Skip to comments.St. John of Damascus
Posted on 12/04/2002 11:20:47 PM PST by JMJ333
Memory Celebrated December 4
RIGHTEOUS JOHN OF DAMASCUS.
He was raised in Damascus, Syria, the capital of the Moslem world. When he was ten years of age, his father found a learned monk in the secular studies as well as music and theology. He instructed John and his adopted brother, Cosmas, and John made great progress in theology. At last, the monk departed saying to their father, Sergius, that his sons had become remarkably wise. Sergius soon died, and John was chosen for his office of counselor to the caliph.
During this time, John wrote convincingly against the iconoclasts and Leo the Armenian, as well as the Moslems. He effectively used deductive arguments, history, and parables of the saints. Against the iconoclasts, he argued that since the shadows and handkerchiefs of the apostles healed the sick, why was it not appropriate to venerate their icons. His letters were circulated to strengthen and prepare the people to answer the attacks of the heretics. Seeing this, the emperor wrote a letter in John's hand that had him condemned to the caliph for whom he worked. The caliph had his right hand cut off and hung in the market place. That night, John recovered his hand and prayed before an icon of the Theotokos, called of the three hands, promising that he would write hymns for Orthodoxy if he were healed. He slept, and she told him that he was healed and to write. The caliph freed him, and he became a humble monk. He wrote canons, troparia, idiomela, festal homilies for feast days of Jesus and the Theotokos, the saints and prophets. He established the Typikon, the order of services. He became the mouth piece of all the bishops of the east. He died peacefully at 104 years of age.
A longer Account of his Life
The renowned writer and Church poet, Saint John Damascene, served at the court of the caliph in his youth and was the ruler of the city of Damascus. A native of Syria, he lived in the middle of the 8th century, when the iconoclastic heresy was raging in the Byzantine Empire: icons were being destroyed, and their venerators were being severely persecuted. Being a highly education man and a gifted writer, John very convincingly wrote in defense of the Orthodox veneration of icons.
The Greek Emperor Leo the Isaurian, a convinced iconoclast, became enraged at John for his compositions. He ordered his scribe to learn Saint John's handwriting and to write a letter, as if in his name, addressed to the Byzantine Emperor, in which John supposedly offers his services to the Isaurian in overthrowing the caliph. The Isaurian Emperor sent this forged letter off to the caliph as proof of his friendship towards the caliph and the treason of John Damascene.
The eastern despot, without investigating the matter and not accepting John's explanation, ordered that he be confined in prison and that his right hand, which had supposedly written the treasonous letter, be cut off. Having an icon of the Mother of God with him in the prison, Saint John placed his cutoff right hand before it and prayed long before the icon, pouring out his woe. The Immaculate Virgin appeared to the sufferer in his sleep, and gazing mercifully at him said: "Thy hand is now whole; sorrow no more". John awoke and with joyful astonishment saw that the cutoff hand had adhered to its place and become whole, just as before. Only a narrow scar remained that reminded of the punishment. In an excess of joy and gratitude to the merciful Intercessor, John composed in his soul the hymn: "In thee, O Full of Grace, all creation rejoiceth". This hymn is sung in Church till now at the Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great.
News of the miracle reached the caliph, and he, on summoning John, patiently investigated his case and became convinced of his innocence. Realizing that he was guilty before John, the caliph, in order to make amends for his unjustness, offered him a huge recompense and high honors. But John, having come to understand how fragile earthly goods and worldly glory are, refused everything. In gratitude to the Mother of God, he ordered a representation of his hand in silver and fastened it to the icon before which the miracle was performed. This icon received the name, "Threehanded".
Having distributed his possessions, he retired in the attire of the common people to the monastery of Saint Sabbas the Sanctified, which is located twentyfive kilometers southeast of Jerusalem. Since John was a very renown man, none of the monks of the Lavra of Saint Sabbas could bring himself to take him as a novice. Finally, one elder agreed to direct him on the condition that for the sake of humility John would no longer write anything. John agreed and began to live and labor in the monastery as an ordinary monk.
In a few years, the father of a monk who had become friends with John died, and he asked John to write some kind of requiem prayer for him. In a surge of inspiration, Saint John wrote the prayershymns which till now are sung in church at funerals. One of this hymns begins with the words "What sweetness in life does not partake of sadness " In the versification of the poet, Alexei Tolstoi, it sounds thus:
On learning that John had violated the obedience that had been placed upon him and had written a prayer, the elder became angry at him and wanted to expel him from the monastery. Then all the brethren of the monastery began to intercede for John. The elder agreed to forgive the disobedient one on the condition that he clean out all the filthy places in the monastery with his own hands.
Saint John humbly fulfilled this severe demand of his elder. After this, the Mother of God appeared to the elder in his sleep and said: "Do not stop up my wellspring any longer. Grant it to flow unto the glory of God". On awakening, the elder understood that it was pleasing to God that John Damascene dedicate himself to the labor of writing.
