Lives of all saints commemorated on May 15


Venerable Pachomius the Great, Founder of Coenobitic Monasticism

St Pachomius the Great was both a model of desert dwelling, and with Sts Anthony the Great (January 17), Macarius the Great (January 19), and Euthymius the Great (January 20), a founder of the cenobitic monastic life in Egypt.

St Pachomius was born in the third century in the Thebaid (Upper Egypt). His parents were pagans who gave him an excellent secular education. From his youth he had a good character, and he was prudent and sensible.

When Pachomius reached the age of twenty, he was called up to serve in the army of the emperor Constantine (apparently, in the year 315). They put the new conscripts in a city prison guarded by soldiers. The local Christians fed the soldiers and took care of them.

When the young man learned that these people acted this way because of their love for God, fulfilling His commandment to love their neighbor, this made a deep impression upon his pure soul. Pachomius vowed to become a Christian. Pachomius returned from the army after the victory, received holy Baptism, moved to the lonely settlement of Shenesit, and began to lead a strict ascetic life. Realizing the need for spiritual guidance, he turned to the desert-dweller Palamon. He was accepted by the Elder, and he began to follow the example of his instructor in monastic struggles.

Once, after ten years of asceticism, St Pachomius made his way through the desert, and halted at the ruins of the former village of Tabennisi. Here he heard a Voice ordering him to start a monastery at this place. Pachomius told the Elder Palamon of this, and they both regarded the words as a command from God.

They went to Tabennisi and built a small monastic cell. The holy Elder Palamon blessed the foundations of the monastery and predicted its future glory. But soon Palamon departed to the Lord. An angel of God then appeared to St Pachomius in the form of a schemamonk and gave him a Rule of monastic life. Soon his older brother John came and settled there with him.

St Pachomius endured many temptations and assaults from the Enemy of the race of man, but he resisted all temptations by his prayer and endurance.

Gradually, followers began to gather around St Pachomius. Their teacher impressed everyone by his love for work, which enabled him to accomplish all kinds of monastic tasks. He cultivated a garden, he conversed with those seeking guidance, and he tended to the sick.

St Pachomius introduced a monastic Rule of cenobitic life, giving everyone the same food and attire. The monks of the monastery fulfilled the obediences assigned them for the common good of the monastery. Among the various obediences was copying books. The monks were not allowed to possess their own money nor to accept anything from their relatives. St Pachomius considered that an obedience fulfilled with zeal was greater than fasting or prayer. He also demanded from the monks an exact observance of the monastic Rule, and he chastized slackers.

His sister Maria came to see St Pachomius, but the strict ascetic refused to see her. Through the gate keeper, he blessed her to enter upon the path of monastic life, promising his help with this. Maria wept, but did as her brother had ordered. The Tabennisi monks built her a hut on the opposite side of the River Nile. Nuns also began to gather around Maria. Soon a women’s monastery was formed with a strict monastic Rule provided by St Pachomius.

The number of monks at the monastery grew quickly, and it became necessary to build seven more monasteries in the vicinity. The number of monks reached 7,000, all under the guidance of St Pachomius, who visited all the monasteries and administered them. At the same time St Pachomius remained a deeply humble monk, who was always ready to comply with and accept the words of each brother.

Severe and strict towards himself, St Pachomius had great kindness and condescension toward the deficiencies of spiritually immature monks. One of the monks was eager for martyrdom, but St Pachomius turned him from this desire and instructed him to fulfill his monastic obedience, taming his pride, and training him in humility.

Once, a monk did not heed his advice and left the monastery. He was set upon by brigands, who threatened him with death and forced him to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. Filled with despair, the monk returned to the monastery. St Pachomius ordered him to pray intensely night and day, keep a strict fast and live in complete solitude. The monk followed his advice, and this saved his soul from despair.

The saint taught his spiritual children to avoid judging others, and he himself feared to judge anyone even in thought.

St Pachomius cared for the sick monks with special love. He visited them, he cheered the disheartened, he urged them to be thankful to God, and put their hope in His holy will. He relaxed the fasting rule for the sick, if this would help them recover their health. Once, in the saint’s absence, the cook did not prepare any cooked food for the monks, assuming that the brethren loved to fast. Instead of fulfilling his obedience, the cook plaited 500 mats, something which St Pachomius had not told him to do. In punishment for his disobedience, all the mats prepared by the cook were burned.

