Joy of All Who Sorrow

St John the Wonderworker

St John the Wonderworker reposed in the Lord on this day in 1966. His shrine is in the “Joy of All Who Sorrow” Cathedral in San Francisco. Below is a very significant quote from the end of his lengthy address on the day of his ordination as a bishop, 27 May 1934.

“We cannot but experience pain, when the souls and bodies of our close ones are being tortured, when our pastors and archpastors in the homeland are forced to silence by fear of death. Even outside her borders, we remain sons of Russia. Exiled from our earthly homeland, we continue to be the spiritual flock of Hierarchs Peter, Alexis, Jonah, Philip, Germogen and Tikhon. We are still part of the suffering and persecuted Russian Church, now drenched by the blood of the hieromartyrs Vladimir of Kiev, Benjamin of Petrograd, Germogen of Tobolsk, Mitrofan of Astrakhan, Andronik of Perm, and a countless host of other new martyrs and hieromartyrs. Their testament is our sacred treasure which we must preserve until such a time as it pleases God to reveal His might and raise the horn of Orthodox Christians. Until then we must remain in spiritual unity with the persecuted and strengthen them with our prayers.

Although absent from them, we kiss their bonds, and we grieve for those who have wavered. We know that even the ancient confessors of the truth sometimes wavered. But we have examples of steadfastness: Saint Theodore the Studite who condemned any departure from the Church’s teachings, Saint Maximos the Confessor, Patriarch Germogen. We dread to slip from the path they trod, for if human weakness can be used to justify those beneath the yoke of terror, what can we say if we are scared of mere threats? Living in comparative security, we should strengthen ourselves spiritually in order to recreate what has been destroyed, “to turn back the captivity of Zion” if the Lord so allows, or to go ourselves in the steps of those who are suffering for the truth, if it should be necessary. For this reason we must, above all, preserve among ourselves oneness of mind and unity, presenting a unified Russian Church, and at the same time continue her vital work among other peoples. From the very first centuries of Russia’s acceptance of Christianity, she has sent forth missionaries to distant parts. First to shine forth were the righteous Kuksha and Leonty of Rostov; afterwards Stephen of Perm, Innocent of Irkutsk, and in our time Makary, Apostle to the Altai, and Nikolai of Japan. Now the dispersed Russian people have become propagators of the Faith in all corners of the world. The task of the Russian Church outside Russia is to occupy herself with the work of enlightening as many people as possible from all nations.

It is for this purpose that the Synod of Russian Hierarchs abroad is sending me to a country from which rises the material sun, but which has need of the illuminating of the intellectual Sun of Righteousness. Acknowledging my weak powers, it is in obedience to the Church authorities, and my spiritual mentor that I submit to this choice, not for the sake of honour and power, but to give myself entirely to the service of the Church.

I beseech the Lord God that He help me and strengthen me to actively labour until death for the sake of the truth. In this significant hour of my life, I pray for those who schooled me and edified me with their instructions; I pray for those among whom I have spent, until now, my years of service to the Church; I pray for the youth whom I nurtured spiritually, for my future flock, for the universal Church, for the suffering Russian land! I trust in the prayers and protection of the mighty host of heavenly warriors of the Christian race. I likewise ask you, God’s hierarchs, to pray for me and to bestow God’s blessing.