Tag Archives: Holiness

Akathist to the Holy Martyr Gregory the New

Treason in High Places: On the Hundredth Anniversary of 30 December 1916

Quench not the spirit. Despise not prophesyings. But test all things, hold fast to that which is good.

1 Thess. 5, 19-21

Russia will not perish…it was and will be glorified; the tears of those who suffer, whoever they are, are higher than all idle talk.

Gregory Rasputin-Novy, 16 November 1916

Poor Russia bears a penance…It is our duty to cleanse the memory of the Elder from slander…This is vital for the spiritual life of the whole Russian Church…As Divine Truth begins to be revealed, everything will change in Russia.

Elder Nikolay (Guryanov) (1909-2002)

The West will never tolerate the rebirth of Holy Rus. It will always try to annihilate us, foisting on us as heroes its one-time agents of influence (to a greater or lesser extent): Lenin, Trotsky or Stalin. It will always strive by any means available to blacken and slander our Orthodox Civilization and our holy Tsar, in order through them to besmirch and compromise our Orthodox Church and our present State, blowing them apart from inside.

Petr Multatuli, Contemporary Russian Historian

Exactly 100 years ago, on 30 December 1916 (new style), the peasant elder Gregory Efimovich Rasputin-Novy was brutally and ritually murdered. Responsible were British spies and treasonous and parasitic Russian aristocrats, one of them an Oxford graduate, transvestite and occultist. Gregory, a ‘good, simple and religious man’, in the words of the Tsar, had been outrageously slandered by all the enemies of Christ and His Holy Church. These included ignorant, xenophobic nationalists, oligarchic February revolutionaries (and their ‘liberal’ Western and Westernized supporters to this day), as well as Bolshevik October revolutionaries with their German ideology and German/US finance and orders.

In the words of one of the assassins, Purishkevich, Gregory’s murder was ‘the first shot’ in the largely British-orchestrated February Revolution against the Christian Tsar. It anticipated by over two months the bloody torrent of the many millions of cruel deaths to come. His scapegoating, which had been going on for years before his death, which he had accurately prophesied, was only the self-justification of guilt-ridden murderers. Attitudes towards him have become a litmus test which shows the depth of repentance and mystical understanding necessary if the worldwide apostasy that began with the removal of the Tsar, who had held back Antichrist, is to be stemmed. Only then can the long-awaited restoration of our beloved Christian Emperor and Empire take place.

Below we present for the first time an English adaptation of the best-known of the three akathists to him, the one written by Nikolay Kozlov, all of which we have carefully read and compared. It is not an exact translation because the original, like the author’s full service to the New Martyr Gregory, at various points contains ambiguities in theological and other domains which could be misinterpreted by those of ill will. Although we give full credit to the author, this first ever version in a Western language is a long-considered adaptation, even original in parts, as much as a translation, with, for example, the words ‘Tsar’ generally translated as ‘Emperor’ and ‘Orthodox’ as ‘Christian’, as well as other changes.

May this be an English wreath laid on the gravesite of the still officially uncanonized but much venerated elder, healer, prophet and protomartyr of the Russian Revolution. This was ordered by anti-Christian sponsors and implemented by apostates, blinded by rationalism, from the anti-Christian globalist forces of evil. In their apostasy, folly and treachery these forces brought a curse of 100 years to the whole planet, not just an extended First World War and then Satanism in Russia, but a Second World War with its holocaust of 30 million Slav victims and a Cold War which endures to this day. It is from this that we may only now in 2016 be recovering, as the threat of a Third World War miraculously seems to be receding for now.

May the curse that has beset the whole world for 100 years at last be lifted!

Kontakion I

Called from the furthest bounds of East and West by the Most Holy Mother of God through her Image of Kazan to become a faithful servant of the Double-Headed Eagle, thou didst journey as a pilgrim to the holy places of the vast Orthodox Lands, even to the earthly Jerusalem, fearing God, honouring the Tsar and having compassion on the people. When the Spirit came down on thee, thou didst not forsake thy calling even unto death, acquiring boldness before the Lord and praying for those who sing to thee: Rejoice, O martyr Gregory, friend of the Emperor and guardian of the Empire!

Ikos I

Coming forth from the village of the Intercession of the Mother of God, thy destiny was revealed to be as an intercessor for the Imperial Family, O martyr Gregory, by thy prayers opposing the efforts of the dragon to overthrow the Christian Emperor and bestow his Empire on the beast from the bottomless pit. In wonder at thy service and protection beneath the veil of the Mother of God, we sing to thee thus:

Rejoice, thou who didst heal the heir to the throne after earthly doctors had laboured in vain.
Rejoice, thou who didst heal the future hope of the Christian Empire through thy prayers.
Rejoice, thou who didst turn the sorrow of the Empress into joy by the Holy Spirit.
Rejoice, thou who didst not seek any earthly reward for thy labours.
Rejoice, thou who didst imitate the mystical feat of the great martyr George.
Rejoice, thou who didst bear thy name as an evil for the sake of the Lord’s Anointed.
Rejoice, thou who didst obtain from thy Lord a new name that shines like a star in the heavens.
Rejoice, thou who didst speak words of the Lord like as a prophet of the New Israel.
Rejoice, thou who made the slanders and blasphemies of the enemies of Christ into salvation.
Rejoice, O spiritual warrior and companion in the battle for Sovereignty.
Rejoice, O invisible companion of the Emperor’s prayer.
Rejoice, O good and faithful servant even unto death.
Rejoice, O martyr Gregory, friend of the Emperor and guardian of the Empire!

Kontakion 2

Seeing the Christian Empire troubled and shaken by the enemies of Christ, thou, O martyr Gregory, wast revealed after the repose of the Righteous John of Kronstadt as a new prophet to denounce the spiritual impurity of the Emperor’s foes and confirm the good estate of his faithful subjects, singing to God: Alleluia.

Ikos 2

Having the mind of the saints of old, whom thou didst love, and concealing God’s gifts from the world behind the foolishness of the Cross, thou wast beloved by the Emperor and Empress. Slandered by the spite of apostates and the jealousy of traitors, thou, O blessed one, wast no friend to the dark forces that hated Christ. Teach us also by the knowledge that God inspired in thee to withstand temptations, the enemies of Christ and the devil, singing to thee thus:

Rejoice, O man of God, honoured by Imperial friendship.
Rejoice, O messenger of the will of God, revealed to the Emperor.
Rejoice, O treasury of the Wisdom of God, hidden from the world.
Rejoice, O servant of Christ, whose nobility was far greater than that of princes.
Rejoice, O bee made wise by God, who gathered mystical nectar from the Emperor’s flowers.
Rejoice, O sweetness feeding the lovers of honey with holy honeycombs.
Rejoice, O faithful keeper of the Sovereign Empire against the servants of Antichrist.
Rejoice, O untiring guardian and zealot of ancient piety against the demons.
Rejoice, O converser with the Imperial Family.
Rejoice, thou who didst suffer for the good order of the Empire.
Rejoice, O meadow of virtue cultivated from generation unto generation.
Rejoice, O fool for Christ blessed by God amid the intrigues of Babylon.
Rejoice, O martyr Gregory, friend of the Emperor and guardian of the Empire!

