Orthodox America


  A Spiritual Legacy


    Archbishop Ioasaph was a hierarch of truly heroic stature. Endowed with great physical as well as spiritual strength, he devoted himself entirely to the service of God and the defense of the Holy Orthodox Faith in all its purity. He left no thriving communities, no monuments to preserve his memory, but for those whose hearts yearn for inspiration, his very life serves as a model of Christian heroism.

    Vladika was among the last to be nurtured in the bosom of Holy Russia. Here he received his monastic orientation which he preserved to the end of his life, and which enabled him to withstand the often lonely and difficult periods which marked the 20 years of his ministry in the vast Canadian diocese. So inspired was he by the monastic ideal, that he founded two sketes and a monastery, constructing some of the buildings almost single-handedly. Once asked how many men had worked on one of the chapels, Vladika replied with a smile, "Four: Fr. Elias and myself and I and Fr. Elias."

    His radiant and ready smile reflected the joy of heaven. This shone the more brightly by virtue of his profound humility which is so well evinced in the following reminiscence by one of his many admirers.

 

We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to 'do (Luke 17:10)

 

"Whoever even once had occasion to converse with Vladika Ioasaph, or to pay a visit to his simple cell whose door was open always and to all, experienced in his heart an uncommon peace and calm which seemed to emanate from the entire being of the humble archpastor who Was so full of love. Somewhere beyond the walls of this cell lay the churning and billowing waters of the sea of life, filled with petty and great passions, sins, and all manner of iniquity. But here, as in some quiet harbor, protected and guarded on all sides from evil winds and stormy tempests, it is calm and peaceful. Only the weak flickering flame of the vigil lamp casts a soft glow on the holy faces of the icons, as if emphasizing and strengthening that blessed peace and calm of the quiet spiritual harbor.

     "i was just reading St. Isaac the Syrian," said Vladika still preoccupied in thought. "it's frightful!... So frightful, enough to make one wish to strip oneself of all ecclesiastical rank." He was silent for a moment, then added: "According to the grace bestowed upon me, I should be a wonderworker. But here...I see nothing but my own sins." Vladika sighed deeply.

     His eyes wide in amazement, the guest looks at his meek and kind archpastor, listening to his humble and contrite confession, and the guest is also filled with fear, fear for himself...

     "If this white-haired elder," thinks the astonished visitor, "who, while still a young student at the Theological Academy, left this sinful world and dedicated all his strength and talents to serving the Lord God and His Church, who spent his entire life in monastic labors and repentance, guiding many to the path of salvation .... if he is in a state of such fear and trembling then what is to become of me, a sinner, living in this sinful and adulterous world of passions, in laziness and negligence over my salvation?"

    It is a regrettable sign of the times that even during his lifetime, few appreciated the rare qualities of this righteous missionary hierarch. Twenty years after his death, a small book was compiled by those who treasure his memory. Included are a few short sermons, one of which is printed below.

 

They that sow in tears, shall reap in joy.  (Ps. 126:5)

 

The times in which we live are times of testing for each and every Christian. A man comes to know himself best of all through the trials of suffering and sorrow. Through sorrow he is instructed; through suffering he is cleansed. After the Fall sorrows became the lot of all mankind; the Lord said: "In the world ye shall have sorrows." The Apostle James entreats Christians to prepare their souls for trials. Other Apostles and our Holy Fathers, both ancient and modern, with "one mouth" all speak of sufferings as the sole path to salvation according to the Lord's commandments.

It is not possible for us to cast aside the saving yoke of sorrows. It remains for us to humble ourselves and accept our lot., In doing so, we gain experience of patience. And many virtues are related to patience.

Earthly prosperity and a carefree life do not yield such virtues. There is a saying: “The root of learning is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.” Likewise, a hard life brings forth sweet fruit in the future eternal life. For us Who sorrow in this earthly life, this is a great consolation.- This is the perfect righteousness of God.

Here we have no lasting city but "we seek that city to come." It is better, then, to live according to God's righteousness than by the righteousness of man which is forever changing, having no other foundation than sin. We see the essence of this human righteousness in our contemporary life--godless, frightful, from which one wants only to flee, and to flee without looking bacc. God's righteousness, however, this is an endless life in God, in the Light, where there is peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. On the way to this complete happiness we must spend a certain time in sorrows; this time--is our earthly life.

Let us, then, make use of this time that we may be worthy of the greatest and most perfect happiness. Let us follow after those who have suffered in this life for the sake of God's righteousness, for "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness..."

     And let us endure; our days of sorrows too will pass. Then we shall say in the words of Holy Scripture: "Lift up your heads," all ye that sorrow in the Name of God, for "your salvation has drawn nigh." Amen.

    :It is our hope that this small tribute will inspire the new generation of Orthodox Canadians --and all Orthodox Christians. May the spark of monastically-oriented Christianity, which Vladika Ioasaph brought from Holy Russia and so carefully preserved in the Canadian land, be fanned into a great flame. And what is this, but the dedication of our entire beings to God – that our tears also be turned to eternal joy.

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