St. Philaret Sermon at Funeral of St. John
There are at least two other versions of this sermon on the internet. This is taken from Orthodox Life magazine 1966 (4)
ADDRESS of METROPOLITAN FILARET
before the MEMORIAL SERVICE for VLADIKA JOHN.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
From years long past there has existed among Russian Orthodox people the belief that bishops of the Orthodox Church die “in threes”, meaning within a set space of time.
I unwittingly recalled this old belief just now. Just after the last Sobor of Bishops of the Church Abroad, a year and a half ago, a participant in the Sobor, Vladika Archbishop Stephan, died in advanced old age.
Later on, a little more than a year ago, the orphaned Church Abroad prayerfully conducted along the “way of all the earth” her aged Primate and spiritual father, the unforgettable elder, Metropolitan Anastasy.
And now, at last, there is a third name. Yesterday during the vigil service, an urgent telephone call from Vladika Nektary in far-off California brought sorrowful news to us; one of the most senior hierarchs of our Church, the first vice-chairman of the Synod, archpastor and ascetic, Vladiko Archbishop John died suddenly in Seattle, where he had arrived with the Wonderworking Icon of the Mother of God, accompanied by Vladika Nektary.
Stunning news. Now, when I think of Vladika John, I recall that over 30 years ago, already a long time ago, my deceased father, Vladika Dimitry, knowing of what sorrows and troubles the Primate of the Church Abroad, the Most Blessed Metropolitan Anthony, would have to go through in Yugoslavia, invited him to the Far East, to far-off Harbin, where there was a well-established church life. “You take a rest among us", wrote Vladika Dimitry to the head of the Church Abroad.
Vladika Anthony answered thus, “Friend, I am already so old and weak that I cannot think of any other journey than to the cemetery. But in my place, I am sending you, as my soul. my own heart, Vladika John. In our times of world-wide spiritual weakening, this frail little man, well-nigh a child in appearance, comes forth as a miracle of ascetic steadfastness and strictness.”
Thus his great Abbah defined Vladika John, then still very young and just ordained a bishop. Just as Vladika John was then, such he remained, and even now, in our own days, before our eyes, he remained just such a “miracle of ascetic steadfastness”, a lofty example of spiritual and prayerful mentality.
Vladika John prayed all the time. Vladika John prayed everywhere. It was not without reason that Hieromonk Methodius, then in Harbin and also of a spiritual mentality, made the subtle remark, “we all start praying, but for Vladika John there is no need to ‘start’ praying; he is always in a prayerful state of mind.” And no matter what changes occurred in the external surroundings and external life and work of Vladika John, the matter of prayer and service to God was always in the first place. Nothing could tear him away from this.
No one can contain in himself all the perfections and be the bearer of all gifts. Everybody can make mistakes and does make mistakes; no one is free from this. But those who dealt with Vladyka John, just as a man of prayer, as an archpastor caring for human souls and always ready to come to the help of those experienced in themselves and in those closest to themselves the power of his prayers, these will never forget Vladika. They will always carry in their hearts a grateful memory of that warmth and radiance which he gave them.
Vladika has died. The unceasing prayer which flamed in our great man of prayer, who constantly prayed “for all the people", has come to an “abrupt end. The Church Abroad will not forget him. We hope that Vladika John will acquire grace and boldness before the Dreadful Throne of the Lord of Glory. There he will pray for his children and for his flock, just as he prayed here on the earth. And our duty, the duty of thankful love, is to answer for his prayer also by prayer. And so, let us pray for his radiant soul, that the Lord may grant him repose with the righteous. Amen