Baptism in the Pacific Ocean

Features of the Orthodox mission in the Philippines.

In 2015, TV channels showed more than 200 Filipinos being baptized in the waters of the Pacific Ocean and taking communion just on the shore during the Divine Liturgy for the first time. It was not the first mass baptism of the inhabitants of the island state.
The Philippines is the only country in Southeast Asia where the majority of the population are Christians (mostly Catholics). ln recent years there are more Orthodox Christians here. In December 2018, the parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate in the Philippines were incorporated into the Patriarchal Exarchate in Southeast Asia. ln February 2019, the Philippine-Vietnamese Diocese was established within the exarchate.
Hieromonk Korniliy (Molev), the secretary of the Diocese, cleric of the Blessed Matrona of Moscow parish in Davao City and head of the educational center of the same name, tells the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate about the peculiarities of the mission in the Philippines.

The example of Father Daniel.
Father Korniliy begins his story from afar, when he studied at the Moscow Institute of Engineering and Physics. Near the dormitory he lived, there was the church of St Apostle Thomas on Kantemirovskaya street, where Fr Daniel Sysoev served as rector. The young man began to attend this church and entered the missionary school of Fr Daniel.
— After the murder of Father Daniel in 2009, we began to look at his ministry with different eyes, including as a missionary, – Fr Korniliy recalls. — It became clear that this was not just a good priest and theologian, but a man who suffered for his preaching – for Christ. And it became impossible to leave the work started by Father Daniel. I still teach at the school he created. Today it is called the Orthodox Missionary School at the Synodal Missionary Department. While studying there and being still a layman, I took part in several missionary trips to Africa, Mongolia, Cambodia, then to the Philippines, when our priests just started coming there. After graduating from my college, I continued my studies at the Belgorod missionary seminary. Its rector at that time was Metropolitan John of Belgorod, who also headed the Synodal missionary Department. He took me to study with him in 2013, because I wanted to go abroad after graduating from the seminary (I already had an invitation to carry out obedience in Cambodia and Laos).
While I was studying in Moscow and Belgorod, the Church in Asia has grown significantly. The parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate in Cambodia and the Philippines were under the care of Archbishop Sergiy (Chashin) of Solnechnogorsk (now Metropolitan of Singapore and Southeast Asia, Patriarchal Exarch of Southeast Asia). I began to serve in Cambodia, and then Vladyka transferred me to the Philippines, as there was a much greater need for priests there. Now for 3 years I have been serving on the island of Mindanao, the second largest island in the south of the country.
A shelter for Russian refugees.
The first Orthodox community in 1923 in Manila (the capital of the Philippines) was formed by emigrants from Russia. In 1934, on the basis of the appeal of the Russian diaspora in Manila, Bishop Victor (Svyatin) of China and Beijing established a parish in honor of the Iveron Icon of the Mother of God. The Iveron temple existed until 1945, when it was destroyed during the liberation of the city from the Japanese invaders.
In 1949, after the Communists came to power in China, about six thousand Russian refugees left Shanghai. Of all the countries, only the Republic of the Philippines has agreed to temporarily accept them. The Russians were stationed on the small island of Tubabao. Among the first, two churches were built: in honor of the Archangel Michael and Seraphim of Sarov. The Holy Mother of God Cathedral was built from the former military marching church. Among the refugees was Bishop John (Maksimovich), the future St. John of Shanghai. He periodically traveled from the Philippines to other countries, primarily to the USA, to organize the relocation of refugees there. And he succeeded: in 1951, the Russians mostly left the Philippines.
A big interest in the Russian Orthodox Church began in 2013. This year, typhoon Haiyan, terrible in its destructiveness, occurred, having killed several thousand people. Fr Kirill Shkarbul, a priest of the Russian Orthodox Church, was one of the first to arrive with humanitarian aid from Taiwan to Tubabao Island. Communicating with him, the locals became interested in Orthodoxy, thought about baptism, invited him to visit them more often. Since Fr Kirill is serving in Taiwan, he began to look for missionaries and priests who could come to the Philippines and talk about the Orthodox faith. One of the first to respond was the priest Georgy Maximov. He and Father Kirill performed the first mass baptisms.
In October 2016, the Holy Synod appointed Bishop Sergiy (Chashin) of Solnechnogorsk as the Administrator of the parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate in Vietnam, the Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos, the DPRK and the Republic of Korea. His Eminence began his activity with restoring the Iveron parish in Manila on Easter in April 2017. This parish has united Orthodox people of many nationalities, and its backbone became the Orthodox Filipinos interested in Russian culture. With the appointment of Bishop Sergiy, the priest Stanislav Rasputin came to the Philippines to work.
In December 2018, by the decision of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Patriarchal Exarchate of Southeast Asia was formed with 4 dioceses: Korean, Singapore, Thailand and Philippine-Vietnamese. Metropolitan Sergiy was appointed head of the Exarchate.
The mission proceeds from below
— You served in Cambodia, now you serve in the Philippines. What are the main differences in the perception of religion in these countries? I ask Fr Korniliy.Cambodia is a Buddhist country, the Philippines is Catholic. Filipinos have a Christian worldview. They sincerely believe in God. You can see, for example, a tricycle driver (a local public transport – a motorcycle with a sidecar, where people are transported), who will cross himself before the road. When there was an earthquake, people ran out into the street and shouted: “God save us!”
ln Cambodia, Buddhist culture is widespread. People have no idea of the One God there, it is simply washed away by this Buddhist worldview. There are spirits being fed on every corner. There are special houses everywhere where Cambodians leave food for them. You won’t find this in the Philippines. There are some occultists and shamans here but, in general, people have a Christian understanding of the world.
Speaking about the specifics of the mission in the Philippines, my interlocutor emphasizes that this is not a “classic” version of enlightenment, when missionaries come to a new land and preach, then people study the basics of faith to be baptized. Here the mission goes “from below”. Local residents themselves learn about Orthodoxy from books, through the Internet and ask for baptism.
The difficulty lies in the fact, explains Fr Korniliy, that not one or two people come to Orthodoxy here, but often whole communities. So, for example, in 2015, four communities of Aglipay church were baptized at once. Those were representatives of the Independent Philippine Church, which originated in the early twentieth century and bears the name of its founder Gregorio Aglipay, a Catholic priest who, protesting against the colonial policy of the Catholic Church, went into schism. Over time, the Aglipay people began to have a crisis of faith. They saw that each of the communities believes in something different. And they began to search the true faith. They learned that there are Russian priests in the Philippines, and invited them to talk about Christ. The process of catechization has begun. As a result, these communities were accepted into the Russian Orthodox Church: thousands of people who needed to be taught our faith. They had their own church culture, but it is far from ours. It helps that they are ready to change, to learn, they really like it. There is a large amount of work here, and there are not enough personnel. This is similar to our nineties, when people went to Church en masse and had to be received and instructed, but there were not enough priests.
Study for priests and parishioners.
Fr Korniliy notes that when the Synod appointed Bishop Sergiy to serve in the countries of Southeast Asia, it became a new level of organization of the work. A diocese was formed, 5 deaneries appeared: Manila (Luzon and Cebu Islands), Davao (Mindanao and Leyte), General Santos, Davao del Sur and Vietnamese. Diocesan departments were formed: missionary, social and catechetical. A full-fledged diocese has developed.

