The memory of St. Triphon of Petsamo
"Having arrived in the ultimate north as the first man to enlighten
its people/Thou, oh St. Triphon, guided the people of the North onto the
road to life/and regenerated them from water and the Holy Ghost./Thou
planted Thy spiritual children in the fruitless and rocky country like
the oiltrees of the South/and founded a monastery in the name of the Holy
Trinity./Therefore, we honor Thee as our apostle and as one who strives
for a life without fault in the wilderness, and we fervently beseech Thee:/Pray
to God for all those who honor Thy memory." (St. Triphon's troparion,
St. Triphon of Petsamo was born into a priest's family in the town of
Torzhek in the region of Novgorod in 1495. He was baptized Mitrophan.
It is told that he was, as a young man, impressed by the words "Blessed
is their way of life who, guided by God, strive in the desert for a life
without sin". In silence, he also heard the call "Go
and defend the faith in the uninhabited and ignorant land where God's
word has not yet been preached but where thirst is great, for I who have
mercy have remembered my people, and the love of my covenant is as great
as ever." And the voice continued: "Be not reluctant,
but go where I lead you, and say what I give you to say."
Mitrophan interpreted the words as a call to do apostolic work, and left
for the north, to bring enlightenment to the Skolt Lapps living on the
rivers and fjords there. He preached the gospel to the Skolt Sámi
for two decades, converting slowly a great part of the population living
in the area between the rivers Petsamojoki, Paatsjoki and Näätämöjoki.
With permission from Bishop Makar in Novgorod, Mitrophan built a small
and simple church - later consecrated to the Holy Trinity - on the river
Petsamojoki. When visiting the Kola Peninsula, Ilja from Novgorod - a
monk in holy orders - consecrated the church and baptized the Lapps who
had adopted the Christian belief. On the same day - February 1st 1533
- Mitrophan was ordained a monk and given the name Triphon. This is also
considered the day when the Petsamo monastery was founded.
|Petsamo Monastery in the
1930s. A colored glass negative. Photo: Suomen Matkailijayhdistys
Monk Triphon continued to convert Skolt Sámi into the Christian
faith in Petsamo, but he was also anxious about the economy of the monastery.
He travelled to the region of Novgorod to collect means for the monastery
and visited Czar Ivan the Terrible in Moscow, to get his recognition for
the monastery. In addition to the official recognition, the Czar granted
the monastery of Petsamo a deed of donation - dated November 1st 1556
- through which the monastery received large land areas and the fishing
rights to the waters in these areas. In addition, Monk Triphon used the
means donated by the Czar for building three churches: a church consecrated
to the holy princes Boris and Gleb on the river Paatsjoki, a small chapel
consecrated to the great martyr Georgios on the river Näätämöjoki,
and a church concecrated to the Death of the One Who Bore God on the river
Later, Monk Triphon himself was buried by the last-mentioned church.
He died on December 15th 1583. Before dying, he foresaw the devastation
of the monastery but comforted the fraternity by saying that, with God's
help, the monastery could be raised from the ashes. The troops of Pekka
Vesainen ravaged the monastery and killed 116 monks on Christmas night
in 1589. After this, it took hundreds of years for the monastery of Petsamo
to flourish again: this happened as late as the 1880s.