St John of Novgorod
Commemorated on September 7th
St John was born in Novgorod, Russia in the 12th century to pious parents. When his parents died, John and his brother Gabriel used their inheritance to establish a monastery dedicated to Panagia, who miraculously provided for them when their funds ran out during construction. This began a life-long closeness to the Theotokos, who granted many miracles to St John and the people of Novgorod.
In 1165, John was elevated to Archbishop of the city. He showed a keen awareness for the concerns of his flock and wrote letters to other bishops expressing his gentle love for all people. St John was concerned with the physical and spiritual needs of the people. He distributed aid to the poor and cared for orphans. He encouraged the spiritual development of his flock and emphasised that the yoke of Christ ought to be light.
In 1170, the Novgorod people refused to accept the commands of Prince Svyatoslav who wanted to impose his rule as their leader. In reaction, seventy-two princes laid siege to the city, with Suzdal forces leading their allies in the attack. The people turned to their bishop for help, who held a vigil. During his prayers, Archbishop John was instructed to take the icon of Panagia to the walls of the city. When the enemy attack began, tears trickled down from Panagia’s eyes, dropping onto Archbishop John’s vestments. The Suzdal army was then shrouded in darkness. Faith and humble prayer saved the city.
Every time Archbishop John faced a difficulty, he turned to the Mother of God for help. He believed nothing could be achieved without her assistance. He was given the grace to drive away evil spirits, which often provoked him while he prayed.
Drawn to the quiet life of monasticism, St John withdrew to his monastery in his old age, where he was bestowed the Great Habit and fell asleep peacefully in the Lord in 1185.
Source: August-September 2014 Lychnos Edition