St. Kornii

ARM for Christian Values Wednesdays Readings and Lives of the Martyrs for Christ-Monk Martyr Kornilii

First Week of the Great Lent. Tone four.
Great Lent. By Monastic Charter: Strict Fast (Bread, Vegetables, Fruits)
Venerable Leo, bishop of Catania in Sicily (ca. 780). Abbot Macarius and 34 monks and novices of Valaam Monastery martyred by the Lutherans: hieromonk Titus, schemamonk Tikhon, monks Gelasius, Sergius, Varlaam, Sabbas, Conon, Silvester, Cyprian, Pimen, John, Simonas, Jonah, David, Cornelius, Niphon, Athanasius, and Serapion, and novices Varlaam, Athanasius, Anthony, Luke, Leontius, Thomas, Dionysius, Philip, Ignatius, Basil, Pachomius, Basil, Theophilus, John, Theodore, and John (1578). New Hieromartyr Nicholas priest (1938). St. Yaroslav the Wise (1054). Venerable Agatho, wonderworker of the Kiev Caves (13th-l4th c.). Beheading of Venerable Cornelius, abbot of the Pskov Caves (1570), and his disciple St. Bassian of Murom. Hieromartyr Sadoc (Sadoth), bishop of Persia, and 128 Martyrs with him (342). Venerable Agatho, pope of Rome (682).

The Scripture Readings

Isaiah 2:3-11 (6th Hour)
Genesis 1:24-2:3 (Vespers, 1st Reading)
Proverbs 2:1-22 (Vespers, 2nd Reading)

The MonkMartyr Kornilii of Pskovo-Pechersk

Commemorated on February 20

      The MonkMartyr Kornilii of Pskovo-Pechersk was born in the year 1501 at Pskov into the boyar-noble family of Stefan and Maria. In order to give their son an education, his parents sent him to the Pskov Mirozh monastery, where he worked under the guidance of an elder: he made candles, chopped wood, studied his letters, transcription and adornment of books, and also iconography. Having finished his studies, Kornilii returned to his parental home with the resolve to become a monk.
      One time the government clerk Misiur Munekhin took Kornilii with him to the Pskovo-Pechersk monastery set amidst the woods, and which then was in more miserable a condition than any other Pskov churchyard. The beauty of nature there, and the calm of services in the cave church produced so very strong an impression on Kornilii, that he left his parental home forever and accepted monastic tonsure at the Pskovo-Pechersk monastery.
      In 1529, at age 28, the Monk Kornilii was elevated to hegumen and became head of the monastery. While he was hegumen, the Pskovo-Pechersk monastery reached the height of its prime. The number of brethren increased from 15 to 200 men. This number of residents was not exceeded under any other subsequent head of the monastery.

