|John the Hesychast (feast day – 3 December)|
I do not rest. Because I am crowned by death,
Were the words of Hesychast Johannes.
By St. Dimitri of Rostov
Our venerable Father John the Silence, a man who deserves unceasing praise, came from Nicopolis in Armenia. His father's name was Encratius and his mother Euphemia. He was born on the eighth of January, the fourth year of the reign of the devout Marcian, and was enlightened in the Holy Baptism. His parents were Orthodox Christians known throughout Armenia for their wealth. Encratius was a general whom the emperor valued greatly and entrusted him with great authority. This is not mentioned to praise John for his noble birth (for the saints are blessed and praised for their virtues, not because they are highborn), but because we knew how significant the family from which God's darling came could be understood how deep the humility he got.
John and his brothers were thoroughly taught the scriptures. Both parents went to the Lord when he was young and left a great legacy to their children. Blessed John took his part and built the church dedicated to the purest and most blessed Virgin Mary in the city of Nicopolis. At eighteen, he renounced the world and wore the monk scheme. Together with other monks, he fought in the church he founded with asceticism. Throughout his youth he was very careful to submit his flesh to the Spirit without becoming a slave to the abdomen or being conquered by passions. He became a man who marveled at the virtues, a good and seasoned director of the soul, and was elected abbot of the brothers.
When John was twenty-eight, the bishop of Colonia rested, and the inhabitants of that city went to the metropolitan of Sebastea to ask for a successor. The name of John, the Abbot of Nicopolis, was on everyone's mind when selecting a candidate, because all considered him worthy of the episcopal throne. Since his deep humility was known, he was expected not to accept the rank of bishop; so the Metropolitan called him to Sebastea on the pretext that he had to do business with him. When the saint arrived, the Metropolitan persuaded him to accept the episcopal rank, and John was consecrated. Although he accepted the rule of the Church of Colonia, he neither changed his monastic regime nor did he reduce his struggles. He never went to the baths and was so careful that others would not see him naked. in fact, he did not allow himself to see his own body undressed, and never washed, not even privately, remembering the fall Adam had suffered in his nakedness. His only concern was to please God through fasting, prayer and chastity of body and soul. He endeavored to keep his mind clean at all times, to put down everything that rises against the knowledge of God and to bring every thought into the obedience of Christ in captivity. When others saw how he behaved, they also began to live in a just way. Among these was Pergamius, his natural brother, an eminent man, highly esteemed by Emperor Zeno and Anastasius, the successor of Zeno. When Pergamius experienced the life of St. John as a virtue, he was full of complacency and passionately endeavored to please the Lord. Similarly, John's nephew Theodore, who was later treated with great respect by the pious Emperor Justinian, heard a report of his uncle's lifestyle, which corresponded to that of the angels. Built, he and his whole household began to live divinely. The entire court was amazed at Theodore's wisdom, devotion to the faith, and compassion for the poor. And truly, Theodore was outstanding in every way. One example was the impeccable life of his uncle, Blessed John.
Our God-bearing Father John fulfilled his duties as Bishop for ten years and led the Church of Christ well. Then Pazinicus, the husband of his sister Mary, was appointed Governor of Armenia. Spurred on by a demon, he began to trouble the church entrusted to John and deal evilly with the Blessed One. He intervened in the administration of the diocese and forcibly removed those who had taken refuge in the church by refusing to allow the clergy and the founders of the churches to govern ecclesiastical affairs. Often John humbly asked him not to interfere in matters that did not concern him and to repent. but Pazinicus refused to correct himself and after Mary's death his interference became even worse. As a result, the Saint, who could no longer bear the evil inflicted on the Church, was compelled to travel to Constantinople to speak with the Emperor Zeno. In Euthymius, the archbishop of the imperial city, he found an ally who campaigned in his name for the ruler.
Then the blessed John decided to deny the vanity and countless worries of this world, leave his diocese and go to Jerusalem to work in silence for God. He served the divine liturgy, then dismissed the present presbyters and other clergy, and went down alone to the harbor, where he secretly docked a ship destined for the Holy Land. He entered the first poorhouse in Jerusalem, where there was a church dedicated to the great martyr George. He stayed there for some time pretending he was a pauper. When he saw that the inhabitants of the city were pursued in vain, he was depressed and yearned even more for a place of rest. He sincerely prayed to God with tears and asked the Lord to show him a place where he could live in silence, free of worries. One night, as he prayed fervently, he looked up and saw a shiny star in the form of a cross appear unexpectedly. The star came towards him and he heard a voice speak from the light, saying, "Follow if you want to be saved." John gladly followed him and was led into the great lavra of our venerable and god-bearing father Sabbas. This happened when Sallustius was Patriarch of Jerusalem and John was in his thirty-eighth year.
