Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Saint Peter Movilă, Metropolitan of Kiev

St. Peter Movilă was the Metropolitan of Kiev (Ukraine) from 1632 until his death in 1646. He is known as a leading Orthodox theologian of the e18th century and as a reformer of the orthodox theological education. His feast day is the Romanian Orthodox Church on December 22.

The first years

Peter Movilă was born on December 21, 1596 (1574 according to some other sources) in the noble Moldavian family, very important for the history of Romania in the 16th-18th centuries. From the Family Movilă became more princes of Wallachia and Moldova, and between those was also Peter’s father, Simion (Prince of Wallachia, in 1601 and of Moldova in 1606-1607) and his brother, Ieremia (Jeremy) Movilă (in Moldova, 1595-1606, with a brief interruption in 1600). His mother, Marghita, was a Polish princess.

In 1599-1600, the Wallachian prince Mihai the Brave tried a short unification of the coutries lived by Romanians (Wallachia, Moldova and Transylvania), and because of the turbulent political situation in Moldova, the family had to flee to Poland when Peter was still very young. In 1607 his father was killed by the tatar khan Kantemir Murza, and he moved together with his mother definitively in Poland, where they had important relatives, as the family of Polotski, Korezski and Wysnowiecki. Peter received the early education here, in the Lvov Orthodox school, and then continued his studies in Western Europe, including Paris and Amsterdam, so that he was the first known Romanian to attend western studies, being in contact with the study and the methods used here. Back in Poland, he became shortly officer, fighting in two battles, both in Moldova, at Zezor (1620) and Hotin (1621), but he was attracted more to the monastic life. Even living a noble’s life in Poland, he retained the Orthodox faith.

Metropolitan of Kiev

In 1625 he entered the monastery Lavra Pecerska in Kiev, being tonsured as monk in 1627. Later he was ordained priest and then received the rank of Archimandrite. Shortly he was ordained as bishop and enthroned as Metropolitan of Kiev in 1632, the highest orthodox rank in the Kingdom of Poland at that time.

As Metropolitan he was the founder of the Kievean Spiritual Academy, the first orthodox institution of theological education, organized on the principles of the theological seminaries and universities from the West. Even if until then Latin was quite unknown to the Orthodox believers, the teaching here was mainly in Latin (also an official language in Poland) and secondly in Greek and Russian, which was more spoken in the Ukrainian part of Poland. Newly for the eastern Orthodox, the students here received a double theological and scientific training, so that the only learning of the liturgical rites was doubled by a scientific knowledge of the theology. Beyond theology were studied he school offered a variety of disciplines: Ukrainian, Latin, Greek, and Polish languages; philosophy; mathematics, including geometry; astronomy; music; and history. Because of the high profile of the faculty, the collegium received the status of a higher educational establishment.

Peter governed the Church in Ukraine in a very difficult period in Poland, after the Union of Brest-Litovsk (1596), when much of the Orthodox here accepted the supremacy of the Pope of Rome and union with the Catholic Church. Very concerned about the fate of the Orthodox Church, Peter was dedicated to strengthening the Orthodox position, that had remained independent from Rome. Despite the strong political and social pressure, sometimes violent, he was able to recover for his Church a large number of temples, including the St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev. As the representative of the Orthodox Clergy in the Sejm (Parliament), negotiated here, and with the king, the abolition of the repressive laws against the Orthodox Church and against the use of the Ukrainian language. Finally, the new protestant King Władysław IV Vasa (1632-1646) reinstated the status of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

His writings

After becoming metropolitan, started to print different books, about 15 titles in 5 years. Peter Movilă published in 1637 an annotated edition of the four Gospels, after the western model, and in 1646, also a revised edition of the Euhologhion or Trebnik, the book of the main special services in the Orthodox Church. Also he is the author of some commentaries about the articles from the Symbol of Faitn (Niceo-constantinopolitane), and a small Russian Catechism for the use of the Russian-speaking Church.

His most famous work is the Orthodox Confession of Faith of the Apostolic and Catholic Orthodox Church of the East, which was a response to the Jesuits and Western reformers, very active in that time, in order to attract the Eastern Orthodox on their side. Also it was a reaction to the semi-calvinistic Confession of Faith published in 1629 by the Patriarch Cyril Lucaris of Constantinople, in Geneva.

