Orthodox Church of
Mother of God Derzhavnaya
Marian movement in Russia
Milestones in life
Blessed John (Bereslavsky Veniamin Iakovlevich) is a spiritual leader with a didactic and prophetic charisma, the head of the Council of Bishops of the Orthodox Church of the Mother of God Derzhavnaya (from 1996 to 2009). The follower of the patristic tradition of unacquisitive, ascetic Orthodoxy and spirit-carrying Christianity, Blessed John professes a spiritual way to holiness based on dedication to the Protection and Immaculate Heart of Virgin Mary, and on the practice of “internal prayer” of the holy fathers. Both in his personal life, and in his theological and ecclesiastical experience Archbishop John reveals the spirituality of the third millennium.
Veniamin Iakovlevich Bereslavskii was born in September 25th, 1946 in Moscow, to the family of Soviet workers. He spent his childhood in a communal apartment at Domnikovskaya st., 3/15, in the house that before the Russian revolution of 1917 hosted a small hotel for petty merchants and visiting folk. He studied and graduated from the secondary school in Moscow.
His father, Yakov Bereslavskii (born in 1906), was a mining engineer, who earned his degree from the Moscow Mining Institute. Before the Great Patriotic War, Yakov worked as a head of office of auxiliary enterprises in the ‘Tsentrenergostroy’ company. In 1939, he was arrested and spent three months in the famous Butyrka prison in Moscow, where he was subjected to violent and humiliating interrogations. He did not, however, break down morally, and was soon released under amnesty (when Beria succeeded Yezhov as a head of NKVD), much thanks to the prayers of the catacomb elder Seraphim, whom he met in the same cell. When Yakov returned, his wife did not recognize the gray-haired, exhausted man.
In July 1941, Yakov was mobilized in the Infantry Regiment of the Moscow militia for war against the Nazi Germany. He was fighting as a chief of staff for communication, and as the war ended, he was awarded both military and commemorative service medals. In the post-war period, for his dedicated state service and significant achievements in national economy (e.g. inventions in the area of transport communications), Yakov had been repeatedly awarded the VDNKh bronze medals. Yakov also occupied the position of an assistant professor and a lecturer at the Mining Institute, and published a textbook.
In March 1973, Yakov Bereslavskii was awarded the title of the Honored Geologist of the RSFSR. He retired in 1973 as a Chief Geologist of the ‘Glavstroyprom’ company, and died in 1974. In his memoirs, Blessed John writes about his father: “I owe my wonderful childhood completely to the moral purity of my father. I looked at the Soviet life through his immaculate eyes and did not see anything wrong in the realities of the-then time. My father was wholeheartedly committed to his ideal of the Ultimate Truth, and it is from him that I inherited the most precious thing a father can pass to his son – the unsullied conscience.” (Blessed John, "My Mysterious Father." 2011, p.14)
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The maternal grandmother, Anna, was a deeply religious person, to whom Veniamin is particularly indebted for his passionate love for prayer and a profound reverence for the mystery of priesthood. Similar to his father, who displayed the warmest fatherly love and never raised his voice at his son, Anna adored Veniamin. The paternal grandmother Bronislawа Tovarovskaya, partly of Polish and partly of Swedish origin and the granddaughter of the Swedish aristocrat (the family never revealed her origins in fear of persecution by the Soviet authorities), was a person of an incredibly kind heart, who made her house into a shelter for the poor and the homeless. Veniamin grew up in the atmosphere of transcendent kindness, which he perceived to be a standard, regular feature of life.
During his school years, Veniamin was a successful pupil; for few years he had been the class’ chairman. Being fond of music since his early childhood, in 1962 he entered the specialized Ippolitov-Ivanov Academy of Music in Moscow (now the Ippolitov-Ivanov State Music and Pedagogical Institute). He attended the class of one of the best students of Heinrich Neuhaus. Having recognized in Veniamin a future outstanding musician, she accorded much attention to the talented pupil during the lessons. Veniamin graduated from the Academy in 1966, with the diploma of musical school teacher (music theory and piano play).
In his youth, having become fond of Russian poetry, especially of Vladimir Mayakovsky, Aleksandr Blok, Osip Mandelstam, Anna Akhmatova, Veniamin enthusiastically engaged with the poetry writing. He, however, published only very little of his own poems, since he did not wish to be identified with the-then literary world, even notwithstanding positive comments that he received from the chief editor of the one of central literary magazines of the Soviet Union. Veniamin maintained close relations with Andrei Voznesensky and met with Bella Akhmadulina, who once asked John to read the burial service after the end of her earthly life.
During his last years in the Musical Academy, Veniamin worked as a teacher of musical literature at the Moscow school (Nro 414), and after that he lectured musical theory in the Evening school of musical education (Nro 34). In 1968, he entered the evening department of the Maurice Thorez State Pedagogical Institute of Foreign Languages in Moscow (he later enrolled there as a full-time student). At that time, he studied for a degree and maintained a job simultaneously, and this intense life regime further manifested as a creative and spiritual urge, as an active search for the ultimate meaning and purpose of life.
After graduating from the Institute in 1970, Veniamin enrolled as a lecturer to the Department of English at the Moscow State University. In the meantime, he hold a series of jobs, teaching English and sociology both at the Institute of Sociology, and at the Faculty of Mechanics and Mathematics at the Moscow State University. The students liked their intelligent and witty lecturer, who above all assisted them with their English during his spare time. However, Veniamin did not stay at the University for long due to his highly critical attitude to the Soviet system, which quite soon became known to the leadership of the University. At that time, he became profoundly interested in the classical Western sociology and philosophy, including Plato, Kant, Hegel, and also Z. Freud, E. Fromm, and existentialists. He became also inspired by the Russian religious philosophers of late XIXth-early XXth century – Nikolay Berdyaev, Dmitry Merezhkovsky, Vasily Rozanov – most of their writings were dedicated to the Holy Russia, the historical paths and fates of Christianity, and to the idea of the universal Church. Over years, in his own works, Veniamin continued and developed their philosophical legacy and some of their theological ideas.
In 1973, Veniamin married Tamara Bodrova. The wife hold a university degree, worked in the State Film Fund, and gave English lessons. In 1974, the eldest daughter was born, and in 1980 – the youngest one. Both daughters received university degrees, and nowadays reside and work in Moscow.
Overall, until the late 1980s, Veniamin spent most of his time in Moscow studying philosophy of religion, history of world religions, and modern and ancient languages (such as Hebrew). With time, his studies had taken an ever-stronger religious bent, as he became fascinated by the mystics of East and West Churches, including Gregory Palamas, Heinrich Suso, Meister Eckhart, and Jacob Boehme. Veniamin lived and wrote in an atmosphere of inner freedom, outside of the strict rules and norms of the-then Soviet society, which at that time was almost an act of heroism.
