Inspired by the documentary, PISTEVO, the Orthodox Christian Network will be featuring iconography and the Saints of the Orthodox Church. Iconography, the centuries-old tradition of depicting faith through images, was the primary means of teaching Christianity until written records were formally canonized as the Holy Scriptures.
Learn About St. John The Evangelist and Theologian
St John The Evangelist and Theologian, is noteworthy for many things, just a few of which are the following:
1. That he was noted for his deep love of God ( see the Gospel of St. John, and the First, Second, and Third Epistles of St. John in the New Testament), and noted for his devotion to our Lord and Savior (the Light and The Life of the World, The Son of God, Who is Coequal with God the Father and the Spirit, and he was noted as the most beloved disciple/Apostle of Christ–so much so, that he was appointed by Christ (when on His Holy and Life-giving Cross) to be the subsequent caretaker of His Most Holy Mother–he was loved so much;
2. That because of his direct experience of the Love and Uncreated Light of God in Christ and his pure portrayals of this in his holy writings, he was one of only three people in the history of The Church (The Holy Body of Christ, the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Orthodox Church), that The Church, in It’s Holy Tradition/Life in the Holy Spirit, designated formally as ” the Theologian” (along, similarly, with St. Gregory the Great, the Theologian, and St. Symeon the New, the Theologian);
3. That he is one of the four Holy Evangelists of the New Testament Scriptures, the author of the 4th Holy Gospel of St. John ( iconographically symbolized by “The Eagle” because of his soaring theology and portrayal of Christ in his Gospel); and,
4. That he was one of only three Holy Apostles who were chosen to go up to the Mount Of Holy Transfiguration with our Savior Jesus Christ as a witness for Christ shining brightly in the cloud, shining with the Holy Uncreated Light of the Holy Transfiguration on Mt . Tabor (John 1:1-5, I John 1:1-2:11).
St. John was a Galilean, the son of Zebedee and Salome, and younger brother of St. James the Great, with whom he was brought up to be a fisherman. Before his coming to Christ he seems to have been a disciple to St. John the Baptist, several thinking him to have been that other disciple that was with St. Andrew when they left St. John the Baptist to follow our Saviour; so particularly does our Evangelist relate all the circumstances, through modestly concealing his own name, as in other parts of the gospel. He was properly called to be a disciple of our Lord, with his brother James, as they were mending their nets (on the same day, and soon after Jesus had called Peter and Andrew).These two brothers continued still to follow their fishing trade, but upon seeing the miraculous draught of fishes, they left all things to attach themselves more closely to him. Christ gave them the surname of Boanerges, or sons of thunder, to express the strength and activity of their faith in publishing the law of God without fearing the power of man.
This epithet has been particularly applied to St. John, who was truly a voice of thunder in proclaiming aloud the most sublime mysteries of the divinity of Christ. He is said to have been the youngest of all the apostles, probably about twenty-five years of age, when he was called by Christ; for he lived seventy years after the suffering of his divine Master. Piety, wisdom, and prudence equalled him in his youth to those who with their grey hairs had been long exercised in the practice and experience of virtue; and, by a pure and blameless life he was honourable in the world. Our divine Redeemer had a particular affection for him above the rest of the apostles; insomuch that when St. John speaks of himself, he saith that he was “The disciple whom Jesus loved”; and frequently he mentions himself by this only characteristic; which he did not out of pride to distinguish himself, but out of gratitude and tender love for his blessed Master. If we inquire into the causes of this particular love of Christ towards him, which was not blind or unreasonable, the first was, doubtless, the love which this disciple bore him; secondly, his meekness and peaceable disposition by which he was extremely like Christ himself; thirdly, his virginal purity. St. John suffered greatly for Christ during his lifetime, and was persecuted and often were attempts made because of his ardent love and faith on his life; yet he died in peace at Ephesus, in the third year of Trajan (as seems to be gathered from Eusebius’s chronicle), that is, the hundredth of the Christian era, or the sixty-sixth from our Lord’s Holy Crucifixion–Saint John being then about ninety-four years old, according to St. Epiphanius.
