The Monk John the Perspicacious of Egypt
Commemorated on March 27
The Monk John the
Perspicacious of Egypt was born at the beginning of the IV Century. He
lived in the city of Likopolis (Middle Egypt) and was a carpenter. At the age
of twenty-five he went off to a monastery, where he accepted monastic tonsure.
Over the course of twenty-five years the Monk John asceticised at various
monasteries, and then wanting complete solitude, he withdrew into the Thebaid
onto Mount Bolcha. Saint John then spent twenty-five years in solitude, never
leaving the spot. He conversed with people coming to him through a small
aperture, through which he also accepted frugal amounts of food brought him.
The Monk John already after thirty years in seclusion was granted by God the
graced gift of perspicacious foresight. Thus, he predicted to the emperor
Theodosius the Great (379-395) the victory over his adversaries Maximus and
Eugenius, and a military victory over the Gauls. For many visiting him he
foretold events in their lives and gave them guidance. The holy ascetic
distributed blessed oil to the sick visiting him, and anointing with it he
healed them from various maladies.
The Monk John predicted to the monk Palladios, who wrote down his life, that he would become a bishop. The prediction of the seer was fulfilled, and Palladios was made bishop of Bithynia (Asia Minor).
The Monk John in his directives commanded first of all to have humility: "Imitate in the measure of your strength the virtuous life of the holy fathers and, if ye fulfill everything, then hope not upon yourself nor praise yourself. For there are many such people, which, having reached perfection in virtue and becoming puffed up with pride, plunge from the heights into the abyss. Observe carefully: is your prayer fervent? your purity of heart not transgressed? your mind undisturbed by extraneous thoughts during time of prayer? observe, do you reject the world with all your soul? or go about to spy out the virtues of others, in vain then with your own particular virtues? Are ye concerned to put forth your good example before other people? Take heed, art ye become conceited in your own righteousness, puffed up with pride somehow by your good deed? Take heed, that during time of prayer thoughts about worldly things do not enter your head, since there is nothing more silly, than to converse with the lips to God, while in thought to be far off from Him. This often happens with those, which not so much renounce the world, as rather that they are concerned to comply with the world. A man, thinking about many things, is given over to cares about things worldly and perishable, but being subjected to concern about things worldly, a man cannot yet with his spiritual eyes behold God. For a man, meditating always about God, extraneous thoughts ought to be all in vain. For this man, who has attained to a certain knowledge of God (full knowledge of God no one can attain to), the mysteries of God are revealed to him, and he sees the future as the present, and like a saint he works miracles and receives through his prayer everything that he beseeches of God...
Love silence, child, dwelling always in Divine-meditation and praying God always, that He grant you a pure mind, free from sinful thoughts. Worthy of praise certainly is that ascetic who, living in the world, practises the virtues, rendering kindliness to strangers or distributing alms, or aiding in the work of others, or dwelling constantly without anger. Such a man is praiseworthy, since he dwelleth in virtue, fulfilling the commands of God, while yet not leaving off from earthly affairs. But better than this and more worthy of praise would be that one who, dwelling constantly in Divine-meditation, would ascend from the corporeal to the incorporeal, letting go of the care and concern of others, himself striving towards the Heavenly, constantly standing before God, having relinquished everything worldly and being not still attached to the world by earthly cares. Such a man is in proximity to God, Whom he doth glorify in prayers and psalmody".
With these and similar salvific instructions, and with directive discourse and example of like-angelic life, the monk brought much spiritual benefit to people.
The Monk John of Egypt survived into old age and expired to the Lord in the year 395, at the age of ninety.
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.