Saint John of Shangai
Contents: A Word to the Youth. Brief Notes for Sermons. Cheese-Fare Sunday. On the Sunday of Orthodoxy. Zacchaeus. Humility and Struggle: the Fundamental Virtues. On Saint Seraphim. On St. Justin Martyr. St. Vladimir's Day Celebration. On the Feast of All Saints of Russia. Troparion to Saint John.
A Word to the Youth
by Archbishop John (Maximovitch)
And the younger son said to his father, "Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me" [Luke 15:12]. The parable of the prodigal son is a most instructive lesson for youth.
We see in the prodigal son the true character of carefree youth: lightmindedness, thoughtlessness, a passion for independence, in short, everything that usually characterizes the greater part of one's youth. The younger son grew up in his parents' house and having reached adolescence imagined that life at home was too restrictive. He thought that living under his father's rule and his mother's eye was unpleasant. He wanted to imitate his companions, who gave themselves up to the noisy pleasures of the world. He decided, "I am the heir of a rich estate. Would it not be better if I received my inheritance now? I could handle my wealth differently than my father does." Thus the light-minded youth was taken in by the deceitful glitter of the world's pleasures and decided to cast off the yoke of obedience and depart from his parent's home.
Today many are inspired by similar impulses, and if they do not leave their parents' house, do they not depart from the house of their Heavenly Father, from obedience to the Holy Church?
The yoke of Christ and his commandments seem difficult for immature minds. They imagine that it is not entirely necessary to follow what God and His Holy Church commands. It seems to them that they can serve both God and the world at the same time. They say, "We are already strong enough to withstand destructive temptations and attractions. We can, by ourselves, hold on to the truth and correct teachings. Allow us to improve our minds by many kinds of knowledge. Let us strengthen our wills amid temptations and pitfalls. Through experience our senses will be convinced of the foulness of vice!" Such desires are not better than the ill-considered request of the younger son to his father, "Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me."
Today we have light-minded youths who cease to heed the commandments and suggestions of the Holy Church. They stop studying the Word of God and the teachings of the holy fathers, and turn their attention to the 'wisdom' of false teachers, thus ruining the better part of their lives. They go to church less frequently or attend without attention, distracted. There is no time to be pious and practice virtues since they are too busy attending movies, going to parties, etc. In short, they give themselves up to the world more and more each day, and, finally, depart into a far country.
What is the result of such parting from the Holy Church? It is the same as the result of the prodigal son's parting from his parents' house. Light-minded youths waste their excellent energies and the talents of their soul and body very quickly, ruining for this life and eternity all the good they have done. Meanwhile there appears a mighty famine in that land -- emptiness and dissatisfaction -- a necessary result of wild pleasures. A thirst for satisfaction appears, which is even more intensified by the gratification of base passions, and which finally becomes insatiable. It frequently turns out that the unfortunate lover of the world resorts to the pursuit of that which is base and shameful in order to gratify his passions, but is still not brought to his senses, unlike the prodigal son; he does not return to the path of salvation, but completes his ruin, both temporal and eternal!
[From a pamphlet published by Archbishop John in Shanghai, Feb. 4,1946.]
Brief Notes for Sermons
Cheese-Fare Sunday, 1956
The Sunday of the Dread Judgment
Today is the Sunday of the Dread Judgment, and so it is natural for us to speak of the Dread Judgment and the signs of the end of the world. No one knows that day: only God knows it, but the signs of its approach are given in the Gospels and the Revelations (Apocalypse) of St. John the Theologian. For the most part, Revelations speaks symbolically and cryptically of the events of the end of the world and of the Dread Judgment, but the Holy Fathers have explained them, and there is the pure authentic tradition of the Church that also tells us the signs of the approach of the end of the world and the Dread Judgment. Before the end of life on earth there will be confusion, wars, civil strife, hunger, and earthquakes. People will suffer from fear; their hearts will fail from awaiting disasters. There will be neither spiritual life nor the joy of being alive, but a tortuous state of falling away from life. The falling away will not be from spiritual life only, but also from faith. The Son of Man, when He comes - will He find faith on the earth? People will become proud and ungrateful, refuting the Law of God. Together with a falling away from spiritual life there will also be a diminishing of moral life. Good will be exhausted and evil will grow. It is about this time that the holy Apostle John the Theologian speaks in his divinely-inspired work, the Apocalypse. He himself says that he was "in the spirit" - meaning that the Holy Spirit Itself was in him - when the fate of the Church and the world was revealed to him in various symbols. That is why this is a Divine Revelation. He presents the fate of the Church in the image of a woman who hides in the wilderness during these times. She is not obvious in life. This is happening now in Russia.