Some amongst the ancients thought that St. John never died, but they are very well confuted by St. Jerome. St. John was buried on a mountain without the town. The dust of his tomb was carried away out of devotion, and was famous for miracles, as St. Ephrem, and St. Gregory of Tours mention. (A stately church stood formerly over this tomb, which is at present a Turkish mosque.)
The 26th of September is consecrated to the memory of St. John the Theologian in the Greek Church.
In closing it is important to note the clear teachings of St. John in his holy writings about love:
St. John teaches that without the love of God no one can please Him. “He that loveth not, knoweth not God, for God is love.”Let us therefore love God, because God first loved us.” This is the first maxim in a spiritual life, which this apostle most tenderly inculcates.
The second is that our fidelity in continually repenting (“metanoia “) and shunning all sin, and in striving to be keeping all God’s commandments, is the proof of our love for God, but especially a sincere love for our neighbour is its great test. “For he that loveth not his brother whom he seeth, how can he love God whom he seeth not?” says St. John. Our blessed Redeemer, in the excess of His boundless love for all men, presses this duty upon all men, and, as an infinitely tender parent, conjures all His children to love one another even for His sake. He who most affectionately loves them all will have them all to be One, in One Body, in Union, in ReUnion (as St. Athanasios the Great says) in sanctification/ deification, in acquiring the Holy Spirit (Which Saint Seraphim of Sarov says is the goal of the Orthodox Christian life) and growing in the Uncreated Energy of God in Theosis in Him, and therefore He commands us to bear with one another’s infirmities and to forgive one another all debts or injuries, and as much as in us lies “to live peaceably with all men.” This is the very genius and spirit of his law of love, without which we can have nothing of a Christian disposition, or deserve the name of his children or disciples. Neither can we hope with a peevish, passionate, or unforgiving temper ever to be heirs of heaven. Harmony, goodness, unanimity, mutual complacency, and love will be the invariable temper of all its blessed inhabitants. Those happy regions are the abode of everlasting peace and love.
We must learn and cultivate this temper of heaven here on earth, or can never hope to get there. We are all professedly travelling together towards that blessed place where, if we are so happy as to meet, we shall thus cordially embrace each other. Does not this thought alone suffice to make us forget little uneasinesses and to prevent our falling out by the way? St. John teaches us that to attain to this heavenly and Christian disposition, to this twofold charity towards God and towards our neighbour for his sake, we must subdue our passions and die to the inordinate love of the world and ourselves. His hatred and contempt of the world was equal to his love of God, and he cries out to us, “My little children, love not the world, nor the things which are in the world. If anyone loves the world the charity of the Father is not in him.”
Article contributed by Athanasios John Maragos
INSPIRED BY PISTEVO
At the Orthodox Christian Network, we remain inspired by PISTEVO, meaning “I Believe”, a stunning 17-minute film packed with vivid imagery depicting the life of Jesus Christ and His saints. The independent documentary depicts a community coming together to complete the centuries-old mission of iconography led by Father Elias Villis at the Greek Orthodox Church of our Saviour in Rye, NY.
Iconography, the centuries-old tradition of depicting faith through images, was the primary means of teaching Christianity until written records were formally canonized as the Holy Scriptures. Yet even today, centuries later, iconography remains a spiritually powerful part of Orthodox Christian theology. For many, the images enhance one’s ability to go deeper into the exploration and appreciation of their faith.
“PISTEVO was created to inspire the faithful. This extraordinary story needed to be told. We witnessed the transformation of our community through the Ministry of Iconography, and stand as witnesses to the power of faith. We encourage everyone who is blessed to receive this film, to please share it with as many of the faithful throughout the Orthodox World as possible. God Bless You.” – Michael Psaros
We invite you to watch the epic film, PISTEVO, directed by Director, Mark Brodie, and written and produced by Taryn Grimes Herbert that expresses “why we honor the traditions of our theology and share our spiritual experience with the Orthodox world”.