Honoring the saints of the West (2)
The author of this text himself St. Archbishop John (Maximovich) of Shanghai Miracle Worker (+1966) was canonized a saint on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of Orthodoxy in America in 1994 and his memory is celebrated on July 2 in all Orthodox Sisters-Churches. The text we offer here is from his report to the Council of Bishops in 1950.
In the establishment of Christianity in France, preached there in the days of the holy apostles, the saints of the following centuries worked hard to fight the penetrating heresies. St. Martin, Bishop of Turkey (of the city of Tours), became especially famous. We also find his life in the Russian Chetimines, although it was published on October 12, not on November 11, when he died and when his memory is celebrated. His teacher was the venerable St. Hilary of Poitiers. St. Martin, whose memory is widely revered, worked for the enlightenment not only of Gaul-France but also of Ireland, since St. Patrick, its educator, was a close relative of his and was under his spiritual influence.
St. Patrick was distinguished by a strict life and, like St. Martin, combined the works of the saint with monastic exploits. During his lifetime he became famous for many miracles that contributed to the conversion of the Irish. He is celebrated as a saint from the day of his death (491 or 492) with a series of signs testifying to his holiness.
Also in Ireland, two other pillars of the Church in Gaul traveled to fight pelagianism – Saints Hermann of Auxerre and Lup Troy. Both became famous for their fearlessness in preaching and protecting their flock from the barbarians, as well as for many miracles during their lives and after their deaths.
St. Hermann Oxersky died in 439, and his relics were kept incorruptible for centuries until they were destroyed by the Calvinists. St. Lupus, mentioned in St. John’s Iliotropon, Archbishop of Chernihiv (later Metropolitan of Tobolsk), became a monk in the Lerin monastery under the leadership of St. Honorat, the worthy successor of Rev. Honorius, the founder of this monastery. . Later, St. Honorat became bishop of Arles, where the church was built by the first bishop – Trophimus, a disciple of St. Apostle Paul. St. Lup was elected bishop of the city of Troyes, but continued to lead a strict ascetic life. Saving his city from Attila and performing several miracles, he died in 479. His relics survived until the French Revolution, when they were burned, but still to this day have survived a few fragments of them.
A century after these saints lived St. Herman, Bishop of Paris. From ancient times his life has come down to us, from which we understand that he was distinguished by piety from early childhood, and his childhood was difficult. Accepting monasticism in the monastery of St. Symphorian, he led the harshest life, a significant part of which was dedicated to prayer. He became famous for his miracles, becoming bishop of Paris, combining an ascetic way of life with pastoral work and acts of charity. Warned in old age of his impending demise, he died on May 28, 576. His name is a church whose construction was initiated by him on the site of the former temple of Isis in honor of St. Martyr. Vincent. In his time a church was also built in honor of St. Hermann of Auxerre, whom he revered and whom he imitated. His work and life finally established Christianity in France.
In present-day France, a host of saints and ascetics, pillars of Orthodoxy, and teachers of piety in this part of Europe begged. Then began the Christianization of the northeastern part of the continent. We associate with him the name of Saint Ansgar (or Ansgar), Bishop of Hamburg and later of Bremen.
The life of Ansgar, which we have today, was written by his student, Archbishop Rimbert. We learn from him that he was born in 801 and at the age of seven received a vision in which he was called to serve God. He was brought up in a monastery and at the age of 12 was tonsured a monk. He led a strict ascetic life, and then went to preach among the pagans inhabiting Northern Europe. At the age of 21 he went to Hamburg, then to Denmark, where he baptized the king with the people. From there he went to Sweden. In 831 he was ordained bishop of Hamburg and all the peoples of the North (Scandinavia). His sermon spread to Denmark, Sweden, and the Polben Slavs inhabiting present-day northern Germany. He was filled with zeal and a willingness to suffer for Christ. Grieving that he had not received a wreath of martyrdom, he was comforted by a voice from above and died quietly on February 3, 865. He combined his apostolic works with inner cultivation and from time to time retired to solitude. He was full of mercy, which he spread wherever he learned there was a need, regardless of location. He took special care of the settlers, widows and orphans.
Saint Ansgar performed many healings during his lifetime, but in his humility he considered himself a sinner. He wanted to do his good deeds and miracles secretly. The grace of God that rested upon him was so obvious that only two years after his death he was canonized and named in the Martyrology of 870. His incorruptible relics were buried. Thus, his life and the power of God’s grace manifested through him, as well as his canonization, when the West was still part of the Ecumenical Orthodox Church, leave no doubt that he is a holy man of God.
The sanctity of Bishop Ansgar cannot be questioned due to the fact that his name was not in the Greek lunar and liturgical books – this cannot be a sign of a negative attitude of the church in the East towards a saint. The Greek lunar calendar does not include the contemporaries of St. Ansgar, the holy brothers Cyril and Methodius, although they were well known in Constantinople. And the Catholic Church itself celebrates them much more than St. Ansgar himself. In the Greek liturgical books it was not and is not the consecrator of Bulgaria St. Boris-Michael, who was baptized by the Greeks, there is no St. Ludmila Ceska, baptized by St. Methodius himself; neither St. Vyacheslav or the glorified with the blessing of the Patriarch of Constantinople St. St. Boris and Gleb, or Peter of Moscow. Of all the Russian saints in the Greek mines, only St. John of Novgorod and the Venerable Barlaam Khutinski are mentioned in the synaxariums without consecrated services. The Church of Greece commemorates the Blessed Princess Olga, and there is a troparion and kondak for her, different from those in Russia. All this shows that neither we will stop honoring our Russian saints, nor can the Greeks have any negative attitude towards them. There are also numerous Greek saints, whose names are not found in the Minas and the lunar calendar, but their memory is celebrated in the places where they begged and services are held there. St. Ansgar served not only political purposes, but Christ and his apostolate was sealed in the countries he brought to Christ. The subsequent apostasy of these countries did not diminish the importance of his ministry, and the ministry of St. Methodius was not harmed by the apostasy of Moravia and Pannonia, which he had baptized for centuries.
In different parts of the universe, Christ’s righteous have worked for the One God, led by one spirit, and glorified by Him. The wave of revolutions and reforms destroyed their holy relics in the West, and coming to our Fatherland it also sacrilegiously reached out to the Russian saints. She also tried to destroy their memory, as Julian the Apostate burned the holy relics of the monks. But they rejoice in the Heavenly Church, and we are obliged to glorify their works even more, thus glorifying God, who works miracles through them.