John worked passionately and obediently on every task the steward had given him. At that time, a guesthouse was built in the Lavra and Blessed John was commissioned to serve the workers. He cooked their food, carried water, brought them stone and helped them build the building. After spending two years in the Lavra, he was appointed guest host. He served the visitors humbly and meekly and showed all love. Then the godly Sabbas began to set up a Coenobium for novices who had just renounced the world: these should be trained in community life and then allowed to enter the Lavra. "As the flower appears before the fruit," said the Saint, "life in Coenobium should precede life in the desert, may our novices bloom in Coenobium, do their first works, and bear perfect fruits in the Lavra."
Sabbas & # 39; Lavra was in the desert, but the Coenobium was closer to the world. During the construction of the latter, John was again commissioned to help the workers. Thus, the God-fearing lover of labor now fulfilled two obediences: He served the pilgrims in the guesthouse, carrying bread and other cooked and uncooked food on his shoulders to those who built the Coenobium more than a mile away. John worked that way for a whole year and served the brothers well. Then the venerable Sabbas gave him his own cell so that he could live in silence. The Blessed John stayed in this cell for three years, locked up five days a week, eating nothing, and was not seen by anyone, but conversing only with God. On Saturdays and Sundays, he went to church before everyone else and stood there full of fear and serenity, especially after the divine liturgy had begun. Streams of tears flowed out of his eyes again and again, so that all the brothers marveled at the gift of wine that he had received. On days when he went to church, he ate with the other monks.
After three years, Blessed John was appointed steward. God helped him fulfill this obedience and all his work. So the Lavra was very blessed and enjoyed prosperity. Since John fulfilled his duties well, the Divine Sabbath wanted to make him a presbyter and regarded him as a worthy and perfect monk. Therefore, he brought him to Elias, the new patriarch of the Holy City, told of John's virtuous life and asked him to ordain John's presbyter. The patriarch agreed and called John into the church. When John realized that there was no escape, he said to the holy patriarch, "Dear Father, allow me to speak privately with you, and if you still consider me worthy of the priesthood after our conversation, I will not refuse to be ordained. "
The Patriarch took him aside and John threw himself at the feet of the godly Elijah and begged him to swear that he would not tell anyone what he would hear. When the Patriarch promised to keep the secret to himself, John declared, "Father, I was Bishop of Colonia, but because of my sins, I left the city and fled." Being physically strong, I condemned to serve the brethren Hope to win the help of her prayers for my weak soul. "
Patriarch Elijah was astonished when he heard this, and called to the venerable Sabbas, to whom he declared: "John can not be made a presbyter, and from now on he shall live in silence, and no one shall disturb him." The patriarch allowed them to leave.
Sabbas was very disappointed and went to a cave about five kilometers from the Lavra, where he threw himself on the ground in front of God and cried: "O Lord, why did you leave me, why did you hide the secrets of John from me? I have made a mistake to make him worthy of the priesthood, but now, O Lord, reveal his secret to me, for my soul is exceedingly sad unto death. Is it useless and unworthy for you to receive the divine myrrh? "
After the venerable Sabbas had spent the night praying and weeping, an angel of God appeared to him, declaring, "John is not an unworthy vessel, but God's chosen vessel." He is a bishop and therefore can not be ordained a priesthood. "
With that, the angel disappeared. The holy abbot joyfully hurried to John's cell, hugged him and shouted, "Father John, though you have hidden the gift that God has granted you, he has revealed it to me!"
"I'm sad, father," John said. "I did not want anyone to learn my secret, but now you know, I can not stay in this country any longer."
Sabbas swore to John that he would not reveal the secret to anyone. From that time on, the blessed John remained in his cell and remained silent. He neither went to church, nor did he talk to anyone, nor was anyone allowed to visit him. Only his assigned novice was allowed to enter. Only once, when Patriarch Elias came to a feast of the purest Theotokos and the Virgin Mary (dedicated to the Church of Lavra), John left his cell. He prostrated himself before the patriarch, who loved and respected him for his humility.
