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The Holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian

Com­mem­o­rat­ed on Sep­tem­ber 26 and May 8

The Holy Apos­tle and Evan­ge­list John the The­olo­gian was the son of Zebedee and Salo­mia – a daugh­ter of Saint Joseph the Betrothed. Togeth­er at the same time with his elder broth­er James, he was called by our Lord Jesus Christ to be num­bered amongst His Apos­tles, which took place at Lake Gen­nesareth (i.e. the Sea of Galilee). Leav­ing behind their father, both broth­ers fol­lowed the Lord.

The Apos­tle John was espe­cial­ly beloved by the Sav­iour for his sac­ri­fi­cial love and his vir­ginal puri­ty. After his call­ing, the Apos­tle John did not part from the Lord, and he was one of the three apos­tles, who were par­tic­u­lar­ly close to Him. Saint John the The­olo­gian was present when the Lord resus­ci­tat­ed to life the daugh­ter of Jairus, and he was a wit­ness to the Trans­fig­u­ra­tion of the Lord on Mount Tabor. Dur­ing the time of the Last Sup­per, he reclined next to the Lord, and at a ges­ture from the Apos­tle Peter, he pressed nigh to the bosom of the Sav­iour and asked the name of the betray­er. The Apos­tle John fol­lowed after the Lord, when they led Him bound from the Gar­den of Geth­se­mane to the court of the iniq­ui­tous high-priests Annas and Caiphas. He was there in the court­yard of the high-priest dur­ing the inter­ro­ga­tions of his Divine Teacher and he res­olute­ly fol­lowed after him on the way of the Cross, griev­ing with all his heart. At the foot of the Cross he went togeth­er with the Moth­er of God and heard addressed to Her from atop the Cross the words of the Cru­ci­fied Lord: “Woman, behold Thy son” and to him “Behold thy Moth­er” (Jn. 19: 26–27). And from that moment the Apos­tle John, like a lov­ing son, con­cerned him­self over the MostHoly Vir­gin Mary, and he served Her until Her Dor­mi­tion (“Falling-Asleep” or “Uspe­nie”), nev­er leav­ing Jerusalem. After the Dor­mi­tion of the Moth­er of God the Apos­tle John, in accord with the lot that had befall­en him, set off to Eph­esus and oth­er cities of Asia Minor to preach the Gospel, tak­ing with him his own dis­ci­ple Prokhoros. They set off upon their on a ship, which floun­dered dur­ing the time of a ter­ri­ble tem­pest. All the trav­ellers were cast up upon dry ground, and only the Apos­tle John remained in the depths of the sea. Prokhoros wept bit­ter­ly, bereft of his spir­i­tu­al father and guide, and he went on towards Eph­esus alone. On the four­teenth day of his jour­ney he stood at the shore of the sea and beheld, that the waves had cast ashore a man. Going up to him, he recog­nised the Apos­tle John, whom the Lord had pre­served alive for four­teen days in the deeps of the sea. Teacher and stu­dent set off to Eph­esus, where the Apos­tle John preached inces­sant­ly to the pagans about Christ. His preach­ing was accom­pa­nied by numer­ous and great mir­a­cles, such that the num­ber of believ­ers increased with each day. Dur­ing this time there had begun a per­se­cu­tion against Chris­tians under the emper­or Nero (56−68). They took away the Apos­tle John for tri­al at Rome. The Apos­tle John was sen­tenced to death for his con­fes­sion of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, but the Lord pre­served His cho­sen one. The apos­tle drank out of a cup pre­pared for him with dead­ly poi­son but he remained alive, and lat­er he emerged unharmed from a caul­dron of boil­ing oil, into which he had been thrown on orders from the tor­tur­er. After this, they sent the Apos­tle John off to impris­on­ment to the island of Pat­mos, where he spent many years. Pro­ceed­ing along on his way to the place of exile, the Apos­tle John worked many mir­a­cles. On the island of Pat­mos, his preach­ing accom­pa­nied by mir­a­cles attract­ed to him all the inhab­i­tants of the island, and he enlight­ened them with the light of the Gospel. He cast out many a dev­il from the pagan-idol tem­ples, and he healed a great mul­ti­tude of the sick. Sor­cer­er-magi­cians with diverse demon­ic pow­ers showed great hos­til­i­ty to the preach­ing of the holy apos­tle. He gave espe­cial fright to the chief sor­cer­er of them all, named Kinops, who boast­ed that they would destroy the apos­tle. But the great John – the Son of Thun­der, as the Lord Him­self had named him, and by the grace of God act­ing through him – destroyed all the demon­ic arti­fices to which Kinops resort­ed, and the haughty sor­cer­er per­ished exhaust­ed in the depths of the sea.

