Category Archives: Holiness

Akathist to the Venerable Gabriel of Samtavro, Confessor and Fool-for-Christ

Troparion, Tone 2

Receptacle of the Holy Spirit, confessor of the faith of Christ who shone forth in Iberia, O Venerable Father Gabriel! Thou who wast rejected by the world, glorified by thy foolishness for Christ and burning with the love of Christ, hearken to us thy people, that the Lord may forgive our transgressions.

Kontakion, Tone 5

Fruitful vine of the garden of Paradise, valiant soldier of Christ, O venerable Father Gabriel and Wonderworker of Samtavro! Thou who didst ascend to the heights of virtue and surpassed the wise by thy wisdom, O most wondrous fool for Christ, beseech the Master and Almighty that He may deliver us from bondage to sin, the violence of the adversary and great hardships.

Kontakion 1

Chosen vessel of the grace of God, fragrant source of miracles, boast of Iberia, O most wondrous Father Gabriel! Now do we offer thee a song of praise, and since thou hast great boldness towards the Lord, deliver us from all misfortunes, that we may cry to thee with love: Rejoice, O venerable confessor Gabriel, fool for Christ and wonderworker!

Ikos 1

Imitating the angelic life, thou didst please God with thy purity and humility, O most blessed Father Gabriel, and thou wast found worthy of acquiring the great gifts of the Holy Spirit! Marvelling at the greatness of thy feat, we call out to thee thus:

Rejoice, well of the wisdom of God;

Rejoice, spring of the living faith.

Rejoice, heart that contained Christ;

Rejoice, tree who has brought forth spiritual fruit.

Rejoice, thou who wast chosen by God from birth;

Rejoice, thou who wast called to serve Him;

Rejoice, thou who didst enlighten the Iberian land by thy miracles;

Rejoice, thou who didst shine forth by thy God-pleasing life.

Rejoice, thou who wast affirmed by God on the rock of faith;

Rejoice, thou who didst preach the Name of Christ with love.

Rejoice, thou who didst endure many sorrows in thy life;

Rejoice, thou who didst enter the Kingdom of Heaven thereby.

Rejoice, O venerable confessor Gabriel, fool for Christ and wonderworker!

Kontakion 2

Seeing the abundant outpouring of miracles from thy shrine, O Venerable Father Gabriel, we are confirmed in faith and piety. Revering thee as a wondrous pleaser of God, with thankful lips we cry to the Lord, the Giver of good things: Alleluia.

Ikos 2

Beseech the Lord to enlighten our reason, O pleaser of God Gabriel, that, shaking off earthly passions and vain cares, we may ascend with our hearts and minds to the heavenly abodes, wherein thou dwellest, and call out to thee thus:

Rejoice, fragrance of the Paradise of Christ;

Rejoice, radiance of the grace of God.

Rejoice, boast and adornment of the garden of the Mother of God;

Rejoice, thou who didst strike terror into the insolent who did sacrilege.

Rejoice, thou who didst strive for monastic solitude from thy youth;

Rejoice, thou who didst call out to God for help.

Rejoice, thou who didst heed the Word of God;

Rejoice, thou who didst obey His commandments.

Rejoice, thou who didst bear the chains of feigned foolishness;

Rejoice, thou who didst put to shame the delusions of this world.

Rejoice, thou who didst love poverty and humiliations;

Rejoice, thou who didst glorify the Name of God.

Rejoice, O venerable confessor Gabriel, fool for Christ and wonderworker!

Kontakion 3

Strengthened by the power of the love of Christ, bestowed on thee from above, O Venerable Father Gabriel, thou wast zealous in acquiring feats like the Fathers of the Ancient Church.  Growing in humility and meekness, thou didst pray for heavenly help, crying out to the Lord: Alleluia.

Ikos 3

Having great faith and firm trust in the Lord, thou didst choose the path of foolishness, O most wondrous Father Gabriel. Singing with love and glorifying God, wondrous in His saints, we call out to thee thus:

Rejoice, ray of the Sun of truth;

Rejoice, thou who wast illumined by the light of Christ.

Rejoice, adamant of the Orthodox faith;

Rejoice, glory and praise of fasters.

Rejoice, thou who dost brighten our hearts with the light of faith;

Rejoice, thou who dost teach us awe.

Rejoice, zealot of piety;

Rejoice, zealous builder of a church of God.

Rejoice, thou who didst save profaned holy places from desecration;

Rejoice, thou who didst reject the threats of persecutors.

Rejoice, thou who didst bear the yoke of Christ with love;

Rejoice, thou who didst serve God diligently.

Rejoice, O venerable confessor Gabriel, fool for Christ and wonderworker!

Kontakion 4

Shunning the storms of the sea of life and seeking solitude and prayer, thou didst come to Betania Monastery, O most Blessed Father Gabriel! Instructed by spirit-bearing fathers, praising Almighty God, thou didst cry out to Him with tenderness of heart: Alleluia.

Ikos 4

When the inhabitants of Iberia heard of thy boldness in glorifying the name of Christ out loud, they marvelled at thy feat. Having put to shame the worship of an idol, thou didst ascend to the cross of sufferings. Singing of thy feat, O Venerable Father Gabriel, we proclaim to thee:

Rejoice, spirit-bearing child of the fathers of Betania;

Rejoice, zealot of monastic feats.

Rejoice, bright adornment of the Church of Christ;

Rejoice, illumination of the Iberian land.

Rejoice, thou who didst enrich thyself by poverty and reason;

Rejoice, thou who partookest of heavenly glory.

Rejoice, thou who didst capture the devil by thy exploits;

Rejoice, thou who didst commit an image of the Godless leader to fire.

Rejoice, thou who didst preach the faith of Christ while in bonds;

Rejoice, thou who didst bring sinners to repentance.

Rejoice, thou who wast confined to a home for the insane;

Rejoice, thou who wast glorified by Divine miracles.

Rejoice, O venerable confessor Gabriel, fool for Christ and wonderworker!

Kontakion 5

Thou wast a star guided by God shining in the firmament of Iberia, O wondrous Father Gabriel. Enduring suffering and reviling for Christ and reckoned among the outcast, now thou dost glorify Him with the saints, crying out to the Lord: Alleluia.

Ikos 5

Seeing thy zeal for God, O venerable one, the enemy of our salvation poured out his fury on thee through the Godless authorities. And thy lot, O Holy Father, was sorrows and persecutions. Singing of thy feats, which astonished the angels, we fall down to thee with love:

Rejoice, fountain of Divine miracles;

Rejoice, heart full of love.

Rejoice, thou who didst endure slander with gracious soul;

Rejoice, thou who didst conquer enemies with love.

Rejoice, thou who didst choose grave slabs for thy bed;

Rejoice, thou who didst shine forth in the abodes of heaven.

Rejoice, thou who didst humbly beg for alms;

Rejoice, thou who didst receive a reward in heaven.

Rejoice, thou who didst touch the tears of the Lord on the Cross;

Rejoice, thou who wast found worthy to hear His voice.

Rejoice, thou who wast freed from prison by the Zealous Intercessor;

Rejoice, thou who wast consoled by the Mother of God.

Rejoice, O venerable confessor Gabriel, fool for Christ and wonderworker!

Kontakion 6

The land of Iberia preaches thee, O wondrous Father Gabriel, swift intercessor in misfortunes and ardent petitioner for the salvation of our souls. Thou didst humbly wear the cross of holy foolishness and thank the Lord in sorrows, and now thou dost teach us to glorify Christ, prayerfully singing to God: Alleluia.

Ikos 6

Thou hast shone forth with grace, like the brightest beacon, like the radiant dawn, O Venerable Father Gabriel. Singing of thy great feat and labours, with love we call out to thee thus:

Rejoice, abode of the Holy Spirit;

Rejoice, receptacle of great gifts.

Rejoice, adornment of Samtavro Convent;

Rejoice, wondrous multiplication of the glory of the saints.

Rejoice, thou who didst subdue the fleshly mind to the spirit;

Rejoice, thou who didst put the cunning of the enemy to shame.

Rejoice, thou who didst conceal the gracious gifts of God behind feigned intoxication;

Rejoice, thou who didst heal those suffering from the disease of addiction to drink.

Rejoice, thou who wast compassionate to sinners;

Rejoice, thou who didst wish salvation for all.

Rejoice, thou who didst despise the intimidations of the enemy;

Rejoice, thou who didst boldly preach Orthodoxy.

Rejoice, O venerable confessor Gabriel, fool for Christ and wonderworker!

Kontakion 7

Wishing to serve the Lord, O Father Gabriel most worthy of praise, thou didst shun all the fleeting and vain things of this world. Following Christ on the path of suffering, with a simple heart thou didst cry out to Him with love: Alleluia.

Ikos 7

The Lord raised thee up, a new and venerable monk, O most praised Father Gabriel, in the hour of the harsh persecution of the Church of Christ. Singing of thy great feat, O most wondrous one, we cry to thee thus:

Rejoice, pillar of Orthodoxy;

Rejoice, sincere friend of Christ.

Rejoice, thou who wast warmed by the grace of God in sorrow;

Rejoice, holy heir of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Rejoice, thou who art filled with Divine love;

Rejoice, thou who didst live an angelic life on earth.

Rejoice, thou who wast persecuted in thy life;

Rejoice, thou who now dost glorify Christ with the saints.

Rejoice, thou who dost call down the mercy of God on sinners;

Rejoice, thou who dost bring those gone astray to their senses.

Rejoice, thou who didst heal a family from barrenness by thy prayers;

Rejoice, thou who didst tell them of the birth of their daughter.

Rejoice, O venerable confessor Gabriel, fool for Christ and wonderworker!

Kontakion 8

Thou wast a stranger and passing visitor in this world, O most worthy of praise Father Gabriel. Seeking the City of Heaven, thou didst choose the thorny path of salvation, thanking the merciful Lord for all things and singing to Him: Alleluia.

Ikos 8

All filled with the grace of God and strengthened in arduous labour by the Lord, thou didst call out to Him: ‘He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in Him will I trust!’ And thou dost teach us to abide with Christ, all calling out to thee:

Rejoice, leader of those seeking salvation;

Rejoice, heavenly seed of the land of Iberia.

Rejoice, champion of the Orthodox faith;

Rejoice, wondrous converser with the saints.

Rejoice, defender of the offended;

Rejoice, comforter of the afflicted.

Rejoice, thou who dost show us speedy help;

Rejoice, thou who dost call us to repentance.

Rejoice, thou who dost drive away the darkness of despair;

Rejoice, thou who dost fill our hearts with hope.

Rejoice, thou who dost rescue us from sudden death by prayer;

Rejoice, thou who dost deliver us from disasters and misfortunes.

Rejoice, O venerable confessor Gabriel, fool for Christ and wonderworker!

Kontakion 9

All the saints and the heavenly hosts received thee with joy, O Father Gabriel most worthy of praise, when the path of thy earthly wanderings ended and thou wast taken up to the heavenly Jerusalem. And marvelling at what a wonderworker and man of prayer the Lord has given us, with thankful hearts we cry to Him thus: Alleluia.

