May 15, 2020

Saint Isaiah, Bishop of Rostov and Suzdal (+ 1090)

St. Isaiah of Rostov (Feast Day - May 15)

Saint Isaiah was born near Kiev. He was tonsured a monk at the Kiev Caves Lavra by Saint Theodosius. Feeling an ardent love for the Savior, the young monk lived in strict and severe exploits with fasting and prayer. At the same time, he was gentle, humble, obedient, non-possessive, brotherly loving, and with restraint and patience he killed carnal passions.

Being a vessel of virtue he became abbot of the newly-established Monastery of the Holy Great Martyr Demetrios in Kiev in 1062, having been selected for this position by Prince Iziaslav I of Kiev. Seeing such a holy man in his monastery, Prince Iziaslav rejoiced in spirit and thanked the Lord and Saint Theodosius, who blessed Isaiah to be the abbot in the Monastery of Saint Demetrios.

In 1077, he became the second Bishop of Rostov and Suzdal, succeeding Leonty of Rostov. At that time, the Rostov diocese occupied a vast space, which included Yaroslavl, Vladimir, Nizhny Novgorod, Kostroma, Vologda and partially Moscow, Tver, and the Olonets lands. As Christianity was not yet well established in the area, he spent his tenure converting and teaching pagans, destroying idolatry, converting pagan temples into churches and encouraging the spread of Christianity. He also built the Dormition Cathedral in Rostov.

When the time came for the consecration of the Dormition Cathedral at the Kiev Caves Lavra, Metropolitan John of Kiev did not have time to call for other Bishops from distant lands to attend the ceremony. But his pious desire was fulfilled by an Angel of God, who appeared to Bishop Isaiah and informed him to attend the ceremony. The Angel then miraculously conveyed him to the Kiev Caves Lavra to be at the ceremony. Metropolitan John, who did not send out any invitations, marveled at this miracle and thanked God. Three hierachs served with Metropolitan John at the ceremony - Isaiah of Rostov, Luke of Belgorod and John of Chernigov. This took place on August 14, 1089.

Bishop Isaiah died on May 15, 1090 and was buried in the Dormition Cathedral in Rostov. The same Angel who conveyed him to Kiev less than a year earlier now conveyed him into the presence of the Lord for eternity.

The seat of the Bishop of Rostov remained vacant for more than a century after Isaiah's death. Relics of Leonty and Isaiah were discovered on May 23, 1164 during construction of a new cathedral, under the southern wall, since the old wooden cathedral had burned down in 1160. An ancient chronicle says: “They found the tomb of blessed Isaiah, and opening it, they saw the Saint’s clothes and body incorrupt and glorified God, who deigned to glorify His Saint not only in life, but also after death; how many years have passed, and the clothes and body of the blessed one have remained untouched from corruption.”

In 1474 they were re-interred in a new coffin in the cathedral of Rostov, due to being neglected for many years. It was after this that many miracles were reported, and his veneration increased. His first written life dates to this time. During Soviet times after 1920 his relics were distributed to various places, but a portion still remain in the Rostov cathedral.

Apolytikion in Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Guide of Orthodoxy, teacher of piety and modesty, light of Rostov, God-enlightened adornment of hierarchs, O wise Isaiah, thou hast enlightened Russia. Intercede with Christ our God that our souls may be saved.