Faith on Friday: The Apostle of Love

Saint John, detail
Saint John, detail

One month ago I did a post about the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist. I was whining a bit about the fasting and having to go to church on Saturday. Today, four weeks later, I’m looking at another Saturday liturgy tomorrow morning, and this one is preceded by Vespers tonight. So, that’s Friday night and Saturday morning of my weekend, in addition to Sunday morning. Lots more church, right? But this time I’m not feeling whiny. I’m not sure why, but I think some of it has to do with the ascetical struggle I’ve been having for the past three weeks. I’ve been eating under 1000 calories most days, and I’ve lost six pounds. This endeavor and small bit of success is helping me with struggles in other areas, like laziness and depression. I’m actually looking forward to this weekend’s celebrations.

I say “celebrations” because it’s our patronal feast. Saint John the Evangelist and Theologian is our patron saint, and September 26 is one of two days in the calendar year where he is commemorated. (The other one is May 8.) But it’s Saint John’s repose (death) that we commemorate this weekend.

Saint John was the only apostle to die a natural death. He lived to be around 105 years old. I think living that far into old age is a type of martyrdom itself, as we often suffer so many illnesses and pain in our bodies after a certain age. What are some of the things we honor Saint John for?

Putting the final lights on the icon of Saint John at an icon workshop in Pennsylvania
Putting the final lights on the icon of Saint John at an icon workshop in Pennsylvania

He was the apostle to whom Jesus entrusted the care of his Mother when he was dying on the cross, sometimes called, “the apostle whom Jesus loved.” Some people call him the apostle of love, for he lived and preached the simple message, “Little children, love one another.” And he wrote about God’s love throughout the scriptures he left us his Gospel and letters. He lived mostly in Ephesus, and his main ministry was to the seven Churches of Asia Minor—in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Theatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodician. And later, after the Emperor Domitian tried to kill him by putting him in boiling oil (which didn’t work) he sent him to the island of Patmos, where he thought he could do no more to further the Christian faith. Domitian couldn’t have been more wrong, as Patmos is the place where Saint John wrote his Revelation which is the final book of the Bible. My husband and I were blessed to visit Patmos a few years ago and see the place where Saint John wrote his final words.

The cave on Patmos where Saint John wrote the book of Revelation
The cave on Patmos where Saint John wrote the book of Revelation. (Photo taken October 2007)

And as the patron saint of our parish, he prays for us. Kind of like a guardian angel, only he’s a saint, a glorified human being.

So yes, I’m looking forward to Vespers tonight, where we will sing and chant verses to Saint John and hear much of his legacy read in the form of Holy Scriptures. And then the Divine Liturgy (feast) tomorrow morning, followed by a potluck meal and a time of fellowship with others who love Saint John. (I’ve already got cinnamon rolls and Bloody Mary mixings ready to take for the potluck.)


O Apostle John, speaker of deity,

The beloved of Christ our God,

Hasten to deliver your people,

Powerless in speech,

For He on Whose bosom you lean

Accepts you as an intercessor,

Beseech Him therefore

To disperse the darkness of ignorance

And pray for peace

And great mercy to be shown upon us.