In worldly life, those forces preparing for the appearance of the Antichrist will be of primary significance. The Antichrist will be a man, not the devil incarnate. "Anti" is a word meaning "old," or "instead of," or "against." That man will want to exist instead of Christ, to take His place and to have that which is Christ's. He will want to have the same kind of influence and power over the entire world. Indeed, he will obtain that power before he perishes and the entire world perishes. He will have a helper, a magus, who will do his will through the power of false miracles, and kill those that do not recognize the power of the Antichrist. Before the destruction of the Antichrist, two righteous men will appear to condemn him. The magus will kill them, and for three days their bodies will lie unburied, and the Antichrist and his servants will rejoice to the utmost. Then suddenly these righteous men will be resurrected, and the entire army of the Antichrist will suddenly fall down dead, killed by the force of the Holy Spirit.
But what is known about the person of the Antichrist? His exact origin is unknown. His father is completely unknown and his mother a vile, false virgin. He will be a Jew from the tribe of Dan. The indication of this is that Jacob, when dying, prophesied about the future heirs of his children, and concerning Dan, he said that among his heirs "shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path that biteth the horses' heels so that his rider shall fall backwards." This symbolizes that the Antichrist shall act through cleverness and evil. In Revelation, St. John the Theologian speaks of the salvation of the sons of Israel, saying that before the end of the world many Jews will be converted to Christ, but in the list of tribes that are saved, there is no mention of the tribe of Dan. The Antichrist will be very clever and gifted, with a certain ability to deal with people. He will be charming and gentle. The appearance of the Antichrist is already being prepared before his coming: "The mystery doth already work ..."
First of all, the forces preparing for his coming fight against lawful monarchical rule. The holy Apostle Paul says that the Antichrist cannot appear until "the one who restraineth" is put aside. John Chrysostom explains that the "one who restraineth" refers to a lawful, pious regime. Such a power struggles with evil. "The mystery" working in the world does not want this, does not want the struggle against evil by the power of a pious ruler - quite the opposite. It wants the rule of lawlessness, and when it achieves this, nothing more will stop the appearance of the Antichrist. He will not only be clever and charming, he will be merciful and do works of charity for the sake of bolstering his control. And when he strengthens his control to the point where the entire world recognizes him, then he will reveal his face. He will choose Jerusalem because it was precisely there that the Saviour revealed His Divine teaching and His Person, and the whole world was called to the blessedness of virtue and salvation. But the world did not accept Christ and crucified Him in Jerusalem, and during the Antichrist's reign Jerusalem will become the capital of the world that has accepted his rule.
Reaching the summit of power, the Antichrist will demand people acknowledge that he has achieved what no earthly power and no one else has been able to do, and will demand worship of himself as an exalted being - a god. He will do only what pleases people, under the condition that they recognize him as the Supreme Power. He will provide opportunities for Church life, allow her to hold services, and promise that wonderful temples will be built, provided that he be recognized as "Supreme Being" and worshipped. He will have a personal hatred for Christ. He will thrive on this hatred and will rejoice in people's apostasy from Christ and the Church. There will be a mass falling away from the faith, during which many bishops will betray the faith, and point to the wonderful position of the Church as justification. A search for compromise will be the characteristic state of the people's faith. Directness of confession will vanish. People will subtly justify their fall, and solicitous evil will support such a general state of mind. People will grow used to apostatizing from the truth and will be accustomed to the sweetness of compromise and sin. The Antichrist will allow people anything as long as they, falling down before him, worship him. This will not be a new attitude toward people: the Roman Caesars were also prepared to grant Christians freedom if they would recognize the emperor's divinity and supreme divine power. They martyred Christians only because they confessed: "One God do we worship, and Him alone do we serve." The whole world will be conquered by him, and he will then reveal his hatred for Christ and Christianity.
