Tag Archives: The Saints

The Spiritual Meaning of the Guiding Saints of Faithful Russian Orthodox Outside Russia

Introduction

The Orthodox Empire of Holy Rus, also called the Empire of The Third Rome, was preserved by its faith in the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as expressed in the untampered Nicene Creed, confessed alone by the Orthodox Church. Our pure and uncompromised faith in the Holy Trinity is represented by three basic tenets of belief: Orthodoxy (representing the primacy of the Love of the Father), the Sovereign Monarchy (representing the presence of the Incarnate Body of Christ, the Son), and the Faithful People (representing the bearers of the Holy Spirit).

In the words of the last Christian Emperor, Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, the Orthodox Empire fell on account of the vices opposed to these three tenets of the Holy Trinity. In his precise words, the Empire fell because of Treason, Cowardice and Deceit. And indeed, Orthodoxy was undermined by the Treason of spiritual traitors, the Sovereign Monarchy was abandoned by the Cowardice of those who lacked faith, and the Faithful People were deceived by the Deceit of those who promised paradise on earth and instead created hell on earth.

The three vices of Treason, Cowardice and Deceit have since then also threatened the survival of the Church, both inside Russia and outside Russia. Thus, the Church inside Russia was threatened by the pharisaic Treason to Orthodoxy of ritualistic and nationalistic Sergianists who compromised the Church with an atheist State, by the weak-faithed Cowardice of those who would not recognize the Sovereign Monarchy of the Imperial Martyrs and those faithful to them, and by the schismatic Deceit of the Faithful People by those who claimed that the Church needed to be ‘renovated’ with their liberalism and ecumenism.

However, the Church outside Russia was also threatened by Treason, Cowardice and Deceit, and from both left and right: by those who compromised the Church to Western States, whether Masonic and liberal or Fascist and racist; by the Cowardice of those who would not recognize as saints the New Martyrs and Confessors, including the Imperial Family and those close to them, or the local saints of the Ancient West; and by the Deceit of those who claimed that the Church needed to be ‘adapted’, either to renovationist liberalism and ecumenism, or else to formalist ritualism and nationalism.

The three guiding saints of the Church Outside Russia, St Jonah of Hankou, St Seraphim of Sofia and St John of Shanghai, Paris and San Francisco, were sent by God to protect Russian Orthodox outside Russia from precisely these temptations and diseases. Let us recall their lives, so that we can understand their spiritual meaning.

 St Jonah of Hankou (1888-1925), the Witness to the Love of God the Father

Born Vladimir Pokrovsky, the future saint was orphaned at an early age and adopted by a village sexton, who gave the child his own surname and an upbringing. After completing a religious school in Moscow, he enrolled at seminary in Kaluga where he graduated with honours. Thereafter, he went on to the Kazan Theological Academy. In his third year here he was tonsured monk and given the name of Jonah. Here, in obedience to the Optina Elder Gabriel, he took up an academic position. His spiritual father was the renowned Elder Gabriel Sedmiyezersky, locally venerated as a saint.

The revolutionary years brought him great suffering at the hands of the Bolsheviks. He was arrested, brutally beaten until he lost consciousness, and had all his hair violently ripped out. Miraculously, the future saint, now an abbot, survived and managed to escape. Abbot Jonah spent the Civil War in the army of Admiral Alexander Kolchak, within which he founded the Detachment of the Holy Cross. He then served as head priest in the Orenburg Cossack Army. Alongside these men, St. Jonah braved a perilous march across the steppes and overcame the frozen Pamir Mountain pass to find himself in Xinjiang – Chinese Turkestan.

In January 1922 Abbot Jonah sent an account of his life and work to Metropolitan Antony (Khrapovitsky), who was then in Serbia, and offered to devote himself to the Council and its work. In response, the Council entered his name to be considered as a bishop. The consecration of the new bishop took place on 18 September 1922 at the Russian Spiritual Mission in Beijing. As bishop, St. Jonah would head the vicariate in Xianjiang (Hankou) and be appointed Dean of the mission’s church in Manchuria, where he arrived on 19 October 1922.

