04 December 2010

Commemoration of St. John of Damascus, Theologian and Hymn-writer

Today our Synod rejoices to commemorate St. John of Damascus.  From the Treasury and our Synod's website:

John (ca. 675–749) is known as the great compiler and summarizer of the orthodox faith and the last great Greek theologian. Born in Damascus, John gave up an influential position in the Islamic court to devote himself to the Christian faith. Around 716 he entered a monastery outside of Jerusalem and was ordained a priest. When the Byzantine emperor Leo the Isaurian in 726 issued a decree forbidding images (icons), John forcefully resisted. In his Apostolic Discourses he argued for the legitimacy of the veneration of images, which earned him the condemnation of the Iconoclast Council in 754. John also wrote defenses of the orthodox faith against contemporary heresies. In addition, he was a gifted hymnwriter (“Come, You Faithful, Raise the Strain”) and contributed to the liturgy of the Byzantine churches. His greatest work was the Fount of Wisdom which was a massive compendium of truth from previous Christian theologians, covering practically every conceivable doctrinal topic. John's summary of the orthodox faith left a lasting stamp on both the Eastern and Western churches.

My all time favorite hymn by St. John with an absolutely haunting melody is this one:

What earthly joy remains untouched by grief?
What glory stands forever on the earth?
Frail shadows - all, delusive dreams;
Which death will one day sweep away.
But in the light of Your countenance, O Christ,
And in the enjoyment of Your beauty,
Give rest to those whom You have chosen and taken
For You are the Lover of mankind.

Today we pray:

O Lord, through Your servant John of Damascus, You proclaimed with power the mysteries of the true faith.  Confirm our faith so that we may confess Jesus to be true God and true Man, singing the praises of the risen Lord, and so that by the power of the resurrection we may also attain the joys of eternal life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord...


Past Elder said...

Poor old John. "John" is his monastic, not his birth, name, and monkeries no longer typically follow the custom of giving a new name on entering. Not sure what Mar Saba does these days, they ain't Benedictine. Plus he wasn't in the Western calendar for 1000 years after he died, until 1890 and it was 27 March, for reasons I do not know, since his dies natalis is 4 December and that is the date of his veneration in the East anyway. Babylon II changed it. Maybe we should completely update him and call him Mansur instead of John

Chris said...

He was from the family of Mansoor, that was not his given Christian name. When a monk receives the tonsure, he receives a new name and that, for him, was John. Your quest to have his name changed is rooted more in your anti-monastic opinions than to be "historically" accurate. And, if you're wondering why I'm causing a tiff about this, it is because he is my patron saint. Through his intercessions, may Christ our True God have mercy upon us and save us.