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(100th anniversary of the repose of St. John of Kronstadt)

December 20, 2008 by the old calendar (by the new calendar the date will be January 2, 2009) marks the 100th anniversary of the day of repose of the great Russian luminary, the righteous priest St. John of Kronstadt. St. John occupies a special place in the list of saints, being of great significance not only in spiritual terms, but also on a historical plane, having been sent by the Lord as erstwhile Jonah was to Nineveh, in order to prophesy to the Russian people and to the whole world the coming universal cataclysm and the onset of apostasy, i.e. the end times.

The life of the pastor of Kronstadt
St. John of Kronstadt’s power of healing
St. John of Kronstadt and the patristic inner prayer
St. John of Kronstadt and the enemies of Christ
St. John of Kronstadt as server of the Divine Liturgy
St. John of Kronstadt and Russia’s spiritual crisis
St. John of Kronstadt’s prophecies about Russia
Memoirs of a Kronstadt resident
Pastor of all Russia
Orthodox Spirituality
St. John of Kronstadt

St. John of Kronstadt’s prophecies about Russia
 St. John of Kronstadt
St. John of Kronstadt

In the century following the repose of the memorable pastor, St. John of Kronstadt, his glory shines like a resplendent sun. New and new rays of this sun shine upon us in the form of accounts of his countless miracles. The memory of his name evokes the bottomless sea of divine grace, of which he was the carrier.

What can be more glorious or richer than the gift of miracle-working? When people have tried out all the natural resources, when there is no longer any hope of human assistance, then in great despair the soul cries out to God’s saint and by his word receives healing.

To what can this gift be compared? If one compares it to something in this world, then one may say that it unites wealth, and power, and wisdom, and yet at the same time the gift of miracle-working surpasses them all. Who is richer than the one who has the gift of miracle-working, and of what significance are worldly riches in comparison?

Whose power is greater than the one who has this divine gift? Which king or dictator can compare to the one who commands the laws of nature? Whose worldly wisdom can compare to the one who bears divine wisdom within himself?

And such a superhuman lived in our homeland, among the Russian people, and was our elder contemporary. It is primarily for this great and splendid gift of miracle-working that the Russian people venerate St. John of Kronstadt.

However, the glory of St. John is by no means dependent on this one gift of miracle-working. There is another and no less important side to his activity – his gift of prophecy.

It may – alas! – sound paradoxical, but the state of our humiliated and suffering homeland for the last century confirms the glory of St. John, who sternly prophesied the coming of these sufferings, but remained “a cry in the wilderness.”

He was a loyal son of his homeland, he loved his dear Russia as few others did, loved all the boundless beauty of Russian life, but above all he loved God’s Church and the Holy Trinity, in Whose grace-filled rays he lived. He prophesied God’s forthcoming punishment of Russia for its falling away from the Holy Church in the person of its ruling circles, mainly the intelligentsia.

“God is not to be mocked, – said St. John. – I look upon Russia and I become filled with dread and sorrow, seeing how it is suffering and how it will yet suffer, if it does not return wholeheartedly to its native faith, to the Orthodox Church.”

“Russia, – he said at another time, – is agitated and suffering from a bloody internal battle, from a bad harvest and famine, from a great increase in the cost of living, from godlessness, from an absolute loss of morals. These are evil times – people have turned into ferocious beasts, even into evil spirits. The government has become weak. It wrongly understood the freedom that it gave to the people. It itself has become obscured in mind and did not provide the people with a clear understanding of freedom. Evil has grown in Russia to monstrous proportions, and it is almost impossible to correct it.”

This was said by St. John in the period of 1904-1908, and at the same time he explained how it had all occurred.

“The morals of all classes of Russian society have nowadays become tremendously weak. Daily life has become putrefied with all kinds of sins – abandonment of faith, ignorance of God, and sacrilege, especially among the educated elite, have become widespread and commonplace, depravity has become a daily custom, the press and literature are permeated with enticement. All have betrayed or are betraying God in one way or another, all have abandoned the Lord, and His righteous wrath has been ignited. Universal disasters are overwhelming us for the heavy sins and iniquities of the entire people.”

In such a spirit the great pastor denounced the universal vices of Russia, but his voice was muffled by the so-called progressive and falsely liberal press, which unanimously abused him as an extreme reactionary, a retrograde, a man behind the times in that enlightened 20th century.

St. John, however, had a clear understanding of where all this came from in the Russian land.

