October 6 - Conception of holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John & Glorification of Saint Innocent, Metropolitan of Moscow, Apostle to the Americas
The holy Prophet Malachi prophesied that before the Messiah’s birth His Forerunner would appear, and would indicate His coming. The Jews therefore in awaiting the Messiah also awaited the appearance of His Forerunner.
In a city of the hills of Judea in the land of Palestine lived the righteous priest Zachariah and his wife Elizabeth, zealously observing the commandments of the Lord. The couple, however, had a misfortune: they remained childless in their old age, and they prayed unceasingly to God to grant them a child.
Once, when Zachariah took his turn as priest at the Temple of Jerusalem, he went into the Sanctuary to offer incense. Going behind the veil of the Sanctuary, he beheld an angel of God standing at the right side of the altar of incense.
Zachariah was astonished and halted in fear, but the angel said to him, “Fear not, Zachariah, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will call his name John.” But Zachariah did not believe the words of the heavenly messenger, and then the angel said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of God. And I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you the good news. Behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things come to pass, because you did not believe my words.”
Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zachariah and they were astonished that he had not come out from the Sanctuary after so long a time. And when he did come out, he was supposed to pronounce a blessing upon the people, but could not do so because he had been struck speechless. When Zachariah explained by gestures that he was unable to speak, the people then understood that he had experienced a vision. The prophecy of the Archangel was fulfilled, and Elizabeth was delivered from her barrenness, and gave birth to John, the Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord.
Be glad, O barren one who has not given birth until now,
for behold, you have conceived the lamp of the Sun,
and He shall enlighten all the earth, which is afflicted with blindness.
Dance, O Zachariah, and cry out with boldness,
"The Prophet of the Most High is about to be born."
The great and renowned Zachariah rejoices radiantly,
and exults with his wife Elizabeth,
for worthily does she conceive John the Baptist,
whom the Archangel announced joyously,
and men honor as an initiate of grace.
Saint Innocent, Metropolitan of Moscow, Enlightener of the Aleuts, and Apostle to America (in the world John Popov-Veniaminov), was born on August 26, 1797 in the village of Anginsk in the Irkutsk diocese, into the family of a sacristan. The boy mastered his studies at an early age and by age seven, he was reading the Epistle in church. In 1806 they sent him to the Irkutsk seminary. In 1814, the new rector thought it proper to change the surnames of some of the students. John Popov received the surname Veniaminov in honor of the deceased Archbishop Benjamin of Irkutsk (+July 8, 1814). On May 13, 1817 John was ordained deacon for the Irkutsk Annunciation church, and on May 18, 1821, he was ordained priest.
The missionary service of the future Apostle of America and Siberia began in the year 1823. Father John spent 45 years laboring for the enlightenment of the peoples of Kamchatka, the Aleutian Islands, North America, Yakutsk, the Khabarov frontier, performing his apostolic exploit in severe conditions and at great risks to life. Saint Innocent baptized ten thousand people, and built churches, beside which he founded schools and he himself taught the fundamentals of the Christian life. His knowledge of various crafts and arts aided him in his work.
Saint Innocent was a remarkable preacher. During the celebration of the Liturgy, memorial services and the all-night Vigil, he incessantly guided his flock. During his time of endless travels, Saint Innocent studied the languages, customs and habits of the peoples, among whom he preached. His work in geography, ethnography, and linguistics received worldwide acclaim. He composed an alphabet and grammar for the Aleut language and translated the Catechism, the Gospel, and many prayers into that language. One of the finest of his works was the Indication of the Way into the Kingdom of Heaven (1833), translated into the various languages of the peoples of Siberia and appearing in more than 40 editions. Thanks to the toil of Saint Innocent, the Yakut people in 1859 first heard the Word of God and divine services in their own native language.
On November 29, 1840, after the death of his wife, Father John was tonsured a monk with the name Innocent by Saint Philaret, the Metropolitan of Moscow, in honor of Saint Innocent of Irkutsk. On December 15, Archimandrite Innocent was consecrated Bishop of Kamchatka, the Kurile and Aleutian Islands. On April 21, 1850 Bishop Innocent was elevated to the rank of archbishop.
By the Providence of God on January 5, 1868, Saint Innocent succeeded Metropolitan Philaret on the Moscow cathedra. Through the Holy Synod, Metropolitan Innocent consolidated the secular missionary efforts of the Russian Church (already in 1839 he had proposed a project for improving the organization of missionary service).
Under the care of Metropolitan Innocent a Missionary Society was created, and the Protection monastery was reorganized for missionary work. In 1870 the Japanese Orthodox Spiritual Mission headed by Archimandrite Nicholas Kasatkin (afterwards Saint Nicholas of Japan) was set up, to whom Saint innocent had shared much of his own spiritual experience. The guidance by Saint Innocent of the Moscow diocese was also fruitful, by his efforts, the church of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos was built up into the Moscow Spiritual Academy.
Saint Innocent fell asleep in the Lord on March 31, 1879, on Holy Saturday, and was buried at the Holy Spirit Church of the Trinity-Saint Sergius Lavra. On October 6, 1977, Saint Innocent was glorified (canonized as a saint) by the Russian Orthodox Church.
O Holy Father Innocent
in obedience to the will of God
you accepted dangers and tribulations
bringing many peoples to the knowledge of Truth.
You showed us the way,
now by your prayers help lead us into the Kingdom of Heaven.
You evangelized the northern people of America and Asia,
proclaiming the Gospel of Christ to the natives in their own tongues.
O Holy Hierarch Father Innocent,
enlightener of Alaska and all America,
your ways were ordered by the Lord.
Pray to Him for the salvation of our souls in His heavenly Kingdom.
A true celebration of the providence and grace of God
is your life, O Holy Father Innocent, Apostle to our land.
In hardships and dangers you toiled for the Gospel’s sake
and God delivered and preserved you unharmed.
From obscurity He highly exalted you as an example
that the Lord truly guides us in the way we should go.