850th anniversary of St. Euphrosyne of Polotsk in Belarusian Church

Minsk, Belarus, June 5, 2023

Photo: ross-bel.ru Photo: ross-bel.ru     

The Belarusian Orthodox Church is celebrating the 850th anniversary of the repose of its most beloved saint, St. Euphrosnye of Polotsk, this year.

Venerable Euphrosyne was a 12th-century princess who chose the angelic life of monasticism, having loved prayer from her childhood. She founded the Savior-Transfiguration Monastery in Seltso, and through her efforts, a cathedral was built in 1161 that survives to this day. She peacefully reposed in the Lord while on pilgrimage in the Holy Land in 1173.

The memory of St. Euphrosyne is being celebrated today with a primatial Divine Liturgy in the monastery that she founded.

The Holy Synod of the Belarusian Orthodox Church issued an epistle in honor of the occasion:

Beloved in the Lord, all-honorable pastors, monks, nuns,
and the whole God-loving Belarusian flock!

Today, on the Day of the Holy Spirit, the fullness of the Belarusian Orthodox Church honors the memory of our Reverend Mother Euphrosyne, Abbess of Polotsk: a great ascetic, educator, and intercessor for the Belarusian people.

Eight and a half centuries have passed since the day when, during her pilgrimage to the Holy Land, the Venerable Euphrosyne passed from this temporal life into eternity. “In Jerusalem the flesh reposed, to the Heavenly Jerusalem the spirit takes up abode, and there prays for us forever,” reads the akathist to the saint. Far from her homeland, in the earthly homeland of the Savior of the world, the saint offered her last prayers. In an “angelic vision” it was given to her to learn of her impending repose. Having accomplished the feat of ascension to spiritual heights and having partaken of the Holy Mysteries of Christ, the saint delivered her immortal soul into the hands of the Lord. Upon her death, she was granted the great right and opportunity to intercede at the throne of God for her descendants and all those who honor her memory.

The life of St. Euphrosyne of Polotsk is a vivid testimony of deep faith and ascetic labors, tireless struggle with the old man, and growth in virtues, a model of wise spiritual guidance and active creation, and above all, an example of incessant fervent prayer. Without Me ye can do nothing (Jn. 15:5), says the Savior. So the Venerable Euphrosyne, as a good branch grafted onto Christ, placed all her trust in God, and therefore saw the fruits of her prayers during her earthly life.

The Abbess of Polotsk lived in a difficult time of internecine wars and unrest. As the life of the saint testifies, “She made every effort to pacify the warring: ‘I don’t want to see anyone feuding, neither prince with prince, nor noble with noble, nor commoner with his friend, but I everyone to be of one soul.” The word of St. Euphrosyne of Polotsk had such power, such sacrificial maternal love for everyone, that princes, warriors, and ordinary people obeyed her.

The saint has forever entered the memory of the people as an educator. She not only patronized literary art, but copied books with her own hands, and distributed all the proceeds from their sale to the poor. Under her care, a stone Church of the Transfiguration of the Savior was erected and decorated with inspired iconography. By a miracle of God, this church has come down to our days as a sign of the imperishable beauty of Orthodoxy, as a joy and consolation for pilgrims from Belarus and abroad.

With the blessing of the Venerable Euphrosyne, an altar cross with a particle of the Tree of the Cross of the Lord and a drop of the Savior’s Blood, particles of stones from the Holy Sepulchre and the Tomb of the Mother of God, and the relics of many saints of God was made. “The honorable, priceless Tree,” the inscription on it reads. This cross has become a spiritual symbol of Belarus, an image of the lot of the cross and the glory of the cross of our long-suffering pious people. In 1997, the saint’s Nun was recreated, and today we venerate this great shrine with deep reverence.

Throughout her life, from her youth to her last breath, St. Euphrosyne fulfilled the Savior’s commandment about love for God and neighbors. She was “a help to the offended, a consolation to the grieving, a garment for the naked, a visit for the sick, and, to put it simply, she was everything to everyone.”

Just as St. Euphrosyne grew in virtues every year during her lifetime, so did the glory and veneration of the saint that followed her blessed death. We find evidence in the stichera of the 12th century, dedicated to the “all-honorable Euphrosyne,” where she is characterized as “the overshadowing tree and the uncovered root of the land of Rus’”. The life of St. Euphrosyne of Polotsk was included in the composition of the Great Synaxarion by the Archbishop Makary of Novgorod, later Metropolitan of Moscow.

For some time, the relics of the saint of Christ remained in the Holy Land, then her honest body was transferred to the caves of the Kiev Caves Lavra. In 1910, the relics of the saint were solemnly transferred from Kiev to Polotsk, where, with the exception of the tragic events of the 20th century, they were and are to this day.

Thus, centuries later, returning to her earthly destiny, the Venerable Euphrosyne confirmed the prophetic words she uttered on the threshold of her last journey to the Holy Land: “I do not want to leave you, but to pray for myself and for you in those holy places.”

In the most terrible God-fighting times, in the midst of the hard times of war, during the years of repression and desolation, the Polotsk ascetic remained with our people. And now, when monastic life continues in the revived Savior-Euphrosyne Monastery, St. Euphrosyne never deprives us of her merciful intercession and prayerful help.

The life path of the great abbess of Polotsk is a vivid example of the fact that the Orthodox Church is strong not by human power, but by God’s power. Today, many argue that the rhythm of modern life leaves us no strength for deep spiritual work. However, the saint’s example testifies that any time in which the Lord grants a man to be born, it is for the good of his salvation. A true Christian can always be faithful to Christ and His commandments despite all difficulties and temptations.

Today we prayerfully honor the memory of the great saint of the Belarusian land—St. Euphrosyne, Abbess of Polotsk, and ask her intercession at the throne of God for all our people, so that God might grant us His help and zeal for spiritual life. May the Lord, through the prayers of St. Euphrosyne, preserve peace in our land, grant peace and harmony to fraternal peoples, and help each of us to strive for the purity of our own hearts and the heights of the moral life.

O venerable and ever-memorable, our all-praiseworthy mother Euphrosyne, pray to God for us sinners!


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