Our household patron saint is St. John Maximovitch. I found a video of this glorification service. The narration is non-English (Romanian?), but the clips from the service are wonderfully beautiful.
From the St. Herman account of his life:
To the manager of the orphanage where he lived, who had spoken in the spring of 1966 of a diocesan meeting to be held three years later, he indicated, “I will not be here then. ” In May, 1966, a woman who had known Vladika for twelve years – and whose testimony, according to Metropolitan Philaret, is “worthy of complete confidence” – was amazed to hear him say, “I will die soon, at the end of June… not in San Francisco, but in Seattle…. ” Metropolitan Philaret himself testifies of Vladika’s extraordinary final farewell to him when returning to San Francisco from the last session of the Synod which he attended in New York. After the Metropolitan had served the customary moleben before traveling, Vladika, instead of sprinkling his own head with holy water, as is always done by hierarchs, bent low and asked the Metropolitan to sprinkle him; and after this, instead of the usual mutual kissing of hands, Vladika firmly took the Metropolitan’s hand and kissed it, withdrawing his own . . .
Again, on the evening before his departure for Seattle, four days before his death, Vladika astonished a man for whom he had just served a moleben with the words, ” You will not kiss my hand again. ” And on the day of his death, at the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy which he celebrated, he spent three hours in the altar praying, emerging not long before his death, which occurred at 3:50 p. m. on July 2 (June 19, OS), 1966. He died in his room in the parish building next to the church, without preparatory signs of any illness or affliction. 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 miracle working Kursk Icon of the Sign. Thus was Vladika found worthy to imitate the blessed death of his patron, St. John of Tobolsk.
Troparion (Tone 5)
Thy care for thy flock in its sojourn has prefigured the supplications which thou didst ever offer up for the whole world. Thus do we believe, having come to know thy love, O holy hierarch and wonder-worker John. Wholly sanctified by God through the ministry of the all-pure Mysteries, and thyself strengthened thereby, thou didst hasten unto suffering, O most gladsome healer–hasten now also to the aid of us who honor thee with all our heart.
Kontakion (Tone 4)
Thy heart hath gone out to all who entreat thee with love, O holy hierarch John, and who remember the struggle of thy whole industrious life, and thy painless and easy repose, O faithful servant of the all-pure Directress.
Troparion (Tone 6)
Glorious apostle to an age of coldness and unbelief, invested with the grace-filled power of the saints of old, divinely-illumined seer of heavenly mysteries, feeder of orphans, hope of the hopeless, thou didst enkindle on earth the fire of love for Christ upon the dark eve of the day of judgment; pray now that this sacred flame may also rise from our hearts.
Kontakion of St John (Tone 8 )
Chosen wonderworker and superb servant of Christ/ who pourest out in the latter times/ inexhaustible streams of inspiration and multitude of miracles,/ we praise thee with love and call out to thee:/ Rejoice, holy Hierarch John, wonderworker of the latter times.
O beloved Hierarch John, while living amongst us thou didst see the future as if present, distant things as if near the hearts and minds of men as if they were thine own. We know that in this thou wast illumined by God, with Whom thou wast ever in the mystical communion of prayer, and with Whom thou now abidest eternally. As thou once didst hear the mental petitions of thy far-scattered flock even before they could speak to thee, so now hear our prayers and bring them before the Lord. Thou hast gone over unto the life unaging, unto the other world, yet thou art in truth not far from us, for heaven is closer to us than our own souls. Show us who feel frightened and alone the same compassion that thou didst once show to the trembling fatherless ones. Give to us who have fallen into sin, confusion and despair the same stern yet loving instruction that thou didst once give to thy chosen flock. In thee we see the living likeness of our Maker, the living spirit of the Gospel and the foundation of our Faith. In the pure life that thou hast led during our sinful times, we see a model of virtue, a source of instruction and inspiration. Beholding the grace bestowed upon thee, we know that God hath not abandoned His people. It is rather we that haste fallen from Him, and so must regain the likeness of Divinity as thou hast done. Through thine intercession, O blessed one, grant that we may increase our striving toward our heavenly homeland, setting our affections on things above, laboring in prayer and virtue, waging war against the attacks of our fallen nature. Invoke the mercy of God, that we may one day join thee in His Kingdom. For our deepest wish is to live forever with Him, with the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
It’s late at night, and once again I find myself in a reflective mode. Life here has begun to fall into the shape of new routines, some good, some already not so good. But while it’s not that good a thing that I’m shorting myself of sleep–especially this week–the penchant for reflection during the quiet moments of darkness of night and early morning takes hold of me now more often.
