John Damascene, P & D

+Luke 10:21-24

No-one knows who the Son is except the Father

Filled with joy by the Holy Spirit, Jesus said:

‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’

Then turning to his disciples he spoke to them in private, ‘Happy the eyes that see what you see, for I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.’


+Isaiah 11:1-10

A shoot springs from the stock of Jesse

A shoot springs from the stock of Jesse,

a scion thrusts from his roots:

on him the spirit of the Lord rests,

a spirit of wisdom and insight,

a spirit of counsel and power,

a spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.

(The fear of the Lord is his breath.)

He does not judge by appearances,

he gives no verdict on hearsay,

but judges the wretched with integrity,

and with equity gives a verdict for the poor of the land.

His word is a rod that strikes the ruthless,

his sentences bring death to the wicked.

Integrity is the loincloth round his waist,

faithfulness the belt about his hips.

The wolf lives with the lamb,

the panther lies down with the kid,

calf and lion feed together,

with a little boy to lead them.

The cow and the bear make friends,

their young lie down together.

The lion eats straw like the ox.

The infant plays over the cobra’s hole;

into the viper’s lair

the young child puts his hand.

They do no hurt, no harm,

on all my holy mountain,

for the country is filled with the knowledge of the Lord

as the waters swell the sea.

That day, the root of Jesse

shall stand as a signal to the peoples.

It will be sought out by the nations

and its home will be glorious.

Source: Jerusalem Bible

Catechism of the Catholic Church

The Father-Source And Goal Of The Liturgy

1077 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. He destined us before him in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”

1078 Blessing is a divine and life-giving action, the source of which is the Father; his blessing is both word and gift. When applied to man, the word “blessing” means adoration and surrender to his Creator in thanksgiving.

1079 From the beginning until the end of time the whole of God’s work is a blessing. From the liturgical poem of the first creation to the canticles of the heavenly Jerusalem, the inspired authors proclaim the plan of salvation as one vast divine blessing.

1080 From the very beginning God blessed all living beings, especially man and woman. The covenant with Noah and with all living things renewed this blessing of fruitfulness despite man’s sin which had brought a curse on the ground. But with Abraham, the divine blessing entered into human history which was moving toward death, to redirect it toward life, toward its source. By the faith of “the father of all believers,” who embraced the blessing, the history of salvation is inaugurated.

1081 The divine blessings were made manifest in astonishing and saving events: the birth of Isaac, the escape from Egypt (Passover and Exodus), the gift of the promised land, the election of David, the presence of God in the Temple, the purifying exile, and return of a “small remnant.” The Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms, interwoven in the liturgy of the Chosen People, recall these divine blessings and at the same time respond to them with blessings of praise and thanksgiving.

1082 In the Church’s liturgy the divine blessing is fully revealed and communicated. The Father is acknowledged and adored as the source and the end of all the blessings of creation and salvation. In his Word who became incarnate, died, and rose for us, he fills us with his blessings. Through his Word, he pours into our hearts the Gift that contains all gifts, the Holy Spirit.

1083 The dual dimension of the Christian liturgy as a response of faith and love to the spiritual blessings the Father bestows on us is thus evident. On the one hand, the Church, united with her Lord and “in the Holy Spirit,” blesses the Father “for his inexpressible gift in her adoration, praise, and thanksgiving. On the other hand, until the consummation of God’s plan, the Church never ceases to present to the Father the offering of his own gifts and to beg him to send the Holy Spirit upon that offering, upon herself, upon the faithful, and upon the whole world, so that through communion in the death and resurrection of Christ the Priest, and by the power of the Spirit, these divine blessings will bring forth the fruits of life “to the praise of his glorious grace.”


Psalm 71

In you, LORD, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame.

In your justice rescue and deliver me; listen to me and save me!

Be my rock and refuge, my secure stronghold; for you are my rock and fortress.

My God, rescue me from the power of the wicked, from the clutches of the violent.

You are my hope, Lord; my trust, GOD, from my youth.

On you I depend since birth; from my mother’s womb you are my strength; my hope in you never wavers.

I have become a portent to many, but you are my strong refuge!

My mouth shall be filled with your praise, shall sing your glory every day.

Do not cast me aside in my old age; as my strength fails, do not forsake me.

For my enemies speak against me; they watch and plot against me.

They say, “God has abandoned that one Pursue, seize the wretch! No one will come to the rescue!”