There is a personnel shortage, a lot of problems, but now the work is more focused and we have a lot to grow.
In August 2019, by the decision of the Holy Synod, Metropolitan Pavel (Fokin) of Khanty-Mansiysk and Surgut with the title “Metropolitan of Manila and Hanoi” was entrusted to be the ruling bishop of the Philippine-Vietnamese diocese. It was just recently the 10th anniversary of the Khanty-Mansiysk diocese in which he serves. He has extensive experience in organizing diocesan life. And he brought this experience to the Philippines. It is very symbolic that Vladyka Pavel served as a priest in the cathedral in honor of the Icon of the Mother of God “Joy of All who Sorrow” in San Francisco, where the relics of St. John of Shanghai rest. In 1949-1951, during the 27-month period of stay of Russian refugees on the island of Tababao, St. John walked around the entire camp every night and made the sign of the cross on all four sides. No typhoon happened during that period. After the people left for different countries, a terrible typhoon hit and destroyed the camp to the ground. And now St. John has brought Vladyka Pavel to work in the Philippines. We believe that this is not a simple coincidence.
After thousands of inhabitants of the archipelago converted to Orthodoxy, they had to be taught somewhere. That is why the Blessed Matrona of Moscow Educational Center in Davao was founded, headed by Fr Korniliy. Classes are held here for singers, elders of communities, future mothers. Educational activities are conducted among parishioners. Knowledge is given in a variety of fields – from the study of the rules of worship, including the performance of services by a lay rank and choir singing, to the subtleties of baking prosphora and sewing church vestments.
-At first, the center was organized in the city of General Santos, but not all priests could work there permanently. And it was not really a center but, rather, a base. When Vladyka Sergiy was appointed, he established a missionary center in Davao – the island’s capital and the third city of the Philippines. Here Filipinos can receive basic knowledge to go then to Russia to study in seminaries and theological academies. Before going to Russia, they need to undergo some training here, where the situation is close to the seminar realities. It is important that they in advance take an experience of the routine of the educational institution.
The first ordinations were performed by Vladyka Sergiy. For the first time, five Filipino people were ordained deacons at once and then one became a priest. Then Vladyka Pavel ordained two deacons as presbyters. In February 2020, during his archpastoral visit to the Philippines, Metropolitan Pavel ordained 5 elders of the church communities of the island of Mindanao as deacons. They are also trained in our center.
Bamboo temple.
I ask Fr Korniliy, what Orthodox churches in the Philippines look like. The priest says that in Davao, where he serves, it is a rented house, which doesn’t look like temple from the outside. In rural areas, these are mainly bamboo buildings with an earthen floor. Inside it is more recognizable – the iconostasis, candlestands.

