“Russian America Began Here”
(Impressions of a Moscow Pilgrim on the 20th-Anniversary Celebrations of the Glorification of St John of Shanghai and San Francisco)
From the Editors: On October 12, 2014, the parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia celebrated the anniversary of the translation of the relics of St John (Maximovich). We are now publishing the article below, received from Moscow:
The Lord, with abundant mercies, granted to us the great fortune of attending the celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the glorification of St John of Shanghai and San Francisco the Miracle-worker.
More than a few obstacles lay in the path of attending the celebrations, but with Divine help, each was overcome and we arrived in California.
In the great, variegated and contradictory American land, Russian language and presence abound everywhere, yet Russian America actually began right here, on the West Coast of the American continent. An Orthodox parish was likewise established here, where the dissemination of Russian Orthodox Christianity began.
All this filled my heart with a special feeling, one of coming into contact with the history of our earthly Fatherland and its Apostolic mission. But the most important part of my pilgrimage to California was meeting the relics of this great saint, this greatest of holy men of the Russian diaspora, St John (Maximovich).
The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia is replete with the names of individuals of astounding ascetisim and piety. Among them are wise hierarchs, Christ-loving pastors and God-fearing laypersons. But among them all, shining with remarkable light was a man of God, St John, Archbishop of Shanghai and San Francisco.
Rare is the knowing believer who is not enthralled by the ascetic feats of this man of God, by his exceptional faith in Divine Providence and by his empathy for his neighbor…
The saint seemed to welcome us warmly throughout our stay in this land.
There is a well-known revelation from St John, when soon after his death he appeared to one of his spiritual daughters in consolation: “Though I died, I yet live.” One senses the truth of this at the relics of St John.
The three days of celebrations will be remembered for the rest of my life.
The endearing singing of the prayers to the saint before his reliquary, which contain his uncorrupt body, gathering together clergymen and Christ-loving people “with one heart and one mind” began the celebration of St John.
All-night vigil, which inspired feelings of pious tenderness, began the next day. The laudation of St John boomed from the lips of a thousand worshipers.
The grand Divine Liturgy on the next day was led by thirteen hierarchs headed by the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York, along with a multitude of clergymen who gathered from literally all ends of the earth.
The consecration of a new bishop for the Church during this Liturgy had great symbolism and emotional power.
Newly-consecrated Bishop Nicholas was for many years the aide and cell-attendant of Metropolitan Laurus of blessed memory, of whom it was said by an eminent clergyman of the Russian Church Abroad that “he bore the spirit of St John like no one else.” The new hierarch, according to those who know him, is very similar to Metropolitan Laurus in his character, his discernment and his patience. This gives weight to the talk of the new bishop not only bearing the succession of the Apostles in general, but being a successor of Vladyka John, before whose miracle-working relics he was consecrated.
It needs to be said, too, that the joy of the celebrations was heightened by the presence of the Queen of Heaven Herself in the form of the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God "of the Sign,” the main holy icon of the Russian diaspora.
St John, having been the caretaker of this honorable icon, was blessed to fall asleep in the Lord in its very presence. After several decades, the 20th anniversary of the glorification of St John, the Queen of Heaven is once again in the presence of Her chosen one.
The impressions from the Lord’s blessings bestowed upon us requires time and attention to make sense of. Very often our hearts cannot contain the joy of the living presence of God and His grace. And not because God scorns us, but because we, who are called upon to be temples of the Spirit living in us (1 Corinthians 6:19), are filled with useless, extraneous, falsehood. Without cleansing ourselves of this, it is impossible to accommodate and receive the unspeakable grace and joy which our hearts so desire and which is granted so abundantly by the Lord. This very grace and joy were borne by St John in his earthly life, and he is within it even now in the heavenly glory, able to grant it to anyone who approaches him with faith and love.
“Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15).
Gratitude towards St John, who received our earthbound veneration of him!
Thanks to all those who made this trip possible!
Our hearts will always cherish thanks and the eternal hope for prayers for us, unworthy ones, from our father, Archbishop John of Shanghai and San Francisco.
Protopriest Georgy Gutorov,
Rector of Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God Church in Alekseevskoye, Moscow.