Kontakion 3

Raised up from a distant province for thine Imperial destiny by the Divine Love of Providence, thou, O blessed Gregory, admiring the Redeemer, didst witness to Him. In thy vigilance, as prophesied by the Righteous John according to thy name, thou didst sacrifice thy soul for thy Imperial Friends, prophesying and calling out to God: Alleluia.

Ikos 3

In thee the Sovereign Family found a new intercessor, a new prophet and a new martyr, for thou, O faithful Gregory, wast revealed to be a forerunner of the Imperial Martyrs, like them slain in the darkness of the night by the base in a basement. As the offering of thy soul for the Emperor was accepted, now pray for those who call out to thee in this wise:

Rejoice, O trusted intercessor for the Imperial City come from a lowly village.
Rejoice, O protection against those who plotted to slay the Emperor.
Rejoice, thou who gavest thy life for the Tsar as a protomartyr.
Rejoice, thou who didst suffer at the hands of those who then martyred the Imperial Family.
Rejoice, thou who didst repeat the famed patriotic feats of old.
Rejoice, thou who didst mystically sacrifice thy soul for the Emperor.
Rejoice, thou who didst accept royal hallowing from God.
Rejoice, thou who wast revered by thine Emperor and Empress as a man of God.
Rejoice, thou who wast crowned on earth with a crown of thorns.
Rejoice, thou who wast crowned in heaven with a royal crown.
Rejoice, O friend of the ancient and sacred union of Emperor and people against apostates and traitors.
Rejoice, O spiritual offshoot of the Imperial Family.
Rejoice, O martyr Gregory, friend of the Emperor and guardian of the Empire!

Kontakion 4

Rightfully spurning the wisdom of the world as vainglorious and impure and preferring the foolishness of the Cross, thou, O blessed one, didst denounce the lies and delusions, intrigues and evil schemings of those who had rejected Christ and didst pray with the greatest simplicity for those who sing to God: Alleluia.

Ikos 4

Hurling slanders and blasphemies at the Emperor who had been crowned by God, in their folly the traitors forced the Anointed of the Lord from his ancestral throne and led him like a lamb from his Gethsemane to his slaughter. Seeing the depth of thy love for the Emperor, who looks down on us now, we sing to thee, O Gregory, thus:

Rejoice, thou who in thy life with the Imperial Family wast falsely accused of every sin and vice.
Rejoice, O ever-watchful guardian of the Ruling Family who suffered for the sins of Russia.
Rejoice, thou who art not parted in death from their heavenly glory.
Rejoice, O gatekeeper in the heavenly mansions, guiding those who are called to speak of the Imperial mystery.
Rejoice, thou who denouncest unfaithful ministers before the Imperial Family.
Rejoice, O stumbling block for those gone astray from Christ, who even now scorn the Emperor’s glory.
Rejoice, thou who didst abide night and day in prayer for the Christian Ruler.
Rejoice, O never-slumbering eyes of the Tsar, delaying the appearance of Antichrist.
Rejoce, O holy standard of all the faithful servants of the Emperor.
Rejoice, O denouncer of treason, cowardice and deceit.
Rejoice, O humble ploughman who didst put thy hand to the plough of the Empire.
Rejoice, O mystical shield and protection of the Christian Emperor.
Rejoice, O martyr Gregory, friend of the Emperor and guardian of the Empire!

Kontakion 5

Like a star shining forth from the Russian Lands in the distant east and moving on its God-given course to Christ, thy soul, O martyr Gregory, burned like a bright flame amid the delusions of the spiritual night in the west, going before the Emperor who cried out to God: Alleluia.

Ikos 5

Seeing thee going before the Emperor as a prophet and fool for Christ, and witnessing to the grace of God resting on His Anointed, in their folly the traitors turned on thee like wolves in order to part thee from the Emperor. Wondering at the many miraculous acts of Divine Providence which guide the Christian Empire, we sing to thee thus:

Rejoice, O pilgrim who during many years prayed at the holy places.
Rejoice, O sower of the noble seeds of beauty, goodness and truth among the Orthodox people.
Rejoice, thou who didst mystically see the Imperial destiny of Holy Rus.
Rejoice, O fisherman, who gavest wise counsel to those caught in thy spiritual nets.
Rejoice, thou who didst come like a prophet unto thine own and wast not known by them.
Rejoice, O pearl of great price who was cast before swine.
Rejoice, thou who didst love God, Tsar and Empire.
Rejoice, O citizen of the heavenly Jerusalem.
Rejoice, thou who didst worship in the Holy Land and the earthly Jerusalem.
Rejoice, O pilgrim to Patmos, where John the Theologian saw the vision of the last times.
Rejoice, thou who didst eclipse the dark star of the enemies of the Tsar with the Sun of Righteousness.
Rejoice, thou who gavest sight to those made spiritually blind by the world.
Rejoice, O martyr Gregory, friend of the Emperor and guardian of the Empire!

Kontakion 6

False brethren, weak in faith and cold of heart, did not wish to honour the see of Tobolsk, but thou, O wondrous Gregory, zealous for the greater glory of the Empire, didst intercede before the Tsar for the glorification of the holy hierarch John Maximovich, who is wonderful among the saints, calling out to God: Alleluia.

Ikos 6

By thy prayers and intercessions before the Emperor, the light of Christ shone forth from the shrine of the holy relics of the sainted John of Tobolsk, for thou, O martyr Gregory, didst diligently labour to keep thy land faithful to the Tsar; through thy intercessions forsake not us who call out to thee such things as these:

Rejoice, O fulfilment of the mystical prophecies of Holy Rus for all the peoples of the world before the end.
Rejoice, thou who didst proclaim the city of Tobolsk to be Christ’s.
Rejoice, O hope of the land that suffered the blood of idolatry in former times.
Rejoice, O intercessor for the Empire made white by the red blood of the first martyred Tsar.
Rejoice, O spiritual guardian of the prison, which received the Imperial Captives.
Rejoice, O native of the land where mystically met the earthly and heavenly paths of Emperor and prophet.
Rejoice, thou who didst bear chains on thy body like a hidden schema.
Rejoice, thou who tookest the sanctuary of Tobolsk from its enemies with the sword of the Spirit.
Rejoice, thou who didst work many wonders and healings in thy lifetime.
Rejoice, thou who gavest repentance to the hierarch Germogen, appearing to him after death.
Rejoice, thou who didst mystically accompany the Tsar through the land of Tobolsk.
Rejoice, thou who lookest down on us from Heaven together with the Imperial Family.
Rejoice, O martyr Gregory, friend of the Emperor and guardian of the Empire!

