John (Maximovitch) the Wonderworker

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St. John Maximovitch

Our father among the saints John (Maximovitch), Archbishop of Shanghai and San Francisco (1896-1966), was a diocesan bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) who served widely from China to France to the United States.

He departed this life on June 19 (O.S.) or July 2 (N.S.), 1966, and was officially glorified by the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad on July 2, 1994.

Contents

Life

The future St. John was born on June 4, 1896, in the southern Russian village of Adamovka in Kharkov province to pious aristocrats, Boris and Glafira Maximovitch. He was given the baptismal name of Michael. In his youth, Michael was sickly and had a poor appetite, but he displayed an intense religious interest. He was educated at the Poltava Military School (1907-14), Kharkov Imperial University, from which he received a law degree (in 1918), and the University of Belgrade (where he completed his theological education in 1925).

He and his family fled their country as the Bolshevik revolutionaries descended on the country, emigrating to Yugoslavia. There, he enrolled in the Department of Theology of the University of Belgrade. He was tonsured a monk in 1926 by Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of Kharkov (later the first primate of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia). Metr. Anthony later in 1926 ordained him hierodeacon. Bishop Gabriel of Chelyabinsk ordained him hieromonk on November 21, 1926. Subsequent to his ordination he began an active life of teaching in a Serbian high school and serving, at the request of local Greeks and Macedonians, in the Greek language. With the growth of his popularity, the bishops of the Russian Church Aboard resolved to elevate him to the episcopate.

Photo of St. John
Hieromonk John was consecrated bishop on May 28, 1934, with Metr. Anthony serving as principal consecrator, after which he was assigned to the Diocese of Shanghai. Twelve years later he was named Archbishop of China. Upon his arrival in Shanghai, Bp. John began working to restore unity among the various Orthodox nationalities. In time, he worked to build a large cathedral church that was dedicated to Surety of Sinners Icon to the Mother of God, with a bell tower and large parish house. Additionally, he inspired many activities: building of churches, hospitals, and orphanages among the Orthodox and Russians of Shanghai. He was intensely active, constantly praying and serving the daily cycle of services, while also visiting the sick with the Holy Gifts. He often would walk barefooted even in the coldest days. Yet to avoid the appearance of secular glory, he would pretend to act the fool.

With the end of World War II and the coming to power of the Communists in China, Bp. John led the exodus of his community from Shanghai in 1949. Initially, he helped some 5,000 refugees to a camp on the island of Tubabao in the Philippines, while he travelled successfully to Washington, D.C., to lobby to amending the law to allow these refugees to enter the United States. It was while on this trip that Bp. John took time to establish a parish in Washington dedicated to St. John the Forerunner.

In 1951, Abp. John was assigned to the Archdiocese of Western Europe with his cathedra in Paris. During his time there, he also served as archpastor of the Orthodox Church of France, whose restored Gallican liturgy he studied and then celebrated. He was the principal consecrator of the Orthodox Church of France's first modern bishop, Jean-Nectaire (Kovalevsky) of Saint-Denis, and ordained to the priesthood the man who would become its second bishop, Germain (Bertrand-Hardy) of Saint-Denis.

In 1962, Abp. John was assigned to the Diocese of San Francisco, succeeding his long time friend Abp. Tikhon. Abp. John's days in San Francisco were to prove sorrowful as he attempted to heal the great disunity in his community. He was able to bring peace such that the new cathedral, dedicated to the Joy of all Who Sorrow Icon of the Mother of God, was completed.

He reposed during a visit to Seattle on July 2, 1966, while accompanying a tour of the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God. He was laid to rest in a crypt chapel under the main altar of the new cathedral.

His thoughts on what the word "Orthodox" means

"Shortly after the doctrine of Christ began to be propagated among the Gentiles, the followers of Christ in Antioch began to be called Christians (Acts ΧΙ:26). The word "Christian" indicated that those who bore this name belonged fοr Christ belonged in the sense of devotion to Christ and his Doctrine. From Antioch the name of Christian was spread everywhere.
The followers of Christ gladly called themselves by the name of their beloved Teacher and Lord; and the enemies of Christ are called His followers Christians by carrying over to them the ill will and hatred which they breathed against Christ.
However, quite soon there appeared people who, while calling themselves Christians, were not of Christ in spirit. Of them Ι Christ had spoken earlier: Νοt everyone that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven (5τ. Matt. VII: 5). Christ prophesied also that many would pass themselves off for Christ Himself: Many shall come in my name, sayings 1 am Christ (Matt. XXIV: 5). Ίhe Apostles in their epistles indicated that false bearers of the name of Christ had appeared already in their time: as ye have heard that Antichrist shall come, even now there are many antichrists (Ι John ΙΙ:19).
They indicated that those who stepped away from the doctrine of Christ should not be considered their own: Ίhey went out from us but were not of us (Ι John ΙΙ:19)" Warning against quarrels and disagreements in minor matters (Ι Cor. 1:10-14), at the same time the Apostles strictly commanded their disciples to shun those who do not bring the true doctrine (ΙΙ John 1:10). Ίhe Lord, through the Revelation given to the Apostle John the Theologian, sternly accused those who, calling themselves faithful, did not act in accordance with their name; for in such a case it would be false for them. Of what use was it of old to call oneself a Jew, an Old Testament follower of the true faith, if one was not such in actuality? Such the Holy scripture calls the synagogue of Satan (Apocalypse ΙΙ:9).
Ιn the same way, a Christian in the strict sense is he only who confesses the true doctrine of Christ and lives in accordance with it. Ίhe designation of a Christian consists in glorifying , the Heavenly Father by one's life: Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (St. Matt. V:I6). But true glorification of God is possible only if one rightly believes and expresses his right belief in words and deeds. Therefore , true Christianity and it alone may be named "right-glorifying" (Ortho-doxy). Thus, by the word 'Όrthοdοxy" we confess our firm conviction that it is precisely our Faith that is the true doctrine of Christ. When we call anyone or anything Orthodox, we by this very fact indicate his or its non-counterfeit and uncorrupted Christianity, rejecting at the same time that which falsely appropriates the name of Christ."[1]


Succession box:
John (Maximovitch) the Wonderworker
Preceded by:
Victor (Svjatin)
Bishop of Shanghai
1934-1949
Succeeded by:
Symeon (Du)
Preceded by:
Nathanael (Lvov)
Bishop of Western Europe
(ROCOR)

1951-1962
Succeeded by:
Anthony (Bartosevich)
Preceded by:
Tikhon (Troitsky)
Archbishop of San Francisco
(ROCOR)

1962-1966
Succeeded by:
Anthony (Medvedev)
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Reference

  1. Orthodox Heritage, June 2005: Brotherhood of St. Poimen

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