Our Church managed to build three buildings of temple architecture. One of them was badly damaged due to an earthquake a year and a half ago, and is now recovering. The construction of another temple is ongoing. On February 22, 2020, for the first time in the history of the Russian Orthodox Church in the Philippines, Metropolitan Pavel consecrated with a Great Rite the church in honor of St Seraphim of Sarov in Makalangot. Soon after that, many icons in this temple began to stream the myrrh.
There are 31 Orthodox parishes in the Philippines and 13 clerics.
The main work of our Diocese is to translate Orthodox prayer books and liturgical texts into Cebuano and Tagalog (the most common languages here). The texts of the services for the main feasts have already been translated. Orthodox Filipinos can celebrate the Liturgy in their native languages.
Fr Korniliy says that Filipinos adopt the traditions of the celebration of the feast of feasts – Easter – from the Russian Orthodox. Long fasts are new to Filipinos, but they try to observe them. Night services inspire them amazingly. But the peculiarities of the national cuisine are reflected on their Easter table.
The locals tried the Easter cakes, and they did not like them much, because Filipinos rarely eat bread. They did not find the cake as sweet as they like, for them it is almost tasteless. But when a local resident cooked Easter cakes according to a Russian recipe but putting five times more sugar in there, they became, in their opinion, already more edible. They like to eat sweet rice — this is a joy for Filipinos.
For locals, the main dish of any festive table, including Easter, is lechon – a whole piglet baked. They don’t eat meat often at normal times, because most of them live in poverty and can’t afford it. Therefore, cooking a pig is a great holiday. The meat is baked on a spit, on a fire, without spices (because they are expensive) and it turns out inside as boiled. To our taste, this dish is not very appetizing. But these are particulars. The main thing is that we have the same taste for Church and Truth. And the essence of the holiday remains the service in the temple and the Easter joy, which overwhelms Filipinos just as much as Russian believers.
Elena ALEKSEEVA

Orthodoxy as a destiny

An Indonesian student about his spiritual path and impressions of Russia

The tradition of education of foreign students in Russian theological schools has ancient roots. In the XIX century, Russia turned out to be not only the stronghold of Orthodoxy in the world, but also the center of church education. Since 1850, Greeks, Bulgarians, Serbs, Montenegrins, Syrians were educated in Russian theological academies and seminaries. Some of them returned to their homeland after studying, while others remained in Russia. Among the foreign graduates were future bishops, theologians, church leaders. Today, the idea of getting a theological education in Russia is still popular among foreigners. A correspondent of the “Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate” went to the St. Petersburg Theological Academy to find out what use they plan to find of their theological education, whether it is easy to study, what they dream about and how they plan to serve in their homeland.

Difficult Russian

Academic Church in the name of the Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian. Students of the Academy and regular parishioners gathered at the Divine Liturgy on the Feast of the Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem. The temple is not crowded, the echoes of the pandemic are noticeable – not all students have started full-time training. Meanwhile, all those gathered are praying diligently, there is no usual whispering or exchange of greetings. I notice, on the right, a group of young people who are different from everyone else…

These are our students from Indonesia and the Philippines,-the dean and senior lecturer of the Faculty of Foreign Students of the St. Petersburg Theological Academy Nadezhda Vasilyevna Kolesnikova quietly says, – they always pray at divine services near the especially revered icon of the Mother of God “The Sign” of Tsarskoye Selo.
After the service, Nadezhda Vasilyevna takes me around the St. Petersburg Theological Academy and shows the audience where students from other countries study.

