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.
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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.
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.
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).
On this day, the first Sunday after Pentecost, we commemorate the feast of All Saints from all times and throughout all the world: from Asia, Libya, Europe, from the North and from the South.
Our godly Fathers have established the commemoration of this present feast after the Descent of the Holy Spirit in order to show that the coming of the most Holy Spirit worked enormous deeds through the Apostles, sanctifying and bestowing wisdom upon those who were like us, and setting these saints in the place of those angels who had fallen, leading them, through Jesus Christ, to God. Some, the martyrs, came through blood, while others were led through their virtuous way of life, but all were perfected through the Holy Spirit in an ineffable manner.
On this day, the eighth Sunday of Pascha, we celebrate the day of Holy Pentecost.
We have also taken the celebration of this feast from the Jews. Their celebration of Pentecost was both in honor of the number seven as well as in remembrance of the fact that they received the Law fifty days after the Passover. Thus we also celebrate fifty days after Pascha, receiving the One who gives us the Law, the most Holy Spirit, who guides us in all truth and teaches us what is pleasing to God. It should also be known that among the Jews were three great feasts: Passover, Pentecost; and the Feast of the Tabernacles. Passover was in remembrance of passing through the Red Sea, for the name of the feast itself is one of “passing.” That feast prefigured our own Pascha, which is the passing and returning from the darkness of sin to Paradise.
On this day, the Saturday before Holy Pentecost, we celebrate a memorial for all those who have fallen asleep since the ages in true worship and in the hope of everlasting life.
The Holy Fathers established that on this Saturday that precedes Holy Pentecost, we observe the memory of all people who throughout the centuries died in the right faith, just as they ordered that this be observed on the Saturday before Meatfare Sunday. They did this moved by their love for mankind, so that all who for whatever reason did not have the usual benefit of individual memorial services might be included in this common memorial. According to tradition, the Fathers of the Church received this injunction concerning the memorial services from the Apostles, who themselves taught that the memorials performed on behalf of the reposed bring great benefit to those who have fallen asleep. (See Apostolic Injunctions, 8.42.)
On the seventh Sunday of Pascha, we celebrate the three hundred eighteen God-bearing Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council held in Nicaea of Bithynia.
The reason we celebrate this feast today is as follows: after our Lord Jesus Christ took flesh and fulfilled His ineffable dispensation for us, He returned to the throne of the Father. It was the desire of the Saints to show that the Son of God had truly become man, that He had ascended as perfect man and perfect God into Heaven and is seated at the right of the glory on high. This council of Holy Fathers proclaimed and confessed that the Son is of the same essence and honor as the Father. Therefore, following the feast of the glorious Ascension, this present feast has been set forth in order to add to the already large number of Fathers who preached that He Who has Ascended in the flesh is both perfect God and perfect Man in the flesh.
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On this day, the Saturday of the fifth week of Great Lent, we celebrate the Akathist Hymn of our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary.
In 626, when Heraclius (610-41) held the imperial authority of the Romans, Chozroes, the king of the Persians, seeing that Roman resources had been extremely depleted by the previous emperor, Phocas the Tyrant (602-10), sent one of his satraps named Sarvaros with many thousands of troops in order to subjugate the entire East to himself. Prior to this, Chozroes had captured one hundred thousand Christians whom the Jews bought and killed. The chief satrap Sarvaros ravaged the entire East and even reached as far as Chrysopolis, which is now called Skoutarion. Emperor Heraclius, being destitute of public funds, converted the sacred vessels of the churches into currency, promising to later replace them with more and finer ones. And thus, crossing the Black Sea with his ships, he invaded the regions of Persia, which he vanquished, utterly defeating Chozroes with his army. Shortly thereafter, Chozroes' son Seiroes rebelled against his father and killed him; he assumed authority and made peace with Emperor Heraclius.
1. Before Christ we all shared the same ancestral curse and condemnation poured out on all of us from our single forefather, as if it had sprung from the root of the human race and was the common lot of our nature. Each person’s individual action attracted either reproof or praise from God, but no one could do anything about the shared curse and condemnation, or the evil inheritance that had been passed down to him and through him would pass to his descendants.
2. But Christ came, setting human nature free and changing the common curse into a shared blessing. He took upon Himself our guilty nature from the most pure Virgin and united it, new and unmixed with the old seed, to His divine person. He rendered it guiltless and righteous, so that all His spiritual descendants would remain outside the ancestral curse and condemnation. How so? He shares His grace with each one of us as a person, and each receives forgiveness of his sins from Him. For He did not receive from us a human person, but assumed our human nature and renewed it by uniting it with His own person. His wish was to save us all completely and for our sake He bowed the heavens and came down. When by His deeds, words and sufferings He had pointed out all the ways of salvation, He went up to heaven again, drawing after Him those who trusted in Him. His aim was to grant perfect redemption not just to the nature which He had assumed from us in inseparable union, but to each one of those who believed in Him. This He has done and continues to do, reconciling each of us through Himself to the Father, bringing each one back to obedience and thoroughly healing our disobedience.