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Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky
Orthodox dogmatic theology

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Higher authority needed.

In the Russian Church, as in the Orthodox East, the wider the area of the proposed veneration,

the higher the ecclesiastical authority needed to confirm it.

When, in 1715, the priest and parishioners of the Church of the Resurrection in Totma (Vologda

Province) turned to the archbishop of Veliky Ustiug with the request that, in view of the

many miracles which had occurred at the grave of Maximus, a priest and “fool for Christ” of the

town, who had reposed in 1650, the archbishop blessed the construction of a church dedicated to

St. Paraskeva over his grave, “as was customary for the saints of God, and also to construct over

his relics a sarcophagus and a holy icon to cover it.” In reply to this request, the archbishop decreed

“that a monument be constructed in that church and that molebens be chanted to St. Maximus

in a holy manner, as for the other favorites of God.” Thus, one may conclude that the

archbishop blessed the local veneration on his own personal authority.

As examples of how a synodal execution of matters pertaining to the righteous departed

came about, we shall cite several extracts from acts related to the glorification of saints “of all


Regarding the institution of the general ecclesiastical celebration of the memory of St. Joseph

of Volotsk, the following statement is found in one of the anthologies of Volokolamsk: “By

order of the right-believing and Christ-loving Sovereign Autocrat, Tsar, and Great Prince Feodor

Ivanovich of All Russia, and with the blessing of his father, His Holiness Job, first Patriarch of

Moscow and All Russia, the troparion, kontakion, stichera and canon, and the whole service for

the Liturgy to our venerable father and Abbot Joseph of Volotsk were corrected under Abbot

Joasaph on June 1, 7099 (i.e., 1591). And the Sovereign Autocrat, Tsar, and Great Prince Feodor

Ivanovich of All Russia, and His Holiness Job, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, and the

whole council, in general assembly witnessed the singing of the troparion, the kontakion, the

stichera, the canon, and the service at Liturgy to the venerable Joseph. On the advice of the whole

council, the Tsar and the Patriarch commanded the service to be chanted and celebrated in all

places on September 9, the day of the repose of our venerable father Joseph the Wonderworker,

which is the day of the commemoration of the holy and righteous ancestors of God, Joachim and

Anna. The Sovereign, Tsar and Great Prince Feodor Ivanovich commanded that in the printed

menaion and in all menaia on the same day the kontakion, stichera, canon, and all the service to

the venerable Joseph be printed, together with that of the feast of the Nativity of the Most Holy

Theotokos and that of the Ancestors of God, thus instituting and confirming that this feast be

celebrated in this manner, unchanging, in all places, forever. Amen.” The veneration of St. Joseph

was thrice institutedtwice locally, once generally. His relics were not uncovered and

have remained until the present day beneath a slab.

From a decree of Patriarch Job (reigned 1586-1605) dated 1600 and located in the Korniliev

Monastery in Vologda Province, we know how the establishment of the general veneration of St.

Cornelius of Komel came about. Abbot Joseph of the Korniliev Monastery reported to the patriarch

that a side chapel had been constructed in the monastery in honor of St. Cornelius, that it

had not been consecrated yet, and that “for many years they that requested healing from St. Cornelius

had received it, and the blind, the lame and they that were afflicted with divers ailments

were cured.” With this, Abbot Joseph submitted to the patriarch in council the stichera, canon,

and life of St. Cornelius. The patriarch, bishops, and all others attending the council questioned

Archbishop Jonah of Vologda concerning the miracles of St. Cornelius and received a reply fromhim to the effect that “at the reliquary of St. Cornelius the Wonderworker many ineffable miracles

take place, and it is well known that the miracles worked by him are not false.” Later, they

all listened to the stichera, canon, and life of St. Cornelius and found the life to be written “according

to the image and likeness.” After this, the patriarch and the council referred the matter on

to Tsar Boris Feodorovich Godunov (reigned 1598-1605), and the sovereign, having conferred

with the patriarch and the council, commanded that “Vespers be celebrated and the All-night

Vigil, and the Liturgy of God be served in the catholic and apostolic church of the Most Pure

Theotokos, dedicated to Her Dormition, in the capital city of Moscow, on the day of the commemoration

of the Holy Martyr Patricius, Bishop of Prusa, May 19, and in the cathedrals of the

metropolitan provinces, the archepiscopal and episcopal sees throughout all of Great Russia, as is

done for the rest of the saints; and in the monastery of St. Cornelius, and at the cathedral church

of Sophia the Wisdom of God in Vologda, and in the suburbs, and in the holy churches of God in

outlying districts and throughout the surrounding cities and all the territory subject to the

archbishop of Vologda, it is commanded to celebrate the memory of Cornelius the Wonderworker

on May 19.”