From that time on, no one hindered John any longer from writing theological compositions and composing liturgical prayers. In the course of several years of uninterrupted labors, he enriched the Church with many compositions, prayers and liturgical canons, which till now adorn the Orthodox divine services. Many hymns of the Paschal, Nativity and other festal divine services belong to his pen. The Octoechos (Book of the Eight Tones), which is used at the Sunday divine services, was compiled by him. Being a penetrating theologian, Saint John wrote the renown book, "An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith", in which he summed up the basic truths of the Christian faith. Saint John Damascene died in the year 777.
We believe in Father and Son and Holy Ghost; one Godhead in three hypostases; one will, one operation, alike in three persons; wisdom incorporeal, uncreated, immortal, incomprehensible, without beginning, unmoved, unaffected, without quantity, without quality, ineffable, immutable, unchangeable, uncontained, equal in glory, equal in power, equal in majesty, equal in might, equal in nature, exceedingly substantial, exceedingly good, thrice radiant, thrice bright, thrice brilliant.
Light is the Father, Light the Son, Light the Holy Ghost; Wisdom the Father, Wisdom the Son, Wisdom the Holy Ghost; one God and not three Gods; one Lord the Holy Trinity discovered in three hypostases.
Father is the Father, and unbegotten; Son is the Son, begotten and not unbegotten, for He is from the Father; Holy Ghost, not begotten but proceeding, for He is from the Father.
There is nothing created, nothing of the first and second order, nothing lord and servant; but there is unity and trinity - there was, there is, and there shall be forever - which is perceived and adored by faith - by faith, not by inquiry, nor by searching out, nor by visiblemanifestation; for the more He is sought out, the more He is unknown, and the more He is investigated, the more He is hidden.
And so, let the faithful adore God with a mind that is not overcurious. And believe that He is God in three hypostases, although the manner in which He is so is beyond manner, for God is incomprehensible. Do not ask how the Trinity is Trinity, for the Trinity is inscrutable.
But, if you are curious about God, first tell me of yourself and the things that pertain to you. How does your soul have existence? How is your mind set in motion? How do you produce your mental concepts? How is it that you are both mortal and immortal? But, if you are ignorant of these things which are within you, then why do you not shudder at the thought of investigating the sublime things of heaven?
Think of the Father as a spring of life begetting the Son like a river and the Holy Ghost like a sea, for the spring and the river and sea are all one nature.
Think of the Father as a root, and of the Son as a branch, and the Spirit as a fruit, for the substance in these three is one.
The Father is a sun with the Son as rays and the Holy Ghost as heat.
The Holy Trinity transcends by far every similitude and figure. So, when you hear of an offspring of the Father, do not think of a corporeal offspring. And when you hear that there is a Word, do not suppose Him to be a corporeal word. And when you hear of the Spirit of God, do not think of wind and breath. Rather, hold you persuasion with a simple faith alone. For the concept of the Creator is arrived at by analogy from His creatures.
Be persuaded, moreover, that the incarnate dispensation of the Son of God was begotten ineffably without seed of the blessed Virgin, believing Him to be without confusion and without change both God and man, who for your sake worked all the dispensation. And to Him by good works give worship and adoration, and venerate and revere the most holy Mother of God and ever-virgin Mary as true Mother of God, and all the saints as His attendants.
Doing thus, you will be a right worshiper of the holy and undivided Trinity, Father and Son and Holy Ghost, of the one Godhead, to whom be glory and honor and adoration forever and ever. Amen
First Woman Martyrs far-famed struggles tongues sound has not the strength to tell; for it is far too weak to raise a worthy hymn.
It has ceased, the scornful boasting of the tyrant; for in Christ women, like heroes, devoutly stood against him.
Resounded in her ears, all-blessed Paul, your ineffable preaching of the gospel; and so the virgin has been betrothed to Christ.
All-immaculate Mother of God, who bore beyond nature the eternal and divine Word incarnate, we hymn you.
Ode 3. You are the foundation.
So far beyond thought, all-honoured virgin, the love by which in Christ, united by the Spirit, you were bound to Paul.
The pleasurable enjoyment of earthly things had no strength to wound your mind, wounded by spiritual love.
Wholly you had abandoned the passions of the flesh, all-praised Champion, and so you were not softened by your mothers words.
By your intercessions, O All-pure, give us help by driving off the assaults of dread misfortunes.
Ode 4. I heard, Lord.
O all-wise Thekla, when you were betrothed to Thamyris, the bridesman Paul joined you as a spotless virgin to the heavenly Bridegroom.
Moved far from earthly love by Pauls words of true religion, Thamyriss words, O Martyr, you mocked as lunacy.
Adams race was blessed by being sprinkled with Gods blood; while Eve rejoices when she sees the serpent falling to women.
Now longing for purity, the Champion rejected all the pleasures of life: wealth, race and beauty, and a fair suitor.
