01 April 2018

Venerable Father Prokop of Sázava

Venerable Prokop of Sázava

Commemorated both today the 1st of April, which happens this year also to be the Feast of the Entry of Our Lord into Jerusalem, and on the 16th of September with the other saints of Carpathian Ruthenia, another great saint of the Czech and Slovak lands, is the holy hermit and abbot Prokop of Sázava.

Prokop was born to a Christian family in Bohemia, in the village of Chotouň near the ancient town of Kouřim, some seventeen years before the baptism of the Rus’. He and his family belonged to the mission founded by the great apostles to the Slavic peoples and our fathers among the saints, Cyril and Methodius, who had evangelised the peoples of what are now Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia and Carpathian Ruthenia one century before.

His parents gave him a solid education, and prepared him for the priesthood. He was ordained at the age of 33, married and had a son named Jimram. Prokop soon found himself called to a more demanding religious path, however, and by mutual consent separated from his wife and went into Hungary to become a monk. He laboured meekly and obediently for another 25 years, and the abbot, noticing his devotion, allowed him to return to the Czech lands to pursue the eremitical life. He lived in holy solitude in a small hermitage along the Sázava River, near Prague; while there he cleared the forests and cultivated the land by himself. The local people admired his industry – according to legend, they saw him yoke the devil to a plough and make him plough a long furrow along the riverbank. He attracted several followers this way.

It happened at one time, the Kníže Oldřich was out hunting with his retinue and passed by Prokop’s hermitage. The hermit engaged the ruler in conversation for a long time. Saint Prokop’s evident sincerity and meekness impressed the ruler deeply, who gave him the funds needed for himself and his followers to begin constructing a Benedictine monastery on the Sázava which held Divine Liturgies in Slavonic, according to the Orthodox Rite, until 1097 when Slavonic Liturgies were banned by papal order. This monastery was completed during the reign of Oldřich’s illegitimate son, the ‘Bohemian Achilles’ Kníže Břetislav, and produced a number of beautiful works in Church Slavonic – including, purportedly, the Reims Codex. Saint Prokop was also responsible for working many cures and miracles during his time as abbot.

The Venerable Prokop reposed in peace in the monastery he founded in the year 1053, and is venerated as a saint in both the Latin and the Orthodox Churches (having a cœnobitic spirituality that is both Basilian and Benedictine), and is deservedly considered one of the patron saints of the Czech people. Holy Father Prokop, who in life bowed before no earthly Kníže but only the One, the heir of David, who on this great day entered into Jerusalem – we beg you to spare us a branch from your plentiful gardens and intercede with Him, Christ our God and true King, to save our souls!
Enlightened by God’s grace to heavenly wisdom,
Having withdrawn your mind from earthly vanity,
You were giving it adamantly through your heart to the Giver of Life.
Undefiled life of tolerance and purity have you lived
And passed away preserving the virtuous faith.
After death let us see the light of your life,
As you are imparting wonders from the Source inexhaustible
Upon the believers who come to your sacred grave!
O, All-Blessed Procopius, pray Christ our God that He may save our souls!
By raising Lazarus from the dead before Your passion,
You did confirm the universal Resurrection, O Christ God!
Like the children with the palms of victory,
We cry out to You, O Vanquisher of death;
Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord!

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