Saint Jean de Tobolsk
métropolite (✝ 1715)
Originaire de Tchernigov, il fit de solides études à l'Académie théologique de Kiev, puis il y fut professeur. Il publia plusieurs ouvrages où il révéla son don d'écrivain. Lors de l'invasion turque dans la Petite Russie, il fut délégué pour demander aide et secours au tsar. Au retour (1677) devenu higoumène du monastère des Grottes, il développa ses dons multiples au service de l'Eglise pendant vingt ans. Sacré évêque de Tchernigov en 1697, il y fonda le premier séminaire de la Russie. Nommé métropolite de Tobolsk, immense diocèse de Sibérie, il mit en œuvre l'évangélisation des nombreuses tribus encore païennes et en même temps organisa la mission de Pékin. Son zèle et sa vie ascétique donnèrent un grand dynamisme à son diocèse
SAINT JEAN MÉTROPOLITE DE TOBOLSK ET DE TOUTE LA SIBÉRIE
Saint Jean, Métropolite de Tobolsk et de toute la Sibérie, Thaumaturge, s'appelait dans le monde Jean Maximovitch, et naquit dans la ville de Nezhino en 1651. Son père, Maxim Vasilelich et sa mère Euphrosyne eurent sept fils, dont Jean fut le plus âgé. Après avoir terminé le collège de Kievo-Mogilyansk (qui deviendra l'Académie Spirituelle de Kiev), le futur hiérarque en sortit comme professeur de Latin. Ensuite, en 1680, il rentra dans la vie monastique au Monastère des Cavernes de Kiev, et s'absorba dans l'activité spirituelle intérieure. Avec le consentement général des frères, le jeune Moine reçut l'autorisation de prêcher. Dès cette époque, il démontra une exceptionnelle éloquence. Il attachait une importance particulière à la connaissance intérieure de la religion. Le but principal de sa vie pourrait se résumer en une maxime comme celle-ci : "Que doit faire un homme pour conformer sa volonté à la Volonté de Dieu?" Il développa ce thème tant dans ses prédications, que dans son service missionnaire. En réponse à cette quête, il publia vers la fin de sa longue vie d'Ascète un ouvrage titré "Heliotropion" ou "Fleur de tournesol", ou "Conformer la volonté humaine à la Divine Volonté". Parmi les nombreux travaux des Saints Pères de l'Eglise orthodoxe, ce travail donne une réponse très précise à cette grande question de la sotériologie chrétienne.
En 1658 il fut envoyé en mission à Moscou. Là il fut nommé par le Patriarche Joachim (1674-1690) comme vicaire du Monastère de Bryansk-Svensk, qui dépendait alors de la Grande Laure de Kiev.
En 1695, peu avant sa propre naissance céleste, Saint Théodose, Archevêque de Chernigov, nomma le Hiéromoine Jean comme Archimandrite du Monastère Eletsk de Chernigov, et le désigna pour lui succéder comme Evêque. (Saint Jean vénérait la mémoire de Saint Théodose, confiant dans la puissance de ses prières d'intercession devant le Seigneur. Grâce à sa Foi, il reçut la guérison d'une grave maladie par les prières de Saint Théodose. Au paroxysme de la maladie, Saint Théodose lu apparut et dit : "Sers demain, et tu seras guéri". Le lendemain, Saint Jean, en pleine forme, et à la surprise générale, il servit la Divine Liturgie. Ce miracle de la guérison de Saint Jean marqua le début de la vénération de Saint Théodose comme porteur un Saint de Dieu porteur de la grâce).
Le 10 janvier 1697 le Patriarche Adrien de Moscou et Toute la Russie (1690-1700) consacra l'Archimandrite Jean comme Evêque de Chernigov, dans la cathédrale de la Dormition du Kremlin de Moscou. A son arrivée dans l'administration du diocèse, l'Evêque Jean créa un collège près de la cathédrale archiépiscopale, similaire à l'Académie de Kiev, que le Saint entendait faire servir comme une "Athènes à Chernigov", une école de pieuses illuminations..
Du fait de son haut niveau d'éducation et d'entraînement théologique, l'école de Saint Jean gagna une large renommée. En fait, ce fut le premier des séminaires de Russie. Les séminaires sur le modèle de celui-ci commencèrent à s'ouvrir dans les autres diocèses de l'Eglise russe.
Le Saint fit par la suite installer une imprimerie, dans laquelle lui et ses successeurs publieront nombre d'ouvrages spirituels et moraux.
La vie de Saint Jean fut illuminée par de nobles vertus, et en particulier l'humilité. Cela se reflète aussi dans ses ouvrages : "Le réflecteur moralo-didactique" (Chernigov, 1703 et 1707); "l'Alphabet, avec rimes" (1705); "La Vierge Mère de Dieu" (1707); "Le Théâtre, ou disgrâce moralo-didactique" (1708); "Excursus sur le Psaume 50" (Chernigov, 1708); "Excursus sur le "Notre Père" et "Les 8 Béatitudes des Evangiles" (1709); "La Voie Royale de la Croix" (Chernigov, 1709); "Pensées sur Dieu au bénéfice des Bons Croyants" (1710 et 1711); "Synaxaire en Commémoration de la victoire de Poltava" (1710); "Le Pèlerin" (en manuscrit); "Pensées spirituelles" (Moscou, 1782).
A Chernigov en 1714, le Saint publia d'abord aussi son chef d’œuvre, écrit en latin. C'était une particularité des gradués de l'Ecole de Kiev qu'ils rédigeaient leurs travaux en latin classique. En 1888, le professeur I.A. Maximovich traduisit le "Héliotropion" en russe moderne et le publia en première partie des "Nouvelles diocésaines de Chernigov", et plus tard dans un livre distinct (Kiev, 1896). On rattache aussi son nom au "Lexique Latin - Grec - Russe".
