Righteous Priest Saint Alexei Mechev
by Fr. Michael Knechten (from http://www.berdyaev.com/berdiaev/knechten/mechev.html)
Alexei Mechev was born on 17 March 1859 in Moscow. After having finished school he intended to become a doctor. But his mother wished to see him as a priest. So he starts by singing in the Church of the Sign (Znamenka). The parish priest of this church, Fr. Giorgii, is frequently cruel and also even beats him. But Alexei endures it all and thinks to himself, this priest serves as his teacher. He says: "Such people see our faults, which we ourselves do not see. They help us to fight against egoism."
In 1884 he married Anna Petrovna Molchanova. In the following years they had six children: Alexandra, Sergei, Petr, Olga, Sofiia and Anna.
On 19 March 1894, Fr. Alexei was ordained and became parish priest in the little church of Saint Nicholas on the Maple/Klennikach on the street Maroseika 5 (near the Metro Kitaigorod). For eight years he celebrated Divine Liturgy in an empty church. That was how long it took, until people finally started coming!
Fr. Alexei began readings in prisons and little restaurants. He gave religious instruction in the Winkler secondary school for girls.
His wife Anna then fell sick. She died on 29 August 1902. Fr. Alexei went to (now Saint) Fr. John (Sergiev) of Kronstadt to speak about his grief. Fr. John said: "Go to the people and share with their grief!"
And now Fr. Alexei became not only father for his own children, but also for all who came to him. He sees them all as his own family. He lives as a "starets" (religious elder) in the world. He follows the path of the Good Shepherd Who goes after the one sheep that is missing (Luke 15:4).
Fr. Alexei was small of stature, baldheaded and had an unkempt beard. His face was marked by the deep, intensive eyes. His riasa (cowl) has yet seen better days. In his little study there are many books, letters, prosphores/loaves on a tray, an epitrachil (priest's stole), a cross and Gospel book. The chaos everywhere shows that this priest has never spare time for himself. Always there is somebody waiting to see him. There come simple persons and those of the Intelligentsia, poor and rich, believers and atheists, persons with good and bad intentions, Orthodox and those of other faith-confessions and religion. Fr. Alexei is open and welcoming to all and he speaks with them for a long while. Others wait on the staircase or on the courtyard which becomes full of water when it's raining. Fr. Alexei is attempts to provide guidance and lead all these different persons on their way. And especially he wants to show them the importance of prayer.
His pastoral secret consists in knowledge of the heart (kardiognosia) and in compassion: People who come to him get the feeling, that he is looking into their inner heart. Fr. Alexei himself has no self-serving egoistic goals. So he is able to distinguish, if a goal is good or bad for a person.
He himself saw a lot of grief. So he has compassion for other people and he carries their burdens (see Gal 6:2). When they leave him, they feel that he is going spiritually with them. His commemoration book (pomiannik) contains hundreds of names. The proskomidia in Liturgy takes a long time, because he makes remembrance of all these names!
He had contact with the starets/elder Anatolii (Potapov, +1922) and the starets/elder Nektarii (Tichonov, +1928) of Opina Pustyn.
Upon seeing the demonstrations of unrest in Moscow in 1905 he weeps, because he foresees the coming misfortune of Russia.
As father-confessor to Nikolai A. Berdyaev, he counselled him, that he must go into exile, so that the world should hear his words.
Sayings of Fr. Aleksii:
(Against envy:) Wish good to all, and thereby you yourself are saved.
Are we right to despise other people?
We cannot bear the privations, grief and woundings of our egoism, and we don't thank the Lord that He lets our spirit grow on this way.
Don't want to realise big projects, but do that to which the Lord calls you.
Make the Christian Way real not with the intellect but with the heart!
Fr. Alexei died on 22 June 1923 in Vereia (west of the city centre of Moscow). His body was uncovered intact (undecayed: a mark of sainthood) in 1934 and laid in a new grave. His son Sergii, born 1892, becomes priest in his father's church of Saint Nicholas. He was himself murdered in 1942.
At the 13-16 August 2000 the Jubilee Synod of the Church of Moscow, Sergei was declared a New Martyr of the eparchy (sobor) of Moscow, and Alexei was canonised into the ranks of the Saints by the Moscow Church. The feastday of Righteous Priest Saint Alexei is on 9/22 June.
Отче Алексие, моли Бога о нас! Fr. Aleksii, Pray God for us!