A RUSSIAN ORTHODOX SAINT OF THE 16TH CENTURY
The miraculous appearance of the Trinitarian God to
Saint Alexander of Svir
This miracle happened in the following way. In 1508, when Alexander was sixty years old, he began his ascetic struggles. These struggles went beyond human endurance with hunger, thirst and enduring the extreme cold. He hoped that by encountering the fierce cold weather he would avoid eternal damnation. But the demons seeing that Alexander was attacking them and realizing that they would be obliterated by his prayers, proceeded to terrorize him. They would appear to him at times as wild animals and other times as snakes. These entities would tread upon him while screaming like wild animals. They would also attack him with many unclean temptations. One night as Saint Alexander was walking towards his monastic cell, there appeared before him an army of demons who were attacking him with great ferocity. He would pray for hours in his monastic cell. While he was praying these demons were grinding their teeth and emitting fire from their mouths. They were shouting at him: “Leave, leave this place. Leave here immediately before you suffer a terrible death.” But the Saint, as a good soldier of Christ, was armed with fervent prayer and was not frightened by the demons. He knew that they were powerless against him. The prayers of the Saint were coming out of his mouth like tongues of fire which burned and destroyed the legions of the demons that were attacking him.
Saint Alexander continued walking toward his monastic cell where he said his prayers to God. As he walked along suddenly a brilliant angel appeared before him. Upon seeing the glowing angel the Saint felt fear and trembling, fell to the ground remaining there like a dead man. The angel grabbed his hand and said to him: “I am an angel of the Lord and God sent me to protect you against the deceptions of the demons. I have also come to remind you about the divine visions which you have seen here where you live. The will of God must be fulfilled. The Lord has chosen you to become a guide for many who will be saved. I make known to you that it is God’s will for you to build a Church here in the name of the Holy Trinity. You will also bring together a brotherhood and you will establish a Monastery.” After saying these things, the angel disappeared.
Saint Alexander loved being alone in silence and he desired to live in that wilderness for the rest of his life. This is why he always prayed more fervently to God to free him from the attacks of the demons. Once when he was some distance away from his monastic cell and where he had been praying for a long time, the angel again suddenly appeared to him and said to him: “Alexander, like I told you the first time, build a Church, gather together a brotherhood and establish a Monastery. Do this because many who wish to be saved will come to you and you must guide them on the road to salvation.” Having said this, the angel again disappeared.
Again at same year, when the Saint was celebrating his 23rd year in the wilderness, he was in his remote cell. One night during his usual prayer time, a bright light suddenly enveloped him. The Saint was startled by this and thought: “What does this mean?” Suddenly he saw three persons coming towards him. They were dressed in brilliant white clothing. They were beautiful and wholesome looking, shining more brilliantly than the sun and they were exuding beams of light with a heavenly glory. Each one of them was holding a scepter in their hands. When the Saint saw them he began trembling because he was overcome with fear and terror. When he regained his composure, he tried to reverence the three angelic beings by bowing to the ground. But one of the angels took him by the hand, lifted him up and said to him: “Have faith blessed one and do not be afraid.”
The Saint said to them: “My Lords, if I have found favor with you tell me who you are. You are enveloped with such glory and brilliance. You have condescended to visit this servant, for I have never seen such glory before.” And they answered him saying: “Dear man of God who seeks after divine things do not be afraid because the Holy Spirit is pleased to dwell in you because of the purity of your heart. And just as I have told you many times before, so now I tell you again that you must build a Church here, gather together a brotherhood and establish a Monastery. I say this because it is of you that I will save many souls and will bring them to the knowledge of truth.”
Hearing these things the Saint knelt weeping and said: “My Lord, who am I a sinner, the worst of all human beings that should be made worthy to undertake such a responsibility as you have asked me to do? I am too weak a person to undertake such a ministry. I, the unworthy one, did not come to this place to do those things that you ask me to do. I have come here rather to weep for my sins.” The Saint was saying these things while genuflecting before the angel. The angel lifted him up and said to him: “Stand up straight, be courageous and strong and do all the things that I have asked you to do.”
The Saint responded: “My Lord, do not be angry with me for the way that I responded to you. Tell me, in whose honor do you want the Church to be named for you are building this Church for the love of mankind.” And the Lord said to the Saint: “When you see one person speaking to you in three persons, build the Church in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, the Holy Trinity, one in essence. I leave my peace with you that it may abide with you.” Then suddenly the Saint saw the Lord with outstretched wings walking on the ground as if He were walking on his feet and then disappeared.
Saint Alexander was overwhelmed with joy and fear and he thanked God for the great love God has for mankind. He then wondered how and where he would build the Church. After thinking and praying about this for a long time he suddenly heard a voice speaking to him from on high. Looking up the Saint saw an angel of God wearing a cloak standing in the air with outstretched wings. This is the same way the he appeared in the past to Saint Pachomius with his arms outstretched toward heaven while saying: “One is Holy; one is Lord Jesus Christ to the glory of God the Father. Amen.” He then said to the Saint: “Alexander let the Church be built on this spot in the name of the Lord who appeared to you in three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the undivided Trinity.” After saying these things he indicated with his hand the location where the Church should be built with the sign of the Cross and he disappeared. The Saint was overjoyed with that vision. He glorified God for listening to his prayers and he placed a Cross on the location where the Church would be built.
Translated from the Greek by:
+Fr. Constantine (Charles) J. Simones, Waterford, CT, USA, July 2, 2014, 860-460-9089
This is my postscript to this miracle of the Trinitarian God. Please compare this with Genesis 18:1-8. “Then the Lord appeared to him by the terebinth trees of Mamre, as he was sitting in the tent door in the heat of the day. So he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing by him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground, and said, My Lord, if I have now found favor in Your sight, do not pass on by Your servant. Please let a little water be bought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. And I will bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh your hearts. After, you may pass by, inasmuch as you have come to your servant. And they said, do as you have said. So Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah and said, quickly, make ready three measures of fine meal; knead it and make cakes. And Abraham ran to the herd, took a tender and good calf, gave it to a young man, and he hastened to prepare it. So he took butter and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree as they ate.”