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This, then, is "Batiushka" John before us— revealed before the whole world. One may with certainty say that like that, none has ever spoken or written of himself. There is nothing personal, which has not been purified by the cleansing fire of repentance, in these confessions. In the pure — like a tear — heart of St. John, only Christ is reflected. "Batiushka" St. John of Kronstadt is our Russian Orthodox "imitation of Christ."

But this "imitation of Christ" was expressed not only in statements, but in deeds as well! And St. John remains the same simple Russian "batiushka" in his miracles as he looks upon us from the pages of his writings. The whole originality of St. John is in his ordinariness! He is the first among equals, a type of embodiment of the best features of the Russian priest, peculiar to him for centuries, and now, in the image of St. John, condensed into some sort of radiant phenomenon, which, however, retails all its inborn individuality.

A village lad from a northern out-of-the-way settlement, the son of a poor sexton, who with painful effort was barely able to complete primary school — such was the initial beginning! Yet where was the peak? It is at a dizzy height — it is even simply unimaginable, it disappears into the heights of the third heaven! And at the same time, what an inner logic there is in this ascent. No legendary transformations to stagger our imagination. Everything is "ordinary"! Miracles, from the first accompanying St. John, as if on purpose are enveloped in commonplace forms, as though but assisting the organic fruit to blossom, which in this natural growth is obtaining the fullness of its meaning.

How significant is the "career" of St. John! How significant is it especially against the background of his genealogy! For he is an offshoot of a whole "dynasty" of priests and churchmen, in the course of three hundred years serving one and the same village church! O how thick is the "levite" blood that flowed in the veins of St. John! And he remains rooted to the end in this ageless virgin soil, just as in every step of his way he remains in patriarchal dependence upon his family home, even if it be personified in the form of a humble wife of a village churchman, to whom he, while a student, sends his clerk’s wages. It is well known how he, being already a priest, becoming mortally ill, referred the problem of breaking Lent (which was demanded by the doctors) up to the decision of his mother — who did not give her blessing for such a deviation from the regulations of piety. He chased away the dreams of missionary exploits — as bearing the stamp of something exceptional; he went along the well-trodden path: He married a priest’s daughter, a bride "with a position," the daughter of the archpriest of Kronstadt Cathedral — and what was his amazement when, having first set foot in the Cathedral, he recognized the church, revealed to him long ago in a dream, and in that dream shown to him to be precisely "just as if he were at home here!" And as a priest he remained in this church for the entire span of his long life.

He remained a "batiushka" — merely filling up with juices, expanding, raising his initial activities, but in no way altering them nor betraying them in anything. He became All-Russian — but "batiushka" just the same! Close, dear, one’s own! This was partially understood by the well-known publicist M.O. Menshikoff, a man who was far removed from the Church but sensitive to life, when he wrote in the Novoye Vremia under the fresh impression of St. John’s death. Dostoievsky, Turgenev, Tchaikovsky had died — a comparatively small circle, against the background of the whole of Russia, was touched by these deaths. Suvurov, Skobelev— the circle was already far wider! But all this is not what has occurred now! Tolstoy naturally comes to Menshikoff s mind, but even with his name are not connected the mysterious cherished emotions which bind with "St. Ivan" every peasant woman, every shepherd, every convict in the mines of Siberia... St. John, more than anyone else, occupied the psychological center of Russian national life. "Only a ‘saint’ embraces the entire imagination of a people, all its love" — thus does Menshikoff interpret this fact. Let it be so — but Metropolitan Philaret had also died, the Optina elders had passed away into the next world, Bishop Theofan had ended his days in seclusion — I am naming personalities whom the epithet set aside by Menshikoff will suit most easily. The response then did not even bear a remote semblance to what was revealed at St. John’s death! There was an affinity to him, not simply as to a saint and miracle-worker, but as to that person who, no matter where he may appear and no matter where pious reports about him may reach, was accepted as one’s own, close, dear, "batiushka."

"Now he has been led into the church to conduct services. He comes out to the solea to read and sing at Matins or to read the entrance prayers before Liturgy. He emerges always happy, radiant as the dear bright sun. ‘Good morning, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I congratulate you with the feast’ — he greets them. And immediately some sort of spiritual current, similar to electricity, pierces the crowd from this heartfelt welcome; the whole crowd sways, and from it speed joyful exclamations in reply, expressing both delight before him and joy from contact with him: ‘Oh, our beloved, our dear,’ etc. But the most expressive was this exclamation directed at him from the crowd: ‘Oh, our darling.’ And it was heard more frequently than the others, always in an indescribably sincere tone of voice." (From a speech delivered on the fortieth day after his death.)

