Saint Paphnutius of Borovsk was born in 1394 in the village of Kudinovo, not far from Borovsk, and at Baptism he was named Parphenius. His father John was the son of a baptized Tatar, a “baskak” (“tax-collector”) named Martin, and his mother was named Photinia. At 20 years of age, Parphenius left his parental home and in the year 1414 accepted monastic tonsure with the name Paphnutius at the Pokrov-Protection Monastery on the Heights, under its head, Markell (i.e. Marcellus). The Monk Paphnutius worked in ascetic labors for many years at the monastery. When the head of the monastery died, the brethren chose him as hegumen. Saint Photius Metropolitan of Kiev, ordained him to the priestly dignity (in about the year 1426). The saint spent thirty years at the Pokrov monastery, wherein he was both the head and the clergy-starets (elder). At 51 years of age, he fell grievously ill, gave up being the hegumen, and took on the great-schema. After a restoration to health on the day of the holy Great Martyr George the Victory-Bearer, 23 April 1444, he withdrew from the monastery and settled with one monk on the left bank of the River Protva, at the confluence into it of the River Ister’ma. Soon brethren began to gather to him at this new place. The number of the monks grew quickly. A new stone church was built in place of the former wooden one, in honor of the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God. In the icon-frescoes there took part the finest iconographer of those times, – Dionysius and his assistants. Saint Paphnutius gave example to the brethren, leading a strict life: his cell was the poorest of all, and from food, he took the worst. On Mondays and Fridays, he did not eat at all, and on Wednesdays, he partook only of dry foods. From the overall tasks, the monk chose the most difficult: he chopped and carried firewood, dug up and cultivated the garden, and at the same time arrived first for church services.
Saint Paphnutius earned the deep respect and love not only of the brethren of his own monastery but also of other monasteries. Through the Providence of God, there was guided to Saint Paphnutius a twenty-year-old youth, – John Sanin. Having put him to the test, Saint Paphnutius tonsured him into monasticism with the name Joseph. Later on, Saint Joseph of Volotsk firmly defended the purity of the Orthodox faith and entered into struggle against the heresy of the Judaisers, condemned at a Council of 1504. The Monk Paphnutii blessed the young man in his exploits.
A week before his death Saint Paphnutius foretold his end. Having made a final prayer and blessing of the brethren, he left this world to God on 1 May 1477.
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.