As you are sinless, grant us pardon of our follies, O God, and give peace to the world at the intercessions of her who gave birth to you .
Rising at dawn we cry to you.
Martyr Thekla, all-blessed, you ran the arduous race of the athlete and were found worthy of the prize.
And now the cunning dragon has been despoiled: for through godlike sufferings the virgin was being taught obedience.
Right godly boldness overcame your modesty; for the fire of the Trinity had set your heart ablaze.
We hymn you as Virgin after childbirth, Mother of God; for you bore for the world God the Word in the flesh.
Ode 6. I pour out my entreaty.
The weakness of a girls nature was made strong by the Saviours power, for with longing for God she left off the ornaments of youth and boldly by night ran seeking the sweet-scented teachings of her Lover.
Yet by her own desire the far-famed first Champion Thekla marvellously exchanged the bridal chambers of marriage to dwell in the malefactors prison; for her longing for the Maker conquered the loves of creatures.
Spiritually the Martyr kissed the bonds of her inspired Teacher; in the prison, as in a God-filled meadow, watered by his words she grew and truly bore the fairest fruit for the Master.
All-holy Virgin Mother of God, do not cease to intercede for us, for you are the support of the faithful, and we are strengthened by your hope, and with longing we glorify you and the One who ineffably took flesh from you.
Ode 7. The Youths from Judea.
In longing as to a prisoner, All-blessed virgin, you were bound to Paul; with songs unchained in harmony you sang in faith devoutly with him: God of our Fathers, blessed are you.
Standing with Paul before unjust tribunals, fair virgin, with longing for the Master you cast away shame and in ecstasy cried out: God of our Fathers, blessed are you.
Giving your body to the furnace, O Martyr, through longing for God, by the power of the One you longed for you remained unburned as you sang: God of our Fathers, blessed are you.
Lo, a rain-bearing cloud, having quenched the flame with shower and hail, justly burns the senseless and saves the Martyr as she sings: God of our Fathers, blessed are you.
You appeared incarnate from a virgin womb for our salvation; therefore, knowing your Mother to be Mother of God, with thanksgiving we cry: God of our Fathers, blessed are you.
Ode 8. The King of heaven.
O Virgin Martyr, strange seemed your thought; for you dwelt in a tomb as if in Eden, as you sang the praise of Christ to the ages.
Refusing that the bright beauty of your virginity be darkened, you chose to die, and now you live to the ages.
Intimately linked with Christ, the life-giving and supernatural Bridegroom, you chose wild beasts, first Champion, as guardians of your virginity.
Flinging aside your garment of corruption, Christs well-equipped competitor reached a life without decay to the ages.
The One who came down from heaven and dwelt in a virgin womb, praise and highly exalt to all the ages.
Ode 9. Mother of God most High.
Is there any who would not marvel, Protomartyr, at your indomitable courage? For having tamed the passions, wild beasts of the mind, you did not quail before the impotent assaults of wild beasts, but remained in their midst unharmed.
Even the sheer untrodden rock was rent by Gods command for the god-bearing Martyr, sealed as Gods bride by the bath of rebirth; and like a bridal chamber for the fugitive it received her in its arms.
Doctor the bruises of my soul, First Champion; crown the world with peace, giving victories to our faithful Sovereign against hostile barbarians and peace to the Churches by your supplications.
Sovereign Lady, slay my sin that still lives, give life to the death of soul by the force of the true Life born from your womb through ineffable compassion for those who devoutly magnify you.
The source for this Canon by St John of Damascus, as for the other texts of the feast, is the Acts of Paul and Thekla. This is an ancient apocryphal text which probably dates from the middle of the second century. It was known to Tertullian and exists in numerous Greek manuscripts and in many versions, Latin, Coptic, Syriac and Armenian. The most recent English version is to be found in J.K. Elliot's The Apocryphal New Testament [Oxford 1993].
In order to preserve the acrostic of this Canon, I have used the Greek word martys, rather than the English martyr.
source was same as previous link above
Orthodox Catholics have the best roll models! I love this saint!
I plead "late hour" hehehe
Thought you deserted us here at FR. Enjoyed the post very much, especially since you stayed up till 2:20 in the morning to post it.
Do you ever sleep, woman? Regards to all, PA Lurker
She had a rough time yesterday evening with pain, but we got that addressed and today she is doing much better.
The Immaculate Virgin appeared to the sufferer in his sleep, and gazing mercifully at him said: "Thy hand is now whole; sorrow no more".
Sleep is calling me. Have a wondeful night. j+m+j
(We still miss you!)
Where is JMJ333?
that's terrible ... I too hope she's okay.
I've been so out of pocket in several ways the past couple years ... it's easy to lose track of posters you maybe have taken for granted.
Thanks for the heads-up.
BTTT on the Optional Memorial of St. John of Damscas, December 4, 2006!
St John Damascene 676-749. The Icon or Image Doctor, Feast Dec 4th.