Saint of the Day – 27 March – St John of Lycopolis (c305-394) Hermit, Spiritual Advisor, Miracle-worker. graced with the gifts of prophecy and seeing into the hearts of men. John was known and admired by the greats of his time, including Saint Jerome, Saint Augustine, Saint Cassian and others. Born in c305 at Assiut, Egypt and died in 394 of natural causes. Also known as – Johannes av Egypt, John of Egypt, John of the Thebaid, John the Anchorite, John the Egyptian, John the Hermit.
John’s parents were poor and he trained as a carpenter. At the age of 25, he became a Hermit under the guidance of an elderly Recluse He spent a decade with this Hermit, taking direction from him and learning from him. St John Cassian recounts a tale that this spiritual counsellor directed John to water a dry stick every day for a year. After this test of obedience, his superior threw the stick away. When the older Hermit died, John spent the next five years travelling and visiting Monasteries.
John was noted for performing seemingly absurd acts such as rolling rocks from place to place and cultivating dead trees. Finally, he withdrew to the top of a cliff near Lycopolis, Egypt, where he could avoid all human contact. There he carved three small cells within the rock, one for sleeping, one for work and the last for praying. Then he walled them up with himself inside, leaving only a small opening.
He communicated through this opening to those who brought him food and water twice a week. Crowds would gather on those two days to hear him preach.
John never ate until sunset and lived on a diet of dried fruit and vegetables for fifty years. He refused bread and never ate anything cooked. He lived this way well into his nineties.
He possess the spiritual gift of prophecy and often predicting the future and knowing the details of persons he had never met. He predicted future victories to the Emperor Theodosius the Great who became his student, coming to him for advice and counselling.
He avoided seeing women, in particular, to avoid temptation but, he avoided all people for the last fifty years of his life. Saint Augustine wrote that John was tempted by devils and that he performed miraculous cures. St Augustine records that John cured a woman of blindness and then appeared to her in a vision to avoid seeing her in person.
John prayed incessantly and foreseeing his own death, he asked that no-one visit him for three days. He spent these last three days of his life without food or drink or any interaction except with God through prayer. He was discovered dead in his cell, with his body in a position of prayer.
John’s multi-roomed cell was re-discovered in the early 1900s.