Ikos 9

Orators with their fleshly wisdom are not able to grasp the height of thy exploit, O venerable one. Concealing the great gifts of the Holy Spirit beneath the veil of foolishness for Christ, shining forth in the purity of thy life, reckoned among the insane, thou didst put to shame the wisdom of this world, O most wondrous Father Gabriel. For this reason we praise thee thus:

Rejoice, fragrant flower of Paradise;

Rejoice, thou who wast exiled for the sake of truth.

Rejoice, thou who didst flourish like a palm in thine immaculate life;

Rejoice, most zealous pleaser of God.

Rejoice, thou who didst warm hearts by the radiance of thy holiness;

Rejoice, thou who didst have invincible wealth of the soul.

Rejoice, thou who didst gain the Heavenly Kingdom by thy humility of spirit;

Rejoice, thou who didst inherit the promised land for thy meekness.

Rejoice, thou who didst burn with prayer to God;

Rejoice, thou who didst endure torment for the sake of Christ.

Rejoice, thou who wast strengthened by the grace of God;

Rejoice, thou who wast instructed by the Holy Spirit.

Rejoice, O venerable confessor Gabriel, fool for Christ and wonderworker!

Kontakion 10

Walking the saving path towards the heavenly Jerusalem, thou didst acquire the spirit of peace, O Venerable Father Gabriel. Putting all thy trust in the Lord, now thou dost teach us to follow in the footsteps of Christ and commend ourselves to His good will, singing to Him with love: Alleluia.

Ikos 10

Unbreachable wall of prayer, shield protecting the faithful, warrior of Christ rescuing sinners from the abyss of perdition, we beseech thee, O Venerable Father Gabriel most worthy of praise, forsake not us who are besieged by the storm of passions without thy help, that we may call out to thee thus:

Rejoice, mirror of Divine love;

Rejoice, praise of the meek.

Rejoice, strengthening of the weak in faith;

Rejoice, intercession for the suffering.

Rejoice, instructor of those who seek salvation;

Rejoice, admonition of the proud.

Rejoice, fountain of Divine healings;

Rejoice, heir of the abodes of heaven.

Rejoice, ray who shone forth in the gloom of Godlessness;

Rejoice, preacher who didst denounce heresy.

Rejoice, thou who didst cast down the power of the enemy by fasting and prayer;

Rejoice, thou who wast victorious over evil spirits by humility.

Rejoice, O venerable confessor Gabriel, fool for Christ and wonderworker!

Kontakion 11

We offer thee songs of praise, O most wondrous Father Gabriel. Iberia rejoices, and Samtavro Convent exults, glorifying the merciful Lord Who has given us His saint, with love proclaiming to Him: Alleluia.

Ikos 11

O wonderful light, O guiding star to those living in the darkness of sin, O Venerable Father Gabriel. Vouchsafed the formidable appearance of the Queen of Heaven, thou didst beseech mothers not to destroy their children in the womb. Therefore, as to a zealous intercessor for us we call out to thee thus:

Rejoice, glorious chosen one of God;

Rejoice, thou who didst please Him from thy youth.

Rejoice, thou who didst conquer enemies with the Name of Jesus;

Rejoice, thou who didst call on the Chosen Leader of the hosts for help.

Rejoice, thou who didst seek the Heavenly Kingdom;

Rejoice, thou who didst acquire treasures of the Holy Spirit.

Rejoice, thou who didst loud thunder out the Word of God;

Rejoice, thou who didst put unbelief to shame.

Rejoice, thou who didst wear a diadem in holy foolishness;

Rejoice, thou who didst receive a crown of glory.

Rejoice, thou who didst devote thy life to God;

Rejoice, thou who didst preserve the precious gift of faith from thy youth.

Rejoice, O venerable confessor Gabriel, fool for Christ and wonderworker!

Kontakion 12

Acquiring the grace of God and reaching the City of Heaven by the path of the commandments of Christ, O Venerable Father Gabriel, now in the Church Triumphant with the saints and heavenly hosts, with loud voice thou dost hymn the King of kings and offer Him the song of praise: Alleluia.

Ikos 12

Singing of thy most glorious feats and miracles, we marvel at thy angelic life, O Father Gabriel most worthy of praise, and offer thee our prayers of praise, crying out to thee with love thus:

Rejoice, thou who art clothed in the robe of humility;

Rejoice, thou who wast borne up to the heights of heaven.

Rejoice, fragrant oil of the grace of God;

Rejoice, chosen confessor of Christ.

Rejoice, thou who didst perform the Jesus Prayer;

Rejoice, thou who didst beat adversaries with the Name of Christ.

Rejoice, thou who didst denounce the powers that be;

Rejoice, thou who didst put worldly wisdom to shame.

Rejoice, thou who didst heal a heterodox from grievous illness;

Rejoice, thou who didst enlighten his soul with the light of the faith of Christ.

Rejoice, healer from cancer and manifold ailments;

Rejoice, liberator of those possessed with demons.

Rejoice, O venerable confessor Gabriel, fool for Christ and wonderworker!

Kontakion 13

O wondrous Father Gabriel most worthy of praise, our swift comforter and intercessor! Accept this song of praise from us, beseech the Almighty Lord that we may be saved from everlasting condemnation and torment and be found worthy to sing to Him with thee: Alleluia.

This kontakion is read three times, then Ikos 1 and Kontakion 1.

Ikos 1

Imitating the angelic life, thou didst please God with thy purity and humility, O most blessed Father Gabriel, and thou wast found worthy of acquiring the great gifts of the Holy Spirit! Marvelling at the greatness of thy feat, we call out to thee thus:

Rejoice, well of the wisdom of God;

Rejoice, spring of the living faith.

Rejoice, heart that contained Christ;

Rejoice, tree who has brought forth spiritual fruit.

Rejoice, thou who wast chosen by God from birth;

Rejoice, thou who wast called to serve Him;

Rejoice, thou who didst enlighten the Iberian land by thy miracles;

Rejoice, thou who didst shine forth by thy God-pleasing life.

Rejoice, thou who wast affirmed by God on the rock of faith;

Rejoice, thou who didst preach the Name of Christ with love.

Rejoice, thou who didst endure many sorrows in thy life;

Rejoice, thou who didst enter the Kingdom of Heaven thereby.

Rejoice, O venerable confessor Gabriel, fool for Christ and wonderworker!

Kontakion 1

Chosen vessel of the grace of God, fragrant source of miracles, boast of Iberia, O most wondrous Father Gabriel! Now do we offer thee a song of praise, and since thou hast great boldness towards the Lord, deliver us from all misfortunes, that we may cry to thee with love: Rejoice, O venerable confessor Gabriel, fool for Christ and wonderworker!

Prayer

O Venerable Father Gabriel, wonderworker of Samtavro, thou who didst shine forth in the feat of foolishness for the sake of Christ! Offer up thy prayers for us to the Lord like fragrant incense, Deliver us, O most wondrous father, by thy intercession from every misfortune and disaster, destroy the snares of the demons, quench enmity and heal the sick. The stream of miracles of God from thy holy shrine, O venerable one, does not become shallow, nor does the stream of His mercy to us sinners, who pray to thee, dry up.

Thou who wast vouchsafed the gift of great love from the Lord, who didst bear the burdens of thy neighbours and shed tears for sinners and the suffering, take our prayers and weeping of repentance to the throne of God. May we be vouchsafed by thy help, O father most worthy of praise, to pass through the tollhouses without hindrance and reach the Heavenly Homeland, where the unceasing voice of those who celebrate glorifies the Most Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

 

The Akathist to the Venerable Gabriel of Samtavro, Confessor and Fool-for-Christ was composed in Church Slavonic by Maria Alexandrovna Pukhova of Moscow and first published with the blessing of Archbishop Ephraim (Gamrekelidze) of Bolnisi (Georgian Orthodox Church) in 2018

Translated into English by  Dmitry Lapa and Archpriest Andrew Phillips

 

A Short Life of St Gabriel of Samtavro

The Venerable Confessor Gabriel of Samtavro, ‘Fool-for-Christ’ (secular name: Goderdzi Vasilyevich Urgebadze), was born in Tiflis (now Tbilisi) on 26 August 1929. The family called him Vasiko after his Communist father who had been murdered in unclear circumstances when the future saint was a little child. He had a brother, Mikhail, and two sisters named Emma and Juliet.

From childhood Vasiko was endowed with Divine grace. He would build little churches from pebbles and light matches inside them. The boy avoided noisy games with his peers, preferring loneliness and silence. Sometimes he would run down the street with a long stick. At those moments birds would flock around him with his stick and accompany him with their chirping.

Vasiko first heard about Christ when he was seven. Having come to the church of the Great-Martyr Barbara and seen the crucifix, he burst out crying: ‘Why were you crucified?’ The church caretaker, who heard his words, advised Vasiko to buy a book about the life of Jesus Christ. When Vasiko acquired the Gospel (which he soon learned by heart), it was the beginning of his new life. From that day until his death, his mind was filled with only one thought and the desire to live for Christ alone.

Once Vasiko was standing on a balcony in thought. Looking up, in the crystal clear sky he saw a large shining cross, cutting through the firmament right to the horizon. At that moment the boy was very surprised, but he later came to understand that it was his cross that he was to carry to his Golgotha.

His family did not understand Vasiko and so he tried to read the Gospel without their knowledge. But when his mother – though a honest, hard-working and not irreligious woman – found out about this, she threw out the Holy Scriptures in a fit of anger. After her act Vasiko left home. Frozen and hungry, the youth completely relied on the will of God. He wandered from monastery to monastery, from church to church because the authorities forbade monks to admit minors. The boy did not return home until the spring. Now the family resigned themselves to his choice and no longer hindered him.

During the Second World War, when Vasiko was twelve, people learned about his extraordinary gifts and flocked to him. The boy would tell them whether their loved ones were to return from the front or not, console them, give them wise advice and even preach Christ, often saying, ‘Go to church, don’t renounce Christ and don’t abandon spiritual life.’ The young saint saw through people and would often stop and say to strangers who, fearing the Soviet government, hid their icons in attics or other places, ‘Give the veneration due to your icons! If you don’t need them, give them to me – I will keep them and you can take them back any time if you decide to give them due veneration.’ Despite his strange behaviour, many people saw boundless love in the boy and loved him; though many laughed at him and mocked him, persecuting and humiliating him as a madman throughout his life.

The efforts of Vasiko bore fruit: little by little people began to return to the faith. He would always humble himself in different ways. Thus, Vasiko could sit by a heap of rubbish in a very conspicuous place for hours and repeat loudly, ‘Don’t forget, Vasiko, you are rubbish and don’t think highly of yourself.’ According to tradition, when the teenager ran away from home for a time, a kind woman who was a fortune-teller gave him refuge. The saint was full of pity for people who wallowed greatly in sin and wanted to save her. When the woman fell ill, he said he would receive people in her place. But instead of ‘fortune-telling’ Vasiko preached the Gospel to her visitors, telling them to mend their ways, repent and take Communion and revealed their forgotten sins. Inspired by him, the woman later abandoned fortune-telling and began to go to church.

Years later Vasiko built a church with seven cupolas in the courtyard of his house in Tbilisi to pray – the Soviet regime repeatedly destroyed it but he rebuilt it each time. This church – now with one big cupola – still exists. He dug a grave-like hole in one of the rooms of his house. It served him as a bed.