The Confession of Metropolitan Peter was written after the scholastical catholic method, quite strange for the eastern mentalities. It was the first Eastern Confession of Faith after the one written by John from Damascus in the 9th century, with a whole different language and methodology. Because of these new vision, the work was discussed in the first inter/orthodox Council after the fall of the Constantinople, in Iasi, the capital of Moldova, in 1642 and recognized as valid, after the Synod corrected two points: the position about the purgatory, which is not accepted in the Eastern Church, and the problem of when it happens the transfiguration of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Our Lord. Accordinf to Peter’s meaning, it happens at the moment of anamnesis, that is, when the priest is reciting the biblical text: “Take and eat…” and “Drink from this all…”. The synodals, keeping the position formulated by Nicholas Cabasilas in the 12th century, argued that this is happening at the moment of reciting the epiklesis, a formula immediately after.

The Orthodox Confession of Faith was published in 1645 in latin and shortly after it was then spread throughout Europe in Greek, Latin, German and Russian. With the changes made by the Synod, the Confession was recognized by the patriarchs of Constantinople, Jerusalem, Alexandria and Antioch in 1643, and in 1672, the Holy Synod of Jerusalem adopted the Confession of Faith of Peter Movilă as its official catechism. The first edition in Romanian language appeared in 1699.

Some contemporary Orthodox theologians such as George Florovski or Christos Yannaras accused Peter Movilă of being strongly influenced by the Western influence, which is perfectly true, but not at all wrong for his time. The scholastic style of exposing the faith, though foreign for the orthodox experience, was very good for the students and future priests, who had their first “manual” of theology, punctually structured. Also this style was asked in order to be an answer to the Catholic and Protestant positions.

He passed away on December 22, 1646, in Kiev, being buried at the Pecherska Lavra, the biggest Ukrainian monastery, where he rests until today.

He is venerated as a saint by the Churches of Ukraine, Romania and Poland. His feast day is December 22 Romanian Orthodox Church (since 1997) and Ukraine on 1 January independently, and on October 6, together with the other holy Metropolitans of Kiev. In 1996 it was opened a new theological Academy in Kiev, named “Mohyla-Academy”.

Troparion |(Hymn of the Saint):

Defender and confessor of the Orthodoxy, enlightener of Gentiles, son of Moldova’s son and Ukraine’s father, Holy Hierarch Peter, virtuous man, pray to Christ the God to defend our faith and to save our souls”.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Saint Daniil the Hermit

Saint Daniil the Hermit (in Romanian, Daniil Sihastrul = also, the hesychast) was a Romanian hermit and the confessor of the voivode (prince) of Moldova, St. Stephen the Great (1457-1504).

Daniil the Hermit was born at the beginning of the 15th century, in a village near Rădăuţi, an important town in Northern Moldova, and received at baptism the name of Demetrius (Dimitrie). About his youth there’s not very much known, but it seems that he came from a simple family, having a simple education, without attending the great schools of his time. At 10 years he became an apprentice of St. Leontie, bishop of Rădăuţi. He received the tonsure as monk at the age of 16, being named David, at the Monastery of St. Nicholas in Rădăuţi.

After a while he left the citadine monastery and lived at the monastery of St. Lawrence, near the village of Vicovu de Sus, in the monutains of Bucovina. Being a solitary character, he needed always more quiet, so that he took the vowes of the so-called “great Skima”, receiving the name of Daniel. The Monastical tradition of the East provides two states for the monks, “the little Skima” being the simple form of the congregational monasticies, during the “big Skima” is reserved to the solitaries, “spiritually high levelled” monks, who live after that alone in the forests, caves or deserts.

As a hermit, he retired to a wooded hardly accessible area, in the valley of theViţău River, near the actual village of ​​Putna. In that place he found a rock, in which is believed that he carved a small chapel. This place, today a seat of pilgrimage, consists in the small chapel, and below it a room, carved also in stone, which served him as a cell. The simplicity of this place was amazing since there, but especially for the visitors today.

St. Daniil remained here for a while, and after the tradition, the prince Stephen the Great came here in 1451, after the assasinate of his father Bogdan II. The hermit Daniil prophesied that soon he will become ruler of Moldavia, which happened in 1457. The visits of Stephen continued for the rest of the earthly years of the saint, who became not only the confessor, but also the counselor of the prince.

