The Monk Dionysii of Radonezh

Commemorated on May 12

      The Monk Dionysii of Radonezh, in the world David Zobninovsky, was born about 1570 in the city of Rzhev. A novice, and then head of the Staritsk Uspenie monastery, during the time of the Time of Troubles he was the foremost helper of Sainted Ermogen, Patriarch of Moscow. From 1611 the Monk Dionysii was archimandrite of the Trinity-Sergiev Lavra. Under him, in the monastery environs was opened an house and hospice for the suffering, the injured and those left homeless during the time of the Polish-Lithuanian incursion. During time of famine under his direction the brethren of the Lavra ate oat bread and water, in order to save the wheat and the rye bread for the sick. In 1611-1612, together with the steward of the Trinity-Sergiev monastery the monk Avraam Palitsyn (+ 1625), he wrote circulative missives with an appeal to send fighting men and monetary means for the liberation of Moscow from the Poles, and also to prince Dimitrii Pozharsky and to all the military people with an appeal to hasten the campaign upon Moscow.
      Monastery schooling helped the Monk Dionysii during the very difficult circumstances of the bad years to preserve unextinguished his inner light of the commands of Christ. An high degree of monastic attainment, reached by the monk through unceasing prayer, imparted to him a gift of wonderworking. But he carefully kept secret his spiritual life from people, to whom this knowledge might serve only to detriment. "Ask not the monk about the doings of the monk, said the Monk Dionysii, since for us, monks, it is a great misfortune to reveal secrets to laymen. It is written about this, that let it be done in secret, so that thy left hand not steal it away... it behooves us to be secretive, so that our deeds be unknown, since by this the devil cannot lead us to all manner of negligence and indolence". About the deep inner ponderings and comprehensions by him of secrets of the knowledge of God it is possible to judge only by those things which became apparent, when circumstances compelled the Monk Dionysii to openly active deeds.
      One such known event was his propensity for correction of the Divine-service books. In 1616 the Monk Dionysii spoke of work on correction of the printed Trebnik (Needs-Book) on the basis of comparison of the ancient Slavonic manuscripts and various Greek editions. During the time of work, investigators discovered discrepancies in other books, edited in the period between patriarchs (1612-1619). But in response to these shortcomings, people accused the Monk Dionysii of heresy at a Council of 1618. Deprived of the right of priestly-service and excommunicated from the Church, he was imprisoned in the Novospassky monastery, where they wanted to kill him by starvation. The intervention in 1619 of the Jerusalem Patriarch Philaret (1619-1633) halted his imprisonment, and he was cleared of the charges. The Monk Dionysii was known for his strict oversight of the monastery ustav (rule), for his personal participation with the brethren in monastery tasks and in the rebuilding of the monastery after the siege of the Lavra. The Life of and Canon to the monk was composed by the Trinity-Sergiev monastery steward Simon Azaryn and added to by the priest Ioann Nasedka, a co-worker of the Monk Dionysii during the time of correcting the Divine-service books. The Monk Dionysii reposed on 12 May 1633 and was buried in the Trinity-Sergiev Lavra.

1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.

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The Monk Dionysii
of Radonezh

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