John Kochurov is a 20th C. martyr, but before we
consider him, let us look at martyrdom in general.
First, Christianity has always been a church of
martyrs. One often hears it said that St. Stephen is
the first Christian martyr. St. Stephen was one of
the seven men ordained as deacons by the apostles. He
was preaching the Gospel, was arrested and put on
trial before the Council in Jerusalem. At his trial,
he bravely spoke about how Jesus Christ was the
fulfillment of all the hopes of the Old Testament.
For this he was stoned to death, forgiving his
murderers as he died. So St. Stephen is often
referred to as the first Christian Martyr or
Protomartyr. His story is found in the Book of the
Acts of the Apostles 6:8 to 7:60. However we can call
the Holy Innocents the first martyrs. These were the
babies who were killed by King Herod in Bethlehem
when he sent his soldiers to find and kill the Christ
child. Now obviously these babies were not martyrs in
the way we usually think of them, but in a sense they
did die because of the world’s hatred of
Christ. Their story is found in the Gospel of St.
Matthew 2:16-18. In the first three centuries after
Christ, there were periodic campaigns against the
Christians with many martyrs. The last and worst of
the Roman persecutions came under Emperors
Diocletian, Maximus, Galerius and Constantine in 303
AD. About 3000- 3500 Christians died as martyrs then.
As we can see these numbers are rather small compared
to the martyrs of the 20th century. We all know about
the millions of believers who suffered under the
Nazis, Communists and so on. Unfortunately,
persecution against believers of all religions
continues today. For example, the Chinese government
targets Christians, as well as Tibetan Buddhists,
Daoists and Moslems. In the last decade of the 21st
century as many as 100,000 Christians have died as
martyrs. This was a statistic used by the Vatican and
others. Others say the number is much smaller but we
are still talking about thousands of martyrs each
year. We should pray for them and also work in any
way we can to save such people. On October 31st, we
commemorate St. John Kochurov. St. John was born in
ussia in 1871, in the family of a priest. After
studying in Ryazan and St. Petersburg he got married
and ordained to the deaconate and priesthood. After
ordination St. John came to the United States as a
missionary and was assigned to what later became Holy
Trinity Cathedral in Chicago. He was instrumental in
the building of the church. He worked as a priest in
various cities in Illinois, New York and even in
Oklahoma. He helped to organize the first
All-American Council, which met in Mayfield,
Pennsylvania in 1908. A little later he returned to
Russia and served as a priest in Narva, Estonia. In
1911 he was assigned to St. Catherine’s
cathedral in Tsarskoe Selo, a town close to St.
Petersburg and one of the residences for the Russian
Imperial family. It is now part of the town of
Pushkin. When the Bolsheviks came to power in October
1917, St. John was arrested and quickly shot. He then
became the first hieromartyr of the Bolshevik yoke.
In other words, he was the first member of the clergy
to be killed by the communists after their takeover.
In December of 1994 St. John was glorified
(canonized) by the Russian Orthodox Church. Of
course, we in the United States should remember and
be grateful for St. John’s work in building up
the Orthodox Church in America and pray to him now as
a saint, believing that St. John continues to
intercede for us and the church in America.
Troparion — Tone 1
Aflame with love for God, you gave your life as a
martyr for Christ and neighbor, for this you received a
crown of righteousness from Him. Hieromartyr John, entreat
the most Merciful God to preserve the Holy Holy Church in
peace and to save our souls.
Troparion — Tone 1
You were revealed to all as a true shepherd O
Hieromartyr John of Chicago, for you nurtured your people
in the Orthodox Faith, guiding them by word and deed on
the path of salvation, and defended the Faith even unto
the shedding of your blood. Therefore, we, your spiritual
children, cry out in thanksgiving: Glory to Him who gave
you strength! Glory to Him who granted you the
Martyr’s crown! Glory to Him who through you grants
mercy to all!
Kontakion — Tone 8
As you zealously fulfilled your pastoral service, you
brought your soul to God as a well-pleasing sacrifice, O
Father John. Entreat Christ God to grant peace to the
world and great mercy to our souls.
Kontakion — Tone 3
Now the holy Hieromartyr is glorified, for he took up
his cross and followed Christ. In so doing, he gave us a
model of true discipleship. Therefore, let us cry aloud to
him: Rejoice, O Father John, the glory of priests!