PASCHA WITH ST JOHN OF SHANGHAI
Archpriest George Larin
One of the most senior priests of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, Archpriest George Larin, is blessed in one way: as a small boy in Shanghai, he was close to St John of Shanghai and San Francisco, who taught him a great deal. Several times, Fr George, then known as “Zhora,” greeted Holy Pascha with the hierarch and remembers how the holy main virtually floated through the crowd of worshipers. He would nurture this Paschal joy throughout his life.
– Fr George, tell us how Vladyka John celebrated Pascha.
– There was a fairly large cathedral in Shanghai. On Pascha night it was packed with people, and Vladyka John virtually floated among them. He walked around with the censer and greeted everyone: “Christ is Risen!” with such child-like glee. That’s the way he was, he had a child-like soul, such a remarkable person. You know, it was like St Nicholas the Miracle-worker suddenly appeared alive among us, he had such delight and joy sharing this Holiday with us.
Vladyka moved so rapidly through the cathedral, he seemed to fly. The subdeacons on his right and left holding the dikyrium and trikyrium [candle-sticks] rushed after him but could barely keep up as Vladyka circled the temple. I will never forget it.
A lot more connects me with Vladyka John. If it weren’t for him, my life would have ended up completely differently, and Vladyka foretold this.
– So he subdeacons couldn’t keep up, but what about you, a little boy holding his staff?
– Yes, I was very little then, I hurried after him and I’d get tired. The big subdeacons and I would rush through the cathedral, sharing the infectious joy of Vladyka John. I am sure that many others who were in attendance shared this special bliss. Many stayed until the very end, but my parents would leave early, after midnight office, before Liturgy began. They would take us children home and we would share the Paschal feast; I was about 8-10, my brother was two years younger.
– You celebrated Pascha with Vladyka John more than once. Do you remember any stories from then?
– Yes, it was a few years. We lived three blocks from the cathedral, it was a fifteen-minute walk. Vladyka would visit us. During Pascha he was always very happy. He had such a child-like smile, the joy emanated from him and was shared by all.
Later we were evacuated from Shanghai and ended up in the Philippine island of Tubabaoa, where we lived for about a year. From there my family moved to Australia. By the way, he only wrote in the old orthography of Russian, as did my father, neither of whom accepted the new style, considering it a Soviet novelty and distortion of the Russian language.
– What did you learn from Vladyka John about celebrating Pascha? Did being with him impress upon you the significance of this feast day?
– Oh, yes! Thanks to my time spent with him I came to understand a great deal. Vladyka would say that Pascha was the most important day of the year, the Holiday of holidays. It lasted a whole month, when we would exclaim “Christ is Risen!” until the feast day of the Ascension of the Lord.
Vladyka John kept this Paschal joy his entire life—even during Great Lent.
Interview with Archpriest George Larin by Dmitry Zlodorev
17 April 2023