The zealous servant of God’s church and renowned missionary, the young and energetic Bishop Jonah, took it on himself to establish his flock in the faith. He instituted the prescribed church services, established a wonderful choir and gave sermons tirelessly. Bishop Jonah also served as chairman of the International Committee for Hunger Relief from the day of his arrival in the town of Manzhuria until his very death. The brunt of the work lay on his shoulders. St. Jonah began to gather funds. An intelligent and practical person, St. Jonah created a commercial division within the Committee, the main goal of which was to independently earn money that would fund charities the committee had founded. It was not, of course, without its enemies.

The limitations of some, the envy of others, and the phariseeism and hypocrisy of yet others wove a web of intrigue around the bishop and attempted to compromise his good name by virtue of the fact that he, a bishop, would promote such undignified work as trade. But he paid little attention to all of the attacks, simply prayed to God and said: ‘These rumours spread by our enemies lay down our path to the Kingdom of Heaven’.

Having tasted the bitterness of such a life himself, the saint felt an especially deep compassion for orphans. He opened an orphanage at the old church where he lived to care for orphaned and impoverished children and, relegating it to the authority of the International Committee. Missionary and educational work held a special place in his heart. As many as 500 people attended free of cost the elementary and middle schools founded by Vladyka.

On 1 August 1923 the International Committee had opened a free outpatient clinic providing medical aid and distributing medicine to the most impoverished sectors of the population and surrounding territories. Next door there was a free dental office. Prior to the Saint’s arrival, medicine was impossible to acquire. In addition to medical care and free medicine, certification of illness and disability were provided to the poor and a petition was started to provide passports free of charge. Medical care was given to 6,387 people in one year.

With the backing of patrons he established modest enterprises which, though they provided only a modest income, created jobs for the poorest refugees. Their metalwork and pottery were well known in Harbin for being particularly durable and beautifully made. Here is a list of the enterprises St. Jonah started during the three years he resided in Manzhuria: (1) Orphanage, (2) Elementary school, (3) Middle school, (4) Soup kitchen, (5) Free outpatient clinic, (6) Pharmacy with an allotment of free medicine for the poor, (7) Vocational courses at schools, and (8) Library.

The life of St. Jonah was very humble. It was unbelievable that he was a ‘prince of the church’. He had neither a cook, nor a kitchen. His meals were humble and simple. His favourite dish was fried potatoes and dark rye bread. Vladyka’s clothing and shoes were more than modest. Patches were the usual adornment on everything. Often the tailor and cobbler refused to mend them – the patches would not hold. He was adept at securing resources for others but spent hardly anything on himself. All his personal funds were dedicated to charity.

Ever friendly, ever cheerful and engaging, the Saint was loved and respected by all those around him. As the accounts of those who knew him attest, a constant stream of people called on him – some for advice, others for help. The doors of his unassuming apartment stayed open from 7 in the morning until 10 or 11 o’clock at night. Then, at 11 o’clock, when there was nobody to disturb him, Vladyka would sit down to work. And on feast days, squeezing into the room was impossible. Russians, Chinese and foreigners alike longed to speak with Vladyka.

St. Jonah left this world unexpectedly, at the age of 37, exactly three years after his arrival in Manzhuria. He was not accustomed to caring for himself, and he developed tonsillitis and died. Before his death the Saint wrote his last will and testament:

In the Name of the Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit. – Too suddenly I have learned of my imminent death. My thoughts are becoming confused.… What do I wish to bequeath unto you? My darling and dear children of Manzhuria and Hankou. I came to you with the Apostle’s words of love: ‘Children, love one another’… and I leave you with these words: ‘Love one another’… This is the will of your shepherd. It is with gladness of spirit that I forgive anyone who has wronged me. Are there even such people? I tearfully ask and stand on my knees before each of him whom I have wronged. Do not give up on the little ones.… Forgive me for Christ’s sake; and do not forget your prayers.… Write my name in your prayer books.… And so, until eternity, until we all stand before the Final Judge. Jonah, Bishop of Hankou. 1925, 4/17 October.