The young saint did his two-year military service in Batumi: despite the very strict regime, he kept all the fasts and went to church secretly. After the army he worked as a caretaker and singer at the Sioni Cathedral in Tbilisi.

In 1955, at the age of twenty-six, Vasiko became a monk with the name Gabriel in honour of the Venerable Gabriel the Athonite. Three days later, at the Cathedral of Sts Peter and Paul in Kutaisi Bishop Gabriel (Chachanidze) ordained him hieromonk. Later the elder used to say: ‘There is no greater heroism than monastic life.’ Enlightened by the grace of the Holy Spirit, Father Gabriel fearlessly preached the Orthodox faith during the years of persecution. He first served at Sioni Cathedral, and between 1960 and 1962 – at Betania Monastery of the Nativity of the Mother of God, where he became close to some holy ascetics of Betania. When the monastery was closed by the atheist authorities, the saint moved back to Tbilisi where he served at the Holy Trinity Cathedral for a few years.

At the May Day parade in 1965 in Tbilisi, he burned down a huge twelve-metre portrait of Lenin hung on the building of the Supreme Soviet of the GSSR, urging people to worship Christ, not an idol. Only thanks to Divine help was he not executed by firing squad, though he was severely beaten and even earlier he had been declared insane – ‘a psychopathic individual who believes in God and angels’. He went through KGB detention centres where he was repeatedly mercilessly beaten, prison and spent seven months in a mental hospital. After he was released, he was suspended (by some Georgian bishops who wanted to please the authorities) from serving in the church for years and even denied him access to church and Holy Communion for some time. Father Gabriel related:

‘I lived under five Patriarchs, slept in cemeteries for twenty-five years and spent fifteen years in poverty. When I froze from the cold in winter, I turned from one side to the other since the stone was warmer. In the cemetery the Lord delivered me from fear, my children.’

After the May Day incident the saint embarked on a very heavy service of ‘foolishness for Christ.’ In his feigned foolishness, he would throw a jug without a bottom over his back, walking barefoot from house to house through the streets, repeating every now and then: ‘A person without love is like this jug without a bottom!’ In his feigned ‘folly’, Fr Gabriel would often wear a diadem on his head, walk barefoot at any weather, and even pretended to be drunk, while boldly and unceasingly preaching Christ in the streets, exposing vice and secretly helping people. Father Gabriel searched for desecrated icons thrown out onto heaps, restored them and emptied ruined churches of rubbish.

The saint spent much of his later years at the Samtavro Convent of St Nino (in the ancient town of Mtskheta which is over 2,500 years old and situated fifteen kilometres north of Tbilisi). The convent was founded in the fourth century. Formerly Mtskheta was the capital of the east Georgian Kingdom of Kartli and it was there that Orthodoxy was proclaimed the national religion of Georgia in 337 A.D. In 1971, with the blessing of Catholicos-Patriarch Ephraim II of Georgia Fr Gabriel was appointed the spiritual father of Samtavro Convent and a seminary attached to it. There he spiritually supported, gave guidance and instructions to the sisterhood.

The elder often left the convent and wandered, alone or with a few companions, sometimes covering great distances, reaching places in dangerous areas or which were difficult of access, visiting the abandoned and ruined churches and monasteries and predicting that the bloody Red regime would go, all of them would be restored and services would start again. St Gabriel would often say: ‘My cross is the whole of Georgia and half of Russia.’

In the final years of his life Fr Gabriel lived in King Mirian’s round tower at Samtavro Convent where he had a tiny cell. But he would spend most of the time performing incredible spiritual feats, living in a small unused wooden shed with large holes which the convent had previously used as a chicken coop. It is unfathomable how he managed to live in such a tiny space where it was impossible to stand erect and to stand the damp and frosts in winter without heating. First the nuns were surprised by the saint’s ‘eccentricity’: the elder could scold the sisters, make them eat from dirty dishes, demand various ‘strange’ obediences from them, make them do something. He particularly tried to eradicate any signs of pride and arrogance in those in his spiritual care. But soon they understood that it was impossible to take offence at him—his eyes shone with tender love and affection.

A visionary and wonderworker, a healer and instructor, a prophet and consoler, clairvoyant and wise, humble and simple like a child who shed seas of tears for sinners, Fr Gabriel gained the love of many of the faithful in Georgia, Russia and even beyond, who flocked to him in great numbers every day. The extreme self-humiliation of Elder Gabriel was amazing. His sister Emma (+2016) recalled: ‘He was a fragile soul from childhood. Human praise weighed down on him. As a priest he would weep bitterly after coming home from services. Once I heard him weeping loudly alone in church when the door was open. I entered and asked him what the matter was. And he replied, “My sister, Christ was born in a manger, while people show me respect and kiss my hand”.’

Let us mention two remarkable facts from St Gabriel’s life. Firstly, once an angel revealed to him the hidden location of a portion of the Svetitskhoveli (‘life-giving pillar’ in Georgian) cross, after which together with the Samtavro nuns he uncovered it and now the relic is kept at this convent. And, secondly, once St Gabriel was visited by some Hindus who argued that the Orthodox teaching of the Holy Trinity was erroneous. And, though the elder demonstrated his miraculous power only in the most extreme cases, he took bread, put it on a tray and said: ‘You see: the bread is one and undivided!’ Then in the Name of the Trinity he made the sign of the cross over the bread – and water, fire and wheat appeared in its place. ‘Look! Water, fire and wheat have appeared instead of bread. Likewise, the Holy Trinity is divided into Three Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.’ Then he made the sign of the cross over the water, fire and wheat – and they turned into bread again. After that the elder said: ‘The Holy Trinity is One and Undivided just as this bread is one and undivided!’

St Gabriel was planning to move to another monastery and live as a recluse, but in a Divine revelation he was told not to leave Samtavro and serve people wholeheartedly. And the elder received all who came to him, though he knew no ranks and had an individual approach to every person. He knew a ‘remedy’ for each soul: he could denounce and shout at some and be extremely gentle and nice with others. His heart ached because of people’s sins, and he prayed for the salvation of all. He lived by the joys, sorrows and problems of his spiritual children, saving many from spiritual darkness and setting them on the path of righteousness through his gifts of the Holy Spirit. And many felt absolutely transformed in his presence. St Gabriel’s rare gift of love can even be seen in his facial expression and eyes on his photographs, portraits and icons.

St Gabriel foresaw in the spirit the Georgian coup etat, the internal military conflict of 1991-1992. When no one could have imagined this, he would shout: ‘Blood, blood on Rustaveli Avenue! Georgian blood is being spilt!’ He prayed with such a groan, tears and mournful cry to Christ and the Mother of God for the salvation of his motherland. During the conflict he would toll a bell in Samtavro every day and imposed such a strict fast on himself that he barely ate anything over those months.

The saint possessed a great gift of hospitality. At Samtavro he used to welcome and treat absolutely all guests to the food he would cook himself as long as his health allowed. He strove to bring people as close to God as he could. His words had a special power and penetrated directly into the hearts of pilgrims. He taught everybody to cultivate love for God and their neighbour, repentance, humility and generosity.

His half-sister Juliet recalled: ‘I would ask him: “Listen, you attended school for only six years and didn’t want to study any more. How do you know so many things?” It was so interesting to listen to him. No historian related the things he related. No highly intelligent and educated person would have been able to tell the things that he told us about the Lives of saints, the history of Georgia and Russia. He knew everything from somewhere!’ Though St Gabriel’s life was full of privations, poverty, pain, suffering, sorrows and ridicule, the saint who burned with Divine love always radiated joy and inner peace. When before his death his mother asked him why he had chosen such a heavy cross, Fr Gabriel replied: ‘I couldn’t have lived otherwise.’

For the past year and a half of his life the saint was gravely ill with oedema and was practically bedridden due to a leg fracture. Shortly before his repose he was elevated to the rank of archimandrite by the current Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II. Father Gabriel reposed on 2 November 1995, aged sixty-six. He was canonised in an incredibly short time – seventeen years after his death, and two years later his name was added into the calendar of the Russian Orthodox Church. On 22 February 2014, Father Gabriel’s incorrupt relics were uncovered and now they lie in the church of the Transfiguration in Samtavro Convent.

After his repose the Lord glorified His saint with the gift of miracles and healing, so the stream of those who are suffering and come to his holy relics never decreases. Miracles occur not only from his relics, but also from his burial board (according to his last will, he was buried without a coffin, just wrapped in a sackcloth shroud and strapped to a board according to an old monastic tradition), vestments, wonderworking and myrrh-streaming icons (in Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and other countries in the former USSR) and holy oil blessed on them. There are numerous reports of his posthumous miracles of healing and appearances all over the world, and by his love, example and prayers he brings people living even in non-Orthodox and non-Christian countries on all continents to Orthodoxy.

His numerous prophecies about the end times, the future of Georgia and Russia are well-known. He used to repeat, ‘In the end times people will only be saved through love, humility and kindness. Kindness will open the gate of Paradise, humility will take them there, and love will make God visible.’ Some call St Gabriel ‘the Georgian Elder Paisios the Athonite.’ There are many books and documentaries dedicated to the holy confessor Gabriel in Georgian, Russian, English and probably other languages.

After St Gabriel’s repose his mother Barbara became a nun in Samtavro with the name Anna and passed away in 2000 at a very advanced age, outliving her holy son by five years. She is buried at Samtavro Convent near him. All believers can experience the power of this wonderworker of our age by praying to him as he is always quick to answer.

Venerable Father Gabriel, pray to God for us!

The Prayer of Elder Gabriel

Lord, I beseech Thee, hear us from Heaven, turn Thy gaze on us and have mercy on us. Let us go with peace to walk Thy path, fulfil Thy commandments and move away from evil. Teach us, O Lord, to pray to Thee and obey Thy holy commandments, so that our hearts may become devoted to Thee and we may follow Thy holy law. Amen.

Some sayings of St Gabriel (Urgebadze):

‘Only he who learns to love will be happy. But do not think that love is an inherent talent. You can and must learn to love.’

‘Without sacrifices for the sake of the Lord and your neighbour you will not succeed in spiritual life at all. Without sacrifice you will not learn to love.’

‘God does not accept empty words. God loves good deeds. Good works – this is precisely what love is.’

‘Live in a way so not only God but people too can love you.’

‘Do not judge. The Judge is God Himself. He who judges is like an empty wheat ear, with his head lifted high he looks down on others. Even if you see a murderer, a harlot or a drunkard lying on the ground, do not judge anyone. God has given them the reins, but He is still holding yours. If he gives you the reins too, you may find yourself in a worse situation by committing the sins you are judging them for and perish.’

‘First God cures, and then the doctor. But he who does not thank the doctor does not thank God either. The labourer is worthy of his wages. The mind and the hands of the doctor do God-pleasing work.’

‘For God it does not matter whether you are a monastic or a lay person. The main thing is to strive for God. But will anyone be able to attain perfection? It is through striving that a person is saved. Monastic things will be required of monastics and lay things of laypeople.’

