Orthodox America

  Bishop Jonah of Manchuria A New Saint is Proclaimed

Proclamation of the Sobor of Bishops meeting in New York, 31 Aug/13 Sept., 1996

(See Orthodox America #91, July 1989.)

      By the time of his righteous repose on October 7 B (OS), 1925, Bishop Jonah of Hankow (Manchuria) had already made a deep impression on his contemporaries by his God-pleasing life, his ebullient activity, and his unremitting ascetic labors. His brief, three-year episcopacy was marked by a wealth of accomplishments. He died at the age of only 37, crowned by holiness.

      Orphaned as a boy and shadowed by poverty, he managed while still young to learn the language of the Old Testament, and was in the top of his class at seminary and again at the Kazan Theological Academy. In his third year at the academy he received the monastic tonsure. Upon graduating, he accepted a professorship, teaching New Testament; this was quite against his will, but in his humility he submitted to the strict guidance of his elder from the renowned Optina Hermitage. A great field of opportunity spread out before the young hieromonk -- a scholar, priest and preacher -- but very soon it was eclipsed by the horrific events of 1917. The pastor-ascetic was banished from Kazan; in Perm he was arrested and then beaten to unconsciousness by the Bolsheviks.

      Having thus shared the lot of Russia's new confessors, he was providentially freed by the Whites and subsequently raised to the rank of hegumen and appointed senior priest of the southern volunteer army. With Dutow's army, Fr. Jonah retreated across the eastern frontier into China, The strenuous trek across the Pamirs was made more difficult by a scarcity of supplies. In places they had to scale ice-covered dills, clutching onto projections and scant shrubs, their bare bands torn and bleeding.

      Through all this the Lord preserved Fr. Jonah, as he himself declared, for later service as a bishop.

       In the three years of his episcopate, he fulfilled Christ's principal commandment concerning love for one's neighbor to such a measure as to take anyone else, even a diligent worker, several decades. the dimensions and strength of this activity were remembered equally by the Orthodox and non-Orthodox. His Eminence Melety, then Bishop of Zabaikal, precisely summed up Bishop Jonah's activity: "He fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, took in strangers, clothed the naked, and visited the sick."

       The fulfillment of this commandment, prepared for by a life of ascetic struggle, was the substance of Bishop Jonah's whole life -- it was that good work which a bishop is enjoined to desire. It flowered in Manjuria [present-day Manchuli] in unflagging efforts on behalf of children, for whom an orphanage was established. Nor were the needs of adults neglected; somehow he found time and strength for everyone, Russian and non-Russian. And everyone mourned his death.

       It was only for himself that he found no time. When he fell ill with angina, he continued to focus his attention on the needs of others, and without giving it much thought, rinsed his throat with kerosene; it quickly led to blood poisoning.

       When, to everyone's dismay, it became evident that death was imminent, then, according to Archbishop Melety, a devout witness of the Saint's final hours, he began preparing himself, solemnly and imperturbably, for his passage to eternity. He had confession and partook of the Holy Mysteries, then he typed out his brief testament (several thousand copies were made and passed out on the day of his funeral). He bade farewell to everyone, and, whispering because his throat was sore, conveyed his final wishes. He expressed the desire to go to the church but, heeding the advice of those around him, he lay down. He departed to Christ as Archbishop Melety read the prayers for the departure of the soul.

      The throngs of people that gathered for the funeral, the universal mourning (overcome by grief, one of the bishop's admirers died of a heart attack during the services), the ten-year old paralyzed boy who was miraculously healed when Saint Jonah appeared to him the night of the funeral and told the boy to take his legs -- all that is widely known.

        For over sixty years, the Church conscionsness has venerated Bishop Jonah as a God-pleaser who acquired the grace to inter cede for those who call upon his name.

       With the blessing of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, emigres from Manchuria realized a long-standing intent to go to China and try to find and bring back Saint Jonah's remains, which had been buried in 1925 near the St Innocent cathedral. Subsequently the cathedral was blown up and the graves demolished. Those who went succeeded in obtaining permission from local officials to excavate, but at the supposed site of the grave, they found nothing.

