Venerable Arcadius of Novotorsk

The Venerable Arcadius was born at the beginning of the XI century in the city of Vyazma, and was a member of the Syreishchikov family of merchants, who were distinguished for their fervent piety. From a young age, and loving the Lord with all his heart and soul, he resolved to devote his entire life to His service, and to free his soul from worldly attachments. He was one of the earliest fools for the sake of Christ in Russia, and may have been inspired by reading the Lives of Greek fools such as Saint Symeon of Emesa (July 21) and Saint Andrew of Constantinople (October 2).

These holy fools for Christ tried to live according to the words of Christ: “Do not be anxious for your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink, nor for your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25). The holy fools were also mindful of Saint Paul’s words: “We are fools for Christ, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we are dishonored. Until the present hour we both hunger and thirst; we are naked and buffeted, and have no fixed abode; we labor with our own hands. When we are reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure. When we are maligned, we entreat. We have become as the refuse of the world, the offscouring of all things, until now” (I Corinthians 4:10-13).

During the day, Saint Arcadius concealed his exalted angelic life by foolish behavior, and people mocked his appearance, as well as his child-like simplicity, kindness, and ignorance of the necessities of life. This made him seem strange and incomprehensible to worldly individuals, and his conduct became more unusual with every passing day. At night, however, he devoted his time to prayer, standing atop a stone on a hill in the forest outside of town.

Although the venerable one’s love of solitude helped him to remain unknown for a time, people soon became aware of the Saint’s virtuous life. They noticed that when he prayed in church, his very appearance seemed to change. His face became radiant, and his attention was completely focused on the prayers. Sometimes he would weep, shedding tears of compunction and repentance. It never occurred to anyone who observed him at such times that he might be a madman. Furthermore, his advice always seemed to be good, and his predictions always came to pass. He spoke only rarely, however, preferring to remain silent.

Whenever there was a Cross Procession, Saint Arcadius would take a broom, and for two days ahead of time he swept the streets, starting from the cathedral to the church. In this way he demonstrated that one must have inner purity and keep God’s commandments, especially when preparing for a Church Feast.

At that time, Saint Ephraim of Novotorsk (January 28) would often travel to Kiev to visit the more experienced Elders. Once, on the way from Kiev, he stopped at Vyazma, where he heard about Arcadius. From that moment, the young ascetic became the disciple of Elder Ephraim, who helped him to avoid the spiritual dangers inherent in the difficult and unusual exploit of foolishness for the sake of Christ. Elder Ephraim taught him that being despised by others could lead the mind away from God, because knowing that one was suffering unjustly often leads to pride. Thus, such a way of life could also darken one’s mind and heart, instead of leading one to enlightenment and the renewal of the inner man (2 Corinthians 4:16).

Over time Arcadius strengthened himself by constant spiritual struggles. He joined his Spiritual Father in Novotorsk, where Saint Ephraim tonsured him into the angelic Schema. After this the people of Vyazma witnessed several miracles which were accomplished through the prayers of Blessed Arcadius, but he fled from worldly glory and went to a place along the upper Tvertsa River. Saint Arcadius also participated in founding a church and monastery dedicated to the royal Passion-Bearers Boris and Gleb (May 2).

After moving into the new monastery, Saint Arcadius cut off his own will and obeyed his Spiritual Father, Saint Ephraim, in all things. Saint Arcadius never missed a service; he and his spiritual guide were always the first to come to church for Matins.

After his Elder’s repose, the Venerable Arcadius continued to labor according to his precepts, living a life of prayer, fasting and quietude. When he had lived in the Monastery of Saints Boris and Gleb for several years, he departed peacefully to the Lord on December 13, 1077. His body was buried next to his Spiritual Father, Saint Ephraim.

The inhabitants of Torzhok and the surrounding areas frequently experienced the power of the grace-filled actions of the Venerable Arcadius, and clearly saw in them a sign of God’s favor. Whenever they turned to him with faith and prayer, they always received relief from their illnesses and deliverance from their sorrows through his intercession. The holy monk often appeared to the inhabitants of the city of Vyazma in dreams and visions and delivered them from troubles and sorrows. In their minds there was no doubt concerning his holiness.

The canonization of Saint Arcadius of Novotorsk for local veneration apparently took place around 1584-1587. In Vyazma’s church of the All-Merciful Savior (built in 1594), and a side chapel dedicated to Saint Arcadius was built soon after his glorification.

A combined celebration of Saints Arcadius and Ephraim was established by Metropolitan Dionysius sometime around 1584-1587.

The relics of Saint Arcadius, glorified by miracles of healing, were uncovered on June 11, 1572.

On July 11, 1677, with the blessing of Metropolitan Cornelius of Novgorod and Velikiy Luki, Archimandrite Eustathios of Novotorsk monastery solemnly recovered the incorrupt relics of the Venerable Arcadius of Novotorsk and transferred them to a crypt in Saints Boris and Gleb cathedral at Novotorsk (New Market); and in 1841, the left side chapel of Saints Boris and Gleb cathedral church was dedicated to Saint Arcadius.

On August 14, 1798 the Saint’s holy relics were placed in a stone coffin, which had served as the resting place of Saint Ephraim until 1572.

The solemn celebration of the 300th anniversary of the transfer of the holy relics of Saint Arcadius to the cathedral of Saints Boris and Gleb in 1677 took place in the city of Novotorsk in July of 1977.

On July 21, 2019, a portion of the relics of Saint Arcadius of Novotorsk were presented to the Cathedral church of Saints Boris and Gleb Monastery by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia.

Saint Arcadius is also commemorated on August 14 (the day of his blessed repose), July 11 (the transfer of his relics in 1677), and June 11 (the discovery of his relics).