How will we see? With spiritual sight. Even now, righteous people see at death that which other people around them do not see. The trumpets will sound in souls and consciences. Everything will become clear in the human conscience. The Prophet Daniel, speaking of the Dread Judgment, tells of the Ancient of Days upon His throne, and before Him a river of fire. Fire is a purifying element. Fire burns sin; sin also is burned up by sorrow. If sin has become part of a man, it burns the man himself. Then fire will flare up inside man. Seeing the Cross, some will rejoice and others will fall into despair, confusion, horror. Thus people will be separated instantly. In the Gospel narrative, some stand on the right hand, others on the left hand of the Judge -- they are separated by their inner consciousness. The very state of a person's soul casts him to one or the other side, to the right or to the left. However much more consciously and diligently a person strove toward God in his life, so much the greater his joy when he hears the words: "Come, ye blessed." And on the other hand, the same words will kindle a fire of horror and suffering in those that did not desire Him, or avoided or fought or mocked Him in their lives. The Dread Judgment knows no witness or court records. Everything is inscribed in the souls of men, and these inscriptions, these "books," will be opened. Everything will become clear to all and to oneself; the state of a person's soul sends him to the right or the left. Some will go to the place of rejoicing, others to the place of horror. When the books have been opened it will become clear to all that the root of all transgressions is in a man's soul. Consider a drunkard or a fornicator: when the body dies, some think the sin, too, has died. No -- the inclination to sin was in the soul, and to the soul the sin was sweet. And if the soul has not repented of this sin, has not freed itself of it, it will come to the Dread Judgment with the same desire for the sweetness of sin and "never sate this desire." There will be the suffering of hatred and wrath in this soul. This is the state of hell. "The fiery Gehenna" - this is the inner fire, the fire of weakness and anger, and here will be the wailing and the gnashing of teeth of powerless wrath.
On the Sunday of Orthodoxy
(March 7-20, 1954)
Great Lent - all of its services are united by the idea of preparing for Holy Pascha, to meet the risen Christ with a clean heart. Why do we prepare in this manner? What is Pascha? Pascha is a taste of the joy of paradise! What is this joy? It is that we see God and His glory! The Church loves the glory of the Lord! When she celebrates the Feast of Orthodoxy, she keeps the festival of the day of the reestablishment of the veneration of icons. An icon is simply a reminder of Christ the God-Man on earth. Icons of the saints are reminders of all those who followed Christ, who were faithful and devoted to Him, and burned with love for Him. The veneration of the holy icons is the veneration of the glory of the Lord. He Who rejoices in the glory of God and in everything that reminds him of it in this life will also rejoice in the age to come. He who in this life strove toward God will rush to Him joyfully when he hears the words, "Come unto Me, ye blessed..." at the dread judgment. All those who do not know how to rejoice in the glory of God, in whom the divine realm and its laws call forth a state of unhappiness, who love gloom or semi-gloom, who do not love the light, will not answer to the call of "Come unto Me." They will shrink back in indignation, unhappiness, in jealousy and anger, from the humble and the meek who will go toward the light, from God Himself, Whom they will begin to blame for being in their state. They will even shrink from themselves, though they will not want to admit their guilt. Such a state is true suffering. Hades is not a place, no, but a state of the soul. It begins here on earth. Just so, paradise begins in the soul of a man here in the earthly life. Here we already have contact with the divine, on the day of the Bright Resurrection and when we worthily receive Holy Communion. It is necessary to prepare for confession: All of a splinter must be removed, for if there is any left, infection will begin. It is necessary to pray for repentance and for the joy of purification, so that a ray of light will touch our soul and it will come to love the light... It is necessary to pray to meet the Risen Christ with a clean heart, to taste of the joy of the kingdom of heaven at least in the smallest degree.
Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost (Lk. 19:1-10).
