John of Damascus, Monk and Theologian, ca 749

St John of Damascus

 

A Syrian or Arab Christian, John spent his entire life under Muslim rule. His father, a wealthy Damascene Christian, held the office of chief of the revenue in the caliph’s administration and was also possibly the principal representative of the Christian community in Damascus. John was educated by the Sicilian monk Cosmas, a man learned both in science and in theology, for whose liberation John’s father paid a large sum of money. John succeeded his father, serving in the administration of Caliph ‘Abd al-Malik, but in 716 he became a monk and later a presbyter at the abbey of Saint Sabas, near Jerusalem. John soon busied himself with the writing of hymns and theological works, the most important of the latter known as “The Fount of Wisdom”, which deals in turn with philosophy, heresy, and the orthodox faith. The last part, called De Fide Orthodoxa, a summary of the teaching of the Greek Fathers on the principal mysteries of the Christian faith, such as the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Real Presence in the Eucharist, had immense influence for centuries in the East and the West. (Through Burgundio of Pisa’s inadequate translation, the work was known to Peter Lombard and Thomas Aquinas.) John also wrote a comprehensive commentary on the Pauline Epistles and several doctrinal homilies.

In the same year that John was ordained presbyter, 726, the emperor Leo the Third (the Isaurian) published his first edict against the Holy Images, which signaled the formal outbreak of the iconoclastic controversy. The edict forbade the veneration of icons and ordered their destruction. In 729-730, John wrote three “Apologies against the Iconoclasts and in Defense of the Holy Images”, in which he argued that such sacred images were not idols, distinguishing between the veneration (proskynesis) that may properly be given to created beings, and the worship (latreia), that is properly given only to God. The Seventh Ecumenical Council, meeting in 787, decreed that crosses, icons, Gospel books and other sacred objects were to receive reverence or veneration, expressed by salutations, incense and lights, because the honor paid to them passed on to those whom they represented.

Among his hymns are several which found their way into Western hymnody through John Mason Neale’s translations, including “Thou hallowed chosen morn of praise“, “Come, ye faithful, raise the strain“, and “The day of Resurrection! Earth, tell it out abroad“.

compiled from material from The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church,
Lesser Feasts and Fasts, and The Blackwell Dictionary of Eastern Christianity

The Collect

Confirm our minds, O Lord, in the mysteries of the true faith, set forth with power by your servant John of Damascus; that we, with him, confessing Jesus to be true God and true Man, and singing the praises of the risen Lord, may, by the power of the resurrection, attain to eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Epistle
1 Corinthians 15:12-20

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Psalm 16:5-11
Conserva me Domine

O LORD, YOU are my portion and my cup; *
it is you who uphold my lot.

My boundaries enclose a pleasant land; *
indeed, I have a goodly heritage.

I will bless the LORD who gives me counsel; *
my heart teaches me, night after night.

I have set the LORD always before me; *
because he is at my right hand I shall not fall.

My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices; *
my body also shall rest in hope.

For you will not abandon me to the grave, *
nor let your holy one see the Pit.

You will show me the path of life; *
in your presence there is fullness of joy,
and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.

The Gospel
John 5:24-27

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.

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Pray today especially for

  • the Church in Syria
  • artists who adorn churches and who write icons
  • a proper appreciation of art and outward beauty as a gift from God
  • those who teach the Church through hymns and songs

O God, the King of saints, we praise and magnify your holy Name for all your servants who have finished their course in your faith and fear; for the blessed Virgin Mary; for the holy patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs; and for all other of your righteous servants, known to us and unknown; remembering especially this day John of Damascus, monk and theologian; and we beseech you that, encouraged by their examples, aided by their prayers, and strengthened by their fellowship, we also may be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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The scripture texts of the Epistle and Gospel are taken from the English Standard Version Bible. The Collect and Psalm are taken from the Book of Common Prayer (1979).

The intentions for intercessions and petitions are taken from the New Book of Festivals & Commemorations (Philip H. Pfatteicher, Fortress Press 2008).

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