God, do not stand far from me; my God, hasten to help me.

Bring to a shameful end those who attack me; Cover with contempt and scorn those who seek my ruin.

I will always hope in you and add to all your praise.

My mouth shall proclaim your just deeds, day after day your acts of deliverance, though I cannot number them all.

I will speak of the mighty works of the Lord; O GOD, I will tell of your singular justice.

God, you have taught me from my youth; to this day I proclaim your wondrous deeds.

Now that I am old and gray, do not forsake me, God, That I may proclaim your might to all generations yet to come, Your power

and justice, God, to the highest heaven. You have done great things; O God, who is your equal?

You have sent me many bitter afflictions, but once more revive me. From the watery depths of the earth once more raise me up.

Restore my honor; turn and comfort me,

That I may praise you with the lyre for your faithfulness, my God, And sing to you with the harp, O Holy One of Israel!

My lips will shout for joy as I sing your praise; my soul, too, which you have redeemed.

Yes, my tongue shall recount your justice day by day. For those who sought my ruin will have been shamed and disgraced.

Source: The New American Bible


Saint John of Damascus (Medieval Greek Ἰωάννης ὁ Δαμασκηνός, Ioánnis o Damaskinós, Byzantine Greek pronunciation: [ioˈanis o ðamasciˈnos]; Latin: Ioannes Damascenus, Arabic: يوحنا الدمشقي‎, ALA-LC: Yūḥannā ad-Dimashqī); also known as John Damascene and as Χρυσορρόας / Chrysorrhoas (literally “streaming with gold”—i.e., “the golden speaker”; c. 675 or 676 – 4 December 749) was a Syrian monk and priest. Born and raised in Damascus, he died at his monastery, Mar Saba, near Jerusalem.

A polymath whose fields of interest and contribution included law, theology, philosophy, and music, he is said by some sources to have served as a Chief Administrator to the Muslim caliph of Damascus before his ordination. He wrote works expounding the Christian faith, and composed hymns which are still used both liturgically in Eastern Christian practice throughout the world as well as in western Lutheranism at Easter. He is one of the Fathers of the Eastern Orthodox Church and is best known for his strong defence of icons. The Catholic Church regards him as a Doctor of the Church, often referred to as the Doctor of the Assumption due to his writings on the Assumption of Mary.

The most common source of information for the life of John of Damascus is a work attributed to one John of Jerusalem, identified therein as the Patriarch of Jerusalem. This is an excerpted translation into Greek of an earlier Arabic text. The Arabic original contains a prologue not found in most other translations, and was written by an Arab monk, Michael. Michael explained that he decided to write his biography in 1084 because none was available in his day. However, the main Arabic text seems to have been written by an earlier author sometime between the early 9th and late 10th centuries AD. Written from a hagiographical point of view and prone to exaggeration and some legendary details, it is not the best historical source for his life, but is widely reproduced and considered to contain elements of some value. The hagiographic novel Barlaam and Josaphat, traditionally attributed to John, is in fact a work of the 10th century.

Family background

John was born in Damascus in the third quarter of the 7th century AD, to a prominent Damascene Christian family known as “Mansoūr”. The family was named after John’s grandfather, Mansour ibn Sarjun, who had been responsible for the taxes of the region during the reign of Emperor Heraclius. Mansur seems to have played a role in the capitulation of Damascus to the troops of Khalid ibn al-Walid in 635 after securing favorable conditions of surrender. Eutychius, a 10th-century Melkite patriarch, mentions him as one high-ranking official involved in the surrender of the city to the Muslims.

Though information about the tribal background of the Mansour family are absent in contemporary sources, biographer Daniel Sahas speculates the name Mansour could have implied that they belonged to the Arab Christian tribes of Kalb or Taghlib. Moreover, the family name was common among Syrian Christians of Arab origins, and Eutychius noted that the governor of Damascus, who was likely Mansour ibn Sarjun, was an Arab. However, Sahas also asserts that the name does not necessarily imply an Arab background and could have been used by non-Arab, Semitic Syrians. While Sahas and biographers F. H. Chase and Andrew Louth assert that Mansūr was an Arabic name, Raymond le Coz asserts that the “family was without doubt of Syrian origin”; indeed, according to historian Daniel J. Janosik, “Both aspects could be true, for if his family ancestry were indeed Syrian, his grandfather [Mansour] could have been given an Arabic name when the Arabs took over the government.” John was raised in Damascus, and Arab Christian folklore holds that during his adolescence, John associated with the future Umayyad caliph Yazid I and the Taghlibi Christian court poet al-Akhtal.