Saint Jean était connu pour avoir des relations avec le Mont Athos. Il s'intéressait en particulier au sort des habitants russes de la Sainte Montagne, et leur envoya des ressources matérielles substantielles durant ces difficiles années. Sa lettre archiépiscopale au Monastère russe de Saint-Panteleimon a été conservée, et elle atteste de son souci pour ceux qui étaient sur l'Athos.
Le 14 Août 1711, après son élévation à la dignité de Métropolite, Saint Jean arriva au siège de Tobolsk et de Toute la Sibérie. Le saint se préoccupait sans cesse de l'édification de son diocèse. Là, il poursuivit l’œuvre entamée à Chernigov. Il améliora l'école ouverte par son prédécesseur, le bien connu missionnaire Métropolite Philotée (Leschinsky, + 1727), et il continua la prédication apostolique parmi les païens de Sibérie, en amenant des milliers au Christ. En 1714, Saint Jean partit pour Pékin afin de guider une mission avec l'Archimandrite Hilarion (Lezhaisky). A Tobolsk, il reprit aussi son activité de publication, utilisant l'imprimerie qu'il fit établir à Chernigov. Sa publication de son "Héliotropion" en langue slavonico-russe appartient aussi à cette époque (1714), ce qu'il fit pour que les Sibériens puisse aussi le comprendre.
Le chroniqueur décrit la vie du Saint en Sibérie : "Il était paisible et sans prétention, gracieusement attentionné, plein de compassion pour le pauvre, et miséricordieux." Il aidait souvent les gens secrètement, et souvent en habit de simple moine, il allait apporter de généreuses aumônes au domicile de nécessiteux en disant "Acceptez ceci au Nom de Jésus-Christ". Sa demeure à Tobolsk était toujours ouverte à ceux dans le besoin d'aide ou d'une parole de réconfort. Même le jour de son repos, le 10 juin 1715, après la Divine Liturgie, Saint Jean avait dressé une grande table pour le dîner chez lui, pour le clergé et les pauvres, et il servit lui-même à table. Plus tard, ayant donné son congé à chacun, le Saint se retira dans sa chambre. Quand les cloches de l'église sonnèrent pour les Vêpres, on le retrouva endormi à genoux, en prière. Le Saint fut enterré dans la chapelle de Saint Jean Chrysostome de la cathédrale de la Dormition-Sophia de Tobolsk.
Saint Jean a été fort longtemps vénéré en Sibérie. A la vue des innombrables miracles et de la permanente vénération locale de Saint Jean, en 1916, l'Eglise a institué la célébration pour toute la Russie du saint au 10 juin, jour de son repos.
La mémoire de saint Jean est tenue avec ferveur par les Sibériens et par les fidèles du peuple russe. Il repose à présent à Tobolsk, dans la cathédrale de la Protection de la Mère de Dieu.
St John Maximovitch the Metropolitan of Tobolsk
Commemorated on June 10
Saint John, Metropolitan of Tobolsk and All Siberia, the Wonderwonder, in the world was named John Maximovitch, and he was born in the city of Nezhino in 1651. His father Maxim Vasil’evich and mother Euphrosyne had seven sons, of which John was the eldest. Upon his completion of the Kiev-Mogilyansk College (afterwards the Kiev Spiritual Academy), the future hierarch emerged from it as a teacher of the Latin language. Thereafter, in 1680, he accepted monasticism at the Kiev Caves monastery and became absorbed in inner spiritual activity. With the general consent of the brethren, the young monk was given the obedience of preaching. From this period he demonstrated an exceptional eloquence. He attached a special significance to inner religious knowledge. The chief theme of his life can be defined at a stroke as, “How ought man to conform his will with the will of God?” He developed this theme both in his preachings, and in his subsequent missionary service. In answer to it appeared the work, published towards the end of his long ascetic life, and entitled “Heliotropion” or “Sunflower,” or Conforming the Human Will to the Divine Will.” Of the many works of the holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church, this work gives a very thorough answer to this great question of Christian soteriology.
In 1658 they sent him on a mission to Moscow. There he was appointed by Patriarch Joachim (1674-1690) as vicar of the Briansk-Svensk monastery, which was then under the Kiev Caves Lavra.
St Theodosius, Archbishop of Chernigov, in 1695 shortly before his own death (February 5) appointed Hieromonk John as Archimandrite of the Chernigov Eletsk monastery, and designated him as his successor as bishop. (St John revered the memory of St Theodosius, believing in the power of his prayerful intercession before the Lord. Because of his faith, he received healing from a serious illness through the prayers of St Theodosius. At the very height of the sickness, St Theodosius appeared to him and said, “Serve tomorrow, you will be well.” On the following day St John, completely well and to the amazement of everyone, served the Divine Liturgy. This miracle of St John’s healing marked the beginning of the veneration of St Theodosius as a grace-bearing saint of God.)
On January 10, 1697 Patriarch Adrian of Moscow and All Rus (1690-1700) consecrated Archimandrite John as Bishop of Chernigov, in the Dormition cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin.
Upon entering into the administration of the diocese, Bishop John created a Collegium near the archbishop’s cathedral, similar to the Kiev Academy, which the saint intended should serve as an “Athens at Chernigov,” a school of pious enlightenment.
In view of its high level of theological education and training, St John’s school received wide renown. In essence, this was the first seminary in Russia. Seminaries on the model of this one began opening in other dioceses of the Russian Church.
