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November 15 Saints of the Day – Paisius Velichkovsky and Albert the Great

On this day in 1660, the first kosher butcher, Asser Levy, was licensed in New York City. And that’s no chopped liver.

Paisius VelichkovskyPaisius Velichkovsky (1722 – 1794) was born in Ukraine, studied at the Moghila Academy for four years, and decided to become a monk. He took the rason (a garment that rasophore (“authorized to wear the rason”) monks wear) (there’s no reason you shouldn’t share in my delight (kof) with online circular definitions), taking the name Platon. Under various elders at various monasteries he learned the “prayer of the heart,” a devotional (some would say mystical) (but they would, wouldn’t they?) practice centered on the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Later he moved to Athos, where he was made a schemamonk (a monk authorized to wear the schema), taking the name Paisius. He believed monastic piety should be grounded in the Fathers, so he collected, copied, and translated them, eventually creating the first Slavonic edition of the Philokalia, the ancient collection of writings on the contemplative life. In 1746 he received the Great Schema, the highest “rank” (sorta) of monkdom. In 1754 he was made a priest so he could attend to the priest-requiring needs of his growing flock of disciples.

In 1764 he was invited to return to Moldavia to revive its monastic piety, which he did with a will. His promotion of heyschasm and spiritual eldership (starets-osity) spread throughout the Slavic world as his disciples fanned out into Russia, Ukraine, and other such places. He lived to see his life’s work, the Slavonic Philokalia, published, and died the next year. Oddly, they dug his relics up four times between 1846 and 1872 to make sure they were still incorrupt (they were). His Philokalia was a favorite book of St. Seraphim of Sarov, and came to North America with St. Herman of Alaska. Much of the strength of Slavic monasticism today is credited to Paisius Velichkovsky.

We end with a story. Platon overslept one Sunday, and running to the church, realized he was late for the Gospel reading. In sorrow, he returned to his cell and wept. When he didn’t show up for lunch, the Elder sent someone to find out if he was okay. He explained through his tears what had happened, falling down before the brothers and fathers and uncles (etc.) and asking for forgiveness. He was eventually consoled, accepting even that it wasn’t entirely his fault. But from that day forward, and I kid you not, he slept kneeling.

Albert the GreatAlbert the Great (Albertus Magnus) (1206 – 1280) was born in Bavaria, although there is no historical evidence he ever wore Lederhosen (which is just as well). After an “encounter” with the Blessed Virgin (dream? vision? chat over a cup of tea? the sources don’t say), he joined the Dominicans and studied theology, much to the chagrin of his family, who didn’t want him to. He taught in several places, and received his doctorate in Paris (where they grew on trees).

Albert is most famous for reviving European interest in Aristotle and other ancient Greeks (excepting Zorba), and for teaching all that to his famousest pupil, Thomas Aquinas. He (Albert) was conversant (and surprisingly accurate for his day) in many areas, including logic, theology, botany, geography, physics, astronomy, astrology, mineralogy, alchemy, zoology, physiology, phrenology, justice, law, friendship, love, and mathematics (I saved the best for last). He also commented extensively on Muslim scientist Averroës, although he was not sparing in his criticisms of what he saw as Averroës’ errors. (As these are universally known, I won’t belabor them.)

After a stint as Provincial of the Dominicans, he was made Bishop of Regensburg, where he won fame by refusing to ride a horse to parish visits, earning him the sobriquet “Boots the Bishop” (you seriously can’t make this stuff up). Yet perhaps his boots wore out, as he resigned that post after three years. He defended the orthodoxy of Aquinas (whose death greatly grieved him), commented knowledgeably on music (he thought the “music of the spheres” was absurd; planets don’t make noise), and was (posthumously of course) declared a Doctor of the Church. He is the patron of medical technicians and the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.


Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.


Bibliography
This Day in History for 15th November
Paisius Velichkovsky (Wikipedia) – Main source
Venerable Paisius Velichkovsky (OCA)
Philokalia (Wikipedia)
Icon of Paisius from Wikimedia (public domain)
Albertus Magnus (Wikipedia) – Main source
Saint Albert the Great (SQPN)
Fresco of Albert (Treviso, Italy, 1352 by Tommaso da Modena) via Wikimedia (public domain)

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About Your Intrepid Blogger

I live in the Tacoma area. When not writing things some people think are funny, I teach technology to 7th and 8th graders at a local middle school.

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