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usefulness of embellished writings
The genre of lives of the saints was brought to Russia by the South Slavs together with [[writing]] and also in translations from the Greek language. In the 11th century, the Russians began to compile the original life stories of the first Russian saints. In the 16th century, Metropolitan Macarius expanded the list of the Russian saints and supervised the compilation of their life stories. They would all be compiled in the so called ''Velikiye chet’yi-minei'' catalogue (Великие Четьи-Минеи, or "Grand monthly readings"), consisting of 12 volumes in accordance with each month of the year.
Even though some of the writings seen to contain embellishments, as one may assume when reading of the life of St. [[Nicholas the Wonderworker and Archbishop of Myra]], they are still quite useful. In the words of Fr. [[Thomas Hopko]]:
:: They may be used very fruitfully for the discovery of the meaning of the Christian faith and life. In these "lives" the Christian vision of God, man, and the world stands out very clearly. Because these volumes were written down in times quite different from our own, it is necessary to read them carefully to distinguish the essential points from the artificial and sometimes even fanciful embellishments which are often contained in them. In the Middle Ages, for instance, it was customary to pattern the lives of saints after literary works of previous times and even to dress up the lives of the lesser known saints after the manner of earlier saints of the same type. It also was the custom to add many elements, particularly supernatural and miraculous events of the most extraordinary sort, to confirm the true holiness of the saint, to gain strength for his spiritual goodness and truth, and to foster imitation of his virtues in the lives of the hearers and readers. In many cases the miraculous is added to stress the ethical righteousness and innocence of the saint in the face of his detractors.
:: Generally speaking, it does not take much effort to distinguish the sound kernel of truth in the lives of the saints from the additions made in the spirit of piety and enthusiasm of the later periods; and the effort should be made to see the essential truth which the lives contain. Also, the fact that elements of a miraculous nature were added to the lives of saints during medieval times for the purposes of edification, entertainment, and even amusement should not lead to the conclusion that all things miraculous in the lives of the saints are invented for literary or moralizing purposes. Again, a careful reading of the lives of the saints will almost always reveal what is authentic and true in the realm of the miraculous. Also, the point has been rightly made that men can learn almost as much about the real meaning of Christianity from the legends of the saints produced within the tradition of the Church as from the authentic lives themselves. </small>
* ''Article adapted from [[Wikipedia:Hagiography]]''
* ''The Orthodox Faith'' Written by the V. Rev. Thomas Hopko ([ OCA web site])

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