Sunday, December 4, 2011

John of Damascus, Theologian and Hymnwriter

Advent 2
Feast Day of John of Damascus, Theologian and Hymnwriter
December 4, 2011

The Lord be with you

John of Damascus, sometimes called John Damascene, was born about 675, grew up in wealth and luxury, and at an early age succeeded his father as an official in the court of the Caliph of Damascus, Abdul Malek. John is said to have been educated by a Greek monk from Calabria whom the Muslims had taken prisoner. He became a monk around 715 at the famous monastery of Mar Saba, a still-extant hermit colony founded in 484 by St. Sabas (469-532) in the mountain wilderness between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, and there devoted himself to an ascetic life and to the study of the Fathers. In 725 he was ordained a priest.

About this time a violent controversy concerning the veneration of icons erupted. The Byzantine emperor Leo III forbade the veneration of sacred images, icons, and ordered their destruction. John wrote three treatises in defense of icons, entitled Against Those Who Attack the Divine Images. He effectively defended the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, and the veneration of the Virgin Mary. He also wrote a great synthesis of theology called The Fount of Knowledge, of which the last part, On the Orthodox Faith, is best known. His work is highly regarded in the Eastern Church, and he is considered the last of its Fathers.

He is best known to many as the author of the Easter Hymns, “the Golden Canon” or “the Queen of Canons,” “The day of resurrection, earth tell it out abroad”, and an Ode written for the Sunday of St. Thomas (the Second Sunday of Easter), “Come, ye faithful, raise the strain of triumphant gladness.”

John of Damascus died near Jerusalem around 760. His feast day in East and West is December 4.

A quote from The First Oration against Those Who Attack the Divine Images by John of Damascus
    In former times, God, who is without form or body, could never be depicted. But now when God is seen in the flesh conversing with men, I make an image of the God whom I see, I do not worship matter; I worship the Creator of matter who became matter for my sake, who willed to take his abode in matter; who worked out my salvation through matter. Never will I cease honoring the matter which wrought my salvation! … Because of this I salute all remaining matter with reverence, because God has filled it with his grace and power. Through it my salvation has come to me. Was not the thrice-happy and thrice-blessed wood of the cross matter? Was not the holy and exalted mountain of Calvary matter? What of the life-bearing rock, the holy and life-giving tomb, the fountain of our resurrection, was it not matter? Is not the ink of the most holy Gospel-book matter? From it we receive the Bread of Life! … And over and above all these things, is not the Body and Blood of our Lord matter? Either do away with the honor and veneration these things deserve, or accept the tradition of the Church and the veneration of images. Reverence God and his friends; follow the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Do not despise matter, for it is not despicable. God has made nothing despicable.
Appropriate Prayers: For artists who adorn churches and who write icons; For a proper appreciation of art and outward beauty as a gift from God; For the church in Syria; For those who teach the church through hymns and song

(Adapted from New Book of Festvals & Commemorations: A Proposed Common Calendar of Saints; Philip H. Pfatteicher)

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

No comments:

Post a Comment