Saint John of Georgia

Archimandrite John (Basil Maisuradze in the world) was born in the town of Tskhinvali in Samachablo around 1882. He was raised in a peasant family and taught to perform all kinds of handiwork. Basil was barely in his teens when he helped Fr. Spiridon (Ketiladze), the main priest at Betania Monastery, to restore the monastery between 1894 and 1896.

From his youth Basil was eager to enter the monastic life, and in 1903, according to God’s will, he moved to the Skete of Saint John the Theologian at Iveron Monastery on Mt. Athos. Among the brothers he was distinguished for his simplicity and obedience. He was tonsured a monk and named John in honor of Saint John the Theologian, whom he revered deeply and sought to emulate.

The monk John was soon ordained to the priesthood. Throughout his life the holy father dedicated himself to serving God and his brothers in Christ in hopes that his own life might be fruitful for them.

Fr. John remained on Mt. Athos for seventeen years. Then, due to the increasingly troubling circumstances there, he left the Holy Mountain with the other Georgian monks sometime between 1920 and 1921. He settled at Armazi Monastery outside of Mtskheta, where the Bolsheviks had left just one monk to labor in solitude. Once a band of armed Chekists broke into the monastery, led both Fr. John and the other monk away, and shot them in the back.

Believing them to be dead, they tossed them in a nearby gorge. A group of people later discovered Fr. John’s nearly lifeless body and brought it to Samtavro Monastery in Mtskheta. The other monk suffered only minor injuries and returned to the monastery on his own.

When his health had been restored, Fr. John went to Betania Monastery, where his first spiritual father was still laboring. He was appointed abbot shortly thereafter. Accustomed to hard work from his childhood, he skillfully administered the agricultural labors of the monastery. When visitors came to the monastery seeking advice or solace, Fr. John welcomed them warmly, spreading a festal meal before them. He enjoyed spending time with his guests, especially with children.

It is said that he always had candy or a special treat to give to the little ones. The children loved him so much that on the feast of Saint John the Theologian, while he was sprinkling the church with holy water, they skipped around him and tried to tousle his hair. The children’s parents were ashamed, but Fr. John cheerfully assured them that it was fitting to be so joyous on a feast day.

Truly Fr. John was endowed with a deep love for young people, and he was also blessed with the divine gifts of prophecy and wonderworking. Once a certain Irakli Ghudushauri, a student at Moscow Theological Seminary, visited him at the monastery. Fr. John received him with exceptional warmth, blessing him with tears of rejoicing. This student would later become Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II, the beloved shepherd who continues to lead the flock of the Georgian faithful to this very day.

Fr. John disciplined himself severely. He worked hard all day and slept on a single piece of wood. He would spend entire nights praying. Many wondered when he rested and where he had acquired such a seemingly infinite supply of energy.

Occasionally thieves would steal food or domestic animals from the monastery. But the monastery also had many protectors, even within the Soviet government. A group of Christians who worked for the government while secretly practicing their faith supported Fr. John and Fr. George (Mkheidze), explaining and justifying them to the government as “guardians of a national cultural monument.”

Many of the miracles performed by Fr. John are known to us today, though he was wary of receiving honor for his deeds. Frs. John and George healed the deaf, and many of the terminally ill were brought to them for healing. After spending several days in the monastery, the infirm would miraculously be cleansed of their diseases. Fr. John bore the heaviest workload in the monastery. He sympathized deeply with Fr. George, who was ailing physically and unfit for strenuous labor. But Fr. John departed this life before Fr. George. Fr. John became ill and reposed in 1957, at the age of seventy-five. He was buried at Betania Monastery.