All my students regularly, without delay, come to worship services, they do not need to be reminded or warned in advance, – Nadezhda Vasilyevna says. – During the divine services, students of our faculty read the “Trisagion” to “Our Father”, they pray, they work in the refectory, like everyone else. They never refuse to obey.
It is clear that Nadezhda Vasilyevna is ready to talk for hours about her wards. She surrounded the students of the faculty, who have all their relatives and friends very far away, with real maternal care.

Foreign students study at the preparatory department for two years, – explains Nadezhda Vasilyevna. – The first year they study only Russian, pulling up their knowledge to the basic level. During the second year, they continue to study the language, and also master the main program of the department, which includes: biblical history, catechism, liturgics, history of the Fatherland, Church Slavonic and English. At the end of the training, everyone passes an exam in the Russian language and in theological disciplines.

In the corridor, we meet our students and all go together to the classroom where classes are held.

Is it true that Russians rarely smile? – I ask the guys on the way.

Yes! Stefan answers decisively.

Well, not always… Leo refutes.

Basically, yes, – Kirill sums up.
The guys interrupt each other and laugh.

Do Filipinos and Indonesians smile a lot?

Always!

Before the class starts, we have time to talk about the students’ impressions of studying and living in St. Petersburg.

What difficulties did you experience in mastering the Russian language? – I’m interested in them.

Oh, grammar!

Cases, verbs…

Pronunciation, accents…

Yes, everything!

The most emotional question is about the places they have already visited. Nadezhda Vasilyevna comes to the rescue.

We mostly visit museums and monasteries during the holidays, – the dean explains. – We went to Tikhvin, Kronstadt, the Alexander Svirsky Monastery. But even here in St. Petersburg, students can go out to the city on their own and go to museums, if I can’t accompany them. In St. Petersburg, students visited the St. John’s Monastery, the Chapel of St. Blessed Xenia of St. Petersburg, St. Isaac’s Cathedral, the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, St. Nicholas Epiphany and Transfiguration Cathedrals. We have all been to the Hermitage and plan to go there again. I can’t remember everything. For example, three of our students: Leo Gondayao, Kirill Benalon and Dimitri Situmeang, lived for a month in Pskov and the Pskovo-Pechersky Monastery. We are going to visit Peterhof in the next vacation.

And what struck you most about Russian culture? – I ask the guys.
“Russian cuisine,” Kirill answers and smiles. The others nod in agreement.

Maslenitsa! – Dmitry is connecting. – Or when people plunge into the river on the feast of the Epiphany. But the most amazing thing in Russian culture is Orthodoxy.

Wow!
Nadezhda Vasilyevna, smiling, goes on business, the guys go to classes, and I stay to find out from the young man what he was so impressed by the Orthodox life in Russia.

They offered to convert to Islam

Dimitri Situmeang is originally from Indonesia. Now he is 29 years old.

Dimitri’s father is called Gasudngan Situmeang, and his mother is Salavati Simamora. They are Protestants and still live in a small Indonesian village where Dimitri was born. As a child, he lived with his grandparents, and when his grandfather died, he moved to live with his uncle. In 2013, he received a degree in Economics from the University of North Sumatra in Medan. But Dimitri did not have time to work in his profession. The fact is that shortly before graduating from high school, he learned about Christ.

For the first time I heard about Orthodoxy from a Protestant preacher, – says Dimitri. – First he told about Christ, then about the Ascension of Christ and about the history of the first temple. I became interested and began to study articles about the Orthodox faith on my own. He began to visit the church of St. Sergius of Radonezh in Medan, where he was later baptized.

My uncle and aunt are Muslims. The issue of religion in Indonesia is very important in usual life of the family, and a few years ago they suggested that I convert to Islam. I explained that I could not, because Christ is our Savior. Unfortunately, my uncle and aunt could not accept my choice and asked me to leave their house. Medan is a big city, it has more than two million inhabitants. At that time, I was working in a promising company engaged in the export of various consumer goods, but since my uncle had arranged for me to take this position at the time, I lost my job immediately.

To Russia

For about a year, the newly baptized Indonesian lived in Medan at the temple and he did not have a permanent job.

“It was the most difficult period,” he recalls. – I was longing for my family and one day I decided to call my grandmother, whom I missed very much. In the conversation, she admitted that she really wants me to come home. I told her everything I could about Orthodoxy from the bottom of my heart, but she only sighed bitterly and did not understand me, because she is very old. After that, my heart felt even heavier.

