“Never, never, never let anyone tell you that, in order to be Orthodox, you must be Eastern. The West was fully Orthodox for a thousand years, and her venerable liturgy is far older than any of her heresies.”
St. John Maximovich of Shanghai and San Francisco
St John of Shanghai and San Francisco is also known as St John Maximovich and as St John the Wonderworker.
His main feast day is celebrated on the Saturday nearest to July 2, the day of his repose. This has been celebrated as our Altar Feast up until summer of 2019.
From October 2019 onward our Altar Feast has been moved to St John’s feast day of the Uncovering of his Relics, which is celebrated on 12 October. Bishop Irenei came to Belfast for this occasion in 2019 and again in 2020. Please see more details in the Topical News section.
Troparion of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco (tone 5)
Lo, thy care for thy flock in its sojourn/ prefigured the supplications which thou dost ever offer up for the whole world./ Thus do we believe, having come to know thy love,/ O holy hierarch and wonderworker John./ Wholly sanctified by God/ through the ministry of the all-pure Mysteries/ and thyself ever strengthened thereby,/ thou didst hasten to the suffering,/ O most gladsome Healer.// Hasten now also to the aid of us who honour thee with all our heart.
Thy heart hath gone out to all who entreat thee with love,/ O holy Hierarch John,/ and who remember the struggle of thy whole industrious life,/ and thy painless and easy repose,// O faithful servant of the all-pure Directress.
A Prayer to St John
O BELOVED HIERARCH JOHN while living amongst us thou didst see the future as if present, distant things as if near, the hearts and minds of men as if they were thine own. We know that in this thou wast illumined by God, with Whom thou wast ever in the mystical communion of prayer, and with Whom thou now abidest eternally. As thou once didst hear the mental petitions of thy far-scattered flock even before they could speak to thee, so now hear our prayers and bring them before the Lord. Thou hast gone over unto the life unaging, unto the other world, yet thou art in truth not far from us, for heaven is closer to us than our own souls. Show us who feel frightened and alone the same compassion that thou didst once show to the trembling fatherless ones. Give to us who have fallen into sin, confusion and despair the same stern yet loving instruction that thou didst once give to thy chosen flock. In thee we see the living likeness of our Maker, the living spirit of the Gospel, and the foundation of our Faith.
In the pure life that thou hast led during our sinful times, we see a model of virtue, a source of instruction and inspiration. Beholding the grace bestowed upon thee, we know that God hath not abandoned His people. It is rather we that have fallen from Him, and so must regain the likeness of Divinity as thou hast done. Through thine intercession, O blessed one, grant that we may increase our striving toward our heavenly homeland, setting our affections on things above, laboring in prayer and virtue, waging war against the attacks of our fallen nature. Invoke the mercy of God, that we may one day join thee in His Kingdom. For our deepest wish is to live forever with Him, with the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
A SHORT BIOGRAPHY – largely taken from a flyer of the Cathedral at San Francisco – see also the ‘Vita Prima’ as written by Hiermonk Seraphim Rose for a more detailed account of St John’s life.
The holy hierarch John was born in Southern Russia on June 4 (June 17 New Style) , 1896 in the Kharkov district and was named Michael in honour of the Archangel. He was of noble descent from the Maximovich lineage of Serbian origin. One of his ancestors was the Enlightener of Siberia, St John of Tobolsk. Michael’s parents brought him up in piety to stand always for the truth.
Upon completions of his studies at the Military School in Poltava (Emperor Peter’s Cadette Corps), Michael entered the Law School at the Imperial University of Kharkov, from which he graduated in 1918. During his university years, he was greatly influenced by the Archbishop of Kharkov, the future Metropolitan Anthony (Kharpovitsky). Simultaneously with the study of lay knowledge, he delved deeply into the study of the spiritual life.
During the Russian Civil War, the Maximovich family was forced to flee their home and was evacuated to Yugoslavia. There Michael graduated in 1925 from the school of Theology at the Belgrade University. In 1926 Metropolitan Anthony (Kharpovitsky), the head of the Russian Church Outside Russia, tonsured Michael to the monastic order with the name John, in honour of St John of Tobolsk. In 1929 he was ordained to the holy priesthood.
In 1934 Metropolitan Anthony consecrated Hiermonk John as Bishop of Shanghai. Upon his arrival in Shanghai, Bishop John quickly reconciled the Orthodox parishes there, finished the building of the Cathedral in honour of the Icon of the Mother of God “The Surety of Sinners”, funded the St Tikhon of Zadonsk Orphanage and opened a home for seniors. He visited the sick daily and led a strict ascetic life. It was here, that he first became known for the power of his prayers – may miracles were a result of them.
When in 1949, the communists took power in China, some 5 000 Russian immigrants from China were evacuated to the island of Tubabao in the Philippines. Archbishop John left Shanghai on the last ship. For more than two years, the refugees stayed on the island in a tent city, which was set up by their own efforts in the tropical jungle. By travelling personally to Washington DC, Archbishop John, in 1950, successfully petitioned the American government to grant the Russian emigrants on Tubabao a refugee status that allowed them to move to the US and Australia. By 1951 all refugees had left the island of Tubabao.
In 1951, St John was appointed head of the Western European Diocese. Here his charitable and pastoral work continued, as well as the publication of liturgical literature in French and Dutch. In his private life, Archbishop John was unpretentious. He walked barefoot in sandals.
In 1962 due to the difficulties in building the new Holy Virgin “Joy of All Who Sorrow” cathedral in San Francisco, and by request of his spiritual children that were saved by him from the communists in China, Archbishop John was appointed to head the Western American Diocese. Here he pacified the parish and completed the construction of the new cathedral.
On 2 July 1966 this great and righteous man reposed in the Lord. He was placed in a sepulcher beneath the cathedral that he had built, but his incorrupt relics are now in a shrine in the nave of the Holy Virgin Cathedral and many people have acquired faith and received physical healing and spiritual strength by the prayers said at St John’s incorrupt relics. Today hundreds of miracles attest to him worldwide.
In 1994, he was canonized as a saint of the Russian Orthodox Church on 2 July. His glorification was later recognized for universal veneration by the Patriarchate of Moscow on July 2, 2008. His main feast day is celebrated on the Saturday closest to 2 July, the day of his repose. He reposed during a visit to Seattle on July 2, 1966, while accompanying a tour of the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God, and his lesser known feast day of the Uncovering of the Relics of St John is celebrated on 12th October. This is our parish feast day since 2019.