When Syria was conquered by the Muslim Arabs in the 630s, the court at Damascus retained its large complement of Christian civil servants, John’s grandfather among them. John’s father, Sarjun (Sergius), went on to serve the Umayyad caliphs. According to John of Jerusalem and some later versions of his life, after his father’s death, John also served as an official to the caliphal court before leaving to become a monk. This claim, that John actually served in a Muslim court, has been questioned since he is never mentioned in Muslim sources, which however do refer to his father Sarjun (Sergius) as a secretary in the caliphal administration. In addition, John’s own writings never refer to any experience in a Muslim court. It is believed that John became a monk at Mar Saba, and that he was ordained as a priest in 735.

Education

One of the vitae describes his father’s desire for him to “learn not only the books of the Muslims, but those of the Greeks as well.” From this it has been suggested that John may have grown up bilingual. John does indeed show some knowledge of the Quran, which he criticizes harshly. (see Christianity and Islam).

Other sources describes his education in Damascus as having been conducted in accordance with the principles of Hellenic education, termed “secular” by one source and “Classical Christian” by another. One account identifies his tutor as a monk by the name of Cosmas, who had been kidnapped by Arabs from his home in Sicily, and for whom John’s father paid a great price. Under the instruction of Cosmas, who also taught John’s orphan friend (the future St. Cosmas of Maiuma), John is said to have made great advances in music, astronomy and theology, soon rivalling Pythagoras in arithmetic and Euclid in geometry. As a refugee from Italy, Cosmas brought with him the scholarly traditions of Western Christianity.

Career

John had at least one and possibly two careers: one (less well-documented) as a civil servant for the Caliph in Damascus, and the other (better-attested) as a priest and monk at the Mar Saba monastery near Jerusalem. One source believes John left Damascus to become a monk around 706, when al-Walid I increased the Islamicisation of the Caliphate’s administration. However, Muslim sources only mention that his father Sarjun (Sergius) left the administration around this time, and fail to name John at all. During the next two decades, culminating in the Siege of Constantinople (717-718), the Umayyad Caliphate progressively occupied the borderlands of the Byzantine Empire. An editor of John’s works, Father Le Quien, has shown that John was already a monk at Mar Saba before the dispute over iconoclasm, explained below.

In the early 8th century AD, iconoclasm, a movement opposed to the veneration of icons, gained acceptance in the Byzantine court. In 726, despite the protests of St. Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople, Emperor Leo III (who had forced the emperor to abdicate and himself assumed the throne in 717 immediately before the great siege) issued his first edict against the veneration of images and their exhibition in public places.

All agree that John of Damascus undertook a spirited defence of holy images in three separate publications. The earliest of these works, his “Apologetic Treatises against those Decrying the Holy Images”, secured his reputation. He not only attacked the Byzantine emperor, but adopted a simplified style that allowed the controversy to be followed by the common people, stirring rebellion among the iconoclasts. Decades after his death, John’s writings would play an important role during the Second Council of Nicaea (787), which convened to settle the icon dispute.

John’s biography recounts at least one episode deemed improbable or legendary. Leo III reportedly sent forged documents to the caliph which implicated John in a plot to attack Damascus. The caliph then ordered John’s right hand be cut off and hung up in public view. Some days afterwards, John asked for the restitution of his hand, and prayed fervently to the Theotokos before her icon: thereupon, his hand is said to have been miraculously restored. In gratitude for this miraculous healing, he attached a silver hand to the icon, which thereafter became known as the “Three-handed”, or Tricheirousa.

Last days

John died in 749 as a revered Father of the Church, and is recognized as a saint. He is sometimes called the last of the Church Fathers by the Roman Catholic Church. In 1890 he was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII.

Veneration

When the name of Saint John of Damascus was inserted in the General Roman Calendar in 1890, it was assigned to 27 March. The feast day was moved in 1969 to the day of the saint’s death, 4 December, the day on which his feast day is celebrated also in the Byzantine Rite calendar, Lutheran Commemorations, and the Anglican Communion and Episcopal Church.

The 1884 choral work John of Damascus (“A Russian Requiem”), Op. 1, for four-part mixed chorus and orchestra, by Russian composer Sergei Taneyev, is dedicated to Saint John.

