Commemorated on March 1 and November 11
The Monk Martyrii
of Zelenetsk, in the world Mina, hailed form the city of Velikie Luki. His
parents, Kozma and Stefanida, died when he was but ten years old. He was raised
by his spiritual father, a priest of the city's Annunciation church, and the
lad all more and more became attached in soul to God.
Having become a
widower, his guardian accepted monasticism with the name Bogolep at the
Velikoluksk Trinity-Sergeev monastery. Mina often visited with him at the
monastery, and later on he himself accepted monastic vows there taking the name
Martyrii. For seven years teacher and student toiled for the Lord unrelentingly
in a single cell, encouraging each other in deeds of work and prayer. The Monk
Martyrii bore the obediences of "kellarios" (food-cellarer),
treasurer, and "ponomar" (or "ponomonarion",
church-candler and altar-helper).
It was at this time
that the Mother of God first shew Her especial solicitude for the Monk
Martyrii. At mid-day he dozed off on a bell-tower and beheld on a fiery column
an image of the Hodegetria Most Holy Mother of God. The monk with trembling gave
kiss to it, still hot from the fiery column, and having awakened, he still
sensed this heat on his forehead.
On the spiritual
advise of the Monk Martyrii, the grievously ill monk Avramii went in veneration
to the wonderworking Tikhvinsk Icon of the Mother of God, and he received
healing. The Monk Martyrii was filled with intense faith in the intercession of
the Mother of God. He began to pray the Heavenly Queen, that She would show
whither he might shelter himself for going through the ascetic feat of complete
silence, for which his soul did yearn. The monk secretly withdrew into a
desolate place situated 60 versts from Velikie Luki. As the monk himself writes
in his jottings, "in this wilderness I received great frights from demons,
but I prayed God, and the demons were shamed". In a letter to the starets
Bogolep, the monk besought blessing for wilderness life, but the spiritual
father advised him to return to the monastic common-life, where he would be of
use to the brethren. Not daring to be disobedient and not knowing, how to
proceed, Saint Martyrii set out to Smolensk for veneration to the wonderworking
Hodegetria (Way-Guide) Icon of the Mother of God and to the Wonderworker
Avraamii (Abraham, Comm. 21 August). At Smolensk there appeared to the saint in
a dream-vision the Monks Avraami and Ephrem, and they reassured him with the
saying, that by the Lord it would be allotted him to live in the wilderness,
"where God would bless and the Most Holy Mother of God would guide".
The monk thereupon
set out to the Tikhvinsk monastery hoping, that there the Mother of God would
resolve his dilemma. And actually, the monk Avramii, who in gratitude to the
Mother of God for his healing remained at this monastery, told Saint Martyrii
about a secret place, over which for him there was a vision of the radiant
Cross of the Lord. Having received this time the blessing of the elder, the
Monk Martyrii took with him two small, equally sized icons the one of the
Life-Originating Trinity and the other of the Tikhvinsk Most Holy Mother of God;
he set out to the wilderness place, named Zelena (Green), since it rose up as a
beautiful green island amidst a forested swamp.
Harsh and with much
sickness was the life of the monk in the wilderness, but neither cold, nor deprivation,
nor wild beasts, nor the wiles of the enemy were able to shake his resolve to
undergo the temptation to the end. He set up an oratory place for prayer of
thanks and glorification of the Lord and the Most Holy Mother of God, in which
again he was granted to see in sleep an image of the Mother of God, this time
sailing on the sea. To the right of the icon appeared the Archangel Gabriel
and summoned the monk to kiss the image. After his trembling the Monk Martyrii
went into the water, and the icon began to sink in the sea. The monk then cried
out, and a wave carried him from the image to shore.
The wilderness was
sanctified by the life of the hermit, and at it there began to arrive many, not
only for instruction by the word and example of the monk, but also for settling
down there together with him. The increased brotherhood of students prompted
the monk to build a church in the Name of the Life-Originating Trinity, wherein
he set his own prayer icons. In witness to the grace of God resting upon the
monastery of the Monk Martyrii, the Monk Gurii was vouchsafed to see over the
cross atop the church the Cross radiant in the heavens.
Thus occurred the
beginning of the Trinity Zelenetsk monastery "the Martyriev Green
wilderness-monastery". The Lord blessed the labour of the monk, and the
grace of God shone visibly upon him himself. There spread afar the fame of his
perspicacity and gift of healing. Many eminent people of Novgorod began to send
gifts to the monastery. On the means provided by the pious boyar-noble Feodor
Syrkov an heated church was built, consecrated in honour of the Annunciation of
the Most Holy Mother of God in memory of the first church at Velikie Luki, from
whence the lad had begun his path to God.
From the Mother of
God the monk continued to receive gracious invigoration. One time in an
exquisite dream the Mother of God Herself appeared to him in his cell, at the
icon-shelf whereupon stood the icons. "I glanced, not looking away, upon
Her holy face, upon the eyes, filled with tears, ready to trickle upon Her
all-pure face. I awoke from the dream and was in fright. Lighting a candle from
the lampada, so as to look did the MostPure Virgin indeed sit at the place,
where I saw Her in the dream. I went up to the image of the Hodegetria and was
convinced, that in truth the Mother of God in that image appeared to me, as She
is depicted on my icon", reminisced the monk.
Soon after this
(about the year 1570) the Monk Martyrii was ordained priest at Novgorod by the
archbishop (Alexander or Leonid). It is known, that in 1582 he was already
Later on the Lord
granted the Zelena wilderness-monastery still greater charitable bestowal of
wealth. In 1595 at Tver' Saint Martyrii healed the dying son of the former
Kasimovsk ruler Simeon Bekbulatovich, praying in front of his own icons of the
Life‑Originating Trinity and the Tikhvinsk Mother of God, and then
placing the image of the Most Holy Mother of God upon the chest of the sick
one. By way of gratitude from Simeon there was built a church in honour of the
Tikhvinsk Icon of the Mother of God and of Sainted John Chrysostom the
Heavenly patron-saint of the healed ruler's son John.
In 1595 tsar Feodor
Ioannovich gave the monastery a grant of endowment, in furtherment of the
monastery founded by the monk.
extreme old age and preparing for death, the Monk Martyrii dug out a grave for
himself, set in it a coffin fashioned by his own hands, and there much wept.
Sensing his imminent departure, the monk convened the brethren and besought his
children in the Lord to have steadfast hope in the Most Holy Life-Originating
Trinity and to trust implicitly on the Mother of God, as he himself had always
trusted on Her. Having communed the Holy Mysteries of Christ, he gave the brethren
blessing with the words: "Peace to all the Orthodox", and in
spiritual happiness he reposed in the Lord on 1 March 1603.
The monk was buried
in the grave dug out by him near the church of the Mother of God, and later on
his holy relics rested beneathe a crypt in the church of the Most Holy Trinity,
beneathe the under-temple in honour of Saint John the Theologian. A former monk
of the Zelenetsk monastery, later on Metropolitan of Kazan and Novgorod
Kornilii (+ 1698), compiled a service and wrote down the life of the Monk
Martyrii, making use of personal notes and the testament of the monk.
The memory of the
Monk Martryrii of Zelenetsk and Velikoluksk is celebrated also on 11 November.
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.