The patristic tradition of ascetic Orthodoxy. Revelation of the Blessed Virgin
Veniamin came to faith in the late 1970s. Meeting Maria Orlovskaja, a nun, had a profound impact on his view and the spiritual growth. Maria became his godmother, when he was baptized in 1980 in the Orthodox Church in the small village nearby the Mozhaisk town (Moscow region). Veniamin started making pilgrimages to the spiritual centers in Russia, collected and studied scriptures of the holy fathers. In a constant search for instruction from the elders with the gift of the Holy Spirit, he visited temples and monasteries and met with the devotees of the Catacomb Church. Yet, it were the spiritual disciples of the monastic elder Amphilochius of Pochaev (canonized by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in 2002) – Maria Orlovskaya and particularly the Saint Evfrosinia of Pochayev – who revealed to him the Way, the Truth and the Life. Veniamin discovered the beauty of the authentic Orthodox Christianity of the Holy Spirit, with its ascetic tradition and its fiery faith.
“Evfrosinia was a lively embodiment of a completely transfigured orthodoxy, the orthodoxy that I was so passionately looking for, and which God had predestined me to. And I clung tight to her heart, and drank from it as from the source…” (From father John’s memories).
The instructions given to him by both Maria and Evfrosinia, and practicing asceticism in the tradition of patristic orthodoxy, endowed Veniamin with the spiritual seals of the persecuted True Orthodox Church-Martyr, the heir of both Saint Patriarch Tikhon and especially of the elder Serafim of Solovki (Romanov), who was spiritually transformed and commemorated through his sufferings in the Gulag prison camp.
In 1982, Veniamin published his first book from the series “The Penitential fire”. The work was dedicated to the spiritual paths and monastic life in the contemporary world (the great elders (e.g. Anthony the Great) had predicted that monastic practices in the world would be common during the ‘end-times’). This was soon followed by “The Blessed Solitude”, “The Consolation of Peace”, “The Holy Crucified, Holy Mother-of-God’s” (since the Christian literature in the Soviet period was regarded as anti-Soviet and legally prohibited, the books were reproduced by Veniamin’s adherents on a typewriter, copied and distributed among friends and acquaintances. After publishing his books in samizdat, Veniamin was spotted by KGB as a potential dissident, but the Divine Providence accompanied him, and perestroika and further collapse of the Soviet system saved him from the imminent arrest). Summarizing the spiritual experience of the past, the books are oriented towards the future and call for the proactive and devoted faith. The followers and disciples started to gather around Veniamin.
In November 1984, the Immaculate Virgin Mary revealed Herself for the first time to Veniamin. She spoke to him through the miracle-working icon of the Hodegetria in Smolensk. The Revelation, which continues to this day, has put the beginning to the all-Russian revelation of the Mother of God. The tradition of the God-bearing elders instructed and directed by the Blessed Virgin Herself, by Her Supreme Wisdom, towards the Heavenly Kingdom – has been revived.
“My mercy, and My grace is with the Orthodox Church. The Orthodoxy is My favorite home ... The Council of the Russian Church is great and glorious in the Heaven … For many times already I have taken part in Russia’s fate, I have saved it ... And now you will be saved through my intercession.” (Revelation of Smolensk, 1984)
Preparing Veniamin for great mission, the Virgin told him: “I raise you as the God’s chosen vessel. Go and reveal My love to the humanity”.
Since then, She is constantly with Her chosen one. Blessed John has proclaimed the coming age of the Mother of God, has revealed the mystical practice of reverence of the Virgin hidden in the archetypes of world religions and traditions, and Her participation both in the fate of Russia and of the whole world. The event in Smolensk thus marked the beginning of the great universal revelation of the Mother of God both to Russia, and to the whole of the humanity.The Virgin Herself speaks through Blessed John, transfiguring Him into the perfect vessel of Her Divine Love and Wisdom. The Holy Hodigitria and Tutor has been sent as a Mediatrix from the Father of Pure Love to the perishing mankind in the end times, with the keys to holiness. To those who listen and follow Her full-heartedly, She opens the path to the spiritual heaven. These heavenly revelations of the Mother of God form a special sub-category in the vast literary legacy of father John. The locucio interno, the “inner hearing” of the Lord and the Blessed Virgin is a special and very rare gift, and only very few individuals in history have been honored by the God’s direct guidance. The Books of Revelation of Blessed John that call for active repentance, the testimony of light, and offer practical keys to achieving holiness, have inspired a profound interest among the mystics and theologians both in Russia and in other countries.
Ordination to the priesthood
In October 1985, the Synod of the Catacomb Church (the True Orthodox Church that separated from the official Russian Orthodox Church after the notorious ‘declaration of loyalty’ to the Soviet regime by metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky)); the legitimate heir of Patriarch Tikhon and his spiritual successor, Serafim of Solovki), metropolitans Gennadii (Sekatch), Theodosius (Gumennikov) and Gregorii ordained Veniamin Bereslavskii as a priest-monk. Veniamin received the new name Ioann in honor of Saint John the Baptist. Having inherited full canonical and apostolic succession from the heads of the True Orthodox Church, Ioann and his companions received a blessing to preach on behalf of the Church and to establish the New Holy Russia. In December 1990, by blessing of Locum Tenens of the head of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Ioann (Bodnarchuk; the Gulag’s former prisoner), Ioann Bereslavskii was ordained as a bishop of the Russian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (and in April 1992 as an archbishop). The spiritual hierarchy of the Church was established, and the Church community was officially registered (in 1992, as the “Church of the Transfiguring Mother of God”). The underground catacomb period of the Marian branch of Orthodoxy thus came to its end and a new, post-catacomb Church of the Mother of God started its spiritual ministry in Russia. Representing an independent branch of modern Orthodoxy, the Church inherits the light and the blessing of the Russian Church-Martyr, the great spiritual seals of its fathers – the hierarchy of Solovki elders, and testifies to the power of Crucified Love, and the glory of Holy Cross shining at the Second Solovki Golgotha.
The universal message of repentance and transformation under the veil of the Blessed Virgin
In the beginning of 1991, the crucial year for Russia, Mother of God told to father John: “I am sorry to say, but Russia is doomed. Nothing will change in this country. The thrones that I promised to bestow upon Russia, will be distributed among other countries. There are tribulations to come, and little time is left...”
In face of impending disasters (described in the Apocalypse and in the forecasts of elders and visionaries), the Virgin gave a series of revelations to father John calling upon Russia to convert and to dedicate itself fully to the Immaculate Heart of the Mother of God.
“I am the only One who can save the doomed Russia. The Devil has already three times asked the Lord to sign the death verdict for Russia, but the Son of God appealed to Me to obtain My blessing. And insofar as My blessing is with Russia, this country will not perish.
What is the Lord’s wish concerning Russia? Pay attention to the following:
2. Worship as a lifestyle
3. To recognize the Queen of Heaven as one’s native Mother
4. The Unity transcending temples and religions, consecrating airs, lands, and houses, and permeating body, hearts and minds ...
I am the Mother of Humanity of the New Earth and the New Heaven. I wish the light of faith in Christ and in the Holy Trinity that I profess would now illuminate the whole universe, the worlds both visible and invisible. You must become my devoted intermediaries and missionaries. Do not restrict your missionary activities to Russia. Russia is just a starting ground for a far greater movement: with its origins in traditional Christianity, this movement should turn into a universal religion of the Mother of God who adopts the whole mankind as Her own children.
