The Monk Varlaam of Khutynsky (in the world Alexy) was born in Novgorod the Great from pious parents Michael and Anna. He was brought up in piety and with the assistance of grace he was taught the Divine books, in the knowledge of which he surpassed the elders. From his youth he aspired to monastic life. To the alarm of his parents about his early fasting, with spiritual wisdom, he meekly recalled the words of the Holy Scriptures and examples from the life of the saints.
After the death of his parents, the blessed one distributed the estate and retired to the monastery. There he found a mentor, Hieromonk Paphnutius, and accepted monasticism from him. In search of perfect silence, he went around various places, desiring to make his own abode. On the right bank of the Volkhov River, 10 versts north of Novgorod, the Monk found a beautiful hill called Khutyn (khutyn, hudyn - a bad place where evil spirits lived), and saw a certain Divine ray that shone on him. Having made a prayer and built a cell, the saint began to zealously asceticise in that place in fasting and labors. Every night the Monk Varlaam was awake and by prayer with the sign of the cross drove away demons. He endured all adversity, protected and strengthened by the right hand of God.
Desert exploits with him for a long time were shared by the noble brothers of Novgorod Porfiry and Theodore Malyshevichs. When numerous desert-lovers gathered to him, the Reverend erected a small wooden church to the glory of the Transfiguration of the Lord, as well as several cells and gave his charter for the monastery, in which he ordered to distribute alms to the poor, to feed and water all wanderers.