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04 December 2012
  + John of Damascus +
4 December AD 749

John Damascene John of Damascus, also called John Damascene and Chrysorrhoas, (meaning "streaming with gold," alluding to his "golden" speaking) was born around AD 675. The Christian Church remembers him as the greatest compiler and summarizer of the Orthodox faith.

Most church historians also consider him as the last great Greek theologian. Born in Damascus under Mohammedan rule, John gave up an influential position in the Islamic court to devote himself to the Christian faith. Around 716 he entered a Jerusalem monastery and was ordained a priest.

He was a staunch iconodule and when iconoclastic Byzantine Emperor Leo the Isaurian issued a decree in 726 forbidding icons (images of God, Jesus, holy people, angels, and the like), John forcefully resisted. The emperor retaliated by using a forged letter over John's signature to convince the caliph of Damascus that John intended to betray the city into Leo's hands.

Resurrection Icon Later, in his Apostolic Discourses, he argued for the legitimacy of the veneration of images, earning himself the condemnation of the Iconoclast Council in 754. John also wrote defenses of orthodox Christianity against contemporary heresies.

Coupled with his theological acumen and organizational skills were John's considerable talents as a hymn writer. Come, You Faithful, Raise the Strain and The Day of Resurrection are sung in much of Christendom during the Easter season. John also contributed to the liturgy of the Byzantine churches.

John's major writing, The Fount of Wisdom, bears testimony to his abilities as theologian and compiler. Its third section, "The Orthodox Faith," is a compendium of truth from previous Eastern Christian theologians and includes almost every imaginable doctrinal topic from Christianity's first seven centuries. This summary of Orthodox Christianity left a lasting stamp on both the Eastern and Western churches.

Lection

Psalm 118:14-21 or 16:5-11
Exodus 15:1-21
1 Corinthians 15:12-20
John 5:24-27

Collect

O Lord, You create and sustain saving faith in the hearts and minds of Your believers; confirm our minds in the mysteries of the true Faith, as set forth by your servant John of Damascus, that we, with him, might ever confess Jesus to be true God and true Man and ever sing the praises of the risen Lord, and by the power of His resurrection, attain to eternal life and everlasting joy; through this same Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Hymn: Come, Ye Faithful, Raise the Strain

   Come, you faithful, raise the strain
   Of triumphant gladness!
   God has brought His Israel
   Into joy from sadness,
   Loosed from Pharaoh's bitter yoke
   Jacob's sons and daughters,
   Led them with unmoistened foot
   Through the Red Sea waters.

   This the spring of souls today:
   Christ has burst His prison
   And from three days' sleep in death
   As a sun has risen;
   All the winter of our sins,
   Long and dark, is flying
   From His light, to whom is given
   Laud and praise undying.

   Now the queen of seasons, bright
   With the day of splendor,
   With the royal feast of feasts
   Comes its joy to render;
   Comes to gladden faithful hearts
   Which with true affection
   Welcome in unwearied strain
   Jesus' resurrection!

   For today among His own
   Christ appeared, bestowing
   His deep peace, which evermore
   Passes human knowing.
   Neither could the gates of death
   Nor the tomb's dark portal
   Nor the watchers nor the seal
   Hold Him as a mortal.

   Alleluia! Now we cry
   To our King immortal,
   Who, triumphant, burst the bars
   Of the tomb's dark portal
   Come, you faithful, raise the strain
   Of triumphant gladness!
   God has brought His Israel
   Into joy from sadness!

For more on this hymn, see Robert Cottrill's post Come, Ye Faithful, Raise the Strain at Wordwise Hymns.

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