The St. Hierarch Dosoftei (born October 26, 1624, Suceava - d. December 13, 1693, at Żółkiew, Poland, today Jovkva, Ukraine) was a 17th century scholar monk and bishop, Metropolitan of Moldova (1671 -1673, 1675-1686), a very fine poet and good translator and witness to the Orthodox faith. For his missionary work, in 2005 the Romanian Orthodox Church proclaimed him as saint. His feast is on 13 December.
The Youth Life
Saint Dosoftei was born in 1624 in Suceava in a faithful family named Barilă. His parents Leontie and Misira, where Romanians refugees, came from Transylvania, and they had relatives in the neighbor country, Poland. The little baby was baptized as Demetrius, because he was born around the 26th of October, when in the Eastern Church is celebrated St. Demetrius.
The young Demetrius went to the best schools of his time in Moldova and after that, at the school of the Orthodox Brotherhood from the Monastery of the Dormition of Theotokos, from Lviv, at that time in Poland. In this times he proved to be a talented child in translating the Holy Text of the Scriptures and the writings of the Churchfathers, and that happened because he knew many languages, as Greek, Latin, Church Slavonic, Polish and Ukrainian.
In addition to the teachings, he learned at Probota monastery, near Suceava (the Capital of Moldova), also the spiritual teaching, being from his youth very familiar with the exercise of prayer, obedience and ascetic labors. In 1649, he was tonsured as monk, being named Dosoftei (the slavonic form of the Greek name Dositheos).
Metropolitan and Scholar
Because of his prestige as a scholar and of his virtues, Dosoftei was named bishop of Huşi in 1658, and after an year, he went to the seat of Roman. In 1671 he was elected as metropolitan of Moldova. As the highest Hierarch of the Principate, he remained gentle and humble with everyone, and amazed all by the wisdom he had: the historian Ion Neculce, in his Chronicle of Moldova describes him as: “This metropolitan Dosoftei was not a simple man by his nature. And he was from a “mazâl” (refugee) ancestry. Very learned, he knew several languages: Hellenic, Slavonic, and other deep-books (=wisdom) and teachings. He was full and devout monk and gentle as a lamb. In our country, in that time was no man alike. And the people say about him that he was a saint”.
His hierarchical mission happened to meet a difficult social and political time in Moldova, with many changes of the Princes, because of the Polish and Turk interference in the country’s business. But even like that, he accomplished his mission in a special way, through translating the liturgical service books into the Romanian language, known by the people. His first published books were the Psalms versified in Romanian and the Akathistos of the God’s Mother (a prayer similar to the Rosarium, both in 1673). He proved to understand very deeply the sense of the Psalms and he succeeded to put them in verse in Romanian, which is something special, because nobody did it before in this land. His language is very beautiful, being used until today. Also he was a theological authority, and revided the Romanian translation of the Old Testament, made by Nicolae Milescu, this text being included into the first Romanian Bible, in 1688.
The First Exile and the scholar activity
Because of the political situation and of his anti-Turk convictions, he was pushed up to leave the country, and to find a refuge in Poland. In 1674 he was replaced in the Metropolitan Seat from Iaşi (the new capital city) with St. Theodosius, the bishop of Roman. In the following year he came back as Metropolitan, and Theodosius withdrawn to the monastery of Bogdana, receiving after a little while a martyr’s death.
After the recovery of the printing machine in Iaşi, Dosoftei printed new books in Romanian: The Holy Liturgy (1679 and 1683), The Explained Book of Psalms (1680) with parallel text in Romanian and Slavonic, the Moliltfelnic (Book of the Sacred Services, 1681). Between 1682-1686 he translated from different Greek and Slavic sources and printed in Romanian The life and the passing over of the Saints, in four volumes. The work remained unfinished, due to the forced departure to Poland. This book is particularly necessary for the Church’s mission, being another great gift of Metropolitan Dosoftei to the Romanian believers. He speaks for the first time about the local saints, such as Daniel of Voroneţ (his article will appear on this website on 18 December), Rafail form Agapia, Chiriac from Bisericani Chiriac from Tazlău, Epifanie from Voroneţ, Partenie from Agapia, Ioan from Râşca, and Inochentie from Pobrata, all this saints being officially canonized only in the 20th century.
The second Exile
In 1686, the Polish King Jan Sobieski, being into an anti-Ottoman campaign, came to Moldova to attract on his side the prince Constantin Cantemir. Being forced to withdraw, the Poles robed Moldova and have taken Dosoftei as a hostage along with some spiritual treasures, as the relics of St. John the New. Metropolitan Dosoftei lived the last years of his life away from the country, but he continued his scholarly work and was in touch with the Orthodox hierarchs in Moscow and Kiev. So he helped to settle the theological conflicts about the Eucharistic prayer, by translating from greek to Church-Slavonic several works of John Chrysostom, Ephrem the Syrian, Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople, and Simeon of Thessalonica, about this topic.
Saint Dosoftei was buried in the Nativity church in Jolkiew, today in Ukraine. Today his relics are settled in the Metropolitan Cathedral in Iaşi, Romania.
Troparion (Hymn) of the Saint
“Defender of the Orthodoxy, and Master of holiness, gentle Sheperd as a lamb and great Teacher of the Divine Liturgy, Father Hierarch Dosoftei, pray to Christ God to save our souls!”