Kontakion 7

Desiring that all should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, thou, O blessed one, didst guide both the good and the bad through life’s sorrows, giving spiritual treasures to the faithful, who call out to God: Alleluia.

Ikos 7

Christ showed thee to be a new passion-bearer, for thou didst not render any of thy persecutors evil for evil, praying for them and making ready for the Day of Judgement. Help us to escape the horrors of Gehenna that await Satan and his henchmen, as we call out to thee thus:

Rejoice, O generous almsgiver who didst love the poor.
Rejoice, thou who didst bar the gates of hell for the faithful.
Rejoice, thou who didst help the poor and naked.
Rejoice, thou who gavest every good gift for Christ and the Tsar.
Rejoice, thou who hast the exceeding great power to console in sorrow.
Rejoice, thou who didst call the rich and powerful to repentance from their spiritual impurity.
Rejoice, thou who dost ever sorrow for all who were guilty before the Tsar and sinful before God.
Rejoice, for none who came to thee with faith departed sorrowing and unconsoled.
Rejoice, thou who in wisdom didst conceal thy deeds from traitors with the foolishness of the Cross.
Rejoice, thou blessed by God who wast wiser than the enemies of Christ, the world and the devil.
Rejoice, thou who didst appear deaf and mute before those who insulted thee.
Rejoice, thou who didst pray for the enemies of God before the Day of Wrath.
Rejoice, O martyr Gregory, friend of the Emperor and guardian of the Empire!

Kontakion 8

Seeing thy life of struggles and labours in the world through the eyes of spiritual impurity, O holy Gregory, some fell into temptation, for they heeded the words of the enemies of Christ, whose slanders against thee described their own vices, raising up a persecution against thee and thy spiritual children, who call out to God: Alleluia.

Ikos 8

Thou didst endure all the filth and torment of the enemies of Christ with valour, O martyr Gregory. Struck by cutting words and piercing slanders sharper than swords and spears, thou didst accept bodily wounds, foreknowing thy violent death at the hands of enemies of Christ and traitors. As thou didst smite the old dragon, who rose up against the Christian Emperor with the Cross of the Lord, pray for us who call out to thee thus:

Rejoice, O protomartyr, against whom the demons inspired slander in every enemy of Christ.
Rejoice, thou whose life God had already preserved from death.
Rejoice, thou who didst bear the feat of martyrdom by the power of Christ.
Rejoice, thou who wast pierced in the side like the Saviour, with the cross in thy hands.
Rejoice, thou who wast thrown down beside a dead dog according to the evil custom of the enemies of Christ.
Rejoice, thou who wast cast into a freezing watery grave.
Rejoice, thou whose body was buried by the Imperial Family in a place of honour.
Rejoice, thou whose body was taken up and burned by the enemies of Christ, so having suffered both ice and fire.
Rejoice, for the enemies of Christ slew thee in a basement at night like the Imperial Martyrs.
Rejoice, for apostates and traitors of the Imperial line were guilty of thy peasant blood.
Rejoice, thou who wast raised up from afar for an Imperial destiny.
Rejoice, thou who didst beforehand show the Emperor a martyr’s end.
Rejoice, O martyr Gregory, friend of the Emperor and guardian of the Empire!

Kontakion 9

Having shared and passed through every temptation of thine Imperial Friends by the grace of God, thou didst confess the Imperial mystery of the Incarnation, O blessed Gregory, which none knows, save the pious Orthodox who truly confess Christ and so are faithful to the Tsar, singing to God: Alleluia.

Ikos 9

All the long words of orators and all the airy works of philosophers are unable to express the depth of the spiritual impurity of those in seats of authority, who had lost the Orthodox Faith and so fell into envy, spite, slander and treason against the Emperor, the Empress and thee; but as for us, we see and honour only the glory of thy cross and call out to thee thus:

Rejoice, thou who didst share the Imperial burden before their Golgotha.
Rejoice, thou who didst eat at the Emperor’s table.
Rejoice, thou who didst choose the path of loyalty to the Emperor, refusing the pieces of silver of the traitors.
Rejoice, thou chosen out of distant Siberia who becamest one of the Ruler’s own.
Rejoice, thou who didst look on the Emperor and Empress as a faithful son.
Rejoice, O holy new prophet blessed by God to protect Sovereign Rus.
Rejoice, for thou didst shame those who shamed Holy Rus in the sight of the whole world.
Rejoice, thou who wast rewarded by the Empress.
Rejoice, thou who voluntarily tookest on thyself the sorrows of the Emperor.
Rejoice, thou who didst gain the envy and spite of the enemies of Christ.
Rejoice, thou who wast the Emperor’s faithful servant.
Rejoice, for thou wast one of those of whom the world is not worthy.
Rejoice, O martyr Gregory, friend of the Emperor and guardian of the Empire!

Kontakion 10

God entrusted thee with the protection of the Christian Emperor, the faithful Empress and their godly children, O prophet and wonderworker Gregory. Thou didst stop the issue of blood of the heir, shedding thine own blood instead, that with the piety and holiness of the Orthodox spirit thou couldst feed the souls of thine Imperial Friends, who call out to God: Alleluia.

Ikos 10

In their cunning and jealousy the enemies of Christ, greedy for power, tried to build a dividing wall of slander and lies between the Emperor and the people, that they might slay first him and then them, but thou, O wise one, pulled down that dividing wall, interceding for the people before the Emperor and showing the people to him, thus interceding for us too, who call out to thee such things as these:

Rejoice, for the Imperial Family were among thy spiritual children.
Rejoice, for in thy person they mystically adopted the Russian people.
Rejoice, O wise and patient mentor of thine Imperial disciples.
Rejoice, thou who didst savour their souls with the salt of Divine grace.
Rejoice, thou who didst teach the Imperial Family prophecy and holiness.
Rejoice, thou didst bless them with the simplicity of wisdom.
Rejoice, O offshoot of the Church sacredly grafted onto the Imperial vine.
Rejoice, thou who by thy grafting dost break off the withered branches of the Church.
Rejoice, thou who gavest a good answer for thy sacred pledge.
Rejoice, for thou makest us too, who honour thee, the Emperor’s friends.
Rejoice, thou who mystically askest for the Tsar’s forgiveness for those who betrayed him.
Rejoice, for in thee we await the restoration of the nobility of old.
Rejoice, O martyr Gregory, friend of the Emperor and guardian of the Empire!

