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A sea of miracles.


St. John’s miraculous power not infrequently also manifested itself in church — especially when those who were possessed by evil spirits were brought to the Chalice.

"A horrible impression was produced, recalls one dweller of Kronstadt, "by the sick possessed who were brought to Father John in the cathedral. During Father John’s sermon, during the singing of the Cherubic Hymn, but especially during the singing in Great Lent of ‘Now the heavenly hosts,’ inhuman cries were emitted, wailings or barks. Some of the sick would fall to the floor; on the floor they were shaken or beaten. Once when Father John was giving Communion, I stood with my mother in the choir-place and saw how a few men led, or, more correctly, carried up, a woman to him. She kept propping her legs against each step. Her appearance was terrible. The handkerchief fell from the head. Her hair became dishevelled. She was waving her arms about and kept repeating all the time: ‘I’ll spit, I’ll spit anyway.’ When she was brought to the Chalice, Batiushka told them to let her go and not to support her. Those who accompanied her cautiously left her. Then Batiushka told the woman to cross herself. She crossed herself, this time correctly. Batiushka asked her what her name was. Father John gave her Holy Communion and, calmed, she walked away from the Chalice, crossing herself and repeating: ‘Glory to Thee, Lord, glory to Thee, Lord ...’"

St. John’s miraculous power in all its potency was manifested, however, primarily outside the church — in those varied forms of intercourse with people, in which was passed each one of his days. Insofar as this power radiated from him in church, this remained unnoticed by worshippers — as the miracles were performed at a distance, by letters, telegrams, prayerful requests from all parts of vast Russia, streaking toward him at times without any outward sign.

There is a characteristic witness written down in Harbin by my late wife, recorded then by her among many others for one local publication, devoted to St. John:

‘This was — recalled Gouliaeff in tears — in 1903, in a small place called Emba, in the province of Sihr-Darya. Being a young man, I was working on the Tashkent Railways, engaged in making water pumps. That year we had a serious typhoid epidemic; I became ill and was transported to the contagious barracks, two miles from Emba, beyond the river. My condition was recognized as hopeless. My temperature rose to 42 degrees. I was unconscious almost all the time, became weakened to such an extent that I was quite incapable of lifting my arms from the blanket. In the words of the sick-nurses, I kept singing church songs in delirium, as our entire family was very religious. I was brought up on church singing, not liking worldly music. My father was a simple peasant, but there were also clergymen in our ancestry.

"I remember how I came to and felt that I was dying. I could not move my hands, could not cross myself. Helplessly, I wept, and began in tears to sing ‘Heavenly King’ as best I could ... Suddenly, halfway between the bed on which I was lying and the door, a priest in gold vestments appeared as if in a haze. He drew near to me, and I then saw perfectly clearly, lightly-flaxen hair, a ruddy face, and blue, infinitely kind eyes.

The priest leant over to me ...

" — There is no need to cry; let’s pray.’

"And there and then he began to serve a molieben. He served neither quietly nor loudly, with great concentration, earnestly and heartfelt. I was looking at his kind face, examined, like a child, the patterns on his vestments, listened to his voice, and understood that it was Father John of Kronstadt who had come to me. With his coming my arm rose for the sign of the cross. Father John blessed me. I clung to his hand. The hand was warm and very soft. I remember this hand, as though it were with me now. Father John told me that I would recover, but that I should never forget to pray and thank God. Withdrawing, Batiushka also stepped away as it were to the door, into a white haze...

"From this moment my quick recovery began, incomprehensible to all. When my father came to visit me, I told him about the miracle I had seen, described the priest to him, and my father, who knew Batiushka personally, was amazed that I had described in such detail the entire person of Batiushka, having never seen him in real life. Even the barely noticeable wart near his eye, even the sound of his voice, the pattern on his vestments I described without a flaw. But the very fact of Batiushka’s appearance to me was there and then explained to me by my father: at the most hopeless moment, he had sent a telegram to Father John in Kronstadt, asking him for his prayers. On the very day that Father John had appeared to me, he had served a molieben for my recovery."

