Orthodox America


Wondrous is God in His Saints  


In 1966 by God’s Providence, I attended the funeral of a righteous man, Blessed Archbishop John (Maximovitch) of Western America and San Francisco, At the time I was not an Orthodox Christian. But I had seen startling reports on television and in the newspapers about the death of this modern saint, a humble Russian bishop who had walked the same streets as I. In television interview s-especially with Orthodox young people I learned about the ascetic feats of Blessed Archbishop John, the miracles, his profound love of God and his devotion to Christ’s Church. Hearing about this pure man for the first time, juxtaposed with the fact that he had lived in San Francisco, one of the most "sophisticated' and worldly cities in the United States, my heart was touched deeply and I conceived an intense desire to attend the funeral of this modern-day saint. I understood little-of' what I saw at the funeral, and yet I was not in a state of confusion or distraction. Rather, for the first time in my life a “door” had opened for me, a door into the next world. I would not be satisfied until I had walked through that door. 

It occurred to me that if I was going to understand Blessed Archbishop John I would have to learn about the Church to which ho had consciously belonged throughout his life.  I began to read about Orthodoxy. And I began to delve into the lives of Orthodox saints-those thousands and thousands, perhaps millions, that have souls that have found salvation by walking in the footsteps or Christ, carrying their individual crosses. It was by reading these lives of saints that I was converted to Orthodoxy; and it had all begun with attendance at the funeral of a saint

A few weeks ago I again stood at the tomb of Blessed John. It was the 17th anniversary of his repose. Archbishop Antony of Western America and San Francisco led five priests, two deacons, and hundreds of the faithful in a glorious and triumphant Divine liturgy in the sepulchre.  During the Pannikhida (memorial service) following the Liturgy, our Blessed one was very, very close to us all, just as he had promised he would be. I reflected on the numerous miracles that have continued since his death-many of them worked right here, at the sarcophagus of our saint-miracles straight out of New Testament times, creating an oasis of holiness right in the middle of a great pagan city!

Dear brothers and sisters: how great is our God!  Truly, He rests in His saints", is pleased by them and in them, and wishes us to give thanks for them.  In the words of the Prophet David:

“How precious are Thy beloved ones, unto me, O God”

Such is the quality of the abundant fruit produced by the Orthodox Church-Christ's True Church-from the first Pentecost until now, a harvest richer than any man can ever dream or hope, a harvest which will continue until the~ end of time.

BUT, consider well: to know about these saints, both ancient and modern, is not enough! We can read book upon book filled with their lives, but if our hearts are not touched, if we are not moved to actually change our own lives, if, in a word, we are not converted by what we read, then we read not unto salvation, but unto judgment. We will be called to account. This is why another righteous one, the late Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose), wrote in his Preface to The Northern Thebaid:

"We shall not be judged for our ignorance of the vocabulary of contemporary 'Orthodox theology,' but we shall surely be judged for not struggling on the path of salvation. If we do not live like these Saints, then let us at least increase our far-too-feeble struggles for God, and offer our fervent tears of repentance and our constant self-reproach at falling short of the standard of perfection which God has shown us in His wondrous Saints”

 

Fr. Alexey Young

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