October 17, 2020

Venerable Anthony of Leokhnov (+ 1611)

St. Anthony of Leokhnov (Feast Day - October 17)

Venerable Anthony was from the Tver lineage of the Veniaminov nobles. While still a youth, Anthony was very pious and loved asceticism. Desiring solitude, he seized the opportunity to leave home at the right time in search of a solitary habitation. He lived as a hermit not far from Novgorod, in the Rublev wilderness at the River Perekhoda.

Meanwhile, his secret departure from his homeland plunged his household into grief and tears; they began to look everywhere for the missing lad. Two sisters of the monk succeeded in learning about the place of his exploits. They came to the Rublev hermitage, having walked for a long time through the dense forest, calling for their ascetic brother and wept; but the Monk Anthony did not appear before them, for it was for the sake of the Lord that he left his house.

A monk of one monastery, by the name of Niphon, heard about him, and he wanted to visit the glorious ascetic. From a Novgorod merchant, Niphon learned where the Rublev Hermitage was located, and went to the Monk Anthony. Seeing him, the monk was frightened at first, because the hermit's flesh, exhausted by exploits, was black and rough. But the monk calmed the visitor with the words: "Child, do not be afraid of the sight of my body!" Then, calling by name Niphon, whom he met for the first time in his life, the monk kissed him and shared his modest meal with him. They spent the whole day in a soul-saving conversation, interrupting it at times with a common prayer.
The cherished desire of the Monk Anthony was to clothe himself in the monastic schema. He fervently prayed to God for the fulfillment of this desire, and the Lord heard his prayer. On the feast of the Ascension of Christ, the Angel of the Lord appeared to the monk and said: “Anthony! Go to the place called Leokhnov, three miles away."

In about the year 1556 he resettled with the desert-dweller Tarasius, who lived beyond Lake Ilmen at Leokhnov, near Stara Rus, and received monastic tonsure from him. Thus began the wilderness monastery in honor of the Transfiguration of the Lord, afterwards called the Leokhnov or Ivetsk-Antoniev Monastery. Saint Anthony lived to old age, having acquired the gift of clairvoyance.

Thus, once while standing in prayer, the Monk Anthony said to his cell attendant: “Brother! Today, near Orsha, for the sake of our sins, many Orthodox have been beaten." And a few days later the sad news reached the monastery about the defeat of the Russians at Orsha in the battle with the Poles, which took place on the very day on which the monk spoke about it.

During the lifetime of the Monk Anthony, a fire broke out at the Leokhnov Monastery: the roof of the refectory caught fire, and the fire, fanned and directed by a strong wind, was about to spread to the neighboring cells. The entire monastery was in danger. The frightened cellarer ran to the monk and, falling at the feet of the abbot, with tears asked him to pray for the salvation of the monastery. Then the Monk Anthony turned to the icon of the All-Merciful Savior, which stood in the cell, and thus prayed with tears: “Lord! You were pleased to love this place, but allow punishment with mercy and do what is worthy." Then, with his eyes still not dry from tears, the monk said to the cellarer: "Do not be afraid, brother, the All-Merciful Lord our God will not grieve us beyond measure." And as soon as he spoke these words, the wind changed its direction. Thanks to this, the fire stopped, causing minor damage to the monastery.

One young man who was tending sheep near the monastery was bitten by a snake and was dying. At this time the Monk Anthony came to him and said: "Go to a spring near the monastery and bring water." When the young man fulfilled the order, the monk poured water into his mouth with the words: "In the name of the Holy Trinity: by the power of Christ I the servant of Christ, Elder Anthony, heals you."

