Saint Jonah was born in the city of Galich into a pious Christian family. The father of the future saint was named Theodore. The youth received monastic tonsure in one of the Galich monasteries when he was only twelve years old. From there, he transferred to the Moscow Simonov monastery, where he fulfilled various obediences for many years.
Once, saint Photius, Metropolitan of Moscow, visited the Simonov monastery. After the Moleben service, he blessed the archimandrite and brethren, and also wished to bless those monks who were fulfilling their obediences in the monastery.
When he came to the bakery, he saw Jonah sleeping, exhausted from his work. The fingers of the saint’s right hand were positioned in a gesture of blessing. Saint Photius said not to wake him. He blessed the sleeping monk and predicted to those present that this monk would be a great hierarch of the Church, and would guide many on the way to salvation. The prediction of saint Photius was fulfilled. Several years later, Jonah was made Bishop of Ryazan and Murom.
Saint Photius died in 1431. Five years after his death, Jonah was chosen Metropolitan of All Russia for his virtuous and holy life. The newly-elected Metropolitan journeyed to Constantinople in order to be confirmed as Metropolitan by Patriarch Joseph II (1416-1439). Shortly before this the nefarious Isidore, a Bulgarian, had already been established as Metropolitan. Spending a short time at Kiev and Moscow, Isidore journeyed to the Council of Florence (1438), where he embraced Catholicism.
A Council of Russian hierarchs and clergy deposed Metropolitan Isidore, and he was compelled to flee secretly to Rome (where he died in 1462). Jonah was unanimously chosen Metropolitan of All Russia. He was consecrated by Russian hierarchs in Moscow, with the blessing of Patriarch Gregory III (1445-1450) of Constantinople. This was the first time that Russian bishops consecrated their own Metropolitan. Jonah became Metropolitan on December 15, 1448. With archpastoral zeal he led his flock to virtue and piety, spreading the Orthodox Faith by word and by deed. Despite his lofty position, he continued with his monastic struggles as before.
In 1451, the Tatars unexpectedly advanced on Moscow. They burned the surrounding area and prepared for an assault on the city. Metropolitan Jonah led a procession along the walls of the city, tearfully entreating God to save the city and the people. Seeing the dying monk Anthony of the Chudov monastery, who was noted for his virtuous life, Jonah said, “My son and brother Anthony! Pray to the Merciful God and the most pure Mother of God for the deliverance of the city and for all Orthodox Christians.”
The humble Anthony replied, “Great hierarch! We give thanks to God and to His most pure Mother. She has heard your prayer and has prayed to her Son. The city and all Orthodox Christians will be saved through your prayers. The enemy will soon take flight. The Lord has ordained that I alone am to be killed by the enemy.” Just as the Elder said this, an enemy arrow struck him.
The prediction of Elder Anthony was made on July 2, on the Feast of the Placing of the Robe of the Most Holy Theotokos. Confusion broke out among the Tatars, and they fled in fear and terror. In his courtyard, Jonah built a church in honor of the Placing of the Robe of the Most Holy Theotokos, to commemorate the deliverance of Moscow from the enemy.
Saint Jonah reposed in the year 1461, and miraculous healings began to take place at his grave. In 1472, the incorrupt relics of Metropolitan Jonah were uncovered and placed in the Dormition Cathedral of the Kremlin. A Council of the Russian Church in 1547 established the commemoration of Saint Jonah, Metropolitan of Moscow.
Having dedicated your whole life to the Lord from your youth,
you were a paradigm of virtue in prayer, labor and fasting.
God, having seen your good intent,
raised you up as a high priest and shepherd of His Church.
Therefore, even after your repose,
your honorable body was preserved whole and incorrupt.
O Hierarch Jonah, pray to Christ God that He may save our souls.
Since you served the Lord from your youth, O wise one,
and disciplined your body through fasting and vigil,
you were revealed to be a pure vessel and the dwelling place of the Most Holy Spirit.
Thus, the Church established you to be a hierarch and shepherd,
and having tended it well, you departed to the Lord, Whom you loved.
Therefore, we entreat you to remember us, who honor your holy memory with faith,
so that we may sing to you, “Rejoice, Father Jonah, most honorable hierarch.”