Kontakion 11

Loving the Church and partaking of the Holy Mysteries more eagerly than of all the treasures of the world, thou, O Gregory, tookest up thy cross of serving the Emperor in accordance with thy destiny appointed by Divine Providence, calling out to God: Alleluia.

Ikos 11

The hierarchy was divided; brave and humble-minded missionaries, serving the Tsar and the people in east and west, blessed thee with warm hearts; proud and self-admiring functionaries, serving themselves and the worldly in ease and wealth, despised thee with cold hearts. Praying for the enlightenment of scribes and pharisees, we honour thy memory and that of all those faithful to the Imperial Family, singing praise to thee in this wise:

Rejoice, thou who wast mystically raised up from among the people by the Emperor.
Rejoice, thou who wast blessed by many faithful hierarchs such as Aleksiy, Makariy, Pitirim, Barnabas, Isidore and Melchizedek.
Rejoice, O pleaser of God, who didst honour Christ our God in every place of His dominion.
Rejoice, thou who hadst spiritual power, shaming the powerless wisdom of this world.
Rejoice, O unmercenary builder of the church in thy home village.
Rejoice, thou who didst love the Mother of God and wast zealous for piety.
Rejoice, O resolver of disputes, not with the booklore of scribes and pharisees, but with simplicity of heart.
Rejoice, O peacemaker sent by God among the disorder of men.
Rejoice, thou who didst fulfil the prophecies of the holy wonderworker Seraphim.
Rejoice, O lover of the Scriptures through the Spirit, who gavest the name of God all glory and honour.
Rejoice, thou who didst receive from Christ the gift of discernment.
Rejoice, thou who didst fight the serried ranks of heretics.
Rejoice, O martyr Gregory, friend of the Emperor and guardian of the Empire!

Kontakion 12

By thy prayers increase the grace of intercession of Christian Emperors for the whole world, O martyr Gregory, for the prayer of the righteous avails much. After God had raised thee up from among the people to shame the apostasy and so lack of love of the rich and powerful, the treason of princes, the cowardice of generals and the deceit of the fleshly-minded ushered in an age of bitter persecution, but of sweet glory for the faithful, who called out to God: Alleluia.

Ikos 12

Singing of the wonders worked in thy life by the grace of God, the healing of infirmities, the casting out of evil spirits, the granting of victory in battle, the foretelling of things to come, the consoling of the sorrowing with a single word and wise counselling for all life’s needs and cares, we call on thee, O wondrous Gregory, cease not to pray for us who are scattered across the face of the earth, awaiting the coming restoration of the Christian Empire and the new Tsar, who will sweep away the unworthy and the unfaithful, and calling out to thee such things as these:

Rejoice, O wise husbandman of the Imperial garden.
Rejoice, O fence against the thorns of the rich and powerful.
Rejoice, for no man has ever been slandered in his life like unto thee.
Rejoice, for even after thy martyrdom those who honoured thee were slandered.
Rejoice, O spiritual cloth with which every tear is wiped from every eye.
Rejoice, that evil words against thee may be forgiven.
Rejoice, O mystery of peasant nobility, tilling the earth of the soul.
Rejoice, O faithful servant of the holy ones of God.
Rejoice, for by thy martyrdom the dragon was run through.
Rejoice, O bright star of Siberia and martyr for Holy Rus.
Rejoice, for the Imperial Family loved thee.
Rejoice, O fair flower from the Imperial meadow.
Rejoice, O martyr Gregory, friend of the Emperor and guardian of the Empire!

Kontakion 13

O glorious new martyr and wonderworker Gregory, by the cross of foolishness for Christ’s sake and voluntary suffering thou didst defeat the dragon, like the martyrs George, Theodore and Mercurius of old, and as the friend who fought for the Emperor of the Russian Lands thou dwellest with the holy ones in eternity, pray for the servants of Christ that by thine intercessions we unworthy sinners may also be accounted among the number of the friends of the Emperor, singing to Almighty God: Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

The above kontakion is read three times, then the first ikos, followed by the first kontakion.

Prayer

O holy new martyr and wonderworker Gregory, the Emperor’s friend who fought against the traitors who took Holy Rus to the depths, show the foes of the Orthodox Lands on the left side and on the right side the might of the double-edged sword of Divine justice. May they not destroy the holy seed of Sovereignty, may the Christian Empire and Emperor be restored for all before the end, still mightier than before, according to the prophecy, through thine intercessions and the prayers of the Imperial Martyrs, that all who love the Name of God in Orthodox wise all over the world may make glad forever. Amen.

Troparion, Tone IV

O friend of the Emperor, who fought for Christian Rule, / thou didst appear as a fool for Christ to the world, / which did not know thee and evilly slandered thee. / O holy passion-bearer and martyr Gregory, / as thou didst offer thyself up as a sacrifice to Christ for the Emperor, / so pray for us that we too may be delivered from the injustices of enemies, / becoming the friends of the Sovereign Emperor // and seeing the Resurrection of Holy Rus.

St Maria of Helsinki

‘All the tears that you have shed will glitter like diamonds on the robes of the Mother of God; for all your sufferings and trials God will especially bless you and reward you’.

Prophecy of the Holy Martyr Tsarina Alexandra (1)

There are a number of ancient Orthodox saints in Scandinavia: St Anschar (Oscar, + 865) in Demark; St Sunniva (c. 990), St Olaf (+ 1030) and St Hallvard of Oslo (+ 1043) in Norway: St Olaf (+ 1022), St Sigfrid (+ 1045) and St Anna of Novgorod (+ 1050) in Sweden. However, there is no ancient Orthodox saint in Finland as such, as it came to the Faith so late, already in Roman Catholic times, so it missed out on being in communion with the Church. However, in the renewal of Orthodoxy in modern times Finland does have a saint: Righteous Mother Maria of Helsinki.