I’m mindful again of the intercessions of our family’s patron saint, St. John (Maximovitch) of Shanghai and San Francisco (or St John the Wonderworker as I prefer to call him). I’ve collected accounts of his intercessions for my family on my St. John the Wonderworker blog category page. There you will find other goods such as links to services, icons of the saint, his biography, and so on.
It occurred to me in reading the post below how many have been the answers to St. John’s prayers for us. In fact, to be sure, I can think of nothing for which we’ve asked his prayers that God has not seen fit to answer in some affirmative way.
As I’ve remarked before, this isn’t due to some magic or what have you. It’s a matter of God’s love. His love for the saint, his love for us.
St. John’s protection of orphans is the quintessential picture of God’s fatherhood, and revelatory, too, of what it means for God to love us.
I read again of the uncovering of the saint’s incorrupt relics and was deeply moved.
Our God is a man-befriending God. What love he shows us in that he cares for us through the love and prayers of others, not the least of whom are his glorified ones.
M.A. Shakhmatova witnessed the saint’s ascetic exploit in Shanghai almost from the very moment of his arrival there in 1934, on the feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple. She saw Archbishop John crucify himself in both founding and managing the orphanage. Living conditions were terrible, and the needs of the children, whose parents had escaped Communism, were overwhelming. The young Bishop, almost from the start, gathered concerned ladies from his parish, asked them to found a committee, rented a house, and opened up a hostel for orphans or children whose parents were in need. The children would often be underfed, abused, and frightened, until Archbishop John would come and personally take them into his orphanage and school. Each child – and there were over three thousand who went through the orphanage – had a traumatic story.
There was, for example, a boy named Paul who had witnessed his father and mother being killed and chopped into pieces by the Communists right in front of his eyes. Because of the trauma the boy had become mute and could not even pronounce his own name. He was like a trapped animal, afraid of everyone, and trusted only his fists and spitting. He was brought into the orphanage at a time when it was packed and had no place for him. Due to the fact that Paul was so frightened, the ladies there thought that he was abnormal and refused to accept him lest he scare the other children.
When Archbishop John found out about him, he insisted on immediately dropping everything and going to meet the boy personally. They did not even know that he was a Russian boy and spoke Russian, for he only mumbled and hissed like a caged animal. When Archbishop John arrived, he sat down before the boy, who was still trembling, and said to him the following: “I know that you have lost your father, but now you have found another one – me,” and he hugged him. This was said with such power that the boy burst out in tears and his speech returned to him.
In my most recent post discussing the continuing intercessions of St. John the Wonderworker on our behalf, I noted both my struggle with despair over my situation and a tangible answer to our needs. I must confess that my requests for St. John’s intercessions were more often irregular and motivated by anxiety and despair. I do not know why that is, for not only has St. John proven an able patron of our family’s needs, but this most recent answer to his prayers, and our own, for a new job and for housing is not an anomaly.
More to the point, St. John’s intercessions are efficacious for us for one very important reason: God loves us.
A friend and I were remarking to one another how fundamentally the Orthodox Liturgy has reframed our understanding of God. Speaking for myself, I knew God as mostly a God of judgment. Yes, he loved you, but mostly he was waiting for you to step out of line to punish you for your misdeeds. But a few years of continually hearing, “Thou art a good God who lovest mankind” and hearing that God is the “man-befriending” God, have really and radically reshaped my understanding and experience of God. What it has done is helped me to allow my faith to be strengthened.
