The Monk John the Silent (Hermit)

Commemorated on December 3

      The Monk John the Silent (Hermit) was born in about the year 454 in the city of Armenian Nicopolis, into the family of a military-commander named Enkratios and his wife Euphemia. The boy early on began to study Holy Scripture and with all his heart he loved solitude and prayer.
      With the portion of inheritance coming to him after the death of his parents, the youth John built a church in the Name of the MostHoly Mother of God. At 18 years of age John together with 10 monks lived nearby the church, in fasting, prayer and temperance. At the request of the citizens of the city of Colonia, the Sebasteia metropolitan ordained the 28 year old John as bishop of the Colonia Church. Having assumed ecclesial governance, the saint did not alter his strict ascetic manner of life. Under the influence of the saint in a Christian manner lived also his kinsfolk – his brother Pergamios (an associate of the emperors Zenon and Anastasius) and his nephew Theodore (an associate of the emperor Justinian).
      In John's tenth year as bishop, the governance in Armenia was assumed by Pazinikos, the husband of the saint's sister, Maria. The new governor began forcibly to interfere in spiritual and ecclesiastical matters. Unrest arose within the church. Saint John thereupon set off to Constantinople and through archbishop Euphymios he besought the emperor Zenon to defend the Armenian Church from the churlish enroachments.
      Overwhelmed by worldly quarrels, John secretly left his bishopric and sailed to Jerusalem. With tears he besought God to show him the place, where he might live and find salvation. A bright star appeared, which led Saint John to the Lavra monastery of the Monk Sava. John, concealing his bishop's dignity, was accepted amidst the brethren as a simple novice. Under the guidance of the hegumen Saint Sava (Comm. 5 December), the Monk John for more than 4 years fulfilled obedience at very heavy work in the construction of a vagrants home, and of a monastery for newly-made monks. Seeing Saint John's humility and love of toil, Saint Sava reckoned him worthy of ordination to presbyter. But Saint John had happened to reveal his secret to the Jerusalem Patriarch Elias (494-517), and with the blessing of this primate of the Jerusalem Church, the Monk John took a vow of silence. Soon the Lord also revealed Saint John's secret to the Monk Sava. The Monk John spent four years in his cell, receiving no one and not going out even for church.
      Desirous of ever greater solitude and increased abstinence, the Monk John quit the Lavra and withdrew into the wilderness, where he spent more than nine years, nourishing himself off of the grasses. Here he survived a devastating incursion of the Saracens and did not perish, only because that the Lord sent him a defender, – a ferocious lion, at the sight of which the enemy, which more than once seeking to kill the monk, instead scattered in fright. Tradition speaks of many a miracle, effected through the prayer of the Monk John during this time in the wilderness.
      When the holy hegumen Saint Sava returned, having for an extended period gone off to Scythopolis, he persuaded the Monk John to forsake the wilderness and again resettle at the monastery. And after this, the Lord in miraculous manner revealed to everyone at the Lavra, that Saint John was actually a bishop.
      When the Monk John reached age seventy, his holy and God-bearing spiritual father Saint Sava died. The saint grieved deeply over this demise. Saint Sava appeared to him in a vision, and having consoled him, he foretold, that there was much toil ahead in the struggle with heresy. And actually, Saint John did have to forsake his cell so as to strengthen the brethren in the struggle with the heresy of the Origenists.
      The Monk John the Silent spent 66 years at the Lavra of the Monk Sava the Sanctified. By his constant ascetic efforts, by his untiring prayer and humble wisdom, the Monk John acquired the grace of the Holy Spirit: through his prayer happened many a miracle, the secret thoughts of people were discerned by the saint, he healed the sick and the demoniac, and even during his life he saved from certain destruction those invoking his name, and from a fig-tree seed thrown by the saint onto dry soil there sprouted up a beautiful and fruitful tree.
      The Monk John the Silent expired to the Lord at age 104 in peace.

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