The saint also later opened a printing press, at which he and his successors published many works of spiritual and moral content.
The life of St John was illumined by lofty virtues, and especially humility. It is reflected also in his works, “The Moral-Didactic Reflector” (Chernigov, 1703 and 1707); “The Alphabet, with Rhymes Added” (1705); “The Virgin Mother of God” (1707); “The Theatre, or Moral-Didactic Disgrace” (1708); “Excursus on Psalm 50” (Chernigov, 1708); “Excursus on the “Our Father” and “The Eight Gospel Beatitudes” (1709); “The Royal Way of the Cross” (Chernigov, 1709); “Thoughts on God to the Benefit of Right-Belief” (1710 and 1711); “Synaxarion Commemoration on the Victory of Poltava” (1710); “The Pilgrim” (in manuscript); “Spiritual Thoughts” (Moscow, 1782).
At Chernigov in 1714 the saint also first published his chief work, written in the Latin language. It was a peculiarity of the graduates of the Kiev school was that they wrote their works in classical Latin. Professor I. A. Maximovich in 1888 translated the “Heliotropion” into the modern Russian language and published it at first in parts in the “Chernigov Diocesan Newsletter”, and later on in a separate book (Kiev, 1896). With his name is connected also “The Latin-Greek-Russian Lexicon.”
Saint John was known to have connections with Mount Athos. He had a special interest in the fate of Russian inhabitants on the Holy Mountain, and sent them substantial material aid during these difficult years. His archbishopal grammota to the Russian monastery of St Panteleimon has been preserved, and it testifies to his concern for those on Mount Athos.
On August 14, 1711, after his elevation to the dignity of metropolitan, St John arrived at the see of Tobolsk and All Siberia. The saint concerned himself constantly with the enlightening of his diocese. There he continued with his work, started at Chernigov. He improved the school which had been opened by his predecessor, the renowned missionary Metropolitan Philotheus (Leschinsky, + 1727), and he continued the apostolic preaching among the pagans of Siberia, converting many thousands to Christ. In 1714 St John set off to Peking to head a mission with Archimandrite Hilarion (Lezhaisky). At Tobolsk he again undertook publishing activity, using the printing press he set up at Chernigov. To this time belongs also the publication by Metropolitan John of the “Heliotropion” in the Slavonic-Russian language (1714), so that the Siberians could also understand it.
The chronicler describes the life of the saint in Siberia: “He was quiet and unpretentious, graciously considerate, sympathetic to the poor, and merciful.” He often helped people secretly, and sometimes in the garb of a simple monk, he would bring generous alms to the homes of the needy saying, “Accept this in the Name of Jesus Christ.” His home at Tobolsk was always open to all those in need of help or a word of comfort. Even on the day he died, June 10, 1715, after Divine Liturgy St John had set up a dining-hall at his home for the clergy and the impoverished, and he himself served at table. Later on, having taken his leave of everyone, the saint withdrew to his chambers. When the church bells rang for Vespers, he died at prayer on his knees. The saint was buried in the chapel of St John Chrysostom at the Tobolsk Dormition-Sophia cathedral.
St John has long been venerated in Siberia. In light of numerous miracles and the longstanding local veneration of St John, in 1916 the Church established the all-Russian celebration of the saint on June 10, the day of repose.
St John’s memory is fervently kept by Siberians and by all the believing Russian people. He at present rests in the Tobolsk cathedral of the Protection of the Mother of God. The service to him was republished, with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Alexis I, by Metropolitan Bartholomew (Gorodtsov) in 1947 at the city of Novosibirsk.
SOURCE : http://oca.org/saints/lives/2013/06/10/101683-st-john-maximovitch-the-metropolitan-of-tobolsk
An important personality in the Church, outstanding Hierarch, great ascetic, God-inspired poet, educator, missionary, friend of the poor, the last Saint to be glorified in Imperial Russia, St. John of Tobolsk was the distant ancestor, heavenly patron, model, and guide of the newly-revealed Saint John (Maximovitch), Archbishop of Shanghai and San Francisco, the Wonder-worker.
The great Caves Monastery of Kiev was, from the earliest years of Orthodox Christianity in Russia, a fount of sanctity for the whole of the Russian land. The Monastery was destroyed in the Tartar invasion of the 13th century; but it was later restored, and again in the 17th century it entered upon a period of spiritual blossoming that produced a whole series of holy hierarchs. Among them, to name only the closest contemporaries and associates of St. John, were St. Dimitry of Rostov (1651-1709), St. Theodosius of Chernigov (1630-1696), and Blessed Philotheus of Tobolsk (d. 1727); slightly later there were such holy men as St. Innocent of Irkutsk (1680-1731), St. Ioasaph of Belgorod (1705-1754), and St. Paul of Tobolsk (1705-1770). In this company of hierarch-saints, St. John of Tobolsk occupies his own significant place.
A member of the noble family of Maximovitch, which enjoyed high favor with the Russian Tsars, St. John was born, one of six brothers, in the year 1651 in the city of Nezhin in central Russia. Already in his childhood he was particularly fond of reading the word of God and the writings of the Holy Fathers, and he loved to attend the services of the Church. This strong religious inclination in his early youth determined the whole of his later life.
