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The righteous Father Alexei Mechev was archpriest of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow who, after the early death of his wife, became known as a elder in the world. The feast day of Righteous Priest Saint Alexei is June 9.
Alexei Mechev was born on March 17, 1859 in Moscow, the son of a choir director who was in the service of Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow. His plans after he finished school were to become a doctor, but his mother wanted to see him as a priest. As a youngster, he sang at the Church of the Sign (Znamenka). The parish priest, Fr. Giorgii, was demanding and often treated Alexei cruelly, even to beating him. All of this Alexei endured, thinking to himself that this priest, serving as his teacher, sees our faults, which we don't see and help us to fight against egotism.
In 1884, Alexei married Anna Petrovna Molchanova. In the following years they had six children: Alexandra, Sergei, Peter, Olga, Sofia and Anna. None of his children appear to remain close to him except Sergei who also became a priest.
On March 19, 1894, Alexei was ordained a priest and was assigned as the parish priest at the church of Saint Nicholas on the Maple (Klennikach} on the street Maroseika 5, near the present Metro Kitaigorod. His start as a priest was slow. During the first eight years he celebrated the Divine Liturgy largely an empty church. Although his fellow priests were not encouraging to his plight, Father Alexei continued serving. Then, people, many people, began to come to his services. Also, Fr. Alexei began to give readings in prisons and small restaurants. He gave religious instruction in the Winkler secondary school for girls.
As the new century began, Fr. Alexei's wife became sick. On August 29, 1902 she died. Fr. Alexei was deeply grieved and sought out Fr. John (Sergiev) of Kronstadt to speak about his grief. To deal with his sadness Fr. John advised: "Go to the people and share with their grief!"
Fr. Alexei took Fr. John's advise to heart. And now Fr. Alexei became not only father for his own children, but also for all who came to him. He saw them all as his own family. He began living as a "starets" (religious elder) in the world, and he followed the path of the Good Shepherd Who searches after the one sheep that is missing (Luke 15:4).
Fr. Alexei was small of stature. He was baldheaded and had an unkempt beard. His face was marked by deep, intensive eyes. His riasa (cowl) had seen better days. In his little study there were many books, letters, phosphor (loaves) on a tray, an epitrachelion (priest's stole), a cross and Gospel book. The chaos showed that this priest never had spare time for himself. There was always somebody waiting to see him. Those who came included simple persons and intelligentsia, poor and rich, believers and atheists, persons with good and bad intentions, Orthodox believers and those of other faiths-confessions and religions. Fr. Alexei was open and welcomed all, and he spoke with them for a long while. Others waited on the staircase or on the courtyard which became full of water when it rained. Fr. Alexei attempted to provide guidance and lead all these different persons on their way. And, especially he wanted to show them the importance of prayer.
His pastoral secret was his knowledge of the heart (kardiognosia) and in compassion. People who came to him got the feeling that he looked into their inner heart. Fr. Alexei himself had no self-serving egoistic goals and, thus, was able to distinguish whether a goal was good or bad for a person.
He himself saw much grief. Thus, he had compassion for other people. He carried their burdens (see Gal 6:2). When they left him, they felt that he went spiritually with them. His commemoration book (pomiannik) contained hundreds of names. The proskomedia for the Divine Liturgy took a long time, because he said remembrances of all these many names.
He associated with the Elders Anatolii (Potapov) and Nektarius (Tichonov) of Optina Pustyn.
When he saw the demonstrations of unrest in Moscow in 1905 he wept, because he foresaw the coming misfortune of Russia.
As father-confessor to Nikolai A. Berdyaev, he counseled him after the Bolshevik revolution, that he had to go into exile, so that the world should hear his words.
Fr. Alexei died on June 22, 1923 in Vereia (west of the city centre of Moscow). In 1934, when his body was uncovered, it was found uncorrupted: a mark of sainthood. His relics were then laid in a new grave. His son Sergei, who became the priest in his father's church of Saint Nicholas after him, was himself murdered in 1942.
During the period of August 13 to 16, 2000 in Moscow, the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church gave approval or blessing for the glorification and canonization of the the Royal Martyrs of Russia, as Passion Bearers, and several hundred new martyrs and confessors. Among these Fr. Alexei was canonized into the ranks of the Saints by the Moscow Church, and his son, Sergei, was declared a New Martyr of the eparchy of Moscow.
Sayings of Fr. Aleksei:
- (Against envy:) Wish good to all, and thereby 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 our spirit grow on this way.
- Don't want to realise big projects, but do that to which the Lord calls you.
- Make the Christian Way real not with the intellect but with the heart!