Updated: Oct 9, 2019
Sunday April 14, 2019. St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church, 580 Talbot Ave., Winnipeg, Manitoba.
This is a small Orthodox Parish which was previously a Ukrainian Catholic Church, so it still had some icons painted on the wall of Ukrainian saints. When we entered the church, the women were standing on the left with the men standing on the right. On the left side in front of the ikonostas stood Angel Gabriel standing with his hands in prayer. He had huge wings that extended from above his head to the floor. He was wearing a dark blue robe with a belt at the waist and long open sleeves. He had light hair, shoulder length.
I sat in my place on the lady’s side of the church. There was a man with black hair and a beard. He was about 5’9 with broad shoulders and dark skin. He looked about forty. He was wearing a long sleeved, white shirt. He was holding what looked like a bundle of wood to his chest. He was trying to communicate with me. He kept telling me his name was Ivan. I repeated the name back to him but he kept trying to correct me. He finally said I would find his picture in the back of the church. After mass we saw a picture of St. Jovan - John the Baptist. He looked the same as the man I saw in spirit.
Then, I saw Saint Augustine. He had lighter skin, different texture hair than Jovan. His nose wasn’t as sharp it was wider. His eyes were not so deep set and lighter. He was wearing a long white robe with a dark vest over top. He had a black belt. It felt like he was wearing pants. He had a beard. His hair was shoulder length and curly. He wasn’t holding anything in his hands. All he told me was that he was Saint Augustine. When we approached and asked the priest about this saint, he mentioned that he was a saint in the early times of his church. We found a picture of him too, tucked away on a separate display beside the larger ikonostas.
As I sit here writing this article, I begin to wonder, why do certain saints show up at churches now, so many years after they have passed away? I decided to see if I could communicate with any of the saints from this article. Saint Augustine shows up immediately with a willingness to talk.
He came through to me holding many books. Some he had written and some he had read. He showed me that he regretted being a sinner. He had slept with many women. He was trying to find a path to God that made sense to him. He found himself in a place where he was being shown divinity as nature vs the strict God of Christianity. He was a keen observer of people’s actions and how they acted when in power. He enjoyed the sins of the flesh. He sees now that sex led him to think deeper about God. During his life he felt gulty about sex and decided that he was bound by the original sin of Adam. He felt it was impossible for humans to be good. He felt that God showered His grace on a predetermined few chosen ones and that the rest of the people would go to hell due to their sinful natures. After death, he realized that this was not true.
He showed me then, that he held a sword. I thought this meant he killed people in the name of the church, but he showed me that his sword was the pen. He had written many books in his life. His books became the foundation of the church and his words were used to punish many people.He wishes he could come back and rewrite the books. He had become venerated in a church that was not a true reflection of God.
He showed me that now, in his afterlife, he was trying to help the church resurrect itself from decline. He showed me that he had lived in a time when Paganism was being oppressed and replaced by Christianity. He had spent time learning all types of philosophy and had experienced the connection with nature that Paganism provided, but also learned to hate its hedonism. He began to follow Christianity and helped form it in its early stages. He regrets that he did not understand God as a loving God, when he wrote his books. His own self judgement promoted his harsh judgement of others. After he died, he came to find that heaven was a place enjoyed by many he would not have expected to see there. He also learned that contrary to his belief that time was finite, he was still very much alive! He was given the choice to reincarnate many times, but decided to stay in the heaven realms so he could watch the progression and shift of life on earth. He now feels that he would like to come back to share his understanding of the world and God with people who are seeking a relationship with God. He is frustrated with the limitations of the church he helped found. He now knows that all people of all creeds come home to the creator. He says there are so many levels to heaven. He has not been able to explore the upper realms due to his anger, but has seen many of the places of the helping realms and the purgatory realms. He says he has helped many people come out of purgatory by showing them that they are worthy of God’s love. He felt guilty for creating a religion that made people think that God would send them to hell and now wishes to rewrite some of his works to include concepts like infinite time, reincarnation, inclusivity for all people who try to live in honesty.
He thanks me for talking to him, bows and picks up the sword that he had been resting his chin on as he stood talking to me. I ask him if he still needs to carry this sword. I have a sense that its a symbol of his guilt. He thinks about it and says yes, I am ready to forgive myself for misguiding humanity. I did not know then what I know now. Knowledge is something that grows and changes over time. Knowledge shifts eternally as man grows or declines in his connection to truth. He lays down the sword, and as he does, his shoulders relax, his demeanor softens and he looks freer. He thanks me and turns to the right to dissolve back into his plain.
This was not at all what I expected! I am left with a huge shift in my anger towards the church. I have been angry about conversion and discrimination in the church since I was a teenager. I now understand that the church came about to help people grow and educate themselves and develop intellectually and emotionally and now, humanity is ready for its next phase of growth. Humanity is ready for a closer, personal relationship with God. The saints and thought leaders have gone through their own phase of personal growth and deepened their understanding of life through their passing and I am sure that many of them who show up in churches do so to help guide humanity in a new way!
If you are interested to learn more about the life and works of Augustine, follow this link. Much of what he said lines up with the article I have linked here. https://saolv.org/saint-augustine-1