 Three thousand copies of his will were made – barely enough for half of those in attendance at his funeral. Even death would not impede the saint in performing his good work. On the night of his burial, he healed a ten-year-old boy, Nikolai Dergachev while he was asleep. The inflammation in the child’s knees was so severe that he could not stand, much less walk. In his dream Vladyka approached the boy and said: ‘Take my legs. I don’t need them any more and give me yours. ‘He taught: love your neighbour as you love yourself, but his love was even greater than that…’

St. Jonah was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1996. His glorification coincided with the day of his repose and was decreed to be celebrated on the day of his remembrance: 7/20 October.

St Seraphim of Sofia (1881-1950), the Witness to the Incarnation of Christ the Son through the Church and in Sovereign Monarchy

As if sensing what a powerful enemy he would have in Vladyka Seraphim, the devil tried to destroy him while still in his mother’s womb. She had an extremely difficult and painful labour and the doctors decided they would need to operate to extract the infant piece by piece in order to save the mother’s life. At this moment she regained consciousness and, on learning of the doctor’s decision, forbade her husband to permit the murder of her child. The next morning, at the first stroke of the church bell on 1 December 1881, she gave birth without any help.

When she saw the baby, she exclaimed, ‘Oh, what a serious mukhtar!’ The infant was named Nicholas in honour of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, but his family sometimes called him ‘mukhtar’, an apparently meaningless word which he disliked terribly. Years later, Bishop Nestor of Manchuria visited Vladyka Seraphim in Sofia. He presented him with a book of his memoirs, in which, in the chapter about his visit to Jerusalem, it said that the word mukhtar means ‘bishop’ in Arabic. And so, not realizing it herself, his mother had foretold the destiny of her son.

Nicholas was an excellent student and, after attending the local parish school, he entered seminary. There, in the second to last year, he decided to devote his life to God. After graduating he attended Saint Petersburg Theological Academy and here became a monk. The bishop and rector doing the tonsure suddenly remembered that when he was present at the opening of St. Seraphim’s relics, he had made a vow to the saint that if he became rector of the St. Petersburg Theological Academy, the first student he tonsured he would name Seraphim. Thus, he gave this name to Nicholas in honour of the great saint of Sarov.

Graduating near the top of his class, Fr. Seraphim taught for a year at a priest’s school before he was appointed assistant supervisor of the diocesan school in Kaluga. The pupils there greatly loved Fr. Seraphim. In 1912 Hieromonk Seraphim was appointed rector of the seminary in Voronezh. On 1 October 1920, on the feast of the Protection of the Most Holy Mother of God, in the Cathedral of Simferopol, Fr Seraphim was consecrated bishop. It was a great comfort for him that on that occasion, by God’s inscrutable ways, the great sacred treasure, the Wonderworking Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God, was present in the Cathedral.

Soon after this, to his sorrow, Vladyka 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 Russian Orthodox monastic communities there. Living in ceaseless ascetic endeavours, from abstinence and difficult living conditions Vladyka contracted tuberculosis. Despite his serious illness, he cared for his flock with true pastoral fervour. He served frequently and gave sermons three times a week, calling his flock to repentance, to grace-filled renewal and to the most basic virtue – humility.

As an archpastor, Vladyka Seraphim made the rounds of Russian parishes in the provinces and visited the Russian schools. His talks and his warm, loving personality left a lasting, grace-filled impression everywhere. In difficult material conditions, Vladyka also cared for poor and sick Russian people. 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 Vladyka overlook destitute Russian monks on Mt. 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 Vladyka was raised to the position of Archbishop. Spiritually gifted from his early years and constantly engaged in a fiery struggle with the passions, Vladyka, while still a relatively young bishop, attained great spiritual heights. Several of his spiritual children recorded cases of his clairvoyance, which manifested itself even at a distance. For his angelic purity, Vladyka received from the Lord the gift to perceive subtle deviations from Orthodox Christian truth. He watched over Orthodox Christian life and was its conscience, as it were. Where he observed irregularity, he exposed it, not fearing to suffer for the truth. As a result, he produced priceless theological works.

