Praise the word to Saint John (Maksimovich)
The ideal of Orthodox monasticism - with a solitary prayer and silence - is little understood by the Western world. Practical Europe and prudent America even holiness want to measure in categories of "public good" ...
But the twentieth century changed a lot - both on the world map and in the people's minds. When a stream of emigrants flooded the borders of the former Russian Empire, which kept Russian icons and built Orthodox churches, the world met with Orthodoxy face to face. A real revelation about Orthodoxy was our fellow countryman, St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco, for the world. His amazing life, he said a lot to Europe, America, and China - about love, about charity, about the monastic feat. And about the true Church, which belonged to the whole soul.
It is easy to write and talk about sinners, because "from the first I am." Partly - experience, in part - imagination will help to think over any situation from that area of life where the lust of the flesh reigns, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. It is much harder to talk and write about saints. There is no adequate experience. You risk either to fall into puppy ecstasy and irrepressible praise, or fall into doubt. Both these extremes adjoin and even merge in the spiritual world, where the earthly eye can not see anything. It is doubt that likes to hide behind magnificent praiseworthy phrases, and it is the amateurs of dithyrambs who, most of all, are threatened by falling away into unbelief.
Praise to the saint is not a testimony of loyalty, similar to the poems about the leader who write so they will not be shot. Our words to the most holy why? If we speak of a holy man, then only through his experience to open up to the eyes of the church people an important facet of spiritual life. Maybe - a few facets, but necessarily - relevant, not for a red word and not in a coin box erudite, but for life.
I'll start with the liturgy. "All of God is sanctified by the sacred activity of the Most Pure Mysteries," so John speaks in the troparion. He served often, almost daily, no matter how many or few people were in the temple. Liked serving as a simple priest and consuming the Holy Gifts after the service. I consumed for a long time and at this time I prayed over the Jesus Blood. God alone knows the heat of those prayers. I remember in the book about Paisius the Svyatogorets it is said that a priest, who consumes the Holy Gifts, always cried, and was embarrassed that "nasty" tears drip into the Cup. Father Paissy said to him: "Pray for me, that the Lord give me your" nasty "tears." Apparently, Vladyka John had something similar, and more than that. In any case, he did not leave the altar for a long time. Could still read the Gospel, could pray on the rosary. Leaving the sanctuary, with a sigh could say: "I do not want to leave the temple."
Every liturgy is served "for all and for all." Any liturgy is an event of universal importance. The service shrinks the entire history of the world to the dimensions of a geometric point. Both the past and the future of the world are turned inwards, like a scroll, like the sky in the Apocalypse, to the center, and the clergyman sees both. Here is one of the quotes from the thanksgiving: "All the memories of us are remembered: the Cross, the coffin, the three-day Resurrection, the ascent into heaven, the right of the saddle, the second and glorious coming." The Second Coming is also remembered! A serving priest or bishop goes beyond the bounds of temporary conventions and becomes an active participant in all human history.
All the ministers of the altar are called to this, although not everyone understands and feels this. So in the sea, many swim, but dive to the depth and get from the bottom of the treasure unit. John dived into the depths and extracted from there real treasures.
It can be safely called an all-Orthodox bishop. His heart was alive not only with the troubles and problems of the Russian emigre community and not only with thoughts about the fate of the abandoned homeland, but also with anxiety about Orthodoxy as such. In his quest for a deep unity of Christians in prayer and faith, Archbishop John dug and cleaned the wells, covered with sand of historical oblivion. This is the memory of those saints who shone in the West before the Great Schism of the XI century. St. Dunstan, St. Columba, Ansgar of Bremen, Patrick of Ireland and many other ancient saints of the West are representatives of the true universal Orthodoxy, the oblivion of which greatly impoverishes our sense of ecclesiasticality. Vladika John sought and republished their lives, found prayers addressed to them, visited the places of their labors and sufferings, acquired particles of relics and other relics. This work needs to be continued, and its fruits will be amazing. But it's always harder to start. To begin is to dare. To begin is to overcome the inertia of centuries and to disperse the sweet haze of local isolation. This requires an apostolic spirit and prayerful inalienability from the Head of the Church - Christ.
As the Bishop prayed, there are only a few who can pray. In his monastic labors, he imitated a fellow countryman - Meletiya Kharkovsky, who spent the night standing in prayer, and slept only sitting on a chair. In our relaxed age, in our epoch of falling in love with corporal peace and comfort, such works seem simply impossible. But they were. Witnesses are many. Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) was struck by the ascetic spirit of the then hieromonk John and called him an Angel in the flesh. The warm sun of the Serbian land, the great clever and self-ascetic, Bishop Nikolai (Velemirovich) pointed to John (Maksimovich), if he was asked if there are saints like the ancients today.
