That Which is Bread

Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? – Isaiah

A Saint and a Mystery


Feodor Kuzmich (contemporary portrait)

St Feodor (Theodore) Kuzmich of Tomsk (+1864, commemorated Jan. 20)

The staretz was known and loved as a solitary palomnik in the Tomsk region of Siberia. He was officially glorified by the Russian Church in 1984.

The mystery: There is a persistent legend that St Feodor was in fact the Tsar Alexander I, who had faked his own death in 1825 in order to leave the world and practice an ascetical life in secret. The story has never been proven or disproven, but the circumstances of the Tsar’s death (if death it was) were peculiar, and when Soviet authorities opened his tomb in 1925 it was found to be empty.

St Feodor gave evidence of coming from an educated background and seemed familiar with the workings of the Imperial court, but he never spoke of his origins. Some members of the Imperial family, including Tsar Nicholas II, believed that St Feodor was Tsar Alexander.

The intriguing tale is told in Alexis Troubetzkoy’s Imperial Legend: The Mysterious Disappearance of Tsar Alexander I.

All the financial advice we need — again.

Coptic Icon of St. Anthony the Great

In an earlier post I noted these words from the Prologue about the Righteous Joachim and Anna, parents of the Most Holy Theotokos:

They lived devoutly and quietly,and of all their income they spent one third on themselves, distributed one third to the poor and gave the other third to the Temple,and they were well provided for.

Recently I found this strikingly similar story in Contemporary Ascetics of Mount Athos by Archimandrite Cherubim, who re-tells this story about Saint Anthony the Great:

In Alexandria there was a shoemaker who lived very virtuously. He had attained the heights of humility, and saw himself as worse than all the inhabitants of the city. He certainly did not have great possessions, but the little that he earned from his daily labors he used in a very God-pleasing way. He divided it in three parts. One he kept for his personal needs, another he gave to the poor, and the third he dedicated to the Church. At one time God revealed to St. Anthony the Great that this shoemaker was higher in virtue than he.
“Anthony,” He said to him, “you have not yet reached the measure of this shoemaker of Alexandria.”
Let us pray that there will be some Christians who will dispose of their wealth in this way. Then men will thank them, God will bless them, and their consciences will feel great peace.
Contemporary Ascetics of Mount Athos, Vol. 2, p. 465

Perhaps we have, if not a prescription, a consistent model of how Saints living in the world have dealt with their “finances.”

I can hear the voices (not least in my own head) insisting that such an approach is unworkable. But another voice says “Are you sure?”