One of Vladyka’s major works was the refutation of the Gnostic, anti-Incarnation heresy of the Parisian philosopher Archpriest Sergius Bulgakov, for which, in 1937, Vladyka received a Master’s Degree in theology. He was rushing to complete this work by a certain deadline when he fell ill. He implored the Mother of God, to whose prayerful intercession he had resorted all his life, begging her to heal him. And what happened? Vladyka’s temperature immediately dropped and he was able to finish his work within the allotted time.

Vladyka poured out all his love for the Saviour in his theological works, fervently defending the truths of Orthodoxy against compromise and ecumenism and also in defence of holy Monarchy. ‘My books are my blood’, he declared. And truly, he lay down his life for Christ in the struggle against heretics, sparing neither his strength nor broken health. Vladyka constantly worked at night, 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 Vladyka to the next world on the very day when the Holy Church celebrates the Triumph of Orthodoxy and its defenders. For the day of Archbishop Seraphim’s repose was 13/26 February 1950. He was canonized jointly by the Russian Orthodox Church and the Bulgarian Orthodox Church in 2016 and his feast day is on 13/26 February.

 St John of Shanghai (1896-1966), the Witness to the Holy Spirit among all Faithful People

Michael Maximovich, the future Archbishop John, was born on 4 June 1896 in the village of Adamovka in the province of Kharkov in what is at the moment the Ukraine. He was a member of the Little Russian noble family of Maximovich, to which St John of Tobolsk had also belonged. He was a sickly child and ate little. He received his secondary education in the Poltava Military School, which he attended from 1907 to 1914. Upon completing military school he entered Kharkov Imperial University in the faculty of law, from which he graduated in 1918.

In 1921, following the Civil War in Russia, the future archbishop together with his parents, his brothers and his sister fled to Belgrade, where he and his brothers entered university. In 1924, Michael was ordained reader in the Russian church in Belgrade by Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), who continued to exert great influence over him. In 1926 Metropolitan Anthony tonsured him a monk and ordained him hierodeacon in Milkovo Monastery, giving him the name John, after the future archbishop’s own distant relative, Saint John (Maximovich) of Tobolsk. On 21 November of the same year Fr. John was ordained hieromonk.

From here he went to the town of Bitol in the diocese of Ochrid. At that time the ruling bishop of this diocese was the future St Nicholas Velimirovich—a noted preacher, poet, writer and inspirer of a popular spiritual movement. He, as much as Metropolitan Anthony, valued and loved the young Hieromonk John, and himself exerted a beneficial influence upon him. More than once he was heard to say, ‘If you wish to see a living saint, go to Bitol to Father John’.

For indeed it began to become evident that he was an entirely extraordinary man. His own students were first to discover what was perhaps Fr. John’s greatest feat of asceticism. They noticed that he stayed up long after everyone else had gone to bed; he would go through the dormitories at night and pick up blankets that had fallen down and cover the unsuspecting sleepers, making the Sign of the Cross over them. Finally, it was discovered that he scarcely slept at all, and never in a bed, allowing himself only an hour or two each night of uncomfortable rest in a sitting position, or bent over on the floor praying before icons. Years afterward he himself admitted that since taking monastic vows he had not slept in a bed.

Fr John lived by the high ideals of Orthodox Christianity and so of Holy Russia and was chosen to be bishop. His consecration, quite unexpected for him, took place on 28 May 1934. Vladyka was the last bishop of the very many to be consecrated by Metropolitan Anthony and was assigned to the Diocese of Shanghai in China. Vladyka arrived in Shanghai in late November and found a large Cathedral uncompleted and a conflict to resolve. The first thing he did was to restore Church unity, establishing contact with Russians, Serbs, Greeks and Ukrainians.

