The following article is condensed from a lecture delivered at the St. Herman Summer Pilgrimage, August, 1982).
On May 29, 1453, the troops of the Moslem leader, Mohammed II, took the great city of Constantinople. For more than 1000 years Orthodox Christians had assumed that the Byzantine Christian Empire would stand until the Second Coming of Christ. They had always called their city the “God-protected City,” and indeed, until now it had been protected by Heaven. But when their Emperor, Constantine XI, fell in battle, the holy city of Byzantium became the capital of a new empire, the Ottoman Empire, ruled by a pagan people, enemies of Christ and Christianity, the Moslems. It was a dark, dark time for Orthodox Christians in that part of the world.
The Day commemorating the saints who have shown forth in the Russian land points to that spiritual heaven beneath which the Russian land was founded and lived.
Before the holy Prince Vladimir, there lived on the Russian land separate, pagan tribes that warred with one another. The holy Prince Vladimir brought them a new faith, a new consciousness and meaning of life, a new inner spiritual state; he gave them a new spirit of life that united everyone, and thus a single nation was formed.
The very existence of the Russian nation is tied to the begetting of spiritual life within it, with the assimilation of the fundamentals of a Christian world-view. It is senseless to seek the meaning and purpose of life in earthly life, which ends with death. One must strive to acquire the Divine, grace-filled, eternal life, and then this temporal, earthly life will arrange itself as well: Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (Matt. 6:33).
Originally published in: “The Orthodox Word”, №11 (November-December, 1966) pp. 167-174, 179-190. – Ed.
Barely six months ago  there reposed in the Lord a hierarch of the Church of Christ whose life so extraordinarily radiated the Christian virtues and the grace of the Holy Spirit as to make him a pillar of true Orthodoxy and an example of Christian life that is of universal significance. In Archbishop John there are united three kinds of highest Christian activity that are rarely found together: that of a bold and esteemed Prince of the Church; an ascetic in the tradition of the pillar saints, taking upon himself the severest self mortification; and a fool for Christ’s sake, instructing men by a ‘foolishness’ that was beyond the wisdom of this world.
The following account cannot begin to be called a complete life of Archbishop John; it is only a selection of the material that is already available, presented in the form of a preliminary sketch of the life of this holy man. It was compiled by the St Herman Brotherhood, which was organized with the blessing of Archbishop John (who wished to see Father Herman canonized after Father John of Krohnstadt) for the mission of the printed word. Now, in fulfillment of this mission, it is our duty to speak the truth about this man, who was, in our dark times when genuine Christianity has almost vanished, an embodiment of the life of Christ.
The account is based primarily upon personal acquaintance and upon the testimony of witnesses known to the compilers. Archbishop John throughout is referred to by the term Russians use to speak of and address bishops: Vladika. In English this is rendered ‘Master’, but the Russian word, when used by itself, implies a familiarity and endearment that are wanting in the nearest English equivalent. For those who knew him, Archbishop John will always be simply Vladika.
Icon of chinese orthodox Martyrs. Murdered during Boxer Rebellion (1900). Canonized before 1917.
The Boxer Rebellion is one of the little known historical pages of Russian Spiritual Mission in China. The year 1900 is known as the time of the most active activity of the Yihetuan – mostly a religious movement called the Boxer Rebellion following the incorrect British translation. Directed against foreigners, its ideology lay in anti-Christianity. When the uprising enveloped the entire capital, Director of the Russian Spiritual Mission, Archimandrite Innocent (Figurovskii, future Metropolitan of Beijing and China) left Beiguan with his collaborators and moved to the Russian embassy. Along with the church accessories they brought with them an ancient icon of St. Nicholas of Mozhaisk, brought from Albazin by Fr. Maxim Leontiev back in 1685. Chinese government allotted 10 pikemen to guard the Mission, but on June 11 it was burned to the ground, destroying its library, archive and sacristy. Yihetuans have tortured to death 222 Orthodox Chinese, which are considered the first Chinese martyrs. Among them – hieromartyr Metrophanes, first Chinese priest consecrated in Japan by its enlightener, St. Nicholas. By the intercessions of the Mission’s Director, the Holy Synod has appointed a liturgical celebration to the holy Chinese New-Martyrs (Decree №2874 from April 22, 1902). Their holy relics, many of which turned out to be incorrupt, were buried in the crypt of the new church dedicated to All Martyrs. The “Praise” following their lives is written by Archimandrite Avraamii (Chasovnikov), who, together with Archimandrite Innocent, was a witness of the horrors of the Boxer Rebellion. The “Praise to the slain” was first published in “Izvestiia Bratstva Pravoslavnoi Tserkvi v Kitae”, №8 (July 1, 1905). – Ed.
1. TRULY "God is glorious in his saints" (Ps. 68:35 Lxx). Let us call to mind the martyrs' superhuman struggles, how in the weakness of their flesh they put to shame the evil one's strength, disregarding pain and wounds as they struggled bodily against fire, sword, all different kinds of deadly tortures, patiently resisting while their flesh was cut, their joints dislocated and their bones crushed, and keeping the confession of faith in Christ in its integrity, complete, unharmed and unshaken. As a result there were bestowed on them the incontrovertible wisdom of the Spirit and the power to work miracles. Let us consider the patience of holy men and women, how they willingly endured long periods of fasting, vigil and various other physical hardships as though they were not in the body, battling to the end against evil passions and all sorts of sin, in the invincible inner warfare against principalities, powers and spiritual wickedness (Eph. 6:12). They wore away their outer selves and made them useless, but their inner man was renewed and deified by Him from Whom they also received gifts of healing and mighty works. When we think on these matters and understand that they surpass human nature, we are filled with wonder and glorify God who gave them such grace and power. For even if their intentions were good and noble, without God's strength they could not have gone beyond the bounds of their nature and driven away the bodiless enemy while clothed in their bodies.