‘In the end times supporters of the Antichrist will go to church, get baptised and promote the Gospel commandments. But do not believe those who do not have good works. You can know a true Christian only by his deeds.’

‘Hate evil. But love and have pity on those who do evil. Maybe someone who is doing evil today will be cleansed by prayer, fasting, tears and remorse tomorrow and become like an angel. Everything is possible for God. There have been many such examples.’

‘Love is higher than all the canons and rules. If you hate at least one person, you are abominable before God. We must love everybody. But if you cannot, at least wish everybody well.’

‘Keep in mind that God is love. Do good as much as possible so your kindness may save you. Be humble as God blesses the humble. Repent right now so your sins may be forgiven; “tomorrow” is merely Satan’s snare. Love one another, since without love no-one will go to Heaven.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Centenary Icon for the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia

Introduction

Our Russian Orthodox Faith in the Holy Trinity has long been expressed by the words: ‘For the Faith, For the Tsar, For Rus’, which represent the actions of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit throughout the Russian Orthodox Lands all over the world. These words were expressed in recent history in the lives of the Three Saints of the Russian Emigration, the Three New Hierarchs, the Three New Pillars of Orthodoxy.

St Jonah

‘For the Faith’ was expressed by St Jonah of Hankou (+ 1925), the first saint of the Emigration. Fleeing as a refugee with other White Russians to China and absolutely faithful to the fullness of Russian Orthodoxy, within a very short time of becoming a bishop at a very young age in Manchuria, he established an orphanage, a school and a dining hall for the poor. Thus he combined the love of the Liturgy with practical love for our neighbour, as the Gospel calls us to do, for ‘Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you’ (Matt. 6.33). This is indeed the essence of the Orthodox Christian Faith. St Jonah expressed faithfulness in the face of the betrayal of the Faith by others.

St Seraphim

‘For the Faith and for the Tsar’ was expressed a generation later by St Seraphim of Boguchar (+ 1950). He fearlessly expressed the historic values of Russian Orthodoxy in his writings and was a Defender of Orthodoxy against the heresies of the renovationist Paris School in the 1930s and against ecumenism, notably at the Moscow Council of 1948. In his study ‘The Russian Ideology’, he asked: What is the role of the Tsar? He answered that the Tsar is the incarnation of our Faith in social, political and economic affairs. All this has become very relevant today, in the wake of the events that have followed the 2016 meeting in Crete organized by the Patriarchate of Constantinople. St Seraphim lived for decades outside Russia, but never made any compromise with the Orthodox Faith at any time, including in the last few years of his life. He expressed bravery in the face of the cowardice of others before the political pressures of the powerbrokers of this world.

St John

All of these values, ‘For the Faith and for the Tsar and for Rus’ were expressed by St John of Shanghai and San Francisco (+ 1966) two decades after St Seraphim. The first ‘universal saint’, as St John has been called, he defended the Orthodox Faith and the Tsar from their enemies. He lived all over the planet, celebrating the Liturgy and preaching in many languages, extending the understanding and practice of ‘Rus’ worldwide far beyond East Slavdom, which itself stretches from Carpatho-Russia to the shores of the Pacific. Thus, outside those lands we speak of American Rus, Argentinian Rus, Australian Rus, Canadian Rus, English Rus, French Rus, German Rus, Irish Rus, Italian Rus, Peruvian Rus, Swiss Rus and so on. Wherever, worldwide, there is the uncorrupted Christian Faith of the people of the Russian Orthodox world, there is Rus. St John expressed the truth which sets us free from the deceit of those who do not love Christ and His Holy Church.

The Three Saints and the Six Continents

The Russian Emigration expressed the truths ‘For the Faith, for the Tsar, for Rus’ with a more refined purity and much more extended significance than ever before. The three values of faithfulness, bravery and truthfulness were above all expressed by the Three New Hierarchs, after apostates expressed the opposite of ‘For the Faith, for the Tsar and For Rus’ in their ‘treachery, cowardice and deceit’ which caused the 1917 Revolution and brought persecution to the faithful. And these Three New Pillars of Orthodoxy completed their lives on three different continents: St Jonah in China in Asia; St Seraphim in Bulgaria in Europe and St John in San Francisco in North America. It is this, the global reality of Rus, which the Church inside Russia is now learning from us in our outposts here.

It is for this reason that we now have their Icon in our Church in Colchester, showing the Three Saints full length against the blue and green background of the planet – St John walking and blessing North and South America (where his parents went to live), St Seraphim walking and blessing Europe and Africa (where some of his spiritual children went to live), and St Jonah walking and blessing Asia and Oceania (where some of his spiritual children went to live). All of them walk beneath the Protecting Veil of the Directress of the Church here, the Kursk-Root Mother of God, the Icon of the Sign, She Who Shows the Way.

Thus, in this global age, we see all six inhabited Continents of the planet beneath the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God, blessed by the Three New Hierarchs, the Three New Pillars of Orthodoxy, the Three Saints of the Emigration, St Jonah, St Seraphim and St John. Their feasts, on 20 October, 26 February and 2 July respectively are spread almost equally, every four months, throughout the Church year, and each represents a new generation of Church life. Together they represent the essential identity, unique service, planetary mission and future of our whole Russian Orthodox Church, come forth from the past of Imperial Russia, now living in the present and worldwide.

Conclusion

All three saints are part of the historic contribution of the twentieth century to the common worldwide mission of our reunited Russian Orthodox Church now and in the future. We know that our Russian Orthodoxy – like all Traditional Orthodoxy – is being persecuted by the alien and secular mentality which has infiltrated parts of the Orthodox world. What better symbol of our common struggle for the Faith than this Icon of the Three Saints, all the fruit of Imperial Russia, all the fruit of the One Russian Church, and all of them our offering to the whole world for our common future?

Parish of St John of Shanghai, Colchester, Essex

Feast of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia

25 January/7 February 2021

 

The Russian Orthodox Émigré Contribution to the Future World Orthodox Church

A few years ago the now Metropolitan Tikhon of Pskov asked us the question: What distinctive contribution can the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) make to the Church inside Russia? Here is my answer to him in the light of the most recent events:

Our Orthodox Christian Faith is Trinitarian: God the Father, Who is the instinctive knowledge of the existence of God, God the Son, Who represents the Incarnation of the Faith in all human affairs on earth (as denied for a thousand years by the Western world), and God the Holy Spirit, Who sanctifies all the nations who accept Him. This Trinitarian knowledge has always been expressed in the Russian Orthodox words: ‘For the Faith, For the Tsar, For Rus’. This motto was in turn expressed in recent history by the three ROCOR Saints, the Three Saints of the Emigration:

‘For the Faith’ was expressed by St Jonah of Hankou (+ 1925), the first ROCOR saint. Fleeing as a refugee with the White Russians and absolutely faithful to the fullness of Russian Orthodoxy, within a very short time of becoming a bishop at a very young age in Manchuria, he established an orphanage, a school, and a dining hall for the poor. Thus he combined the love of the Liturgy with practical love for our neighbour, as the Gospel calls us to do. This is indeed the essence of the Orthodox Christian Faith.

‘For the Faith and for the Tsar’ was expressed a generation later by St Seraphim of Boguchar (+ 1950). He expressed the values of Russian Orthodoxy in his writings and was also the great defender of Orthodoxy against both the heresies of the renovationist Paris School in the 1930s and ecumenism, notably at the Inter-Orthodox Council of Moscow in July 1948. He asked: What is the role of the Tsar? He answered that he is the incarnation of the Faith in the life of the State, in social, political and economic affairs. This is why we await the coming of the next Tsar, the White Tsar, whether he is a man of piety, or Christ Himself in His Second Coming.

‘For the Faith, for the Tsar and for Rus’ was then expressed by St John of Shanghai (+ 1966). The first ‘universal saint’, as he has been called, he lived all over the planet and celebrated the Liturgy and preached in many languages, extending the understanding and practice of ‘Rus’ worldwide far beyond East Slavdom, which stretches from Slovakia to the shores of the Pacific. Now we talk about American Rus, Australian Rus, English Rus, French Rus, German Rus, Irish Rus, Peruvian Rus, Swiss Rus. Wherever, worldwide, there is the uncorrupted Christian Faith of the Russian Orthodox world, there is Rus.

Some in Russia would say that this is what they have always believed. True, but the emigration expressed it with a refined purity and much extended significance, all of which became possible only after the catastrophe of the 1917 Revolution.  All three saints together, the Three New Pillars of Orthodoxy, completed their lives on three different continents: St Jonah in China in Asia; St Seraphim in Bulgaria in Europe and St John in San Francisco in North America.

It is this, the global reality of Rus, which the Church inside Russia is now learning from us. Once captive inside the mental borders of the Soviet Union, the multinational Russian Orthodox Church has recently established a Western European Exarchate and a South-East Asian Exarchate, becoming ever more deeply the Church of Eurasia. Now, with the long-expected apostasy of Greek Churches, far too weak to stand up to corrupting American pressure, there has appeared the possibility of setting up a Turkish Exarchate in Asia and solving the old calendarist schism in Greece in Europe.

Moreover, extending to a new Continent, it could set up an African Orthodox Church with local, not colonial, bishops. Beyond this there is the possibility of founding a real North American Orthodox Church, with the future merger of the healthy elements of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) with ROCOR. And ROCOR in turn can, with canonical and practical support from inside Russia, help set up a Church of Oceania and a Church of South America. It is our hope that we shall yet see founded a church dedicated to the Three New Pillars of Orthodoxy, the Pillars of the Russian emigration of three different continents. The future begins now.

Holy Suffolk

Holiness is the Christian Orthodox ideal: we look not at rank or riches, but at holiness, for it is one of the four signs of the Church and the one which is personally accessible.  It is why all Orthodox speak of the Holy Land, the Holy Mountain, Holy Russia and of making pilgrimages to holy places, the places of the saints. Locally, in England, we speak of Holy Island, the monastery of St Cuthbert in Lindisfarne, and also of one county as holy: Holy Suffolk. What is the origin of this latter name?

When the pagan Danes invaded the Kingdom of East Anglia in the ninth century, martyring St Edmund in Hoxne, among the ‘southern folk’ of the Kingdom, later called Suffolk, they found so many churches and so much piety that they called the region ‘gesaelig’, meaning ‘blessed’ or ‘holy’. This by corruption in the Middle Ages became ‘seely’ and today ‘silly’, hence the name ‘Silly Suffolk’. Incidentally, the root of this word is the same as the Greek ‘salos’, which means foolish for Christ; any fool for Christ’s sake is known as ‘salos’ in Greek. As the Apostle Paul writes, foolishness (‘silliness’) in this world is wisdom before God.

Thus, we know that there were already 417 churches in Suffolk in 1066 – for a population that could not then have been more than 50,000: one church for every hundred or so people. Moreover, what had become known at that time as Suffolk (the region of the southern folk of East Anglia) was by the twelfth century divided into three parts: about one third in the south-east was called St Audrey’s Liberty, for this centred on Rendlesham, which had been owned by St Audrey (pedants call her ‘Etheldreda’). She was baptised by St Felix who lived there and after whom nearby Felixstowe, where St Felix founded a monastery, is named. The other two-thirds was divided into St Edmund’s Liberty or west Suffolk, centred on Bury St Edmunds, and into what was called the ‘Geldable’ (= the taxable, that is the area subject to central secular taxation). Thus some two-thirds of the modern county was dedicated to the Church, through St Audrey and St Edmund.