      The activity of the Monk Kornilii extended far beyond the bounds of the monastery: he disseminated Orthodoxy amongst the Esti (Aesti) and Saeti people living around the monastery, he built churches, hospices, homes for orphans and those in need. During the time of a terrible plague in the Pskov region the Monk Kornilii walked through the plague-infested villages to give communion to the living and to sing burial-service at the circular pits with the dead.
      During the time of the Livonian war the Monk Kornilii preached Christianity in the occupied cities, built churches there, by hand distributed generous aid from the monastery storerooms to the Esti and Livonians suffering during the time of war; at the monastery he selflessly doctored and fed the injured and the maimed, preserved the killed within the caves and inscribed their names in the monastery synodikon-record for eternal remembrance.
      In the year 1560, on the feast of the Uspenie (Dormition) of the Mother of God, the Monk Kornilii sent by way of blessing for the Russian armies, besieging the city of Thellin, a prosphora and holy water. On that very day the Germans surrendered the city. In 1570 at the establishing of a cathedra-see in Livonian Yur’ev, there was appointed as bishop of Yur’ev and Vel’yansk (i.e. Thellin) a certain hegumen Kornilii. Some have identified him with the Monk Kornilii, but this does not correspond with actual events. The Monk Kornilii was a great expert and lover of books – at the monastery was gathered quite solid a collection of books. In 1531 came out his work entitled, “An Account Concerning the Origin of the Pechersk Monastery”. In the mid-XVI Century the Pskovo-Pechersk monastery took over from the Spaso-Eleaszarov monastery the tradition of chronicle-keeping. At the start of the chronicles was put accounts of the first two Pskov chronicles in rough-draft continuation from 1547 to 1567. Besides this, Hegumen Kornilii left behind a great monastery Synodikon for remembrance of deceased brothers and benefactors of the monastery, and he began to maintain the “Stern-side Book” [“Kormovaya kniga”, i.e. the ship-stern is the back-side (sic) the sense of “looking back in remembrance”] from the year 1588; he compiled also a “Description of the Monastery” and a “Description of the Miracles of the Pechersk Icon of the Mother of God”.
      The Monk Kornilii expanded and beautified the monastery, he dug out further the monastery caves, he transported the wooden church named for the Forty Martyrs of Sebasteia beyond the monastery enclosure to the entryway monastery gate, and on its site in the year 1541 he built a church in the name of the Annunciation of the MostHoly Mother of God, and in 1559 he constructed a church in honour of the Protection-Pokrov of the MostHoly Mother of God.
      The Pechersk monastery, risen up on the frontier of the Russian state, was not only a luminary of Orthodoxy, but also a bulwark against the external enemies of Russia.
      In the years 1558-1565 the Monk Kornilii erected round about the monastery a massive stone wall, and over the holy gates in accord with his plan he built a stone church in the name of Saint Nicholas, entrusting to him the guarding of the monastery. Within the temple was set a wooden sculpted image of “Nikola the Warrior”.
      In the chronicle, compiled by the monk-deacon Pitirim, was thus recorded about the martyr’s death of the Monk Kornilii: “This worthy-blest hegumen Kornilii… was as hegumen 41 years and 2 months; by his fast-keeping and holy life not only as a monk was he an image unto salvation… in these times being then in the Russian land evil sufferance of much unrest, and finally, from this perishable life the earthly tsar did dispatch him unto the Heavenly Tsar unto eternal habitation, in the year 1570 on the 20th day of February, in his 69th year from birth”. (This information is on the ceramic plate – from the ceramics covering the mouth of the tomb of the Monk Kornilii).
      In the ancient manuscripts of the Trinity-Sergiev Lavra it was written, that when Hegumen Kornilii came out the monastery gates with a cross to meet the tsar, tsar Ivan the Terrible, angered by a false slander, with his own hand cut off his head, but then immediately repented of his deed and, taking up the body, in his own hands he carried it into the monastery. The pathway made scarlet by the blood of the Monk Kornilii, along which the tsar carried his body to the Uspenie-Dormition church, became called the “Bloody Path”. Evidence of the tsar’s repenting his deed was the generous recompense to the Pskovo-Pechersk monastery, made by him after the death of the Monk Kornilii. The name of the Hegumen Kornilii was inscribed in the tsar’s remembrance-synodikon.
      The body of the Monk Kornilii was set into the wall of “the cave formed by God”, wherein it passed 120 years without corruption. In the year 1690 Markell, metropolitan of Pskov and Izborsk, had the relics transferred from the cave to the Uspenie-Dormition cathedral church and placed in a new crypt in the wall.
      On 17 December 1872 the relics of the Monk Kornilii were transferred from the former tomb into a copper-silver reliquary, and in 1892 – into a new reliquary. It is presumed, that the service to the monk-martyr was compiled for the day of the Uncovering of the Relics, in the year 1690.

© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.

REFLECTIONS by St. Nikolai Velimirovic of Ohrid


Water is finer than earth; fire is finer than water; air is finer than fire; electricity is finer than air. Nevertheless, air and electricity are dense elements in comparison to the spiritual world.

Electricity is very fine, but the voice is finer than electricity; the thought finer than the voice; the spirit finer than thought.

Air is fine and it carries the voice over a great distance. Electricity is fine and it carries light over a great distance. Nevertheless, how much more so is every deed, word and thought of yours carried to all ends of the spiritual world. Oh, how dreadful it is to commit sinful deeds and to speak sinful words and to think insane thoughts! To what immeasurable distances are waves amassed from this on the spiritual sea! But do not peer into the details of the unknown world. The main thing is that you know and measure how all your deeds, words and thoughts unavoidably create an impression on all four sides: on God and the spiritual world, on nature, on men, and on your soul. If you train yourself in this knowledge, you will attain a high level of saving vigilance.


Contemplate the Lord Jesus in conversation with Nicodemus (John, Chapter 3):

1. How Nicodemus, though a teacher in Israel, did not perfectly comprehend spiritual things;

2. How our Lord intentionally began the conversation with the question of spiritual birth–a question most inaccessible to the mind of Nicodemus–so as by this to bring Nicodemus to meekness and then to further cultivate him as a good field;

3. How in the beginning Nicodemus approached Christ with hesitation and shyness (as even today most of our scholars do), but afterward more boldly.


on judgment and condemnation

“He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already” (John 3:18).

He who believes in Christ the Lord is not condemned, for he judges himself, and directs his footsteps toward the light that goes before him. As a man in profound darkness adjusts his footsteps according to the candle in his hand, so does the one who believes in Christ–he has embarked after Christ as after a light in the darkness of life.

He who does not believe is condemned already. That is, he who does not have a guide on the unknown path loses his way and strays as soon as he takes the first step. He who does not believe in Christ is condemned to ignorance, weakness, anger, staggering along crooked and winding roads, vice, despair and perhaps even suicide. He is condemned in two worlds: in this world to a senseless, physical and delusory existence, and in the other world to eternal damnation! Oh, how dark is the path of the children of unbelief, and how deep is the abyss between their first and third steps!

O All-merciful Lord, in truth, besides Thee we have no one and nothing to believe in. Thou art our Savior from darkness, sin and death.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.