May 19, 2021

Saint John, Prince of Uglich, in Monasticism Known as Ignatius (+ 1522)

St. John-Ignatius the Prince of Uglich (Feast Day - May 19)
The Holy Prince John was the son of the Christ-loving Prince Andrei Vasilyevich of Uglich, the third son of the Great Prince Vasily the Dark and Princess Helen. He was born around 1477 and received Holy Baptism in Velikiye Luki. From infancy he showed extraordinary restraint, unusual for children of his age. He was meek and lowly in heart, quiet, not given to anger, neither was he inclined to playing games nor seeking the royal comforts. Instead he studied the Divine Scriptures, and soon become familiar with it. His mother, Princess Helen, died in 1483. Having lost his beloved mother at the age of six, the youth found solace in warm prayer. The young Prince John then devoted himself even more to the reading of sacred books, constantly had the memory of death in his mind, attended all church services during the day, and spent the nights in prayer. The highest delight for him was conversations with pious people, his favorite pastime were acts of philanthropy. At such a young age, surrounded by a crowd of courtiers, in the midst of the noise of everyday life, he looked more like a monk than an heir to a reign of wealth and glory. He did not pay any attention to the deeds and honors of the princely rank, in general, instead everything that did not belong to the enlightenment of reason and the salvation of the soul was completely alien to him and, as it were, did not exist. Abstinent in food and drink, he loved to dress modestly and simply, to the extent that his high rank allowed him this simplicity, and he tried more to adorn himself with good manners than wealth and splendor of clothes.

At this time, the enemy of the human race, who hates the good, inspired the Great Prince of Moscow Ivan Vasilyevich with hatred for his brother, the faithful Prince Andrei Vasilyevich of Uglich, and his sons, this John and Demetrios, and he commanded to seize them, impose heavy chains on them, and bring them down to Pereyaslavl and have them imprisoned. John was then thirteen years old, and Demetrios was twelve. The two daughters of Prince Andrew, Eudokia and Ulyan, were not touched and left free in Uglich. Since Pereyaslavl was not far from Moscow and on the very road from it to Uglich - the place of Andrei's reign, and all this could remind the people of the prisoners and arouse pity for them, which the Great Prince did not want, then the children of Prince Andrei were soon transported to Beloozero to the dungeon, and Andrei himself died in Moscow on November 6, 1493. After the death of their parents, the young princes were transported to Vologda, where they were also kept in heavy chains and in the closest confinement. All their property consisted of one icon of the Mother of God "Joy of All Who Sorrow" - their inheritance and blessing from their parents.

At such a young age, expelled from the world and therefore not having even the time and opportunity to experience its joy, deprived of relatives and friends and seeing only the faces of their guards around them, the royal prisoners found for themselves a protection and consolation in only prayer to God and to the zealous intercessor of all the unfortunate and suffering - the Mother of God. Only the consciousness of their innocence, faith in God and hope in His Providence, always wisely and fatherly arranging the ways of man, could support them, save them from despondency and despair and grant them that generous patience with which they endured their long and difficult imprisonment. Especially Prince John, who spent days and nights in prayer, completely renounced the world and, constantly having the memory of death in his mind, he achieved such spiritual perfection and acquired humility and compunction that he constantly shed tears. When his brother Demetrios began to grow faint-hearted, indulge in sorrow and despondency, John tried to console him, reminded him of God, of the patience of the saints, of future reward to those who suffer innocently.

Prince John himself, however, like his brother, being in bonds and prison, enduring with him the same hardships and sorrows and himself in need of comfort, often had to forget about himself in order to help his exhausted brother and save him from despair. When he succeeded in this, he was spiritually happy, and this was the only joy during his long-suffering life. They had no other joys and could not have any others.

The 32nd year of their painful confinement came, nature was apparently awakening and reviving with the coming of spring, and Prince John became unwell, weakening every day. In vain did Prince Demetrios try to console him with the hope of recovery; John not only did not believe his words, but also did not want recovery; death was a joy for him, the end of all his sufferings and union with Christ. The sufferer only strongly desired one thing - to be tonsured, to see himself numbered among the monks, following the example of many of his sovereign ancestors. At their persistent requests, they called to the prison the Abbot of Savior-Prilutsk Monastery, Michael, who, knowing that the blessed sufferer spent his whole life in fasting and abstinence, in patience and without malice, and seeing his ardent desire, faith and extreme exhaustion, not only did not refuse to tonsure him, but also clothed him in the schema, calling him Ignatius. The new schema-monk was indescribably delighted with his angelic schema, shed grateful tears to God, and after Communion of the Holy Mysteries, overshadowing himself with the sign of the cross and with the words: "Lord, into Thy hands I commend my spirit," gave up his suffering spirit to God. He died quietly and peacefully at 45 years old, of which 32 years he spent in prison. It was on the 19th day of the month of May in 1522.

