Father John of Kronstadt, one of the most well known saints of recent history, possessed an evangelical fervour, and, above all, was 'flesh of the flesh' of the Orthodox tradition and of the faith and life of the Orthodox Church. Father John was an expressive and impressive preacher, an promoter of frequent communion, a man who moved the hearts of hardened sinners to repentance, a man with a great depth of love, and a spiritual healer. Huge crowds flocked to him from all parts of Orthodox Russia to hear him and to be healed by him (in body and soul).
Father John believed in indulging people with love. To indulgent people with love means not to judge, not to take revenge, and to endure and forgive. "Do not confuse man -this image of God - with the evil which is in him, because evil is only his accidental misfortune, a sickness, a devil's dream; but man's essence - the image of God - is always there". This recognition of God in others is the rule he used in relating to others. He also said, "As far as is it possible, be gentle, humble and simple to all, considering yourself, without hypocrisy, to be spiritually below everyone. Pride is the reason for a cold, pompous and insincere manner towards those whom are considered to be below us, or those from whom we hope to derive some benefit. When people speak ill of you and you feel resentment, it means that you are proud, and pride must be eliminated from your heart by worldly dishonour. Therefore, do not resent and hate those who speak ill of you, but try to love them as you would love people who benefit you, and pray for them. Maintain a peaceful and loving disposition towards your brother even if he deprives you of your last shilling; show him that, above all, you love God's image in him. However most people are angry when they are deprived even of a very small part of their property!"
One of the basic aims of love is to see everyone saved, transformed and united to true, divine love. This is impeded by what he called "malicious joy" when he said, "Oh, how disgusted I am by this devilish malicious joy over the sins of one neighbour! People cast a slur on someone's whole life because of one sin that he has committed. They forget that love extenuates everything. A Christian must truly wish for himself and others, that God's name should be constantly glorified in both himself and others, that all should become Temples of God".
However, sobriety from evil is not enough. We should also seek to obtain inner peace, since "without inner peace and harmonious coexistence with others, one cannot have peace and harmony within oneself. In acquiring inner peace, let us also be peacemakers in relation to our fellowmen".
To attain peace and love, and to preserve them, "Do not be put out of countenance when you are angry and when this anger prepares to manifest itself in worlds, command it to be silent. When you allow anger to express itself, it will pour out with great force and may overwhelm your defence". He continued, "Do not expose all your impurities, not to contaminate others with the breath of evil concealed in you. It is better to speak of your illness to your spiritual father or your friend in order that they may direct and restrain you".
On reproaching others of their evil he said, "It is better not to pass on reproachful words, but to keep silent about them or, even if it is not true, convey words of love and goodwill; then our spirits will be at peace" and, "if you wish to correct somebody's faults of your own accord, restrain yourself, because, usually, through our pride and irritability, we do more harm than good... Pray to God that He Himself will enlighten the mind and the hearts of men; if God sees that your prayer is full of love, He most certainly will grant your wish. An embittered person is ill; to cure him we must apply to his heart a plaster of Love", and finally, "Look at every human being as if he were unique in God's world, a great miracle of God's wisdom and grace, and do not let the fact that you are accustomed to him serve as a ground for neglect".
"Our Saviour bids us to love our enemies which is extremely difficult; but for a heart which is reborn through grace, it is easy to do so because God helps the believer in everything".
The reader is refer to The Life of Father John of Kronstadt by Bishop Alexander, published by St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, as a good introduction to his life and as an outline of his spiritual message.
The feast day of St. John of Kronstadt is October 19.