Orthodox America

  Saint Tryphon of Pechenga – Enlightener of Lapland

+ December 15, 1583

Saint Tryphon, called Mitrofan in baptism, was born of a religious family in the city of Torzhok in the province of Tver. In churcg one day he was struck by the words "Life is blessed for those in the wilderness as they fly upon the wings of divine love" (First Antiphon, Tone 5). Inspired by a thirst for prayer, he began seeking solitude in remote areas. Once he heard a voice: "I, Who pity you, have remembered you: go into the thirsty earth where no one has lived!" Mitrofan was frightened. Again came the voice: "I am Jesus Whom you serve in this wilderness!" Still more terrified, Mitrofan replied: "Lord, I am an ignorant and unlearned man!' "Do not dare to contradict Me," answered the voice. "Go where I send you, say what I command you to say." The youth gave himself over to prayer with yet greater zeal, for he understood that the "thirsty earth" referred to pagan people.

      Between 1520-1525 he went north to the fiver Kola. This was a savage, impenetrable land, covered with craggy mountains, chasms, bogs and tundra. It was inhabited by Laplanders--a wild, idol worshipping people. When Mitrofan began preaching the Gospel to them, their sorcerers, "kebrouni", incited the people against him, and he was often subject to insults and beaten. His life was frequently in danger: more than once he had to hide in the mountains and caves of the earth, but he always returned to his persecutors and continued his preaching, He led an ascetic life, devoting his nights to prayer and, finally, his meekness gave him the victory: the number of his listeners increased and, where the Pechenga flows into the Arctic, he built for them a church dedicated to the Holy Life--creating Trinity. But he did not venture to baptize them himself.

At last, in 1532, a hieromonk, Fr. Elias, came from Koli and consecrated the church; he baptized all those who so desired and tonsured Mitrofan, giving him the name Tryphon By the church Tryphon founded a monastery. Abbot Gury was appointed as superior. The poverty of the monastery was extreme. In 1556 both elders traveled to Moscow, where Tsar Ivan IV (“the Terrible") made them a rich donation and bestowed upon them an award citation.

       On the site of his original cell, 12 miles from the hermitage on the Pechenga River, St. Tryphon founded the Dormition Hermitage and willed to be buried there, while on the very boundary of Norway and Russia he constructed a church dedicated to the Holy Passion-bearers, Princes Boris and Gleb. (The church exists to this day.) Tryphon brought millstones for the monastery,  and carried them 100 miles: "It’s better for me to hang a millstone about my neck, he said, "than to pose as a temptation to the brothers through idleness."

      Once he was kneading dough and went out. In his absence, a bear came; he tipped over the tub and began eating the dough. Just then the Saint returned, he ordered the bear not to move, and hit him several times with a stick: "In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, I am beating you for what you have done" Then he released the bear. After this incident wild animals no longer bothered the monastery, and the monastery reindeer could graze in peace.

      Saint Tryphon reposed on December 16, 1583, having foretold before his death the destruction of the monastery at the hands of the Swedes. This occurred in 1590; one hundred monks and workmen were killed. The first to suffer was Elder Jonah. He appeared once with Saint Tryphon to a sick monk who had transgressed the monastic rule and, having exhorted him, healed him. And there were other cases of monks who committed the same sin; Saint Tryphon would appear to them and chasten them with some illness; then, after they repented, he would heal them. And he performed many other miracles

       His monastery, burned by the Swedes, was transferred closer to the Norwegian border. It was destroyed in 1764, but was restored in 1880, and exists to this day.

(Translated from Zhltia Russkikh Sviatikh 1000 Let Russkoi Sviatosti, by Nun Taisia; Jordanville, 1984)