I say that knowing full well that I have wrestled with and too often surrendered to darkness and melancholy, to a very pessimistic view of the future. I have too often thought that God would not help because after all this was my own doing and I deserved what I got. But thank the man-befriending God that this thinking is a lie. We do not get what we deserve: which is precisely the point of the Gospel’s message of grace. And God isn’t waiting to punish us, but is, instead, waiting with a towel around his waist to wash and bathe weary and sore feet. On divine authority we know that he waits to give us rest and guidance in the midst of our struggles and temptations.
There is no doubt either that we will suffer discipline to correct our misdeeds and set our souls in virtue that we may be made ready and worthy to participate in full union with the divine energies for all eternity. But this is not the same thing as punishment. This is the coach allowing the athlete to endure the muscles which seize, the breath which comes in searing and burning gasps, the pain and ache of growth in size and speed and flexibility. This is the father which lays the rod athwart the backside, not in anger nor in implacable quest for restitution, but with, if I may venture an overbold analogy, tears and love.
This God is, of course, the God who has “come through” again and again and again for us. Lincoln, Illinois. Baton Rouge. Chicago. With numerous and varied examples in each place.
I do not yet believe as I should. I am ever the father in the Gospels who cries, “I believe, help thou my unbelief.”
But with such luminscent examples as St. John and his spiritual son (and one of my patrons), Blessed Hieromonk Seraphim, and with a growing experience of the God who loves mankind, it is becoming easier to believe than it is to doubt.
This webpage has a biography of St. John of San Francisco (accompanied by photos and other links), an account of the finding of the incorrupt relics of St. John and a nice (large) online copy of the Festal icon of St John the Wonderworker.
Yesterday I posted a large excerpt from a life of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco on my blog, and linked to several posts describing instances of answers to St. John’s intercessions for me and my family beginning in spring 2004.
I have to confess of late that I have been very despairing of any answers to our prayers for a positive resolution to our present circumstances. I have prayed many times with many tears, but the heavens have seemed shut to us. My wife and I have sought out many opportunities for jobs and housing, only to have no tangible return on our efforts thus far. Intellectually, I know that St. John is praying for us and our Lord is carrying out his loving will for us, but in the heart, where my faith resides, it was difficult–no it felt impossible–to believe that. But despite all that, I still try to offer myself to God and I still offer my prayers to the Most Holy Trinity and ask the intercessions of the Theotokos and of St. John.
Well, God condescended to my weak faith and granted me a peek behind the veil as it were, to see that he is, indeed, at work, and to draw me to deeper faith in his love and care for us.
Last night, while praying the Akathist to our holy hierarch John, our phone rang. It was after ten o’clock, and we never receive phone calls that late, not even from family–unless there’s an emergency. The phone rang just as I had finished praying the following from the akathist:
All who have trusted in thy help in desperate circumstances and adversities have found deliverance, O bold intercessor before the Throne of God. Therefore, we too do place our hope in thee to protect us in dangers by thy prayers before God as we call out to thee:
Rejoice, thou who didst stop the powers of nature from doing harm to thy flock.
Rejoice, thou who providest by thy prayer for all in need.
Rejoice, inexhaustible bread for the hungry.
Rejoice, abundant wealth for those who live in poverty.
Rejoice, consolation for those in sorrow.
Rejoice, quick uplifting for those Who have fallen.
Rejoice, O holy Hierarch John, wonderworker of the latter times.
It wasn’t perhaps appropriate to interrupt my prayers for a telephone call, but I did anyway. On the phone was my dad. He was on the way home from second shift at the refinery and was asking about our current circumstances. I told him where things stood. He told me that he was going to put a month’s rent in our account at the credit union tomorrow (that is, today).
Now, a month’s rent doesn’t exactly wipe the slate clean, but it sure does bring some daylight to a dark situation.
You may guess that my gratitude to God, the Theotokos, St. John, and, of course, my father, runs deep. And I cannot but think, rightly or wrongly, that the juxtaposition of the timing of my praying those specific lines from the akathist prayers and one answer to those prayers was somehow divinely arranged for the strengthening of my faith.