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St. John of Damascus

Birth: 645 AD
Death: 749 AD
Feastday: December 3

 

Born in Damascus, Syria, Saint John Damascene is both a Father and Doctor of the Church. In the Latin Church, his feast day is March 27 and in the Eastern Churches, his feast is celebrated December 4. Traditionally he has been known as the patron saint of the arts because of his defense of holy "/images during the Iconoclast heresy. His wisdom, eloquence and oratory ability won him the name Chrysorrhoas, meaning ‘golden stream’. For these reasons, Living Water College of the Arts has been placed under his protection and patronage.

Early Life
When John was in his early twenties, his father hired a monk to tutor him in the arts—music, astronomy, mathematics and theology. Before entering the monastery, John served as a civil official, but finally resigned from the post because of hostility to his Christian faith. After his time spent in the political world, he retired to the monastery of Mar Saba, near Jerusalem, where he was ordained a priest before the outbreak of the controversy over Iconoclasm in 726, when Byzantine emperor Leo III issued his first edict against the veneration of "/images.

Defense of Holy Images
John Damascene vigorously defended the use of holy art and "/images and employed his education through writing and speaking to educate people in the truth. Not only did he himself oppose the Byzantine monarch, but he also stirred the people to resistance. In 730 Leo issued a second edict, in which he not only forbade the veneration of "/images but also inhibited their exhibition in public places. St. John's three letters in defense of the holy icons, for which he was slandered before the khalif and his hand was cut off, had become known and read everywhere, and had earned him the hatred of the persecuting emperors. If his enemies never succeeded in injuring him, it was only because he never crossed the frontier into the Roman empire.

Works and Writings
After his miraculous healing by the Theotokos, Mary the Mother of God, he spent the rest of his life in religious study, except for a period shortly before his death, when he journeyed throughout Syria preaching against the Iconoclasts. The most important and best known of all his works is the Fountain of Knowledge, which is considered by some as the first work of Scholasticism, John being considered the precursor of the Scholastics. The book's merit is not that of originality, for the author asserts that it is not his purpose to set forth his own views, but rather to collate and epitomize in a single work the opinions of the great ecclesiastical writers who have gone before him. The book is considered one of the most notable works of Christian antiquity. A special interest attaches to it for the reason that it is the first attempt at a summa theologica. He also wrote polemical works against various heresies and sermons on feast days. He is renowned as the writer of many feast-day hymns and canons, and as the compiler of the Octoechos, whose verses sum up the faith. John died in 749 A.D.