Here there was a telegram. But St. John had no need of physical means to communicate with people. Archimandrite Raphael, father-superior of Our Lady of Zadonsk Monastery (Voronezh diocese), who became a monk with St. John’s blessing and who died a martyr under the Bolsheviks in 1922 on the first day of Pascha in the seventy-eighth year of his life, witnessed that when he became a priest, St. John called him to himself in Kronstadt four times, appearing to him in his sleep and summoning him to appear for joint prayer with him. Father Raphael would come, remaining the whole week. The prayerful consolation which he received from jointly concelebrating the Divine Liturgy was such that, as he later put it, he did not know whether he was in his body or outside it. Thus, now, during a discussion once with Father Raphael, St. John disclosed to him that he knew by whom and where his name was mentioned, and that this prayerful proximity with him would remain active beyond the grave — thus would he beseech God! While here is another of the many occasions when also during his life was his mysterious miraculous assistance manifested — without any physical association:

‘The sister of the Russian consul in the town of Kiahta (on the Chinese border) was suffering there for a long time and very gravely from a serious ailment, from which, apparently, there was no hope of ever recovering. The malady was so severe that the sufferer was even thinking of poisoning herself, and so, under the influence of this terrible thought, she sees a dream. She sees herself on the edge of a dark and horrible abyss, would have liked to step away from it, but some fateful force pushes her forward and drags her into the chasm, from which there is no escape and where death inevitably awaits her. Horror envelops the sufferer, a cold sweat stands out on her face, her heart palpitates from mortal fear, the ground shakes under her, she feels her feet slipping to the very edge of the bottomless pit, over which is spread an evil darkness, while in its depths an entire hell is bubbling and boiling. Finally, she loses the ground from under her feet and her body hangs in space, ready to plunge into death’s embrace, which has widely opened its extended jaws... There appears to be no salvation; the last thought which flashed through her consciousness was of the Savior, crucified on the Cross... At the same time, as if in the clouds, a priest appeared in front of her, with the stamp of meekness and mercy on his brow... ‘In the name of the Savior life is being granted to you,’ he said, and, grabbing her with a mighty and firm hand, again put her on firm ground. He then showed her to a hitherto unnoticeable path, by which she could get away from the chasm, and guided her with these parting words: ‘Go and give thanks to God for the salvation you have been granted!’ Upon awakening, the sufferer told her brother and all her near ones about her marvelous dream, during which she described in detail the priest she had seen in her dream, whose appearance had become strongly impressed upon her imagination; as to who the priest she had seen might be, to this question no one was able to provide an answer.

"Some time elapsed after this dream; all who heard about it had forgotten it, but then even the sufferer herself thought less and less of it, although she did keep hidden in her heart the conviction that her prophetic dream had to have some special significance, And suddenly, completely by accident, she came to see a picture of Father John of Kronstadt, about whose outward appearance she had no idea to that time, although she had heard much about him, for the whole of Russia was filled with news about him. Just imagine her amazement and that of her relatives when she recognized in the picture of Father John the very same priest who had saved her from peril in her dream. She immediately wired Father John in Kronstadt, asking his prayers and intercessions before the throne of the King of kings. Father John did not delay in carrying out her request, served a molieben for her health, of which he advised her in due course. From that time, the incurable sickness, which threatened the sufferer with inevitable death, took a turn for the better, and in a short time the patient completely recovered. She was so grateful that, upon recovering, she was not afraid to undertake a distant, long and difficult journey and, together with her brother, came from Kiahta to Kronstadt so as to personally thank the kind pastor, who had besought a cure for her with his prayers."

Miracles were not exceptional phenomena in the life of St. John: he lived by a miracle and in a miracle. His very existence was a complete miracle — this constant movement, this restless activity with an almost total absence of rest and sleep for a man of exceptionally frail health, and this all the way up to an extremely old age! And his actual relations with people — this was a type of uninterrupted clairvoyance, constantly manifesting itself with people, miraculous by its very nature, and on top of that constantly and evidently surpassing "the order of nature!" And it is difficult to say in what the "miraculousness" was more marvelous: in the strikingly obvious, powerful, terrifying and shattering phenomena of healing miracles, or in manifestations of spiritual vision which were barely noticeable to the outward eye — in the finest and deepest influences on man’s soul, of each individual person from the great mass of people who everywhere surrounded St. John. A word, a gesture, material aid, hiding behind its outward (at times literally lifesaving) sustenance a deep, inner meaning as well, so that it appeared to have fallen from heaven after being prepared precisely to fulfill a certain need all of a sudden, even down to the most minute details; everything in St. John’s activity was bestowed by grace. He lived and conducted himself among people like everyone else, without separating himself from them in any way and remaining in the most intimate contact with them, but he saw something different from what all around him could see — he looked upon earthly things with spiritual eyes... He saw the past and the future, read in the hearts of people, as in an open book, the most hidden thoughts... He also saw the forces of darkness which fill the element of the air... He even revealed this at times to people close to him... He saw, for example, demons, swirling near funeral processions, accompanying the bodies of unrepentant sinners to their final resting place...

