St. John the Baptist Parish, A Parish of the Russian Orthodox Church, Canberra, Australia

19 October / 1 November

St. John of Kronstadt, priest, wonderworker

A married priest, he served in the Cathedral of St. Andrew's in Kronstadt, a busy port near St. Petersburg. A great man of prayer, he served Divine Liturgy every day and read the entire cycle of daily services. He visited the poor and the sick, generously giving alms, himself often going without. He and his matushka lived as brother and sister. He taught and advised all those who came to him, young and old, rich and poor. Such was the love of the people for him throughout Russia that the Kronstadt post office had a special section just for St. John! Even during his lifetime hundreds were healed through his holy prayers. In 1906, he became very ill and suffered with this sickness until his death. Nevertheless, he continued to serve daily. On December 20, 1908, he quietly reposed in the Lord. A crowd of 60,000 attended his funeral, an unprecedented event in Russia. He was formally glorified as a saint by the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad on June 3, 1964. Holy blessed Father John, pray to God for us!.

Troparion (tone th): With the apostles thy sound hath gone forth unto the ends of the world; / with the confessors thou didst endure sufferings for Christ; / thou didst liken thyself unto the holy hierarchs in the preaching of the Word; / and with the venerable hast thou shone forth in the grace of God. / Therefore, the Lord hath exalted the depths of the humility higher than the heavens, / and hath given us thy name as a source of most wondrous miracles. / Wherefore, O wonderworker, who livest in Christ forever, / lovingly have mercy upon those amid misfortunes, / and hearken unto thy children that call upon thee with faith, / O Righteous John, // our beloved pastor.

Kontakion (tone th): O thou who from infancy wast chosen by God, / and in childhood didst miraculously receive from Him the gift of learning, / and wast gloriously called to the priesthood in a vision during sleep, / thou didst prove to be a wonderful shepherd of the Church of Christ, / O Father John, namesake of grace. / Pray to Christ our God // that we all be with thee in the kingdom of the heavens.

The Holy Prophet Joel

The second in order of the Minor Prophets, Joel was the son of Phanuel, of the tribe of Reuben. He lived eight hundred years before Christ, and foretold the misfortunes of the Israelites and their captivity in Babylon for the sins that they had committed against God. He called the people to fasting and the priests to penitent and tearful prayer that God would have mercy on them: Sanctify ye a fast and cry unto the Lord' (1:14); 'Let the priests weep between the porch and the altar' (2:17). Joel also prophesied the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, and the outpouring of His grace on all the faithful (2:28). He foretold and described the Dreadful Judgement of God, and also the glory of God's holy Church.

The Holy Martyr Varus

St Varus was an officer in the Roman army in Egypt, a secret Christian, who frequently visited a group of imprisoned Christians, supplying their every need. He greatly admired their courage, feeling he would himself never have the strength to bear torture. However, through the prayers of these Christians, he finally gained courage and offered himself as a sacrifice along with them. He was cut to pieces with knives and thrown onto a dung heap, from where a Christian woman, Cleopatra, took his body secretly. Her husband was also an officer in the Roman army and had recently been killed. She was granted permission to take his body back to her home in Palestine. Instead, wishing to honour the martyr, she took the body of the holy martyr Varus, buried his relics in her family vault, and built a church there dedicated to him. Gradually he became known throughout the region as a great healer and wonderworker. Cleopatra herself prayed there frequently with great devotion, especially for her only son, John, who had just gone into the army. To her great grief, the young man died shortly afterwards and she went to the tomb, bitterly complaining that the saint had not answered her prayers. That night the saint appeared to her in a dream, together with her son, both of them radiant in glory. "You asked me to beg God to grant John whatever was most pleasing to Him and beneficial for you both. He has taken him into His heavenly army, where he serves with great joy. How can you complain? Would you rather keep him for the army of an earthly king? Your prayers to me are always remembered. Moreover I have prayed for all your relatives, buried with me in the vault, that although they died outside the Church, all their sins would be forgiven, and God has heard my prayers." Cleopatra's joy was unbounded, and she passed on the good news to everyone. From that revelation in her vision, the custom grew up of begging St Varus' prayers for deceased relatives and friends, whatever their faith. Isn't that good news for all of us converts!.

Prayer (Saint Varus): O Holy, wondrous Martyr Varus, who, burning with zeal for the Heavenly King, didst confess Him before thy torturers and didst suffer greatly for Him! Now the Church doth venerate thee, as one glorified with the glory of heaven by Christ the Lord, Who granted thee the abundant grace to approach Him boldly. Now, standing before Him together with the Angels, rejoicing on high, beholding the Most Holy Trinity clearly, and enjoying the Uncreated Light, remember the suffering of our relatives who have died outside the Faith. Accept our pleas as thou didst intercede for the unbelieving ancestors of Cleopatra and didst free them from eternal suffering. Remember those who have died unbaptised and who have been buried in an ungodly manner. Pray earnestly that they may be delivered from eternal darkness, that we may all, with one mouth and one heart, praise the Most Merciful Creator unto the ages of ages. Amen.

St. Frideswide of Oxford, abbess (c.735)

The daughter of Didian, a Mercian prince whose lands included the upper reaches of the River Thames. She took a vow of perpetual virginity. A local prince named Algar refused to accept that she would not marry him. He pursued the saint, only to be struck blind. His sight returned once he had renounced his plan to make her forsake her vow. Frideswide had hidden herself from Algar in a village near present-day Oxford called Binsey. Eventually she founded a nunnery there and became its first abbess. There she lived until her death around the year 735. The nunnery flourished and her name was not forgotten. In the twelfth century her nunnery was refounded, this time as a convent for Augustinian canons. In 1180 in the presence of the Archbishop of Canterbury and King Henry II of England her remains were translated to a new shrine in the monastery church. A yet greater shrine was built nine years later. Countless pilgrims visited her relics. Twice a year the University of Oxford held a solemn feast in her honour and came to venerate her bones. In 1440 the Archbishop of Canterbury declared her patroness of the university. Then in 1525 Cardinal Wolsey suppressed St Frideswide's monastery. Two decades later the monastery church became the new cathedral of Oxford. But the shrine containing Frideswide's relics had been broken up by Protestant reformers. The stone was used for building; but happily some Catholics preserved the saint's bones. Meanwhile the wife of the Protestant professor Peter Martyr had been buried in the Cathedral. In 1561, in an extraordinary burst of fanaticism a canon dug up her bones and mixed them with those of Saint Frideswide, adding the epitaph Hic jacet religio cum superstitione ('Here lies religion with superstition'). Today the place where her remains finally rested is marked with four elegant candlesticks in Christ Church.

On the same day: Our Holy Father Prochorus of Pchinja

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