St Pachomius always taught the monks to rely only upon God’s help and mercy. It happened that there was a shortage of grain at the monastery. The saint spent the whole night in prayer, and in the morning a large quantity of bread was sent to the monastery from the city, at no charge. The Lord granted St Pachomius the gift of wonderworking and healing the sick.

The Lord revealed to him the future of monasticism. The saint learned that future monks would not have such zeal in their struggles as the first generation had, and they would not have experienced guides. Prostrating himself upon the ground, St Pachomius wept bitterly, calling out to the Lord and imploring mercy for them. He heard a Voice answer, “Pachomius, be mindful of the mercy of God. The monks of the future shall receive a reward, since they too shall have occasion to suffer the life burdensome for the monk.”

Toward the end of his life St Pachomius fell ill from a pestilence that afflicted the region. His closest disciple, St Theodore (May 17), tended to him with filial love. St Pachomius died around the year 348 at the age of fifty-three, and was buried on a hill near the monastery.


St Isaiah the Bishop and Wonderworker of Rostov

No information available at this time.


Blessed Crown Prince Demetrius of Uglich and Moscow

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Venerable Isaiah the Wonderworker of the Kiev Near Caves

Saint Isaiah was one of the saints of the Kiev Caves who struggled during the eleventh and twelfth centuries. He was known for his quietness and his unflagging toil, for which he is named a “lover-of-labor.”

The holy ascetic died in the year 1115, and his relics are in the Near Caves of the Kiev Caves Lavra. The commemoration of St Isaiah is on May 15, September 28, and on the second Sunday of Great Lent.


Venerable Pachomius the Abbot of Nerekhta

Saint Pachomius of Nerekhta, in the world James, was born into the family of a priest at Vladimir on the Klyazma. He was sent to school at the age of seven, since from childhood he knew the Holy Scriptures very well. Finding the bustle of the perishing world burdensome, he was tonsured at the Vladimir Nativity monastery, fulfilling various obediences without complaint.

Yearning for the solitary wilderness life, the ascetic secretly left the monastery and went to the outskirts of Nerekhta. Here, at the River Gridenka, he found a suitable place for a monastery, a raised semi-island in the deep forest. The saint asked the people around Nerekhta to establish and build a monastery in the vicinity of Sypanovo, on the Kostroma frontier. The people of Nerekhta happily consented and helped in the construction of the monastery.

St Pachomius painted an icon of the Holy Trinity, and after singing a Molieben he carried it to the place where he was to build the church in the Name of the Holy Trinity. After the church was completed, St Pachomius organized the new monastery, which soon began to attract monks.

At the newly-formed monastery the monks had to cultivate the land themselves and feed themselves by the toil of their own hands. The saint set an example for the brethren in this matter.

He died in 1384, advanced in age, and he was buried in the Trinity church he built. One of his disciples, Irenarchus, painted an icon of the saint, and later a crypt was built for his holy relics. The dates of commemoration for St Pachomius are on May 15, his Name Day, and on March 23, the day of his repose.


Venerable Silvanus of Nerekhta

No information available at this time.


Venerable Euphrosynus the Abbot and Wonderworker of Pskov

St Euphrosynus of Pskov, in the world Eleazar, was born in about the year 1386 in the village of Videlebo, near Pskov, the same village where St Nicander of Pskov (September 24) had also been born. His parents wanted Eleazar to marry, but secretly he withdrew to the Snetogorsk monastery (on the Snyatni hill, now in Pskov itself) and there accepted tonsure.

Around the year 1425, searching for a place where he might devote himself to more intense prayer, St Euphrosynus with the blessing of the abbot moved to a solitary cell at the River Tolva, not far from Pskov. But concern for the salvation of his neighbor impelled the saint to abandon his wilderness dwelling, and he began to receive everyone who was in need of an experienced Elder and guide. St Euphrosynus blessed those coming to him to live according to a skete rule, compiled by himself.

The Rule of St Euphrosynus presents a rather generalized advice for monks about proceeding on the monastic path, “how it befits monks to dwell.” He does not address the strict regulation of all aspects of monastic life, as did, for example, the Rule of St Joseph of Volokolamsk; there is nothing at all in it concerning the order of divine services.