After living in silence for four years, our venerable father Sabbas went to Skythopolis, where he lived for a long time. John wanted to live in the remotest part of the wilderness and moved to the desert of Rouba, where he stayed for nine years. He was nearly fifty years old at the time. While living there, he only ate the plant Melagria. As soon as he went to collect it and return, the path got lost. Weakened by walking, he collapsed and was near death. Suddenly he was lifted into the air by God's power, like the Prophet Habakkuk, and settled in front of his cave. Later, the pious pursued the path he had taken and found that he had run about four miles from the cave.
Not long after, a brother came and lived with him. As the feast of Pasha approached, the brother said to the Elder, "Father, let us return to the Lavra, we have nothing to eat at the big feast except Melagria."
St. John did not want to go because the divine Sabbas had not returned from Scythopolis to the Lavra. He replied, "There is no reason for us to go, brother, we must believe that He, who nourished the people of Israel for forty years as they wandered in the wilderness, nourish us, and not only the necessities, but also The scriptures say: I will never leave you or leave you, and take no thought and say, "What shall we eat or drink?" For your heavenly Father knows that you need all this God and His righteousness, and all these things are added to you: Have patience, child, when you follow the path of mourning itself, while the killing of the flesh leads to endless rest. "
However, the brother was unwilling to follow the words of the Divine and made his way to the Lavra. After his departure, a stranger came to John and led a donkey with various delicacies: warm fresh bread, wine, oil, cream cheese, eggs and a bucket of honey. The man left all these things with the saint and disappeared immediately. The Venerable Lord understood that God had visited him and joyfully thanked the Lord. In the meantime, the brother who had gone to the Lavra lost himself and walked in the desert for three days. Completely exhausted, hungry and thirsty, he barely managed to return to John's den. When he saw how and in what amount God had sent the Blessed One to the feast, he was amazed and ashamed to face the saint because of his lack of faith. He fell at the feet of the Elder and asked for forgiveness. John excused him and said, "Know, brother, that God can indeed prepare a table for His servants who dwell in the wilderness."
At that time, the Saracen chief Alamundar, a Persian, Arabian and Palestinian vassal, attacked the inhabitants of these lands cruelly and captured many. Numerous small groups of barbarians scattered through the wilderness, and the monasteries were warned to take care of robbers. The Fathers of the Great Lavra sent a word of the barbarians to the venerable John and advised him to return to his cell in the Lavra. Although the saint feared the barbarians, he did not want to give up his mute stay in the desert. He said to himself, "The Lord is the defender of my life, who should I be afraid of, if the Lord does not defend me or care for me, why is it that I have to stay alive?" John trusted the Supreme and stayed in his cave. In order to save his darling and free him from fear, God, who always looks after his servants, sent to the Venerable a huge, cruel lion who kept watch day and night at the entrance to the cave. Several times the barbarians tried to harm the saint, but the lion attacked her severely, wounding her and driving her away. When the blessed John saw this, he thanked God, who did not allow the staff of sinners to be on the lot of the righteous.
Shortly thereafter, the divine Sabbas returned to the Lavra and visited John in the wilderness. He told him, "God has kept you from being hurt by the barbarians, but you should still do it like other men, get up and flee like the other fathers of the desert." The Venerable said everything he could think of to persuade John to leave the wilderness. Finally, John agreed and Sabbas went back with him to the Great Lavra. Blessed John was fifty-six years old at the time.
Except for the Most Holy Patriarch Elias and the venerable Sabbas, no one knew that John was a bishop. They continued to keep their secrets to themselves, but still, after much time had passed, God wanted them to be revealed to the brethren. This happened in the following way. Aetherius, an archbishop from Asia Minor, traveled to Jerusalem to worship the holy places and the sacred wood of the cross of the Lord. After giving the poor and various monasteries a lot of gold, he left the Holy City and moved to his homeland. He took a passage on a ship that traveled a short distance until a headwind came up, forcing it to return to Ascalon. He stayed there for two days, waiting for the boat to set sail again. As he slept, an angel of the Lord appeared to him and commanded, "Thou shalt not return to thy homeland without returning to the holy city." Go into the lavra of Abbas Sabbas, where you will find Abba John the Silent, just bishop in charge of God will give up everything, voluntarily accept poverty and humble oneself through obedience. "
The next day Aetherius returned to Jerusalem and went to the lavra of the venerable Sabbas, where he asked about John the Silent. He was escorted to John's cell and stayed with him for two days, telling him in the name of God who his parents were, where he was born, and in which city he was a bishop. When the saint perceived God's will to speak, he told Aetherius everything. From that time on everyone in the Lavra was known to have been a bishop. The monks were amazed at how much he had humbled himself.