Soon Situmeang was forced to move from Medan to Jambi. There is no Orthodox church in this city on the island of Sumatra, and the young Christian went to services in a Catholic church, but did not receive communion there.

“I cried and prayed to God to help me,” Dimitri continues. – Finally, I moved to Jakarta and found a job as an administrator at a Catholic hospital. I received a scholarship from the Catholic Church to study. Life began to improve. But soon my new friends began to persistently suggest that I convert to Catholicism. But I loved Orthodoxy very much and could not become a Catholic in any way. Therefore, I was very happy when I learned that I could study at an Orthodox seminary.

In 2019, Situmeang returned home and told his father and mother that he wanted to study in Russia. His parents, he said, were horrified. They had no idea where an unfamiliar country was located, and they did not want their son to study “at the end of the world”. But since it was a very important decision for Dmitry, in the end, they agreed.

I like church singing most of all

At first, the Russian language was the most difficult for him.

It’s still difficult, – Dmitry smiles. – For the first six months, I had a feeling that no one understood me, and I didn’t understand anyone. Now I am studying in the first year and I have improved the Russian language a little. We study philosophy and basic theology. Teachers give lectures, and I do not always have time to write down notes.

Dmitry says that he has made real friends in Russia. He has already got used to the usual routine: on school days, students get up at 7:30 in the morning, at 8:00 prayer, and at 8:15 breakfast. Then, at 9:00, classes begin at all courses of the academy and seminary. In addition, foreign students continue to study Russian with teachers and do this for 4 hours a day.

Most of all, I like church singing, – the interlocutor admits. – I really like to sing. Last year at the Academy I had obedience in the choir, this year I am already helping in the altar as a subdeacon of the Vladyka rector.

Ask for help from the Lord

For a long time, Dimitri dreamed of visiting Valaam. When in Indonesia, he saw a video about the monastery on Valaam and was eager to visit it.

The film was in Russian, I didn’t know the language at all at that time, – the future clergyman smiles, – but I knew one thing very well: I just needed to come to Valaam.

For the first time he was on the island in the winter, at Christmas. Dmitry was given the obedience to work in the refectory, although he wanted to be at the services with all his heart. And that’s why I was a little upset.

In the end, the Lord ruled, and I was transferred to obedience as an altar boy in the temple, where I immediately asked for the choir, – he continues his story about the pilgrimage. – They asked me what voice I sing in. I replied that I was a tenor. We went to the regent, Father David. He asked: “Can you sing in Russian?”. Of course I couldn’t. But I really wanted to and received a blessing.

Valaam became a native for the young Indonesian.

The monastery has a different way of life. Constant work, which is not a burden, – Dimitri is sure. – I communicated with the brethren, with people with pure souls, and I understood what grace is. Lay people who come to the monastery are looking for Christ here, and I understand them: in such places He is especially close. I have already made friends on Valaam – familiar monks. I remember how once I made a mistake and read the “Trisagion” twice (instead of thrice) for the divine service. After the service, I went to the hermitage and on the way I cried: “Lord, why?! I have read this prayer so many times!” One monk comforted me – there is no need to get upset, we must continue to read prayers in Church Slavonic more and ask for help from the Lord.

After some time, Dimitri came back to his favorite monastery. On the Feast of St. Sergius he met with the Patriarchal Exarch of Southeast Asia, Metropolitan of Singapore and Southeast Asia Sergiy.

It was some kind of miracle. Vladyka Sergiy knew that I was on Valaam and invited me. At that time I still did not have a cowl, I was in dirty clothes, in which I worked in the refectory and was very shy of my appearance. But when I came to the meeting, it turned out to be completely unimportant. We managed to talk, although at that time I did not understand Russian very well. I was overwhelmed with joy from the meeting with Vladyka. I really fell in love with him during this time. For me, this meeting was exciting and at the same time joyful. Later, in the Church of the Holy Trinity in Ostankino, I met Bishop of Jakarta, vicar of the Diocese of Singapore, Vladyka Pitirim, then he was still a hieromonk. Together with him and other students, we visited Optina monastery. Vladyka Pitirim treated us very warmly and fatherly, we felt his sincere concern for us on that trip.

Real freedom

After studying, Dimitri would like to become a priest and return home.

After graduating from the academy, by the grace of God, I will serve in Indonesia.
But first I want to reconcile with my parents and uncle. They still have not accepted my path, and it is very important for me that my parents understand me.

The future priest has an extraordinary dream – he wants to build a monastery in Indonesia.

