to save the city and the people. Seeing the dying monk Anthony of the Chudov Monastery, who was noted for his virtuous life, Saint Jonah said, “My son and brother Anthony! Pray to the Merciful God and the All-Pure Mother of God for the deliverance of the city and for all Orthodox Christians.”

The humble Anthony replied, “Great hierarch! We give thanks to God and to His All-Pure Mother. She has heard your prayer and has prayed to her Son. The city and all Orthodox Christians will be saved through your prayers. The enemy will soon take flight. The Lord has ordained that I alone am to be killed by the enemy.” Just as the Elder said this, an enemy arrow struck him.

The prediction of Elder Anthony was made on July 2, on the Feast of the Placing of the Robe of the Most Holy Theotokos. Confusion broke out among the Tatars, and they fled in fear and terror. In his courtyard, Saint Jonah built a church in honor of the Placing of the Robe of the Most Holy Theotokos, to commemorate the deliverance of Moscow from the enemy.

In his later years he wished that he could be afflicted by an illness so that he could suffer pain and that, through pain, completely purify himself before his departure to the other world. According to his wishes, God permitted a sore on his foot, which was preceded by a vision to a certain priest, James. The Saint died from these wounds and took up habitation among the heavenly citizens on March 31, 1461. He was buried in the Cathedral of the Dormition in the Moscow. Kremlin.

Many miracles occurred over his relics. A certain mute, John by name, was brought before the relics of the Saint. John kissed the hand of Jonah and, as he related later, the hand grabbed him by the tongue and he felt a sharp pain. When the hand released his tongue, John returned to those people who brought him and began to talk as though he was never a mute.

In 1472 the incorrupt relics of Metropolitan Jonah were uncovered and placed in the Dormition Cathedral of the Kremlin (the Transfer of the holy Relics is celebrated May 27). A Council of the Russian Church in 1547 established the commemoration of Saint Jonah, Metropolitan of Moscow. In 1596, Patriarch Job added Saint Jonah to the Synaxis of the Moscow Hierarchs (October 5).