The Placing of the Honorable Robe of the Most Holy Theotokos at Blachernae
During the reign of Leo the Great (457-474), two noblemen on pilgrimage to the Holy Land stayed at the home of an old widow. Seeing the miracles wrought in a small shrine in her house, they learned from her that she had the robe of the most holy Mother of God stored in a small chest in her house. The old woman was a descendant of one of two virgins who had attended the Theotokos before her dormition; in her last days on earth she had given each of them one of her garments as a blessing. The two pilgrims stole the garment and brought it to Blachernae near Constantinople, where they built a church dedicated to Sts Peter and Paul, and secretly deposited the robe there. Again, the multitude of miracles wrought through the robe revealed its presence, and it became known to the Emperor Leo and to the Orthodox people in general.
St John (Maximovich), Archbishop of Shanghai and San Francisco (1966) (June 19 OC)
This brightly-shining Saint of our own day was born in Russia in 1896. In 1921 his family fled the Russian Revolution to Serbia, where he became a monk and was ordained a priest. From the time of his entry into monastic life he adopted a severely ascetical way of life: for the rest of his life he never slept in a bed, sleeping only briefly in a chair or prostrated before the icons. He ate one meal a day, in the evening. Teaching seminarians in Serbia, he instructed them each day to devote six hours to divine services, six hours to prayer (not including the divine services!), six hours to good works, and six hours to rest (these six hours obviously included eating and bathing as well as sleeping). Whether his seminarians followed his counsels we do not know, but he himself not only followed but exceeded them.
In 1934 he was made Bishop of Shanghai (in the Russian Church Abroad), where he served not only the Russian emigre community but a number of native Chinese Orthodox; from time to time he served the Divine Liturgy in Chinese. When the Communists took power in China, he labored tirelessly to evacuate his flock to safety, first to the Philippines, then to various western countries including the United States. He served as Bishop in Paris and Brussels, then, in 1962 was made Archbishop of San Francisco. Throughout his life as monk and hierarch he was revered (and sometimes condemned) for his ascetical labors and unceasing intercessions. During his life and ever since, numerous miraculous healings of all manner of afflictions have been accomplished through his prayers. Once, in Shanghai, a caretaker, investigating strange noises in the cathedral after midnight, discovered Bishop John standing in the belltower, looking down on the city and praying for the people. Years later, when he visited Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York, the priest responsible for hosting him found the saint walking through the halls of the monastery, standing outside the door of each room and praying for the monk or seminarian sleeping within. When the Archbishop had prayed outside each room, he returned to the beginning of his circuit and began praying again; and so he spent the entire night.
Even as Archbishop, he lived in near-absolute poverty. His appearance was striking: His cassock was made of blue Chinese “peasant cloth,” crudely decorated with crosses stitched by orphans who had been in his care in Shanghai. His Bishop’s “miter” was often a cloth cap to which he had glued paper icons. Even in the United States, even while serving the Divine Liturgy (which he did every day), he went barefoot in all seasons. (Eventually, after he was hospitalized with an infected foot, his Metropolitan ordered him to wear shoes; thereafter, he wore sandals). Needless to say, he was an embarrassment to those who like their bishops to make a more worldly appearance, but among his various flocks throughout the world, there were always those who recognized him as a Saint in his own lifetime.
Following his repose in 1966, a steady stream of healings and other miracles was accomplished through his intercessions, and in 1996 he was glorified as a Saint of the Church. His incorrupt and wonder-working relics can be venerated at his cathedral in San Francisco. At St John’s funeral, the eulogist told his mourners (and all of us): because Archbishop John was able to live the spirituality of the Orthodox Church so fully, even in modern, western, urban society, we are without excuse.
Footnote: An acquaintance of Monk John once met him on a train in Serbia. When asked his destination, Monk John replied, “I’m going to straighten out a mistake. I’ve gotten a letter meant for some other John whom they intend to make a bishop.” The same person met him again on his return journey and asked if he had been able to resolve his problem. John answered, “The mistake is much worse than I thought: they did make me a bishop.”
St Juvenal, Patriarch of Jerusalem (458)
A zealous hierarch, he took part in two Ecumenical Councils: the Third in Ephesus, which rebuked the doctrines of Nestorius; and the Fourth at Chalcedon, which rebuked the teachings of Eutyches and Dioscoros that Christ has only one nature, divine but not human. Following these councils, he returned to his see in Jerusalem. But through the plotting of Dioscoros’ allies, he was driven from his throne and Theodosius, a monophysite, was installed in his place. The Empress Eudocia, widow of the Emperor Theodosius the younger, initially supported the heretics. But, unsure of the true Orthodox doctrine, she went to inquire of St Symeon the Stylite, who denounced the monophysite doctrine and told the Empress to do all that she could to uphold the teaching of the Councils. Obeying him, she condemned the false Patriarch Theodosius and prevailed on the Emperor Marcian to have him deposed. Thus St Juvenal was at last restored to his patriarchal throne. He served the Church in peace, for a total of thirty-eight years, and reposed at a great old age.