Who was Zacchaeus? He was a leader of the publicans -"the chief among publicans." The customary comparison between the humble publican and the proud Pharisee often blocks the true meaning of these two images in our minds. However, to understand the Gospel correctly, one must picture them clearly. The Pharisees were truly righteous men. If on our lips the name "Pharisee" sounds as condemnation, in the days of Christ and during the first decades of Christianity this was not so. On the contrary, the Apostle Paul triumphantly confesses before the Jews, "I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee" (Acts 23:6). And then, to Christians, to his spiritual children, he writes, "I am of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews, as touching the law, a Pharisee" (Phil. 3:5). And besides the holy Apostle Paul, many Pharisees became Christians: Joseph, Nicodemus, Gamaliel. Pharisees (in ancient Hebrew "perusim," in Aramaic, "ferisim," which means "other" -- the separated, the different) were zealots of the law of God. They "rested upon the law"; in other words, thought on it constantly, loved it, strove to keep it exactly, preached and interpreted it. And the reason for the Lord's accusation against the Pharisees is found in that the Lord warns them that their entire labor, their truly virtuous endeavors, are made worthless in the eyes of God, are turned into nothing and they obtain condemnation from the Lord and not blessings, despite their superiority and the righteous deeds they performed, because of their proud self-exaltation, and above all, their judgment of their neighbors, of which the Pharisee of the parable gives a clear example, saying, "Lord, I thank Thee, that I am not as other men" (Lk. 18:11).
On the other hand, the publicans were truly sinners, who broke the fundamental commandments of the Lord. Publicans collected taxes from the Hebrews for the Romans. One must remember that the Jews, well conscious of their special position of being divinely chosen, gloried in the fact that they were "Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man" (Jn. 8:33). And now, as a result of well-known historical circumstances, they found themselves under submission; subjects to a proud, coarse, "iron" race of pagan Romans. And the yoke of this submission was being pulled tighter and tighter and was beginning to be felt more and more. The most tangible and obvious sign of the submission and subjugation of the Jews to the Romans was the payment of every imaginable tax and tribute by the Jews to their conquerors. For the Jews, as for all ancient people, paying tribute was mainly a symbol of subjugation. And the Romans, not at all abashed before a conquered people, roughly and decisively demanded of them both customary and additional taxes. Of course the Jews paid with hatred and disgust. Not in vain, desiring to compromise the Lord in the eyes of His people, did the Sadducees ask Him, "Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar?" (Mt. 22:17). They knew that if Christ would say that one should not give tribute to Caesar, it would be easy to accuse Him before the Romans, and if He would say that tribute should be paid, He would hopelessly compromise Himself in the eyes of the people.
While the Romans ruled the Jews by means of local kings, such as Herod, Archelaus, Agrippa, and others, the subjugation to Rome, and especially the inescapability of paying taxes, was softened somewhat for the Jews in that they were directly subject and paid tribute to their kings, and only indirectly subject and tributary to Rome. But just immediately before the beginning of Christ the Savior's preaching, there was a change in the system of governing the Jews. The general census connected with the birth of Christ was the first step towards the establishment of an individual tax upon all Roman subjects in that area.
In A.D. 6 or 7, after the displacement of Archelaus, when a personal tax was introduced upon all the residents of Palestine, the Jews responded with the revolts of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and the Jews of Galilee (see Acts 5:37). And only with great difficulty was the High Priest Jazarus able to calm the people. Instead of local kings, Roman procurators were appointed as the rulers of Judea and the neighboring provinces. Then, for a more successful levying of taxes by the Romans, the institution of the publicans was introduced, which had existed in Rome since ancient times. But while in Rome and throughout Italy publicans were recruited from an esteemed warrior class, in Judea the Romans were forced to engage publicans from the moral outcasts, from among Jews that agreed to go over to work for them and force their brothers to pay tribute.
The acceptance of such a position was bound up with a most profound moral fall. It was bound not only with national, but, above all, religious betrayal: to become a tool for the subjugation of the divinely chosen people by coarse pagans, one had to deny the hopes of Israel, everything holy to it, its dreams, and -- what is more -- since the Romans did not take into account the spiritual tribulation of their agents, upon accepting his position a publican had to swear a pagan oath of fidelity to the emperor, and bring pagan sacrifices to his spirit (the genius of the emperor). Of course the publicans served not only Rome's interests, levying taxes upon their own country men, but pursuing their own greedy goals and becoming wealthy at the expense of their subjugated brothers, they made the yoke of Roman oppression felt even more, and still more difficult to bear. This is who the publicans were. This is why they were surrounded by justifiable hatred and scorn; as betrayers of their people, having betrayed not only their people but a divinely-chosen one, God's tool in the world, the only people through which rebirth and salvation could come to mankind.