Born on 16 July 1884 in Oranienbaum in Russia as Anna Alexandrovna Taneyeva into a family with Imperial connections, she was to become a lady-in-waiting and the closest friend of the Tsarina Alexandra. Snobbish and profoundly jealous aristocrats, rich but without nobility and imbued with selfish vanity and vulgarity, detested her. Typically for them, they dismissed here and slandered her as stout, unattractive, talkative, naive and unintelligent. However, children loved her and the pious Tsarina saw her pure, kind-hearted and childlike face and beautiful, tender eyes and valued her immense piety and generosity. Thus, the Tsarina befriended Anna, preferring her to the superficial and unspiritual court snobs, and in 1905, at the age of twenty, Anna was given a position at court. The three following years she went on holiday with the Romanovs.

In 1907 Anna Taneyeva married Alexander Vyrubov, an officer in the Imperial Chancellery. A few days before she had been warned by Gregory Rasputin that the marriage would be an unhappy one, but she had ignored him. The marriage remained unconsummated, for Anna’s husband did indeed turn out to be mentally deranged, having tried to kill her, and had to go for treatment in Switzerland. Within eighteen months the unconsummated marriage had been annulled. After the Revolution Anna’s mother told interrogators that her son-in-law had ‘proved to be completely impotent, with an extremely perverse sexual psychology that manifested itself in various sadistic episodes in which he inflicted moral suffering on her’.

Anna Vyrubova, as she had now become known, became one of Elder Gregory Rasputin’s followers and on orders from the Tsarina went to visit his home village of Pokrovskoe in Siberia in order to investigate rumours about him, which turned out to be baseless. Her importance grew at court and with the death of St John of Kronstadt Elder Gregory became more and more important to her. For some years she served as a go-between for the Tsarina and Elder Gregory at those times when his healing powers were needed. During World War I Anna trained as a Red Cross nurse and cared for soldiers along with the Tsarina and the Tsarina’s two older daughters, the Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatiana. Her great generosity to the poor left her virtually penniless.

In January 1915 Anna was severely injured in a train accident between the capital and Tsarskoye Selo; the convalescent found herself crippled, but credited Gregory with saving her life through his prayers. In September 1916 she, Lili Dehn and Gregory went to Tobolsk to venerate St John of Tobolsk who had been canonized. Anna opened St Seraphim’s military hospital with the huge amount of 100,000 roubles she received from the railway company in compensation for her accident. She also planned to build a church dedicated to St Seraphim of Sarov on her property.

On the evening of 16 December 1916 Elder Gregory told Anna of a proposed visit to Prince Yusupov in order to meet his wife who was reportedly ill. The next morning Gregory’s disappearance was reported by his daughter to Anna. An investigation followed and the murderers Prince Yusupov and Grand Duke Dmitri were placed under house arrest. Two days later Gregory’s brutalized body was found. On 21 December it was taken to be buried in a corner on Anna’s property adjacent to the Imperial Palace. The burial was attended by the Imperial couple with their daughters, Anna, her maid and a few of Gregory’s friends.

On 21 March 1917, very ill with the measles, the much slandered Anna Vyrubova was arrested for no reason by the masonic Kerensky dictatorship. Completely innocent, she underwent five months of harsh imprisonment in the Peter and Paul Fortress in Saint Petersburg that even included an unnecessary and humiliating medical examination to prove her virginity. The fifteen interrogations on her political role concluded that she was too morally upright, honest, sincere and childlike to have done anything wrong and she was released.

Anna’s memoirs describe her harsh treatment in the damp prison, her illness, the beatings, kickings, mockings and being spat upon, and her narrow escape from execution when, miraculously, she met several old friends of her father on a Saint Petersburg street who helped her to escape. This she attributed to St John of Kronstadt, who had already consoled her in a dream before her arrest. She endured much hardship and poverty avoiding the Bolsheviks, but only reluctantly escaped to Finland in early 1921.

Her memoirs, Memories of the Russian Court (2), published in Paris in 1922, provide rare and valuable descriptions of the home life of the Tsar and his family. No-one understood Gregory Rasputin and the Tsarina better than Anna. Condemned and slandered by the worldly as naïve and unintelligent, she had foreseen everything that would happen with the overthrow of the Tsar. The ‘intelligent’ politicians and aristocrats who had betrayed the Tsar had foreseen nothing.

In 1923 Anna became a nun at the monastery of Valaam under the name of Mother Maria. She lived under the spiritual direction of Valaam elders and lived in poverty as a pious Russian Orthodox nun. Unable to enter the convent of her choice due to her physical disabilities, she stayed in her own very modest house, living the strict monastic life of a secret nun. At first she lived with her mother and then, when she died in 1937, a loyal friend called Vera Zapevalova (+ 1984), poorly and reclusively.

Anna spent this second half of her life first in locations in Finland, then in Sweden and after the Second World War in Helsinki. For over forty years a nun, she died penniless aged 80 on 20 July 1964 in Helsinki, where her grave is located in the Orthodox section of the Hietaniemi cemetery. She had been born one day before the date of the martyrdom of the Imperial Family and reposed three days after it. In birth, as in death, she had been tied to them. So ended the life of one who was faithful to the end to the ideals of God, Tsar and Homeland.

‘In Finland you have a saint – Anna Vyrubova – said a hieromonk from the Trinity St Sergius Lavra. Turn to her in any need for help’. ‘Go to her grave in the Orthodox cemetery there, stand and pray. Feel how easy it is to pray there, how calm and peaceful your soul becomes’ (Bishop Arseny). (3)

‘May God help us all….to unite with one another in peace and love, offering our tears and ardent repentance to the Merciful God for our countless sins, committed before the Lord and the Tsar crowned by God…And only then will a great and mighty Russia rise up, for our joy and for the fear of our enemies’. (3)

Mother Maria

Notes:

1. P. 196 of ‘Vernye’ (The Faithful) by O. V. Chernova, Moscow 2009

2. http://www.alexanderpalace.org/russiancourt2006/chapter_I.html

3. P. 203 of ‘Vernye’ (The Faithful) by O. V. Chernova, Moscow 2009

On the Revival of the Veneration of Local Western Saints in the Orthodox Church

Answers to Questions in Recent Correspondence

Q: Fr Andrew, when did you become interested in the Local Saints?

A: Almost exactly fifty years ago when I was nine years old, at school I read about the saintly Alfred the Great and did a child’s project on him. From here I began enquiring about nearby places that commemorated such saints. Near where I lived there was a little place named after St Albright (Ethelbert + 794) and the town of St Osyth (+ c.700), the town of Bury St Edmunds (St Edmund + 869), the town of Ely (St Audrey + 679) and Felixstowe (St Felix + 647) and a railway station named after St Botolph (+ 680). However, as a child, all I could do was ask questions of adults and wonder who these men and women had been and why they were called saints, who must have been great because 1300 years later people still remembered them in place names.