I understand, it’s not easy, – says Dimitri, – because I’m not a holy person, here as God willing. And if in an ordinary business everything depends on money, then in such an undertaking everything is given by prayers. Why do I think that everything will work out? In Indonesia, people really want freedom, but everyone has a different understanding of this. In Orthodoxy, a person is called to be free from sin, that’s where real freedom is! And now I understand with all my heart the lines from The Epistles to the Philippians of the Apostle Paul: I can do everything in him who strengthens me Jesus Christ (Phil. 4: 13).

Daria Kupryakhina
St. Petersburg Theological Academy

Entry of the Lord to Jerusalem

The Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem is the triumph of the Savior’s earthly life. They want to make him King, because He can Make Israel Great Again. So that they would not obey to the Romans but they would be paid tribute by the barbarians, as in the times a thousand years before. And that it would be good for everyone in Israel. But it is impossible to build happiness on neighbor’s grief, and instead of seizing power, Christ continues to teach: “Pay to Caesar that is Caesar’s and to God that is God’s”, and “Love your neighbor”. And we know that in a few days the Son of God will be betrayed, tortured, and crucified by His people. And no one will stand up for Him. Such is the gratitude of Israel for that the Lord healed his children of diseases. For freeing him from the bondage of Egypt and Babylon. He would have freed them from the Roman one as well, but He came to free us from the bondage of death.And in the coming days, called the Great Days, we will once again watch with awe the realization of the Divine plan for our salvation. Holy Week is the culmination of Christianity and human history. Yes, the creation of the world was also the greatest event and miracle, but this is hardly mentioned in the church calendar. Because it was easier for God to create the universe than to guide us to the right path, for which He had to taste death. The trillions of stars in the sky do not obscure His main creation for Him; the life of each of us matters to Him! As well as the prayer of each of us.

St Paisios of Mt Athos about reverence

Today, on the feast of St. Apostles Peter and Paul, we also commemorate St. Paisios of Mt Athos. A great Saint and miracle worker of our days (he rested in God on mount Athos in 1994), he left us many useful books.
St Paisios of Mt Athos about reverence.
It is a deep respect for God, both in thought and action. Reverence for God must determine all aspects of our being.
God is moved with reverence. Reverence is the fear of God, the action of God’s grace in the human soul. A devout person everywhere behaves with attention and modesty, he vividly feels every Holy thing. For example, he is careful not to stand with his back to the icons; where they are sitting, for example, on a sofa or chair, he will not put the gospel, a spiritual book or some Holy object; if he sees an icon, his heart and his eyes are covered with tears. Even if he sees the name of Christ written somewhere, or a piece of newspaper thrown on the ground, where, for example, the name of Christ is printed, or the words “Holy temple of the Holy Trinity”, he picks up this piece, reverently kisses it and he is sad that it was thrown to the ground.
And how many people indifferently, without noticing anything, put their pots on newspapers where icons or some spiritual article are printed, and then throw out the garbage. Do you think such people can truly love the Lord? And do they need God? But without the love of God, there is no salvation. Only those who love the Lord with all their heart are gathered in Paradise.

“Geronde (old father), how can we acquire reverence?”
—The fathers say that in order to acquire reverence, one must live or communicate with people who have it, and observe how they behave. Paisius the Great, said:
“Associate with people who love God and have the fear of God, so that you may also acquire the fear of God.” But imitate, only understanding the meaning of actions, otherwise it will be false worship.
— And why do the Holy fathers only say about reverence that if you want to acquire it, you should communicate with the person who has it? Why don’t they say the same about other virtues?
-“Because reverence is transmitted. The movements, the behavior of a person who is reverent, like a fragrance, is transmitted to another; of course, if there is a good disposition and humility in him. I will tell you that if a man has no reverence, he has nothing spiritual. A reverent person is like a child who has no evil thoughts about his father and mother, because he loves his parents and sees everything they do as good and pure. How much more should one be in awe of God!
There are also those who have only a dry external reverence: they stand on their feet for a whole vigil, but they are not firm in their faith.

“Geronde, what else can help a man acquire reverence?”

