Regarding the Death of Brother Joseph, Curator of the Iveron Icon

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The following article is reprinted from the 15/28 December 1997 issue of Orthodox Russia.

"Fear not, little flock…" These words, directed to all Orthodox Christians today have a special significance for us. Fear not, little flock, those who in the past year took from the Church the Hebron Monastery. Fear not those who in St. Petersburg killed Fr. Alexander Zharkov and in Athens killed brother Joseph, curator of the Iveron Myrrh-streaming Icon. Fear not, little flock, persecution and oppression, for the Lord, your Shepherd will not abandon you! Rather, little flock, be afraid of losing love towards God and towards your neighbor, be afraid of becoming embittered, beginning to repay evil with evil. Let us fear this, for thereby we may imperceptibly relinquish the spirit of Christ.

And who will come to our defense? Let us consider: Why does the Lord allow us to experience sorrows and persecutions? Is it not our own fault? The words of Priest Alexander Iwascewicz are a just reminder to all of us. Regarding the tragic death of brother Joseph and the subsequent disappearance of our Protectress, the Iveron Myrrh-streaming Icon, Fr. Alexander wrote: " We must repent and ask forgiveness for this great loss…. We have lost control of ourselves, we have fallen into quarreling with one another, at times we have been united only by hatred. Even if it is hatred for the bad and unjust, it is still ultimately hatred, and not love in Christ, that unites us. There are difficulties and disagreements in many of our parishes. Some parishioners do not come to church because they do not want to meet certain parishioners. Brothers and sisters, whole families bear some ancient grudges within their bosoms…." It is a fact that there are comparable difficulties in the monasteries and even among the clergy. Why then are we surprised by the sorrows which the Lord sends us as calls to repentance. Let us not accuse anyone. Let us instead turn the fire of accusation against ourselves. If repentance does not become law for us, we will have to drink of a cup of such sorrows as we in our complacency cannot now even imagine. [Note: This article was written before the St. Nicholas Cathedral in Montreal burned down - Ed.] Today Orthodox Christians living in the West apparently face no threat, but let us remember the lesson of Russia: Just one year before the 1917 revolution, almost no one could imagine a threat hanging over the Church. In June 1917, Bolshevik accession to power seemed impossible. Yet, In January 1918, only a few months after the revolution, the Soviet People’s Committee issued a "decree regarding freedom of conscience," by which the Russian Orthodox Church lost all of Her historical legal and economic rights. Lest we forget: a similar unexpected turn of events could well happen in our times.

Still, despite all our sins, the Lord continues to comfort us with repeated signs of His love. We all remember the appearance during the summer of 1997 of a new Myrrh-streaming Iveron Icon in Brazil. In Michigan City, Indiana, the Icon of the Holy Hierarch Nicholas continues to stream myrrh; this icon appeared in the Church of St. George in December 1996, on the very day on which he is celebrated. However, the more signs given to us, the more we will have to answer for to the Most-glorious Judge should we not bring him the fruits of our repentance. The Kingdom of Heaven is promised to the little flock. Will we be among Christ’s chosen sheep? To a great extent, this depends upon us.

During one of his visits to our parish, Joseph promised to give matushka Maria Potapov a relic of her heavenly patron, the Venerable St. Mary of Egypt. However, his martyrdom prevented him from fulfilling that promise.

Among the many letters received in response to our publication in Parish Life of the accounts of Joseph’s death and the Heavenly signs which followed, one letter came from an American named John File. Here are excerpts from that letter.

"Today a friend of mine gave me a copy of the January "Parish Life." It caused my heart to rejoice, reading about the miracles which are manifesting the sanctity of our beloved Brother Jose. I only saw him once with the Icon…3 ½ years ago, when my friend Michael and I spent two weeks in Mahopac, repairing the roof of the Church after the fire, but I have heard much about him from my friend Claude Lopez, in Switzerland, who was a dear friend of his…. When I received your "Parish Life" today, I called Claude, although it was the middle of the night…. I Couldn’t wait to inform him of the joyous news [of the appearance of the Heavenly signs]. He was overwhelmed with heavenly joy. I am sure that he’ll call…Vladika Ambroise who will also rejoice, as well as all the pious Orthodox people in France and Switzerland, who will learn of these wondrous consolations…!

Out of gratitude for the joy your recounting of these miracles brought to me, I am enclosing a small but precious gift for you. It is a small… relic of Our Holy Mother, St. Mary of Egypt - a piece of bone from …a tibia that I received nine years abo. It was taken from the Roman Church of S. Pietro in Po, in Cremona, Italy. A portion of her relics was taken there, having been stolen from the Monastery of St. Zosima … two miles from Jericho, during the Latin occupation of Palestine during the Crusades….

It is noteworthy that the author of this letter did not know that St Mary of Egypt was matushka’s heavenly patron, nor that Joseph had promised her a piece of her relics.

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