John the Theologian

The Holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian is the youngest of the 12 apostles, but he was the only one remaining with the Saviour during the most difficult time of His suffering. And he was the only one of them whom persecutors failed to kill.
His gospel is also special – it speaks most clearly about the deity of Christ. Amazing, the passage from it – papyrus P52 – is the oldest extant manuscript of the New Testament, it is only 20 years younger than the original, ~130 AD. For comparison, the oldest copies of the texts of Homer, Plato, Tacitus are separated from the originals by about a thousand years (this is about the authenticity of ancient texts).
And, perhaps, one of the most mysterious events in the Holy Tradition is the death of St. John the Apostle. After living more than a hundred years, he retired from Ephesus and asked his disciples to bury him still alive, covering his face with a handkerchief. They did not dare to violate the teacher’s request. However, after a while, when the grave was opened, John’s body was not there. But every year, on may 21, a thin layer of ash (or “manna”) began to appear on the grave, bringing healing. In honor of this event, a spring celebration of the memory of the Apostle was established.
Many saints (Hippolytus of Rome, Andrew of Caesarea, and John of Kronstadt) believed that the Apostle John was still alive and would preach with Elijah and Enoch before the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In any case, the Holy Tradition recorded a change in the “order of nature” – corruption did not touch the body of the “Apostle of love”. This victory over corruption emphasizes his spiritual kinship with the most Holy Theotokos, who adopted John at the foot of the cross of the Lord.

Feat of Love

May 2 is the day of memory of the people’s favorite Saint blessed Matrona of Moscow (Nikonova). Mother Matronushka, as the faithful affectionately call her, is prayed for in illnesses, life’s troubles, when it does not get along with work, school, housing, and under persecution. The fame of Mother Matrona has long crossed the borders of Moscow, and indeed of all Russia. Thousands and thousands come to the capital to visit the relics of the Saint, in search of help and intercession and many receive her assistance! The Shrine with her relics is in the Pokrovsky monastery.
Stories about miracles that occurred through the Saint’s prayer have long been published in separate books. Matronushka was born in 1885 in Tula province, and passed to the Lord on May 2, 1952 in Moscow.
A poor peasant family, the Nikonovs were already growing 3 children, and the mother, afraid that she would not be able to feed one more child, decided to give it to an orphanage after birth – there was no question of killing the child in the womb. But shortly before giving birth, she dreamed of her unborn daughter in the form of a wonderful white bird – with a human face and closed eyes. The bird landed on the woman’s right hand. God-fearing Natalia regarded the dream as a sign and gave up the idea of shelter. The girl was born blind, and the child had no eyes at all, the eye sockets were closed with tightly closed eyelids – like a white bird that the mother saw in a dream. Soon it was discovered that the blind girl was given a “spiritual” vision, linked with the gift of foresight, miracle-working and healing.
From an early age, Matrona was rarely seen playing in the courtyard with other children, but she often visited the temple and spent almost all her time in prayer, at the icons. Children had violent games: they whipped the blind girl with nettles, knowing that she would not respond to the offender. Or they put her in a hole and laughed as she tried to get out of it. The helpless child was bullied because she behaved strangely: she said things incomprehensible, such as are not expected from a child. However, the neighbors soon noticed that the blind, helpless girl is not only surprisingly astute, but also has the gift of foresight. Moreover, Matrona predicted not only events from the life of her native village, or nearby villages, but in an allegorical form, she prophesied about the fate of the Royal family, the whole of Russia. Unfortunately, all these prophecies were fulfilled.
Having heard about the girl’s foresight, they reached out to the Nikonov house for advice and help, so Matrona turned from a burden into the main breadwinner of the family. At the same time, the blind girl discovered the gift of healing.
When Matronushka was seventeen years old, the girl suffered a misfortune – her legs got paralyzed, and for the rest of her days, the blessed one remained sedentary and completely dependent on others. In 1925, Matronushka moved to Moscow. The fact is that Matrona’s older brothers, who joined the Communist party, were afraid that the presence of the blessed one in their house, to whom people flocked all day long, would cause reprisals from the authorities. Feeling sorry for the old people-parents and brothers, Matrona leaves her native home. Matronushka begins a long period of homelessness. She never had a corner of her own in the capital – she wandered around relatives, acquaintances, some poor houses and basements.
An eyewitness of her life once found this picture: Matronushka was lying with her face to the wall and could not turn around – during the night her hair froze to the wall. Without a residence permit, Matrona many times, literally by miracle, avoided arrest, moving out of other people’s apartments shortly before police came for her.
They told how once a policeman came for Matronushka, and she said to him: “Run home quickly, I, blind and not walking, will not get away from you, and you have trouble at home! Run, or you won’t have time!” The policeman obeyed, ran home, and there his wife was burned by kerogaz: barely managed to get to the hospital. When the policeman was asked the next day why he did not arrest the blind woman, he replied that he would not follow her – “because if it were not for this blind woman, I would have been left without a wife.”
In Moscow of that period there were many unhappy, lost, and sick people. Having heard about the blessed one, many went to her for help, and received it. Matronushka received up to forty people a day. During the war, she was approached not only for healing, but also by those who wanted to learn about the fate of their loved ones. Completely illiterate, she seemed to know everything.
Outwardly, the Matrona’s life was monotonous, devoid of the pathos of the feat – she received people during the day, and prayed at night. Like many ascetics, the blessed one never really went to sleep – more often she just dozed, lying on her side, on her fist. With tiny, as if children’s hands and feet, sitting on a bed or chest, with a kind, bright face and a gentle voice-this Matronushka was remembered by people. She herself was in great pain, and seemed to know neither fatigue nor annoyance. It is easy to love when you are doing well, and you are ready to share your joy with both near and far. But how difficult it is not even to love, but just to tolerate others if something in your life does not add up or you are ill. One can only guess what it cost Matronushka to receive the sick and suffering from day to day, and not just to accept, but to listen and give advice. Matronushka could embrace those who came to her with such love that this alone healed them. In other words, there was so much love in her that, as a sufferer herself, she found the strength to pity others.
How can you learn to love like that?
Once, in a conversation with the blessed one, someone, justifying his intemperance, said: “Mother, it’s all nerves.” “What nerves: in war and in prison there are no nerves… You must control yourself, endure.” Or even for our edification: “If the old, the sick, or those who are out of their minds will say something unpleasant or offensive to you, then do not listen to them, do not get annoyed, but just help them.”
M. Gorodova

