St. John of Damascus
St. John of Damascus
Saint John of Damascus, also known as John Damascene, was a Christian monk, theologian, and writer who lived in the 8th century. He is considered one of the greatest Eastern theologians and is known for his defense of icons in the Iconoclastic Controversy.
Early Life and Education
John was born in Damascus, Syria in the late 7th century. His father, Sergius, was a high-ranking government official and his mother, Maria, was a devout Christian. From a young age, John was well-educated and fluent in both Greek and Arabic. He studied at the monastery of St. Sabas near Jerusalem, where he became a monk and devoted himself to a life of prayer and study.
The Iconoclastic Controversy
In the 8th century, a movement known as Iconoclasm swept through the Byzantine Empire. Iconoclasts believed that the use of icons, or religious images, was a form of idolatry and should be abolished. This belief was met with strong opposition from many Christians, who saw icons as a way to honor and venerate the saints.
John of Damascus was one of the most vocal opponents of Iconoclasm. He wrote several treatises defending the use of icons, including “Three Treatises on the Divine Images” and “On the Divine Images: Against Those Who Attack Them.” In these works, John argued that icons were not idols but rather a way to honor the saints and venerate Christ. He also argued that the use of icons was rooted in the Christian tradition and had been endorsed by previous Church fathers.
John’s arguments were influential in the eventual defeat of Iconoclasm. In 787, the Second Council of Nicaea issued a decree affirming the use of icons in the Church, a decision that is known as the Triumph of Orthodoxy.
In addition to his work on icons, John of Damascus was also a prolific writer and theologian. He wrote extensively on a wide range of topics, including philosophy, theology, and church history. He is perhaps best known for his work “The Fount of Knowledge,” which is a summary of the entirety of Christian doctrine. This work was widely read and was considered a seminal text in the field of theology.
John was also a hymnographer, and he is credited with writing some of the most famous hymns in the Eastern Christian tradition. One of his most famous hymns is the “Hymn of the Pearl,” which is sung during the Feast of the Annunciation.
John of Damascus was one of the most important figures in the history of Eastern Christianity. His defense of icons during the Iconoclastic Controversy helped to preserve the use of icons in the Church, and his writings on theology and philosophy continue to be studied and admired today. He was declared a saint by the Orthodox Church, and his feast day is celebrated on December 4th.
In conclusion, Saint John of Damascus was a remarkable figure who made significant contributions to the fields of theology, philosophy, and hymnography. His defense of icons during the Iconoclastic Controversy was instrumental in preserving the use of icons in the Church, and his writings continue to be studied and revered to this day.
Prayer to St. John
Yes, there is a prayer to Saint John of Damascus. The following is a traditional prayer to him:
O Holy Father John of Damascus,
Who, in defense of the holy icons,
Did suffer banishment for the love of Christ,
Intercede with Him to grant us grace
To keep His commandments with all our heart,
That we may be delivered from the snares of the enemy
And win the crown of victory in the Kingdom of Heaven.
- Saint John of Damascus was born in Damascus, Syria in the late 7th century.
- He was a monk at the monastery of St. Sabas near Jerusalem and was well-educated in both Greek and Arabic.
- John was a vocal opponent of Iconoclasm and wrote several treatises defending the use of icons in the Church.
- He was a prolific writer and theologian and is known for his work “The Fount of Knowledge,” a summary of Christian doctrine.
- John was declared a saint by the Orthodox Church and his feast day is celebrated on December 4th.