By Protopresbyter Fr. Demetrios Athanasiou
The sacred relics of Venerable John the Russian were moved to New Prokopi in Evia in October 1924 by refugees. It was here that Greeks settled who came from Prokopi in Asia Minor. In 1930 a beauteous temple began to be built there in honor of the Saint, which was completed with much labor by the faithful in 1951. At this time the Saint was transferred to the new temple, where he remains till today.
This shrine is one of the great pilgrimage centers of Greece. The faithful arrive from all parts of the world to venerate the Saint, invoking his help and thanking him for the many miracles he performs.
The Changing of the Vestments
The Saint personally asks whenever he wants his vestments changed. It is at that time that the coffin can be opened. The coffin cannot be opened at any time, except when the Saint wants it opened.
How does he notify when he wants his vestments changed? Well, he approaches a good soul in their sleep (from various parts of the world, whether it is New York, Australia or Thessaloniki), and he asks them to come to his shrine to greet him, tells them he is John from Russia, and asks them to go to his church to tell the priest that time has come for his tunic to be changed. This is how it took place in 1937, 1955 and 1977 when I became the recipient. I received the information from the faithful.
In 2005 the Saint asked once again for his vestments to be changed after 28 years since 1977. I have been here 43 years as a cleric together with three years prior to this as a layman, a total of 46 years, and I have seen thousands and millions of believers pass in front of Saint John.
What do I have to testify? What have I seen in the changes? The shocking one is that the Saint notifies us himself!
He once told a girl: "Come and see my pillow which is full of tears. I am weeping for you the youth. I am especially praying to God for the youth to support you." In 1977 we opened and saw the pillow completely clean, but beside his eyes it was wet with a large stain of tears.
We have all seen the head of the Saint move, including His Eminence and priests. It is shocking!
What has been revered by God Himself, He honored, graced and glorified, by granting the gift of incorruption until the Second Coming.
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.