At the advice of Daniil, Stephen built the greatest Monastery from Moldova, at Putna, 2 km away from the cell. The monastery was important in the next century, being the burial place of the prince and in the meantime, the symbol of the Romanian resistance during the 2-century Austrian occupation. After the building of the monastery (1470) the hermit Daniil moved away, in order to find his bothered silence, at Voroneţ, about 30 kilometers to the south, under the Falcon’s Rock (Stânca Şoimului).

In 1477 the Metropolitan Teoctist of Moldova died, and the prince together with the council of the coutry elected him as Moldova’s pastor. He refused, because he wanted to remain solitary at his Falcon’s Rock.

The Prince Stephen visited further the hermit, after his defeat at Războieni against the Turks in 1476, asking for advice.

After letting him to wait at his door, because “he was in the middle of a prayer”, Daniil “ordered” to the prince not to leave or give the country to the Turks, something that seemed impossible, foreseeing that he will finally prevail, what it really happened. In memory of this victory, Stephen built in 1488 the monastery of Voroneţ, dedicated to St. George, which was painted during the reign of his son, Petru Rareş. The beauty of the painting here and the famous image of the Final Judgement on the western external wall, made the monastery famous, being called today “the Sixtine Chapel” of the East.

After the consecration of the monastery, Daniel moved from his cell in the monastery, being named abbot. Here he spent the last years of his life.

He died in 1496 and was buried in the church of the Voroneţ monastery. On the tombstone, made at the command of Stephen, it is written: “This is the tomb of our father David, hermit Daniil”. His relics were worshipped openly until 1775, when they were placed in the grave, where they were from the beginning. Today it is kept separately the index finger, which the Abbot Gideon from the Monastery of Putna locked in a silver box, in 1749.

The importance of the Saint

Daniil the Hermit was one of the founders of the Hesychast movement in northern Moldova, having many disciples in the forests around Voronet and in the hermitages and monasteries in the area. Also he is important, because he encouraged Stephen the Great to fight against the Turks and to defend the Christianity, and also to build places of worship after every battle, in the memory of the ones dead on the fighting field.

Such as Prince Stephen is not holy because he raised 44 churches and monasteries, but because he resisted against the Turks, avoiding the danger of extinction of an entire Christian nation, similarly, Daniil is not a holy man only for his asceticism and for the guidance he gave to the monastic communities of the time. Especially Daniils holiness is respected because he “trained” a ruler to be faithful. Through him, prince Stephen was named as “athleta Christi” (“athlete of Christ”) by the Pope Sixtus IV. Daniel is the holy coach, the “shadow man” beyond the athlete.

St. Daniil was considered holy already during life, healing the sick, casting out demons and giving advices suffering. He was already depicted with the golden Aura (nimbus) of the saints, on the wall of the church at Voroneţ, only about 20 years of his death (in 1547 the church was painted), together with the one who ascended the metropolitan seat, Gregory Roşca.

Being always considered a saint, he was though officially canonized by the Romanian Orthodox Church in 1992 under the name “The Pious St. Daniil the Hermit”. His day of celebration is 18 December, after some other saints with the same name, the prophet Daniel (17 December) and St. Daniel the Stylite (11 December).


Pious Father, God-bearer, Saint Daniil, you left the world and lived in a stone cell at Putna. The arrogant mind you humbled by temperance, the temptations you overcame with the true poverty, and through these you were an example to the monks, you searcher of the angelic life and lover of the desert lands. Ask Christ the God to save our souls!

Monday, December 12, 2011

St. Hierarch Dosoftei, Metropolitan of Moldova

The St. Hierarch Dosoftei (born October 26, 1624, Suceava - d. December 13, 1693, at Żółkiew, Poland, today Jovkva, Ukraine) was a 17th century scholar monk and bishop, Metropolitan of Moldova (1671 -1673, 1675-1686), a very fine poet and good translator and witness to the Orthodox faith. For his missionary work, in 2005 the Romanian Orthodox Church proclaimed him as saint. His feast is on 13 December.

The Youth Life

Saint Dosoftei was born in 1624 in Suceava in a faithful family named Barilă. His parents Leontie and Misira, where Romanians refugees, came from Transylvania, and they had relatives in the neighbor country, Poland. The little baby was baptized as Demetrius, because he was born around the 26th of October, when in the Eastern Church is celebrated St. Demetrius.

The young Demetrius went to the best schools of his time in Moldova and after that, at the school of the Orthodox Brotherhood from the Monastery of the Dormition of Theotokos, from Lviv, at that time in Poland. In this times he proved to be a talented child in translating the Holy Text of the Scriptures and the writings of the Churchfathers, and that happened because he knew many languages, as Greek, Latin, Church Slavonic, Polish and Ukrainian.

