"Having followed Christ, the Chief Shepherd, he appeared to the saints, saved his sheep from the destruction of the godless, thereby establishing a peaceful refuge, and having unceasing care for the flock, he healed their spiritual and bodily ailments, and now for us, those who fall to your honest relics, pray to Christ God, Father John, that our souls may be saved in peace."
(Kontakion, tone 4)
Thirty years ago on this day, 12 October 1993, in the burial vault of the Cathedral of the Icon of Mother of God "Joy of All Who Sorrow" in the city of San Francisco (USA) the incorruptible relics of St. John (Maximovich) were uncovered.
Cathedral of the "Joy of All Who Sorrow" Icon of the Mother of God in San Francisco
The great ascetic of the twentieth century became the testimony of the truth of his own words: "...He who rests in grace, as a member of the earthly Church, passes from the earthly Church to the Heavenly Church" and, "uniting with the Risen Lord and through Him with the Everlasting Trinity, draws strength from the Trinity for eternal life and becomes immortal himself." In word and deed, the saints show us the way to salvation, they help and guide us on the journey if we ask them to do so in our prayers.
Uncovering of the relics of St John (Maximovitch), Archbishop of Shanghai and San Francisco
After Vespers and Matins in the Сathedral, the participants of the relics’ examination group descended into the crypt where the tomb of Vladyka John was located. At 10:10 p.m., with trembling and fear of God, Vladyka Anthony (Medvedev) opened the coffin with the venerable remains of the ever-memorable Archbishop John. Archbishop Anthony removed the veil from Vladyka John's face, and everyone saw the imperishable face of the ever-memorable hierarch.
Vladyka Anthony blessed the priest of the diocese Father Yaroslav Belikov to let his sick two-year-old son Vsevolod touch the incorruptible hands of St. John. The boy was healed of his illness and is healthy to this day. In July of the following year, 1994, Archbishop John of Shanghai and San Francisco was glorified as a saint.
Ark with the relics of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco
God's saints reveal to us the spiritual reality, teach us what they themselves have comprehended in their feat of faith, love and selfless service to the Lord, and instruct us to live in God. Saint John was a faithful child of the earthly Church and now shines to us from the firmament of the Heavenly Church. "Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are given by Christ in the work of ministry, in the building up of the Body of Christ "(cf. Eph. 4: 11, 12).
“How is it then that both the Church and the Holy Mysteries are the Body of Christ? Are the faithful themselves members of the Body of Christ, the Church, and partake of the Body of Christ in the Holy Mysteries?" St. John asks this question in one of his sermons, and immediately gives the answer: "In both circumstances, the name 'Body of Christ' is used not in the figurative, but in the most real sense of the word. We believe that the Holy Mysteries, while preserving the appearance of bread and wine, are the true Body and true Blood of Christ.
By uniting with Christ, we receive Divine grace, which gives human nature the strength to overcome sin and death. By His teaching the Lord Jesus Christ shows people the way to overcome sin and, making them participants in His eternal Kingdom by His Resurrection, He grants them eternal life. To receive the Divine grace from Him, it is necessary for us to have close communion with Him. By drawing everyone to Himself with Divine love and uniting everyone with Himself, the Lord joined those who loved Him and those who came to Him into One Church.
In his homily "The Church is the Body of Christ," Vladyka John, having gone from monk to archbishop in the earthly Church and ascending to the height of holiness in the Heavenly Church, reveals the mystery of man's salvation in the Church of Christ.
St John of Shanghai during a divine service
"The Church is unity in Christ, the closest union with Christ of all who truly believe in Him and love Him, and the unity of them all through Christ. The Church consists of its earthly part and the heavenly part. The Son of God came to earth and became human in order to raise man up to heaven, to make him again a dweller of paradise, restoring him to his initial state of sinlessness and completion, and to unite him with Himself. This is accomplished by the action of the grace of God, given through the Church, but it also needs the effort of the person himself. God saves His fallen creation by His love for him, but man's love for His Creator is also necessary, it is impossible for him to be saved without it. By striving for God and clinging to the Lord with his humble love, the human soul receives strength that cleanses it of sins and strengthens it to fight sin until complete victory. The body, which is now the receptacle and instrument of sin, but destined to be the instrument of righteousness and the vessel of holiness, also participates in this struggle.