The descriptions of miracles performed by St. John are countless. I will reproduce but the smallest number of them from those which were recorded by my late wife in Harbin, from interviews with living witnesses of these miracles. By this we will see St. John in another plane as well — in his activities outside the church building, and in this way his portrait will be made more complete, which until now we have seen mainly either from afar, at a distance, or inside the walls of a church.

"My first recollection of Father John of Kronstadt," says Mrs. X emotionally, "was the day of the baptism of my younger sister. I was then four years and five months old. I remember how, after the baptism, Father John was sitting in the dining room and was pouring tea for everyone, while each one of us children he fondled, and called one of us ‘Red Ribbon,’ another ‘Bright Sun.’ Father John called my younger brother ‘Little Lamb’ — he was curly-haired. Mother later recounted that when she asked Batiushka to baptize my younger sister, Father John replied that he would no longer baptize in his capacity of a priest, but would only be godfather. He had too many godchildren by that time. But for my mother, for whom he had baptized all her children, he agreed to make an exception and baptize her last child also.

‘The second clear recollection of Father John’s visit remained with me when I was six years old. Father John was sitting at our home in the dining room. He called me to him.

"Mother, passing by, says:

"‘Batiushka, she is not worth fondling, she’s lazy, does not pray to God.’ Father John asked me: ‘Are you really lazy?’ I replied: Yes.’ ‘And which prayers do you know?’ I counted off the ones that I knew. Batiushka said: There is no need for so many; say only one — "Our Father"— but do not hurry.’ I was elated at not having appeared such a lazybones in his eyes.

"Shortly I was a witness to a miracle, performed by Batiushka in our house. A sick boy of our acquaintance was brought in from Petersburg. His leg was in splints! Batiushka served a molieben at our place, after the molieben took of the splints, instructed the leg to be bound up only by a bandage, and that very evening the boy was already playing with us, completely well. When Batiushka was asked what had been the matter with the child. Father John replied: ‘It is necessary for the father to drink less, then the boy will recover.’ It is true; the boy’s father was a drunkard.

"And here is a second miraculous event also in our home. It happened one evening that Batiushka was saying a molieben in the sitting room. The room was illuminated by a lampada before an icon of the Mother of God, and by three candles lit up next to a water-filled vase, prepared to be blessed, and also by a lamp under a lampshade. I often happened to be present during Father John’s moliebens, but this particular molieben remained in my memory for the rest of my life. Batiushka prayed with special fervor and confidently said: ‘Queen of Heaven, we beseech you and you will help us.’ There was no doubt that everything would be as Batiushka had requested. This evening he was serving at the request of students, friends of my elder brother. One of the students, looking sad, stood near the door. None of us knew the reason for his sorrow. When Batiushka had finished the molieben, he passed next to him into the front room, blessed him, and unnoticeably slipped him some money. When Batiushka left, the deeply moved student said that Batiushka had given him exactly the amount of money with which he had to pay his tuition fees. Were it not for his help, he would have had to leave the university. He had never spoken about this fact — the more remarkable was Father John’s gesture.

"While here is a third occurrence, which did not take place in our house this time, but which also happened in front of my eyes. My sister and I were often in the Working House, playing with the children of those who worked there. But Mother did not permit us to enter the rooms of the visitors. Two ladies arrived from Siberia, or from the Urals, both very wealthy. They owned some sort of factories over there, but I cannot remember now. The ladies took a liking to my sister and me at our encounter with them in the garden and hallway, and they dragged us into their room. Soon the ringing of bells announced Father John’s arrival. At the request of the newly arrived ladies, Batiushka said a molieben; one of the ladies gave Batiushka a parcel of money. Batiushka declined to accept it: Take it back,’ he says, ‘you will find it useful yourselves.’ The lady began to assure him that to her the amount was so insignificant, there was no need even to discuss it. Batiushka did not take the money anyway. That very evening a telegram was received, announcing that all the factories and house had burnt down, and this parcel of money was useful to the bankrupt wealthy ladies for their return journey..."

