Alexander of Svir
The most honourable father in the Lord, Saint Alexander of Svir was born July 15, 1448]] and died Agusut 30, 1553, at 85 years of age. In 1998, the incorrupt relics of St. Alexander were discovered and they are now located in the reopened Svir Monastery. He is commemorated by the church August 30.
Saint Alexander of Svir was born on July 15, 1448, on the feastday of the Prophet Amos, and was named for him in Baptism. He was a beacon of monasticism in the deep forests of the Russian North, living in asceticism, and he was granted the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit. His parents, Stephen and Vassa (Vasilisa) were peasants of the near Lake Ladoga village of Mandera near Lake Ladoga, at the bank of the River Oyata, a tributary of the River Svira. They had sons and daughters who were already grown and lived away from their parents. Stephen and Vassa wanted to have another son. They prayed fervently and heard a voice from above: "Rejoice, good man and wife, you shall bear a son, in whose birth God will give comfort to His Church."
Amos grew up to be a special child. He was always obedient and gentle, he shunned games, jokes and foul talk, he wore poor clothes and so weakened himself with fasting, that it caused his mother anxiety. Upon coming of age, he once met some Valaam monks who had come to the Oyata to purchase necessities, and for other monastery business.
By this time Valaam was already known as a monastery of deep piety and strict ascetic life. After speaking with the monks, the young man was fascinated by their account of the skete life (with two or three monks together) and the solitary life of the hermit. Knowing that his parents had arranged a marriage for him, the youth went secretly to Valaam when he was nineteen. In the guise of a traveler, an angel of God appeared to him, showing him the way to the island.
Amos lived for seven years at the monastery as a novice, leading an austere life. He spent his days at work, and his nights in vigilance and prayer. Sometimes he prayed in the forest bare-chested, all covered by mosquitoes and gnats, to the morning song of the birds.
In the year 1474, Amos received monastic tonsure with the name Alexander. After several years, his parents eventually learned from Karelians arriving in Mandera where their son had gone. Following the example of their son, the parents also went to the monastery and were tonsured with the names Sergius and Barbara. After their death, St Alexander, with the blessing of the igumen of the monastery, settled on a solitary island, where he built a cell in the crevice of a cliff and continued his spiritual exploits.
The fame of his asceticism spread far. Then in 1485 St Alexander departed from Valaam and, upon a command from above, chose a place in the forest on the shore of a beautiful lake, which was afterwards named Holy. Here the monk built himself a hut and dwelt in solitude for seven years, eating only what he gathered in the forest (Later at this place, Holy Lake, 36 versts from the future city of Olonets and 6 versts from the River Svira, St Alexander founded the monastery of the Life-Creating Trinity, and 130 sazhen (i.e. 910 feet) off from it, at Lake Roschina, he built himself a hut on the future site of the St Alexander of Svir monastery).
During this time the saint experienced fierce sufferings from hunger, frost, sickness and demonic temptations. But the Lord continually sustained the spiritual and bodily strength of the righteous one. Once when suffering with terrible infirmities, he not only was unable to get up from the ground, but was unable to even lift his head. He just lay there and sang Psalms. Then a glorious man appeared to him. Placing his hand on the sore spot, he made the Sign of the Cross over the saint and healed him.
In 1493 while hunting for deer, the adjoining land-owner Andrew Zavalishin happened to come upon the saint's hut. Andrew spoke to him of a light he had seen at this place, and he entreated the monk to tell him about his life. From that point Andrew started to visit St Alexander often, and finally through the monk's guidance, he went to Valaam, where he was tonsured with the name Adrian. Later, he founded the Ondrusov monastery, and led a saintly life (August 26 and May 17).
Andrew Zavalishin was not able to keep silent about the ascetic, in spite of the promise he had given. News of the righteous one began to spread widely, and monks started to gather around him. Therefore, St Alexander withdrew from the brethren and built himself a dwelling place 130 sazhen from the monastery. There he encountered a multitude of temptations. The demons took on beastly shapes, they hissed like snakes, urging him to flee. However, the saint's prayer scorched and dispersed the devils like a fiery flame.
In 1508, twenty-three years after he came to this secluded spot, the Life-Creating Trinity appeared to St Alexander. One night he was praying in his hut. Suddenly, an intense light shone, and the monk saw Three Men, robed in radiant white garb, approaching him. Radiant with heavenly Glory, They shone in a pure brightness greater than the sun. Each of Them held a staff in His hand.
The monk fell down in terror, and coming to his senses, prostrated himself on the ground. Taking him up by the hand, the Men said: "Have trust, blessed one, and fear not." The saint was ordered to build a church and a monastery. He fell to his knees, protesting his own unworthiness, but the Lord raised him up and ordered him to fulfill the commands. St Alexander asked in whose name the church ought to be dedicated. The Lord said: "Beloved, as you see Those speaking with you in Three Persons, so also construct the church in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, the Trinity One-in-Essence. I leave you peace and My peace I give you." And immediately St Alexander beheld the Lord with out-stretched wings, going as though along the ground, and He became invisible.