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Holy Hierarch Jonah, Archbishop of Novgorod

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4/17 November

Holy Hierarch Jonah, Archbishop of Novgorod, was named John in secular life. Orphaned at an early age, he was adopted by a certain pious widow who lived in Novgorod and who, making efforts to educate the young boy, sent him to school. Upon meeting Jonah on the street one day, blessed Michael of Klopsk, predicted that he would become the archbishop of Novgorod. John was tonsured a monk in the Otensk hermitage, which lies 50 versts (about 33 miles) from the city. He became abbot of the hermitage. Later, after the death of St. Euthemius in 1458, the people of Novgorod chose him to be their archbishop. Holy Hierarch Jonah was highly respected in Moscow, and during his tenure the Muscovite princes did not interfere with the independence of Novgorod. St. Jonah, Metropolitan of Moscow (1449-1461) was a friend of the Novgorod hierarch, and intended that he become his successor. In 1463, Archbishop Jonah erected the first church on Novgorod territory to be named in honor of St. Sergius of Radonezh. Desiring to bring about a resurgence of ancient Novgorod church traditions, he summoned to Novgorod the renowned compiler of saints’ lives Pachomius Logophet, who, drawing on local sources composed services and hagiographies of the better-known Novgorod saints.

It was at this time that the building of the Solovetsky Monastery commenced. Holy Hierarch Jonah greatly aided and participated in the establishming of the monastery. Together with the secular authorities of Novgorod, St. Jonah granted to Venerable St. Zosima, a special blessed gramota [certificate], granting the entire Solovki island to the new monastery.

After many struggles, the hierarch, sensing his approaching end, wrote his spiritual testament, directing that his body be buried in the Otensk monastery. After receiving Holy Communion on the November 5, 1470, the Holy Hierarch departed to the Lord.

An epistle written in 1464 by the Holy Hierarch to Metropolitan Theodosius has survived to the present day. The short notation about the life of the holy hierarch was recorded in 1472. The Monk Zenobius of Otensk wrote an account documenting the opening of St. Jonah’s relics in 1553. Accounts of the miracles connected with the Holy Hierarch are recorded in manuscripts dating to the 17th Century.

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