The first love of the future ascetic was the lives of the saints. He read them all his life and knew as well as if he lived in their society. In addition, since the monastic tonsure he did not part with the Bible. For a careful reading of the Holy Scripture, the saint could always be found when he was in the cell. He tried to read or listen to the whole range of daily services. Wherever it was - in an airplane or in a car - at three o'clock in the afternoon always opened the Road Hour and read 9 hour. About him you can say that in posthumous memories and praise, many spoke of Father John of Kronstadt: he lived in the Church. That is, he did not go to church, did not work in the Church, did not live at the expense of the Church, did not respect the Church from afar. He was eager to live the Church every second and did not separate from it.
According to the ethnos, he is Ukrainian, he is an exile and a citizen of the world, in spirit he was a Russian Orthodox saint, and also an ascetic monk and even a holy fool, combining in his small life almost all the best that is connected with the concept of Orthodoxy. This very wealth of Orthodoxy in general and Russian Orthodoxy in particular, Bishop John, at the behest of God, revealed in the face of the Western world.
Western secular consciousness requires practical benefit from Christianity, which it understands as social service. In the necessity of heroism and the power of prayer, this secular consciousness does not believe and considers them superfluous. Vladika John showed in himself just Orthodoxy as a feat. He revived the church history and made it obvious. At the same charity, so beloved by unbelieving lovers, came through him too. Archbishop John created shelters, visited hospitals every Sunday, arranged dining rooms for the poor, in the Shanghai slums bought the babies from the descended parents, then to arrange their upbringing. Everything that is connected with charity, flowed from his works, as a powerful and fresh stream from the source. But it was just a miraculous charity, born of a feat and night prayer, and not a sentimentality and a desire for praise.
Cases of healing according to the prayers of Bishop John difficult to calculate. At the same time, as a true disciple of Christ, the lord did not deprive prayer and non-believers. Visiting hospitals, he could, at the request of his family or the patient himself, stop for a long time to pray at the bedside of a Catholic, Protestant or Jew. Often, very often, hopeless patients were discharged the next day from the clinic with an indescribable general surprise. But, as is always the case with the saints, his love did not extend to indifference in matters of religion. John of Shanghai was against mixed marriages and the teaching of Orthodox youth in non-Orthodox schools, as this threatened with the loss of faith. He could not stand the new customs, like the celebration of Halloween, seeing in this an impermissible degree of secularism. In theology he was neither a conservative nor a liberal. His theology was alive, because it was liturgical. At each service - preaching. In the messages of the flock - not one superfluous word, everything in the matter, in everything - clarity and severity, balanced by love. One example is significant. Being invited to a Jesuit college, the lord stopped near the icon of the Archangel Michael. "This is our patron," said the local patron. "It seems to you that he is your patron," answered the Bishop. Knowing the closeness of John to heavenly life, it is not difficult to understand that these were not just words. The faith of the holy fathers, the faith of the scorned and left in the distance of the Motherland, Orthodoxy was for him the only Truth. It is especially touching that the life of the saint was the whole confirmation.
It is difficult to imitate John. Most often - it is hardly possible. You can twist, start, but then get tired, slow down and roll down below the point where the movement started. What to do? All you can not only be Mozart. Everyone can not even play Mozart. Let God at least Mozart listen, that for many already - the height is inaccessible. So it is in asceticism.
Vladyka John himself realized the impossibility of imitating his way of life for every cleric or monk. One young priest, striving for the strictest post, even personally forced him to eat sausage, teaching through this that fasting is not a goal, but a means. But not only for the sake of imitation it is worth to get acquainted with the life of the ascetics. There are other joyful fruits.
For example, this idea: the Church is alive! Changing the third millennium of its earthly history, the Church, which gives birth to such lamps, is alive! If we know saints like John of Shanghai, then doubt in the grace of the Holy Spirit, which nourishes the Church body, is a mortal sin. We have a source of wisdom, we have sources in which to wash and clean. We can be bright and strong, patient and joyful, each in his own measure. To drink wisdom and draw strength we can from the same sources as the ever-memorable lord: from the Divine Liturgy, from Scripture and Tradition, from the devotion of the Church wandering and communion with the Church triumphant.