The fool's last letter...
He then pulled young Dimitri towards him and gave him a kiss, while patting him on the head. His mother Polyxeni and her husband Panagiotis who were witnessing the scene were obviously emotionally charged. Mrs Polyxeni then decided to say her part.
--"To us, Crazy John was the support of our family. He was the one who contributed towards us making the about-face towards Christ. Our life changed, and he made us partakers of the miracle of salvation. He brought blessings into our home...
To me, Panagiotis and my children, he was a friend and a brother. As his brothers therefore, we decided earlier on to suggest to you all that we get together next Saturday at our parish to perform the 3rd day memorial service and then you all come to our place to eat with us, to honour his memory."
Mrs Polyxeni's suggestion was welcomed by all of us. Mister Anastasy in fact spoke up again, to add that it would be good to continue the impromptu discussion that had begun in the Memorial Service Hall of the Cemetery, so he proposed to all the people who were present to write down their own experiences with Crazy John during their contacts with him.
Father Dimitri who happened to find himself among the mourners, addressed Mrs Polyxeni and said:
--"I never got to meet the departed brother John - that fool for Christ - however, I would like to ask you, if possible and if you have no objections, if I could come to your house and listen to this blessed expose of miraculous events."
--"It would be a pleasure, father; it would in fact be an honour if you could come", Panagiotis replied.
So, everyone was looking eagerly forward to the following Saturday. Mister Apostoly the baker had arranged for the ceremonial wheat grain offering and all the other necessities for the memorial service. He had even notified the priests of the Sacred Temple that after the Divine Liturgy, there would be a memorial trisaghion for Crazy John. More than anyone else, it was mister Apostoly who was looking forward to that day.
Besides, he had every reason to look forward to this gathering, because on the day after Crazy John's departure, he had received a registered letter. He was very surprised to see that the sender was Crazy John himself, who had arrange to send the letter on the eve of his death.
The ever-curious grocer, mister Pandelis, was begging Anastasy in vain to tell him what the contents of the letter were. He kept the contents a doubly-locked secret and wouldn't divulge anything.
--"Ha! Anastasy, I know why don't want to tell me what the letter says. The poor deceased fool has probably written all sorts of silly things in there and you are too embarrassed to read them" he said slyly, in the hope of forcing him to speak.
Who was the fool finally? Him, or us?
--"Pandeli, I will tell you one thing: After I read the letter, I asked myself who was crazy - him, or all of us? We'll talk about the rest in due course, don't you worry", mister Anastasy said. But the news of the letter spread from mouth to mouth, throughout the neighborhood. And as was to be expected, it had stirred up everyone's curiosity.
Thus, on Saturday morning the sacred temple of the parish filled up with such a large congregation that the priest was puzzled. "This is the first time that I've seen so many people at a memorial service" he whispered to the sacristan. But he replied:
--"The fool - Crazy John - mustered them father"
--"But I can see strangers in the crowd also. They must have been his relatives" he muttered to himself, as he walked towards the Holy Altar.
Father Vassily had been serving at that parish for 28 years and he knew most of the parishioners very well. Young Dimitri who was assisting in the Holy Sanctum together with his brother Paul, said to father Vassily that mister Anastasy was asking for his permission (albeit permissible) to say a few words after the trisaghion.
--"Gladly, gladly, my little Dimitri. Let mister Anastasy speak" he said and nodded affirmatively, looking towards the podium where mister Anastasy was standing. As he himself admitted later to mister Anastasy, he too was curious to learn the reason that the Church filled up as though it were a Sunday.
So, towards the end, and before the closing prayers, father Vassily performed the trisaghion. The entire congregation was crying at the reciting of the words "My Lord, give rest to the soul of Your reposed servant John....." that father Vassily was chanting. He then nodded to mister Anastasy to approach and say what he wanted.
He then in turn stood next to the Sanctum entrance and said:
--Reverend father Vassily, you must be wondering what the reason is for this blessed gathering. You must be wondering why the entire neighborhood -but also other Christians, not from here- have come to honour the memory of our brother John, who was known to all of us as "Crazy John". Even the shop owners left their shops closed in order to come to the church from early this morning, to participate in the divine service, and not just to come for the trisaghion memorial service - as many people erroneously are accustomed to doing...
Today, father Vassily, we have gathered here to honour a saint, a humble man whom the Lord had bounteously blessed with a holy spirit. A man just like us, who concealed under the cloak of a fool all the virtues that Christ had offered him. John was a "Fool for Christ", who cared for his fellow-man day and night, selflessly. He approached every person with love. He supervised the neighborhood like a Bishop and a guardian of our Orthodoxy and would bring back souls - with his supposed madness - to our almost entirely forgotten nowadays Lord - Jesus Christ.
There are many of us who are lucky, because we were blessed enough -albeit unworthily- to meet and get to know a saint of God in our everyday lives. My words are too poor to adequately describe the life of our brother John. In fact I regard myself as unworthy, after having read the letter that I received the day after his death, which had been sent by the deceased.
As he mentioned in his letter, John had been advised of a miraculous event by the Blessed Baptist a week before his passing away, that is, to prepare himself for his exit from this world. As far as I knew, he was not suffering from any sickness, nor had anyone suspected anything from his behaviour. On the contrary, in the last days of his life he arranged to leave quite a significant trust for our neighborhood. He made arrangements for all of us.
In his letter, John gives advice and exhortations to each and every one of us by name, personally, that we must be hooked on our Christ and to study the righteousness of God. I will read you the letter in detail", said mister Anastasy, and pulled out the letter from his coat pocket. However, he was overwhelmed by his tears and was unable to say a word. Tears welled up in everyone else's eyes also.
Father Vassily then intervened, saying:
--"Dear Christians. I have known the deceased for more than forty years. But, possibly because of my sinfulness, I was not able to diagnose John's holiness. Listening to mister Anastasy earlier, certain events came to mind, with Crazy John as the central character. It is only now that I am made aware of those events and can perceive them as miraculous acts.
I remember how one Sunday morning at daybreak when I unlocked the temple I found Crazy John kneeling in front of the icon of Christ.
--"How did you get in, you fool?" I asked him.
--"Well, dear father, yesterday evening during Vespers I completely lost track of time and the sacristan locked me in."
--"And what was the soliloquy you were muttering in front of Christ's icon?" I asked him
--"I was just singing a song father, to pass the time" he replied.
--"Just be more careful, because next time I will call the police." I have to confess that I reprimanded him very severely..."Dear God, forgive me..." father Vassily murmured. "I am only just realizing why his face was shining like the sun.... And he went and took his usual place next to the main entrance of the church like he always did, and would sit and beg."