Anthony of the Kiev Caves

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Our father among the saints, Anthony of the Kiev Caves was born in 983 in Liubech, near Chernigov. He was named Antipas by his parents. In his youth he possessed a fear of God and dressed in monastic attire. As he matured he set off on a journey to Mount Athos, where he took to the monastic life. He received a monastic tonsure, the name Anthony, and set his life on a course to pleasing God and living a ascetic life on the path to virtue. He became known for his humility and obedience.

In time, the igumen recognized in him a great future ascetic. Inspired by God the igumen directed that Anthony should return to his home land where many monks shall come to him. Returning to the Russian lands Anthony visited many monasteries near Kiev, but was not able to find the strict life that drew him to Mount Athos. In time, he came upon a cave that had been dug by the priest Hilarion, later to be Metropolitan of Kiev, near the village of Berestovo. Here he began his struggle in prayer, vigil, work, and fasting, eating only a morsel a day and sometimes not eating for week.

In his ascetic life people began to come to him for his blessing and counsel. Some who came decided to stay with him. Anthony’s renown spread throughout the land, inspiring many to a monastic life. After twelve men had gathered with Anthony, the brethren dug a bigger cave, and within it made a church and cells for the monks. As the community became larger, Anthony appointed Barlaam the abbot of the monastery and then withdrew to another place to dig a new cave where he secluded himself. But, monks began to settle around his new cave of seclusion. Thus were formed the Near and Far Caves monasteries. Later a small wooden church, dedicated to the Dormition of the Mother of God, was built over the Far Caves.

After the Great Prince Izyaslav of Kiev convinced the igumen Barlaam, to move to the Dimitriev monastery, the brethren, with Anthony’s blessing, chose the meek and humble Theodosius, as igumen. The community of the Near and Far Caves continued to grow, reaching a population of hundred. Then, Prince Izyaslav gave the community of monks the hill where a large church and cells were built, and around which a palisade was built. Thus, the renown Monastery of the Caves came into being, the first spiritual center in the land of the Rus, raised up through the efforts of St. Anthony, without gold but on the prayers of saints and by their tears, vigil, and fasting.

Many miraculous happening have been recorded of Saint Anthony at the Monastery of the Caves, including the appearance of the Mother of God before Saints Anthony and Theodosius in the Blachernae church in Constantinople, without their leaving their own monastery, and at which the Mother of God foretold the death of Anthony. He died on May 7, 1073, and his relics, through Divine Providence, remain concealed.