August 14, 2020

Translation of the Relics of our Venerable Father Theodosius of the Kiev Caves

Translation of the Relics of our Venerable Father Theodosius of the Kiev Caves
(Feast Day - Aug. 14)

Saint Theodosius of the Kiev Caves Lavra died in 1074 after a short illness. Before his death, he asked to be buried at night in the cave where he performed his seclusion during Lent. His request was fulfilled eighteen years later.

In 1091 the abbot John and the brethren of the Lavra decided that the body of Theodosius must be transferred to the Dormition Church, which he had built before his death, and which was consecrated only in 1089. Three days before the feast of the Dormition, the monks began to excavate the grave, and the incorrupt relics of Theodosius were found. The solemn transfer of the Saint's relics to the church took place on the feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, with a gathering of many bishops and abbots of monasteries in Kiev. During the Mongol invasion, the relics of Theodosius were put under the shelter at the western doors of the temple, where they are to this day.

Below is Discourse 9 from the Kiev Caves Paterikon of Nestor the Chronicler, who was a monk of the Kiev Caves and an eye-witness to these events:

People rejoice [to commemorate] the memory of holy men with eulogies, says the most wise Solomon. For it is customary, during the divine celebration of a festival, to feel spiritual joy at the thought of godly men. According to the saying of the most wise Solomon, “ A righteous man, even though he dies, still lives, and the souls of the righteous are in the hands of God.” For the Lord honors them that honor Him, and it pleased Him to reveal as acceptable in His sight this blessed and valiant man, a man of exalted life, marvelous virtues, and outstanding miracles— the blessed Feodosij. And God did indeed act thus eighteen years after the death of the venerable one.

In the year 1091 a multitude of those practicing the monastic life in the most holy Caves lavra gathered together with their teacher and superior, and unanimously decided that the relics of the venerable Feodosij should be translated. It is right, therefore, to invoke you: blessed indeed are you, fathers, and goodly your counsel. О divinely appointed assembly! О mighty fasters! О most honorable host! О blessed congregation! For the psalm of David has been fulfilled in you: “ See now! what is so good, or what so pleasant, as for brethren to dwell together?” Your counsel was indeed good, most illustrious fathers, and the words of your concord sound forth like trumpets.

Desiring their true pastor, they did not say, “ We are deprived of our father and teacher,” but they all, as with one voice, said, “ Let us take up the honorable relics of our beloved father Feodosij. For it is not right that we should be deprived of our pastor, nor is it fitting that the shepherd should abandon the sheep entrusted to him by God, lest the wild beast should come and scatter Christ’s flock of rational sheep. But let the shepherd come into his sheepfold and play on his spiritual pipe, so that the shepherd’s reed might ward off the assault of the crafty beast.” Then they called upon our Preserver and on their guardian angels and said to one another, speaking with a single voice, “ It is fitting, brothers, that we should have the coffin of our father Feodosij always before our eyes, and that we should always pay him due reverence, as our true father and teacher. It is not right that our venerable father Feodosij should remain outside his monastery and church, for he founded it and gathered the monks together.” Having made their decision, they at once ordered a place to be prepared for depositing the holy one’s relics, and they set up a stone coffin.

The feast day of the Dormition of our most holy Lady, the Theo­tokos, was drawing near, and three days before this festival the superior ordered [some of the brethren] to go into the cave and mark the place where the relics of our holy father Feodosij lay. By his command I, the sinful Nestor, was deemed worthy of this task, and I was the first to see his holy relics, by the order of the superior. So I am telling you every­thing exactly as it happened, since I did not hear it from others, but was myself in charge of this affair. The superior came to me and said, “Let us go into the cave, my son, to our venerable father Feodosij.” We came to the cave without informing anyone. The superior looked around to see where to dig, pointed to a place outside the mouth [of the cave], and then said to me, “ Do not tell anybody, but take whomever you want to help you, and apart from him let none of the brethren know anything until we have carried the relics of the holy one out in front of the cave.”

