Velychkovsky, Paisii

Velychkovsky, Paisii [Величковський, Паїсій; Velyčkovs’kyj, Pajisij] (secular name: Petro), b 21 December 1722 in Poltava, d 15 November 1794 in Neamţ Monastery, Romania. Orthodox monk, ascetic, and writer; son of Ivan Velychkovsky. He studied at the Kyivan Mohyla Academy (1735–9) but withdrew in order to devote himself completely to monastic life. He visited a number of monasteries in the Kyiv region and Chernihiv region and became a novice at the Saint Anthony of the Caves Monastery in Liubech before being tonsured at the Saint Nicholas Monastery near Medvedivka (1741). After brief stays at the Kyivan Cave Monastery and the Motronynskyi Trinity Monastery, he moved to Wallachia, where he stayed at monasteries in Trăisteni (near Focşani), Cîrnul, and Poiana Mărului. In 1746 he traveled through Istanbul to Mount Athos, where he was accepted into the Monastery of Christ Pantocrator. In 1750 he was raised to the second degree of monasticism and took the name Paisii, and in 1758 he was ordained a priest (hieromonk). At Mount Athos Velychkovsky began attracting a number of Slavic and Wallachian monks, and together they founded the Saint Elijah's Hermitage in 1757 under the Christ Pantocrator Monastery.

While on Mount Athos, he studied the works of the church fathers and translated several from Greek into Ukrainian and Romanian. Although most of these works remained in manuscript, some were published in the 19th century, including his translation of the ascetic work Dobrotoliubie (The Love of Goodness, 1793); prologues, translations, and comments on various lives of saints; and his autobiography (English trans, by J. Featherstone, The Life of Paisij Velyčkovs’kyi, 1989).

In 1763 the Moldavian hospodar invited Velychkovsky to reform monastic life in Moldavia. Together with 64 other monks, he left Mount Athos and settled in the monastery in Dragomirna (in Bukovyna). From there he and 350 monks moved to the Secul Monastery in 1775. Finally, in 1779, Velychkovsky moved to the most important Moldavian monastery, in Neamţ, where he was made archimandrite in 1790. He reorganized Moldavian monastic life, stressing asceticism, poverty, communal living, and intellectual work. His translation into Slavonic of the Philocalia revived the Hesychast tradition throughout Moldavia, Ukraine, and Russia, and under his leadership the Neamţ Monastery emerged as an important center for Slavonic theology and philosophy.

Velychkovsky stands as one of the major figures of Orthodox spirituality in the 18th century, and he is considered to be the father of the Orthodox monastic revival. His labors and example influenced generations of clergy, both monastic and secular, as well as laity, throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. He was canonized by the Russian Orthodox church in June 1988 on the occasion of the millennium of the Baptism of Kyivan Rus’ (see Christianization of Ukraine).

Zhitie i pisaniia moldavskogo startsa Paiisiia Velichkovskogo (Moscow 1892)
Ilarion (Ohiienko, Ivan). Starets’ Païsii Velychkovs’kyi (Winnipeg 1975)
Metrophanes. Blessed Paisius Velichkovsky (Platina, Calif 1976)
Chetverikov, S. Starets Paisii Velichkovskii: His Life, Teachings, and Influence on Orthodox Monasticism (Belmont, Mass 1980)
Tachiaos, A.E. The Revival of Byzantine Mysticism among Slavs and Romanians in the XVIIIth Century: Texts Relating to the Life and Activity of Paisy Velichkovsky (1722–1794) (Thessalonica 1986)

Arkadii Zhukovsky

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 5 (1993).]

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