HOPE FOR DEPARTED NON-ORTHODOX
Source: “Blessed John the Wonderworker, ” an account of the life and miracles of Archbishop John Maximovitch (1998), pp. 256-258.
The following incident is from an American convert whose mother died without becoming Orthodox. He was in sorrow and uncertain how to pray for her when he received this answer from Vladika John (Maximovitch), which he also interpreted as a sign that we should be missionaries and show love and concern for the non-Orthodox around us.
I was reading in the afternoon from The Orthodox Word of May-June, 1974. First, I looked at the photo of Vladika John’s sepulchre. As I did, I read again the troparion for him and uponfinishing, I was moved to kiss his Sepulchre and said to him how sorry I was that I had not visited it more often in San Francisco when I had been there. I then glanced at a picture of my mother and asked him once again to pray for her, and
I felt sure that he was praying for her. Then my eyes began to become heavy, and they closed and I entered into a kind of reverie, during which I saw my mother with her apron on, talking much as she did in the last years of her life.
Suddenly I sensed that Vladika was praying for her. I then saw her again, but this time down on her knees, crying and saving how sorry she was for her sins. She cried so loudly and so bitterly that I could almost hear her actual voice in the room. I was impressed to join Vladika in prayer and not to open my eyes. I began to pray simply but fervently for God to have mere)' on her, and I was conscious of Vladika’s presence very strongly, though I did not see him as I did my mother. She continued to cry with great sorrow and finally disappeared.
Soon I saw Vladika John, but only from the back. I could not see his face, only the veil of his kamilavka and the side of his beard, then the top of his episcopal staff and the sleeve of his rasson. He began to slowly walk away, and I noticed clearly that he wore a plain black monk’s mantle rather than an episcopal one. He then slowly exited with dignity and I never saw his face, but I was sure it was he.
I opened my eyes, arose, and again recited his troparion aloud, facing East, and kissed the photo of his Sepulchre.
I do not know the full meaning of what I experienced... One thing I note is that Vladika said nothing and made no promises. I was simply assured of his prayers and of the need of my own and others. I also note that he wore a monk’s mantle and staff, rather than episcopal mantle and staff. This would indicate to me that he did what he did in a private capacity rather than as a bishop in official capacity, which would mean that he affirms the Church’s prohibition of of-fering public prayers for departed non-Orthodox, but also affirms the teaching that private prayers for them are of great value and should be encouraged.
Joseph McKean, Youngstown, OH (September 6, 1974)