In the course of seven days I fixed up shovels with which to dig. It was then Tuesday, and late in the evening I took with me another monk, a man of remarkable virtues; no one else knew. When we came to the cave we recited prayers and supplications, prostrated ourselves, sang the appointed psalms, and then set to work. I started digging and worked hard, and then I yielded to the other brother. We dug until mid­night, but we could not find the holy one’s relics. We began to feel very miserable, and our eyes began to fill with tears. I thought that perhaps the holy one did not wish to reveal himself. Then another thought came to me, that perhaps we should dig to one side. I took the spade and began to dig diligently. The monk who was with me was standing before the cave, and when he heard the church board being struck for matins, he called out to me that they had struck the board, but I had dug through to just above the relics of the holy one. And when he told me about the board being struck, I answered, “ Brother, I have dug through to them!” But when I had done this a great fear overwhelmed me and I began to cry out, “Lord, have mercy upon me, for the sake of the venerable Feodosij!”

There were two monks then keeping watch in the monastery until the superior, who had concealed himself with some [of the monks], should secretly bring out the relics of the venerable one; they were keep­ing a careful watch in the direction of the cave. And when the church board was struck for matins they saw three columns, like arcs of fire, which came to rest on the church of the most holy Theotokos, where the venerable Feodosij is buried. All the monks saw this as they were com­ing to matins. So did many pious people in the town, for they had been informed earlier about the translation of the relics of the holy one. They said, “ Look! They are bringing the relics of the venerable Feodosij out of the cave.” When it was morning and the day broke, it became known throughout the town, and a multitude of people came with candles and incense.

The estimable and renowned Stefan, who was previously men­tioned in the Life of the blessed one and who succeeded him as superior but then left the monastery and founded his own monastery at Klov, later by the grace of God became bishop of Volodymyr. At this time he was staying in his monastery, and at night he saw across the field a great light above the cave. Reckoning that they were bringing out the honorable relics of the holy Feodosij — for he had been informed [about this] earlier, on the previous day — he was extremely grieved that they should translate the relics without him. That very moment he mounted his horse and rode swiftly towards the cave, taking with him Kliment, whom he appointed superior in his place. On their way they saw a great light above the cave, but when they approached it they saw nothing and real­ized that it was an angelic light. When they came to the entrance of the cave, we were sitting by the holy one’s relics. When I had dug through [to them] I sent to the superior and said, “ Come, father, let us carry out the relics of the venerable one,” and the superior came with two of the brethren. When I had dug deep, they prostrated themselves, and we saw his remains lying there in a manner befitting his sanctity: all his limbs were whole and uncorrupted; his hair had remained dry on his head; the countenance of the venerable one was radiant; his eyes were shut and his virtuous lips closed. We thus placed his honorable and holy relics on a bier and carried them out before the cave.

The next day, by God’s will, all the bishops assembled and came to the cave: Efrem of Perejaslav, Stefan of Volodymyr, Ioann of Cemihiv, Marin of Jur’ev and Antonij Poroskij; all the superiors came from all the monasteries with many of their monks, and pious peo­ple came too. They took the sacred relics of the holy Feodosij from the cave with many candles and with incense; as previously mentioned, peo­ple had come from the town to meet the holy one, holding candles in their hands. They carried him into the most holy God-founded church, and the most holy church rejoiced to receive its servant. What a sight was to be seen in the church! The daylight hidden by the light of can­dles; the bishops touching each other as they kissed the holy one’s relics; priests prostrating themselves and kissing them affectionately; monks running forward and touching the holy one’s garments, raising up to God spiritual songs bearing praise and thanksgiving to the holy one! Then they laid him in his own church of the Mother of God, on the right side, on Thursday, August 14, at the first hour of the day, and thus that day solemnly celebrated the festival.

In the year 1108 the superior Feoktist began to urge and entreat the pious prince Svjatopolk that the name of the holy and venerable father Feodosij should be mentioned in the sinodik, since this was God’s will. Svjatopolk was glad and promised to do this, for he knew about his life, and Svjatopolk began to tell everybody about the life of the venerable Feodosij. The metropolitan did as he requested and ordered Feodosij’s name to be inscribed in the sinodik, and ordered all the bishops to do this too. All the bishops gladly inscribed the name of our holy and venerable father Feodosij, and he is mentioned in all the services to this day.