Thomas Sunday

“Until I see it, I won’t believe it!- Blessed are they who have not seen, but have believed!”
These are catch phrases from the gospel story about the unbelieving Apostle Thomas, the story which was supposed to convince doubters of the truth of the Resurrection of Christ.
However, a proud person believes only what he wants to believe. If he does not want to think about the afterlife (so as not to change his priorities), then he will not believe the risen from the dead. Therefore, the risen Lord never appeared to his persecutors, but He appeared to Thomas – because he wanted to believe that He was alive! Thomas himself was ready to die for Him: “let us go and die with Him” (John 11: 16). Sent to preach, he went the farthest – even to India. There he was employed by the king to build a Palace, he took a large advance, but spent all the money on beggars. When the king found out his money gone, he put him in prison, considering how to execute him. But the king’s dead brother appeared to the king at night and told him what a magnificent Palace Thomas had built for him in the Heaven. Then the king believed and was baptized with his people.
Through the Apostle Thomas, the Church made sure in the resurrection of the Mother of God, when for him, who was late, the disciples came to the tomb, but instead of Her dead body, saw Her risen.

Ninevites’ repentance

The short Bible book of Jonah is read entirely on Great Saturday at Vespers. Since it is very relevant these days, and its images are often used in the Church, let us briefly recall its content.
Jonah lived after the prophets Elijah and Elisha. One day the Lord commanded him to go to the city of Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Kingdom, and tell the Ninevites that the Lord would destroy them if they did not repent. But Jonah would not go to preach to the enemies of Israel, and he did not listen to the voice of God. He took a ship that was going to another country. But suddenly a great storm arose on the sea. The ship was about to sink. All were afraid. The shipwrights decided to cast lots to find out who had caused such a disaster. The lot fell on Jonah. Jonah confessed his sin and said: “Yes, I have sinned against the Lord! Throw me into the sea, and the storm will stop.” When he was thrown into the sea, the storm subsided. By the will of God, the prophet was swallowed by a huge fish (“whale”). Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, praying to God for mercy. Here the Lord revealed his special glory, having kept him safe.
Three days later, the whale washed the prophet up alive on the beach. After this, Jonah went to Nineveh to fulfill the will of God. He went around the city and preached to everyone, saying: “Another forty days and Nineveh will be destroyed!» And people believed his words. The king took off his Royal vestments and sat down on the ashes. The Ninevites imposed a fast on themselves, began to pray and offer penance for their sins. Even the cattle didn’t eat anything those days. And the Lord saw their works, and He had mercy on them.
But Jonah protested at this mercy of God, and even began to ask for his death from God. He probably thought that now he would be considered a false prophet.
But the Lord again brought Jonah to reason. In front of the tent that Jonah had set up for himself near Nineveh, a large plant grew up one night and protected him from the heat of the sun. But the next day the worm eroded this plant, and it withered. Jonah was very sad and sorry for the dead plant.
Then the Lord said to him: “you are sorry for the plant that you did not work on and that you did not grow. So should I not pity Nineveh, the great city, where there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who do not know the difference between the right hand and the left, and a lot of cattle?»
The three-day stay of Jonah in the belly of the whale and his miraculous salvation was a prototype of the three-day death and resurrection of Christ the Saviour.

Resurrection of Lazarus

In the famous parable the rich man in the hell begged to send Lazarus from Paradise to his alive relatives to warn them about the consequences of a sinful life, but he was denied for such a reason: if they believe neither Scriptures nor the prophets, they will not believe the one who has risen from the dead. But, as if to prove this, God raised up another, but also Lazarus! And so-those who did not want to believe Christ, instead of glorifying Him, decide that they will kill them both. In our time, more than a hundred thousand “Lazarus” have had the experience of clinical death, but it only confirms the words of the gospel that even the miracle of the resurrection will not correct non-believers…
On Lazarus Saturday, we celebrate the miracle of Lazarus ‘ Resurrection. The Lord loved him and his sisters, often visited them, and called Lazarus his friend. Therefore, when the Saviour learned of his death, He was ” grieved in spirit and indignant.” After listening to Martha and Mary, who testified their faith that if the Lord had been with them, their brother would not have died, Christ went to the cave and raised the four-day-old dead man. In this way the Lord revealed his nature: he wept as a man, but raised Lazarus, revealing himself to be God. It was a miracle that destroyed the last doubt that Christ was the Messiah. After this great event, all the people of Israel gathered to meet the Savior at Passover in Jerusalem to glorify Him.
By raising Lazarus, the Savior also showed the possibility of his own Resurrection. As well as the fact that faith and prayers for other people can save them even in death, as the faith of the sisters Martha and Mary saved their brother Lazarus.
And the resurrected Lazarus lived for another 30 years, became a Bishop on Cyprus, and, according to tradition, never laughed to death.