I promise the blessing of peace and joy, light and bliss to all coming under my aegis and swearing an oath of allegiance to Me. In this case, the humanity will escape wars, temptations, and death…
I do not wish to adopt you against your will – it is your inner man who should give his free consent for being adopted by Me. Everyone should swear an oath to me – parliaments and politicians, prime ministers and poets, intellectuals and workers, rich and poor, sinners and saints. None will escape My promise of salvation and the forgiveness of sins.
I am your last hope, the only hope that you have if you wish to become a New Russia” (Revelation of 01.04.1991).
… “I am the Only One who can help you,” – said the Immaculate in Fatima, shortly after she revealed Herself as Russia’s Spiritual Queen through the wonder-working icon “Reigning” (in March 1917, on Tsar Nicholas’ abdication day). “I am your last hope” – She repeated in 73 years, as Her motherly heart anticipated the looming tragedy and the new Gulag ...
After the fall of communism, looking for ways to overcoming crisis and spiritual stagnation of the country, father John established the movement “New Holy Russia”. Gathering under a single roof Russian intellectuals, priests, philosophers, and all the righteous souls, the movement had contributed to the peaceful development of Russia in the early 1990s. Thus, it published a series of articles in major newspapers with an appeal for Russia to turn to the genuine spiritual values and ideals (e.g.: “Repentance as a key to Russia’s Salvation”, “Faith and Idolatry”, “The Righteous Will Save Russia”, “The Lessons of Holiness”, and others).
Already before the notorious events of August 1991, in an attempt to prevent possible bloodshed and violence and to find peaceful ways for the resolution of the conflict, father John had met with the key figures in Russian political and military circles, including Marshal Dmitry Yazov, the USSR’s Minister of Defense. Messages from the Mother of God were delivered by father John to Yazov during the meeting, including Her wish for Yazov to abstain from opening fire on Russian people during the conflict! At that moment, a pillar of fiery grace descended upon Yazov, strengthening and encouraging him.
In June 1991, the first all-Russian Marian council was held in Moscow. On behalf of all Russians, the Council proclaimed the renunciation of the spirit of communism and the red dragon (Apoc., 12). Pursuant to the Fatima prophecy, Russia was dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin. By revelation from above, father John performed the mystical coronation of the Mother-of-God as a Queen of New Holy Russia. At that moment, the great grace of the Holy Spirit descended upon the visitors of the council.
By recognizing the Blessed Virgin as its mighty patroness, Russia has escaped many potential evils and cleansing disasters. The Virgin’s invincible protection that laid upon Russia both in August 1991 and in October 1993 saved the country from the new Gulag. The Lord now put the country-martyr under the protection and responsibility of the Virgin, under Her holy patronage and care.
At a crucial moment, when taking a final decision to storm the White House (the House of the government in Moscow), Marshal Yazov was honored by the visit of the Blessed Virgin. The Lady was accompanied by a priest in a white apparel, in whom Yazov recognized father John. Yazov recollected one of the Mother of God’s messages – that She takes Russia under Her full protection – and ultimately renounced his earlier decision to storm the White House! The carefully prepared coup d’etat thus came to an unexpectedly sudden end. Yazov locked the office door, turned off all phones, commanded not to bother him, and fell asleep. Bereft of military support and declared outlaws by President Yeltsin, the putschists did not dare to shed blood, and went back down. Thus, the red dragon was defeated by the Immaculate Virgin in the sky over the White House, the event predicted in the John’s Book of Apocalypse (ch. 12). Within three days, the spirit of Gulag was banned, and the specter of a bloody spirit that took away the lives of millions people was banished from Russia.
In 1992, when meeting Naina Yeltsina, Russia’s first lady, father John passed to her the Mother of God’s appeal for the spiritual cleansing of society from the spirit of communism and its consequences. The message contained a warning about the possible bloodshed if the Virgin’s call for repentance would be left unheard. Unfortunately, the message was ignored; instead, in the beginning of the 1990s, Russian mass media launched a campaign of slander against father John as a messenger of the Virgin. The events of October 1993 (the constitutional crisis that resulted in 187 people killed and 437 wounded) fully confirmed the correctness of Blessed John’s earlier predictions.
Slanderous rumors were spread in the Russian mass media according to which father John allegedly spent “6 years in prison for murder”, used drugs, smoked, and had “Yankelman” as his previous surname (an appellation to the traditional Russian anti-Semitism), “renounce mothers”, etc. The results of tests and official documents presented by the Church, including a certificate of good conduct, had never been taken into account by the media and by the adherents of the official Church, with their inner motives obviously not being the search for truth, but the boycott of the profit, of his school and his works. The facts that during his alleged ‘imprisonment’, Veniamin Bereslavskii in reality lived in a small Moscow apartment near Savelovsky railway station, where he wrote his books, poems, and held regular meetings with his friends and devotees, and the fact that his original family name was Bereslavskii, were ignored.
Following precepts of the saints, Father John never applied to the court in search for protection of his good name, but entrusted himself fully to the Providence. The campaigns of slander made the persecuted Martyrs even closer to his heart, revealed the mystery of joy in sorrow, and inspired stronger love to the Cross! Subjected to the continuous harassment and slander, he courageously and uncompromisingly, step by step, was building a new vision of the various challenges of spiritual life, the view satisfying even the highest moral standards, and called for the restoration of personal, national and ecclesiastical conscience, unsullied by the sin and compromises with the rex mundi, the spirit of the world.
During the constitutional crisis of October 1993, when the future of the country was once again at stake, Father John rendered his warm spiritual support to the democratic forces in the country. In support of his vision of the events, he took part in numerous conferences and meetings, and gave several radio and TV talks. In his discussions with the leading figures in the Russian mass media, the victory of democracy over communism in Russia was presented as a spiritual victory of the Mother of God over the Red Dragon. In 2001, father John once again made wide presence in the media when he commented on the events of September 11th (e.g. at the 1st Russian TV channel): the American tragedy was, according to him, a call for the humanity to repent, and a revelation of the Christ as the God’s Lamb (Revelation 7:14).
There is an everlasting conflict between the old and new worldviews. At all times, the established traditions tend to clash with the lively personality and originality of the founders of new spiritual ways. As a spiritual trailblazer, but at the same time the devoted disciple of the tradition of the holy Orthodox fathers, father John has managed to combine fiery spirituality with its passionate love for Christ and Cross and renunciation of the ‘institutional’ Church – with the allegiance to the ideals of the narrow path. As a perfect instrument of the God's will, father John has opened the spiritual heaven as the ultimate reality of life (according to researchers, his Church has made ‘transcendent power a lived reality’. One among contemporary thinkers and philosophers, father John has deeply analyzed and described the crisis of the institutional Church in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The institutionalization of the Church, according to him, has acted as the major reason behind the spiritual dilapidation of the modern society. The profound repentance for the compromises with the spirit of the world is the only way, he maintains, to return to the original faith and spirituality of the saints and to overcome the existing crises.
