St Metrophanes was the disciple and fellow ascetic of St Dionysius the Rhetor. Although the exact time and place of his birth remain unknown, it is likely that he was born toward the end of the sixteenth century.
For a time, he lived with his Elder St Dionysius at the Studion Monastery in Constantinople, but they desired a more intensive life of prayer and solitude. Therefore, they left Constantinople and journeyed to Mount Athos, establishing themselves in a cell near Karyes. There they devoted themselves to prayer, fasting, and vigilance.
Hearing of the wisdom and virtue of St Dionysius, many monks were drawn to him, and asked him to be their Elder. He agreed to this with some reluctance, but found that guiding others in the spiritual life left him little time for his own spiritual struggles. With so many people around him his soul was not at peace. Therefore, St Dionysius and St Metrophanes proceeded into the desert of Mount Athos in search of even greater solitude. Somewhere between St Anne’s and Katounakia, they found a cave and made it their abode. This would be the future site of Little St Anne’s Skete, and they were the first to settle at this place. In that small and humble cave, they lived a godly life which was equal to that of the angels. In their spiritual struggles they fought against the stomach’s need for food, and against the body’s need for sleep. They restricted not only the types of food they ate, but also the amount they consumed at meals. By limiting the amount of time for sleep, they were able to devote themselves more to repentance and prayer.
St Dionysius and St Metrophanes were esteemed as learned men, but they attained even greater wisdom in the true philosophy of monasticism, which has been called “a life according to the Gospel.” They made such progress in the monastic life, excelling in virtue and holiness, that they became teachers of many holy ascetics.
By voluntarily humbling themselves, these saints were exalted by God, acquiring the richest spiritual gifts and the grace of the Holy Spirit. Just as no one lights a candle and then covers it, or puts it under a bed, “but sets it on a candlestick, that those who enter in may see the light” (Luke 8:16), so the Lord did not permit the virtue of these saints to remain hidden. The light of their holy life so shone before men that those who beheld it glorified God (Matt.5:16). Like all-luminous lamps, the saints shone forth on the Holy Mountain with the radiance of their holiness.
Later, St Metrophanes, with the blessing of the Athonite Fathers and of his Elder St Dionysius, was asked to leave Mount Athos for a time in order to preach the Word of God in the neighboring villages. After he had fulfilled this obedience he returned to the Holy Mountain.
According to the ever-memorable Father Gerasimus of Little St Anne’s, the twentieth century hymnographer of the Great Church (Constantinople) who composed more than 2,000 services (including the service in honor of St Dionysius and St Metrophanes), Hieromonk Dionysius fell asleep in the Lord on October 6, 1606, and his disciple St Metrophanes reposed shortly thereafter. At Little St Anne’s, however, both St Dionysius and St Metrophanes are commemorated on July 9. A church was built in 1956 at the site of their cave, and was dedicated to these saints.