The Holy Hierarch Stephen,
Bishop of Perm
March 9th (April 26th Old Calendar)
St. Stephen was born in the town of Ustiug in the middle of the 14th century. From childhood he was singled out for his great talents and fondness of knowledge. Not far from the area of his birth there lived some Zyrians (presently known as Komi-Permyaks). Often seeing these Zyrians at the marketplace in his town, Stephen was aroused with a great wish to enlighten their savage land with the light of Christ's faith. In order to prepare himself for this deed, Stephen entered a Rostov monastery (the cloister of the Holy Hierarch Gregory the Theologian) which housed a rich library. Having studied the Holy Scripture and Greek, St. Stephen learned the Zyrian language (a Finno-Ugric language). Later, using Slavonic and Greek letters he formulated the Zyrian alphabet and translated into that language some Holy and Liturgical books, and in 1379 he embarked upon a missionary course.
For seventeen years (at first in the rank of a Presbyter and then in the rank of Bishop) he toiled over the enlightenment of the Zyrians, while suffering many temptations and adversities. But through humility and kindness St. Stephen was able to overcome his adversaries and converted many Zyrians to faith. He burned down the famous Zyrian temple with all its idols, and with the help of local residents he erected the Church of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin within the main Zyrian settlement at the estuary of the Kama river. At the same time, he taught the newly enlightened Zyrians to write and read the Word of God. Depending on their success he raised some to the rank of priests, others to that of deacon, and yet others to that of readers.
St. Stephen's greatest adversary was a certain Pam, a very old man and the most formidable of pagan priests. Having a great influence on the Zyrians, he kept many from being baptized, and those that were he turned aside from the faith. On many occasions St. Stephen entered into open dispute with him. Their debates continued day and night, but Pam remained an inexorable pagan. Finally the famous pagan challenged St. Stephen to walk together through fire and water in order to test whose faith was better. He never expected the Bishop to consent. St. Stephen immediately instructed the populace to set fire to a separately standing building and extended his hand to Pam so that they would walk together through the fire; however, the latter refused, despite the urging and persuading of the Zyrians.
Then the Zyrians beset upon Pam wishing to kill him, but St. Stephen prevented it and only insisted that Pam should leave that place forever.
Following this event many Zyrians turned toward faith, building many churches and founding monasteries. The zealous pastor was solicitous as well to the external well-being of the newly enlightened land. During the famine he often brought bread from Vologda to Perm, distributing it to the needy. He bestirred the Grand Duke on behalf of the Zyrians and obtained many privileges for them. He guarded them from oppression from the Boyars and traveled to Novgorod asking the citizens not to beseige the defenseless district of Permyaks.
During one of his travels to Moscow for matters regarding his flock, St. Stephen took ill and died on April 26, 1396. His holy relics rested in Moscow in the "Spass na Boru" Church of the Saviour at the Forest.
Troparion Tone 4
Aflame with divine desire from childhood,/ thou didst take Christ's yoke, O wise Stephen./ Thou didst sow the seed in a hardened people grown old in unbelief/ and give birth to them in the Gospel./ Venerating thee, we pray:/ Entreat Him Whom thou didst proclaim,/ that our souls may be saved.
Kontakion Tone 8
Thou wast found to be a Hierarch to those who sought thee not./ Thou didst free thy people from idols and bring them to the Faith of Christ./ Thou didst shame the sorcerer Pansotnik and become first bishop and teacher of Perm./ Wherefore thy people hymn thee with thanksgiving: Rejoice, wise teacher Stephen.
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