Source: Wikipedia

Tuesday of the First Week of Advent

+Luke 10:21-24

Filled with joy by the Holy Spirit, Jesus said:

‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’

Then turning to his disciples he spoke to them in private, ‘Happy the eyes that see what you see, for I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.’

Source: Jerusalem Bible

Catechism of the Catholic Church

THE FATHER-SOURCE AND GOAL OF THE LITURGY

1077 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. He destined us before him in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”

1078 Blessing is a divine and life-giving action, the source of which is the Father; his blessing is both word and gift. When applied to man, the word “blessing” means adoration and surrender to his Creator in thanksgiving.

1079 From the beginning until the end of time the whole of God’s work is a blessing. From the liturgical poem of the first creation to the canticles of the heavenly Jerusalem, the inspired authors proclaim the plan of salvation as one vast divine blessing.

1080 From the very beginning God blessed all living beings, especially man and woman. The covenant with Noah and with all living things renewed this blessing of fruitfulness despite man’s sin which had brought a curse on the ground. But with Abraham, the divine blessing entered into human history which was moving toward death, to redirect it toward life, toward its source. By the faith of “the father of all believers,” who embraced the blessing, the history of salvation is inaugurated.

1081 The divine blessings were made manifest in astonishing and saving events: the birth of Isaac, the escape from Egypt (Passover and Exodus), the gift of the promised land, the election of David, the presence of God in the Temple, the purifying exile, and return of a “small remnant.” The Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms, interwoven in the liturgy of the Chosen People, recall these divine blessings and at the same time respond to them with blessings of praise and thanksgiving.

1082 In the Church’s liturgy the divine blessing is fully revealed and communicated. The Father is acknowledged and adored as the source and the end of all the blessings of creation and salvation. In his Word who became incarnate, died, and rose for us, he fills us with his blessings. Through his Word, he pours into our hearts the Gift that contains all gifts, the Holy Spirit.

1083 The dual dimension of the Christian liturgy as a response of faith and love to the spiritual blessings the Father bestows on us is thus evident. On the one hand, the Church, united with her Lord and “in the Holy Spirit,” blesses the Father “for his inexpressible gift in her adoration, praise, and thanksgiving. On the other hand, until the consummation of God’s plan, the Church never ceases to present to the Father the offering of his own gifts and to beg him to send the Holy Spirit upon that offering, upon herself, upon the faithful, and upon the whole world, so that through communion in the death and resurrection of Christ the Priest, and by the power of the Spirit, these divine blessings will bring forth the fruits of life “to the praise of his glorious grace.”


Psalm 71

In you, LORD, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame.

In your justice rescue and deliver me; listen to me and save me!

Be my rock and refuge, my secure stronghold; for you are my rock and fortress.

My God, rescue me from the power of the wicked, from the clutches of the violent.

You are my hope, Lord; my trust, GOD, from my youth.

On you I depend since birth; from my mother’s womb you are my strength; my hope in you never wavers.

I have become a portent to many, but you are my strong refuge!

My mouth shall be filled with your praise, shall sing your glory every day.

Do not cast me aside in my old age; as my strength fails, do not forsake me.

For my enemies speak against me; they watch and plot against me.

They say, “God has abandoned that one Pursue, seize the wretch! No one will come to the rescue!”

God, do not stand far from me; my God, hasten to help me.

Bring to a shameful end those who attack me; Cover with contempt and scorn those who seek my ruin.

I will always hope in you and add to all your praise.

My mouth shall proclaim your just deeds, day after day your acts of deliverance, though I cannot number them all.

I will speak of the mighty works of the Lord; O GOD, I will tell of your singular justice.

God, you have taught me from my youth; to this day I proclaim your wondrous deeds.

Now that I am old and gray, do not forsake me, God, That I may proclaim your might to all generations yet to come, Your power

and justice, God, to the highest heaven. You have done great things; O God, who is your equal?

You have sent me many bitter afflictions, but once more revive me. From the watery depths of the earth once more raise me up.

Restore my honor; turn and comfort me,

That I may praise you with the lyre for your faithfulness, my God, And sing to you with the harp, O Holy One of Israel!

My lips will shout for joy as I sing your praise; my soul, too, which you have redeemed.

Yes, my tongue shall recount your justice day by day. For those who sought my ruin will have been shamed and disgraced.

Source: The New American Bible