This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

August 21 -- Feast of Saint Abraham of Smolensk

Abraham was a late twelfth / early thirteenth century monk with a wide streak of independence in his theology.  He believed that faith could heal, of course, and told the common people as much.  He believed in the power of prayer, and again, he shared that with the people.  He believed that the Last Days could come at any time, and he never lost an opportunity to remind the people of that.  All these things were orthodox, of course, but their emphasis may not have been shared by the local clergy.

Criticized for his teachings, he probably wasn't subtle in exposing the worldly concerns of the established clergy.  He would not have been the first or last devout Christian to contrast the bishop's fine house and fancy table settings with the poverty preached by Jesus.  Camels and needles' eyes would have been discussed.  Those sorts of discussions sometimes ended in a fire somewhere, but Bishop Ignatius was a gentler man.  When presented with the accusations against Abraham of heresy, immorality, pride, false prophecy, and reading unorthodox scriptures,  he ordered up a fair trial.  Since it really was fair, Abraham was acquitted.  Thus, a second fair trial was ordered so that the right verdict could be delivered.  Abraham was acquitted at that one too.

Bishop Ignatius then sentenced Abraham to be stripped of his priestly functions and confined to the Bogoroditskaya Monastery, a house he had left due to disagreements.  He was placed on five years of probation as well.  Good thing he had been found not guilty (twice) or his sentence would have been much heavier.

A severe drought hit Smolensk not long after Abraham's confinement.  The saint didn't even need to say anything -- the Russian peasants could connect those dots pretty easily.  I don't think they even needed to show up at the cathedral with pitchforks and torches; a delegation of hungry farmers demanding that their saint be freed was probably clear enough to Bishop Iggy.  He reopened Abraham's case, found that restrictions had not been appropriate, apologized, and released the saint.

It rained, of course.  Vindication works like that. 

Western media's most recent interest in Russia has been over the Pussy Riot protest against Vladimir Putin at the  Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow.  I was pleased to see that representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church called for clemency following the two-year sentence imposed on the protesters. 

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