* * *
The future hierarch was educated in the Kievan College of Metropolitan Peter Mogila, which was later transformed into a Theological Academy. There he learned to love theological studies, to which he gave himself with all the ardor of youth, and he finished the course brilliantly. He remained to teach there for eight years, showing himself an industrious scholar and a deeply religious man. At the same time, from his visits to the Caves Monastery in Kiev, there was planted in him a burning desire for the monastic life, and it was there that he became a monk. In the Lavra the young ascetic revealed himself as highly gifted in letters and in the art of oratory. When in 1677 the Turks were threatening to attack the Ukraine, the then Hieromonk John was chosen by the monks, despite his youth, as their envoy to Tsar Feodor Alexeyevich to ask for help in the face of the threatened destruction of the Lavra. The Tsar sent a strong detachment and designated Svensky Monastery near Bryansk to be the place of refuge for the monks of the Lavra in case of attack, and Hieromonk John was appointed its abbot. This brought out the humble ascetic from the holy caves of Kiev and placed him high on the Church candlestick to shine before men.
For the next twenty years Fr. John was placed at the head of various monasteries in southern Russia, inspiring the monks by his personal example and great ascetic endeavor. The holy life and great talents of Abbot John soon came to the attention of St. Theodosius, Archbishop of Chernigov. St. Theodosius (Ouglitsky) was a model hierarch and Orthodox enlightener full of flaming love and devotion to his flock. After his death he manifested his greatness before God with an abundance of miraculous intercessions coming from his incorruptible relics. He called St. John with the idea of making him his successor in Chernigov. In 1695 he made him Archimandrite of Eletsky Monastery, of which he had himself once been the head.
In the next year, 1696, St. Theodosius died, but his closeness to his chosen successor did not end with his death; for St. John himself received the first miraculous healing by the prayers of St. Theodosius. To St. John, who was seriously ill with influenza and apparently on his deathbed, St. Theodosius appeared and said:
Do not sorrow, brother; the Lord has heard your prayers, and you will be well. Rise from your bed and prepare to serve the Divine Liturgy; this will be a sign to you.
Awakening after the vision, the Saint had his vicar informed that he would serve on the following day. Because of his condition, these words were ascribed to delirium.
But in fact, on the following day the Saint, already well, served the Liturgy. After this healing St. John ordered the cave opened where St. Theodosius was buried, and he hung there a large portrait of his healer, himself composing some verses for an inscription.
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St. John being the logical successor to St. Theodosius, he was unanimously elected Archbishop of Chernigov by the local clergy and officials, and sent to Moscow with a request of the Tsar and Patriarch to consecrate him for Chernigov. The consecration took place on January 10, 1697.
Chernigov was a flourishing city not far from Kiev. St. Theodosius had seen well to the Orthodox enlightenment and education of his diocese, and St. John, his worthy successor, took up this task where that great Saint had left off. St. John understood well that for fruitful results in Church life more was needed than his own personal efforts, and so he worked to educate the clergy. For this purpose he established a diocesan college, similar to the Kievan Academy, which was to become, according to the Saint’s idea, a “Chernigovan Athens” of enlightened piety. The high level of its theological education and its instruction in the rules of Christian living made this school widely known. It became a pattern, in imitation of which seminaries began to be opened in other dioceses.
St. John strove always to live the life of his flock. He taught the truths of Christian faith and life in a form accessible to the simplest of his listeners, and he pointed to the grace-bestowing powers of the Holy Church, which aid one to stand firmly on the path of salvation.
The high virtues with which the life of St. John was radiant were reflected also in his many writings, a list of which follows:
1. The Mirror of Moral Instruction, 1703 and 1707;
2. Alphabet of Saints (in verse), 1705;
3. O Mother of God, Virgin (also in verse), 1707;
4. Commentary on the 50th Psalm, 1708;
5. A Meditation on the Prayer “Our Father” (in verse), 1709;
6. The Eight Beatitudes of the Gospel (in verse), 1709;
7. The Royal Way of the Cross, 1709;
8. Religious Reflections, 1710-11;
9. Iliotropion, 1714
(all published in Chernigov).
His most important work, Iliotropion, was begun by St John while he was still a teacher in the Academy of Peter Mogila. He published it in Latin, and only later, in Tobolsk, when he had completed it in its final form, did he publish it in Slavonic. The title is the Greek word for helianthus (sunflower). The image of the sunflower, dear to the Saint even from his youth, was for him an analogy which helps to explain the agreement of the human will with the will of God. The sunflower has the particular characteristic of daily turning its face from one side to the other following the movement of the sun. Sunflowers are a common sight in the rural landscape of southern Russia, and St. John could not but be attracted by the natural symbolism they afford. The book Iliotropion, in fact, treats of the Divine and human wills:
The only true means for attaining our happiness in this life and in the next is the constant turning of our attention within ourselves, to our own conscience, to our thoughts, words, and deeds, so as to raise them to passionlessness: this will reveal to us our mistakes in life and indicate the only path to salvation. This path is the entire devotion of our whole being, of our whole self with all the circumstances of our life, to the will of God. As a symbol of this our turning to God we may take the growth of the sunflower; let it be ever before our eyes.
Christian! Observe once and for all how the sunflower even on gloomy days pursues its circular course, following the sun with the unchanging love and attraction natural to it. Our sun, illuminating our path through this world, is the will of God; it does not always illuminate our path in life without clouds; often clear days are followed by gloomy ones: rain, wind, storms arise... But let our love for our Sun, the will of God, be so strong that we may continue, inseparably from it, even in days of misfortune and sorrow, like the sunflower on gloomy days, to navigate faultlessly on the sea of life, following theindications of the ‘barometer’ and ‘compass’ of the will of God, which leads us into the safe harbor of eternity.
In the words of this ascetic of faith there is placed before us the spiritually transfigured man, filled with the determination to accept in all things the will, good and perfect, of the Heavenly Father.
