St Therapon: Heart of a spiritual father

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. Dear beloved, we remember Saint Therapon, Hieromartyr, bishop of Sardis in the 3rd century, and Venerable Bede, ecclesiastical historian of the 8th century.

Today is the last day of the 8-day Afterfeast of the Ascension, or Analepsis, of our Christ and Lord into Heaven, completing the work of the redemption. Tomorrow is the Apodosis, or leave-taking of the Ascension, and this Sunday is the feast day of the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council at Nicea, which gave us the Nicene creed we frequently recite.

Saint Therapon was a monk and bishop, who brought many Greeks to Christianity. He was then persecuted by the pagans, who starved, imprisoned and flogged him while tied to 4 posts until the flesh fell from his bones. Still the saint held on, while the 4 posts he was tied to turned into tall trees which miraculously healed many. Finally, the saint was killed and received into the Kingdom. A Church containing the relics of the saint in Istanbul, Turkey today, continues to heal those with faith afflicted with many difficult illnesses. Saint Therapon, pray for us.

The Venerable Bede was a monk, best known as a writer and historian, who wrote “The Ecclesiastical History of the English people” (Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum). From those works, we came to know many historical accounts of the missions and evangelism of the faith in England. One of the sayings of the saint, which remind us deeply of what faith should be, was: “Better a stupid and unlettered brother who, working the good things he knows, merits life in Heaven than one who though being distinguished for his learning in the Scriptures, or even holding the rank of a doctor, lacks the bread of love.” Venerable Bede, pray for us.

Let us now turn to what the beloved Most Reverend Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, said about a spiritual father, or the starets. The Most Reverend Kallistos was referring to Saint John Maximovitch, of blessed memory, the Russian bishop in Shanghai, then Europe, and San Francisco. The saint was short, with tangled hair and beard, and according to Most Reverend Kallistos, the saint had an impediment in his speech. Many who did not know the saint would imagine the saint as a “fool for Christ”.

Most Reverend Kallistos mentioned that Saint John Maximovitch worked and prayed tirelessly, even when ill. The saint dispensed with formalities, with practicality and hard work, was able to achieve things ordinary people could not, such as securing the immigration of thousands of homeless Russian refugees into USA against the “quota” system. The saint spoke succinctly and kindly, and especially won the hearts of young children. The saint was known for his powerful intercessory prayer, and was known for daily and very long celebrations of the Divine Liturgy.

Once, a monk gave the saint a piece of paper with 4 names who were gravely ill. The saint returned to the same monastery a year later, and produced the same piece of paper, and told the monk, “I’ve been praying for your frineds, but 2 of them (pointing to their names on the paper) are now dead, and the other 2 recovered.” And it was exactly that.

Once, Father Jacob (later Archbishop) was sleepless due to financial worries he faced running a small monastery. Saint John Maximovitch called from hundreds of miles away, and said to Father Jacob, “Go to sleep now, what you are asking of God will certainly be all right.”

Such was the heart of the saint, who cared for his spiritual children more than he cared for himself. Saint John Maximovitch, of blessed memory, pray for us.

Let us continue to keep the Holy Name of our Lord in our hearts often, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”.

Let us close by praying the thanksgiving prayer:

It is truly meet to call thee blest, the Theotokos, ever blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious than the Seraphim, without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word: True Theotokos, we magnify thee.

O virgin Theotokos, rejoice; O Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast borne the Savior of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Fr Raphael+

Job 5:8-18
Psalm 4:1-8
St Matthew 11:27-30
Ephesians 6:10-17