Varlaam Hegumen

XI pageKyivan RusPrincely times

Reverend Varlaam (Balaam) of Pechersk (birth place and date unknown – 1065, town of Volodymyr, now Volodymyr-Volynsky, Volyn Oblast) – Saint of the Kyiv-Pechersk monastery, first Hegumen of the Kyiv-Pechersk Monastery.

Son of Yan Vyshatych, Voivode of Kyiv, representative of the old boyar family, grandson of Vyshata Ostromyrych. Had a good Christian education and from his young years was notable for his moral virtues. Visiting the Reverend Anthony, he took to the pious life of the Kyiv-Pechersk monks and decided to leave the worldly life with all its temptations forever and live in a cave. He revealed his secret wish to the Reverend Anthony, who, however approving the youth’s intention, made a remark that the glory of this world could turn him away from the monastic life. A day after this conversation with the Reverend Anthony Varlaam left the paternal home and his bride and, luxuriously clad, with a numerous retinue, on the richly caparisoned horse rode to the Reverend Anthony’s cave. Meek monks met him with a bow and respect. Varlaam, lighting off the horse and making a bow to the ground, took off his rich boyar garments and laid them down at the Reverend’s feet, then led his horse and retinue to him and said humbly: “Here are the temptations of the worldly life; do with them whateveryou like, I consider them nil, I want to live with you in a cave to find Christ and never return home.” The Reverend answered: “Remember, son, whom you make a promise and whose warrior you want to be. Here God’s Angels stand invisible and receive your promises. Look: if your father comes here and takes you away by force we shall not be able to help you, and you’ll turn out to be a liar and an apostate!” But Varlaam told: “Even if my father torments me, I will not return to the worldly life and only beg of you to tonsure me.” After that, at behest of the Reverend Anthony the blessed Nikon tonsured him and clad him into a monk’s habit.

This event, narrated in the Kyiv-Pechersk Paterikon, took place in 1055. The Reverend Varlaam became the first Hegumen of the Kyiv-Pechersk Monastery. Taking over the direction, he excelled even greater in his monastic deeds. Gradually, the monks’ community grew. When their number reached twenty the Reverend Varlaam noted that the cave church was too small and could not house all monks. In 1058, with the blessing of the Reverend Anthony, he built the wooden Church of the Dormition over the cave. Since then, the place of housing of the holy hermits became visible for all. The Reverend Varlaam was the Hegumen of the Pechersk Monastery not long. By will of the Grand Prince Iziaslav Yaroslavych he was transferred “to the Monastery of the Holy Great Martyr Demetrios and was consecrated the Hegumen.”

St. Demetrios’s Monastery was founded by the Grand Prince Iziaslav in honour of the Great Martyr Demetrios, his Patron Saint. In it, the Reverend Varlaam continued to tend his new flock trusted to him with the same devoutedness. He worked for introduction of the spirit and canons of the venerable Pechersk Fathers in the new cloister. God blessed the work of the Reverend Hegumen and the new cloister became famous for virtues and great deeds of its monks. The Reverend Varlaam made two pilgrimages to the holy places in Jerusalem and Constantinople, both for the blessing of his soul and the good of the Church, wishing to know better the life of the monks of the Eastern Church and study the order of service. Returning from his second pilgrimage, he fell ill and died at St. Volodymyr’s Sviatohirsky Monastery in Zymne (Volyn). Before his death, he requested to be buried in the Pechersk Monastery to which he bequeathed all icons and church plate he got in Constantinople. He was buried in the Near Caves of the Kyiv-Pechersk Monastery.

Portrait (imaginary) of St. Varlaam of Pechersk