Only one phenomenon of Russian life, a later one, may, to a certain extent, be compared with the "popularity" of St. John: Patriarch Tikhon, upon whom Russian churchgoers had concentrated all their hopes, all their love, all their thirst for the Church. And this comparison is capable of determining, better than anything else, the full enormity of the image of "Batiushka" John! And only after having understood that St. John is totally and only a "batiushka," will we understand the secret of St. John’s miraculous influence over people.

"That icon is miracle-working, which has the power to stir up faith in its power to work miracles." This statement by ninety-three-year-old Metropolitan Isidor was recalled in connection with St. John by Archbishop Nikanor, who applied it to the miracles of St. John. Yes, faith was alive in Russia — and it was revitalized by St. John: it found its embodiment, as it were, in him. But his strength rested precisely in the fact that he contributed to the image of "batiushka" (an image so close to the people and, to the highest degree, capable of becoming the point of contact for a national thirst toward sainthood) a genuine saintliness preserved in its everyday authenticity — and that of such height, that in order to comprehend it one must go through the entire Church calendar in one’s inner eye!

Let us recall the initial barrenness from which the ascent began! Let us recall the slowness of the ascent, along well-worn, beaten tracks, the limit of achievement, the crown of all ideas, the end of which could only be what? — priesthood! An entire cycle of concepts is present here, secured by the heritage of ages. And so — the limit has been reached by him, so as to lock within himself his mental outlook. And here the ascent begins — not in breadth, but inwardly and upwards! The life of a parish batiushka blossoms, in all the inner grandeur of his calling; and, at the same time, this life is gradually invested with outward stateliness as well, is combined with the school of the loftiest pastoral asceticism.

Suddenly the chain of parish seclusion is broken and, as we know, by call from Above, St. John is placed on top of the mountain, so as to be turned into that psychological center for the whole of Russia about which Menshikoff spoke — still remaining the same parish batiushka! Miracles flow out all around him in seas — but a miracle, exceeding everything imaginable on the paths of miracle-working, is what his life itself remains.

Indeed, let us think deeply!

A quarter of a century spent among people in the position of common Church property, having nothing to himself except a few hours of solitude by night, and appearing as an inexhaustible source of the Church’s grace, given out in every form of goodness and good, work imaginable!

Charity on the grandest scale, not only in the form of publicly organized labor, but also in the form of personal giving, on a mass scale and wielding large sums, handed out in the name of Christ, clairvoyantly measured and blessedly individualized!

And his activity as a confessor on an unheard-of scale and of unseen forms, flowing into the shattering phenomenon of common confession by a crowd of many thousands, seen right through by the inner eyes of the confessor and guided by him to the feet of Christ in His presence, seen only by certain eyes, blessing this multitudinous, but at the same time for each one personal, reconciliation with Him of the faithful!

The spiritual guidance of thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of believers — and that in the twinkling of an eye, in transit, in prayer meetings, in passing comments and gestures, in unexpected "chance" conversations, and at times also in mystic visions, surmounting space! Also some type of unheard-of and unseen All-Russian starchestvo (spiritual guidance) — the guidance of souls, when, in the spark of a short current, by one mysterious touch the soul is renewed and guided for the rest of its life! All that is good and radiant in the heart of every Russian, no matter how clogged up it may be by the refuse of life, by the evil of this world, rushes, as if to a powerful magnet, to meet the manifestation of the conscience of the Church in the form of "batiushka."

The eucharistic miracle, daily celebrated also with unseen and unheard-of prayerful enthusiasm, heated-by the personal prayerful lifting upwards of the heart by St. John, is inexplicable in any words — when people, captured by it, did not know whether they were in their bodies or outside of them!

The blessedness of the eucharistic table, daily on a mass scale and concluded by the moving joint consumption of the Holy Gifts, to which were sometimes drawn also chosen communicants from the laity! A new form of early Christian agape — majestic in its mass character, but continuing to be pierced by the spiritual eyes of St. John, who did not admit to the chalice those who were not prepared for it, who had not cleansed their hearts, who were blemishing it with blasphemous thoughts!

