St. John the Wonderworker

holy-virgin-cathedral-1 sfOur friends Mr. and Mrs. C drove Mr. Glad and me to San Francisco this morning for a visit to Holy Virgin Cathedral, the “Joy of All Who Sorrow.” We were going there for the same reason many people come from all over the world, to pray at the relics of St. John (Maximovitch) of Shanghai and San Francisco.

Strange as it may seem to find those cities sharing a place in the name of this saint, they form an outline of his fascinating and famous life. He was in particular famous to his many adopted children and flock of Orthodox, some of those who had settled in China years before his arrival after fleeing from the Bolsheviks. In 1949 as the Communists John-of-San-Francisco photo smilewere coming to power there he helped 5,000 of these expatriates to emigrate, eventually to the United States. Later still he established the cathedral in San Francisco where his incorrupt relics remain.

On our way there we told what stories we could remember about St. John. One thing he was famous for was ending up barefoot much of the time because he was always coming across someone who was without any footwear; again and again he would take his own off and give them away.

Fr. John was glorified (recognized as a saint by the Orthodox Church) in 1994, and is often called St. John the Wonderworker. It was a joy to visit this place — my third time — with our friends and pray together, some of us asking St. John’s prayers as well.

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We were the only ones in the church for quite a while, but as we were leaving we met some people coming in who were from Romania. The bishop in the group, it turns out, had served the liturgy at the canonization of St. John back in 1994! We were really pleased to meet someone who had such a special connection to the saint, and who was obviously thrilled to be visiting again.

P1110802Afterward we needed some lunch, so we followed the advice of the candle desk attendant at the cathedral and ate at a Russian restaurant called The Red Tavern that was also in that Richmond District neighborhood. We were the only people there, too, though from the name we half expected when we went through the door to see a group of Bolsheviks plotting in the back corner.

A young woP1110798man only recently from Ukraine was our waitress and we enjoyed talking to her and eating the wonderful food. I didn’t think that I liked Russian food much, but everything I tasted was superb: dark brown bread scented with caraway, fresh cabbage salad with golden raisins and tomatoes; thinly sliced fried potatoes; and barley-mushroom soup with a complex and rich flavor. We all shared some Polish poppy seed dessert that we could tell had marzipan in the filling. We cut the two pieces into two more and ate them off these pretty dishes that the waitress said were their “dessert plates.”P1110800The forecast had been for cold and foggy weather in San Francisco today, but the sun was shining on our day and we didn’t even need our sweaters. Also, in our souls, we felt the warmth of Christ and of our friendship.

Malachai 4:2 But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness shall rise with healing in his wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.

15 thoughts on “St. John the Wonderworker

  1. I ♥ that church…beautiful frescoes, 3 altars, 2 choir lofts. I was 16, almost 17 back in 1994 and we drove out west in a WV van for the glorification of St. John! I lived there right after I graduated from college. I often walked to Golden Gate park, smelling the eucalyptus trees exotic scent and walking to Baker Beach from the church. Thank you for sharing the pictures from your trip. I would love to go again…and eat at that sweet restaurant, too!

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  2. My Sunday school study is in Hebrews 12 this week. I’ve been referred to the final words from God before Jesus’ incarnation. In the NLT there’s a fine addition in text: v2 “But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture” Free indeed

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  3. A great post……I am not orthodox and am always interested to learn more about this faith.
    The quote at the end reminded me of the lovely youtube video of cows being released to pasture. And these were not young calves but old matrons, but the jumping for joy was such a pleasure to see! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CL5htSOieRI

    We all need to be healed.

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  4. Wow, (reading the comments and looking at the videos) I never saw cows jumping for joy before. It made me joyful for them too. Can you imagine how it will be when the lion lays down with the lamb, etc, etc, what joy all of creation will be showing! A little taste of things to come. And it makes Malachi 4:2 come alive; I shall remember the vision of those cows whenever I read it. I pray that those prayers at the cathedral will bring much joy as well.

    Your visit to San Francisco sounds like a truly blessed day. I first heard of St. John while reading a big thick book about Fr. Seraphim Rose on whose life he had a great influence. And then I found him mentioned in a book I just read recently about Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia, New Martyr of the Communist Yoke, whose remains had been kept in Shanghai after a long journey from Russia, before being finally moved to Jerusalem.

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