(Russian: Иоанн Кронштадтский) (October 19, 1829, Sura, Arkhangelsk–December 20, 1908, Kronstadt) was a Russian Orthodox Christian presbyter and a member of the synod of the Russian Orthodox Church. He was a striking, unconventional personality, deeply pious and immensely energetic. He was one of the most internationally famous and beloved Orthodox Christian leaders of his time.
He was born as Ivan Ilyich Sergiyev (Russian: Иван Ильич Сергиев) on 19 October 1829 at Sura, near the White Sea, in Russia.
Writing about his life he once recalled an evening when everyone had already gone to bed. “I could not sleep, and I still failed to understand anything I was taught. I still read poorly and could not remember anything I was told. I became so depressed I fell to my knees and began to pray. I don’t know whether I had spent a long time in that position or not, but suddenly something shook my whole being. It was as if a veil had fallen from my eyes, and my mind had been opened, and I remembered clearly my teacher of that day and his lesson. I also recalled the topic and the examples he had given. I felt so light and joyous inside.” After this experience he did so well he became one of the first in his class to be chosen to go to seminary, and after seminary to the Theological Academy in St Petersburg.
Throughout his studies, John thought about the importance of forgiveness, meekness, and love, and came to believe that these were the very center and power of Christianity, and that only one path—the path of humble love—leads to God and the triumph of His righteousness. He also thought a great deal about the Savior’s death on the Cross at Golgotha, and pitied those who did not know Jesus Christ. He wished to preach to them about His death and Resurrection. He dreamed about becoming a missionary to distant China, but saw that there was a great deal of work for a genuine pastor of Christ’s flock both in his own city and the surrounding towns.
From 1855 he worked as a priest in Saint Andrew's Cathedral, Kronstadt, the naval base on the outskirts of St Petersburg. Here he committed himself to charity, especially to those who were remote from the Church, and travelled extensively throughout the Russian empire. He was a member of the conservative Union of the Russian People, but did not commit himself politically.
From the beginning he also concerned himself with the material needs of the poor. He would shop for food, go to the pharmacy for prescriptions, to the doctor for help, many times giving the poor his last few coins. The inhabitants of Kronstadt would see him returning home barefoot and without his cassock. Often parishioners would bring shoes to his wife, saying to her, “Your husband has given away his shoes to someone, and will come home barefoot.” He would also write articles for the newspaper exhorting the people of Kronstadt to “support the poor morally and materially.” These appeals touched the hearts of many and Fr John organized many charitable efforts. Realizing that his individual charity was insufficient for aiding the needy, he founded the Orthodox Christian House Parish Trusteeship of St Andrew the First-Called. This brotherhood coordinated many charitable efforts throughout the city and helped many needy people.
When speaking to other priests about their vocation he would say, “You are a representative of the faith of the Church, O priest; you are a representative of Christ the Lord Himself. You should be a model of meekness, purity, courage, perseverance, patience, and lofty spirit. You are doing the work of God and must not let anything discourage you.”
In the early 1890s Father John became well known, and people from all over Russia came to him every day in thousands. Even the dying Tsar Alexander III, in 1894, summoned him to Livadia Palace so he could be served communion by John. The bishops treated him with high respect. He was already greatly venerated at the time he died, on 20 December 1908.
In 1909 Nicholas II wrote an order to establish commemoration of St John in the Church. Following it the Holy Synod issued an edict to commemorate Father John annually at the day of his death.
He was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia in 1964, and by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1990. Archbishop John Maximovitch of Shanghai and San Francisco (later glorified as a Saint, as well) played an active role in preparation of St. John's canonization. His life and work are commemorated on the feast days of December 20.
John of Kronstadt - 20 December - Priest and Teacher
O ALMIGHTY God, who hast called us to faith in thee, and hast compassed us about with so great a cloud of witnesses; Grant that we, encouraged by the good examples of thy Saints, and especially of thy servant John of Kronstadt, may persevere in running the race that is set before us, until at length, through thy mercy, we with them attain to thine eternal joy; through him who is the author and finisher of our faith, thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Epistle - Philippians 4:4-9.
REJOICE in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice, Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.
The Gospel - St. Matthew 25:31-40.
WHEN the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.