St John Damascene
Celebrated on December 4th
A theologian and hymn writer , St John was born in Damascus around 675. He was the son of an important Christian official at the court of the Kalif Abdul Malek. He is said to have been educated by a Greek monk from Calabria who had been taken prisoner by the Moslems. John succeeded his father’s post and filled it for several years.
When the Emperor Leo II ordered sacred Christian images and statues to be destroyed, the Moslem Kalif protected John and allowed him to write in their defence. The use of religious images was valid, he said, because they helped people to understand their faith better. Around this time, John became a monk and priest at the monastery of Mar Saba in the mountain wilderness between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. He lived there until his death.
He was one of the leading religious writers of his day. The most important of his works the Fount of Knowledge, part of which is a digest of Christian doctrine which was used in the West in the Middle Ages. Three surviving sermons are about the Assumption of Our Lady. His hymns are still sung in the Greek liturgy. St John Damascene was made a Doctor of the Church in 1890.