Commemorated on November 4
The Monk Ioannikes the Great was born in Bithynia in
the year 752 in the village of Marikat. His parents were destitute and could
not provide him even the basics of an education. From childhood he had to tend
the family cattle – their sole wealth. Love for God and prayer completely held
sway in the soul of the lad Ioannikes. Often, having shielded the herd with the
sign of the Cross, he went to a secluded place and spent the whole day praying,
and neither thieves nor wild beasts came near his herd.
By order of the emperor Leo IV
(775-780), a multitude of officials spread through the cities and towns to
draft fine young men for military service. Young Ioannikes was also drafted
into the imperial army. He earned the respect of his fellow soldiers for his
good disposition, but also as a brave soldier and fierceness to enemies. Saint
Ioannikes served in the imperial army for 6 years. More than once he was
rewarded by his commanders and the emperor. But military service weighed heavily
on him, his soul thirsted for spiritual deeds and solitude. And the Lord
summoned His servant to Him for service.
The Monk Ioannikes, having renounced
the world, was intent to go off at once into the wilderness. However, on the
advice of an elder experienced in monastic deeds, he spent a further two years
at the monastery. Here the saint became accustomed to monastic obedience, to
monastic rules and practices, he studied reading and writing, and he learned by
heart thirty psalms of David. After this, on the urging by God, the monk
withdrew into the wilderness. For three years he remained in deep solitude in
the wilderness, and only once a month a shepherd brought him some bread and
water. The ascetic spent day and night in prayer and psalmody. After each verse
of singing the psalms the Monk Ioannikes made a prayer, which in somewhat
altered form the Orthodox Church keeps to this day: "My hope is the
Father, my refuge is Christ, and my protection is the Holy Spirit". By
chance encountering his former companions from military service, the saint quit
the wilderness and withdrew to Mount Konturea. Only after 12 years of ascetic
life did the hermit accept monastic tonsure. The saint spent three years after
the tonsure in seclusion, wrapped in chains, after which he set off to Chelidon
to the great faster Saint George (Comm. 21 February). The ascetics spent
together three years. During this time the Monk Ioannikes learned by heart the
entire Psalter. Having gotten up in age, the Monk Ioannikes settled in the Antidiev
monastery and dwelt there in seclusion until his end.
The Monk Ioannikes spent 70 years in
ascetic deeds and attained to an high spiritual perfection. Through the mercy
of God the saint acquired the gift of prophecy, as his student Pakhomios has related.
The monastic elder during the time of prayer hovered over the ground. One time
he traversed a river flooded to overflowing. The saint could make himself
invisible for people and make others invisible: one time the Monk Ioannikes led
out from prison Greek captives under the watch of a crowd of guards. Poison and
fire, with which the envious wanted to destroy the saint, did him no harm, and
predatory beasts did not touch him. It is known, that he freed the island of
Thasos from a multitude of snakes. The Monk Ioannikes likewise saved a young
nun, who was preparing to quit the monastery on a whim to marry; he took upon
himself the agonised maiden's suffering of passion, and by fasting and prayer
annihilated the seductive assault of the devil.
Foreseeing his end, Saint Ioannikes
expired to the Lord on 4 November 846, at the age of 94.
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.