Some time later, on the fifth of December, our venerable and God-bearing Father Sabbas went to the Lord. This was during John's seventieth year. Since he was not present when Sabba's soul was separated from the body, John was deeply saddened, but the venerable Sabbas appeared to him in a vision and said, "Do not grieve over my departure, father, even though I'm no longer with you Body, I am always present in the mind. "
"Pray to the Lord, Father," said John, "and ask that He let me go to be with you."
Sabbas replied: "At the moment this can not be a great test the Lavra will meet, it is God's desire that you remain in the flesh to comfort and strengthen those who will fight against the heretics for the Orthodox faith." As a result of this conversation with the divine Sabbas, John's mind was glad, though his heart was sad as he thought of the coming temptation.
Then John imagined that he wanted to see how the soul deviated from the body. He prayed to God about the matter and was caught and mentally taken to holy Bethlehem, where he saw a man die in spiritual vision. The soul of the man he did not know was accompanied by angels who sang hymns. Blessed John awoke and immediately went to Bethlehem, where he found the corpse of the man whom he had seen in front of a church. He had died in the hour when John sat in his cell and saw his soul being carried to heaven. After lovingly hugging his remains, John gave them an honorable burial and returned to his cell.
The two disciples of Blessed John, Theodore and John, explained to Cyril, the author of his life, "After the rest of the venerable Sabbas, we were sent by our elders to Lybiada for an errand while we crossed the Jordan, we met men who warned us, "Take care of yourself, for a lion lurks on your way." We said to each other, "God can save us through the prayers of our Father who commanded us to make this journey." and We sat We were so terrified that we lost all strength and became unable to flee as dead, when our eldest, the Reverend John, appeared to us Our page told us, we We should not be afraid, the lion stepped on the heels like a scourge, and our elder disappeared, and after we had rested, we set off unharmed did what we had commanded, and when we returned The Elder said, "Do you see, kids, how I was with you on your journey? I prayed to God a lot for you while you wait for you and he showed you mercy. "
One of John's disciples also told Cyril that the saint lived for many years only on bread, with which he ate ashes instead of salt. One day, John forgot to close the window of his cell while taking his meal and the student saw what he was eating. The Elder was saddened by it, and the disciple said, to console him, "Not you alone, father, but many of the fathers in the Lavra do this, I ate ashes as bread." So the eldest was comforted.
In those days, many were led astray by the heresy of Origen and began to disturb the Church of God, while others strongly opposed the false doctrine. The latter supported the venerable John the Silent, who left his loneliness to attack the heretics, and with his words lifted the teaching of Origen as with a sword. The appearance of this false teaching was the temptation prophesied by the divine Sabbas when he appeared to John. The heretics persecuted the Orthodox in the Lavra, causing many, even the ascetic fathers, to be undermined in their faith, corrupted or discredited by evil teachings. For that reason, it was God's will that John be present to comfort the undecided and strengthen the weak.
During this time, Cyril of Skythopolis, who later wrote John's life, sought advice from him. Cyril wrote, "When I was about to leave home to become a monk in one of the monasteries of the holy city of Jerusalem, my mother, who loved Christ very much, said I should do nothing without the consent of Blessed John." You fall, she said, right at the beginning of your fight into the heresy of Origen. When I arrived in Jerusalem, I went to the Lavra of St. Sabba and prostrated myself before the commendable John. I revealed to him my thoughts and asked and he said to me: If you want to be saved, go to the monastery of Euthymius the Great. Since I was young and foolish, I did not do what he said, but went and went to the reeds' monastery. On the Jordan, not only was my life most unfortunate there, but I also became seriously ill, plagued with depression both because of my physical infirmities and because I was a stranger among the brothers. Then the venerable John appeared to me in a dream and said: "You have fallen ill because of your disobedience." Now rise and go to Jericho. "In the pension of Abba Euthymius you find an old monk, follow him to the monastery of Euthymius and save there your soul. "
"When I woke up, I felt that my whole body was well again, and following the command of our holy father, I went to Jericho, where I found an old monk, a wise and virtuous man, as he said Monastery of Euthymius the Great where I stayed I often visited the venerable John in the Lavra of Saint Sabbas, and my soul benefited greatly from him Once, while I was troubled by satanic thoughts, I confessed to the divine and through his holy prayers he received relief, so that peace returned to my heart. "Later, after the life of this saint, John Cyril sent to the divine Anchorite Cyriacus.
