Saint Anthony of the Kiev Caves was born in the year 983 at Liubech, not far from Chernigov, and was named Antipas in Baptism. Possessing the fear of God from his youth, he desired to be clothed in the monastic schema. When he reached a mature age, he wandered until he arrived on Mount Athos, burning with the desire to emulate the deeds of its holy inhabitants. Here he received monastic tonsure, and the young monk pleased God in every aspect of his spiritual struggles on the path of virtue. He particularly excelled in humility and obedience, so that all the monks rejoiced to see his holy life.
The abbot saw in Saint Anthony the great future ascetic, and inspired by God, he sent him back to his native land, saying, “Anthony, it is time for you to guide others in holiness. Return to your own Russian land, and be an example for others. May the blessing of the Holy Mountain be with you.”
Returning to the land of Rus, Anthony began to make the rounds of the monasteries about Kiev, but nowhere did he find that strict life which had drawn him to Mount Athos.
Through the Providence of God, Anthony came to the hills of Kiev by the banks of the River Dnieper. The forested area near the village of Berestovo reminded him of his beloved Athos. There he found a cave which had been dug out by the Priest Hilarion, who later became Metropolitan of Kiev. Since he liked the spot, Anthony prayed with tears, “Lord, let the blessing of Mount Athos be upon this spot, and strengthen me to remain here.” He began to struggle in prayer, fasting, vigil and physical labor. Every other day, or every third day, he would eat only dry bread and a little water. Sometimes he did not eat for a week. People began to come to the ascetic for his blessing and counsel, and some decided to remain with the saint.
The virtuous life of Saint Anthony illumined the Russian land with the beauty of monasticism. Saint Anthony lovingly received those who yearned for the monastic life. When twelve disciples had gathered about Saint Anthony, the brethren dug a large cave and built a church and cells for the monks within it.
After he appointed Abbot Barlaam to guide the brethren, Saint Anthony withdrew from the monastery. He dug a new cave for himself, then hid himself within it. There too, monks began to settle around him. Afterwards, the saint built a small wooden church in honor of the Dormition of the Mother of God over the Far Caves.
At the insistence of Prince Izyaslav, the abbot Barlaam withdrew to the Dimitriev monastery. With the blessing of Saint Anthony and with the general agreement of the brethren, the meek and humble Theodosius was chosen as abbot. By this time, the number of brethren had already reached a hundred men. The Kiev Great Prince Izyaslav (d. 1078) gave the monks the hill on which the large church and cells were built, with a palisade all around. Thus, the renowned monastery over the caves was established.
Describing this, the chronicler remarks that while many monasteries were built by emperors and nobles, they could not compare with those which are built with holy prayers and tears, and by fasting and vigil. Although Saint Anthony had no gold, he built a monastery which became the first spiritual center of Rus.
For his holiness of life, God glorified Saint Anthony with the gift of clairvoyance and wonderworking. One example of this occurred during the construction of the Great Caves church. The Most Holy Theotokos Herself stood before him and Saint Theodosius in the Blachernae church in Constantinople, where they had been miraculously transported without leaving their own monastery.
Having received gold from the Mother of God, the saints commissioned master architects, who came from Constantinople to the Russian land on the command of the Queen of Heaven to build the church at the Monastery of the Caves. During this appearance, the Mother of God foretold the impending death of Saint Anthony, which occurred on July 10, 1073.
Through Divine Providence, the relics of Saint Anthony remain hidden.
Saint Theodosius is considered to be the Father of monasticism in Russia. He was born at Vasilevo, not far from Kiev. From his youth he felt an irresistible attraction for the ascetic life, and led an ascetic lifestyle while still in his parental home. He disdained childish games and attractions, and constantly went to church. He asked his parents to let him study the holy books, and through his ability and rare zeal, he quickly learned to read the books, so that everyone was amazed at his intellect.
When he was fourteen, he lost his father and remained under the supervision of his mother, a strict and domineering woman who loved her son very much. Many times she chastised her son for his yearning for asceticism, but he remained firmly committed to his path.
At the age of twenty-four, he secretly left his parents’ home and Saint Anthony at the Kiev Caves monastery blessed him to receive monastic tonsure with the name Theodosius. After four years his mother found him and tearfully begged him to return home, but the saint persuaded her to remain in Kiev and herself to become a nun.
Saint Theodosius toiled at the monastery more than others, and he often took upon himself some of the work of the other brethren. He carried water, chopped wood, ground up the grain, and carried the flour to each monk. He came to church before anyone else and, standing in one place, he did not leave it until the end of services. He also listened to the readings with particular attention.
In 1054 Saint Theodosius was ordained a hieromonk, and in 1057 he was chosen as abbot of the monastery. The fame of his deeds attracted a number of monks to the monastery, at which he built a new church and cells, and introduced cenobitic rule of the Studion monastery, a copy of which he commissioned at Constantinople.
As the abbot, Saint Theodosius continued his arduous duties at the monastery. He usually ate only dry bread and cooked greens without oil, and spent his nights in prayer without sleep. The brethren often noticed this, although the saint tried to conceal his efforts from others.
No one saw when Saint Theodosius dozed lightly, and usually he rested while sitting. During Great Lent the saint withdrew into a cave near the monastery, where he struggled unseen by anyone. His attire was a coarse hairshirt worn next to his body. He looked so much like a beggar that it was impossible to recognize in this old man the renowned abbot, deeply respected by all who knew him.
Once, Saint Theodosius was returning from visiting the Great Prince Izyaslav. The coachman, not recognizing him, said gruffly, “You, monk, are always on holiday, but I am constantly at work. Take my place, and let me ride in the carriage.” The holy Elder meekly complied and drove the servant. Seeing how nobles along the way bowed to the monk driving the horses, the servant took fright, but the holy ascetic calmed him, and gave him a meal at the monastery. Trusting in God’s help, the saint did not keep a large supply of food at the monastery, and therefore the brethren were in want of their daily bread. Through his prayers, however, unknown benefactors appeared at the monastery and furnished the necessities for the brethren.
The Great Princes, especially Izyaslav, loved to listen to the spiritual discourses of Saint Theodosius. The saint was not afraid to denounce the mighty of this world. Those unjustly condemned always found a defender in him, and judges would review matters at the request of the abbot. He was particularly concerned for the destitute. He built a special courtyard for them at the monastery where anyone in need could receive food and drink. Sensing the approach of death, Saint Theodosius peacefully fell asleep in the Lord in the year 1074. He was buried in a cave which he dug, where he had secluded himself during fasting periods.
The relics of the ascetic were found incorrupt in the year 1090, and Saint Theodosius was glorified as a saint in 1108. Of the written works of Saint Theodosius six discourses, two letters to Great Prince Izyaslav, and a prayer for all Christians have survived to our time.