Saint John Damascene
Jul 24, 2015 / Written by: America Needs Fatima
Feast December 4
John Damascene was born in Damascus, then under Muslim rule. Though imposing a poll tax and other conditions upon the Jews and Christians, the Muslims of Damascus were, for the most part, tolerant, allowing both Jews and Christians to occupy important posts, and amass fortune.
Among the officials at the khalif’s court in 675 was a Christian called John, chief of the revenue department. The father of our saint, he was surnamed al-Mansur by the Arabs, a name the family carried.
The younger John was born around 690, baptized in infancy, and, as he grew, had a tutor named Cosmas, a wise man of letters, whom the Arabs had brought back from Sicily among other captives. Young John had an adopted brother also called Cosmas, and both became the pupils of the Sicilian sage, who taught them the natural sciences and theology.
John succeeded his father in his office at the court and worked there, free to practice his Faith, and respected for his virtues.
After some years, he resigned his post, and, with his brother Cosmas, joined the monastery of St. Sabas.
As monks, John and Cosmas used their spare time to write books and poetry, which occupation rather scandalized their brethren.
Better appreciated by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, John V, the brothers joined his clergy. Cosmas was eventually consecrated bishop of Majuma serving his flock admirably, and also reaching sainthood.
John, after being ordained, served for a while in Jerusalem, but then returned to his monastery. He wrote extensively in defense of icons against the iconoclasts, incurring the ill will of upholders of the heresy in high places.
St. John wrote works of theology and poetry at St. Sabas where he died a very old man. He was proclaimed Doctor of the Church in 1890.
*Header Image: The dream of Saint John Damascene: the Virgin attaches his severed right hand.