One day Cyril sat by the window of the venerable John's cell when a man named George appeared at the head of his son, who was tormented by a demon. The man left his son under the window and left. The boy lay crying on the floor and John realized that he was possessed by an impure mind. Moved by compassion, he prayed and anointed him with holy oil, and the demon immediately fled from youth. The boy was well again at this hour.
Abba Eustathius, a pious, spiritual man who inhabited the Sabbath Cave after Sergius had lived there, related the following: "Once, overwhelmed by the spirit of blasphemy, I became disrespectful of God and all that is holy I was very saddened, I went to the Blessed John the Silent and told him about my temptation, hoping to be benefited by his holy prayers, and immediately got up and prayed for me and then said: "Blessed be God, my child From now on, no profane thought will ever come near you." Just as the elder said, I was never again attacked by blasphemous thoughts. "
A woman from Cappadocia named Raina, who held the rank of deaconess in the sacred church of Constantinople, came to Jerusalem with her nephew. He was a nobleman of true virtue, though he was not in communion with the holy Catholic Church and was following the heresy of Severus. The devout deaconess in every way endeavored to turn him to Orthodoxy and unite him with the Holy Church, and she asked all the fathers to pray for him. When she heard about John, she wanted to visit him and awe him, but learned that women were not allowed to enter the Lavra. She called for Theodore, John's disciple, and asked him to take her nephew to the eldest. She believed that through John's prayers, God would soften his heart, divert it from heresy, and make him worthy of being united with the Catholic Church.
Theodore brought the man to the eldest, before whom he did the usual prostration and said, "Bless us, father!"
The elder said to the disciple, "I bless you, but not the man with you."
"Do not talk like that, Father, bless us both," said the disciple.
"I will not bless him until he gives up his evil, schismatic faith and promises to unite with the Catholic Church," the saint replied. The heretic, astonished at the clairvoyance of the elder, was converted by the miracle that had promised to connect with the Orthodox. The elder then blessed him and he participated in the purest mysteries, removing any doubt about the truth through the inspired teaching of the saint. After the saint had converted him to Orthodoxy, he allowed the man to leave.
When the deaconess heard about this, Raina wanted to see the holy Elder herself. She intended to put on men's clothes, go to the Lavra, and confess her thoughts to him. But the Elder, who learned of her intentions from an angel, sent a message to her and said, "Know that you will not see me when you come to me as you intend, do not work in vain, but stay where you are I am. " I'll come to you in a dream to hear what you want to tell and tell you what God wants you to hear. "The Deaconess was horrified by John Clairvoyance, convinced that he could perceive distant thoughts, anxiously awaiting his arrival, and a few days later the Blessed One visited them in a dream and said," Behold, God has sent me to you. Tell me what you want. "She confessed her sins and received an appropriate spiritual healing, and after instructing her, the saint became invisible, and the woman awoke from sleep and thanked the Lord.
The Venerable's cell was in a dry, rocky place where no tree or plant could grow. Once Johannes took figs seeds and said to his disciples Theodor and Johannes: Listen to me, children! When this seed, by the grace of God, takes root on barren rocks and a tree springs, leaves spread and fruit shows fruit, then know that the Lord has granted me rest in the kingdom of heaven. So he planted the seed on the rock near his cell, and God, who made Aaron's dry rod bloom, sent moisture down so that the fig seed grew into a tree, showing the favor his faithful servant bore in his eyes The seedling broke through the thin soil and grew slowly, completely overshadowing the cell over time, bearing fruit: three figs the elder plucked, and with tears in his eyes he thanked God, kissed the figs, and divided them John started preparing for his departure, having reached an advanced age, and was 104 years old when he fell asleep in the Lord our Savior, to the glory of forever, Amen.
The life of this saint was written by Cyril, a monk from Jerusalem, and revised by Symeon Metaphrastes. This version is derived in an abbreviation from both sources.
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