A prophecy of the holy one

It would not be right to pass over in silence [what I am about to say], but I shall tell you briefly how a prophecy of our holy father Feodo­sij was fulfilled. While the great Feodosij was still alive, serving as superior and directing the flock entrusted to him by God, he showed con­cern not only for his monks but also for people in the world, as regards the salvation of their souls. He showed a special concern for his spiritual sons, and comforted and instructed all those who came to him; some­times he went to their houses and gave them his blessing.

There was a certain pious magnate, a spiritual son of the holy one, named Jan. One day Feodosij came to visit Jan and his wife Maria in their house. They were both pious people, living in chastity in accordance with [the injunction] of the devout Paul, keeping their mar­riage pure. The blessed Feodosij loved them because of this, since they lived according to God’s laws and dwelt in love for each other. As soon as he came to them he taught them about giving alms to the poor, about the kingdom of heaven which the righteous would receive, while torment would be the fate of the wicked, and about the hour of death. He still spoke about this and many other sacred writings until the relevant words came to him, and he spoke to them about their bodies being laid in their tomb.

The pious woman, Jan’s wife, suddenly interrupted the venerable one and said, “ Honored father Feodosij, who knows where my body will be laid?” The divinely-inspired Feodosij, filled with the gift of pro­phecy, said to her, “ I tell you truly, wherever my body shall be laid, there you too will be laid to rest, after some time has passed.” Eighteen years after the blessed one departed this came to pass. For the venerable Feodosij departed eighteen years before the translation of his body, and when they translated the relics of the holy one, in the same year and month Jan’s wife Maria died, on August 16. The monks came and sang the customary hymns, carried her out, and buried her in the church of the holy Theotokos in the Caves Monastery, opposite the tomb of Feodosij, on the left side. The venerable one was laid there on August 14, and this woman on August 16.

Just consider this remarkable man! For this prophecy of the vener­able Feodosij did indeed come to pass. He was a good shepherd who faithfully tended his rational sheep, guarding them carefully and meekly, watching over them, and praying for the flock entrusted to him, and for all Orthodox Christians, and for the land of Rus’. Since his departure from this life he prays for the faithful people and for his disciples who, as they gaze on his honorable coffin, recall his teachings and his self-denial and praise God. And I, his sinful and unworthy servant and disciple Nes­tor, do not know how to praise his good life and self-denial, but I will say these few words: Rejoice, father and teacher, who despised the tumult of the world and loved silence! Rejoice, you who obeyed God in the quietude of the monastic life and brought to yourself every gift of God! Rejoice, father, for you excelled in fasting and hated the lusts of the flesh, and rejected the beauty and desires of the world. Rejoice, for you followed in noble footsteps, emulating the fathers, exalting yourself in silence, adorning yourself with humility, and delighting in the words of books! Rejoice, for you fortified yourself with the hope of eternal bless­ings, which you have indeed received! Rejoice, for you mortified the desires of the flesh, unmasked iniquity, and stamped down rebellion, О venerable one! Rejoice, for you fled from the devil’s wiles and snares! Rejoice, father, that you have gone to your rest with the righteous, receiving the reward of your labors! Rejoice, for you were the heir of the fathers, following their teaching, their way of life, their self-denial, their devout standing in prayer; and especially emulating the great Theodo­sios, imitating his habits and manner of life, following his ways, pass­ing from works to better labors and offering the customary prayers to God in a sweet-scented fragrance, bearing the thurible of prayer with its fragrant incense! Rejoice, for you conquered the desires of the flesh and the ruler of the world and prince of this age! Rejoice, for you set aright your enemy the devil and overcame his wiles, opposing his arrows and standing against him with unflinching purpose! Rejoice, for you fortified yourself with the armor of the Cross, with invincible faith, and with the help of God! Therefore, honorable shepherd of Christ’s flock, О wise Feodosij, pray for us, and for me, your servant Nestor, that we may be delivered from the snares of the devil, and protect us by your prayers from our enemy and foe, through Jesus Christ our Lord, to Whom be glory, honor, and reverence together with his eternal Father and His most holy, blessed and life-giving Spirit, now and forever. Amen.