The body of a person united with the Lord must be an instrument of the Lord, serving to fulfil His will and become part of the Body of Christ. For the complete sanctification of man, the body of the servant of Lord must be united with the Body of Christ, and this is performed in the sacrament of Holy Communion. The true Body and Blood of Christ received by us become part of the great Body of Christ.
By uniting with the Risen Lord and through Him with the entire Everlasting Trinity, man draws strength for eternal life and becomes immortal himself. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. (John 6: 57).
We partake of the Body and Blood of Christ (in the Holy Mysteries) in order to be part of the Body of Christ (the Church). It doesn't happen right away. Being in the Church is already a state of victory over sin and complete cleansing from it. Everything that is sinful removes us out of the Church and away from the Church; this is why it is read over each penitent in prayer at confession: "Reconcile, unite with Thy Holy Church." Through repentance, a Christian is cleansed, united most closely with Christ in communion of the Holy Mysteries; but then the dust of sin settles on him again and alienates him from Christ and from the Church; this is why repentance and communion are needed again.
Until the end of a person's earthly life, until the very exodus of the soul from the body, the struggle between sin and truth continues in him. No matter what high, spiritual and moral state one has reached, a deep fall, gradual or rapid, into the abyss of sin is still possible for him. Therefore, it is necessary for everyone to partake of the Holy Body and Blood of Christ, strengthening our communion with Him and irrigating us with the life-giving streams of Grace of the Holy Spirit flowing through the Body of the Church. Communion of the Body and Blood of Christ is the receiving of the Risen Christ, the conqueror of death, who grants victory over sin and death to those who are with Him.
St John of Shanghai and San Francisco
By retaining the grace-filled gift of Communion, we have the pledge and precursor to the eternal blessed life of soul and body. The earthly Church unites all those who have been reborn by baptism, who have taken up the cross of struggle against sin and followed Christ who had started this heroic struggle. The Divine Eucharist, the offering of the bloodless sacrifice and taking it in Communion, sanctifies and strengthens its participants, makes those who partake of the Body and Blood of Christ true members of the Body of His Church. But it is only with the death of a person that it is determined whether one remained a true member of the Body of Christ until his last breath, or whether sin triumphed in him and drove out the grace he had received in the Holy Mysteries binding him to Christ.
He who has reposed in grace as a member of the earthly Church passes from the earthly Church to the Heavenly Church, but he who has fallen away from the earthly Church will not enter the Heavenly Church, for the earthly part of the Church is the way to the Heavenly Church. The more a person is under the grace of Communion and the more closely he is united with Christ, the more he will enjoy communion with Christ in His coming Kingdom. He who is united in spirit and body with Christ in this life will be with Him in spirit and body in the life to come. The blessed streams of the Life-Giving Mysteries of the Body and Blood of Christ are the source of our eternal joy in communion with the Risen Christ and in the contemplation of His Glory."
Reliquary with the relics of St John (Maximovitch) in San Francisco Cathedral
Holy Father John, good shepherd, pray to God for those who honour your memory that we may be honoured with salvation and eternal joy in the Lord.
Every Wednesday in the Church of St John we hold a prayer service with an Akathist in front of the icon containing a particle of his holy relics. We warmly invite you to send us your prayer requests for this service. Simply follow the link below.
The material was prepared by the editors of the site obitel-minsk.ru.
Photos from the Internet
The following materials were used in the preparation of the text:
1. The words of our holy Father John, Archbishop of Shanghai and San-Francisco, the Wonderworker. Collection of Sermons, Teachings, Epistles, Instructions and Decrees. / Compiled by Archpriest Peter Perekrestov for the glorification of St. John. — San Francisco: Russian Pastor, 1994.