“Our current overeducated members of the intelligentsia, who have alienated themselves from their Mother Church, shun God’s wondrous design for our salvation and all the sacred images of God’s deeds and all His saints, yet they are madly interested in decadent art and sculpture. There are those who throw away enormous sums of money on these voluptuous images, yet look upon the poor with squeamishness and disgust, not wishing to spare them even a few kopeks.”

“How trite people have become and how depraved, completely losing the Christian spirit and becoming like pagans and sometimes even worse in their way of life. It is the unbridled press, especially the underground one, that has brought our intelligentsia and partly the common people to such a state of immorality. For a long time it had coveted freedom and has finally grabbed it. In one way or another this scythe will reap us all. The Dread Judgment awaits mankind.”

In his ardent love for Russia St. John pointed out that the foundation on which Russia stands is the Orthodox monarchy.

“What would you be without a Tsar, O Russians? Your enemies would try to destroy even the very name of Russia, for the guardian and protector of Russia after God is Russia’s Sovereign, the Royal Tsar, and without him Russia is not Russia.”

What an amazing prophecy! As though the great pastor foresaw those four ominous letters – USSR.

St. John continuously coupled the rule of the Orthodoxy monarchy with Divine Providence. “Only God can empower a chosen individual to occupy the throne and entrust him with monarchical power, vesting him in glory, majesty, and strength.”

St. John also denounced those statesmen who were destroying Russia. “Our current restless and unacknowledged politicians desire a constitutional or republican form of rule in Russia, but they do not understand the history and character of the Russian people, who cannot be without a Tsar, who live only by him, and who, after God and the Heavenly Queen, place their hopes in him alone. Thus let us venerate the Tsar as a ruler given by God for the good of Russia.”

Though denouncing his beloved Russia, St. John still believed in its shining future. “Russia is being tempered by woes and disasters. Stand firm, Russia! Repent and pray. Shed bitter tears before thy Heavenly Father, Whom thou hast offended immeasurably. The Lord, like an artful physician, subjects us to various temptations, sorrows, illnesses, and woes, in order to purify us like gold in a furnace. Such is the purpose of all the trials and miseries sent to us by God in this life.”

All the prophecies of St. John of Kronstadt have come to pass in full force. In truth, he was not only a great miracle-worker, but also a great prophet. We should venerate the resplendent glory of this great miracle-worker and prophet, and entreat him to pray for a great miracle for his ardently-loved homeland – the miracle of the resurrection of Russia.

O great pastor! Hear thou our prayers, if not for the sake of us, sinners, then for the fulfillment of thy prophecy on the purification of the gold of the Russian soul in the furnace of fiery tribulations, for the glory of thy name and for the glory of God in Holy Russia.

Bishop Nikon
The undimmed light

From everywhere the people flowed
To Kronstadt, where the Pastor lived.
The lame, the sick, the blind were healed,
When ardently for them he prayed.

“Great tribulation threatens Russia,”
He sternly prophesied to all,
“And only prayer and repentance
Can save our homeland,” he foretold.

(V.B. Agneyev
Translated by Natalia Sheniloff)

The righteous Saint John of Kronstadt, the teacher of faith and guiding light of Orthodoxy who was venerated by the entire Christian world, reposed in the Lord on December 20, 1908 by the old calendar (January 2, 1909 by the new calendar). Eight years later our homeland was visited by a great misfortune: there came upon us the sad days of the vile “February” (revolution).

When hearing the name “Father John,” I vividly remember my childhood years. Until 1880 my parents lived in their home in Kronstadt. The windows of our house faced Cathedral Square, and up to the age of ten I always saw before me the beautiful and majestic St. Andrew’s Cathedral which stood in the middle of the square. In the 70s and 80s the rector of the cathedral was Protopriest Paul Trachevsky. The assistant pastor was Protopriest John Sergiyev.

The residents of Kronstadt, which may be considered a suburb of St. Petersburg, were used to seeing the clergy of their churches follow the customs of the capital as concerned fashion and cut of clothing, for the priests there paraded around in cassocks made of expensive materials.

St. John of Kronstadt St. John of Kronstadt

When Father John Sergiyev, the humble son of a church reader from the Sura village in the province of Archangelsk, unused to the luxury of the capital, arrived as priest at our cathedral, many of the parishioners expressed their disappointment. “Well, well,” they said, “what a priest has been sent to us… No looks at all.”