Indeed, a more or less straight diagonal line can be drawn from Felixstowe in the south-east corner of Suffolk, on to Bury St Edmunds and then to Ely, which borders Suffolk,  just beyond its north-west corner. The monastery in Ely had been founded by St Audrey who had been born in nearby Exning in Suffolk. This straight line forms a heavenly path for pilgrims, a spiritual way, a mystical road, connecting the three best-known saints of Suffolk: St Felix, Apostle of East Anglia, St Edmund, King of East Anglia and St Audrey of Ely. This is part of that mystical conscience of the other England, beyond modern traffic and roads, towns and shops, noise and bustle. It is a tiny fragment of holiness in today’s Suffolk, pointing us to our Orthodox destiny.

Holy, Felix, Audrey and Edmund, pray to God for us!

 

 

 

 

On the Coming Centenary of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR)

 Introduction: The Decisions of the June 2019 Synod of San Francisco

At the meeting of the Synod of Bishops of the Church Outside Russia in San Francisco at the end of June 2019 a number of decisions were taken. Notably the title of Bishop Irenei (Steenberg) was determined as ‘of London and Western Europe’ – a striking title against the political background of Brexit. The archpastors also agreed to have a special Icon painted for the 2020 centenary of the establishment of the Church Outside Russia. The Church was founded on 7/20 November 1920, as expressed in the words of Decree No 362, issued by the holy confessor Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow and the Synod in Moscow.

The hierarchs approved the text of the announcement of a competition to paint the Icon in honour of the centenary. They called on all diocesan bishops to organize celebrations and devote youth and music conferences, diocesan assemblies, clergy retreats, symposia and other events to the centenary. Finally, the Synod agreed to call a Council of Bishops on the centenary to be held in Germany. The Synod concluded with the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the canonization of the ‘Abbot of the Russian Diaspora’, St John of Shanghai and San Francisco on 28 and 29 June.

Our Suggestion

It is our humble suggestion that on the anniversary all celebrate a service of thanksgiving, with special petitions of thanksgiving for the past and present and entreating God for his guidance for our Church in the future. These petitions would express the spirit of the twofold task of the Church Outside Russia at its best: a deep love for and faithfulness to the authentic Russian Orthodox Tradition, all the while witnessing and preaching before the Non-Orthodox world around us.

As regards a special Icon, we suggest the following. Let us recall how a thousand years ago, controversy surrounded the question as to who is the greatest Father: St Basil the Great, St Gregory the Theologian or St John Chrysostom. As the question had no issue, following a vision, in the year 1084 the Church established the Feast of the Three Hierarchs on 30 January, after the January feast days of all three of them. Let us now do the same. This new Icon should specifically portray the Three New Hierarchs of the Church Outside Russia, who have all been canonized in the last generation. These are St John of Shanghai, canonized first, St Jonah of Hankou and St Seraphim of Boguchar. The Icon would show them against a world map, with, going from west to east, St John in California, St Seraphim in Bulgaria and St Jonah in China.

St John of Shanghai (Canonized in 1994)

St John of Shanghai and San Francisco, also called St John of Shanghai and Western Europe or simply St John the Wonderworker (1896-1966) was a pastor and spiritual father of high reputation and wonderworker, known for his powers of prophecy, clairvoyance and healing. He is the most international of saints, having visited every continent, except Oceania (though he had and still has many spiritual children there who had known him personally in China). The first global saint, he served in Slavonic, Chinese, French, English, Dutch and other languages.

He was born in 1896 in the village of Adamovka in the present-day Ukraine. He came from the same family – not of Serbian origin (a common myth) – as that of St John of Tobolsk. From 1907 to 1914 he attended Poltava Military School and then received a degree in law in 1918. His family took him to Belgrade in 1921, where in 1925 he graduated from University with a degree in theology.

In 1926 he became a monk and was ordained hierodeacon by Metr Antony of Kiev, who gave him the name of St John after his saintly relative. Later that same year he was ordained priest. For several years afterwards he worked as a teacher of theology and in 1929 he was appointed to teach in the seminary in Bitola. The principal of the seminary was the future St Nicholas (Velimirovich). In 1934 he was consecrated bishop by Metropolitan Antony (the last bishop he consecrated) and assigned to the Diocese of Shanghai.

In Shanghai Bishop John found an uncompleted Cathedral and an Orthodox community deeply divided for nationalistic reasons. Making contact with all the various groups, he quickly involved himself in the existing charitable institutions and personally founded an orphanage and home for the children of the poor. Here he first became known for miracles attributed to his prayers. As a public figure it was impossible for him to completely conceal his ascetic way of life. Despite his actions during the Japanese invasion, when he routinely ignored the curfew in pursuit of his pastoral activities, the Japanese authorities never harassed him. As the only Russian hierarch in China who refused to submit to the authority of Soviet atheists after the War, in 1946 he was made Archbishop of China.

When the Communists finally took power, the Russian colony was forced to flee, first to a camp on the island of Tubabao in the Philippines and then mainly to the USA and Australia. Archbishop St. John travelled personally to Washington to ensure that his people would be allowed to enter the country.

In 1951 St John was assigned to the Archdiocese of Western Europe with his see first in Paris, then in Brussels. Thanks to his work in collecting Lives of saints, several pre-Schism Western saints became known to Orthodoxy and continue to be venerated to this day. His charitable and pastoral work continued as it had in Shanghai, now among a much more widely scattered flock.

In 1962 St John was once again reassigned, this time to San Francisco, where there were apparently intractable problems. Here too he found a divided community and a Cathedral in an unfinished state. Although he completed the building of the Cathedral and brought some measure of peace to the community he became the target of slander from those who became his political and sectarian enemies. They went so far as to file a lawsuit against him for alleged mishandling of finances related to the construction of the Cathedral. He was naturally exonerated, but this lawsuit was a great cause of sorrow to him.

On 2 July (on the secular calendar) 1966 St John reposed while visiting Seattle at a time and place which he had foretold. He was entombed beneath the altar of the Cathedral he had built in San Francisco, dedicated to the Mother of God, Joy of All Who Sorrow. In 1994, the 28th anniversary of his repose, he was canonized. His relics occupy the shrine in the Cathedral and his feast day is celebrated on the Saturday nearest to 2 July.

St Jonah of Hankou (Canonized in 1996)

St Jonah (Pokrovsky), Bishop of Hankou (1888-1925), served in Northern China in the years immediately following the Bolshevik Revolution. Born in Kaluga in Russia with the name Vladimir, he was orphaned at the age of eight and was taken in by a kindly deacon who ensured he received an education. He went on to attend, graduate and eventually teach at the Kazan Theological Academy. While a student, he became a monk of the Optina Brotherhood and was given the name Jonah.

In 1918 the Revolution forced the young hieromonk to leave Kazan. He was arrested by the atheists and suffered beatings to the point of losing consciousness and imprisonment. Thus, sharing the fate of the New Confessors of Russia, by Divine Providence Fr Jonah was freed by the White Army beyond the Ural Mountains. Fr Jonah withdrew to the borders of Western China and was subjected to all kinds of hardships while crossing the Pamirs, often forced to grab on to jagged ledges and the sparse shrubbery of the ice-covered cliffs with wounded hands. After crossing the Gobi Desert, the group finally reached Beijing, where Fr Jonah was received into the Mission there and soon consecrated Bishop of Manzhuria. (St Jonah was officially the bishop of Hankou in Hubei province, but actually worked in the town of Manzhuria, the modern day town of Manzhouli).

During his short time as bishop, St Jonah transformed the Orthodox community in Manzhuria. He established an orphanage, a school and a dining hall for the poor. He worked tirelessly for his flock and was deeply loved by them. At the end, Bishop Jonah had been caring for a priest who died of typhoid fever, but subsequently contracted chronic tonsillitis and then developed blood poisoning. As he was dying, he wrote a final epistle to his flock, reminding them of the need to love one another, confessed one final time to Archbishop Methodius of Beijing, received communion, blessed those around him. Then he put on vestments which had belonged to St Ambrose of Optina and began, loudly and with prostrations, to read the canon for the departure of the soul. Finally overcome with weakness, he lay down on his bed and said, ‘God’s will be done. Now I shall die’, and indeed within minutes he reposed.

That same evening a ten-year-old crippled boy, who had been suffering from an inflammation of the knee joints, had a dream. All medical efforts had proven fruitless. He was unable to walk or even to stand. In his dream he saw a hierarch vested in white who said, ‘Here, take my legs. I don’t need them any more. And give me yours’. He woke up and was miraculously healed. From a photograph he identified the hierarch in his dream as Bishop Jonah who had reposed that very night on 7/20 October 1925. Though his life was short, his memory endured long after his repose. His feast is on October 7/20.

St Seraphim of Boguchar (Canonized in 2016)

The future St Seraphim (Sobolev), Archbishop of Boguchar (1881-1950), is known as an ardent defender of the purity of the Orthodox Faith and Tradition, standing up for the monarchy and denouncing the Bulgakov heresy, modernism and ecumenism, and is known as a wonderworker. Before his death, he said to his spiritual children, ‘If I find boldness before the Lord, I will not leave you’. The night after his burial, he appeared in a dream to one of his spiritual sons, a monk, and said, ‘Why are you weeping? I have not died, I am alive.’

Born in Ryazan on 1 December 1881, his mother called him Nicholas. An excellent student, after attending the local parish school he entered the local seminary and in 1904 Saint Petersburg Theological Academy, during which this brilliant and already learned student became a monk, taking the name Seraphim. Fr. Seraphim taught for a year at a priest’s school in Zhitomir before being appointed assistant supervisor of the diocesan school in Kaluga. The pupils there loved Fr. Seraphim greatly. While he was still in Kaluga, he often went to the Optina Hermitage, where he visited the elders Anatoly, Barsanuphy and Joseph. Fr Anatoly treated him with special love and was his father confessor. After two and a half years, Hieromonk Seraphim was transferred to the seminary in Kostroma. In 1912, Hieromonk Seraphim was appointed rector of the seminary in Voronezh. Within a year he had so transformed the seminary that it was judged by the Synod inspector to be the best in the country.

On 1 October 1920, on the feast of the Protection of the Most Holy Mother of God, in the Cathedral of Simferopol, Archimandrite Seraphim was consecrated bishop by Metr Antony of Kiev. It was a great comfort for him that on this occasion, by God’s inscrutable ways, the great sacred treasure, the wonderworking Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God ‘of the Sign’, was present in the Cathedral. Soon after this, to his sorrow, he had to leave his native land. He spent a short time in Constantinople before moving to Bulgaria where, in August 1921, he was appointed Director of the Russian Orthodox monastic communities there.

Living in ceaseless ascetic endeavour and difficult conditions in Bulgaria, he caught tuberculosis. Despite his serious illness he cared for his flock with fervour. He served frequently and gave sermons three times a week, calling his flock to repentance, to grace-filled reformation and to the most basic virtue – humility. Especially noteworthy were his sermons on Forgiveness Sunday, when, after his appeal, many people who had quarrelled with each other for years tearfully begged forgiveness of one another.

