Orthodox America

   Saint Artemy of Verkola

 Commemorated June 23

    One does not have to be famous, rich, powerful, or wise in order to please God. What one does need is ardent faith, a pure heart, and an awareness of God's omnipotence, His all-mighty power over everything that is in the world. One must speak to Him with absolute trust, confiding in Him one's every thought, every feeling, just as a loving child speaks to his mother.

    And from time to time the Lord confirms those mysterious words that He spoke while He was still on earth: I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes (Matt. 11:25). He pours His grace upon children who lived unknown and unnoticed by the world but who shone before God in the purity and righteousness of their young souls.

It was in this manner that a young peasant boy, living in a remote corner of northern Russia, became a wonderworker. His soul was such a treasury of virtue that when he was only twelve years old he was crowned with sanctity, which other ascetics have attained only after a long life of tireless labor.

     The blessed Artemy was born in 1532 in the northern village of Verkola, by the river Pinega. His father's name was Cosmas, and his mother's Appolinaria. They led a simple, rather ordinary life, but from an early age it was evident that Artemy was very special in the eyes of God, for his soul inclined towards Him just as a sunflower involuntarily inclines its head towards the sun.

When he was only five years old, a noticeable change came over him: he no longer wished to occupy himself with the usual activities of children his age, he had no interest in games or other amusements; rather, he wanted to spend all his free time in church. He loved to work and tried in whatever way he could to help with the household chores, eagerly obeying his parents in all things. When there was no work to be done, he would go out where no one could see him and there he prayed.

Artemy was twelve years old, when he was helping his father one day in the fields. As they were plowing, a storm suddenly moved in. A thick layer of clouds drew across the sky, and it became dark as night. Moments later a torrential rain pounded the earth. There was a deafening clap of thunder and a bolt of lightning struck the young Artemy, killing him on the spot. He died 23 June, 1544.

Nature itself claimed God's child, who lived the same pure life like a tree in the woods or a blade of grass in a meadow. His body was placed in a small clearing in the woods, without being buried in the ground. A wooden shell was constructed over it, and a fence was built around it. In time the boy would no doubt have been forgotten, but it pleased God to reveal him to the world as a wonderworker equal in honor to some of the great ascetics.

Thirty-three years after Artemy's tragic death, one of the local deacons, by the name of Agafonik, was gathering wild berries when he saw a light emanating from the place where the youth's body had been laid. The deacon came closer and saw to his astonishment that the body of the boy showed no signs of decay; it looked, in fact, as if the boy were simply sleeping. Above the boy was a radiant light. The deacon hurried to the nearest village and told the priest and the local peasants what he had discovered. They all went to see for themselves and found it just as the deacon had described. Then they carried Artemy's incorrupt body back to the village and placed it in a coffin in the entrance to the church of Saint Nicholas. It had been a terrible year for the whole region. A bad flu epidemic was going around; some people had already died. The son of one of the peasants in Verkola, Kallinik, was sick with it. Seeking relief for his son, Kallinik prayed fervently to the Lord Jesus Christ, to the Most Holy Virgin, to Saint Nicholas, and to the young Artemy. He venerated the youth's relics and took a piece of the birch-bark covering the coffin. Coming home, he put this piece of birch-bark on his son's chest, and the boy immediately recovered. The father related the miracle to the other villagers, who similarly took pieces of birch-bark and placed them on the sick in their households. These, too, were healed, and soon there was no trace of the epidemic.

Miracles continued to flow from the relics of the youth: the blind regained their sight, the lame began to walk, the deaf to hear; old and young, men and women received healing. The number of miracles increased to such an extent that it was impossible to write them all down, and the fame of the young boy from Verkola spread far and wide, to the glory of God, Who is wondrous in His saints.

Translated and adapted from Svyataya Yunost', a pre-Revolutionary publication, reprinted Moscow 1994.