The year after that, when I was ten years old, there was the 900th anniversary of the so-called Battle of Hastings. I understood that something catastrophic had happened then, which had destroyed and buried a whole, mysterious English Christian Civilization together with all these saints and holiness. And that was kept secret.

It was only in my teens that I began reading and wondering why exactly these saints had been forgotten and hidden and how a whole new layer of unsaintliness and even anti-saintliness had covered them over, obscuring them. The other question that I asked myself was why there were no longer any saints, no new saints, only these ancient ones. The source of holiness had clearly dried up. No-one was interested in holiness any more. We now lived in a different Civilization, with different values, alien to me. Why? That was a question that no-one around me could answer, so I read and understood that it was because the Church, the source of all holiness, had been lost. Without the Church there is no holiness, no saints, because only the Church is Holy.

Q: How did the Church lose the memory of these saints?

A: The memory of major or international Orthodox Saints of the West has never been lost by the Church: for example, many of the Roman martyrs like St Tatiana or St Anastasia and others like St Alexis, St Justin Martyr, St Irinaeus of Lyon, St Hilary of Poitiers, St Ambrose of Milan, St John Cassian, St Martin of Tours, St Leo the Great, St Gregory the Dialogist and St Martin of Rome have always been well-known and always been in the Church calendar. But the local Western saints, commemorated only in certain limited regions or even individual villages in Western Europe, were lost, quite simply for geographical reasons. When Orthodox no longer lived locally, then there was simply no-one left to venerate them and their memory was increasingly lost.

Q: Did Catholics not venerate them then?

A: Only to a very small extent; they had largely replaced the saints with new individuals, philosophers and the spiritually deluded, Anselms, Bernards, Dominics, Teresas and what have you. In other words, they replaced the first millennium with the second, that is, they replaced Orthodoxy with Catholicism. For Orthodox these new figures are not saints, since they have a quite alien mentality to that of the Church. Here is the reason why today we know so little about most of the saints – they were forgotten or their real Lives were replaced by false lives, legends and folklore. Even today you can go to Irish villages and instead of the local sixth-century Irish hermit being commemorated, you will find that the local church is dedicated to Bernadette and has a grotto with a statue. A completely alien mentality.

As for the Protestants, they of course completely denied the saints in their general rejection of even the concept of holiness and ascetic life. Nowadays, the ever more protestantized Catholics have stopped venerating the relics of the saints; for instance, in Bari in Italy, it is only Russian Orthodox who venerate St Nicholas, the Catholics have forgotten him. Relics in Catholic churches are kept tucked away in glass boxes in accessible places. And if you go to the Vatican and ask to venerate the relics of St Peter, they will tell you that you have to send a letter asking for permission three weeks in advance! They have lost it.

Q: How did the revival of veneration of these local saints begin among Orthodox?

A: Without doubt this was due to St John of Shanghai, when he became Archbishop of Western Europe in the 1950s. He loved the saints and was no narrow nationalist.

Q: Was it he who influenced you?

A: No, not at all. I had never heard of him then. I came to venerate these saints quite independently, in childhood, as I described. In any case, I only discovered St John in 1978, long after I had done a great deal of research and reading on these saints in Oxford, made pilgrimages to many sites and compiled a calendar in 1975. In Oxford St John had been kept a secret from me. However, the discovery of St John was reassuring because it confirmed my inmost intuitions and he was in fact the only one who spiritually, if invisibly, supported me. Obviously, I don’t compare myself to him, but there were and are parallel paths in the lives of many people who have come to venerate the local Western saints.

Q: So no-one else you knew was interested at that time?

A: One person who had an academic interest was the then Fr Kallistos, who, as he told me in 1976, liked St Cuthbert and St Bede the Venerable, though he never expressed this publicly and there were no icons of local saints in the Oxford parish at that time. Indeed, many parishioners there were very hostile, dismissing these saints as some personal fantasy of my own and as ‘not Orthodox’. My heart had told me differently and I felt sorry for their ignorance and narrow ethnic and political views. However, also in 1976 Fr Benedict Ramsden showed me the draft Canon to the Saints of the Isles that he had written. That was inspiring.

Q: What was the attitude of Metr Antony (Bloom)?

A: I spoke to him about the subject in 1977 and he clearly had no interest in these saints at all at that time, but I think he changed in about 1990, because he realized that he was losing people to the Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), which was interested. So it was a question of keeping up with the competition.

Q: And the attitude of Fr Sophrony (Sakharov)?

A: He had no interest either, nor did any of his monks. Abbot Kyrill told me in 1977 that since the Cypriots did not venerate the local Western saints, Tolleshunt Knights would not promote them. Of course, such an attitude drove those who did venerate the saints away to jurisdictions that were interested.

Q: Why do you think that Fr Sophrony was not interested?

A: Fr Sophrony, as you know, was a philosopher and an artist and was fascinated by expressing philosophically his experience of meeting a peasant saint, St Silouan. His great interest was in the saint’s words, ‘Keep your mind in hell and do not despair’, even though these are essentially not new words, being the words of the Holy Scriptures, Matt 16, 18 and 2 Cor 4, 8. St Silouan’s revelation was the same as that of all the saints throughout the ages, but Fr Sophrony spent his whole life working on the philosophical implications of those words. Remember he had been the librarian at St Panteleimon’s, where he had met Fr Silouan – he was very erudite. Tolleshunt Knights probably has the best Patristic library in this country, where Orthodoxy ascetics can be studied.

Q: When did you begin writing about the saints?

A: In 1974. In 1977 for the first time I hesitantly showed someone, one of the nuns at Tolleshunt Knights, one of my articles, but she was not interested and simply said that the article was ‘poetic’. She later left the convent there and went back to being Anglican. Publication of my writings did not follow until the very late 1980s and early 90s.

Q: But surely, there were other individuals who were interested in these saints?

A: Yes, some individuals. In parallel to me, though I did not know it at the time, in the early 70s Fr Mark (Meyrick – Fr David when he became a monk) of the ROCOR chapel in Walsingham began including saints’ names in his St Seraphim’s calendar, but he seemed to have a view that only Celtic saints, however obscure, should be included. I first met him in 1976, but I could not understand a certain hostility to the English and other Western saints, especially when he lived in England and he was so English. It was very insular.

Two of his Anglican converts compiled a small book about these Celtic saints, some of them very obscure, but they mainly copied from the 19th century Anglican writer Baring-Gould, though they added troparia that they had written. They seemed to think that only Celts or those who had lived before the seventh century could be saints. But I was still encouraged by this, since I had had no support at all until then and was quite isolated. Moreover, very importantly, Fr Mark was the first to begin painting icons of these saints, notably St Alban (+ c. 304) and St Columba (+ 597), though not St Augustine (+ 604).

