Thursday, February 4, 2021

The Truth Behind the Alleged "Prophetic Vision of Saint John of Kronstadt"

By John Sanidopoulos

Multiple Orthodox Christian websites have in circulation a text often known as the "Prophetic Vision of Saint John of Kronstadt", allegedly written by Saint John of Kronstadt himself, concerning a vision he saw in January of 1901 that deals with specific apocalyptic events of the future, often with amazing details, revealed to him by Saint Seraphim of Sarov. Despite the confidence this alleged prophecy has in detailing future events, certain details have clearly proven to be false, but this does not stop anyone from continuing to circulate this false prophecy.

The fact of the matter is that if anybody does a search through all the writings we know of that belong to Saint John of Kronstadt, as I myself have done, among other notable Russian scholars more well-versed in the life and teachings of Saint John of Kronstadt, nowhere will there be found this so-called prophetic text. In fact, this so-called prophetic text does not even make its first appearance until many years after the death of Saint John of Kronstadt. Furthermore, when searching throughout the writings of Saint John of Kronstadt, especially his diaries which he kept for many years, excerpts from which comprise the well-known book My Life in Christ, you really do not come across anything close to what is written in the so-called "Prophetic Vision" text. Yes, while Saint John was concerned with the future of Russia, and he wrote about his concerns, and as a lifelong Monarchist he was somewhat concerned with the politics of his day, unfortunately some devotees have interpreted his concerns as prophecies of the Russian Revolution and beyond, but a close reading of them will quickly reveal they are not prophetic statements at all. The closest Saint John comes to making a prophecy is when he starts to interpret his own dreams, which are often silly yet entertaining to read, nonetheless it was something he liked to do.

Priest Peter Andrievsky, in a Russian article he wrote titled "Russia Before the Second Coming ... Unfulfilled Predictions", examines among other alleged prophecies about the future of Russia, the text known as the "Prophetic Vision of Saint John of Kronstadt". There he writes the following:

"The 'Vision of John of Kronstadt' about the reign of the Antichrist over the world, compiled by the Catacomb Name-worshipers in the Post-Revolutionary years, is presented by the author with no hesitation as a genuine revelation of Saint John. In a conversation with one of the confessors of the Trinity-Sergius Lavra, it is admitted that the 'prophecy' of Saint John about the rise of the Antichrist did not come true. Why didn't it come true, if this is truly God's revelation? It did not come true because it does not belong to a Saint. This 'prophecy' was not known to anyone before the Revolution. We also note that in the complete collected works of Saint John of Kronstadt, there is no such letter, and no traces of this 'prophecy' have been found in the manuscripts of the largest archival depositories. There is no doubt that if this 'vision' of Saint John was known before the Revolution, then such a famous ecclesiastical writer as S. A. Nilus would not fail to bring it up in one of his books. And it is completely senseless now to identify which of the copies of this apocryphal 'prophecy', which passed from hand to hand, is the most reliable. Although the question of the accuracy and reliability of the predictions of the Saints that have come down to us is very important, the overwhelming majority of the predictions of the Saints have come down to us through the retelling of others. Were there mistakes and even direct forgeries during the retelling? Unfortunately, this happens quite often."

And Priest Philip Ilyashenko, the deputy dean of the History department of St. Tikhon's Humanitarian University, who has thoroughly studied the writings of Saint John of Kronstadt, in an interview in Russian was asked about whether or not Saint John was a prophet of the Russian Revolution, to which he replied:

"This is a difficult question. There are various apocrypha about Father John, where, they say, he predicted in detail everything that would happen in 1917, that Russia would fall to its knees, but then, after many years, would rise again. However, these are precisely apocryphal, there is no documentary evidence of this.

In general, when we talk about documentary evidence, first of all, we must speak about the diary that Father John kept during all the time of his pastoral ministry, where every day he wrote down all his thoughts, as well as events that happened to him. By the way, the famous book My Life in Christ - these are selected and prepared for publication excerpts from his main diary.

So, in the surviving diary notebooks (including the so-called Death Diary), Father John does not have any detailed prophecies about the fate of Russia. There is a general feeling that trouble is impending, that all this will end badly someday, but it does not say exactly how, when, and in what forms. Undoubtedly, Father John caught the trend, and he caught it just when the others relaxed, calmed down, when it seemed to everyone that the horrors of 1905 were behind them. And today it is obvious that this foreboding of his was precisely a sort of prophecy."
As Archpriest Vladimir Vigilyansky has also pointed out, the Saint was tormented by an alarming foreboding of the bloody future of Russia; Father John saw in the vices and false teachings of his time the sources of future misfortunes of the Russian people, the reasons for the collapse of statehood. In his reasoning, the authorities and the Duma members, liberals and intelligentsia, journalists and clergy were a major part of the problem. But the accusatory speeches of John of Kronstadt were combined with a selfless service to God and people, and with a merciless exactingness to himself. Father John was a wise and intelligent man and a keen observer of his times, but nowhere do we get an indication that these things were directly revealed to him by God. However, even if you believe his words about where Russia was and where it was going came about by at least some sort of divine inspiration, it certainly was not in the apocryphal "Prophet Vision" text ascribed to him.
The  documentation  of  the  so-called "Prophetic Vision" text first circulated in Russia and  afterwards  in  the  Diaspora  by  Russians  and  other  Slavs beginning around 1941, decades after the death of Saint John of Kronstadt, and less than a decade after the last date mentioned in the alleged prophecy. During the Soviet persecutions there were edits and additions made to the text to fit in what was happening, which is why there are so many different versions of the text with slight changes here and there. For example, the “Living Church” was secretly run by the communists and was used by them to breakup the Catacomb Russian  Church, and so they added the term “Living” to the name “Modern  Church” mentioned in section 6 of the vision, (perhaps) in order to cause people to react more intensely against it.

With this being said, the text known as the "Prophetic Vision of Saint John of Kronstadt", or anything that sounds similar to it, should be looked upon as an apocryphal text by Orthodox Christians, and certainly not as an authentic writing of Saint John of Kronstadt himself, nor even as an authentic prophecy, as it was certainly written after the events described.