Commemorated January 1 (Repose) and May 12 (Glorification)
O all-glorious ascetic of Volyn,
worthy inhabitant of the Pochaev Lavra and great healer of the Orthodox people,
thus has Christ our God shone you to His Church, O righteous Father Amphilochius,
zealously pray to Him, that He will free us from the attacks of our enemies and save our souls.
— Troparion, Tone 4
As a zealous follower of the Orthodox Faith,
and teacher of the pious life, a wondrous helper and defender of those suffering illnesses and in sadness,
standing before the Lord our God O righteous Amphilochius, we cry out to you:
protect the Pochaev community,
in which you yourself have labored, and save us through your prayers, O Blessed Father.
— Kontakion, Tone 3
St. Amphilochius of Pochaev was born into a family of ten children in the Ukrainian village of Malaya Ilovitsa on November 27, 1894. His father and mother, Barnabas and Anna Golovatiuk, gave him the name Jacob in holy baptism. Barnabas was known for making shoe lasts (forms) and sleighs, and had a reputation as a skilled bone setter. Young Jacob would assist his father in his work, and learned how to set bones himself.
In 1912, Jacob was called into the Imperial Army, where he fulfilled his compulsory service as a field medic in the throes of World War I. He was advanced to the front lines, witnessing the death of many friends, often carrying his wounded companions from the field of battle. Jacob was captured by the Germans, and sent to the Alps as a farm worker where he remained for three years. Managing to escape, he made his way back to his native village, resuming his life as a peasant, helping the sick who turned to him for comfort.
Arrangements were made for Jacob to marry, but having experienced the world, and by enduring military trials, he came to realize that life is a continual battle between the devil and God; fought within one’s heart. One could not win this battle without humility, piety and penitential tears. Having chosen the narrow path to salvation, that of the monastic life, with the blessing of his village priest Jacob arrived at the Pochaev Lavra in 1925 where he was admitted as a novice. The new monk performed his assigned tasks with industriousness and humility. He constructed sleighs and wheels, and sang in the choir, always in the spirit of humility and obedience. On July 8, 1932 Jacob was tonsured a monk with the name Joseph. He was ordained a hierodeacon in 1933, and a hieromonk in 1936.
While performing a number of obediences at the Lavra, Fr. Joseph continued to treat the sick; he was especially noted for his skill in setting broken bones. From all over the district, day and night, a steady stream of suffering people was brought to him for treatment. So as not to disrupt the life of the brethren of the Lavra, Fr. Joseph received the prior's blessing to move to a little house at the monastery cemetery, where he and Hieromonk Irinarch were to live for the next 20 years. Every day, the sick would come to the little house. There were days when Hieromonk Joseph would receive up to 500 people, many yearning for healing, either physical or spiritual. Many witnessed how the demons, who feared and hated him, would try to physically attack him through possessed persons.
This spiritual struggler dedicated his entire being to serving God. Having received from God the gifts of clairvoyance and healing, he spent his entire life helping his neighbor. His many ascetic feats and spiritual struggles, accomplished in secret, remained hidden from the world.
In the late 1950s, Khrushchev’s persecution of the Church began. It happened that one night fourteen armed men burst into his cell and demanded food; after eating, they asked that the elder escort them outside. At the gates, the commander of those partisans told him that he was to be shot. The elder took the news of imminent death with utter humility. He asked only that he be given ten minutes to pray. He had managed to read the “Our Father,” “O Theotokos” “I believe,” and had begun reading the prayer for the departure of the soul, when suddenly Fr. Irinarch, distraught over the elder's long absence, came running. When he saw the machine gun pointed at the righteous one, he did not think of the consequences to himself, but leapt, knocking the gun to the ground, and began to plead for them to show mercy to the elder… The threat of death passed.
Throughout the land there were massive closures of monasteries and churches. False accusations were leveled against the monastics, and they were evicted and sent to their former homes and deprived of the right to return to the monasteries. In the fall of 1962, thanks to their fearless elder, Fr. Joseph, the monks succeeded in defending the Holy Trinity Cathedral at the Pochaev Lavra. “Ten militia men and their commander were standing at the gates of the church, when suddenly the elder grabbed the keys out of the commander's hands. He gave them to Augustine, the young prior, and called the local populace to defend the church. Peasants armed with poles rushed at the militia.” They successfully defended the cathedral, but several days later the elder was taken away in the middle of the night to a psychiatric hospital, where he was placed in a ward for the most “agitated” psychiatric patients. They injected him with medications which caused massive edema of his entire body, and caused his skin to crack.
The priest's spiritual children wrote letters begging that he be released. Three months later, he was brought to the chief medical officer. He was asked whether he could heal the others in his ward. The elder said that he could heal all of them in two weeks, and asked that he be brought the Holy Gospels, a Cross, and vestments, so that he might serve a Moleben (Prayer-service) with the Blessing of the Waters. The reply was, “No, treat them without any prayer services.” The meek elder responded, “No, that is impossible. When a soldier goes into battle, he is given weapons… Our weapons against the invisible foe are the Cross, the Holy Gospels, and Holy Water.” Fr. Joseph was returned to the ward.
His sufferings ended only when Svetlana Alleluieva, the daughter of Joseph Stalin, came to the hospital. Fr. Joseph had once healed her of a spiritual illness. She managed to arrange for the elder's release. Elder Joseph returned to his home village and moved in with one of his relatives. On learning where the elder was, suffering people began to seek him out. Every day, Fr. Joseph would serve Molebens with the Blessing of the Waters, and would heal the people. The local authorities, worried at seeing a flood of sick people coming into the village, tried to turn the elder's relatives against him. One of them was persuaded by their arguments. He tricked the elder, took him on his tractor to the swamps beyond the village, and there viciously beat him, threw him into the water, and drove away. On that cold December day, the confessor of Christ lay in the icy water for eight hours. The dying elder's spiritual children found him, took him to the Pochaev Lavra, where that very night he was tonsured into the Great Schema and given the name Amphilochius, in honor of Holy Hierarch Amphilochius of Iconium. They feared that he would not live through the night. Through God's mercy, Schema monk Amphilochius recovered. It was dangerous to remain at the Lavra without a residence permit, and he soon returned to his village. As before, people would come to the elder for healing.
Fr. Amphilochius continued to serve the daily Moleben and Blessing of the Waters in his yard, healing the faithful. Fr. Amphilochius blessed some of the sick not to eat on Wednesdays and Fridays. He directed that on strict fast days, on arising early in the morning, and before morning prayers, one should make three full prostrations, along with the prayer “Rejoice, O Virgin Theotokos," so as to easily endure that day's fast.
Very many who were healed are still living, and some settled in Pochaev village to be near him. He predicted the date of his death, which occurred on 1st January 1971. Despite the difficulties of the late Soviet period, large crowds came to his burial. In 2002 Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev and All Ukraine blessed the exhumation of the great Elder’s body - called in Orthodox terminology the "Uncovering of his Relics" and the rite of his glorification as an Orthodox Saint was celebrated on the 12th May of that year in the Dormition Cathedral of Pochaev Lavra. Over 20,000 people were present.