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October 20, 2017

Saint Jonah of Manchuria, Bishop of Hankoo (+ 1925)

St. Jonah of Manchuria (Feast Day - October 20)

The future Saint Jonah was born in 1888 in Kaluga, Russia, with the name Vladimir Pokrovsky. He was orphaned at the age of 8 and was taken in by a deacon, who ensured he received an education. He went on to attend, graduate, and eventually teach at the Kazan Theological Academy. While attending as a student, he was tonsured a monk of the Optina Brotherhood and given the name Jonah. He took a teaching position at the academy only out of obedience to the Elder Gabriel of Optina.

In 1918 the Revolution forced the young hieromonk to leave Kazan. He was arrested by the communists and suffered beatings to the point of loss of consciousness and imprisonment. Fr. Jonah was freed by the White Army, was soon raised to the rank of abbot, and assigned as the senior priest of the southern volunteer troops. He then withdrew to the borders of Western China with the army of Alexander Dutov, being subjected to many hardships while crossing the Pamir cliffs, often forced to grab on to the sparse shrubbery and jagged ledges of the ice covered cliffs with wounded hands. After crossing the Gobi Desert, they finally reached Beijing, where Fr. Jonah was received into the Ecclesiastical Mission there and soon consecrated bishop of Manzhuria. (Saint Jonah was officially the bishop of Hankou, in the Hubei province, but actually ministered and worked in the town of Manzhuria, the modern day border town of Manzhouli, not to be confused with the region of Manchuria, of which this town is a part.)

At the time of his arrival in the fall of 1922, the border town of Manzhuria was bursting with Russian refugees who had barely any more than the clothes on their backs. The native populace helped as much as it could, but its resources were inadequate to meet the needs at hand; there was not even enough bread for the children. Existing charities were poorly organized, and the spiritual structure of the community was too weak to offer much support. Suddenly, the town was electrified. The transformation - both spiritual and physical - which Bishop Jonah effected in three short years with his flock, revealed his tremendous stature as a man of action, a man of prayer and an apostle of love. In that short time he established the following:

1. An orphanage that held up to 30 children ranging from the ages of five to fourteen
2. A children's school accommodating up to 500 students
3. A dining hall for the poor, feeding up to 200 people daily
4. Free ambulatory care and medicine for the poor of Manzhuria
5. A library spiritually feeding the citizens of Manzhuria

Bishop Jonah had been caring for a priest who died of typhoid fever. He subsequently contracted chronic tonsillitis and then, due to complications, developed blood poisoning. As he was dying, he wrote a final epistle to his flock, reminding them of the need to love one another, confessed one final time to Archbishop Methodius of Beijing, received Holy Communion, blessed those who were in his room, and then he put on the epitrachelion and cuffs which had belonged to Elder Ambrose of Optina and began, "loudly and with prostrations", to read the canon for the departure of the soul. Finally "overcome with weakness", he laid down on his bed and said, "God's will be done. Now I shall die," and, he indeed died within minutes.

That same evening, a ten-year-old boy named Nicholas Dergachev, who was crippled, had been suffering from an inflammation of the knee joints. All medical efforts had proven fruitless. He was unable to walk, or even to stand. The boy had a dream. "A hierarch vested in white appeared to him and said, 'Here, take my legs. I don't need them anymore. And give me yours.' He woke up and "was miraculously healed". From a photograph he later identified the hierarch in his dream as Bishop Jonah, who had died that same night, October 20, 1925."

Though his life was short, his memory endured long after his death. Saint John (Maximovitch) said of Saint Jonah:

"Already here in the diaspora we have righteous ones in our time. Although they are not yet glorified, people receive wondrous signs from them. For example Bishop Jonah of Manchuria." (From the book "Sermons," by Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco)

There was an attempt to excavate the relics of Saint Jonah in July 1994 which was unsuccessful in locating the site of his grave. In 1997, new information was provided that may have located the site, but so far no second attempt has been made.

He was officially glorified by the ROCOR on October 20, 1996. The Bishop's Council of the Russian Orthodox Church canonized Jonah as Enlightener Jonah of Hankou on 3 February 2016.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Thou wast a good pastor for the Russian people, who had departed in exodus to live in a foreign land, guiding them in every way, but especially with the love of Christ, in all providing a model of love unfeigned. O Father Jonah, holy hierarch of Christ, entreat Him for the salvation of our souls.

Kontakion in the Third Tone
Taking care for their daily needs, thou didst not forbid children to come to thee, O divinely blessed one, and didst found a home for them. And even after thy repose thou didst not forsake them, for in a dream thou didst heal a paralyzed boy. Wherefore we cry out unto thee: Rejoice, O all-glorious Jonah, thou worker of wonders.