       The memory of the life, the ascetic labors and the righteous repose of Bishop Jonah did not die out. In consensus with the unanimous voice of Bishop Jonah's contemporaries -- archpastors of the Far East, his clergy and flock -- and revering his labors as a church teacher, his extraordinary works of charity, his whole life aflame with love for his neighbor; recalling his exploit of confession and the miracle wrought after his burial, the Synod of Bishops ... has determined that Bishop Jonah of Hankow be revered as a God-pleaser in the choirs of saints who shone forth in the Russia land. It has further determined that he be commemorated on October 7 (OS), the date of his repose, and that his glorification take place on that date this year. Preparation for this solemnity and dissemination of related information is entrusted to Archbishop Anthony of Western America and San Francisco, and to Bishop Kyrill of Seattle.

       We appeal to everyone to give thanks to God, wondrous in His saints, and we entrust all to the prayers of the newly-glorified Saint Jonah. Amen.

 (signed) Metropolitan Vitaly and all the hierarchs participating in the Sobor

We magnify ...

The Synod's decision to glorify Bishop Jonah of Hankow and Manchuria was greeted with great joy, especially by those Russian emigres from the Far East, who had personally known this holy hierarch and had been working to promote such a decision. Saint Jonah was, in fact, the third Russian hierarch of the Far East to be glorified in as many years, following Saint Nicholas of Japan (Jan. 1994) and Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco (July 1994). However, the great majority of the faithful were not well acquainted (if at all) with Saint Jonah, and the six short weeks before the scheduled glorification was scarcely adequate to properly prepare the faithful for such a momentous event in the life of the Church Abroad. Nevertheless, the occasion inspired a burst of activity. From the Western American diocese, a brief life of the Saint in Russian and in English [1] was sped out to parishes and priests across the country and also posted on the Internet. Archbishop Alypy of Chicago and Hieromonk Andrei at Holy Trinity Monastery painted icons of the Saint, while Deacon Seraphim Gan was commissioned to write the service. The Chicago diocese prepared commemorative booklets and printed copies of Archbishop Alypy's icon for distribution at the glorification services.

      The glorification of this wondrous hierarch took place simultaneously in San Francisco, with Archbishop Anthony presiding; in Chicago, with Archbishop Alypy presiding; and in Geelong (Australia), where Archbishop Hilarion, newly appointed to the Australian diocese, was the chief celebrant. Also taking part in these solemnities were two new hierarchs of the Church Abroad: Bishop Gabriel, who was consecrated on July 7 as Vicar Bishop of Australia (he currently resides in New York), and Bishop Michael of Toronto, who was consecrated July 12.

      Inasmuch as most of the emigres from Manchuria live on the West Coast, the principal celebration was held in San Francisco, at the cathedral of the Holy Virgin, "Joy of All Who Sorrow." On Saturday, October 6/19, the eve of the appointed day of glorification, twenty priests and eight deacons joined the hierarchs for the final panikhida, chanting alternately with the choir, "Give rest, O Lord, to Thy servant, who hath fallen asleep." Then, the deep, resonant voice of Protodeacon Nicholas solemnly intoned, "in a blessed falling asleep ..,' and the voices of the entire congregation lifted into a mighty crescendo with the prayer, "Memory Eternal."

      At the All-night Vigil that followed, almost everyone joined the procession around the cathedral for the litia, when, for the first time, Bishop Jonah was listed among the saints, a heavenly intercessor. After the polyeleos and a triumphant "Praise ye the name of the Lord," there was a moment's anticipatory silence as Archbishop Anthony descended from the cathedra and approached the cloth-shrouded icon standing on an analogion in front of the solea. As he untied the ribbon and removed the cloth to reveal the icon of the Saint, everyone bowed down in a reverent prostration. The archbishop then handed the icon to two priests, who held it aloft for all to see as the voices of the clergy swelled with a sonorous, "We magnify thee, O holy hierarch Jonah, and we honor thy holy memory, for thou dost pray for us to Christ our God."

      At the end of the festive hierarchal Liturgy the next morning, there was a procession around the cathedral with the icon of the newly-glorified Saint. When all had returned inside, there was a molieben and Archbishop Anthony gave a moving sermon, in which he spoke about the significance of Saint Jonah for us today. "Love one another," he wrote in his last testament, "and do not forget the children."

      By the prayers of our holy hierarch, the newly glorified Saint Jonah, help us, O Lord, to make this our earnest intent.


(Based on articles in Pravoslarvnaya Rus', No. 21, 1996, Jordanville)

[1] Orthodox America #91, July 1989.

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