It will seem to us that we are deprived of everything; even if we have a great abundance in everything, we will always be in fear, despondent, agitated, faint-hearted, every hour full of cares and various anxieties, sorrow and vain sighing, until we sincerely return to God and devote ourselves and each other completely to the will of God, as the sunflower strives toward the sun. Let us begin diligently to examine the visible signs of God’s will in events and conform our will to them. Let the will of God be for us the guiding star in life, and let each of us engrave and hold forever in his heart this one thing: 'Blessed be the Name of the Lord!' (Job, ch. 1.)
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In 1700 Tsar Peter I ordered the Metropolitan of Kiev to select a suitable candidate for the mission of preaching the Gospel to the pagan peoples of the vast Siberian lands. Two of St. John’s close schoolmates were chosen for this task, being assigned to the rapidly-growing Siberian diocese of Tobolsk. The first choice was St. Dimitry Tuptulo, who, however, due to his frail health was never sent to Tobolsk but to Rostov; in his place Blessed Philotheus Leschinsky was made Metropolitan and sent to Tobolsk, and his zeal, his ascetic life, and his love for the natives earned for him recognition as one of Russia’s greatest missionaries. In 1709 Metropolitan Philotheus became sick and, thinking his end near, took the skhima and retired to private ascetic labors. His friend St. John was called to succeed him in the Tobolsk cathedra.
In Chernigov St. John had by this time earned the unquestioning respect and love of his flock, being known as a great man of prayer and an outstanding prince of the Church. He was adorned also with supernatural gifts, such as the ability to see the future; he predicted Tsar Peter’s victory over the Swedes, and in the Tobolsk Chronicles it is recorded that he foresaw the Napoleonic invasion a century in advance.
In the middle of the year 1711 St. John left Chernigov with its culture to bring the light of Christianity to the cold and primitive Siberian frontier. For his protection he took with him a copy of a miraculous Chernigov Icon of the Mother of God, that of Ilyin, which only several decades before had manifested the rare miracle of tears, and had granted since then numerous miraculous healings. He arrived in the middle of August in the same year with a great suite: church singers, educated clergymen, episcopal vestments, service books, together with many trunks. He at once gained the respect and admiration of all and was able without difficulties to apply himself to missionary endeavors.
Always a friend of education, St. John took loving care of the Slavano-Latin [sic] School established by his predecessor. He established courses in icon painting. He took charge of local missionary work, freeing the Skhima-Metropolitan Philotheus to preach Christ to the wild tribes farther away. He sent a well-equipped mission to Peking.1
St. John loved to do good in secret; he sent money and various objects through trustworthy persons to poorhouses and the homes of poor people, especially widows. He would go to a window, knock, and say: “Accept this in the Name of Jesus Christ”—and quickly leave. He grieved especially over impoverished clergymen. He was drawn with his whole soul to wherever there were sorrow and need. He loved to go to prisons; he comforted, taught, and likewise diverted the prisoners with gifts. He never went out just to visit, and he never stepped into the houses of the rich.
Even while occupied with his many pastoral cares, St. John managed to lead also a life of the strictest asceticism. In his personal life he was quiet, humble, compassionate, and very strict with himself. Possessing a great capacity for work, he was never idle; he was always reading or writing, teaching or thinking. Above all he prayed; shutting himself up in his cell, he would pray for hours on his knees.
* * *
For his God-pleasing deeds, St. John was granted a righteous death that revealed the sanctity of his earthly life. Foreseeing his approaching death, he prepared for it: the evening before, he went to confession, and the next day, June 10, 1715, he solemnly celebrated the Divine Liturgy. Afterwards, as was his custom on major feast days, he held a dinner in his quarters for the city clergymen and the poor. He himself waited on the latter, thus literally obeying the Gospel injunction: “When thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just” (St. Luke 14:13-14).
After the dinner the Saint touchingly bade farewell to his clergy, and then detained for a short time two of his best-loved priests. What he said to them was never divulged. Having dismissed them, he closed himself into his inner quarters. Before vespers, when it was customary to ask the Metropolitan’s blessing for the ringing of the bells, his house servants came many times to his quarters, knocked and called him; but the door was not opened, and they heard no voice. The residents of Tobolsk, who deeply revered and loved the Metropolitan, did not hear the vesper bells at the usual time; and having been thrown into perplexity by the tales that quickly spread through the city about the entirely extraordinary farewell of St. John with his clergy, they gathered in large numbers in the enclosure before the bishop’s house.
Finally the Siberian governor, Prince Gagarin, arrived and, after renewed vain attempts to call the Metropolitan, he took the responsibility upon himself and ordered the door broken in. And they beheld: Metropolitan John, in an attitude of prayer, was on his knees before the holy Icon of the Chernigov Mother of God—already long dead.
His death was supernaturally revealed to his beloved brother in Christ. On the same day Blessed Philotheus, being miles away in the wild regions of the Konda River, said to those who surrounded him: “Our brother John has passed away. Let us go from here”; and he at once returned to Tobolsk.
The Saint was buried in his cathedral to the great lamentation of his flock. But immediately a series of visions and miraculous intercessions followed, so that there was no doubt of his sanctity; and Tobolsk patiently waited for the day of his canonization. This took, however, 200 years, and even then it was almost postponed because of the First World War. It took the ardent intercession of the local Bishop Varnava, the future Patriarch Tikhon, and the Martyr-Tsar Nicholas II to bring about the long expected canonization, which took place on June 10, 1916, in the presence of all the Siberian hierarchs and tens of thousands of Orthodox believers from all over Holy Russia. It was the last canonization before the Satanic Revolutionary storm broke.