He paid special attention to religious education and also became a patron of various charities and actively participated in their work, especially after seeing the needy circumstances in which so many of his flock lived. Vladyka himself gathered sick and starving children off the streets and dark alleys of Shanghai’s slums. The orphanage later housed up to a hundred children at a time, some 1500 in all. Vladyka celebrated the Divine Liturgy daily, as he was to do for the rest of his life, and if for some reason he could not serve, he would still receive Holy Communion. No matter where he was, he would not miss a service.

By now it had become known that Vladyka was not only a righteous man and an ascetic, but was also so close to God that he was endowed with the gift of clairvoyance, and there were healings by his prayers. Vladyka loved to visit the sick and did it every single day, hearing confessions and giving Holy Communion. Vladyka visited the prison also, and celebrated the Divine Liturgy for the convicts on a primitive table. But the most difficult task for a pastor is to visit the mentally ill and the possessed – and Vladyka clearly distinguished between the two. Outside Shanghai there was a mental hospital, and Vladyka alone had the spiritual power to visit these sick people. He gave them Holy Communion, and they, surprisingly, received it peacefully and listened to him.

Vladyka possessed great courage. During the Japanese occupation the Japanese authorities tried in every way possible to bend the Russian colony to their will. Pressure was directed through the heads of the Russian Emigre Committee. Two Presidents of the Committee strove to maintain its independence and both were killed. Confusion and terror seized the Russian colony and at that moment Vladyka John, in spite of warnings from Russians who were collaborating with the Japanese, declared himself the temporary head of the Russian colony.

During the Japanese occupation it was extremely dangerous to walk on the streets at night, and most people took care to be home by dark. Vladyka, however, paying no heed to the danger, continued to visit the sick and needy at any hour of the night and he was never touched. With the coming of Communism, the Russians in China were forced to flee once again, most of them through the Philippines. In 1949 approximately 5,000 refugees from the Chinese mainland were living in an International Refugee Organization camp on the island of Tubabao in the Philippines. This island is located in the path of the seasonal typhoons which sweep through that part of the Pacific. During the 27-month period of the camp’s occupancy, the island was threatened only once by a typhoon, and it changed course and bypassed the island.

When the fear of typhoons was mentioned by one Russian to the Filipinos, they replied that there was no reason to worry, because ‘your holy man blesses your camp from four directions every night’. They referred to Vladyka John, for no typhoon struck the island while he was there. After the camp had been almost totally evacuated and the people resettled elsewhere (mainly in the USA and Australia), it was struck by a terrible typhoon that totally destroyed the camp. Vladyka himself went to Washington D.C., to get his people to America. Legislation was changed and almost the whole camp came to the New World – thanks again to Vladyka.

The exodus of his flock from China accomplished, in 1951 Archbishop John was given a new field for his pastoral endeavours: he was sent by the Synod of Bishops to the Archdiocese of Western Europe, with his see first in Paris and later in Brussels. In Western Europe Vladyka took a deep interest not only in Russians, for whom he exerted himself tirelessly in labours similar to those for which he had been known in Shanghai, but also in the local people. He received into his Diocese Dutch and French people, protecting them and encouraging their Orthodox development. He celebrated the Divine Liturgy in Dutch and French, as before he had served in Greek and Chinese, and as later he was to serve in English.

Vladyka’s interest in and devotion to the Church’s Saints, of whom his knowledge was already seemingly limitless, was now extended to Western European Saints from before the Latin schism. Many of them, venerated only locally, were not then included in any Orthodox calendar of Saints. He collected their lives and images of them and later submitted a long list of them to the Synod.

In San Francisco Vladyka’s life-long friend, the pious Archbishop Tikhon of San Francisco, retired due to ill-health, and in his absence the construction of a new Cathedral came to a halt as a bitter dispute paralyzed the Russian community. In response to the urgent request of thousands of Russians in San Francisco who had known him in Shanghai, Archbishop John was sent by the Synod in 1962 as the only hierarch likely to restore peace in the divided community. He arrived at his last assignment as bishop twenty-eight years to the day after his arrival in Shanghai – on the feast of the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple, 21 November 1962.

