Commemorated on February 12
Saint Alexei, Metropolitan of Moscow and All Russia the Wonderworker (in the world Eleutherios), was born in the year 1292 (or according to another source, 1304) at Moscow into the family of the noble Theodore Byakont, a descendant of the Chernigov princely line.
The Lord revealed to the future Saint his lofty destiny from early childhood. At twelve years of age Eleutherios went to a field and set nets to ensnare birds. He dozed off and suddenly he heard a voice: “Alexei! Why do you labor in vain? You are to be a catcher of men.”
From this day on the boy abandoned childish games and spent much time in solitude. He often attended church, and when he was fifteen he decided to become a monk.
In 1320, he entered Moscow’s Theophany Monastery, where he spent more than twelve years in strict monastic struggles. The renowned ascetics of that monastery, the Elders Gerontios and Saint Stephen (July 14), the brother of Saint Sergius of Radonezh, were guides for him and his companions.
Metropolitan Theognostos, who noticed the virtuous life and spiritual gifts of Saint Alexei, bade the future Saint to leave the monastery and manage the ecclesiastical courts. The Saint fulfilled this office for twelve years. Toward the end of 1350, Metropolitan Theognostos had Alexei consecrated as Bishop of Vladimir. Following the Metropolitan’s repose in the year 1354, Saint Alexei succeeded him.
During this period the Russian Church was torn by great rifts and quarrels, in part because of the pretensions of Metropolitan Romanos of Lithuania and Volhynia. In 1356, in order to put an end to the troubles and disturbances, the Saint went to Constantinople to see the Ecumenical Patriarch. Patriarch Kallistos gave Saint Alexei the right to be called, and to consider himself, as both Archbishop of Kiev and Great Russia with the title, “Most Venerable Metropolitan and Exarch.”
On his return journey, during a storm at sea, the ship was in danger of sinking. Saint Alexei prayed and vowed to build a temple to the Saint of that day on which the ship should come to shore. The storm subsided, and the ship arrived on August 16.
In spite of problems on every side, Saint Alexei devoted himself to his flock: he appointed bishops, and established cenobitic monasteries (on the model of the Trinity Lavra, founded by Saint Sergius), and he brought order to Russian relations with the Khans of the Horde. Saint Alexei journeyed more than once to the Golden Horde. In 1357 the Khan told the Great Prince that Saint Alexei should come to him and heal the blindness of his wife Taidulla.
“That is beyond my power,” Metropolitan Alexei replied, “but I believe that God, Who gave sight to the blind, will also help me.” By his prayers, and after sprinkling the Khan’s wife with holy water, she was healed.
When Great Prince John died, his young son Demetrios (the future saint), then still a minor, was taken under the Saint Alexei’s guardianship. The holy Hierarch had much difficulty in reconciling and appeasing the Princes, who obstinately refused to accept Moscow’s authority. Nor did Vladyka Metropolitan neglect the work of establishing new monasteries.
In 1361 he founded a Monastery dedicated to the Icon of the Savior Not Made by Hands at the Yauza in Moscow. Andronikos, the disciple of Saint Sergius, was the first Igoumen of the Monastery, thus fulfilling the vow he had made on his return journey from Constantinople, when the ship was in danger.
Metropolitan Alexei also founded the Chudov Monastery in the Moscow Kremlin. Ancient monasteries were restored: the Annunciation Monastery at Nizhni-Novgorod, and Saints Constantine and Helen at Vladimir. In 1361 a women’s cenobitic monastery was named for him (Alekse’ev).
Saint Alexei reached the advanced age of seventy-eight, having spent twenty-four years upon the metropolitan cathedra. He reposed on February 12, 1378 and was buried at the Chudov Monastery in accordance with his last wishes. His relics were uncovered in a miraculous manner fifty years later, after which the memory of the great holy Hierarch and intercessor began to be commemorated.
Saint Alexei is also commemorated on May 20 (Recovery of his relics) and on October 5 (Synaxis of the Moscow Hierarchs).