The incorruptible relics of St. John are said to be still preserved in Tobolsk today.
By the holy intercessions of the Holy Hierarch John, O Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us!
1. Interestingly enough, the largest and most active center of Orthodoxy in China two centuries later was headed by the Saint’s relative, [St.] John Maximovitch, Bishop of Shanghai, whose life and activity strikingly resemble St. John’s.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Guide of piety, provider for orphans, helper of the afflicted, and unmercenary physician of the sick, swift succor of suffering souls and fervent intercessor with the Lord for all: O Father and Hierarch John, intercede with Christ God that He save our souls.
Source: The Orthodox Word, Vol. II, No. 5 (11) (November-December 1966), pp. 158-165.
Glorification de Saint Jean de Tobolsk le 10/23 juin 1916
God’s Sunflower: On St. John (Maximovitch) of Tobolsk
Archpriest Leonid Konstantinov Jun 23rd, 2012 // Comments are off for this post
St. John (Maximovitch), Metropolitan of Tobolsk, whose memory we celebrate today, is today best known by many only as the ancestor and patron saint of St. John (Maximovitch) the Wonderworker, Archbishop of Shanghai and San Francisco. Yet the life of the first St. John (Maximovitch) is at least as remarkable as that of the second, as demonstrated by the following sermon, originally given in the Cathedral of St. Nicholas and Ioasaph in Belgorod.
Our Holy Church celebrates the memory of St. John, Metropolitan of Tobolsk, on June 23. He was the last Russian saint to be glorified by the Church in pre-revolutionary, tsarist times. To a certain extent, the canonization of the God-pleaser John could only have taken place thanks to the personal insistence of the Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II and his most august spouse, the Tsarina-Martyr Alexandra Feodorovna, who shared a profound veneration for the Siberian wonderworker. In the resolution of Nicholas II regarding the canonization of the saint, we read: “I believe in the intercession of St. John (Maximovitch) in this time of travails for Orthodox Rus’.”
Like St. Ioasaph of Belgorod, he was a native of the Ukraine and a descendent of an ancient noble family. He was born in the middle of the seventeenth century, in 1651, as the oldest son in a family with seven more sons. His pious parents strove to provide him with the best education then available. After giving him a wholly church-centered upbringing at home, they gave their first-born son to the Kiev Theological Academy, where he grew close to the ascetic strugglers in the Kiev-Caves Lavra; he himself became a monk around the age of twenty-four. With the general consent of the monastery brethren, the young monk was given the important obedience of preaching. There is evidence that the future saint’s preaching activity in the Lavra lasted for five years. Only three of the sermons he gave in those years have come down to us. Composed in accessible, conversational language, and free from rhetorical devices, these works of the young ascetic were full of life.
From that time forward his primary goal in life was defined by this question: “How to align my human will with the Divine will?” The answer to this question came in his literary work, Heliotropion (that is, “The Sunflower”). Just as this remarkable plant always turns towards the sun and light, so too should we always turn to God and the Gospel in order to align our will with, and build our lives on, the Law of God.
Meanwhile, the Ukraine was under real threat of Turkish occupation. At this difficult time, the Ukrainians decided to ask help from Russia. An embassy was sent from Kiev to the Russian Tsar in Moscow that included the twenty-four-year-old monk John. In 1685 the Russian Patriarch Joachim appointed him deputy abbot [namestnik] of the Svensky Monastery near Bryansk. How closely this resembles the life path of our St. Ioasaph! It is also interesting that nearly all the holy hierarchs of this era – Innocent of Irkutsk, Dmitri of Rostov, Theodosius of Chernigov, John of Tobolsk, and Ioasaph of Belgorod – were of Ukrainian origin. Incidentally, ten years later St. Theodosius of Chernigov would choose Hieromonk John (Maximovitch) as his episcopal successor; before his blessed repose he put John forward as the only candidate, although a Little Russian Rada [Assembly] was called to elect the new bishop. At that time in the Ukraine, not only hetmans were elected, but even church hierarchs. In its gramota, the Rada characterized the now-Archimandrite John as “a man of piety, a monastic from his youth, and known as a skillful preacher of the Word of God.” Thus John (Maximovitch) was unanimously elected as Bishop of Chernigov by both the civil authorities and the Orthodox clergy. The Russian Patriarch Adrian confirmed his appointment to the see of Chernigov and Tsar Peter I. The Patriarch, moreover, blessed him “to serve in the sakkos.” In those days few bishops were granted this honor; before the abolition of the patriarchate only Patriarchs and Metropolitans served in the sakkos.
One of the new bishop’s first acts was to raise Abbot Dmitri of Yeletsky Monastery – the future holy hierarch of Rostov – to the rank of Archimandrite. Thus, inheriting the cathedra held before him by a saint, he passed along his first gift of grace to another saint.
It should be said that St. John held the memory of his predecessor, Vladyka Theodosius, in great reverence. Once, during a time of severe illness, St. Theodosius of Chernigov appeared to him in a dream and said: “Serve tomorrow and you will be in good health.”
The next day, while serving the Divine Liturgy, Bishop John did in fact feel better. This miraculous healing served as the beginning of St. Theodosius of Chernigov’s renown as a grace-filled saint of God. The wondrous spiritual connection between these two holy hierarchs was revealed by the Lord through their very canonizations. Both were glorified two hundred years after their repose. Moreover, the solemn opening of the relics of St. Theodosius of Chernigov was the first to take place during the reign of the Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, and that of St. John of Tobolsk was the last during this holy Sovereign’s reign.
