Saint of the Day ~ December 4

SAINT JOHN DAMASCENE (676-c.749), priest and Doctor of the Church

Today, the Church honors Saint John Damascene, the great Eastern Church Father who shaped the traditions of Eastern Orthodox Christians and Eastern Catholics.

John of Damascus, also called John Damascene, was born in Damascus, Syria in 676. His father was a man who had staunchly remained Christian in this predominantly Muslim city. And despite his faith, John’s father was a high-ranking member of the Caliph’s court. He used his rank and his wealth to obtain for John the best possible Christian education at the time, in order to develop his son’s considerable intellectual gifts.

After his father’s death, John began to work for the Caliph as well. After a few years he resigned and went to the monastery of Saint Sabas, some 18 miles southeast of Jerusalem, where he was later ordained to the priesthood.

John is famous in three areas. First, he is known for his writings against the iconoclasts, who opposed the veneration of images. Second, he is famous for his treatise, “Exposition of the Orthodox Faith”, a summary of the writings and teachings of the Greek Fathers (of which he became the last). It is said that this book is to Eastern schools what the “Summa Theologica” of Saint Thomas Aquinas became to the West.

And 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 Feastdays were and still are well known.

For over 30 years, John defended the Church’s understanding of the veneration of images and explained the faith of the Church in several other controversies. In addition to his writings and ecclesial defenses, his was a life devoted to prayer. And his holiness expressed itself by placing his literary and preaching talents at the service of the Lord.

John Damascene died during the middle of the eighth century about the year 749, and was proclaimed Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII in 1890.

We commemorate his feastday on December 4.

(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.org, americancatholic.org and newadvent.org)

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PRAYER

(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Proper for Saint John Damascene)

“Lord, may the prayers of Saint John Damascene help us, and may the true faith he taught so well always be our light and our strength.

“We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

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