In his famous epistle, Apostle Paul urged his disciples to imitate him like he imitated Christ (1 Corinthians 4:16). These words show us the way to grow spiritually by following in the footsteps of those ahead of us. On 23 December, the Russian Church commemorates Saint Joasaph of Belgorod. In the eyes of many became Russia's Nicholas the Wonderworker. This eighteenth-century saint sets an example of genuine veneration of the saints, by being models in the service of God, by nurturing our inner self and by practising the Christian virtues.
Like Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker, Saint Joasaph of Belgorod practised secret almsgiving. He prepared gifts for the poor and sent his lay assistant to deliver them by night. One Christmas eve, the assistant was ill. The saint did not wish to engage somebody else, and in the middle of the night, he went to distribute the bags himself. As he was returning to his chambers, a guard stopped him. Taking him for a thief, he swung his club to chase him away. But when he recognised the face of his bishop, he leapt back in horror. Saint Joasaph, in turn, hurried to his room. In the morning, the guard came to the bishop expecting punishment, but instead, he was rewarded generously for being watchful.
Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker was a tireless defender of the faith and a vigorous opponent of false teachings. Likewise, Saint Joasaph spared no effort to assert piety and purity at Church. Many of his contemporaries acknowledged that during the years of his bishophood, the morale in the city of Belgorod and its environs improved remarkably. Tirelessly, he was touring the villages and churches in the most remote corners and talking and educating the people.
One day, Saint Joasaph had a miraculous vision of a shining icon of the Holy Theotokos placed in a remote corner amid a stack of waste. From that moment, he never stopped looking for that church until he found it in a small Russian town. There, he kneeled before the icon and prayed tearfully to the Mother of God praying to Her for forgiveness. Then he instructed the people to put it in the main church. Together, they celebrated the recovery of the Icon of the Theotokos “Peschanskaya” that worked many miracles.
Like Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker - exalted as the rule of faith and model of weakness - saint Joasaph also became a shining example of these virtues. He made it visible for us the enormous power of meekness and humility, with which we achieve our goals without hurting others and acquire peace, calm and joy in our hearts.
The saints make alive for us the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. They embody Him in their actions. We all need to see living examples of imitating Christ, of whom Saint Joasaph of Belgorod is one.