Everything said above pertains to Zacchaeus in the highest degree, because he was not a run-of-the-mill publican, but a chief among publicans - an architelonis. Without a doubt he had done everything: brought pagan sacrifices and sworn a pagan oath, mercilessly forced taxes from his brothers, increasing them to his own advantage. And he became, as the Gospel witnesses, a rich man. Of course Zacchaeus understood clearly that the hopes of Israel were lost to him. Everything foretold by the prophets, beloved from childhood, that at which every believing Old Testament soul trembled joyfully, was not for him. He was a traitor, a betrayer, a cast-off. He had no part in Israel. And now rumors reached him that the Holy One of Israel, the Messiah announced by the prophets, has already appeared in the world, and together with a small group of disciples is walking the fields of Galilee and Judea, preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom and working great miracles. Joyous hopes are ignited with trembling in believing hearts. How will Zacchaeus react to this? For him personally, the coming of the Messiah is a catastrophe. The rule of Rome must come to an end, and the triumphant Israel will, of course, take revenge for the losses suffered because of him, for the offences and oppressions that were his fault. But even if this is not so, for the Messiah, as the prophet witnessed, comes as a righteous one, bringing salvation as a meek one (cf. Zech. 9:9), the triumph of the Messiah must bring to him, to Zacchaeus, only the greatest shame and the loss of all the wealth and of the position he acquired at the frightening price of his treachery before God, his own people, and all the hopes of Israel.
But maybe this is not so just yet. Perhaps the new preacher is not really the Messiah. Not everyone believes in Him. The greatest foes of the publicans and of him, Zacchaeus himself, the Pharisees and Sadducees, do not believe in Him. Perhaps all this is just the idle talk of the populace. Then one can calmly continue living as one has until now. But Zacchaeus does not want to be confirmed in such thoughts. He wants to see Jesus, to know, to really know, Who is He? And Zacchaeus wants the preacher passing by truly to be Christ the Messiah. He wants to say with the prophet, "O, if Thou wouldst rend the heavens and come down!" (Is. 64:1); let this be so, even it results in a ruinous catastrophe for him, Zacchaeus. In his soul, it seems, there are depths that even he has not sensed until now; there is in him a burning, flaming, consuming, completely selfless love for the "Expectation of the nations," for the image of the humble Messiah described by the prophets, who "hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows" (Is. 53-4). And at the arrival of an opportunity to see Him, Zacchaeus does not think of himself. In the triumph of the Messiah, for him personally, for Zacchaeus, there is catastrophe and ruin. But he does not think of this. He wants to glimpse, at least from the comer of his eye, Him of Whom Moses and the prophets foretold.
And now Christ passes by. He is surrounded by the crowd. Zacchaeus cannot see Him, as he is short of stature. But the thirst, the completely unselfish, selfless to the utmost, thirst of Zacchaeus to see Christ at least from afar, is so limitless, so unsurpassable, that he, a wealthy man, burdened by his position, an officer of the Roman Empire, amid an unfriendly crowd that hates and scorns him, not paying attention to anything, swallowed up only by the burning desire to see Christ, breaks all convention for this, all outward decorum, and climbs a tree -- a sycamore, growing along the path. And the eyes of a great sinner -- a leader of traitors and betrayers -- meets the eyes of the Holy One of Israel, Christ the Messiah, the Son of God. Jesus sees that which is incomprehensible to a disinterested or unfriendly glance. Selflessly loving the image of the Messiah, Zacchaeus could immediately recognize in the passing Galilean Teacher, Christ the Lord; and the Lord, filled with Divine and human love, saw this in Zacchaeus, peering at him from the branches of the sycamore, the depths of the soul that were unknown, until now, even to Zacchaeus himself. The Lord saw that the burning love for the Holy One of Israel, in the heart of this traitor, not at all blemished by any sort of self-interest, could revive and renew him. The Divine voice sounded, "Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must abide at thy house" (Lk. 19:5). And moral rebirth, salvation, and renewal came to Zacchaeus and his entire house. The Son of Man truly came to seek and to save the lost.