As part of attempts to return to the original spirituality of holy fathers and to spread the message of the Virgin, in the period between 1991-2007 Archbishop John blessed and organized in total 25 All-Russian councils, which were attended by tens of thousands of Russians. The first council (the so-called All-Russian Penitential council) was held in St. Petersburg. Three congresses were dedicated to the Holy Virgin and Her great sacrifices and intercession in the twentieth century, resulting in crowning Her as Russia’s spiritual monarch. Two councils were partly devoted to the unity of saints of all world religions. At the XXth council, Russia has entered into a covenant with God for a thousand years. The XXIst council (held in 2001; attended by over 5000 people) proclaimed the advent of the Divine Civilization III. During the opening ceremony, Blessed John announced the coming of the “Church-Martyr of the Gulag, the Church of the Transformed Orthodoxy that “will bring salvation to the humanity of the third millennium!..”
The intense search for inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue urged father John to establish connections with the major representatives of world religions. In May 1992, at an invitation of Dr. John Rossner, the founder-president of the International Institute of Integral Human Sciences (NGO affiliated with the UN), he participated in the international inter-faith congress of non-traditional religions in Montreal, Canada. After the congress, the Church of the Mother of God was accepted as a full-fledged member of the International Concil of Community Churches (I.C.C.C.)
Thus, the Marian branch of Christian Orthodoxy received an official recognition from the international religious society and became an equal partner of other inter-faith associations.
After the congress in Montreal, father John travelled to the Marian community in Lavenir (Canada) to meet its spiritual patron, the visionary and stigmatist Mary Daniel. In Canada, father John also had a discussion with Fred Schubert, the spiritual child of Catherine Doherty (the Russian baroness in exile, the founder of the Christian charity movement, and an author of the famous treatise “Desert” about the worship of God in the modern world).
In 1993, Father John visited Japan. The Community in Hiroshima gladly met the Russian mystic and prophet, and in his person, the Community’s mentor together with her spiritual children, found their father. The participation in the Conference of the Orthodox and Catholic Bishops of Japan in 1994, and further in Moscow, in 1995, have become other landmark events in his international mission. In spring 2003, he organized an ecumenical worship service with the participation of both Greek and Roman Catholic priests (Croatia, Krizevci (Zagreb district)). The event became a significant contribution to strengthening of inter-religious peace in the region and was widely covered by the local media.
As part of his spiritual ministry in the name of the Immaculate Lady and the Church, Blessed John has also organized numerous theological discussions, symposiums, and conferences. His pastoral and socio-educational activities finally gained international recognition. In 1994, in “recognition of his exceptional contribution to work in the name of humanity, and to the promotion of understanding and peace among peoples”, father John was appointed as a special consultant of the International Association “Educators for World Peace”, a non-profitable NGO affiliated with the UN. The Association’s President Dr. Charles Mercieca (Professor of History and Philosophy of the University of Alabama, USA, and a prominent figure in the international Marian movement) became father John’s faithful friend, and dedicated a series of articles to the spiritual service of Blessed John and to the Russian Church of Our Lady.
According to Dr. Charles Mercieca, “The Church of the Mother of God has taken the lead in delivering the messages of the Immaculate – the accurate, rapid and fruitful service, that it performs with all its forces and all its heart ... The Church of Our Lady has also taken over the responsibility to courageously and relentlessly spread the previous revelations of the Mother of God, including those of Lourdes, Fatima and Medjugorje … The key mission of the Church is to help people to accept Mary as their Mother, with due reverence, awe and respect ... at the present stage of its history, the world is in a desperate need of such a Church ...”
In 1995, father John organized the ecumenical council in Moscow. Attended both the renown Marian visionaries – Maria Daniel, Emil Fifield, and Andrew Wingate, and also by many Catholic bishops and priests, the council united the righteous Christian leaders in the spirit of love and worship of the Mother of God.
In June 1997, Archbishop John was awarded with the honorary diploma from the international organization “Legion of Mary” (Legion of Mary) as a “man whose whole life is a lively monument to the service of love and peace”.
In 1998, in recognition of his special achievements, father John’s name was included by the International Bibliographic Centre (Cambridge, England) into the 13th edition of the encyclopedia “Who's Who among Intellectuals”.
With a peacekeeping mission, Blessed John visited many countries in Europe, and also Northern America and Asia. As part of these trips, he held numerous conferences and meetings, revealing to the audience the great experience of Christian ascetic tradition and the secrets of the past civilizations. He met in person with the patriarch of Zen Buddhism Dr. Kyungbo-Seo Bo, the Sikh leader Bhai Manjit Singh, the Sufi leader Shaykh Nazim, and leaders of other spiritual schools. His international visits to Canada, Spain, Japan, Croatia, Poland and Germany received wide coverage from the local media. In May 2001, in recognition of Blessed John’s international mission, the International association of Educators for World Peace awarded him a honorary diploma of Albert Einstein. In 2002, during his missionary trip to the United States, father John was awarded the certificate of honorary citizenship of the city of Huntsville, Alabama, in recognition of his achievements in strengthening of the spiritual peace and cooperation among churches.
According to Dr. Charles Mercieca, “his ecumenical dialogue both with other branches of Christianity, and also with other religions such as Islam and Buddhism is especially noteworthy. His knowledge of the most complex theological, philosophical and social issues is unsurpassed… The greatest spiritual gift of him is his ability to find positive and constructive side in nearly all phenomena of the modern world.”
Wherever the messenger of Our Lady travels, She is continuously with him, revealing unceasingly Her Divine Wisdom and spiritual truths. Already in early revelations, the Mother of God told Her messenger that Her Word would be miraculously accepted by people of all confessions, as a secret doctrine lying at the basis of their native religions. As She has repeatedly emphasized in Her messages, “I am the Mother of Supreme Wisdom who has inspired all the great spiritual masters of mankind”. This secret of the Mother of God is believed by blessed John to lead in the future to the unification of the righteous of all nations in the true worship of One God, the Father of Pure Love.“The Church is a perfect Mirror of the all-loving God”, told Father John in his radio interviews. The peculiarity of our faith is that we believe in the God merciful and loving, and we understand the Cross not only as a one-time redemption, according to the “legalist” theology (i.e. Christ’s crucifixion as a retribution for the sins of mankind), but as God’s Light and Love whose suffering and crucifixion continues to the present day.” Spiritual suffering and spiritual battles have been an integral part of father John’s ministry. During his prayers, father John sacrificially shares the cross of all abandoned and suffering people in the world. But the Lord always reveals to Him the great meaning of his sorrows. The spiritual sharing with Christ of His crucifixion at the Golgotha, and His loneliness and abandonment at the Gethsemane is the only way to reveal to the mankind His Heavenly Love. This Crucified Love cannot be passed to and accepted by the fallen humanity otherwise than through the mystery of the Cross. As a perfect vehicle of God, Blessed John reveals this Divine Fatherly Love to the people and it is this Love that, according to him, is the main force that can overcome the evils of the modern world.