Another case of heavenly assistance by St. Theodosius of Chernigov to St. John is also known. The saint’s intercession saved Bishop John from the slander of the traitor Mazepa, who tried to falsely denounce him before Peter I.  The Tsar saw through everything and St. John’s innocence was fully established.
Several extant royal gramotas demonstrate the special favor in which Peter I held Vladyka John, as does the emolument he received from the Tsar. During this period several great holy hierarchs labored in the Russian Orthodox Church: Sts. Mitrophan of Voronezh, Dmitri of Rostov, and Theodosius of Chernigov, all of whom Vladyka John knew personally, serving for him as constant examples of the spiritual and ascetic life.
Shortly after he began administering the Chernigov Diocese, St. John founded a theological seminary that his contemporaries referred to as the “Athens of Chernigov.” This theological school became widely known in Russia; it was essentially the first Russian seminary and served as the model for seminaries that opened in other dioceses. Vladyka himself served as its Professor of Latin. St. John’s teaching experience is reflected in Peter the Great’s Spiritual Regulation, in which we read: “Foolishly do many say that learning is the begetter of all heresies. Good and sound learning is the source of great benefit, both for the Fatherland and the Church.”
The saint also established a printing press, where many of his best works on spirituality and morality were printed, among which the most notable were The Royal Way of the Cross, O Theotokos and Virgin, Spiritual Thoughts, and The Wayfarer. A century and a half later, The Royal Way of the Cross would become St. Ambrose of Optina’s most beloved book; he always kept sufficient quantities for presenting to his more honored guests.
This good shepherd guided his flock in Chernigov for fourteen years. But in March 1712, to the great sorrow of the people of Chernigov, he was appointed Metropolitan of Tobolsk and All Siberia.
On the one hand, of course, gaining the rank of Metropolitan was an advancement. But on the other hand, the transfer to Tobolsk – bearing in mind the difficulties in Siberia, the remoteness of the area, and the severity of the climate – could have been seen almost as an exile. There were rumors that the Metropolitan’s transfer to Siberia was the work of the all-powerful Menshikov.  The fact of the matter is that one of the estates of the Tsar’s favorite was located within the Diocese of Chernigov. Once St. John received an invitation from Menshikov to consecrate a house chapel – with the day for the consecration already noted. Vladyka, however, remarked that it was the responsibility of the bishop, and not of a prince, to appoint a day for the consecration. St. John then appointed a day suitable for himself. Inasmuch as it took place during a fast, Vladyka left immediately after the consecration, refusing refreshments. Following this incident, Menshikov began to harbor resentment against Vladyka, and soon arranged for his removal from the diocese. The saint spoke these prophetic words: “Yes, I have a long way to go. But he will have to go even further than I.” As is well known, soon after the death of Peter I, the all-powerful Menshikov fell in disgrace, exiled to Siberia, and stripped of all ranks and orders. He ended his days in far-away Berezovo. At the same time, the words of Peter I himself were fulfilled: “Menshikov was conceived in iniquities, and in sins did his mother bear him, and in knavery shall his life end.” In Siberia there is a tradition that when the banished Menshikov was sailing under escort along the Irtysh River on a raft, the saint, who by that time had already reposed, appeared at the riverbank, made a full prostration in the direction of the boat, and blessed it.
But all this was to come. For now, Vladyka had to leave his native Ukraine, where he had lived for fifty-eight years. Here he had once left behind his parents, brothers, and ancestral home. Now he had to leave behind his motherland. Lying ahead of him was far-away Siberia, with its intense cold and native peoples who did not know Christ.
But what kind of sacrifice would this have been had he not offered that which was most precious to God, including his freedom and will? After all, throughout his entire life Vladyka sought not personal gain, but the profit of many [1 Corinthians 10:33], which also meant those natives made by the Creator in His image and likeness, but abiding in darkness and the shadow of death. It remained for him to enlighten this darkness with the light of the Gospel, if only he would have the strength: “Lord, may Thy will be done! For the strength of God is made perfect in weakness.”
Vladyka left Chernigov for Moscow with a large retinue of thirty-six people. From Moscow to Siberia only seventeen people accompanied him. And only three arrived at Tobolsk: Vladyka, his cell attendant, and their coachman.
It should be noted that Tobolsk was founded at the same time as our Belgorod, but its first bishop was sent there only in 1620, under Tsar Michael I.
The Siberians joyously greeted Metropolitan John, and were not mistaken in their joy, for the saint was to initiate truly apostolic preaching in Siberia, attracting many thousands to Christ. Metropolitan John’s episcopal service in Siberia was short – only three years – but it could be called the “deliverance from darkness” of many Siberian peoples. It bears mentioning that Tsar Peter’s attitude towards Vladyka John was very benevolent. Despite his enormous responsibilities, the Sovereign strove to reply to each of Vladyka’s letters, each time attaching monetary assistance. Of course, cut off by a large distance from the center of Russia, the saint did not have an opportunity to participate in certain important governmental and ecclesiastical affairs, but he followed them to whatever extent possible. So, for example, when news of the victory of the Russian troops over the Swedes reached Tobolsk, Vladyka wrote a warm letter with prayerful good wishes to Peter I.
During his short time in Tobolsk, more than twenty orphanages and almshouses were constructed. Like St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, Vladyka frequently walked through the city at night secretly to distribute clothes and money to the poor. Naked, and ye clothed Me: I was sick, and ye visited Me [Matthew 25:36]. Vladyka was often seen in places of detention, both in prisons and among those sentenced to hard labor. To gladden the prisoners with unexpected gifts, to comfort them with the words of the Gospel, and to present them with gifts for Nativity or Pascha – all this brought a quiet joy to Vladyka. I was in prison, and ye came unto Me [Matthew 25:36].