As an archpastor he made the rounds of the Russian parishes in the Bulgarian provinces, and visited Russian schools. His talks and his warm and loving personality left a lasting, grace-filled impression everywhere. In difficult material conditions, he also cared for poor and sick Russians. For some he arranged free hospital treatment, others he placed in homes for invalids, for some he obtained pensions, some he fed at his place, and some he settled in his monastery. Nor did he overlook destitute Russian monks on Mount Athos. He formed a committee to collect help for them and in his sermons he appealed to parishioners to donate to this holy work.

In 1934 he was given the title of archbishop. Spiritually gifted from his early years and constantly engaged in a fiery struggle with the passions, while still a relatively young bishop he attained spiritual heights. Several of his spiritual children recorded cases of his clairvoyance, which manifested itself even at great distances. For his angelic purity he received the gift to perceive the most subtle deviations from Orthodox Christian truth. He watched over Orthodox Christian life and was its conscience, as it were. Where he observed irregularity, he uncompromisingly exposed it, not fearing to suffer for the truth. As a result, he produced some priceless theological works.

H e refuted the heresy of name-worship, but his major work was the refutation of the modernist Sophianist Parisian philosopher Fr Sergius Bulgakov, for which in 1937 he received a Master’s Degree in theology. He was rushing to complete this work by a certain deadline when he fell ill with a fever. He implored the Mother of God, to whose prayerful intercession he had resorted all his life, begging her to heal him. And what happened? His temperature dropped immediately and he was able to finish his work within the allotted time.

He poured out all his love for the Saviour in his theological works, fervently defending the truths of Orthodoxy. ‘My books are my blood’, he declared. And truly he lay down his life for Christ in the struggle with heretics, sparing neither his strength nor broken health. He constantly worked at night. This upset his brother, Archimandrite Sergius, in view of his weak health. Knowing this, he wrote secretly. In the evening he would lie down and when everyone else had fallen asleep he would get up and continue writing, taking advantage of the night-time quiet, considering it his pastoral duty to defend the truth. It is not by chance that the Lord called him to the next world on the day when the holy Church celebrates the Triumph of Orthodoxy and its defenders, on 13/26 February, his feast-day.

The Three Temptations

The Church has always faced three temptations, both past and contemporary, but they have never been as strong as in our day. These temptations are: ritualist and sectarian nationalism (phyletism); corrupting mammonism; secularist liberalism.

Ritualist and Sectarian Nationalism (Phyletism)

The first global saint, St John was entirely international and politically free, not fanatically narrow, sectarian, racist or ritualist. He faced down the temptations of nationalist flag waving, uniting the Orthodox communities in Shanghai, Western Europe and San Francisco. He always placed Christ above any nation and people and was never influenced by any worldly political pressures, either from the Japanese Empire, the Soviet Empire or the American Empire. He was always faithful, resisting sectarianism of all sorts. He strongly disliked the ritualizing tendency of some to cut services short, reading and singing very quickly, with the result that people cannot understand the services.

Corrupting Mammonism

St Jonah transfigured Church life in Manzhuri, establishing an orphanage, a school and a dining hall for the poor. He worked tirelessly for his flock, and was deeply loved by them. We see that he was loving, he did not seek to amass money, but worked voluntarily, showing the Church to be a community, that we are saved together. He thus avoided the temptations that tempted the Church before the Revolution and today, especially perhaps, though also in many Local Churches, in contemporary Russia: the idolatry of Mammon, chasing after money, setting tariffs for every sacramental action, which so discredits the Church and repulses the people. He was utterly detached from love of money, love of ‘gold and marble’, remaining incorruptible.

Secularist Liberalism

St Seraphim was faithful to the Tradition, not modernist and ecumenist. He never suffered from the immigrant inferiority complex of conformism to this world. He was profoundly Patristic, filled with the grace that comes from ascetic life. He was not in any way afraid to stand up to heresy, as in the case of his resistance to the fantasies of Bulgakov. And at the Moscow Council of 1948 he stood up for Orthodox unity, resisting the tide of Secularism, which the Western Powers were trying to impose on the Orthodox world through the Greek-speaking Churches, notably standing up for the Orthodox calendar and also the Orthodox, not absolutist, principle of the monarchy.

Conclusion: The Three New Hierarchs

All three hierarchs expressed the Unity, Holiness, Catholicity and Apostolicity of the Church, all having the essential in common, however each having a special ‘hypostatic’ characteristic. This characteristic put them above the world and its triple temptations. St John resisted through his humility, St Jonah through his non-possession and St Seraphim through his obedience to the Tradition.  If these temptations are resisted, the Church Outside Russia will continue. If ever it forgets them, it will face extinction.

The feasts of these Three Hierarchs are evenly spaced throughout the year, approximately every four months, in February, June/July and October. We suggest that their commemoration and celebration of their Icon be introduced on 7/20 November, after their three feasts, on the anniversary of the foundation of our Church. Eventually, a special service, based on the separate services to the three saints, or an akathist, could be compiled, entitled to ‘The Three New Hierarchs’.

Holy Hierarchs John, Jonah and Seraphim, pray to God for us!

Archpriest Andrew Phillips,

Church of St John of Shanghai, Colchester, England

St Alban’s Day, 5 July 2019

 

The Remaining Holy Relics of the Native Saints of Great Britain

At the Reformation most holy relics in Great Britain were destroyed by fanatics or else taken abroad, only a few survived. However, some have been returned in the modern era. Below the writer Dmitry Lapa has compiled a list of the saints whose relics are still present (though sometimes concealed):

St. Alban (his shoulder bone was returned to St. Albans Cathedral, Herts, from Cologne in 2002);

St. Audrey of Ely (Etheldreda) (her incorrupt hand is available for veneration in the RC church in Ely, Cambs and a particle of her relics is in St. Etheldreda’s RC Church in Ely Place, London);

St. Augustine of Canterbury (a particle of his relics is in St John’s Orthodox Church in Colchester and another in St. Augustine’s RC Church in Ramsgate, Kent);

St. Bede of Jarrow (his tomb with relics has been preserved in the Galilee Chapel of Durham Cathedral since the eleventh century and not destroyed by the iconoclasts because his authority as a historian was great; a particle of his relics is also in St John’s Orthodox Church in Colchester);

St. Birinus of Wessex (a portion of his relics is believed to rest in Dorchester-on-Thames Abbey, Oxon where miracles occur, and some in Winchester Cathedral, though concealed);

St. Boniface of Germany (two relics of the saint and a piece of his tomb were  brought to his birthplace in Crediton, Devon, from Fulda in Germany not long ago and placed in the local RC church; another particle of his relics is housed in All Saints’ Church in Brixworth, Northants);

St. Chad of Lichfield (several of his relics are venerated in the RC Cathedral in Birmingham);

St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne (his shrine was buried under the floor of Durham Cathedral at the Reformation and elevated again in the nineteenth century, his relics as well as some personal relics survive and miracles occur; a particle of his relics is also in St John’s Orthodox Church in Colchester);

St. David of Mynyw and St. Justinian of Ramsey (what is believed to be their relics rest in the restored shrine of St. Davids Cathedral, Wales);

St. Eanswythe of Folkestone (her reliquary was uncovered during building work in 1885 in Folkestone church);

St. Edmund of East Anglia (a small particle of his relics is available for veneration in the RC church in Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk; his supposed major relics were returned to England from France in 1901 and rest in a reliquary in the Fitzalan Side-Chapel of Arundel Castle in West Sussex);

St. Edward the Martyr (his relics were discovered by an amateur archaeologist, J. Wilson-Claridge, among the ruins of Shaftesbury Abbey in Dorset and are sometimes available for veneration at St. Edward’s Brotherhood in Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey);

St. Frideswide of Oxford (her relics were mixed with the bones of a woman and buried under the floor of Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford after the Reformation; a couple of years ago somebody’s remains were found under the floor during repair work—some of them are believed to be St. Frideswide’s; their whereabouts are unknown: some say they were soon reburied either under the saint’s restored shrine or under her symbolic gravestone, and others say they were even interred in a local church graveyard);

St. Hedda of Winchester (his relics are in Winchester Cathedral, albeit hidden after the Reformation and the exact location is unknown);

St. Hibald of Lindsey (his supposed tomb with relics was discovered under the chancel floor in the church in Hibaldstow, Lincs, in 1866);

St. John of Beverley (his relics were hidden during the Reformation under the floor of Beverley Minster in East Riding of Yorkshire; today his grave is marked there and miracles occur);

St. Kentigern Mungo (his relics most likely lie in the tomb of the lower crypt of Glasgow Cathedral);

St. Melangell (the ancient bones of a woman, most likely Melangell,  were discovered in the former apse of the church in Pennant Melangell in Powys, Wales, during a 1958 restoration project and later placed in the reconstructed shrine; miracles occur all year round);

St. Mildred of Thanet (in 1953 a portion of her relics, which for centuries had been kept in Deventer, Holland, was returned to England and enshrined in Minster Convent in Kent);

St. Swithin of Winchester (his relics were hidden during the Reformation and are still in Winchester Cathedral under the floor, somewhere near his former shrine);

St. Teilo of Llandeilo (his supposed head relic is kept in the chapel which bears his name in a specially constructed reliquary in Llandaff Cathedral in Wales);

St. Tewdrig, King of Glywysing and Martyr (his coffin with relics was rediscovered in the seventeenth century by the Bishop of Llandaff at St. Tewdrig’s Church in Mathern, Monmouthshire);

St. Urith (it can be said with high degree of certainty that her relics still lie under the church floor in Chittlehampton, Devon, a long way below the slab that covers them);

St. Winefride of Holywell (her finger-relic is kept in the RC Cathedral in Shrewsbury, Salop, and another particle of her relics belongs to Catholics in Holywell, Anglesey);

St. Wite (still intact in the church in Whitchurch Canonicorum, Dorset).

There are other places, where according to tradition saints’ relics may still be present. Among them are:

St. Bertram (Holy Cross Church in Ilam, Staffs);

St. Eata (the crypt of Hexham Abbey, Northumb.);

St. Oswald of Worcester and York (Worcester Cathedral);

St. Wilfrid of York (either Canterbury Cathedral or Ripon Cathedral in North Yorkshire);

Sts. Oswald of Northumbria and Hilda of Whitby (Durham Cathedral);

Those of some of the holy archbishops of Canterbury (buried around St. Augustine’s Abbey in Canterbury, where their grave markers survive).

The supposed relics of St. Alfred the Great and St. Edburgh of Bicester have also been under investigation lately, but results are inconclusive.

 

 

 

 

Akathist to the Holy Blessed Andrew of Constantinople, Fool for Christ (870-936)

After many decades of thought and prayer, we have been able to compose an akathist to St Andrew, Fool for Christ. Like the other services we have composed to canonized saints over the last 20 years (see below and on http://orthodoxengland.org.uk/zliturgics.htm), the final inspiration has come to us very quickly.

Since St Andrew was a Slav living in Constantinople, we hope that his prayers may yet help in overcoming the present terrible schism, as it has led to the little Church of Constantinople falling away from communion with the vast majority of Orthodox worldwide.