Spiritual work and revelation of the Word. A short review
…a poet and a man who reveals the New Heaven and New Earth to humanity
Yevgeny Rein, Russian writer and poet
Blessed John is an author of numerous books, collections of articles and sermons, studies on the philosophy of religion, and theological studies. His works contain prophetic and evangelic insights, and his collections of prayers, hymns and services (comprising both traditional Orthodox prayers and musical prayers of his own composition), have made a considerable contribution to the liturgical life of the Church. In his books, Blessed John presents Christianity as a way of acquiring the Holy Spirit of God, as a spiritual ladder towards perfection. Spiritual ascent, according to him, suggests combination of “inner praying” practices (the Hesychast tradition) with the practical service and love for one’s neighbour, man, who is made in Christ’s image and likeness. With their lively, vivid language, the books of Blessed John reveal authentic Christianity as the Heaven’s life-giving gift that opens the inherent meaning of life and leads to the ultimate unification with God, the Father of Pure Love. This is a precious gift, a gift of sacrificial love, which is the only one that is able to miraculously overcome all existing inter-faith differences and to unite humanity as one spiritual body. Many of father John’s books have been reprinted countless times, having served as a strong stimulus for many to carry their own earthly crosses with dignity and to overcome the temporary difficulties and sorrows of the earthly life.
Blessed John began his literary activities in the mid-1970s, even before his conversion to Orthodoxy. At that time, works with spiritual and religious content stood little chances for the official publication. In the end of the 1970s, as he converted to faith, his manuscripts were edited and published in samizdat under the pseudonym Veniamin Yakovlev. The literature of that period is mainly dedicated to spiritual life and living as a monastic in the world. Repentance is a key theme running through his early books from the series “The Penitential Fire” (the first book from this series was published in 1982 under the pseudonym Veniamin Yakovlev). He no longer considered his literarary activities as a means of self-expression, but first and foremost as a spiritual service and carrying the God’s Cross.
The essential feature of his early novels is the existential longing of the holy soul, which, being attracted to the earthly lights, ultimately ended in a snare: “What am I doing here? Why am I here? And is there a way out of this nightmare? ... The world without God, the colourless world of Brezhnev’s stagnation, the prison for the spirit, and the main character in this world is like an alien, who has accidentally got to the wrong planet and is doomed for excruciating and endless torture – what for, for what purpose,– God knows only ... the suffering of the soul, invisible to others...”
Uncovering to the reader his painful searches for the supreme truth and suffering from the falsity around, the author reveals with utmost sincerity the deep inner crisis that he experienced, the crises that inevitably accompanies all serious spiritual quests, similar to the one that Pascal has been through... Father John’s early books call for the profound contemplation about the meaning and purpose of human existence, about the secrets of Deity, the soul, etc. His powerful and sincere early books are a prayer of the longing soul, the endless appeal to the unknown God: “Oh, reveal Yourself to me! Oh, put an end to the madness of our life by revealing Your exceeding heavenly truth!”
In the 1990s, with the advent of democratic freedoms, some of his earlier works were reprinted, including “The Chronicles of the Santa Yoho Prison” (“The Diaries of Truce”, 1976, published in 2005); “At the Gates of Faith” (1978, published in 2004). The handwritten version of the “Holy Friday” (1980) was revised and the preface to its first printed version was written; the book was published in the early 1990s. Since 1984, the Word of Revelation from the Mother of God is being published (until the present day).
… From the preface to one of his books of that period: “Virgin, I want to be Your faithful. Instruct and teach me in the school of Your wisdom – by griefs and crosses. Whatever will be given to me by You – I accept with reverence and humility. Lead me Yourself, the Queen of Lights Hodegetria, because I have no other hope than you, You are the one I trust in, You are the repose of my heart ...”
“… I am reading the Lives of the Saints – the martyrs Faith, Hope, Love, and their mother Sofia, the Wise. It's great. Is there any other real faith aside from the one that was professed by the martyrs? And is there any other hope – not the cheap public hope of the masses, but the martyr’s one, earned by blood of one’s heart? And is there another love, aside from the spiritual one, earned by the martyrdom and suffering? And the Wisdom – the pain of the naked beating heart ... the martyrs are we all in the eyes of the Most High, and God is infinitely sorry for all us ...”
In 1991, with the support of like-minded people, the Social and Educational Foundation (with the publishing house as part of its structure) of the Mother of God’s Church was established (the Foundation first became known as the “Mother of God Center”; and in 1993 it was renamed into the “New Holy Russia”, which ceased its operation in 1999). The Foundation published the book of Revelation of the Holy Virgin about Her apparitions around the world, the books from the series “The Penitential Fire”, the collections of articles about the contemporary spiritual life and the life of monastics of the True Orthodox Church during the persecution period. Since the late 1990s, father John’s books have been edited and published by the Church of the Mother of God.
The early perestroika period was marked by upsurge of publications dealing with the pressing problems of Russia’s development, including the causes and consequences of the October Revolution, the emergence of the Gulag, and so on. The Spetskhran libraries had opened their gates to the visitors, and both private memoirs and publications of the Russian emigre, as well as books of ‘ideologically dangerous’ and ‘banned’ Soviet authors, now poured to the literary market. The KGB archives were in part declassified, and personal files were subjected to revision with a view to rehabilitating victims of political repressions. For the first time, Russian readers acquainted themselves with the spiritual heritage of the Russian thinkers and philosophers who were deported by the Soviet authorities abroad. The society was searching an answer to the thorny question: how could it happen that in a country with a strong Orthodox tradition and rich spirituality, with a population of about 170 million people, a small group of militant atheists unleashed violent terror against their own people and the churches? Where was the God during the terrible catastrophes of the twentieth century that swept away lives of millions of innocent souls? Why the spiritual leaders of the world were unable to withstand the onslaught of the revolutionaries and militant atheists? Why, ultimately, in Nietzsche’s words, the “God was dead”..? In a search for an answer to these uneasy questions and wishing to restore their lost faith, many people at that time fell into despair and turned for support to various occult sects and movements. The publications attacking Christianity mushroomed...
In his works, Archbishop John provided a response to these thorny questions. Most importantly, and contrary to the wide-spread depictions (e.g. those of Aleksandr Solženitsyn), the Gulag was portrayed in his books not as a catastrophic event, but as a site of Faith, as a victory of Holiness and Crucified Love over evil and death. Glorifying the deeds of the New Martyrs and Confessors, he presented Russia as a place of potential future transformation. Thanks to their suffering, Russia has become a chest of hidden spiritual treasures that in the future will open itself to the world and will become an object of reverence of many nations. A great future was predicted by Blessed John for Russia, which from now on had been taken under the protection of the Virgin, its eternal Patron. Among his books of that period are “Russia will Saved by the Righteous Ones. The Collection of Intimate Conversations” (1991), “Armageddon over Russia” (1991), “The Chronicle of the Battle with the Red Dragon. August 19-21st, 1991” (1991), “History of the CPSU “(1991), “New Media” (1991), “The Lessons of Holiness. Articles about the New Pedagogy”, “New Era”, “Bathing in the White Font”, “The Voice of Crying in the Desert”, “The Mysterious Schema-Metropolitan. The Biography of the Head of the True Orthodox Church Schema-Metropolitan Gennadii (1889-1987)” (1991), “St. Innocentii of Balta”(1875-1917), “Non-canonized Saints of the True Holy Orthodoxy” (1992), “The Church in the Catacombs”, “Solovki. The New Martyrs of the Twentieth Century. Angelic Revelation”, and others.