O Lord, O Lord, we too, as Zacchaeus once, have betrayed Thee and Thy work, have deprived ourselves of our part in Israel, have betrayed our hope! But, if even to our shame and those like us, let Thy kingdom come! Even if, as we deserve according to our sins, Thy coming will bring us ruin and condemnation, come, O Lord, come quickly! But grant us, at least from afar, to see the triumph of Thy righteousness, even if we cannot be participants in it. And have mercy on us beyond hope, as once Thou didst have mercy on Zacchaeus!
St. Clement of Rome tells us that Zacchaeus, as a result, became a companion of the holy Apostle Peter, and, together with the holy First-Among-the-Apostles, preached in Rome, where during Nero's reign he accepted a martyr's death for Christ. In a Christian manner, with the greatest good he repaid the Romans for the greatest evil perpetrated upon him by them. To the proud capital of the Romans that had once tempted and subjugated him, forcing him to deny all that was holy to his soul, he came, liberated and reborn by the grace of our Lord Who loveth mankind; and brought Rome not curses, but the good news, giving his very life for it.
Humility and Struggle:
the Fundamental Virtues
(20 May / 2 June 1953)
God's grace always assists a struggler, but this does not mean that a struggler is always in the position of a victor; sometimes the beasts did not touch the righteous ones, but by no means did they not touch them always. What is important is not victory or the position of a victor, but rather the labor of striving towards God and devotion to Him. Great is the Apostle Paul, but he asks the Lord many times ('thrice" means not once, but many times) that the messenger of Satan depart from him, for he "buffets" him, making some sort of attacks that are difficult and averse to his spirit. But the Lord leaves him in such a position: "My grace is sufficient for thee" (2 Cor. 12:7-9) - enough assistance of grace and gifts are provided for him. The Lord wants from the apostle the striving which cleanses his soul.
What is important is the state of the soul, the striving towards God, and not the stature of a victor. "Strength is made perfect in weakness"(2 Cor. 12:9). Though a man may be found in a weak state, that does not at all mean that he has been abandoned by God. The Lord Jesus Christ, according to the worldly view, was in trouble, but when the sinful world considered Him to be completely destroyed, in actuality He was victorious over death and hades. The Lord did not promise us positions as victors as a reward for righteousness, but told us, "In the world we shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (Jn. 16:33). The power of God is effective when a person asks for the help of God, acknowledging the weakness and sinfulness of his nature. This is why humility and the striving towards God are the fundamental virtues of a Christian.
On Saint Seraphim
(18/31 May 1953)
Holiness is the fruit of a man's efforts and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Holiness is reached by him who wears a cross and wages warfare in the name of Christ against the obstacles to holiness, to becoming akin to Christ. These obstacles are sins, sinful habits, firmly rooted in the soul. Struggle against them is the major work of a Christian, and in so far as he purifies his soul, so far will he receive of the Holy Spirit.
St. Seraphim taught the acquisition of the Holy Spirit, and he genuinely acquired it, for the Most Holy Mother of God recognized him as being her own. And the faithful, sincere seekers of the Truth and the Light (as was Motovilov), saw how this great Godpleaser shone with the light of holiness because of their reverence.
How varied are the paths of saints! At the throne of God, in front of everyone is the Most Holy Mother of God, more glorious than the seraphim and all the angels and archangels who stood firm, remaining faithful to God through the fearful struggle that was raised against God by the most radiant of them all, Lucifer, which means Light-bearer, who is now the devil, in other words, the one cast down to the deepest darkness. In this struggle the bright angels came so close to God that it is already impossible for them to step back or become separated from Him.