In addition to the teachings, he learned at Probota monastery, near Suceava (the Capital of Moldova), also the spiritual teaching, being from his youth very familiar with the exercise of prayer, obedience and ascetic labors. In 1649, he was tonsured as monk, being named Dosoftei (the slavonic form of the Greek name Dositheos).

Metropolitan and Scholar

Because of his prestige as a scholar and of his virtues, Dosoftei was named bishop of Huşi in 1658, and after an year, he went to the seat of Roman. In 1671 he was elected as metropolitan of Moldova. As the highest Hierarch of the Principate, he remained gentle and humble with everyone, and amazed all by the wisdom he had: the historian Ion Neculce, in his Chronicle of Moldova describes him as: “This metropolitan Dosoftei was not a simple man by his nature. And he was from a “mazâl” (refugee) ancestry. Very learned, he knew several languages: Hellenic, Slavonic, and other deep-books (=wisdom) and teachings. He was full and devout monk and gentle as a lamb. In our country, in that time was no man alike. And the people say about him that he was a saint”.

His hierarchical mission happened to meet a difficult social and political time in Moldova, with many changes of the Princes, because of the Polish and Turk interference in the country’s business. But even like that, he accomplished his mission in a special way, through translating the liturgical service books into the Romanian language, known by the people. His first published books were the Psalms versified in Romanian and the Akathistos of the God’s Mother (a prayer similar to the Rosarium, both in 1673). He proved to understand very deeply the sense of the Psalms and he succeeded to put them in verse in Romanian, which is something special, because nobody did it before in this land. His language is very beautiful, being used until today. Also he was a theological authority, and revided the Romanian translation of the Old Testament, made by Nicolae Milescu, this text being included into the first Romanian Bible, in 1688.

The First Exile and the scholar activity

Because of the political situation and of his anti-Turk convictions, he was pushed up to leave the country, and to find a refuge in Poland. In 1674 he was replaced in the Metropolitan Seat from Iaşi (the new capital city) with St. Theodosius, the bishop of Roman. In the following year he came back as Metropolitan, and Theodosius withdrawn to the monastery of Bogdana, receiving after a little while a martyr’s death.

After the recovery of the printing machine in Iaşi, Dosoftei printed new books in Romanian: The Holy Liturgy (1679 and 1683), The Explained Book of Psalms (1680) with parallel text in Romanian and Slavonic, the Moliltfelnic (Book of the Sacred Services, 1681). Between 1682-1686 he translated from different Greek and Slavic sources and printed in Romanian The life and the passing over of the Saints, in four volumes. The work remained unfinished, due to the forced departure to Poland. This book is particularly necessary for the Church’s mission, being another great gift of Metropolitan Dosoftei to the Romanian believers. He speaks for the first time about the local saints, such as Daniel of Voroneţ (his article will appear on this website on 18 December), Rafail form Agapia, Chiriac from Bisericani Chiriac from Tazlău, Epifanie from Voroneţ, Partenie from Agapia, Ioan from Râşca, and Inochentie from Pobrata, all this saints being officially canonized only in the 20th century.

The second Exile

In 1686, the Polish King Jan Sobieski, being into an anti-Ottoman campaign, came to Moldova to attract on his side the prince Constantin Cantemir. Being forced to withdraw, the Poles robed Moldova and have taken Dosoftei as a hostage along with some spiritual treasures, as the relics of St. John the New. Metropolitan Dosoftei lived the last years of his life away from the country, but he continued his scholarly work and was in touch with the Orthodox hierarchs in Moscow and Kiev. So he helped to settle the theological conflicts about the Eucharistic prayer, by translating from greek to Church-Slavonic several works of John Chrysostom, Ephrem the Syrian, Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople, and Simeon of Thessalonica, about this topic.

Despite the pressures made against him by the Polish authorities, he refused the uniatism and remained as Orthodox bishop until his passing-over, on 13 December 1693.

Saint Dosoftei was buried in the Nativity church in Jolkiew, today in Ukraine. Today his relics are settled in the Metropolitan Cathedral in Iaşi, Romania.

Troparion (Hymn) of the Saint

Defender of the Orthodoxy, and Master of holiness, gentle Sheperd as a lamb and great Teacher of the Divine Liturgy, Father Hierarch Dosoftei, pray to Christ God to save our souls!