In those years Kronstadt was a commercial port, a harbor for St. Petersburg. Foreign ships and sailboats transferred their cargoes to barges in the Kronstadt harbor. Thousands of dockers made up the work force. This was a totally unique element, consisting of vagrants by profession, typical “proletariats according to the theory of Karl Marx.” Naturally these kind of people regularly spent on drink all they earned during the summer days. But when winter came along, the wharves became covered with ice and the harbor became empty. Then the dockers – dirty, ragged, and often barefooted – were to be found on the city streets with their hand held out.

St. John, having finished a private service somewhere, is returning home with a cabby. From all street corners tens of such “proletariats” run towards him. St. John leaves the cabby and first gives this crowd some moral instruction. Taking off their caps, they patiently listen to him. Afterward batyushka takes out his purse and tries to see whether there is anything left in it from the previous street handout. The purse becomes completely emptied out.

St. John realized, of course, that such aid to the poor was only a palliative measure. This gave rise to his project of building a “House of Industry.” My father was one of the primary people who helped St. John accomplish his plan. The “House of Industry” was to serve as a soup kitchen for the hungry and a place to spend the night. In the work hall of this home, all who so desired could do some simple work and receive pocket money. The home had a church in which St. John served.

Batyushka was an old friend of my parents’ and often visited our home. He was dearly loved and greatly respected, and everyone knew that he led a holy and ascetic way of life. But to my parents he seemed in all respects to be an ordinary man. One could converse with him about all the affairs that were currently of interest to society. And suddenly everyone began reading in the newspapers about miraculous cases of healing by his prayer. Judging by the suddenness of the miraculous change which St. John’s life underwent, it is quite obvious that it occurred by God’s Providence. St. John’s life as a common man ended; his “saint’s life” began. He no longer belonged to himself. He became the executor of the supreme will of God.

My younger brother entered the Naval Corps in 1888. Father wished St. John to bless him for service in his new field of endeavor. He took his son and reached batyushka with great difficulty. St. John blessed the young man and said: “May the Lord preserve you, son Andrew, both on the water and under the water.” Upon his return home, father expressed his surprise to his wife in regard to batyushka’s words: “What does it mean – under the water? Do you suppose he’ll be drowning?”

Let me remind you that this was all in 1888, i.e. 10 years before the appearance of newspaper reports on submarine trials. St. John’s words were later forgotten, and my brother remembered the prophecy only 20 years later, when he became the commander of a submarine.

While a cadet in the corps, my brother came down with an acute form of typhus. His parents were summoned, because the doctors said there was no hope for him. Mother sat at his bedside day and night, since he had already lost consciousness and was dying. Father was able to get to St. John and tell him of his woe.

St. John, who at that time was renowned as a healer, chose a moment and came to the corps’ hospital, where he had never been before. There was no one in his entourage who knew the layout of the corps buildings. But St. John, without asking anyone, drove up to a side gate that was unknown even to us, old cadets, and quickly striding through the labyrinth of courtyards, went into the hospital directly to the ward where my brother lay. Greeting my mother, he then loudly said to my brother: “Son Andrew, let us pray together. Repeat the words of the prayer after me…” And suddenly my sick brother, who was lying unconscious and had already lost the gift of speech, began saying: “In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” In a faint but clear voice he repeated after batyushka the words of the prayer. His voice continued to become stronger and clearer…

The prayers were read and batyushka, bidding my mother farewell, briefly said to her: “He will get well.” St. John’s very appearance at my brother’s bedside was a miracle. So was his cure a miracle.

Afterwards my brother sailed on submarines, participated in a campaign with the squadron of Admiral Rozhdestvensky, and took part in the battle with the mighty German squadron in the Gulf of Riga, where he commanded the destroyer “Emir Bukharsky.” He also took part in the White Movement. Many times he saw death around him, but the Lord preserved him. He died in America in 1944 at the age of 70.

St. John has left us physically, but he has never left us without his help. The Undimmed Light with which he illuminated the hearts of the Orthodox faithful will never fade, and St. John himself will always come to our aid.

The Holy Spirit’s God-sent grace
In him was clearly manifest;
He had the gift with ardent words
To illumine the people’s hearts.
We have been told that he reposed,
In long succession years went by,
But his undimmed light remains
Forever in believers’ hearts.

D.V. Nikitin
Translated by Natalia Sheniloff

Continuation »

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