Other Services:

  1. Service to All the Saints of the Isles (2006)
  2. Service to All the Saints of the Western Lands (2015)
  3. Service to St Alfred, King of England (2014)
  4. Service to St Audrey of Ely (1998-1999)
  5. Service to Edmund, King of East Anglia (1998-1999)
  6. Service to St Felix, Apostle of East Anglia (1998-1999)
  7. Akathist to the Felixstowe Icon of the Mother of God (1998-1999)

 

Archpriest Andrew Phillips, England

9 March 2019

 

 

Akathist to the Holy Blessed Andrew of Constantinople, Fool for Christ, 2/15 October

 

Kontakion 1

Chosen saint of God and fool for Christ, O holy blessed Andrew, from thy childhood thou didst love the Holy Scriptures and Holy Church, renouncing all worldly things. Therefore thou wast found worthy to behold the protection of the Mother of God who appeared with the saints in the church of Blachernae. Now honouring thy holy memory, we offer thee this song of praise and as thou hast great boldness before the Lord of mercy, deliver us from all misfortune, temptation and despair that we may call out to thee thus:

Rejoice, O blessed Andrew, who seest the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God over all the faithful!

Ikos 1

O all-wise Andrew, thou wast found worthy of a life equal to the angels. Once a slave of Theognostes who knew God, thou too didst know God. Once a slave, fair in appearance and outstanding in character, thou didst become a servant of God who found true freedom in renouncing the vanities and illusions of this world. Therefore hear this praise which we offer thee now, saying:

Rejoice, O vessel chosen for the wisdom of God, which is foolishness for men!

Rejoice, O trusted slave who didst become the friend and brother of the angels!

Rejoice, O favoured slave who became the favoured servant of God!

Rejoice, thou who after an angelic vision didst take up the feat of foolishness for Christ!

Rejoice, thou whose heart flowered to Christ’s teaching, accepting unfading crowns from Paradise!

Rejoice, thou who didst reckon the things of this world as nothing!

Rejoice, thou who didst show the strength of God in a weak human body!

Rejoice, O blessed Andrew, who seest the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God over all the faithful!

Kontakion 2

Beholding thy most strange life in which thou didst despise every care for the mortal flesh, naked in the freezing cold thou wast warmed by the sweet flowers of Paradise on account of thy burning love for Christ. Seeing thy humility and the presence of the world to come in thee, the faithful servant of Christ Barbara of the City of Constantine sang to God: Alleluia!

Ikos 2

O blessed Andrew, thou didst conceal the reasoning mind given by God by feigning folly. Thy spirit was quickened in the purity of thy soul and thy heart offered the Lord unceasing prayer for sinners in the silence of thy lips. As for us, astonished and consoled by thy vision of the Mother of God, we call out to thee in praise:

Rejoice, thou who didst extinguish the burning fire of pride from thy youth up!

Rejoice, thou who didst take up the heavy cross of foolishness for Christ’s sake!

Rejoice, thou who didst hide the brightness of grace by assuming folly!

Rejoice, thou who didst appear to be a fool to all!

Rejoice, thou who didst acquire the gift of seeing through the world by thy feat of prayer!

Rejoice, thou who wast caught up to heaven to see the Master Christ and all the beauty of Paradise!

Rejoice, O most wise Andrew, and make us wise through thy foolishness for Christ!

Rejoice, O blessed Andrew, who seest the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God over all the faithful!

Kontakion 3

What is not possible for men is possible for God, for the strength of God is made perfect in weakness; the blessed one shows that we weak sinners may trample down the ancient enemy of mankind by self-renunciation for the sake of Christ. O blessed Andrew, by thy prayers strengthen us sinners, that we may be found worthy to sing this heavenly song: Alleluia!

Ikos 3

O most wise Andrew, thou wast a seer of the Providence of Divine judgements. Undaunted by the illusion of the demons, who though strong in appearance are weak in power, thou wast bound with chains and consoled by the holy Anastasia and John the apostle of Christ. Therefore the faithful now flee to thee for help, singing thus:

Rejoice, thou who didst take up the easy yoke and light burden of Christ!

Rejoice, thou who didst accept the mockings of men as praise!

Rejoice, thou who like Lazarus didst lay in filth, despised even by dogs!

Rejoice, thou whose intercession heals the impure and those who love gold!

Rejoice, thou whose ragged shirt was fairer than garments woven with gold!

Rejoice, thou who didst see things to come in the present!

Rejoice, thou who didst hear unutterable words and see invisible beings!

Rejoice, O blessed Andrew, who seest the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God over all the faithful!

Kontakion 4

We see thee, O blessed Andrew, as a star shining forth from among the Slav peoples, brightly gleaming in the firmament of the Church. Thou wast revealed in the City of Constantine to those deluded by every lust, showing us all the heights of humble wisdom and teaching us to sing to God: Alleluia!

Ikos 4

O most wise Andrew, who didst foresee in thy soul the sweetness that is to come, as thou didst tell thy disciple Nicephorus, show thine intercession for the faithful of the City of Constantine and the Orthodox everywhere. As for us, astounded by the acts of Divine Providence for us unworthy and hard-hearted, we call to thee with tender prayer thus:

Rejoice, thou who wast clothed in a robe woven with lightning!

Rejoice, thou who becamest like unto the angels in humility!

Rejoice, thou who wast wondrously raised up on high by thy lowliness!

Rejoice, O Slav who became the boast of faithful Greeks!

Rejoice, O glory of all the peoples of the Church of God!

Rejoice, O intercessor for all who seek true wisdom!

Rejoice, O most pure vessel of the Holy Spirit, who didst love the poor!

Rejoice, O blessed Andrew, who seest the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God over all the faithful!

Kontakion 5

O most wise Andrew, thou becamest like unto a star following after Christ, by thy life thou didst adorn the City of Constantine, shining forth by thy feat of renunciation. Now teach us who drown in the sea of worldly passions and guide us to the calm haven of salvation by thy prayers. And, glorifying the Lord Who glorified thee, we cry: Alleluia!

Ikos 5

O blessed Andrew, the Lord made thee worthy to serve Him by showing thee the bitterness of the world and the sweetness of paradise. Having beheld Christ on His throne of glory, thou didst voluntarily suffer all privations for His sake. Now as thou dost taste of the bread of heaven in everlasting life, pray for us who are sick in body and soul and cry out to thee with tender feeling:

Rejoice, thou who wast inspired by a heavenly vision to become a fool for Christ’s sake on earth!

Rejoice, thou who wast near naked and starved to show us the wisdom of God!

Rejoice, thou who didst suffer torments and slander from all!

Rejoice, thou who didst shame the demons!

Rejoice, thou who didst see the angels!

Rejoice, thou who didst see through the thoughts of men!

Rejoice, thou who helpest those who have lost hope!

Rejoice, O blessed Andrew, who seest the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God over all the faithful!

Kontakion 6

Thou wast a preacher of the Cross, to those who perish a stumbling-block and foolishness, but the power and wisdom of God to thee who art saved. Seeing the height of thy lowliness, O blessed Andrew, the Lord granted thee the gift of seeing the unseen. With this gift of wisdom thou didst turn many from sin to repentance. As for us, seeing such things as these, we sing to God: Alleluia!

Ikos 6

O blessed Andrew, thou didst become poor in spirit and so receive the kingdom of God, thou didst become pure in heart and thus see God. Knowing this, we fall humbly to our knees before thine image and ask that thou mayest beseech from the Saviour of our souls a Christian ending to the lives of all who cry to thee such things as these:

Rejoice, thou who wast trampled down by men and dogs alike!

Rejoice, thou who didst drive away every earthly attachment by thy voluntary martyrdom!

Rejoice, thou who didst reveal the vanity of the world in the rich man who died, mocked by the demons!

Rejoice, thou who didst wholly give thyself up to God!

Rejoice, thou who didst shine like a flaming pillar!

Rejoice, thou who didst perceive the future in the present!

Rejoice, thou who like the apostle wast caught up to the third heaven!

Rejoice, O blessed Andrew, who seest the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God over all the faithful!

Kontakion 7

O all-wise Andrew, forsaking the vanity of the things of the world, thou didst forsake even the reason of men. By feigning folly thou dost show us the truth of things beyond reason and so dost shine with the unearthly light and joy of the world to come, hearing unutterable words and seeing the beauties of Paradise. Honouring thee, we ask that we too may know of that light and joy, singing to God: Alleluia!

Ikos 7

In thy feat of humble renunciation the Lord has given a sign of His mercy to us who drown in the delusions of possessions and lusts. For we have gained thee as an intercessor before the merciful God and call out to thee with thankful hearts and voices:

Rejoice, thou who hast ever raised up thine eyes with hope on the Lord!

Rejoice, thou who didst keep thy soul free from passions and so didst become bright with grace!

Rejoice, thou who hast acquired the heights of lowliness!

Rejoice, thou who wast crowned by the Lord with blessedness!

Rejoice, thou who becamest a new intercessor for faithful Orthodox!

Rejoice, thou who didst witness to Christ wandering from church to church in prayer!

Rejoice, thou who didst grow rich in wisdom by foolishness!

Rejoice, O blessed Andrew, who seest the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God over all the faithful!

Kontakion 8

On account of the sins and iniquities of unfaithful men who betrayed the purity of the Orthodox Faith, God allowed the City of Constantine to fall to the Hagarenes; however, by Divine Providence the Church was established in thy native Slav Lands, O blessed Andrew. Protect the Orthodox Faith there and everywhere from temptations and schisms that we may find salvation in these latter times, protecting us from the cunning wiles of the evil one. And we the faithful, wondering at thy holy life, ever sing with joy to God: Alleluia!

Ikos 8

Having acquired the inexhaustible riches of purity and wisdom through poverty, thou didst diligently serve the Lord as a fool for Christ. Therefore, like a star illuminating the way, thou dost enlighten all who seek the path of Christ. For this feat we call out to thee such things as these:

Rejoice, thou who didst despise earthly fame and win heavenly glory!

Rejoice, thou who dost denounce pride of mind with thy humility!

Rejoice, thou who dost keep us from open misfortunes with thy secret prayer!

Rejoice, O model of obedience to Christ!

Rejoice, O beauty of humility and abstinence!

Rejoice, O man who was like unto an angel!

Rejoice, O living temple of Divine wisdom!

Rejoice, O blessed Andrew, who seest the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God over all the faithful!

Kontakion 9

O blessed Andrew, thou didst endure all manner of sorrow and privation, beating, spitting, reviling and mocking, walking the narrow way with joy, knowing of the mysteries of Paradise by thy visions. Having lived according to the commandments of Christ, the King of Glory glorified thee and set thee in His everlasting kingdom with the blessed. Together with them thou dost sing the angelic song: Alleluia!

Ikos 9

Neither the tongues of orators nor the minds of philosophers can grasp the meaning of thy life in which thou didst follow Christ, O all-wise Andrew. Who can tell of the heights of thy lowly feat of foolishness for Christ and who can recount thy renunciation in living as a heavenly man and an earthy angel? As for us, conquered by thy humility and wisdom, we call out to thee such things as these:

Rejoice, thou who didst not spare thy flesh!

