The week I was scheduled to move from California to Indianapolis, I found out about St. John Maximovich. Over the phone Mary L. encouraged me to go “visit” him in San Francisco. “Visit” was a strange choice of words to me because the man was dead (or as I later learned to say, “reposed”). Not knowing when I would ever be in San Francisco again, I decided to make the visit.
It wasn’t easy. A cab ride took me to the BART station. The train took me into San Francisco where I walked up, up, up the hilly sidewalks to the corner to catch a bus. I got off at the recommended stop and walked up, up, up again to catch another bus that took me closer to my destination. As I stepped off, the bus driver told me, “Keep walking in that direction until you see the gleaming gold dome. That’s the church you are looking for.”
And there it was – it seemed much smaller than I expected for a cathedral. Not yet an Orthodox convert, I didn’t know how to conduct myself. The volunteer greeter told me I could go in, but to stay off the steps in front. St. John was reposed by the wall on the right in a glass case. I went over and marveled at the fact that under the vestments lay the body of a saint. I wondered what the big deal was. I didn’t feel any different for hanging out with him.
Once in Indianapolis, I was confronted by my attitude towards saints. I didn’t understand veneration of saints or why so many people looked to them for help, but in my pursuit of Orthodoxy, I was willing to learn. A friend in deep distress motivated me to reach out to St. John one day. I slipped over to his icon and lit a candle. Taking a deep breath, I whispered, “Hi John. It’s me. I visited you in San Francisco. Remember? I want to ask you to intercede before our Lord Jesus on behalf of my friend who seems to be in deep trouble. I know you were in a comparable situation when you were alive, so I hope you understand why I am appealing to you. Thank you.”
I visited St. John at his icon for a couple of weeks, anxious because of my friend’s distress. Then one Sunday, I was quiet before the icon and felt a complete comfort come over me. It was as if St. John was assuring me that everything was going to be okay. More weeks passed and then the answer came for my friend – all the expectations of a tragic ending were gone and we rejoiced in an unexpected turn in the situation – everything was going to be okay.
That was my first experience in connecting with a saint – nothing weird, no booming voices from the clouds, just a quiet calming assurance. I continue to approach St. John. His life story and history informs us even in the recent loss of Mother Theophania as shown in this quote:
“Our Grief Over the death of our close ones would be inconsolable and boundless if the Lord had not given us eternal life. Our life would be meaningless if it ended with death. What benefit, then, would there be from virtue or good deeds? They would be right who say, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!” But man was created for immortality….”
I thank God that St. John and the other saints are still relevant in our lives. To me they are like brothers and sisters gone before us to help lead the way to our final goal: salvation in Christ.
For more about the life and miracles of St. John, go to http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/54575.htm .
Anna Glass just celebrated her third anniversary at Joy of All Who Sorrow in Indianapolis. She serves on the Church Board and as the Coordinator of the Christmas Families Program.