As Blessed John told prophetically, “One needs to understand the phenomenon of the glorious hierarchy of the Solovki brotherhood: they will become a source of the miraculous resurrection of Russia … the period of dishonor is coming to its end. Our church will be purified … When the Lord will reveal Himself as He truly is, the genuine Orthodoxy … will revive.” And like elder Seraphim Vyritskii, they will repeat: “I have been everywhere in the world, I have travelled to many countries, but believe me, my children, there is no faith better than Orthodoxy. Our faith is the only true faith. Hold to it unswervingly and never betray it...”
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Pavel Gurevich, PhD, Professor, Head of the Department of Anthropology of the Moscow Institute of Philosophy:
“The Archbishop’s inspirational book is more of a theological, rather than philosophical nature. Yet, by its very structure and content, it is profoundly involved with the contemporary civilizational debate. Many philosophers optimistically depict the forthcoming future as the future of computer technologies. Others prophesy the death of the mankind. But father John’s prediction is quite different ... as he prophesies about a fundamentally different [Divine] civilization to come, the “civilization that has had no precedents in human history.” But what are the grounds for these optimistic statements in the world that is so badly corrupted by evil, depravity, and lust…?
The contemporary reader with his skeptical and rationally oriented mind, accustomed to scientific method, remains suspicious of the greatest divine gift – the revelation. The mystical revelation is of quite different nature, as it is oriented primarily towards the human Spirit. The man turns to mystics when going through loneliness, angst and fear of death, and mental stress. The mystical experience opens the way for much more profound, intimate communication with God, the source of genuine knowledge, and gives hope for a miracle ...” In this regard, as father John says: “... the dilapidated Russia, after the “debris of autocracy” and the Soviet terror of 74 years, has been elected as a country of forthcoming Divine Civilization”. Indeed, incomprehensible are God’s ways!..
The anthropocentric world, when a Man illegitimately occupies the God’s place, is a way to nowhere. Becoming “god” from the vantage point of adherents of anthropocentric tradition implies obtaining the keys to absolute power (technological manipulation with the human mind), finding access to the elixir of immortality (the eternal life), and obtaining a Gnostic Knowledge (the esoteric knowledge inaccessible to profanes). The forthcoming civilization of the saints will be a civilization of completely different values, with the Divine having primacy over the human (a civilization of deified humanity, or the humanity in full communion with the Lord). The way to this civilization is through crucifying itself, accepting the sorrows in the name of Divine Love, so that to be ultimately crowned with the Holiness and Deification”.
In words of Archbishop, “the time is coming when God will manifest Himself in full power. The time when the saints will descend from the heaven, and establish the throne of His glory. The time when the devil will be defeated and the Glory of the Woman clothed in the sun, and Her power will radiate to all worlds.” (“The Way of Theoanthropos”. Review of the book “Divine Civilization III”).
One of father John’s central books is dedicated to the apparitions of the Virgin Mary. The book contains the historical review of the Mother of God’s revelations to the mystics and the saints, and theological commentaries on the great phenomena of the Blessed Virgin, the messenger of the kingdom’s gospel of the kingdom throughout the XIX-XX centuries (“White Gospel”, Second edition (1995)). Among the books from this series are “Holy Virgin in Heroldsbach”, “The God elects Mary”, “The Mother of God from the Ist to the XXth century” (2003; second edition –in 2006). “My Holy Mother”, “The Myrrh of Her Maternal Love”, “Queen of Heavenly Love” reflect upon the mission of the Blessed Virgin.
The books dealing with the spiritual ways and Christian teaching about the God and the management are “Russia in the Cloud of Heavenly Love”, “The Queen of Heavenly Love”, “Christianity as Dialogue of Love”, “Meeting the Bridegroom” (2006), “The Gates of Love”, “Christianity as Zen” (1997), “The Gates to the Kingdom”, “Man, His Origin and Creation Anew, or Divine Anthropology”, “Father of Pure Love”, “Solo Sofia. The Wedding Feast of Wisdom”, “The Light-carrying Christianity”, “Temple of Peace in the Holy Russia”, “The Church of Light”, “The Martyrdom of Love”, “The Heart’s Talk”, “A Drop of Honey from the One’s Neighbour’s Heart”, “Night on the Mountain”, the books from the series “The Penitential Fire” (e.g. Vol. IV. “The Fathers’ Way; Vol. VII. The Breath of a Lively Faith”; Vol. XIII. Notes of a Monastic in the World”). The collections of articles and theological works on this theme include “The Sovereign Catechism”, “Theology of the Immaculate Heart”, and others.
“The Waters of Gospel”, “The Betrothal to Christ”, “The Gospel Larger than Life”, “Behold, I Come Quickly”, “The New Name of the Lord”, “The Ordinances of Golgotha. Sermons and Articles”, “700 Original Gospels” (2012) are dedicated to the authentic image of Christ, purified from the distortions of institutional faith, while “The Gate of Love”, “Sin, Repentance, and Confession: the Tradition of Slavic Theogamites”, “Man in the bosom of the Most High” discover the mysteries of the pastoral care and spiritual shepherding.
The “Heavenly Beauty of the Family. Conversations, preaching on the idea of a Christian family” (2nd edition, 2006) reveals the treasure of a pious family.
The sacraments of prayerful contemplation and of inner spiritual practices is revealed in the collections of prayers and contemplative books: “Steps of the Ladder”, “The Ladder”, “Bright Psalter”, “Liturgical song” (books 1-9); “Prayer book”, “Blessed prayers”, “Morning Prayers. Biblical meditation”, “Prayers to the Immaculate Heart”, “The Mother of God has Come”, “My Heart is Ready...”, “The Way of the Cross”, “Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom”, “Divine Liturgy”, “The Immaculate’s Protection over the Holy Russia”, “Acathistus to the Mother of God Reigning”, “My Blessed Queen”, “Morning and Evening Prayers”, “Bright Psalter. The Translation of the Book of Psalms to Russian”, “Prayers of Urban Orphans (after St. Ephrem the Syrian)”, “The Well of Penitential Tears (after St. Andrew of Crete’s canon)”, “Vigil. Liturgy”, “Hail, Mother of Heroes of the Slavic Yard. Hymns”, “The Small Crown (morning prayers after St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort)”, “Before and after the Psalms”, “Let God Arise!”, “The Hours of Psalter”, “The Steps of the Ladder. N 1 Joyful ordinances”, “The Steps of the ladder. N 2. Sorrowful ordinances”, “The Steps of the Ladder. N 3. Glorious sacraments”, “The Cell Rule”, and others.