  • The study of sacred things, as well as the use of the opportunities that are given to us. For example, if I have the opportunity to go to a temple for a short time and pray, and if I don’t use it, then I deprive myself of Grace. But when I want to go in, and I don’t because of some obstacle, I don’t lose Grace, because God sees my good intention.
    — Geronde, how does reverent behavior in the temple help us?”
    –When you go to the temple, say in your mind: “Where am I going? The temple is the house of God. If, when we come to a worldly house, we wipe our feet, and sit down modestly, how should we behave in the house of God where Christ is sacrificed? Christ has redeemed us from sin; he heals and nourishes us with His all-Holy Body. All these terrible and divine events, when we remember them again, help us to behave with reverence in the temple. But at the divine Liturgy, I notice that even at the most Holy moments there are people whose minds are really far from the Lord!
    From lack of reverence, we are possessed by an unclean spirit. Previously, people who were ill took oil from their lamps, anointed them and recovered. Now the lamp is lit just as a formality, just for illumination, and the oil is poured into the sink when the lamp is washed.
    Once I was in a house and saw the owner washing a lamp in the sink. “Where does the water go?” “To the sewer,” she says. “I see —” I say — ” what is it, that you take an olive oil from the lamp and anoint your child crosswise when it is ill, and then pour all the oil from the lamp into the sewer? What excuse do you find for this? After all, you don’t pour clean water into a filthy bucket and drink from it, and you don’t put clean underwear in the closet along with dirty ones? And how will God’s blessing come to your house?»
    In modern homes, there is no place to throw away some consecrated thing, for example, a piece of paper in which the antidor was wrapped, and previously it was usually buried somewhere in a clean place.
    In one house, which I once had to visit, the iconostasis was arranged under the stairs, although there was plenty of space. And in another house, the owner arranged an iconostasis in front of a sewer pipe. “Well —” I asked her,” how did you come up with the idea of making an iconostasis in such a place?” So how will Grace come after that? For this, even what we have is taken away from us.
    And here’s another thing to be careful: you have something with crosses on the couch, but you can not sit on the crosses and step on them. Jews make shoes with crosses, often depicted not only on the outside of the sole, but also on the inside — under the heels and soles. And you pay money and trample on crosses!  
    And what reverence we should have for icons! A devout person is especially in awe of icons. When we say “venerate icons”, we mean that he is in awe of those who are depicted on it. If a person who has a photograph of their father, mother, grandfather, grandmother or brother can’t tear it or step on it, then isn’t this much more true of an icon! When a person with reverence and fervent love kisses the Holy icons, inside himself these saints are depicted. Saints rejoice, being imprinted in human hearts.
     ”Why, Geronde, is reverence so rare in our times?”
     -Because people have stopped living spiritually. They interpret everything through worldly logic and cast out of the divine grace. And before, what awe! Grannies, very simple and reverent, they fell to the ground in front of the mules of the monastery and bowed to them when the monks came down on their mules on business. “These are the mules of the Mother of God,” said the grannies, ” and let us bow to them!” If they showed so much reverence for the mules of the monastery of the Most Holy Mother of God, imagine how much reverence they had for Her!
    The whole basis is in awe. Someone only touches the wall against which the icon was leaning, and already accepts the grace, and someone can have the best icon, but not get the benefit, because they do not have reverence. One may benefit from the ordinary cross, and the other, without reverence, will not benefit from the life-giving Cross itself.
    You should always remember that where icons hang and stand, you can not even raise your voice, nor swear, you can not smoke near the icons in the house!
    The house where the icons are located, the Bible – this is a small Church of God, so you need to behave very reverently. We do not need to test the patience of God, the love of God.
    Awe is slowly lost, and all the evil we see comes from it. From inattention and indifference to shrines, people often become possessed. One woman became possessed because she poured Holy water into the sink. She had some Holy water left in the bottle. “Ah,” she said, ” this Holy water is not fresh, and I need a bottle.” She poured out the Holy water, and even washed the bottle, and then began to rage.
    The grace of God is gone, because grace cannot remain in a person who is not reverent and is indifferent to God.
    – And if, father, someone spills the Holy water by mistake?” – If he put the Holy water in the closet and forgot about it, and accidentally poured it out, then it is half the sin, but if someone else put this Holy water in the closet, and the person who poured it out did not know that it was Holy water, then it is not his fault.
    How can the divine Grace approach a person if he does not venerate the Holy place, does not honor it? Grace will only go to those who honor it. “Do not give a Holy thing to dogs,” says the Holy Scripture. Success in faith is impossible if there is no spiritual sensitivity and attention to everything sacred and divine.
    You must not give the Lord the worst that you have. Cultivate reverence and modesty as much as you can. This will help you accept the Grace of God. Because, having reverence, spiritual modesty, a person, if he is also humble, accepts divine Grace. If there is no reverence and humility in him, then the Grace of God does not approach him. In the Holy Scriptures it is written: “On whom shall I look, but on the meek and silent and trembling of my words” (Is.66:2).