Vladyka also ordered repairs to be done, old churches restored, and new churches built in the cities and villages of boundless Siberia. How many natives he Baptized – Zyrians, Ostyaks, Tartars, and Voguls – is known to God alone.
According to the Siberian chronicle, the first missionary journey brought little success, although many idols and graven images throughout the taiga were destroyed. The second journey, in 1713, was much more successful. Many were Baptized and eagerly listened to the missionaries’ preaching. Resistance to the mission was met with at only one location, on the Ob River. Here, clearly by Divine Providence, a ship with missionaries ran aground. The natives cried out: “Get away from us, old man! We will not accept your faith because it rejects our gods!” However, scorning the threat of massacre, the missionaries walked to the shore in water up to their chests, bearing the Cross and the Gospel. Even before reaching the shores, they entered into conversation with the angry mob. For two days they exhorted the natives, who were maddened by demons. On the third day all were Baptized. During this journey alone, 3,500 natives were Baptized – an enormous number for those days. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth His life for the sheep [John 10:11].
Once, with the help of a Tartar prince to whom Vladyka had shown much kindness, on a single day he managed to Baptize nearly 300 Tartars, who immediately requested permission to build a church. Vladyka personally donated to this church an icon of the Mother of God called the “Galaktotrophousa” with a handwritten inscription.
It is interesting to make note of a pious custom that existed in Tobolsk in those years. On Palm Sunday the bishop would be seated on a horse and led through the city, led by the governor of Siberia. The bishop would bless the people with the sign of the cross and sprinkle them with holy water, while the choir and deacons joyfully cried out: “Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord!”
Vladyka gained fame in Siberia as a missionary, religious writer, and pioneer of theological schools. The territory under his omophorion, from the Urals to Chukotka, was twice the size of Europe.
Vladyka derived special joy from literary work. The Siberian chronicle testifies to this: “He had one diversion and recreation: to write edifying works.” This handwritten document was kept for many years in the library of the Tobolsk Theological Seminary.
In his everyday life, Vladyka did not tolerate amusements and entertainments. Tireless in his diocesan work, he was a man of fervent prayer, dedicating every free minute to this labor, so difficult yet sweet. Even during his lifetime, the people of Siberia knew him as a man of clairvoyance, strict fasting, and bold prayer.
Vladyka’s ties to the Holy Mountain of Athos, to which he sent large donations during their difficult years, are also known. A gramota witnessing to his help to the Athonites during the difficult time of Muslim domination is preserved at the Russian Monastery of St. Panteleimon. It was with Vladyka’s blessing that Hieromonk Hippolite of Chernigov traveled to Athos, Jerusalem, and Sinai.
Another of Vladyka’s traits should also be mentioned: he never appeared in secular society. Only once did he dine with the governor, and then only because of the latter’s insistence. The modesty of his refreshments, when receiving guests after services, was made up for by his wise words in conversation. The same chronicle says of him: “He was quiet, modest, prayerful, and compassionate towards the poor. He left an indelible mark on the minds of the people, who saw in him a saint of God.”
The saint was undoubtedly forewarned of the day of his blessed repose. The last day of his life became a literal fulfillment of the Lord’s words. On June 9, 1715, after celebrating the Divine Liturgy, the saint unexpectedly ordered the table in his home to be laid. He offered a plentiful meal for all, during which, like the Savior, he girded himself and began to wait upon those eating. He then parted touchingly with the clergy, retaining two especially beloved priests for some time. What he spoke to them about remains unknown. Having dismissed them, he retired to his cell and shut himself in. The next morning Vladyka did not come out. The clergy meanwhile began to assemble in front of his residence, but they knocked and cried out in vain. When people began to assemble, the governor was called for. Once he had arrived, he crossed himself and ordered the doors to be broken. An extraordinary sight presented itself to the onlookers: having already given his soul to the Lord, Vladyka was kneeling before an icon of the Mother of God next to an extinguished candle. The prayer he had begun on earth was continuing in eternity before the Throne of God. This marvelous occurrence is testimony that the saint, following his repose, stands in prayer before God and His Most Pure Mother for all of us who live on earth and turn to him for help. Sincerely mourned by his orphaned flock, he, as befitting a monk tonsured in the Kiev-Caves Lavra, was buried in the side chapel of Sts. Anthony and Theodosius.
How much he has in common with St. Ioasaph! Both came from the Ukraine, from ancient and noble families. Both fulfilled their obedience in the famous Kiev-Caves Lavra and graduated from the Kiev Theological Academy. Both had heavenly patrons in their early youth: for one, it was St. Athanasius of Constantinople; and for the other, it was St. Theodosius of Chernigov. Both were beloved by members of the Romanov dynasty. Both gained fame for their literary works. Both were numbered among the saints during the reign of Nicholas II. Both saints were preserved incorrupt following their repose, for the Lord keepeth all their bones [Psalm 33:20].
Today, celebrating the memory of this wondrous saint, Metropolitan John of Tobolsk, we who live in the third millennium – so far removed from our holy hierarchs in time, but so close to them in faith and spirit – should follow them as our spiritual guides in prayerful boldness towards the Sweetest Lord Jesus Christ, our Holy God, Who is living, near, and dear.
 Ivan Stepanovych Mazepa (1639-1709) was a Cossack Hetman who deserted his army before the Battle of Poltava and sided with Charles of Sweden.
 Aleksandr Danilovich Menshikov (1673-1729) was a statesman and military commander who was a great favorite of Peter the Great.