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The Life of Saint Makary (Nevsky), Metropolitan of Moscow and Altai

Metropolitan Makary: Russia's Pillar of Faith

Saint Makary (Nevsky), Metropolitan of Moscow and Altai

By the preaching of divine faith, you illuminated the land of Siberia, radiating the warmth and light of Christ, leading many people to Christ. You became the renowned adornment of the capital city Moscow and all of Russia, emulating apostolic labours, creating the Church of Christ. Our good shepherd, Saint Makary, pray to Christ our Lord for all of us to be saved!
(Troparion to Saint Makary (Nevsky), Metropolitan of Moscow and Altai)

Saint Makary, Metropolitan of Moscow and Kolomna and Apostle of Altai (born Mikhail Andreevich Parvitsky-Nevsky) was born on 1 October 1835, on the feast of the Protection of the Mother of God. The village of Shapkino in the Vladimir province was his birthplace. His father, Andrey Ivanovich, served as a cantor in the village church of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos. From childhood, Mikhail's mother taught him to pray. He enjoyed reading the works of St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, Ephrem the Syrian, and the life of St. Seraphim of Sarov.

In 1854, he graduated from the seminary, where he was given the surname Nevsky. Despite the opportunity to continue his education at the Academy as an outstanding student, he chose to join the Altai Mission as a rank-and-file member, driven by his desire to preach the Gospel. The venerable Archimandrite Makary (Glukharev, remembered on 18 May) was a model of missionary service for him, and he learned about his life and work from eyewitnesses. He served as a reader, taught at the Catechetical School, accompanied missionaries to remote, inaccessible, and wild places, and studied the Altai language.

Icon of St. Makary of Altai

Icon of St. Makary of Altai

On 16 March 1861, he took monastic tonsure and adopted the name Makary, in honour of St. Macarius the Great. The next day, he was ordained as a deacon, and on 19 March as a priest. This marked the beginning of his independent missionary service, first in the Chemal settlement, and then in Chulyshman. Success in preaching was only achieved when the Word of God was conveyed to the people in their native language. Father Makary mastered the Altai language and its dialects perfectly, dedicating himself to translating liturgical books into the Altai language over many years. In 1875, Father Makary was appointed as an assistant to the head of the Altai Mission.

Panorama of the Chemal Community

Panorama of the Chemal Community. Photo from the 1910s.

In 1883, Father Makary was consecrated as the Bishop of Biysk, and he assumed leadership of the Altai Mission. During his eight years in this position, the number of baptized increased to 19,216 people, a significant growth from the 675 souls at the time of the mission's foundation under the venerable Archimandrite Makary (Glukharev). The number of parish churches increased to 49, and the same number of schools and educational institutions were opened, with a total of 1,168 students.

Archimandrite Makary, Bishop of Biysk, Head of the Altai Mission

Archimandrite Makary, Bishop of Biysk, Head of the Altai Mission

During his 36 years of missionary service, Bishop Makary gained recognition throughout Russia. In 1891, he was ordained as the Bishop of Tomsk. Bishop Makary believed that a shepherd should be prepared “at all times to dispense from the treasures of his soul, comforting some, instructing others, encouraging others, and rebuking still others.” He also engaged in philanthropy. By the end of his stay in the Tomsk diocese, there were eleven parish philanthropies, six shelters for children, a night shelter, and five almshouses. During his tenure in the diocese, 217 new parishes were established, along with two convents, 229 parish schools, and 442 parish philanthropic initiatives.

Saint Makary foresaw the future events in Russia. In one of his teachings, he said, “We are experiencing troubled times.” There have been difficult times in Russia before, but they were not as severe as they are now. Back then, everyone was devoted to God, eager to understand what was pleasing to Him; but now, it is not the same. Back then, everyone was in favour of the Tsar. Now it is not so any more. Now we hear blasphemous voices against God and conspiracies against His Anointed…

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In their clandestine correspondence and pamphlets, we learn that they, like emissaries from the underworld, crave chaos and destruction. Their aim is to upend the natural order, with the head at the bottom and the feet at the top, so that an upright individual must beg for leniency from the hands of a villain, whom they seek to empower as a distributor of their illicit profits. The bishop warned the rioters, saying, “If you reject Russian authority, you will end up under foreign authority.”

In May 1906, he was promoted to the rank of archbishop. In 1912, he took the chair of Metropolitan of Moscow and Kolomna and became a member of the Holy Synod. In Moscow, just like in Tomsk, the hierarch paid great attention to preaching the faith to the people, fearlessly denounced the moral downfall of his contemporaries, and spoke out against everything that undermined “the stronghold of the Church of God.” The priest-martyr Arsenius (Zhadanovsky) - commemorated on 14 September - wrote in his memoirs: “The proud capital did not appreciate his simple teachings and his strict church-patriarchal direction.” “Those who had strayed from faith and good morals considered him to be old-fashioned and uninteresting, while the clergy who prioritized their personal interests over the salvation of their flock did not find support from the metropolitan.”

Hieromartyr Arseny (Zhadanovsky)

Hieromartyr Arseny (Zhadanovsky)

Metropolitan Makary was a spiritual writer who possessed the gift of intelligent and heartfelt prayer. He was also known for his strict adherence to the monastic and ascetic life.

In 1917, following the February Revolution, a slanderous campaign commenced in the newspapers against the bishop. He remained loyal to his oath to the Sovereign and declined to swear allegiance to the Provisional Government. He was not permitted to attend the All-Russian Council of 1917-1918. The bishop was coerced, under the threat of imprisonment in the Peter and Paul Fortress, to submit a request for resignation because he was considered “out of step with the times.”

The action taken by the Temporary Masonic Government was outright unlawful and contrary to canon law. The Moscow Metropolitans, due to their special status, were never retired, neither due to illness nor old age. Furthermore, the 82-year-old elder was denied his rightful maintenance and the opportunity to live in the Trinity-Sergius Lavra, where he served as the archimandrite. Instead, he was sent away to the Nikolo-Ugresh Monastery.

Saint Makary (Nevsky), Metropolitan of Moscow and Altai

Saint Makary (Nevsky), Metropolitan of Moscow and Altai

In his last years, the revered elder, forgotten and abandoned by nearly everyone, was paralyzed but did not lose the ability to speak. Saint Patriarch Tikhon visited the ailing bishop on several occasions, and their last meeting took place in August 1924, during which they both sought forgiveness from each other. The Hieromartyr Metropolitan Peter, who became the locum tenens of the patriarchal throne, sought the elder's blessing, and the bishop lovingly gave him his white klobuk.

The outstanding missionary saint, lauded as the “Apostle of Altai,” “Siberian Pillar of Orthodoxy,” and “living Russian saint” by his contemporaries, departed on February 16, 1926, in the settlement of Kotelniki, Lyuberetsky District, Moscow Region. In 1957, his honourable relics were transferred to the Trinity-Sergius Lavra and interred in the Russian Saints Church within the Assumption Cathedral.

Shrine with the holy relics of St. Makary (Nevsky) and Altai

Shrine with the holy relics of St. Makary (Nevsky) in the Assumption Cathedral of the Holy Trinity Sergius Lavra. Photo from 6 June 2016

He was canonized among the saints of the Russian Orthodox Church for universal veneration at the Council of Bishops in August 2000 and included in the Synaxis of Moscow Saints, commemorated on the Sunday before August 26 according to the old calendar.

February 29, 2024
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