Saint Alexei Mechev
by Fr. Michael Knechten
Donald A. Lowrie, in his book, "Rebellious Prophet. A Life of Nikolai Berdyaev", London 1960, writes on Fr. Alexei Mechev:
1 - About the contacts which had Berdiaev with him in Russia: ". . .who
became Nicolai Alexandrowitsch's confessor about this time. A remarkable
and radiant personality, Father Metscheff was widely revered for his saintly
life and unusual talent for discerning the needs of those who crowded
around his doors". Berdiaev writes: "Father Metcheff rose to greet me. He
was all in white, and it seemed to me that he radiated light. I told him how
terribly painful it was for me to leave my fatherland, and he only said: 'You
must go - the west must hear your word'. In Father Metcheff Berdyaev
found again his full communion with the Orthodox Church. Eugenie says he
considered Father Metcheff a saint" (p. 155).
2 - Lowrie writes about the study of Berdiaev in Clamart: On the table was a
prayerbook "together with an icon given him by Father Metcheff on his
departure from Moscow  (p. 181).
3 - "During his Moscow period he had failed in an attempt at spiritual
contact with Elder Alexei, and it was only during and immediately after the
revolution that he met a priest, Father Metcheff, who could offer him food
for the spirit. With all his veneration for Father Metcheff, however, Berdyaev
made a distinction between his spiritual and his intellectual qualities. To a
friend he once remarked that father Metcheff 'had no concept of religious
philosophy'." (p. 220).
Who was this priest, this saint? He was born on 17 March 1859 in Moscow. After having finished school he intended to become a doctor. But his mother wished to see him as a priest. So he starts by singing in the Church of the Sign
(Znamenka). The parishpriest of this church, Fr. Giorgii, is frequently cruel and also even beats him. But Alexei endures it all and thinks to himself, this priest serves as his teacher. He says: "Such people see our faults, which we ourselves do not seeing. They help us to fight against egoism."
In 1884 he married Anna Petrovna Molchanova. In the following years are born to them their children: Alexandra, Sergei, Petr, Olga, Sofiia and Anna.
On 19 March 1894, Fr. Alexei is ordained and becomes parishpriest in the little church of Saint Nicholas on the Maple/Klennikach on the street Maroseika 5 (near the Metro Kitaigorod). For eight years he celebrates Divine Liturgy in an empty church. So long it takes, until people finally start coming!
Fr. Alexei begins readings in prisons and little restaurants. He gives religious
instruction in the Winkler secondary school for girls.
His wife Anna then falls sick. She dies on 29 August 1902. Fr. Alexei goes to (now Saint) Fr. John (Sergiev) of Kronstadt to speak about his grief. Fr. John says: "Go to the people and share with their grief!"
And now Fr. Alexei becomes not only father for his own children, but also for all who come to him. He sees them all as his own family. He lives as a "starets" (religious elder) in the world. He follows the path of the Good Sheperd Who goes after the one sheep that is missing (Luke 15:4).
Fr. Alexei is small of stature, baldheaded and has an unkempt beard. His face is marked by the deep, intensive eyes. His riasa (cowl) has yet seen better days. In his little study there are many books, letters, prosphores/loaves on a tray, an
epitrachil (priest's stole), a cross and gospelbook. The chaos everywhere shows that this priest has never spare time for himself. Always there is somebody waiting to see him. There come simple persons and those of the Intelligentsia, poor and rich, believers and atheists, persons with good and bad intentions, Orthodox and those of other faith-confessions and religion. Fr. Alexei is open and welcoming to all and he speaks with them for a long while. Others wait on the staircase or on the courtyard which becomes full of water when it's raining. Fr. Alexei is attempts to provide guidance and lead all these different persons
on their way. And especially he wants to show them the importance of prayer.
His pastoral secret consists in knowledge of the heart (kardiognosia) and in
compassion: People who is coming to him get the feeling, that he is looking into
their inner heart. Fr. Alexei himself has no self-serving egoistic goals. So he is able to distinguish, if a goal is good or bad for a person.
He himself saw a lot of grief. So he has compassion for other people and he carries their burdens (see Gal 6:2). When they are leaving him, they feel that he is going spiritually with them. His commemorationbook (pomiannik) contains hundreds of names. The proskomidia in Liturgy takes a long time, because he makes remembrance of all these names!
He had contact with the starets/elder Anatolii (Potapov, +1922) and the starets/elder Nektarii (Tichonov, +1928) of Opina Pustyn.
Upon seeing the demonstrations of unrest in Moscow in 1905 he weeps, because he foresees the coming misfortune of Russia.
As father-confessor to Nikolai A. Berdyaev, he counselled him, that he must go into exile, so that the world should hear his words.
Fr. Alexei died on 22 June 1923 in Vereia (west of the citycenter of Moscow). His body was uncovered intact (undecayed: a mark of sainthood) in 1934 and laid in a new grave. His son Sergii, born 1892, becomes priest in his father's church of the Saint Nicholas. He was himself murdered in 1942.
At the 13-16 August 2000 Jubilee Synod of the Church of Moscow Sergei is
declared a NewMartyr of the eparchy(sobor) of Moscow, and Alexei is canonised into the ranks of the Saints by the Moscow Church. The feastday of Righteous Priest Saint Alexei is on 9/22 June.
Отче Алексие, моли Бога о нас! Fr. Aleksii, Pray God for us!
(Note: in common useage the spelling of his name is Alexei, but Alexii (Aleksii) in Church Slavonic (at his canonisation).
Sayings of Fr. Aleksii:
(Against envy:) Wish good to all, and in herein you yourself are saved.
Are we right to despise other people?
We cannot bear the privations, grief and woundings of our egoism, and we don't
thank the Lord that He lets grow our spirit on this way.
Don't want to realise big projects, but do that to which the Lord calls you.
Realise the Christian religion not with the intellect but with the heart!
Deianie Osviashchennogo Iubileinogo Archiereiskogo Sobora Russkoi
Pravoslavnoi Cerkvi o kanonizacii, in: Zhurnal Moskovskoi Patriarchii
2000, Nr. 9, 69-71.
Florenskii, P.A., Otec Aleksej Mechev (14/15 june 1924), Sochineniia,
vol. 2, Moscow 1996, 621-627.
Florenskii, P.A., Rassuzhdenie na sluchai konchiny otca Alekseia
Mecheva (13 august 1923), Sochinenija, vol. 2, Moscow 1996,
Otec Aleksei Mechev, Paris 1970.
Pastyr' dobryj. Zhizn' i trudy Moskovskogo starca Alekseia Mecheva,
ed. Sergei Fomin on the basis of materials of the archive of Elena
Apushkina, Moscow 1997.
Sokolova, Monachiniia Iulianiia, Zhizneopisanie moskovskogo starca
Alekseia Mecheva, Moscow, second edition 1999.
Starec v miru Aleksei Mechev (1859-1923), in: Velikie russkie starcy.
Zhitiia, chudesa, duchovnye nastavleniia, ed. Igumen Aristarch
(Lochanov), Moscow 2001, 797-82.
П. Флоренский, О. Алексей (Мечёв)
Foto Protoierei Aleksii
Icone Sviatoi pravednyi Aleksii (Mechev)
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