In 1981, I think it was, an ex-Anglican, old calendarist mission opened in England under ROCOR and it was given the relics of St Edward the Martyr. They openly venerated all the Western saints. Again that too was refreshing and I went there twice before they left the Church in 2007, although the Anglo-Catholic old calendarism was offputting. In 1984, when I lived in France and worked on the saints of France, I discovered Fr Seraphim Rose and learned that he had had some interest, especially in the saints in Gaul, something he had understood through St John.

Then there was a Greek bishop in London, the late Bp Christopher of Telmissos, who in 1985 wrote a booklet about these saints in Greek. In 1989 I discovered that Fr Peter (Cantacuzene – later Bp Ambrose of Vevey) of ROCOR had composed a service to All the Saints of Switzerland. In 1992 I discovered the veneration for the Portuguese and Spanish saints in Portugal and I learned that similar processes were going on in Sweden and Germany. But all these movements were linked with ROCOR.

Q: Why was it that ROCOR began everything in this field and no other jurisdictions showed any interest at all until later?

A: Simply because the other jurisdictions were inward-looking, either engrossed in their home-countries’ politics and identities or else local personality cults. ROCOR had lost its home-country and could not return to it. As a result, some simply lived in the past, in a cultural nostalgia, a kind of Russian Edwardianism. But others realized that the future was in incarnating ourselves as Orthodox without compromise in our countries of adoption. We were precisely the Church Outside, not inside, Russia. That is why in ROCOR we have had had magazines like Orthodox America, Orthodox Australia and Orthodox England. It is the principle of the Incarnation. Other jurisdictions were either interested only in nationalist politics, Greek, Soviet or Balkan, or else some vague, academic, woolly, disincarnate, philosophical, Oxbridge ‘spirituality’, which feeds only the brain, never the heart. That is self-satisfying consolation for intellectuals only. This is part of modernism.

Q: So when did people outside ROCOR start becoming interested?

A: First of all, in the 1990s, if not earlier, there was the calendar of the Greek Orthodox Fellowship of St John the Baptist, edited by the then Bp Kallistos and other ex-Anglicans, which began including some of these saints, as Fr Mark of ROCOR had been doing for some 20 years already. Then in 1996 a group of 300 Anglicans joined the Patriarchate of Antioch and they started venerating these saints and dedicating their churches to them. That was very refreshing. After this the veneration of Local Saints and pilgrimages to them became fashionable, quite incredibly.

A great step forward was the appointment of the then Bishop Elisei as head of the Sourozh Diocese in 2006. People who had scorned me in the 70s and 80s suddenly became interested! If only Bishop Elisei had been there in the 1970s! What I had written in the 70s and 80s was published and even translated into Russian and parts into other languages. After about 2000 people like Misha Sarni of Sourozh and also the excellent Dmitry Lapa in Moscow became very interested.

Q: When did you compose the first services to the local saints and which ones have you done?

A: I began in 1998 or 1999 with services to St Edmund, St Felix and St Audrey, then to All the Saints of the Isles and later, in 2014, to All the Saints of the Lands of Europe. These efforts are of course dwarfed by the work of Isaac Lambertson, who has composed services to dozens of saints of the Western Lands, all the main saints. Our debt to him is huge for this and for his translations.

Q: What for you was the highlight?

A: I think in 2008 when we opened the first ever chapel to All the Saints of the Isles, in my native town of Colchester. An ambition forty years old had been realized! Then in 2012 we at last had a new icon of All the Saints of the Isles painted for the iconostasis, which corrected the pioneering work of dear Fr Mark.

Q: What of the future?

A: In Moscow they are still thinking of incorporating some of these saints, who were already venerated in the first millennium in the West, into the Russian Church calendar, at least St Alban. They have been considering this for at least eight years. But this would merely mean catching up with the last 60 years of developments here. Sometimes someone starts something in the provinces and only later do others in the Centre catch up. One of the problems for them is the pronunciation of unfamiliar names like Alfred and Ethelbert and the fact that they are Catholic-sounding, though if you translate them into Russian, they come out more or less as Miroslav and Svetoslav.

Q: What advice would you give to those who want to venerate these saints? Do we accept everyone up until 1054?

A: The Schism was not an event, but a process. It is still going on, the process of substituting human sin for Divine revelation, man-worship for the worship of the God-man, the essence of the Schism, continues to this day. But the question for us is when exactly did people begin falling away from the Church?

As we can see from the Greek Archbishop of Canterbury, St Theodore (+ 690) or the Greek Pope of Rome, St Zacharias (+ 752), the process of Schism clearly did not start until the mid-eighth century. However, there was a bad period with the heretical and genocidal King of the Franks, Charlemagne (Blessed Charlemagne for the papists), and his Council of Frankfurt in 794. But Charlemagne died in 814 and his heresies and so-called ‘empire’ collapsed and Orthodoxy revived. In Rome they did not accept his heresy and dismissed him as an ignorant, power-grabbing barbarian.

There was another bad period in the late ninth century, corrected by the anti-filioque Council of Constantinople in 879-80 and Pope John VIII, assassinated for his Orthodoxy and anti-filioquism in 882, but it left the memory of the heretical Pope Nicholas of Rome (St Nicholas for the papists). This occasioned the work of St Photius against the filioque heresy. Then there was a revival of Orthodoxy in Germany with the Greek Empress of the West, Theophano (+ 991). However, we can also see the spiritual decline of the West from the end of the tenth century, when the first signs of feudalism – thoroughly alien to Christianity – appeared. Probably in 1014 the filioque was sung at Rome for the first time. At the same time there were ever fewer pilgrims from the West going to Jerusalem and Constantinople and ever fewer Greek monks and clergy visiting the West. This was symptomatic of a spiritual change, a decline.

In other words, we have to look very carefully at the lives of anyone in the West, especially in what is now Germany and northern France, after the mid-eighth century until the mid-eleventh century, the symbolic date of 1054. However, we also have to look carefully after this in certain regions, because there were Orthodox saints on Western territory even after 1054, probably in England until at least 1066 (though not the half-Norman traitor Edward), perhaps in Celtic areas and Scandinavia even after this, and certainly in Greek Sicily and Calabria, where Orthodoxy survived intact until at least into the twelfth century.

Q: What is the importance of the venation of these saints?

A: The veneration of these saints means the reintegration and reincorporation of Western people into the holiness of the Church. That is spiritually significant, not only personally, but nationally. There can be no salvation for the separated Western world until this happens. Eschatologically, it is part of the gathering in of the Church before the end, the coming together of the Church in heaven, the saints, and the Church on earth, us.