Under Vladyka’s guidance a measure of peace was restored, the paralysis of the community was ended and the Cathedral finished. Yet, even in the role of peacemaker, Vladyka was attacked, and accusations and slanders were heaped upon his head, including by fellow bishops. He was forced to appear in public court – in flagrant violation of Church canons – to answer preposterous charges of concealing financial dishonesty by the Parish Council. All involved were completely exonerated but this filled Vladyka’s last years with the bitterness of slander and persecution, to which he unfailingly replied without complaint, without judging anyone, with undisturbed peacefulness.

On the evening before leaving for Seattle in late June 1966, four days before his repose, Vladyka astonished a man for whom he had just celebrated a service with the words, ‘You will not kiss my hand again’. And on the day of his repose, at the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy which he had celebrated, he spent three hours in the altar praying, emerging not long before his repose on 2 July. He fell asleep in his room in the parish building next to the church. He was heard to fall and, having been placed in a chair by those who ran to help him, breathed his last peacefully and with little evident pain, in the presence of the Wonderworking Kursk Root Icon.

Until his canonization the relics of Archbishop John lay in a chapel in the basement of the San Francisco Cathedral (after the canonization on 2 July 1994 the relics were moved to the main floor of the Cathedral). Vladyka also proved to listen to those who revere his memory. To one woman he appeared in a dream and said, ‘Tell the people: although I have died, I live!’ As people are drawn to the Church of Christ before the final unleashing of evil, we look to him as our loving guide and pastor who knows no death. He is a yardstick which indicates the truth in our confusing times. His unit of measure is nothing other than holiness, that is, pure Christian love, which he possessed and distributed in abundance.

Conclusion

A witness to the Father, Who is Love, and so to the two great commandments to love God and our neighbour, as an apostle of Love, St Jonah thus showed faithfulness to Orthodoxy against those who committed Treason. Pharisaic ritualists, the sort who would treasonously later support the Nazis, accused him of ‘socialism’, where there was only Love for our neighbour, the authentic Orthodox way of life.

A witness to the Incarnation of the Son, St Seraphim supported the doctrine of the Incarnation, the Kingdom of God on earth in the form of the Christian Monarchy, against the disincarnate heretics and ecumenists. These modernists showed Cowardice in abandoning the teachings of the Church, including the Orthodox teaching on the Sovereign Government of the Tsar. They preferred Western freemasonry to the Church and the recognition of the Imperial Martyrs.

A witness to the presence of the Holy Spirit among all faithful Orthodox People everywhere, St John showed that the fruit of the Spirit is the saints whom he so loved. It was he who had already called for the canonization of the Imperial Martyrs in the 1930s against the views of others who delayed that canonization until 1981. The worldwide mission of St John was opposed to the Deceit of narrow nationalism and racism of all sorts, loving all people and using all languages to speak of Christ.

Church life is full of temptations. There is only one way to overcome them – by faithfulness to the Holy Trinity. Whatever form the organization of the Church outside Russia may take, we must remain faithful to the Holy Trinity in the Orthodoxy, Sovereign Monarchy and Faithful People of Holy Rus. We must resist those who think that church buildings are more important than the souls of the flock, the anti-Orthodox Treason of the flattering rich, the Cowardice of power-seeking plotters and the Deceit of the pharisaical superficial.

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

 

 

St Olaf’s Burial Place Found

http://www.niku.no/no/arkeologi/utgravninger_og_funn/trondheim/sondre_gate/Archaeologists+in+Norway+find+the+church+and+altar+of+Viking+king+Olav+Haraldsson.9UFRHW16.ips

St Olaf was one of the last ancient Orthodox saints in Western Europe and he was honoured by a church in Novgorod and another in Constantinople. For a canonical Orthodox icon of St Olaf, see:

http://www.pravoslavie.ru/98759.html