Orthodox America

  The Grace and Mercy of the Lord Are With His Saints

By Mitred Archprist Valery Lukianov

to our Holy Father the Hierarch
JOHN Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco

O wondrous hierarch John, thou didst stretch thy heart to encompass within it a multitude of people who honor thee from diverse tribes and nations. Look down at the humility of our words, which we offer out of love for thee, and help us, O saint of God, to cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, so that we may labor for the Lord with fear and rejoice in Him with trembling.

And what shall we render unto thee for that joy which we have felt, beholding in this holy church thy holy relics and glorifying thy memory. Truly, we have nothing to offer unto thee except if we begin to correct our lives, becoming new instead of old.

Be an intercessor for us for this grace of renewal, O holy John, thou who hast departed this temporal life unto life eternal, unto which thou hast as a mentor the Most Holy Mother of God, the Guide of the Russian Diaspora, in her wonderworking Kursk Root Icon, as thou didst accompany this Icon on the day of thy repose. Thou dost rejoice in her now in the choir of the saints, glorifying God, Who is One in Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

For twenty-eight years we have prayed at the tomb of the hierarch, for twenty-eight years we have brought our needs to him in prayer, and he was attentive to our entreaties, time and again bringing our petitions before the Throne of God.  And today we have the greatest consolation-of looking upon his incorrupt relics, of kissing his hand, of offering him not only our petitions but also our fervent prayers, in joy over his being given to the world as a saint lawfully glorified by the Church according to the promise of the Saviour Himself: There is nothing secret that shall not be made manifest; neither anything hid that shall not be known and come abroad (Luke 8:17).

"Believing Christians, in striving to find a model to emulate in the struggle with their weaknesses, find it in the exploits of the saints, who fulfilled the commands of God and showed thereby that we, too, being of the same nature, can ascend to God along the same path. This gives birth to a love for the saints and fervent prayers for their intercession for us before God.

"The saints were made illustrious by various spiritual exploits: some primarily through their abstemiousness and fasting; others by prayer and vigil, still others by their humility and meekness, or by their patient endurance of offenses, or by unacquisitiveness, or by their charity towards their neighbor."  (From the epistle of the Sobor of Bishops, ROCOR, 1990, preceding the glorification of the Optina Elders.)

In reviewing Vladika John's ascetic path of life, we find that we have in him an inexhaustible wellspring of inspiration and instruction for our personal life in piety.  The newly-revealed Saint  was a strict faster, a man of constant prayer, one who denied himself even rest in bed.  Vladika was a great consoler of the sick and sorrowing, tirelessly visiting hospitals and prisons; he was a bold healer of human infirmities, a genuine clarivoyant, a master of the human soul.  He is well remembered for his special love for children, orphans and poor people, for whom he was a gentle protector and defender. He bore offenses, persecution, and yet was himself genuinely merciful.  When, however, church discipline called for it, he was stern and demanding, but always just.

Meekness, simplicity, unacquisitiveness-these are the distinguishing traits of his character.  In spirit he lived in the realm of the saints.  He had an amazingly thorough knowledge of their lives; in sermons and conversations he liked to make frequent reference to the saints, drawing from their lives instructive examples.  He would persistently search out the places where early saints had struggled, where they reposed; he held services in their memory and encouraged others to honor these God-pleasers. Vladika was the embodiment of boundless love for fallen and suffering man. Participating in the lot and lives of others, he understood their shortcomings and weaknesses, and implored forgiveness from the Lord.  He took upon himself these failings, abasing himself to the point of exhaustion.  His victory over vainglory and pride was won by staying clear of all flattery and hypocrisy.  Sensing his genuine Christian disposition, people gravitated towards him; they trusted him and, following his counsel, progressed to a better way of life.  These strivings towards Vladika John did not cease after his repose; on the contrary, they grew stronger.  His wondrous sepulchre warmed thousands of despondent, confused and lost souls, as well as those who came simply with compunction and the desire to emulate at least in some small measure this holy man of God.

Not everyone could go personally to Vladika's sepulchre and pray before his relics.  From all corners of the world, thousands of request-bearing notes and letters found their way under the mitre on the tomb;  the chanting of countless memorial services was raised to heaven.  Such extraordinary, intense and unified prayer is the best evidence of the faith that Orthodox people have in Vladika John's authentic sanctity and bold intercession before God.

By what special grace was all this possible? Without a doubt, this wondrous gift of sanctity came through Vladika 's profound love for God.  He was like a candle aflame before the eyes of the Lord.  He could not be otherwise; nothing less could satisfy him, nothing less could hold him on this earth.  And the Lord reciprocated with a special grace-the gift of mental, heartfelt prayer, and help in overcoming human limitations: laziness, negligence, fatigue, distraction.  To counter these difficulties he was granted the gift of joy of being with the Lord, of being in constant communion with Him, of being wholly united to Him through the awesome Eucharist.

To each saint God grants certain gifts, but Vladika John was granted a full measure of divine gifts. And with reason, for he comes at a time when the world is truly drowning in immorality and faithlessness as never before in the history of humanity.  Today science is trying to ascend the throne of the Godhead and to draw every living thing into the darkness of material and carnal slavery.

The hierarch's theological writings, so consonant with patristic sources, are being avidly sought out and studied. Through his considered and divinely-inspired diocesan decrees, we are learning to stand firmly on guard for the truth and to have a profound respect for the order and requirements of the holy Church.

And now the veil has been removed. . .  The hierarch and man of prayer, in new, gleaming vestments, has been revealed to the world in order to bless Orthodox Christians, who are in such need of contact with holiness, in order to plant assurance in the hearts of what may be the last Christians, that God is not mocked.  Rather than falling into despondency, we must now strengthen our love for the Lord, enter more deeply into the life of the Church, put in order our attitude to her rules of piety and, with all reverence and due preparation, partake of her soul-saving Mysteries. Gazing upon the incorrupt and much-healing relics of the holy hierarch John, let us recall his ever-prayerful disposition, which blossomed into such a wondrous form of sanctity.  Let us "pray for prayer," that it might be well-ordered, heartfelt, and conscious; that all our undertakings and good deeds be blessed with it; that through it we may acquire a tranquil joy, peace of soul and, above all, the salvation of our souls in eternity, by the prayers of our glorious, newly-manifested saint of God, the holy hierarch John.  Amen.

(Translated from Russian)