Saint of the Day – 4 December – St John Damascene (676-749) Last of the Greek Fathers and Doctor of the Church. Also known as • Doctor of Christian Art • Jean Damascene • Johannes Damascenus • John Chrysorrhoas (literally “streaming with gold”—i.e., “the golden speaker”) • John of Damascus. (c 676 – 4 December 749) was a Syrian monk and priest. Born and raised in Damascus, he died at his monastery, Mar Saba, near Jerusalem. Patronages: • pharmacists • icon painting • theology students.
John grew up in the rich, luxurious court of the Muslim ruler of Damascus, where his father was a wealthy Christian court official. In order to make sure John had a solid Christian foundation, his father employed a brilliant Sicilian monk named Cosmos, who was a war captive, to teach John. Cosmos schooled the boy in science and theology, in the Greek and Arabic languages and in the culture of Islam. Then John was ready to assume a high place in the government, which he did. But the spirit of the Muslim rulers was turning against Christians, so John left his position in the government and became a monk in Jerusalem.
He is famous in three areas:
First, he is known for his writings against the iconoclasts, who opposed the veneration of images. Paradoxically, it was the Eastern Christian emperor Leo who forbade the practice and it was because John lived in Muslim territory that his enemies could not silence him.
Second, he is famous for his treatise, Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, a summary of the Greek Fathers, of which he became the last. It is said that this book is for Eastern schools what the Summaof Aquinas became for the West.
Third, he is known as a poet, one of the two greatest of the Eastern Church, the other being Romanus the Melodist. His devotion to the Blessed Mother and his sermons on her feasts are well known.
For all of his efforts to defend the faith, John of Damascene was named a Doctor of the Church in 1890.