Venerable Therapon the Abbot of White Lake

Saint Therapon of White Lake, Wonderworker of Luzhetsk, in the world Theodore, was born in the year 1337 at Volokolamsk into the noble Poskochin family. From his childhood, he was raised in faith and piety, which he displayed throughout his life as a holy ascetic.

At the age of forty he was tonsured a monk by the igumen of Moscow’s Simonov monastery, St Theodore, a nephew of St Sergius (November 28). As a monk in this monastery Therapon became close to St Cyril of White Lake (June 9). Together they passed through their ascetic struggles of prayer and fasting. They were under the spiritual guidance of St Sergius of Radonezh (September 25 and July 5), who visited the monastery to instruct the brethren. St Therapon went north, to the frontier of White Lake, on monastery matters. The harsh northern land attracted the ascetic, and he decided to remain there for his ascetic endeavors.

After returning with St Cyril, to whom the Mother of God had appeared, also ordering him to go to the north, St Therapon received the blessing of the igumen to go to White Lake. For a while the ascetics lived together in a cell that they had built, but later and by mutual consent, St Therapon moved to another place fifteen versts away from Cyril, between two lakes, Borodava and Pava.

Having cleared a small plot for a garden, and building a cell in the deep forest near a river, St Therapon continued his ascetic efforts as a hermit in silence. At first he endured much deprivation and tribulation in his solitude. More than once he was set upon by robbers, who tried to chase away or even kill the ascetic. In time monks began to gather to the saint, and the wilderness place was gradually transformed into a monastery, afterwards called the Theraponov.

In 1398 St Therapon built a wooden church in honor of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos, and the monastery was gradually set in order. The monks toiled together with their saintly guide building cells, copying books, and adorning the church. (At the end of the fifteenth century on the place of the former wooden church a stone cathedral was built in honor of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos. It was painted in the years 1500-1501 by the renowned Russian iconographer Dionysius and his sons, Vladimir and Theodosius. The frescoes are devoted to the Praise of the Most Holy Theotokos. The unique frescoes of the St Therapon monastery have been preserved up to the present time and are an outstanding memorial of Russian church art and painting, having world significance).

A cenobitic monastic rule was introduced at the monastery, strictly observed by the monks. St Therapon declined to head the monastery out of humility, and instead entrusted the position of igumen to one of his disciples. The holy ascetic, endowed with the gift of counsel, turned to his friend, St Cyril of White Lake for spiritual guidance just as before. News about the ascetic deeds of the saint spread far beyond the White Lake frontier.

At the beginning of the fifteenth century, the lands on which the St Cyril and St Therapon monasteries were built, were part of the holdings of the Mozhaisk prince Andrew (1382-1432), son of Great Prince Demetrius Donskoy (1363-1389). In the year 1408 Prince Andrew Dimitrievich, learning of the high level of spiritual life of the White Lake ascetic, asked the monastic Elder Therapon to establish a monastery in the city of Mozhaisk.

It was difficult for the saint to leave his own monastery, where he had labored for more than ten years. St Therapon was met at Mozhaisk with great honor. Soon, not far from Mozhaisk, in the locality of Lushko, St Therapon founded his second monastery on a hilly part of the right bank of the Moscow River. Its chief temple was in honor of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos, in memory of the White Lake monastery. Prince Andrew, esteeming the saint for his true humility, provided generous help in the construction and establishment of the monastery. With the blessing of St Photius, Metropolitan of Moscow (July 2 and May 27), the monastery was to be headed by an archimandrite, and St Therapon was elevated to the rank of archimandrite.

St Therapon dwelt at this new monastery for eighteen years. He reposed at an advanced age, on May 27, 1426. His body was buried at the north wall of the cathedral of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos. Over his grave a church was built in honor of St John of the Ladder (March 30), and renamed in 1730 for St Therapon.

Veneration of the saint began soon after his death. In 1514, the incorrupt relics of the holy ascetic were uncovered and glorified by numerous miracles. After the Moscow Council of 1547 the canonization of St Therapon of Mozhaisk took place after the igumen of the St Therapon monastery brought to Metropolitan Macarius (1543-1564) a Life of the saint.

Among the numerous disciples and conversers of St Sergius of Radonezh, the Russian Church venerates the memory of St Therapon, who in following the counsel of his great teacher and guide, combined the ascetic feats of silence and solitude with active service to his neighbor and the spiritual enlightenment of his Fatherland.

The memory of St Therapon is celebrated twice, May 27 (his repose in 1426), and December 27 (Uncovering of his relics, 1514).