“A True Christian Always Bears Fruit”

A sermon given in the Pskov-Caves Monastery on February 5, 2019, after the Liturgy on the anniversary of Archimandrite John (Krestiankin’s) repose

Archimandrite John (Krestiankin) Archimandrite John (Krestiankin)

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit!

In today’s Gospel text we heard the story of our Lord Jesus Christ’s curse upon the barren fig tree. This is one of the more difficult Gospel passages to understand. The Lord cursed the barren but leafy fig tree when He found no fruit on it. It would seem that it was all sufficiently clear. But Evangelist Mark unexpectedly adds, for the time of figs was not yet (Mk. 11:13); that is, the time of fruit bearing, the harvest, simply hadn’t come yet. But the Lord implacably curses that fig tree, and it withers.

Many hit a dead end at this unexpected, harsh, and seemingly unfair judgment upon the fig tree. But for us standing here in this church today, on the repose day of Archimandrite John (Krestiankin), the very man whose memory we have gathered to celebrate answers this perplexity.

Most of us standing here remember our meetings with Fr. John. For many he was their father confessor. But was there ever a time when we came to him and it was not his time of spiritual fruit bearing? Was there ever even a single meeting over those many years when he did not give us the fruits of the Holy Spirit, cherished by him on the tree of his monastic and priestly life? It never happened! In God’s true pastor, in a true Christian, the time of fruit bearing never ends.

Fr. John gave us a great, beautiful, and joyful example of the possibility for that unceasing fruit bearing that is so pleasing to God. In his youth, and then in maturity, and even—I won’t hesitate to say it—with the physical weakness and feebleness of old age, whenever we came to him we always received the purest spiritual fruits of his saving council, his fervent prayers, which as he liked to say, “came from his whole heart and soul.”

Whether ill or healthy, tired after many hours of receiving hundreds of people day after day, or filled with strength after a brief rest in prayer, Fr. John was transformed when he heard God’s voice telling him that he must fill people, strengthen them with the fruits of his spiritual life. He had to support and console the suffering people who came to him.

There are different opinions that consolation is almost something psychotherapeutic—a sort of soothing psychological support. But, no. True spiritual consolation is something completely different. It is when a person receives in any trials, even the most difficult, grace-filled strength for life and salvation; the strength and wisdom to understand how these trials are transformed into our saving cross. It is the strength for spiritual triumph.

The fruits of the Spirit according to Apostle Paul are love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith (Gal. 5:22). Fr. John was one who had the gift of spiritually satisfying people with these fruits. He was one of those whom in the Gospel story about the fig tree the Lord called his disciples to become. Not a tree living according to the laws of nature—now bearing fruit, now falsely inspiring hope for fruits by his grandiose appearance but found after inspection to be barren. The Lord calls His disciples to a supernatural life—to always bear fruit!

It is impossible to overestimate the significance of Fr. John and the elders of the Pskov Caves Monastery. Just as in the nineteenth century when Russian society had lost faith and lost God, Optina Monastery gave it strength, so also in in the even more severe twentieth century it was the Pskov Caves Monastery that brought several generations of our compatriots to God.

Archimandrite John’s faith, love, mercy, and amazing courage had enormous significance here.

We thank the Lord that the majority of us standing here today had the opportunity to see Fr. John and partake of his spiritual table. We remember how he gave all of himself to us without reserve. Time will pass, and another sermon on his repose day will say, “We thank God that at least a few of us remember Fr. John, while the rest live by other’s memories of him.” Then the time will come when there will be no one left on earth who knew Fr. John personally. But we see with our own eyes how the fruits of his spiritual garden, his spiritual inheritance, his power of love and faith bear fruit today and will serve people for many centuries.

I would like to wish for all of us that we gathered here today, just as during Fr. John’s life, might also receive the same consolation, the same joyful strength for life and the struggle with sin that Elder Archimandrite John (Krestiankin) gave. By his prayers, O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us. Amen!

Metropolitan Tikhon (Shevkunov) of Pskov and Porkhov
Translation by Nun Cornelia (Rees)



See also
Archimandrite John (Krestiankin) as a Healer of Modern Temptations Archimandrite John (Krestiankin) as a Healer of Modern Temptations
Yuri Maximov
Archimandrite John (Krestiankin) as a Healer of Modern Temptations Archimandrite John (Krestiankin) as a Healer of Modern Temptations
Yuri Maximov
In his instructions Fr. John was able to point out the more essential temptations that an Orthodox Christian faces today.
“He spends all his time in the cathedral and even forgets to eat.” “He spends all his time in the cathedral and even forgets to eat.”
Archimandrite John (Krestiankin) as the soviets saw him
“He spends all his time in the cathedral and even forgets to eat.” “He spends all his time in the cathedral and even forgets to eat.”
Archimandrite John (Krestiankin) as the soviets saw him (1955)
Hierodeacon Theophan (Bortnikov)
Today is the tenth anniversary of the repose of Archimandrite John (Krestiankin). To commemorate him we present an unusual testimony to his zeal and Christian love—a sort of apophatic approach to the biography of a saintly man. It comes from reports written by the Pskov plenipotentiary for religious affairs A. I. Luzin, whose job it was during the atheist Communist period to watch Fr. John’s every move and report back on his “crimes”.
“I have seen a holy man.” “I have seen a holy man.”
Olga Rozhneva
“I have seen a holy man.” “I have seen a holy man.” On the Repose Day of Archimandrite John (Krestiankin)
Olga Rozhneva
The priest’s whole life turned around after meeting the elder. Fr. Savvatty came up to him and felt that he had no words, nothing to ask. He wanted just to stand next to him and feel the love radiating from this man. It was like a heavenly force coming from his soul. Fr. John poured out this heavenly love over everyone around him, and at first he couldn’t understand: How could Fr. John love everyone?
Jan Erik Kvalheim2/12/2024 9:57 pm
'Everyday Saints and Other Stories' I very gratefully hold here in my hand...this story and the others were pivotal for me.
Anthony2/16/2019 5:40 pm
I agree with Mr Gamer's profound comment. To second him - ''Well said!''
Gamer2/14/2019 6:00 pm
Well said!
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