Immediately the young man began to vomit for a long time and so violently that even the monk himself was amazed. After that, the young man felt completely healthy and wanted to drive his herd further. But the holy elder stopped him with this question: "Tell me, why did you swear yesterday to the poor widow that the wolf ate her sheep, while you yourself sold it for three pieces of silver?" "Indeed, I lied to her, Father." The young man confessed his sin and then asked the ascetic with surprise: "Father, how did you know about this?" “When I was sitting in my cell,” answered the monk, “a rider on a white horse came to me and said: 'Antony! Get up and go rather to the south side, where the spring is. You will see a man there, bitten by a snake, and tell him: do not swear by the name of God and His saints, do not do unrighteousness and give the widow a sheep so that it will not be worse for you.'"

Then the young man, falling at the feet of the Saint of God, confessed his sin to him in detail: “Exactly,” he said, “I sold the woman's sheep for three pieces of silver, but said that the wolf ate it. The widow did not believe me and said: 'Don't you know that I am a poor man, but do as you want.' I ask you, Father, to pray to the Lord God for me, so that He would forgive my sin; but I will return the sheep to the offended widow; and to the monastery on the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord and to the poor, I will annually devote one tenth of the flock till my death."

Having taught the repentant the instruction to avoid evil deeds, so as not to suffer an even greater punishment, the monk again commanded him to return the stolen goods. Then he released the young man in peace; and he withdrew, thanking God and His Saint for his healing.

The fame of the Venerable Anthony as a great ascetic and wonderworker spread throughout the Russian land, reaching even to Moscow. Tsar Ivan the Terrible, having heard a lot about the Saint of God, had a strong desire to see him. Therefore, when the Venerable Anthony arrived in Moscow for the needs of the monastery, the tsar summoned him to him and asked for prayers and blessings. He handed over to the monk generous alms for his monastery, together with letters for the land and fishing on Lake Ilmen.

In the year 1611, when the Swedes had laid waste the area around Novgorod, the monk on the invitation of Metropolitan Isidore moved to Novgorod. Here the aged ascetic fell ill and, sensing the approach of his death, began to prepare with joy for it. On the day of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross of the Lord, the elder received the Holy Mysteries of Christ and gave the last blessing to those around him on his deathbed. Then he ordered to him Cornelius, the sexton of the Church of Saint Luke the Evangelist, and addressed him with the following words: “Brother Cornelius! let there be a sign for you, so that I may be placed in the monastery of the magnificent Transfiguration that I have created." He died on September 14, 1611 at age 85 and was buried near the Church of the Holy Evangelist Luke, on the side towards the Church of Hagia Sophia.

A disciple of the Saint, named Gregory, returned to the site of the monastery that had been laid waste and burned by the Swedes. At the site of the monastery, he found also the unburied bodies of the murdered brothers - for the monks who did not have time to hide were put to death. Burying the bodies of the slain with tears, Gregory set up a small cell, and near it a chapel in honor of the Transfiguration of the Lord. Saint Anthony appeared to him three times in a dream and said, “Brother Gregory, go to Novgorod, tell Metropolitan Cyprian and the elders of the city that they should put me in the place of my monastery.” After Gregory’s report, the Metropolitan led a church procession to the grave of Saint Anthony. The incorrupt relics were transferred to the Leokhnov Monastery on July 13, 1620. At the uncovering of the relics, a blind man named Joseph gained his sight, as well as another blind man named Stephen, and many other miracles occurred.

There is a special order of commemorations, celebrated by the churches in the name of Saint Anthony of Leokhnov, both in the village of Leokhnov and in the Rublev wilderness-monastery. On the second Friday after the Feast of the Foremost Apostles Peter and Paul (June 29), we celebrate the Uncovering and Transfer of the Relics of Saint Anthony from Novgorod to the Leokhnov Monastery. On the Ascension of the Lord, the coming of Saint Anthony from the Rublev wilderness to Leokhnovo is remembered. On October 17 the Repose of the Saint, who died on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, in the ninth hour of the evening, is commemorated. At the Rublev wilderness monastery the memory of the Consecration of the church in the name of the Venerable Anthony on August 30 (1873) is also celebrated.