After a visit to Solovki in summer 2001, Solovki become a principal theme in Blessed John’s works for many years. In 1712, the Holy Mother of God revealed Herself to the Schema-monk Jesus (who was in exile in one of the Solovetsky Archipelago’s islands), informing him that Solovki in the future would become the Second Golgotha of Her Divine Son, and will be engulfed in rivers of blood. The prophecy of Blessed Virgin fulfilled during the years of Stalin's terror.
The Russian Golgotha of the twentieth century is covered in details in the six-volume spiritual and historical essays of father John. The Second Solovki Golgotha is presented as a spiritual symbol of sufferings that all innocent souls have gone through during the two millennia of Christian history, as their collective sacrifice with the Christ the Lamb for the sins of humanity. Far away from being an allegory, or a metaphor, according to the author, Solovki is revealed for the first time as a historical and spiritual reality with a huge significance for the future of both Russia and for the whole world.
The images of saints, purified from institutional myths are depicted in: “Saints Descending from the Sky”, “Living the Life”, Vol. 1, 2; “School of Mary Magdalene”, “Holy Evfrosinia Myrrh-Streaming”, “Apostle of Fiery Christianity”, “Elder Gregory, The Hyperborean Bodhisattva” (2010), “The Myrrh-Streaming Relics”, “Saints of the XXIst Century”, and others.
The transfiguration of the Orthodox Church, which was predicted by st. Seraphim of Sarov in XIXth century, has been addressed by father John both as the Church doctrine and as a way of practical spirituality in the series of books “Seraphim of Sarov, the Sun of the Russian Land”, “I Believe in the Triumph of Holy Orthodoxy. Articles, Sermons, Letters” (1996), “Christianity is Transfiguring. Articles and sermons” (1996), “The Home Waiting for Us. Articles, Sermons” (1997), “Orthodoxy of the Holy Spirit”, and others.
The “Church of Love”, “For the Ascetics of Love” (2006) rehabilitate and glorify the medieval Church of Love, which was slandered and persecuted by the Roman inquisition, and also reveal the phenomenon of the Cathars, the ‘good people’.
Contributions to periodicals “Armageddon over Russia” (1991), “Russia Disenchanted” (1991), “History of the CPSU” (1991), “New Media” (1991), “The Time of Nationwide Repentance” (1999), “The American Shock. 11.09.2001” present the events of the post-communist Russia from the spiritual point of view.
During the 1990s, a series of the Mother of God’s own periodicals (consisting mainly of Blessed John’s articles) were also published, inter alia, newspapers: “The Knight of Faith”, “Mercy of the Mother of God”, “Oasis of Peace”, “Russia of the New Millennium”, and others.The literary works of Blessed John are about the messianic purpose of man’s existence, about a hidden potential of Pure Love in the Man, who has been created in God’s image and likeness. Blessed John is firmly convinced that it is possible to reveal this true image of God in the man and to attain deification through adhering to the ideals of ineffable goodness and virginity and by living unacquisitive life – the ideals of saints Francis of Assisi and Nil of Sora, saint Seraphim of Sarov and Leo Tolstoy, and others.
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Andrei Tutunov, Russia’s Honored Artist, the member-correspondent of the Russian Academy of Arts: “A vast literary legacy of father John is a chest of spiritual treasures intended for the modern society. His books embrace the rich legacy of the church experience, and are a synthesis of the mystical revelations of the Mother of God’s Word. They are a spiritual balm for the troubled souls” (Preface to the book “Anthem to the New Church”, 2003).
In his own research, father John attaches great importance to the linguistic authenticity of the sacred texts, and makes wide use of a comparative historical analysis. His research spans various themes, ranging from canonical Biblical texts to the Apocryphal Gospels (“Apocalypse as the Marriage Supper of the Lamb: Comments on the Prophetic Book of the New Testament” (1995)), and from ancient Jewish texts to the books of Western and Eastern mystics and hesychasts. He comments profoundly on both the David’s book of Psalms (“God’s Mysterious Dwelling. The Spiritual Interpretation of the Psalms.” Vol 1, 2.), and on the Sufi spirituality and Zen Buddhism. Never confining himself to a single denomination, religious or cultural tradition, in his books, father John reveals spirituality as the ascent to the spiritual ideals common to the whole of the humanity. Yet, despite the variety of topics covered, all of his works are united by a single underlying theme: they are about the authentic image of Good, Loving God and His dialogue with His fallen yet dearly beloved son, the Man. His most recent books devoted to the Divine Marriage (the so-called ‘Theogamic Marriage’) and to the pristine Divine Love Minne constitute the culmination of his spiritual research. Attaining Minne, the spiritual wedding with the Deity, is, according to the author, is the only and ultimate purpose of every man’s life.
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In words of the Russian writer, journalist and human rights activist Zoya Krahmalnikova (1929-2009), “… it is difficult to identify precisely the genre of father John’s book “Seraphim, the Mysterious Patriarch of Solovki” – it is obviously not St. Serafim’s biography. It is more to that: throughout the text, as if reading the book of life – the Gospel, Archbishop John walks hand in hand with his hero. It is a record of a lengthy nightmare, a depiction of so unreal yet trivially cruel reality, the description of a long series of misdeeds, villainies and torments, as if one, when seeing a heavy and suffocating dream, would have the only wish – to wake up, and yet would not be able to ... And … in the midst of nightmare … the Sky that opens so suddenly and unexpectedly … (Krahmalnikova, Z. “Is it Possible to Escape from the Apocalyptic Slavery?”. In: Culture, N 44 (7252), 23-29.11.2000, p. 4)
Blessed John has reconsidered and renewed the liturgical service of the Church. Having made the liturgy more accessible and understandable for the ordinary people, without, however, diminishing its depth and beauty, he has revealed with even greater force its mystical depths: “Voice of Lord in the Liturgy” (commentary on the Gospel and Apostolic Letters), “Fiery Eucharist: The New Word about the Traditional Sacrament”, and others. The vocal-instrumental
side of Father John’s liturgical service involves a rich variety of forms of prayer, including the ‘modes’ singing (in Russian, the so-called ‘lady’, or ‘glasy’, an updated version of the ancient ‘Octoechos’ (eight-voice/-mode system). The visible liturgical aspects of his service are also very special and are distinguished by the rhythmic bodily movements expressing the heart’s language, as well as the priests’ specific apparels, banners, and icons.
Zoya Krahmalnikova commenting on the worship of the Church of Our Lady: “It was a fiery liturgy: the entire huge hall seemed to have lived a common life, and each of us, astonished by Christ’s love to us and by our love for Him and for each other, was unified as a single Church, as the one body of Christ, as predicted by … apostle Paul: ‘you are the body of Christ’ (1 Cor. 12: 27). It was a triumph of the wounded body of Christ, the victory of His mercy and His Love.” (Krahmalnikova, Z. “Beauty of the Cross”. In: Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 19.08.2000).
