Homily on St. John (Maximovich) – Part I

Follows the first part of my translation of a homily of Bishop Basil (Rodzianko) on St. John (Maximovich).

There are so many saints who even now walk the Russian land and also martyrs who were not killed but cruelly tortured; they still walk the land and a martyric light shines in their eyes. Sometimes that martyrdom is on-going, not necessarily ending in a terrible death but is a slow death over the course of one’s life. These are the pastors which you meet now in Russia in the Russian Church; inside and outside of churches you see a batushka who is rushing to the hospital with the Holy Gifts in order to comfort someone who is dying, in order to prepare him for the Kingdom of God. For what does it mean to prepare for the Kingdom of God? What a huge responsibility lays on that pastor, that martyr, because every hour, every minute, every breath of his he gives to the one who needs him. And this is how the one was whom I cannot forget, who gave me life, who snatched me out of the terror of this world and directed me according to the path intended by Christ the Savior, according to His plan, disregarding all my unworthiness…

I had been introduced to the administrative-command system [i.e., bureaucracy] very early in my life. I then met it also during the war and after the war in its variations: both Hitler’s and the opposite. But I had already had my vaccinations in childhood. You know how vaccines were given; and so I had good vaccinations… But, nevertheless, all of it could have ended very, very sadly if the Lord hadn’t have arranged it so that Fr. John turned out in my path. It was when I entered into the gymnasium, our middle school in Belgrade. As my parents remained in the village, where my father was in charge of farming on an estate which the Serbian government seized from a Hungarian magnate who emigrated during the First World War, I was placed in a boarding-school and we, in distinction from other students, were called boarding-schoolers. But this boarding-school, of course, for me, with my already established complex in my soul, was a difficult place. And this was evident. Fr. John most likely also noticed it. For the first time in my life I saw a man with they very kind eyes of a big child. He was even younger than me in that sense, a smaller child. Immediately a common, children’s language was established with him, although he was, of course, not just a child. He was that one about which the Savior said, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 18:3), and for of such is the kingdom of God (Mark 10:14).

He took into his hands all my life, from that first blessed, holy moment right up to the very end when, after his death, he came to me. I don’t know if that was in sleep, in half-sleep, or in wakefulness but I only remember how, in early morning (this was in London), I was already a priest but still young, suddenly he…someone hit me in the side rather firmly. I woke up or threw my head up, I don’t know which. I see Vladika standing there (at that time he was already Vladyka John) looking at me with the very same kind eyes but strictly tells me, “Get up, go serve the liturgy right now!” I jumped up and went and served liturgy alone in my little home Church of the Cross just like he served all his life. He served liturgy everyday always starting alone. But always, almost always someone came to liturgy. But if no one came then he himself would say that angels and saints had been there. In any case, the liturgy is never in isolation, it can not be in isolation. Liturgy was his life, he lived by it and in it. It was his cover and protection.

In general, our lives passed in such a way that I met him in the very beginning when he was waiting for some documents and was being transferred from one place to another in Belgrade. And then, it was still in my childhood, that he gathered us around him and there was something wonderful in it. When he narrated to us children all that he could from Holy Scripture, Church Tradition, and the Holy Fathers, he spoke in such a children’s language so that we understood everything. Not only things from the lives of saints but sometimes also just from live. This was always very interesting, although he was not an orator, spoke indistinctly, and one had to pay attention well to understand what word came out. But he generally was someone completely special. There was something blessed about him; he really was a fool-for-Christ but in a very good sense of the word, so simple and direct like a child. He just said it like it was. And so we met when the Lord granted us to meet. Very soon he was made bishop of Shanghai in that city. This was in the Russian Church Abroad which had their own parishes, churches, and eparchies, literally, throughout the world. After he ended up there, only very rarely did a letter from him come. When he found out that I was planning on getting married, he wrote a very touching pastoral letter about this and what kind of path it is.


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