“I am glad that I came to the Holy Land, and that I conduct my obedience with you.”
Archimandrite Joasaph, Gethsemane, February 2009
Gethsemane Convent Remembers Archimandrite Joasaph (McLellan), Head of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem, With Sorrow and Love (On the 40th Day of His Repose)
It was easy to talk to him, to be friends with him, to share things and pray, and being with him was always very pleasant.
I have the fondest memories of Fr Joasaph. All our monasteries in Jerusalem came to love him, and I would go as far as to say that all of Palestine did. He had a big heart, he was able to love and respect everyone. He was accessible to everyone, small and great. He was always confident, and no one could guess that a terrible disease was hiding within him. I don’t understand why the Lord takes such good people away so young. Fr Joasaph was so needed by our church and by us. A lot of goodness could be learned from him. I hoped that he would give us Gethsemane sisters guidance, but it wasn’t to be because of his unexpected death… I have a great deal of sympathy for him, and I feel sorry for all of us, too, that our hopes remained only hopes.
As the vestry sister, and in my obediences of tending to the altar and the service cycle, I had contact with Fr Joasaph from his first days in the Holy Land. He took his obedience as Head of the Mission very seriously, but it wasn’t easy for him to split time between two monasteries. I can say about our Convent: we felt with all our hearts that we are obligated to help him and support him in this difficult task. And I hope that he saw this eagerness to help in each one of us sisters, and most of all in our Mother Elizabeth.
I also want to say how much he loved the Russian Church, he loved her like his own mother. I remember divine services, especially on the 6th week of Great Lent, when he quickly, clearly, loudly read all four Gospels, how beautifully he sang on the Annunciation “With the voice of the archangel we cry to Thee, o Pure One.”
May our dear Fr Joasaph abide in the Kingdom of Heaven! I express my condolences to his mother, his sister and brother, all of his relatives and friends.
May Fr Joseph reside in the Kingdom of Heaven! My memories of him are filled with light. He is now with God, and we have warm memories of him, a real servant of God and the altar: a son to the Mother of God and his parents; a brother to his sisters and brothers in Christ; a friend to all who are in need of his help; a father to all of us monastics who love and remember him.
Glory to God for all things! Your memory, Father, is glorious!
Fr Joasaph was not with us for long, but his service to God fell into our souls. Fr Joasaph always conducted divine services with inspiration, and his prayerful mood was infectious. I loved it when he served in our church. I am sorry that the Lord gave him such little time to be with us, but I hope that now he stands before the throne of the Lord and prays for us.
In Palestine, they gather the harvest early. So Fr Joasaph, in a blink of an eye, like a ripe stalk, was gathered to the storehouse of the Lord, having ripened for the Kingdom of Heaven.
There is no sorrow for the loss of such a person, I believe that he pleased God during his humble time on earth, and prays for us in heaven.
I grieve for his death. Fr Joasaph was a very Orthodox person, with such firm faith in God, which was impossible not to feel. He was an American with a Russian soul and a devoted son of our Church Abroad. I loved it when he sang. Why? Not only because he had a beautiful voice. He simply evoked a prayerful mood. In his prayerful singing, you felt that he was preaching to the people.
Fr Joasaph was also an attentive, loving person. For example, he always asked about the health of the sick, or about nuns who were traveling. I don’t know if you can put it this way, but he gave away his love to people for free. You could approach him with any problem, to make your confession, or for a spiritual discussion, and he always found time for you. In this he would never, ever turn you away. Our convent speaks many languages, and of course, he made us feel comfortable in the fact that he knew languages, including my native French, so almost each one of us could talk to him and make confession to him in her native tongue, what for some sisters was very important.
He became a father for our convent, though he was only here for 4 months. Fr Joasaph will always remain in our hearts as an intercessor before God. And we sing Eternal Memory for him every day.
We prayed a great deal and asked God for a good Head of the Mission, and the Lord sent us a consoling figure—Fr Joasaph. For that brief time, the sister not only got to know him, but love him. Always filled with joie de vivre, attentive, tactful when needed, true to his word and to his beliefs, musically-gifted, Fr Joasaph immediately drew our hearts to him. In his celebration of Liturgy, one felt his fervor and zeal, the lack of haste. He loved to sing, and he sang beautifully.
During his first and final Pascha in the Holy Land, Fr Joasaph served in Gethsemane, and, as he exclaimed “CHRIST IS RISEN!” in his new, festive vestments, sewed and embroidered by us just for him, he seemed to be holy fire himself.
We heard of his sickness with pain in our hearts. All of our nuns fervently prayed for his cure, for spiritual and physical strength. But the diagnosis was too harsh, and we suffered a lot of grief.
Fr Joasaph is no longer with us, but he was one of our finest pastors. The Lord takes summons His finest.
Details about his final days were shared by Fr Victor, who supported us by visiting last December. It is also a consolation that Fr Joasaph reposed on the day of St Savva, our hermit of the Holy Land. We pray for his soul and hope that he remembers us before the Lord.
“Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever” (Hebrews 13).
What can I say about Fr Joasaph? Either “nothing” or “a great deal.” “Nothing,” because I know nothing about him: where he was born, or who his parents are, or what he was like as a child (except for the fact that he was a redhead), who his friends were, where he worked—NOTHING!
“A great deal,” because I was not fated to meet Sergius of Radonezh, nor Seraphim of Sarov. I did not know what a living saint was, but I made confession to Fr Joasaph three times and met such a glimmering, sunny simplicity, such heartfelt warmth and earnestness, that I understood what a saint must be like on earth.
Life brings all sorts of chance acquaintances that leave a mark on your soul, change something in your life, people who are cherished in your heart for a long time. I did not know Fr Joasaph for long, but he is like a relative to me now. He burned with love for God, he sang and served with inspiration, he imparted those around him with divine joy. I had the opportunity to make confession to Fr Joasaph. I am thankful for his words of guidance and blessing. He possessed so much active, joyful energy, which he passed on to us. It seemed that he had many years ahead of him. I cannot believe that he is no more. I am thankful to God for His great mercy—that I met Archimandrite Joasaph. Eternal Memory to him!
I am very grateful to God that He showed us a person like this.
The Lord sent us an uncommonly light-filled person and a sensitive priest for our consolation. And how he sang! And how he listened to our confessions, reading the prayers of absolution with his whole heart!
Fr Joasaph seemed to be from another planet. It seemed that no filth of the world could touch him. There was a great deal of inner purity in him, which was apparent to all. When he sang in church, he did not only execute his notes, but he prayed, he poured forth his entire soul, every word came from his heart, and one could not but notice that. When, during Great Lent, we made a procession of the cross to the Judgment Gates, and at the end, Fr Joasaph spoke about that event [of the passage of Christ through the Gates--transl.], his eyes were filled with tears. He genuinely suffered for Christ, and empathized with Him, as though it were happening right now before his eyes. My mind was filled at that moment with one thought: Lord, thank You for sending us such a person. And later, in a private conversation, we discussed the Jesus Prayer, and he simply could not speak the name of the Lord without tears in his eyes. And I never heard from anyone else the way that he spoke the words of that prayer, because this was not a lesson; the person sitting opposite me brought these words right out of his heart, as though these were the primary words of his life. I will not forget these words, nor those tears. Thanks to Fr Joasaph, I learned what pure prayer is, I learned what it is to be pure of heart, I learned that one can remain chaste in this filthy world.
Yuri, a parishioner of Gethsemane Church