Let us restrict ourselves by reproducing just one more account from this series, made by Mr. Am:

"My father had friends in his regiment, the two Eropkin brothers: Nicholas, an aide-de-camp at court, and Ipplit, a regiment commander (His Majesty’s Cuirassier Guards). Once the elder brother, Nicholas, was visiting us, and suddenly had a strange and cruel attack — of what character, I am now unable to explain. But his condition was so serious that the doctor who was called did not allow him to be taken home, but made arrangements for the patient to remain lying in our house, without moving, in complete rest. A separate room was made available to the patient, a consultation of the very best and well-known doctors was called. The patient’s condition was diagnosed as very serious.

"A few days passed and Doctor Botkin warned my mother that within two or three days the officer would die and, probably, in a state of very stormy and violent agony, for which reason it was desirable to have some male nurses with him, who were physically very strong. Indeed the patient’s fits kept becoming more turbulent. Just in case. Father called out a few cuirassier soldiers who had to remain in the kitchen.

"Mother suggested to my father to call upon Father John, requesting him to give the patient Holy Communion. This disconcerted my father, who knew Eropkin as a man who was not only an unbeliever, but who even made fun of believers. He was afraid the patient might be disrespectful toward Batiushka. But Mother reasoned thus: ‘Father John must be pre-warned about everything, and then he will act as he sees fit.’

"Father John arrived the following day. Without inquiring about anything of my father, he immediately said: ‘Well, show me to the patient; as for those who are sitting in the kitchen — send them home in peace...’ This straight away astounded us, as we couldn’t understand how he could have known about the cuirassiers, called out by Father just in case... Father John was led to the patient. Batiushka, upon entering, said:

"‘Hello, Captain!’

"‘Hello, Batiushka,’ very calmly and respectfully replied the patient.

"You’re gravely ill. Are you receiving proper attention?’

"‘Certainly, by the grace of His Majesty I am attended by the best doctors. I am not refused anything.’

"‘Well, but the main medicine you have not yet taken! Christ’s Holy Mysteries! Would you like to take Holy Communion?’

"The patient replied that he had not been to Communion for over twenty years and considered this to be, for him, impossible.

"The more reason for confession and Communion,’ said Batiushka.

"‘All right,’ agreed the cavalry captain.

"Batiushka stood near the patient’s bed.

"Unforgettable is his conversation with God, flaming intensity, demanding intercession. After this, all of us left the room.

"After about half an hour, the door of the room opened and Batiushka loudly said, calling out to us:

"‘Well, and now all of you come in and congratulate the patient... He has been honored to accept the Lord.’

"‘All of us entered the room. The face of the cavalry captain was unrecognizable: it was radiant and peaceful.

"Mother invited Father John into the dining room for tea. Father John accepted and even promised to eat something.

"‘And you, Captain, now go to sleep quite calmly and peacefully, like a child.’ Tenderly he turned to the patient, looked at him even more tenderly, and silently went out.

"We walked through to the dining room.

"‘Well, and now he will silently fall asleep forever,’ Batiushka told us. By morning, the cavalry captain was no more."

In conclusion, a piece out of the recollection of that woman who saw a vision in church, reproducing a picture of the already departing Batiushka:

"In the beginning of September 1908 I became ill with cholera, and Prof. Chistovich, at the request of his friend, Doctor Shverdloff, placed me in the Military Academy of Medicine, where, apart from myself, there were only military cadets. I was in a very bad way. Then Daria Iakovlevna — also a soul close to Batiushka — rushed to him in Kronstadt to ask for his prayers.

Batiushka, when he heard, just kept sighing: ‘Oh, the poor thing, the poor thing!’ But his wife said to him: ‘John, Nicky will remain an orphan... You are able to do it. Pray!’ Then he went into his study. A couple of hours later he returned, radiant, and said: ‘She will remain! The Lord has returned her to life! And she already had one foot in the grave!’

"At that very time I had already been removed over there to die in another building. But the nurse, who came to love me, in desperation injected me with a tremendous dose of camphor, and I revived and remained...

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