September 3, 2010

Saint John Vlasaty the Fool for Christ of Rostov

St. John the Merciful and Fool For Christ (Feast Day - September 3)

In Rostov in the Church of the Holy Martyr Blaise (Vlasy), the relics of the Blessed John Vlasaty repose sealed. In his tomb there rests a silver cross and a Psalter in Latin. A plaque on the Psalter bears the inscription:

"In the year 7089 (1581), on the third day of September, in the reign of the great sovereign Tsar and Grand Prince Ioann Vasilievich, John Vlasaty reposed and was buried in the Church of the Holy Martyr Blaise, which is at Zarovy. Healings are received at his coffin by the ill who come with faith. Because of the abundance of the healings, he is surnamed 'the merciful' by the people."

When St. Dimitri became Metropolitan of Rostov in 1702, the Psalter was very old and falling apart. He had it rebound and placed it back in the coffin.

No one really knows who this Blessed John really was. He arrived in Rostov sometime during the reign of Ivan the Terrible. Some believe that, since he could read the Psalter in Latin, he may have been a convert from the West. He began his struggle in Rostov and lived out all his life there in great deprivation, suffering and persecution from both evil people and the elements. It is known that his spiritual father was Fr. Peter of the All Saints Church and that the saint was especially close to an aged widow of Rostov. Living in humility, patience and unceasing prayer, he spiritually nourished many people, among them St. Irenarchus, Hermit of Rostov (January 13). When he reposed, he was buried at his own request, near Fr. Peter and the widow, behind the wooden church of St. Blaise. His burial was marked by a terrible storm with much thunder and lightening.

Soon after the repose of the blessed one, a river of healings began to flow from his coffin. Among those healed was Metropolitan Kyril of Rostov, who was aged and, having lost the use of his arms and legs, had stepped down from the cathedra. After fervent prayer at the tomb of Blessed John, the aged prelate, who had been carried into the church, received an easing of his illness, so that he was able to walk home by himself. Subsequently, he not only was able to celebrate the Divine Services, but was able once more to rule the eparchy during the time of the captivity by the Poles of his famous successor, Philaret Romanov.

The memory of St. John the Merciful is honored locally on the day of his repose and also on 12 November, the anniversary of the translation of his holy relics.

He had "hair upon his head abundantly," therefore he was also called "Vlasaty", which means "Hairy."