Rejoice, thou who didst intercede for those who beat thee!

Rejoice, thou who didst pray for those dragged down by their sins!

Rejoice, thou who didst warn of the sickness of greed!

Rejoice, O bright daybreak of humility, lighting the souls of sinners!

Rejoice, O warmth of the love of God warming our cold hearts!

Rejoice, O star enlightening the folly of the proud with the wisdom of the humble!

Rejoice, O blessed Andrew, who seest the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God over all the faithful!

Kontakion 10

The Lord preserves those who follow Him and therefore we sing to thee, blessed Andrew, as a wellspring of grace washing away the impurities of this world. For Christ granted grace to thee and grants grace to all who have recourse to thee with prayer and sing to God: Alleluia!

Ikos 10

Thou didst reveal the mystery of the Veil of our Sovereign Lady, shining forth like lightning and protecting the City of Constantine, to thy youthful disciple Epiphanius. And he too, seeing the Mother of God, spoke, saying: ‘I see, holy father, and I tremble’. Then thou didst foretell to him that he would receive the episcopal dignity. We beseech thee, blessed Andrew, who seest our thoughts and things to come, humble the pride of our minds and teach us to sing to thee thus:

Rejoice, thou who didst count as nothing the fleeting pleasures of this world!

Rejoice, thou who hadst nowhere to lay thy head!

Rejoice, thou who didst destroy all pride in thyself!

Rejoice, thou who didst serve Christ God all thy life!

Rejoice, thou who didst inherit everlasting blessedness!

Rejoice, O firm support of those who have set out on the path of repentance!

Rejoice, O wondrous consolation of all faithful Orthodox!

Rejoice, O blessed Andrew, who seest the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God over all the faithful!

Kontakion 11

Accept our prayerful song, O blessed Andrew, for behold, we run to thee with faith and love. Bowing our stubborn hearts before thy humble wisdom and glorifying the Lord Who glorified thee, we pray to thee: Still the stormy sea of our life, calm our passions, that we may call out to our God Who is wondrous in His saints: Alleluia!

Ikos 11

O all-wise Andrew, thou didst see the gates of heaven opened and the souls of the righteous flying forth like unto swallows. Obeying the Gospel, thou didst lose thy life and so save it. Lit by the light of this feat, we firmly believe and hope in thine intercession for us unworthy sinners and cry out to thee such things as these:

Rejoice, thou who wast enlightened by the gift of prophecy!

Rejoice, thou who didst not forsake us on leaving the earth!

Rejoice, thou who dost beseech Divine mercy for us!

Rejoice, O vessel emptied of passions and so filled with the Holy Spirit!

Rejoice, O receptacle of purity and humility!

Rejoice, O container of the wisdom of Christ!

Rejoice, O seer of God who dost pray for all who have recourse to thee!

Rejoice, O blessed Andrew, who seest the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God over all the faithful!

Kontakion 12

O blessed Andrew, thou didst accept grace from the Lord to see every secret sin and hidden sickness of the soul with thy spiritual eyes. Therefore grant us who are also blinded by sin to see our darkness and unworthiness, that healed by repentance, with pure heart and lips we may sing to God the angelic song: Alleluia!

Ikos 12

Let us sing of thy feats, O Andrew wise in God, let us honour thy sacrifice of foolishness for Christ, let us glorify thy manly courage in a weak body and, praising the feat of thine earthly life, let us bless thy holy repose, crying such things as these:

Rejoice, thou who didst find everlasting riches through poverty!

Rejoice, thou who didst find the world on high through lowliness!

Rejoice, thou who didst find the love of Christ through the hatred of men!

Rejoice, thou who dist find everlasting glory with Christ through the temporary mockings of the demonic!

Rejoice, thou who didst humble those whose minds were darkened by the delusions of pride!

Rejoice, thou who didst melt the ice of unrepentant hearts with the warmth of thy love!

Rejoice, thou who didst acquire the wisdom of Paradise through foolishness for Christ!

Rejoice, O blessed Andrew, who seest the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God over all the faithful!

Kontakion 13

O most glorious saint of Christ, seer of the mysteries of the human soul, O holy blessed Andrew, our intercessor before the God of mercy! Accept from us unworthy sinners this offering of prayer made out of love for thee and by thy prayers calm our passions, humble our proud minds, straighten out the crooked paths of our sins, grant us the gift of true repentance and cleanse us from every impurity, that together with thee we may cry out to our Lord and Saviour the angelic song: Alleluia!

This Kontakion is read three times and then we sing Ikos 1 and Kontakion 1.

Prayers to the holy blessed Andrew, fool for Christ

First Prayer

O saint of Christ, faithful servant and favourite of the Lord God, the Creator of all, most blessed Andrew! Hear us who are mired in sin and call on thy holy name. Pray for us who now fall before thy most pure image, accept this our unworthy prayer, ask for Divine mercy for us sinners and by thy prayers heal every sickness of our fallen souls and bodies. Make us worthy to run the course of our lives unharmed by enemies visible and invisible and come to a Christian ending to our lives, painless, blameless and peaceful, obtaining the inheritance of the Kingdom of Heaven with all the saints unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Second Prayer

O saint of God, blessed Andrew, on earth thou didst live in renunciation and so in heaven didst receive the unfading crown of righteousness, which the Lord has prepared for all who love Him. Seeing thy holy image, we rejoice in the most glorious ending of thy life and honour thy holy memory. As thou standest before the Throne of God, accept our prayers and offer them up to the All-Merciful One, that we may be forgiven every transgression. Help us to resist devilish intrigues, that we may be delivered from sorrow, sickness, misfortune, temptation and every evil, that we may live in piety and righteousness in this present age and be counted worthy to glorify the One God, Who is glorified in the saints, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Troparion, Tone 1

Hearkening to the voice of Thine Apostle Paul saying: We are fools for Christ’s sake, Thy servant Andrew became a fool for Thy sake on earth, O Christ God. Therefore, now honouring his memory, we beseech Thee, O Lord, to save our souls.

Kontakion, Tone 4

Voluntarily feigning foolishness, thou didst hate the beauties of this world and make the thoughts of the flesh to wither away through fasting and thirst, the heat of the day and freezing cold, rain and snow, and unbowed by other inclemencies of the air, thou didst purify thyself like gold in a furnace, O blessed Andrew.

 

2017: On the Spiritual Significance of the Church Outside Russia

On the eve of 2017, the centenary year of the catastrophic Russian Revolution and a decade since the triumphant reunion between the Patriarchal Church inside Russia and the emigre Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) in 2007, we may wonder what will become of the heritage of the Russian emigration of 1917? After all, the generation of adults that emigrated into exile in and soon after 1917 has long since died out and we are now onto the generation of their great-great-grandchildren. In Church terms, this emigration, almost wholly rejecting the compromised authority of the then enslaved Church inside Russia, consists not just of ROCOR, but also of the small Paris splinter group. What will survive spiritually from the two parts of the Russian emigration?

The tiny Paris Archdiocese part of the emigration, perhaps 10% of the whole, survives. However, as a splinter group of dissident and disincarnate philosophers, intellectuals and aristocrats that went into schism from the Russian Church for political reasons 85 years ago, it has long been without Russian bishops because of its inherent anti-monasticism. It is tending to become a sub-group of untrained convert clergy wishing to become a tiny ‘French Orthodox Church’, though some in it imagine becoming a ‘Western European Orthodox Church’. But that is megalomania. The group often reflects Schmemannite modernism, ecumenism and liberal French Catholicism (i.e. Protestantism), having steadily abandoned the Russian Orthodox Tradition.

True, there are still a few faithful, Orthodox calendar parishes run by priests mainly imported from Russia and the Ukraine and some selected Russian customs remain, though with little understanding of their meaning. The tendency is to try and proselytize middle-class liberal intellectuals, sometimes with contempt for ordinary people, an ethos that also used to infect parts of the OCA in North America and renovationist groups in the Soviet-period Patriarchate of Moscow. The Archdiocese generally tends to cut corners, failing to observe the canons and attract cradle Orthodox, whom as a non-inclusive group it rejects. Certainly it attracts none who is anchored in the Tradition.

However, the overwhelming majority of the emigration, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), exists outside France and French philosophical intellectualism, mainly in North America, Australasia and Western Europe. As such it has from the start been responsible for much missionary and translation work in many languages. Without the protection of any State it has in its near-100 year history also been subject to many slanders, mockery and persecution for its faithfulness to the Tradition. It has often been the voice crying in the wilderness of Secularist materialism, whether Communist or Capitalist, witnessing and prophetically calling like the Forerunner and Baptist John to repentance before the apocalyptic events of the last century.

However, it is also true that in the past parts of ROCOR were also compromised and infected by Russian nationalism, excessive strictness to the point of negative phariseeism and depressing right-wing politics – some fringe elements were even so blind as to support Hitler. However, the best of ROCOR has been revealed as a Church of Confessors and Missionaries, as in its three saints: St Jonah of Hankou, St Seraphim of Sofia and St John of Shanghai. Moreover, further saints are yet to be revealed. Whatever the future shape of the present administrative structures of ROCOR, these saints have given ROCOR eternal significance, as only the saints can do, as everything else gathers the dust of history, being only passing fashion and political intrigue.

Ten years ago, in 2007, seeing the Church inside Russia at last free, ROCOR rejoined Her and in the last ten years the two parts of the Church have worked closely together. Some therefore ask why does ROCOR still exist? The answer is simple: we have a mission to witness to the Orthodox Truth specifically outside Russia. When in the past the Church inside Holy Rus was enslaved and fell silent, with the representatives of the Soviet-period Patriarchate abroad mostly abandoning ideals, sometimes disgracefully compromising themselves in renovationism, ecumenism and other ills, ROCOR spoke out. So also today ROCOR continues to proclaim outside Russia what the best of the rest of the Church proclaims inside Russia – the ideals of Holy Rus. What are these?

These ideals are Trinitarian, reflecting on earth the heavenly reality of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. These Christian ideals can be expressed as: Faith, Throne and People, that is, the Orthodox Faith, the Christian Emperor, the Faithful. All three go together. If any one element is compromised, then all three are compromised. Thus, if we reject the Orthodox Faith, we do not build the Christian Empire among the People, as has happened in the Western world. If we reject the Incarnation of the Christian Empire, we fail to reflect the Faith in the Father and fail to preach the values of the Holy Spirit among the People, as has happened in disincarnate Parisian philosophy. And if the People lose the Orthodox Faith, there will be no Empire, as happened in 1917.

Just as we cannot have the Father without the Son and the Holy Spirit, so we confess all three of these ideals of Holy Rus together. This means that we are called on to proclaim the uncorrupted Orthodox Faith of the Church (the Father), the restoration of the Incarnate Christian Empire and Emperor (the Son) and that we call all the peoples of the world to join us (the Holy Spirit), as St Seraphim of Sarov prophesied nearly 200 years ago. These are the Trinitarian Orthodox Civilizational values of the Returning Christian Empire which is coming soon. Thus, we clergy and people of ROCOR are the free and conscious servants of the Faith and People of the Tsar-Martyr, called on to reverse the treason of 1917 and its disastrous worldwide consequences.