The Apos­tle John with­drew with his dis­ci­ple Prokhoros to a des­o­late height, where he imposed upon him­self a three-day fast. Dur­ing the time of the Apos­tle John’s prayer the earth quaked and thun­der boomed. Prokhoros in fright fell to the ground. The Apos­tle John lift­ed him up and bid him to write down, that which he was to speak. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the begin­ning and the end, saith the Lord, Which is and Which was and Which is to come, the Almighty” (Rev. 1: 8), – pro­claimed the Spir­it of God through the Apos­tle John. Thus in about the year 67 was writ­ten the Book of Rev­e­la­tion (“Otkrove­nie”, known also as the “Apoc­a­lypse”) of the holy Apos­tle John the The­olo­gian. In this Book was a reveal­ing of the tribu­la­tions of the Church and of the end of the world.

After his pro­longed exile, the Apos­tle John received his free­dom and returned to Eph­esus, where he con­tin­ued with his activ­i­ty, instruct­ing Chris­tians to guard against false-teach­ers and their false-teach­ings. In about the year 95, the Apos­tle John wrote his Gospel at Eph­esus. He called for all Chris­tians to love the Lord and one anoth­er, and by this to ful­fill the com­mands of Christ. The Church enti­tles Saint John the “Apos­tle of Love”, since he con­stant­ly taught, that with­out love man can­not come nigh to God. In his three Epis­tles, writ­ten by the Apos­tle John, he speaks about the sig­nif­i­cance of love for God and for neigh­bour. Already in his old age, and hav­ing learned of a youth who had strayed from the true path to begin fol­low­ing the leader of a band of rob­bers, the Apos­tle John went out into the wilder­ness to seek him. Catch­ing sight of the holy elder, the cul­prit tried to hide him­self, but the Apos­tle John ran after him and besought him to stop, and promis­ing to take the sins of the youth upon him­self, if only he should but repent and not bring ruina­tion upon his soul. Shak­en by the intense love of the holy elder, the youth actu­al­ly did repent and turn his life around.

The holy Apos­tle John died at more than an hun­dred years old. he far out-lived the oth­er remain­ing eye-wit­ness­es of the Lord, and for a long time he remained the sole remain­ing eye-wit­ness of the earth­ly paths of the Saviour.

When it became time for the depar­ture of the Apos­tle John, he with­drew out beyond the city-lim­its of Eph­esus, being togeth­er with the fam­i­lies of his dis­ci­ples. He bid them pre­pare for him a cross-shaped grave, in which he lay, telling his dis­ci­ples that they should cov­er him over with the soil. The stu­dents with tears kissed their beloved teacher, but not want­i­ng to be dis­obe­di­ent, they ful­filled his bid­ding. They cov­ered the face of the saint with a cloth and filled in the grave. Learn­ing of this, oth­er stu­dents of the Apos­tle John came to the place of his bur­ial, but open­ing the grave they found it empty.

Each year from the grave of the holy Apos­tle John on 8 May there came forth a fine ash-dust, which believ­ers gath­ered up and were healed of sick­ness­es by it. There­fore the Church cel­e­brates the mem­o­ry of the holy Apos­tle John the The­olo­gian still even also on 8 May.

The Lord bestowed on His beloved dis­ci­ple John and John’s broth­er James the name “Sons of Thun­der” – as an awe­some mes­sen­ger in its cleans­ing pow­er of the heav­en­ly fire. And pre­cise­ly by this the Sav­iour point­ed out the flam­ing, fiery, sac­ri­fi­cial char­ac­ter of Chris­t­ian love, – the preach­er of which was the Apos­tle John the The­olo­gian. The eagle – sym­bol of the lofty soar­ing of his the­o­log­i­cal thought – is the icono­graph­ic sym­bol of the Evan­ge­list John the The­olo­gian. The appel­la­tion “The­olo­gian” is bestown by Holy Church only to Saint John among the imme­di­ate Dis­ci­ples and Apos­tles of Christ, as being the seer of the mys­teried Judge­ments of God.

© 1996–2001 by trans­la­tor Fr. S. Janos.