We see from these extracts that the institution of the glorification of God's saints was

treated with great attention and zeal. More than once the ecclesiastical authority denied requests

for the glorification of the revered departed if it did not see incontestable and firm proof on

which to base such a glorification.

The words of synodal decrees concerning glorification of the saints clearly show us the Orthodox

understanding of this action as a universal, conciliar confession on the part of the Church

of a firm belief or certainty that God has glorified His favorite in the heavens, and that therefore

we must glorify him also, joyously on earth. This thought is expressed in the acts of the Synodal

period, as has been fully and exactly noted.

In the official account of the glorification of the Holy Hierarch St. Metrophanes of Voronezh,

we read: “When by the investigation which had been conducted a true act of God, Who is

wondrous in His saints, became sufficiently apparent to the Holy Synod in the incorruption of the

body of the Holy Hierarch Metrophanes and the healings that took place through his relics, the

Holy Synod no longer delayed in solemnly revealing to the Church this gift of God, i.e., with a

hierarchal blessing it permitted what until that time had been an act of personal zeal, the calling

upon the intercession of our father among the saints Metrophanes in his prayers to God, and the

placing of the wonder-working and healing relics of his body as a candle, not under a bushel, but

on a candlestick, that all may be illumined. The annual ecclesiastical celebration of this Holy

Hierarch has been fixed on the date of his reposeNovember 23.”

The decree on the glorification of St. Tikhon of Zadonsk says: “The memory of His Grace

Tikhon, Bishop of Voronezh ... has been honored with reverence among the Russian Orthodox

people who have streamed to the Monastery of Zadonsk and the grave of the Hierarch from

far-distant places in a great multitude, praying for the repose of the soul of this hierarch and hoping

for his prayerful intercession before God. Memory of the lofty Christian virtues with which

he shone throughout his earthly life, news of the evangelical wisdom remaining in his divinely

illuminated writings, and the miraculous healings of divers ailments performed at his grave have

drawn many believers to the veneration of the Holy Hierarch. On all of this a pious hope was

founded that this Hierarch who has been glorified by God be numbered among the choir of the

saints. Even at the end of the last [18th] century such a hope was expressed in petitions submitted

to His Imperial Highness and to the Most Holy Synod.” Archbishop Anthony of Voronezh, onthe very day of his [St. Tikhon's] repose, wrote a letter to Emperor Nicholas concerning the universal

fervent desire of innumerable pilgrims “that this great beacon of faith and good works

which now lies beneath a bushel, be set before the eyes of all.” The Synod, in its report to the

sovereign, announced its decision, beginning it with the following words: “Recognizing the late

Bishop Tikhon of Voronezh as among the choir of the saints that have been glorified by the

Grace of God through the fragrance of sanctity, and his incorrupt body as holy relics.”

The resolution concerning the glorification of St. Seraphim of Sarov is expressed in like

manner: “Recognizing the pious elder Seraphim, who reposed at the Hermitage of Sarov, as being

in the choir of saints glorified by the Grace of God.”

As is well known, and still remembered by certain people, in the last decades before Russia's

downfall, the glorification of saints of the Russian Church, such as St. Theodosius of Chernigov,

St. Seraphim of Sarov and later cases, were great national religious festivities, at the center

of which was the uncovering of the relics of these saints of God. Generally, the glorification

of Russian saints from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries was marked by the uncovering of

their holy relics. This shows that these two acts were closely bound internally, although, as has

been said, the uncovering of the relics was not an absolutely essential condition and did not always

follow immediately after the act of glorification.

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