All the pleasers of God are like the angels in their love and devotion. Just as the angels, they waged war against the dark forces, and became strengthened in the love of God. All of the prophets of the Old Testament lived in such a struggle. Godlessness prevailed; the Law of God was forgotten. The world persecuted them because they interfered with its sinful life. They hid in the "depths of the earth." The world hated them. The prophet Isaiah was sawed in two by a wooden saw; the prophet Jeremiah was trampled in a swamp. And in such surroundings they stood fast in faith and devotion. All righteous ones were sorrowful in the world because they were strangers to the sinful world. All of the apostles suffered in one way or another. Righteous men left for the desert. What made them saints? Suffering? Not suffering alone makes saints, but striving towards God, the love of God, and the labor of overcoming obstacles to holiness, which is the fruit of man's labor and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
On St. Justin Martyr
(31 May/12 June, 1953)
Tomorrow is the day of the memory of the first literary apologist of Christianity - Justin the Philosopher. A brilliant lawyer and legal expert, he came to understand that the knowledge of laws is not yet the knowledge of Truth. Studying philosophical systems, he did not find in them an answer to the question, "What is truth?" Once he met an elder on the seashore; they struck up a conversation, and Justin said that no one could teach him truth, that no one could teach him to understand God. The elder answered that he would never reach his goal, because he wanted to understand God through the mind. But the truth of God has to be comprehanded not by the mind alone, but with all one's strength: by the mind and the will and the heart; one has to live according to the truth in order to come to know the truth.
St. Vladimir's Day Celebration
(4/17 July 1953)
Today is a great day for the Russian land and her people - her entire life is a result of the deeds of St. Vladimir. All the saints that shone forth in Russia are the fruit of his faith. The entire history of Russia is a continuation of his work along the path that he indicated. He is the establisher of the Russian nation; before him there were only alliances of peoples made by local leaders. St. Vladimir bound the people morally and spiritually with the ruler, and the tribes to each other. Now scattered apart, we find in him unity and a way to union. The Resurrection of Russia is along his path, with the same understanding of the meaning of life, on the same rock of faith.
On the Feast of All Saints of Russia
The feast of All Saints of Russia is not a feast of just righteous ones, but of saints. God is filled with holiness; "Holy is the Lord our God." But man is created in the "image and likeness" of God, and the Lord at creation breathed into him the power to partake of the Divine essence, and thereby come closer to God. And the closer a man is to God, the holier he is. Saints are those who have partaken of the Divine essence and made it their own; to God, they become "His own." The saints enjoy blessedness, for God is blessed. From them there is light for men. Through them the power of God is revealed. Saints retain all that is characteristic of the human condition; they know everything that is ours. They are near to God, but they are also near to us; they walked and dwelt among us. The people of Holy Russia venerated them, kissed their icons and holy relics, wanted to be as close as possible to the saints, touched holiness, and the Russsian land was filled with it. Holy Prince Vladimir demonstrated the regenerating power of the Divine essence upon himself. Previously wild and passionate, he was completely reborn, so that he became a new person, radiating light and joy, and was called "beautiful sun." Do not think that contact with holiness is the fate of only the Russian nation. No! All peoples can live in the spirit that Holy Russia lived and lives in, and then they are close and comprehensible to each other. St. Anthony of the Kiev Caves and St. Anthony the Roman were men of different countries, but together they built the Russian Church, and they are equally near and dear to her. Until recent times we did not have martyrs, but there was a multitude of saints. They influenced the direction that the Russian people took; the people loved them and tried to follow them, and this determined the way of life. All of life was illuminated, until spiritual apostasy began, which led to a fall. But Holy Russia is alive. When the persecution began, strugglers were revealed, confessors, and now we have martyrs. The spirit of Holy Russia lives. Holy Russia is part of the Ecumenical (i.e., the entire) Church. Celebrating the saints, we desire to be together with them and to acquire the power of God through their holiness. They know us, our nature, our characteristics and spirits, and they know our souls, too - what is necessary for us. We are close to them as children are close to their parents. The Apostle Peter prayed for his disciples. St. Demetrius of Thessalonica rushes to help the Greeks because this is his own nation. Sts. Boris and Gleb help their relatives (e.g., Alexander Nevsky), and their own Russian people.
Troparion to Saint John
Lo, thy care for thy flock in its sojourn hath prefigured the supplications which thou dost ever offer up for the whole world. Thus do we believe, having come to know thy love, O holy hierarch and wonderworker John! Wholly sanctified by God through the ministry of the all-pure Mysteries, and thyself ever strengthened thereby, thou didst hasten unto the suffering, O most gladsome healer. Hasten now also to the aid of us who honour thee with all our heart.
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Missionary Leaflet #
Copyright (c) 2000 and Published by
Holy Protection Russian Orthodox Church
2049 Argyle Ave. Los Angeles, California 90068
Editor: Bishop Alexander (Mileant)