Incessant sermons — and these not only in the form of Church precepts delivered from the pulpit, moving in their evangelical simplicity and burning hearts with the power of faith placed in them, capable of burning out any doubt and vacillation in worshippers! No — each word, flying forth from the lips of St. John, each line written by him was a sermon, was good tidings, was a lesson, which, when accepted by the heart, unswervingly led a man to reconciliation with God!

Miracles — a sea, an ocean of miracles! Both directly performed and at a distance — after prayers at a "molieben," after prayers at any moment of Church services, at any hour of the day, during any encounter, after prayers, aroused by someone’s prayerful call from afar!

And all this, as in some shining point, was concentrated in the image of Batiushka John!

That which was pictured by St. John Chrysostom as an inaccessible ideal — being at the same time a priest’s compulsory ideal! — namely, the blending of asceticism with the world, found full realization in St. John. Family life — transformed into brotherly cohabitation! A thick net of public happenings and opportunities converted into a weapon for the most strenuous and the most effective pastoral work! A golden rainfall, with all its inherent temptations — converted into immediate distribution of what was received, when one hand, not knowing what the other was doing, became, on the spot, by the miracle of insight, also a weapon of guiding pastoral grace! Fame, spreading from all Russia and becoming already worldwide, and power, placing St. John higher than any man — converted into a rostrum for the glorification of God and the preaching of Orthodoxy, and at the same time also into a means of attracting people to the ways of salvation — in personal contact with each one! And finally, in the last analysis — the revelation of himself to the whole world, the baring of his soul, making all, all, all participants in the mystery of "life in Christ" and calling for participation in this life with unattainable simplicity of conviction...

The priesthood, in its highest manifestation — revealed in all its fullness and purity, in all its power, reached to the limit, that is what the world was shown by "Batiushka" John of Kronstadt. All that the Orthodox Church has been saying for two thousand years through the mouths of Her best teachers — was revealed to every gaze as a heart-moving, human phenomenon of a humble Russian "batiushka"...

The consciousness of one’s infirmity in Christ — as a source of all-powerful strength! "If Christ is within you through frequent communion of the Holy Mysteries, then be all like Christ: gentle, humble, long-suffering, full of love, impartial to worldly things, contemplating of heaven, obedient, reasonable; have His Spirit within yourselves without fail, do not be proud, impatient, attached to the world, miserly and greedy for money."

"Be completely like Christ!" Living in Christ, St. John stopped considering his will as his own — being able to subject it to Christ! It is because of this that his prayer became all-powerful: "No matter how many times I might pray with faith, God always heard me and fulfilled my prayers," he testifies. While once, in conversation with relatives during a journey to Sura in June 1900, he thus explained his proximity to God.

"How great is the order of priesthood, how close is it to God! A priest — is God’s friend, minister of the Heavenly King. I turn to Him now as to a Father, and he carries out everything for me. I did not soon attain this, but gradually. Now, for example, there was no water in the Pinega over which I had to travel; I could not reach Sura, and I said: ‘Lord, You can do everything, for You all things are possible. You have given Yourself to us, and we perform the Holy Mysteries; we touch Your Body and Blood, and give them to others as well. What can be greater than this? So everything else is certainly possible for You to perform for us. Fill the rivers with water, to that I may safely reach Sura and return: send a bit of rain.’ And so the Lord heard me, and I am informed that it is all right to travel, much water has flowed in. That’s how willing and quick to listen is He to all those who refer to Him with faith."

Who could speak so simply of such fearful things — if not a Russian "batiushka!"

In the person of St. John Christ walked through the Russian land. Never had Holy Russia received such an All-Russian incarnation of this encounter of hers with Christ — just before that terrible immersion into darkness, which was prophesied by St. John.

Was this encounter the last?

St. John has not abandoned Holy Russia even now, having moved on to the celestial world. But where is Holy Russia now? She no longer has a national-state embodiment: she lives in our hearts! And in each heart lives St. John. Next to St. Seraphim he has taken his place as our habitual pleader before God. Are there many such hearts? Are their ties with Christ strong? Upon this — only upon this! — depends the future of Russia and of the world! If Holy Russia does not grow again in our hearts into a world-shaping power — the Lord Himself is close, as Stern Judge — as we heard it from St. John.

The glorification of St. John calls us, all of us, in whose hearts Holy Faith has not died, to appeal:

Holy St. John, pray unto God for us!

Archimandrite Constantine (Zaitzev)

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