In 1447 at the request of the brethren, St Euphrosynus built a church in honor of the Three Holy Hierarchs Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom, who appeared to him, and also in honor of St Onuphrius the Great (June 12). The monastery later received the name Spaso-Eleazarov. Out of humility and his love for the solitary life, the saint did not wish to be igumen, but instead nominated his disciple Ignatius for this office. He then went to live in the forest near a lake.

St Euphrosynus died at the advanced age of ninety-five, on May 15, 1481. At his crypt, by order of Archbishop Gennadius of Novgorod, was placed an icon painted by his disciple Ignatius while the saint was still alive. Also included was the last testament of the saint to the brethren on a piece of parchment, stamped with the lead seal of Archbishop Theophilus of Novgorod. This is one of very few surviving wills written by an ascetic in his own hand.

St Euphrosynus, the originator of Pskov wilderness life, taught many famed disciples, who also established monasteries, and planted the seeds of monasticism throughout the lands of Pskov. Among the disciples of St Euphrosynus were the skete Elders Sava of Krypetsk (August 28; St Dositheus of Verkhneostrov (October 8); St Onuphrius of Malsk (June 12); St Joachim of Opochsk (September 9); St Hilarion of Gdovsk (October 21); St Chariton of Kudinsk, founder and igumen of a monastery at Lake Kudina near Toroptsa; and the locally venerated brothers from Pskov Ignatius, Charalampos and Pamphilius, buried at the Spaso-Eleazar monastery.


Venerable Serapion of Pskov

Saint Serapion of Pskov was born at Yuriev (now Tartu), which then was under the rule of Germans, who sought to stamp out Orthodoxy. His parents were parishioners of a Russian church in the name of St. Nicholas.

St. Serapion was well versed in the Holy Scripture, and more than once he entered into the defense of Orthodoxy. When they wanted to convert him by force to the foreign faith, he departed to the Tolvsk wilderness, not far from Pskov, where the Pskov ascetic monk Euphrosynus (May 15) began his prayerful work.

Under his nurturing, St. Serapion began to acquire the wisdom of wilderness life. But soon he happened to undergo temptations. Without a blessing, he wanted to leave his guide and to live an ascetic life in complete solitude. But the Lord brought the inexperienced novice to his senses: after he seriously hurt his leg, he repented of his self-will and disobedience and returned to the Elder.

After he received the Great Schema, he dwelt constantly with St. Euphrosynus for 55 years, strictly keeping the vow of silence. Brethren began gradually to gather around St. Euphrosynus, for which the Elder built a temple in the name of the Three Hierarchs and gave a skete rule.

St. Serapion zealously fulfilled everything commanded of him and was a role model for the monks. The monk so strictly fulfilled the monastic vow of uncovetousness, that a copyist of his life called him “an unburied corpse.” He bore every insult with extraordinary humility, always blaming himself alone, and he himself asked forgiveness of his insulter. The monk deeply sensed the power of communal prayers and he said that “the order of the twelve Psalms” sung alone in the cell cannot equal one “Lord, have mercy” sung in church.

St. Serapion died on September 8, 1480, on the Feast of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos. Since the day of repose of St. Serapion coincides with one of the twelve Great Feasts, his commemoration is on September 7. A Troparion and Kontakion were composed for the saint.

St. Euphrosynus himself committed the body of his disciple to the earth. By his fervent deeds he had transformed himself into mere “bones, covered by skin.” St. Serapion was not separated from his spiritual Father even after death: their holy relics were placed beside each other. A common service was composed to Sts Euphrosynus and Serapion (15 May), wherein St. Serapion is glorified as the first co-ascetic, “companion and friend” of St. Euphrosynus.

St Serapion is also commemorated on September 7.


St Achilles the Bishop of Larissa

Saint Achilles, Bishop of Larissa, lived during the fourth century, during the reign of St Constantine the Great. Glorified for his holiness of life and erudition, he was made Bishop of Larissa in Thessaly.

St Achilles participated in the First Ecumenical Council, where he boldly denounced the heretic Arius. In his city he strove to promote Christianity, destroyed idolatrous pagan temples, and he built and adorned churches.

St Achilles had the gift of healing sickness, especially demonic possession, and he worked many miracles. The saint died peacefully in about the year 330. His relics have been in Prespa, Bulgaria (now the village of Akhila, renamed in honor of the saint) since 978.