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Saint Abramius, Archimandrite of Rostov, in the world Abercius, left his parents’ home in his youth and entered upon the path of Christian asceticism. Having assumed the monastic schema, Abramius settled at Rostov on the shore of Lake Nero. In the Rostov lands there were not many pagans, and the saint worked intensely at spreading the true Faith.
Not far from the cell of the saint was a pagan temple, where the pagans worshipped a stone idol of Veles (Volos), which caused fright among the inhabitants of Rostov. In a miraculous vision the Apostle John the Theologian stood before Abramius, and gave him a staff with a cross on top, with which the venerable one destroyed the idol. At the place of the pagan temple, St Abramius founded a monastery in honor of the Theophany and became its head.
In memory of the miraculous appearance, the holy monk built a church named for St John the Theologian. Many of the pagans were persuaded and baptized by St Abramius. Particularly great was his influence with the children whom he taught the ability to read and write, instructing them in the law of God, and tonsured monastics from among them.
Everyone who came to the monastery was accepted with love. The saint’s life was a constant work of prayer and toil for the benefit of the brethren: he chopped firewood for the oven, he laundered the monks’ clothing and carried water for the kitchen. St Abramius reposed in old age and was buried in the church of the Theophany.
His holy relics were uncovered in the time of Great Prince Vsevolod (1176-1212). In the year 1551, Tsar Ivan the Terrible, before his campaign against Kazan, made the rounds of holy places. At the Theophany-Abramiev monastery the monks showed him the staff with which St Abramius had destroyed the idol of Veles. The Tsar took the staff with him on the campaign, but the cross remained at the monastery. And returning again after the subjugation of the Khan, Ivan the Terrible gave orders to build a new stone church at the Abramiev monastery in honor of the Theophany, with four chapels, and he also supplied it with books and icons.