Just as the city cannot hide, standing on the top of the mountain, so the inhabitants of the city of Vologda did not hide the holy and ascetic life, the truly angelic patience and gentleness of the royal prisoner, although due to his strict imprisonment, almost no one knew or saw him. In addition to his high origin, the mere fact that he was in chains and prison for so long, having no guilt behind him, involuntarily inspired everyone to respect and view him as a martyr. And as soon as the news of his blessed death spread, all the inhabitants of the city gathered at the door of the dungeon, wanting to see him, kiss the body of the sufferer and, paying their last honors, escort him to the grave. Only to the brother of the deceased, Prince Demetrios, despite his cries and sobs, they were not allowed to escort beyond the prison threshold. With the ringing of the bells of the churches closest to the dungeon and with an extraordinary multitude of people, Abbot Michael with all the monastic brethren and the city clergy with great honor carried the body of the schema-prince from prison and went with him to the Cathedral Church of the Resurrection of Christ, where his funeral service was to be performed. 
And as if instead of the fact that the whole life of the saint of God was hidden in the darkness of the dungeon, the Lord hastened to glorify His saint before his body was hidden in the earth. Even during the slow procession, for many people wanted to touch the tomb, the relics of Ignatius began to pour out healing. One woman named Alexandra who could not control her hands nor her feet, upon hearing about the death of the blessed prince, she began to call him in prayer - and immediately received healing. Another miracle was witnessed when they were going to bury the body of the faithful prince in the earth. A mortally ill resident of the Prilutsk village, by the name of Mikhail, having heard about the burial of Saint Ignatius, asked to bring him to the coffin, where he received healing, having managed to touch him at the last moment.

After the celebration of the Divine Liturgy in the cathedral and after the funeral service, Abbot Michael, accompanied by all the people, transferred the body of the prince-schema-monk to his Savior-Prilutsk Monastery and laid it at the feet of the Venerable Demetrios of Prilutsk the Wonderworker (+ 1392; feast 11/24 February; who is depicted with Saint Ignatius in many icons).
The inhabitants of Vologda, who deeply respected the innocent sufferer during his lifetime, after death turned to him as a saint and miracle worker. After the burial of the Monk Ignatius at his grave, by the grace of God, a resident of the village of Priluki, Solomonia, deaf and blind in one eye, received miraculous healing. Abbot Michael summoned the bricklayer David from the same Prilutsk village and ordered him to make a stone tomb over the prince's grave in the likeness of the tomb over the wonderworker Demetrios, and when David, out of ignorance, during his work sat down without any respect on the prince's tomb, at the same moment he was afflicted with illness. His suffering lasted for three days, while he, realizing his guilt, came to the tomb of the saint and with many tears asked for forgiveness for himself, and then he was healed.

A certain Boris Solovtsev brought his sick friend Herodion, who had almost completely lost his sight, to the grave of the Monk Ignatius; upon the completion of the prayer service and after Herodion, with tears in his eyes and with deep faith in the intercession of the saint, touched the tomb, he immediately recovered his sight.

In 1538, a woman named Daria, with a paralyzed hand from birth, turned to the Abbot of the Savior-Prilutsk Monastery, Athanasius, with a request to serve a prayer service at the tomb of Saint Ignatius. The next night after the prayer service, Daria saw in a subtle dream the Monk Ignatius, who took her hand with the words: "Get up!" Waking up from fear and finding no one in the room, she suddenly felt completely healthy. These and many other miracles and healings received by people after the prayerful invocation of the name of the blessed prince John (Ignatius) convinced everyone of his holiness.

In 1540 the brother of John-Ignatius, Demetrios, was finally released from prison, died in 1543, and was buried next to his brother at the Savior-Prilutsk Monastery.

The life and miracles of the Monk Ignatius were written shortly after his death, in the first half of the 16th century, by a contemporary of his, Monk Longinus, who, in the conclusion, writes that he collected little from much, and that from the grave of the Monk Ignatius, as from an inexhaustible source, all who came to him with faith receive healing. The service to the holy prince, like the life, was compiled in the 16th century. In the collection of services of the 17th century, located in the library of the Trinity-Sergius Lavra, there was a manuscript service to the Monk Ignatius, the author's name of which is known from the acrostic: "Lord God, have mercy on Elijah."

The coffins of the Monks Ignatius and Demetrios of Prilutsk were lost after the closure of the Savior-Prilutsk Monastery in 1924. When the monastery revived in 1992, in the lower church of the Savior Cathedral (consecrated in the name of Venerable Demetrios of Prilutsk), wooden coffins are installed over the graves of the monks. Chains are kept next to the shrine of Ignatius, which, according to legend, were worn by the saint.

Kontakion in the Second Tone
Having divinely armed yourself with the purity of your soul, and firmly grasping unceasing prayer as a spear, you pierced the armies of demons. O our Father Ignatius, pray unceasingly for us all.