Sunset - Larnaca

Sunset - Larnaca

Friday, 2 January 2015

Saint John the Russian

St John the Russian was born in 1690, in Ukraine. At a young age he was recruited to the army of Peter the Great, taking part in the Russo-Turkish war. During the war, he was held captive and sold to slavery to the turkish cavalry, where he was taken to the commander's home in the town of Prokopion, near Caesarea in Asia Minor. 

Even though John was humiliated and tormented, he refused to adopt Islam. As time went on, his master's heart softened as he witnessed his holy slave endure pain and torture with unfading faith, love and humility - consequently assigning him to take care of his stable, which also became John's living quarters. Recalling the lowly Bethlehem cave and manger where our Saviour first lay His head, the blessed John rejoiced in his new dwelling place. 

'My patron is Lord, and no one is above Him. He predestined me to live as a slave in a foreign land... it must be so for my salvation.'

John would leave his stable occasionally, to keep vigil at the nearby church of the Great Martyr George, where he would also receive Holy Communion on saturdays and feasts. Through his prayerfulness and obedience to God, he miraculously helped his master and his family on many occasions, leaving a great impression on them; eventually making them realise that he was indeed a man of God and prayer, in whom they could trust. For this reason they tried to persuade blessed John to change dwelling place, but the Saint preferred to live amongst the animals in the stable, fulfilling his duties there, and continuing steadfast in his ascetic struggles and prayer for others.

Later in his life, he fell ill and called for a priest in order to partake of the Eucharist. The priest, who feared the fanaticism of the Turks, could not have brought the Holy Communion openly to the stable, so placed the Holy Mysteries into the core of an apple, lining the cavity with beeswax. This way, he was able to take Communion to St John. Upon receiving the immaculate Body and Blood of Christ, blessed John surrendered his soul into the hands of God Whom he loved with all his heart. He reposed in the Lord on the 27th of May, 1730.

Until 1924, the Saint's relics were kept in the church of St George in Procopion, however when the exchange of population took place between Greece and Turkey,  many of the Christian inhabitants of Procopion were settling on the island of Euboia , and so did his holy relics. They were received with great veneration and love by the Greeks, who built a holy church and shrine in his honour, in the village of New Procopion ( Euboia ). 

Saint John the Russian is today one of the most popular Saints among Greeks. His incorrupt relics are the boast of the island of Euboia, and many visit his shrine on a daily basis. Countless miracles occur from his relics and icons, where the Holy and Life Giving Spirit dwells and works through this great Saint, who has been sanctified. Saint John was neither a hierarch, nor an eloquent theologian - however he was a true man of God, living most of his life in humility and simplicity in that holy stable.

News of his miracles spread quickly among many Muslim Turks, resulting in them referring to him as 'Wali' ( Saint ). This realisation of his holiness and their personal reverence towards him did not change the way St John lived. He would still spend his days working hard and praying. St John the Russian was also given a Christian burial by order of his master, as a token of the family's appreciation, respect and love for the saint. They also provided him with an expensive cloth, to cover his sanctified relics.

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