Spiritual poetry and music
Yevgeny Rein, famous Russian writer and poet: “… these unusual poems are in fact a new gospel, the Gospel of the Poet. The poetic system of Blessed John is expressive yet clear and easy to comprehend... His poetic language is a kind of sermon, it penetrates to the profundities … it is, above all – convincing ... The thematic diversity of his poetry is also remarkable as it embracing vast horizons of modern world, spanning the religious, inter alia, Christian issues, and numerous aspects of life of our modern civilization. In his poetry, Blessed Father John has commented about even the recent Libyan war … As a poet, Blessed father John is never withdrawn or distanced, he is always either hot, or cold, as he seems to live up to that [i.e. of Revelation 3:16] covenant of the Apocalypse...
Here is a book of Blessed John, a poet and a man who opens for the humanity a New Heaven and a New Earth. He has put all the gifts and the truths of his heart into his poetic word, pronounced it in modern plastic and clear language, pronounced it with a strength and critical appeal, both to his followers and to all those whose soul and spirit are in need of poetic speech.” (Preface to the book “The Chronicler of the Future”, 2011)
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Russian poet and writer Vladimir Aleynikov, one of the oldest members of the PEN International:
“… sincerity and impulsiveness, a constant and pressing urge to speak truth to people, at whatever costs … Spiritual authority, the growing awareness of his mission, the right for speech, the right for the utmost frank and open – and therefore unique – dialogue with his readers and listeners ...
The poetry embracing all means of expression – from simple, even folksy, somewhat rude words – to the most refined, most accurate and clear expressions, which make it possible to reach even the highest peaks of spiritual wisdom … the celestial, transcendent language of unearthly dimensions …
And the music that penetrates every text and every phrase, every moment and every day ... Music as a sphere of spirituality, music as a core, music as the quintessence of speech, and it is because of music that absolutely all components of speech are in perfect harmony with each other, everything is at its correct place, everything is balanced, with no trace of disharmony … And the creator of this poetry has a feeling of harmony … This is a new poetry. Or … a “super-poetry” (Introduction to the poetry collection “The Prisoner’s Commandments”, 2009)“His poetry is unique. In many respects – it is phenomenal … full of mysteries and revelations ... There is no poetry similar to this one in the world” (Preface to the book “The Revelation of Poetry”, 2014).
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In recent years, music has occupied central place in the spiritual ministry of Blessed John. Through performing Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, Tchaikovsky and Chopin, father John has discovered anew the spiritual depths and potential of the musical language, the language far exceeding the limits of human speech. As a musician, elder, and mystic, he attaches foremost importance to Music and a Medium of the Divine Spirit and to playing music as a means of uncovering the humanity’s spiritual archetype. The latter, according to blessed John, is at the core of every great musical composition, that genuine ‘heavenly’ source from which each and every great composer ultimately derives his inspiration. The ‘spiritual’ or ‘Minne-oriented’ way of performance stands in stark contrast with the classical musical school with its heavy emphasis on the “instrumental” or “technically” perfect play. While not negating the aesthetic value of playing a musical instrument, in his own piano play father John strives at touching the depth of the listeners’ souls and at moulding their hearts as his primary objective.
Archbishop John: “When I first discovered music, I realized that it is the only way to express something that cannot be expressed by other means, to express something absolutely ineffable. Minne, the Supreme Love, can be expressed only through the language of music … in order to express Minne adequately, one certainly requires music … so one needs to fall in love with Minne, and to fall in love with the music, just to ultimately become an instrument of heavenly love. Ultimately, there are four “loves”: love for God, Love for Man, Love for Minne, and Love for Music. This is fullness!
As Christ is a model for His disciples, the minor Christs, Mozart (as Tchaikovsky put it once, ‘a musical Christ’) – is a model for all composers. Mozart was unsurpassed, both Beethoven and Wagner adored Him ... The mystery of Mozart was that he was unsurpassed not only in music, but also in spirituality. He was a colossal figure in spirituality, a spiritual absolute. Mozart, in other words, stands out as an incredible synthesis of both musical genius and spiritual maestro ...
The true genius in art, as opposed to talent can be described as a combination of both artistic talent and the gifts of spirituality. This kind of artist in fact is the only one who is able to create true masterpieces. Other composers and musicians, even when gifted musically, if they do not set for themselves higher spiritual standards, and do not strive for the knowledge of the God, remain toothless in their attempt to break through the shell of philistinism and this fallen mundane order. They are inept at an open battle with the rex mundi, the prince of this world. Ultimately, they are unable to enter into the sphere of Elizium, the Hyperborean spheres of ineffable blisses of pure love which is not of this world”.The “The Piano Gospel of Maria Veniaminovna Yudina” (2010), “The Cathar Lyre”(2010), “Mozart as a Musical Christ” (2012) contain inspiring thoughts about music as a prayer, music as a spiritual contemplation, and about the Divine illumination of Minne. Alongside that, numerous music recordings of father John’s piano play have been issued in recent years.
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Vsevolod Zaderatsky, Doctor of Arts, musicologist, professor at the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory, Honored Artist of the Russian Federation:
“When I met him, I was amazed at his knowledge of music, totally professional. And by his understanding and interpretation of music a spiritual mystery of the human mind, which obviously stems from his knowledge of something that he himself feels as a divine revelation.
His love for Beethoven, who was a divinely inspired person, explains much in his personality, for he himself possesses an equal musical gift. Even though this gift manifests in him in an entirely different form, it is nonetheless noticeable, and can be felt both in his books and in its overall life. He praises Beethoven as a man with a talent equal to his own, as a man of the same stellar level, of the same innate incomprehensibility and inaccessibility – in other words, I felt that he knows Beethoven.As a musician, he made a great impression on me. He is a great musician, and an excellent pianist. I listened to some of his records – I was struck by his intimate contact with the keyboard, his expert pianistic skills. Even though it is obvious that he is does not practice music professionally, he sits at piano from time to time only.”
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Evgenii Levashev, Ph.D, professor of the Moscow State Conservatory: “There is one feature in Your performance that has for several years remained an attractive yet unachievable ideal for me. I have dreamed about presenting a lecture to the students of the Moscow Conservatory during which I would play music only, without uttering a single word, but it would be completely understandable for the students. In this regard, your play of [Beethoven’s] 6th symphony appears as a perfect model for this kind of a lecture.”
About blessed John’s book “The Hyperborean Slavic-Theogamic Lady” (2012): “… let me tell about the phenomenal value and unique artistic power of this work both in Russian and in the international spiritual poetry … this kind of poetry is a truly new word in art, and, moreover, a revelation of a new era in it … The ‘lady’, which is a unique combination of both poetry and music … open up an entirely new epoch in the church music. His [father John’s] concept of the musical drama makes it possible not only to reflect the heavenly prototypes in the earthly singing, but also, by means of artistic talent, to break through to the heavenly mystical realities” (“The Hyperborean Slavic-Theogamic Modes” (2012), pp. 17-18).“The sacred duty of the poets and psalmists of the ancient world was, in addition to praising God, was also to condemn the evils of the earthly world (such as for example the psalm that compared Jerusalem to a ‘vegetable storehouse’. The ‘lady’ of Archbishop John’s continue and renew this tradition”. (Ibid, p. 21)
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(c) Fr. Iliya (Popov).
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