Monthly Archives: October 2014

A Saint Who Links Russia and America – St. John Kochurov, Commemorated October 31st

The Orthodox Church around the world is one church. Despite differences of language, music, styles of iconography and so on, the church professes one faith, celebrates the same liturgies and prays the same prayers. Nowhere is this unity more apparent than in the Orthodox faithful who, by moving to a new land, take their Orthodox faith with them. And among these faithful we must point out the saints who lived their faith in their new lands.

There are many saints who link the Russian Orthodox Church and the Orthodox Church here in North America, beginning perhaps, with St. Herman of Alaska in the 18th and 19th centuries, and continuing through St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco in the 20th century. And no doubt there are saints living among us today.

Among these saints, on October 31st the church celebrates the memory of St. John Kochurov. St. John was born on July 13, 1871 and graduated from the Ryazan Seminary and St. Petersburg Theological Academy. After graduating and after getting married and ordained as a priest St. John came to the United States as a missionary priest. He was the first priest at St. Vladimir’s Church in Chicago, which later became Holy Trinity Cathedral (completed and consecrated in 1902). The building of this church began during St. John’s time there, with the blessing of St. Tikhon, at that time the Bishop of North America, later Patriarch of Moscow and a Confessor of the faith. (A Confessor of the faith is someone who suffers for the faith but is not killed outright as a martyr is.)

St. John was active in the formation of many parishes in the Chicago area, as well as in Buffalo, NY and Hartshorn, Oklahoma. St. John translated religious texts into English, seeing the need for them in the future. He also helped to organize the first All-American Council in Mayfield, Pennsylvania in 1897.  He was also chairman of the Mutual Aid Society.

St. John later moved to Narva, Estonia in 1907 but was soon transferred to St. Catherine’s Cathedral in Tsarskoe Selo, near St. Petersburg. On October 31, 1917 the Bolsheviks entered Tsarskoe Selo, arrested and shot St. John. He was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1994.

As far back as the 1890s St. John, as well as St. Tikhon, saw the need for a multi-national, multi-lingual church in the United States, which would combine a respect for the diverse linguistic, national, cultural backgrounds of its members with a commitment to a united Orthodox Church on the North American continent, which would reach out beyond the national backgrounds of its immigrant members to the wider, English-speaking society of the United States. The example of St. John Kochurov inspires us with the vision of an Orthodox Church in America and at the same time calls us to follow his example now, in the 21st century.

Holy Priest-Martyr John, pray to God for us.
Troparion — Tone 1

You were revealed to all as a true shepherd / O Hieromartyr John of Chicago, / for you nurtured your people in the Orthodox Faith, / guiding them by word and deed on the path of salvation, / and defended the Faith even unto the shedding of your blood. / Therefore, we, your spiritual children, cry out in thanksgiving: / Glory to Him who gave you strength! / Glory to Him who granted you the Martyr’s crown! / Glory to Him who through you grants mercy to all!

Fr. John

Sermon on Saint Luke’s Gospel

We are all Orthodox Christians holding the same faith but no doubt we have come to our faith in somewhat different ways. Some of us were baptised as children, taken to church by our parents, perhaps sent to church school and have maintained the faith all our lives. This is a great gift from God and we should be thankful for this. Others have perhaps fallen away from the church for a while, perhaps this was due to doubts and questions, which we could not find answers to, perhaps there were moral issues or simply we moved away from the church because of the busyness of life. But we have come back to the church because we have found beauty, depth and meaning here. Others have come to the Orthodox Church as adults, from other Christian Churches, or from other religions, or from no religion at all because we have found depth, meaning and beauty here.
However, it is no doubt that we did not come to the church because God “proved Himself” to us with a miracle. Yes, miracles happen; the lives of the saints are filled with them, and many of us have experienced answers to our prayers. But again, God did not try to prove Himself to us.
We see the same approach in today’s Gospel (Luke 16:19-31). Our Lord tells the parable of a rich man, who dressed well, ate well and was basically concerned only with himself. There was a poor man, Lazarus, who lay at the gate of the rich man’s house, hoping for scraps from his table. They both die and the rich man finds himself in hell and Lazarus in heaven, called here “Abraham’s bosom” (Abraham was the father of the Jewish people and all people who believe in the God of Abraham).
The rich man asks Abraham (who is speaking for God here) to send Lazarus from heaven with a little water to cool his tongue because he suffered from the flames. Abraham says this is impossible because one cannot cross from heaven to hell. The rich man asks Abraham to send a Lazarus back to his brothers to warn them to change their lives so that they don’t end up in hell. Abraham says they have Moses and the prophets to teach them how to live. The rich man says no, but they will change their hearts if they see a dead man come back to life. Abraham says if they don’t believe Moses and the prophets they will not believe even if someone comes back from the dead.
As Christians we believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah prophesied by the Old Testament, who has indeed risen from the dead, but non-Christians do not believe this because Jesus did not try to “prove” Himself to the world, let’s say by appearing in the temple in Jerusalem or in Pilate’s palace after His resurrection. Rather He appeared to those who knew and loved Him, first to the myrrh bearing women and then to the apostles.
We should remember when Jesus was tempted in the desert by Satan and Satan suggested that Jesus turn stones into bread or throw himself from the roof of the temple and have angels catch him so that people would follow him, Jesus rejected these suggestions. Jesus did not want people to follow Him because he was a magician, a wonderworker, but because they knew Him and loved Him.
And so it is with us. God is not going to overwhelm us with miracles “proving Himself” to us, (although we certainly pray for miracles), but rather He wants us to come to Him because we find meaning and depth and beauty in God and His beloved Son.

Fr. John