O beloved apostle of Christ God, haste thou to deliver a defenceless people. He Who permitted thee to recline against His breast receiveth thee, prostrate in supplication. Him do thou beseech, O theologian, that He dispel the gloom of the nations which doth beset us, asking for us peace and great mercy.
Dear brother and sisters,
It was a special blessing to honour the Holy Glorious Apostle St John the Theologian today, and to celebrate the feast of his repose in St John’s Church – our spiritual-home dedicated to his glorious memory – with the joy of welcoming sisters from our Cheltenham mission and our sister-parish in Bristol.
Having already celebrated his memory during the Liturgy, at the dismissal a litia was offered before St John’s icon, with the blessing of bread and koliva in his honour.
The megalynaria to the saint summed up so much of what I tried to express in the homily: that a true theologian is one who like St John rests on the bosom of Christ, loving and remaining with Him not only in peace and tranquillity, but also through trials and tribulations, abandoning attachment to the things of the world to follow Him wholeheartedly, with constancy and total dedication.
It was in this bond of love and devotion that God’s Grace communicated spiritual truths and the purist and deepest theology to the fisherman-turned-disciple, who with the other apostles was made most-wise – not through religious studying and academic labours, but through the knowledge communicated by the Saviour who taught us, “Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God.
St John was called theologian, not because he knew about God, but because he knew God, saw Him and entered into the deepest of mysteries through the purity of a heart devoted and consecrated to Christ.
The Evangelist not only recorded the life and teachings of the Saviour, but also entered into the mystery of eternity before the creation the world, as God revealed the profoundest dogmas, so that St John could could speak of Christ the Ancient of Days and say with confidence, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
More than this, divine-revelation opened his spiritual-eyes to the last things, yet to come, as the Lord revealed the end of time in the Cave of the Apocalypse on the island of Patmos, where John saw Christ as the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, Who is and was, and is to come.
Even for us, despite our weakness and inconstancy, it is through the deepest relationships between the Christian and Christ that the simplest, most unlettered and uneducated people are filled with true theology and surpass the wisest of this world. This realisation and knowledge must spur us on to struggle for the true gnosis/knowledge which Christ communicates to those who follow Him.
Like St John, let us fervently abandon our ‘nets and boats’, and follow Christ, leaning on His breast, that we may receive the illumination of the Divine light, become recipients of true wisdom and heralds of true theology.
Holy apostle and evangelist John the Theologian, pray to God for us!
Святы́й апо́столе и евангели́сте Иоа́нне, моли́ Бо́га о на́с!
May God bless you and have mercy, through the prayers of the Holy, glorious, all-praised apostle and evangelist John the Theologian and all the saints.
In Christ – Fr Mark