Saint John of Shanghai – the greatest Saint of the XX century

Saint John of Shanghai (1896-1966) is our contemporary. He did not have the majestic appearance of a white-haired old man: small, ugly, with a speech defect, often in a crumpled cassock and bare feet. Some of the people around him were even embarrassed for “such a Bishop”, because he served in major cities: Shanghai, Paris, Brussels, San Francisco.
He often went barefoot, and once an order came from his superiors: wear shoes. The Bishop wore them slung over his shoulder with the laces tied. A new order has arrived: “put on your feet”, the Bishop was obedient and put on.
Saint John took monastic vows at the age of 30. Since then, the prayer has become a greater reality for him than the cares and experiences of earthly life.
Since his monastic tonsure, Saint John never went to bed, sleeping sitting up only a few hours, setting aside the night for prayer. He ate, often mixing all the dishes: soup, garnish, compote – so that earth food did not seem like a pleasure. Already then, Saint Nicholas of Serbia said of him: “if you want to see a living Saint, go to father John in Bitol!»
At the age of 38 (1936), against his will, but for obeying his spiritual mentor, Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky, he became a Bishop.
With the episcopate, the Saint did not change his ascetic practice. He constantly prayed, served the divine Liturgy every day, fasted strictly – ate only once late in the evening, and ate only prosphora during fasts. The Saint visited the sick daily and demanded the same from his clergy. In order not to be praised, the Bishop made a fool of himself – he was often late for Church, went barefoot and in rumpled clothes. But in all that concerned the service, the he was very strict with himself and others. He never spoke in the altar, and after the service he remained in it for several hours.
The first place of the Episcopal Ministry of St. John was China.
In Shanghai, where Saint John was sent in 1934 from Belgrade, there were about 20 thousand Russians. Bishop John found a huge number of homeless orphans on the streets of the city. The Saint created an orphanage. He often collected sick and starving children from the streets of Shanghai’s slums. The orphanage existed from 1935 to 1951, during that time its pupils were more than 3,500 orphans — Russian and Chinese.
During the Japanese occupation of China, the shelter often had no food. Then the Saint prayed, and unknown people came, bringing the necessary things.
When the Communists came to power, Russians from China fled to the Philippines. In 1949, five thousand refugees were on the island of Tubabao. The Bishop went around the island every day and protected the island from seasonal typhoons with prayers and the sign of the cross. And indeed: 3 years of typhoons bypassed the island, but as soon as the last batch of Russian refugees were taken out, a strong typhoon hit and almost completely destroyed all its buildings.
The refuge in the Philippines was temporary, but the Russians were not given visas to Europe or USA. The Saint went to Washington to take care of this. As a result, the US Congress changed the refugee law, and Russians were able to enter the USA. Some of the Russian refugees went to Argentina and Australia.
The Saint was appointed Archbishop of Brussels and Western Europe in 1950. Many miracles and healings occurred through his prayers. In Paris a local Catholic priest told his parishioners: “You say that there are no miracles or saints now. What proof do you need if Saint John Barefoot is walking the streets of Paris today?”
In 1962, Saint John was transferred to San Francisco. The Saint found a mess in the finances during the construction of the Cathedral, and called the debtors to account. Debtors sent complaints to the Synod. This was taken advantage of by the Saint’s detractors: they raised the question of the” illegality ” of his appointment to the pulpit in San Francisco. There were many in the Synod who despised the living Saint as “an insufficiently subtle theologian” and “a bad administrator”.
The Russian community in San Francisco was thrown into disarray. At parish meetings, the Saint was shouted and insulted. Among the persecutors of the Saint were even those whom he cured of cancer and other serious diseases. The case went to trial, where the Bishop was acquitted. Although the truth prevailed, the last years of Saint John were filled with bitterness of slander and persecution.
It was said that Saint John knew about the time and place of his death. On the day of his death, July 2, 1966, he served the divine Liturgy and after the service prayed in the altar for three more hours. The Saint died a few hours later in his room, praying before the miraculous icon of the Sign of the Mother of God.
For six days the Saint’s body lay in a coffin not embalmed, but despite the heat, there was no smell of decay. The mayor’s office of San Francisco made an exception, allowing the Saint to be buried, despite the sanitary ban, in the crypt of the Cathedral in honor of the image of the Mother of God “Joy of all sorrows”, which the Saint built and served in.
In 1993, a special Commission for the glorification of Bishop John discovered his relics and found them incorrupt. In 1994, Saint John of Shanghai was canonized.