St John III the Merciful: A Model Orthodox Ruler and Saint for the Last Times

Known to the world as John III Doukas Vatatzes, St John the Merciful was Emperor of Nicea from 1221 to 1254. Born in c. 1192 contemorary Greece, he was probably the son of a general and his wife, an unnamed Imperial niece. In reward for his eminent service and promise, in 1212 when he was aged only 20, the then Emperor of Nicea, Theodore Laskaris, gave him the hand of his daughter Irine and made him his successor. In January 1222, John, aged around 30, was crowned Emperor by the Patriarch in Nicea.

Two years later the new Emperor routed attacking Catholic forces and as a result of this victory the greater part of what the heretics had captured in Asia Minor fell to his control. In 1228 the elderly Catholic John of Brienne exchanged his nominal kingdom of Jerusalem for the Latin throne of occupied New Rome (Constantinople) and in 1233 attacked the Christians. He too was routed and John extended Nicean control over much of the Aegean, freeing Rhodes, Samos, Lesbos, Chios, Cos and many other islands.

Next the Bulgarians joined John as part of an anti-Catholic alliance of Christian rulers. The allies immediately opened hostilities against the Catholic invaders and besieged occupied New Rome by land and by sea. Although the Catholics were reduced to a small strip of land around Constantinople, the siege was unsuccessful. The superiority of the Latin sailors over the Christians led to the defeat of their fleet. By land, however, John was more successful and liberated the rest of the Frankish possessions in Asia Minor. Later John was to liberate most of Macedonia and Thrace.

John’s policy of appointing non-aristocrats to administrative posts was revolutionary. In his social policy he took steps to improve the living standards of both those in the country and in the towns. He ordered a census and gave every subject of his Empire a plot of land. Towards the end of his reign he also requisitioned the property of great landowners and aristocrats. He himself led a very frugal life and took measures to end the excessive spending of private wealth. Moreover, in order to establish and affirm social justice he also took measures against the exploitation of the poor.

John oversaw the smooth functioning of Church affairs. In 1228 he issued a decree in which he forbade the interference of the authorities in matters of Church inheritance. He also made generous donations to Church institutions and saw to the rebuilding of existing churches and the building of new ones. In periods of peace John promoted the welfare of his subjects. He patronized the arts and sciences, built new roads, distributed taxes equally and was loved by all for his kindness and justice.

He was also greatly interested in the collection and copying of manuscripts. The leading representative of the educational movement of the 13th century, the scholar, writer and teacher Nicephorus Blemmydes, lived during his reign. Among Blemmydes’ students were John’s heir and son, the learned Theodore II Laskaris. Sources are full of references to the Emperor’s concern for the development of intellectual life. He promoted the creation of centres of learning, especially of secular studies, while higher educational institutions were established.

In about 1252 when a new war was threatened, John set out to defend the Christians, but fell ill in Macedonia and returned to Asia. He died after much suffering at Nymphaeum on 3 November 1254, probably aged sixty-two, ending a reign of some thirty-three years. He was buried in the Monastery of Christ the Saviour (the Monastery of Sosandra) on Mt Sipylos, near Magnesia in the area of Smyrna.

Christian historians unanimously glorify John and he is called one of the greatest Christian Roman Emperors. His son and successor, Theodore II Lascaris, wrote of him: ‘He unified the Ausonian land which had been divided into a great many parts by foreign and tyrannical rulers, Latin, Persian, Bulgarian, Scythian and others, punished thieves and protected his land…He made our country inaccessible to our enemies’. In spite of his epilepsy John provided leadership in peace and war and he is considered a talented politician and the chief restorer of the Christian Empire.

His foreign policy was focused on the recapture of New Rome and the restoration of the Christian Empire. He brought under his control so much territory that he practically restored the Empire and laid the groundwork for the later recovery of New Rome itself. He was also successful in maintaining generally peaceful relations with his most powerful neighbours, Bulgaria and the Sultanate of Rum, while his network of diplomatic relations extended to the West and the Papacy. Here John’s main diplomatic concern was an alliance with the German ruler Frederick II, as both rulers struggled against Papal aggression. Frederick supported Christian efforts to capture New Rome and in 1236 he stopped the crusade that Pope Gregory IX was organizing against John.

Domestically, John’s long reign was one of the most creditable in history, witnessing the development of a prosperous economy and encouraging justice, charity and a cultural revival. Despite expensive campaigns to restore the Empire, he lowered taxes, encouraged agriculture, built schools, libraries, churches, monasteries, hospitals and homes for the poor and elderly. The arts prospered and he took steps to ensure the harmonious co-existence of State and Church, so that Nicea became one of the wealthiest and finest cities in the thirteenth century world.

When John’s grave was opened seven years after his repose, a fragrance filled the air and his body was found to be incorrupt, an indication of holiness. His body was like that of a living person. John was so loved and revered by the people that he was commemorated as a saint under the name John the Merciful and a Life was composed. Those who went on pilgrimage to pray before the saint’s relics were granted miracles; the sick were healed and demons expelled. The clergy and people of the city of Magnesia and its surroundings, where the Emperor was buried, gathered every year on 4 November to honour his memory.

A half-century later one account mentions that when the Turks invaded Magnesia, a guard on several occasions witnessed a lighted candle circling the city walls. He sent men to investigate, but to no avail. Then the deaf and dumb brother of the guard was sent. He was given a revelation and returned completely healed. He said that where the candle had appeared, he had found a man of a grand royal stature, who loudly urged the Christians to continue their defence. Later, when visiting St John’s shrine, he recognized the icon of the man he had seen.

John’s incorrupt relics were transferred to New Rome once it had been liberated from the Franks. When Constantinople fell to the Ottomans in 1453, his relics were hidden in a catacomb. Tradition tells that ever since he has been awaiting the liberation of the City. It also says that the holy king has his sword with him in its sheath and that every year the blade of the sword emerges a few millimetres until the time comes for the whole sword to emerge completely, which will signify the time for the liberation of the City.

In our own days Elder Ephraim of Arizona has said that the sacred relics of St John the Merciful were guarded by a family of crypto-Christians who kept them secret from generation to generation. He also affirms that the Merciful King has already risen and that the sword has emerged completely from its sheath. Now St John wanders around Constantinople in the guise of a fool and directs the hosts of the saints to take their places around the City. Here indeed is a model Orthodox ruler, and intercessor and restorer for our latter times, when we need him.

Holy John the Merciful, pray to God for us!