Orthodox America

  An Epistle from the Ruling Archbishop of Western America and San Francisco on the Silver Anniversary of the Repose of Archbishop John

He cared for everyone else more than for himself, and that's why everyone cared for him

    Everywhere, his departure brought tears and his arrival was greeted with joy. Bishop Nikolai (Velimirovich) of Zica 

My dear fathers concelebrants, brothers, sisters and children, 

With joy and compunction we greet now, as if our Vladika himself, these memorable days.

      Just think of the love with which contemporary "instructors of Orthodoxy and teachers of piety" spoke of him. We know, for example, that Blessed Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) himself, who knew Vladika when the latter was still a youth, in sending him to the Far East as a young bishop, wrote that he was sending 'a piece of himself, that is, as if tearing him away from his heart. And the renowned Bishop Nikolai, whose words I have used here as an epigraph, eloquently expressed his amazement at the asceticism of our Vladika, who began his pastoral ministry in his Ochrid Bitol diocese. This Serbian Chrysostom, who was buried first here in America and whose body was returned this year to his native land where it was greeted with inexpressible and heartfelt joy, wrote:

      "In my life I have often been humbled in the presence of those better than I, but I must confess that never did I feel more humbled than in the presence of Vladika John; in every virtue, in every aspect of Christian perfectibility he outdistanced me, as a man on horseback overtakes one on foot. I cannot attain his spiritual height."

      These are the kinds of feelings Vladika John evoked in these well known pillars of Orthodoxy. And what radiant feelings and memories Vladika's name evokes among others whose lives he touched!

      Who, having no funds, opened orphanages and attracted benefactors! Who visited the sick day and night bringing them the Body and Blood of Christ and words of comfort! Who co-suffered in the move of homeless Russian refugees to this free land! Who instructed young acolytes with such paternal affection and expressed such care for them, having a special love for children and an understanding of youth! Who, with faith and hope, tirelessly took pert in the construction of a cathedral dedicated to the Mother of God here, just as earlier in Shanghai! And life in these cathedrals began to come alive, inspired by the prayers of our Vladika.

      And it became clear that it was not only his fellow countrymen and not only the sons of the fraternal Serbian people who loved him so, but also Greeks, French, Dutch, Americans, as he blessed their entry into the .Orthodox Faith.

      In his concern to heal the sick and help the poor, Vladika also took care that these people learn to pray and be healed of their egotism and other afflictions of the soul. We believe that it was precisely in this way that Vladika acted and continues to act, taking care concurrently of both the souls and bodies of those who appeal for his help, responding with his prayers for those who pray for him..

      And inasmuch as the soul is preeminent, let us try during these memorable days to pray more fervently that each of us might recognize the afflictions of our souls and amend ourselves.

      This is a great and difficult task, and so let us ask Vladika to help us, believing that the prayers of a righteous man availeth much (James 5:16), that the works of the righteous are in the hand of God (Eccles. 9:1), and, finally, that with God all things are possible (Mark 10:27).

      It is to this feast of hope in our amendment that our ever-memorable Vladika John calls us to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of his birth into eternal life. Let us fall down with love before his tomb, which is already saturated by the prayers of so many. 

Archbishop Anthony