John the Silent
Our father among the saints John the Silent was bishop of Colonia (Taxara) in Armenia and later a monk of St. Savas' Monastery in Jerusalem. He is also known as John Hesychastes or John Silentiarius. His feast days are celebrated on March 30 and December 3.
John was born in 454 in the city of Nicopolis in Pontus on the Black Sea into the family of a military commander named Enkratius and his wife Euphemia. As a young lad he began studying the Holy Scripture and developed a love for solitude and prayer. After his parents died in 471, John built a church with the inheritance his parents left him and dedicated it to the Most Holy Theotokos.
After John became eighteen years of age he became a monk and began living an ascetic life of fasting, prayer, and temperance at the church he founded. There he was joined by ten other monks. When John was twenty eight year old, the people of Colonia requested the Metropolitan of Sebaste to make John their bishop. After his consecration, John continued his strict ascetic life style and influenced his relatives that included his brother Pergamios, an associate of the emperors Zeno and Anastasius, and his nephew Theodore, an associate of the emperor Justinian, to also live as Christians should.
In his tenth year as bishop, John was confronted with actions of the new governor Pazinikos, who was his sister Maria's husband. Pazinikos interfered with spiritual and ecclesiastical matters and caused unrest in the Church. Overwhelmed with worldly quarrels he could not handle, Bp. John abandoned his see secretly and traveled to Jerusalem while he tearfully sought from God a sign showing him where to live and find salvation. A bright star appeared, which led Bp. John to the Lavra of St. Savas. Hiding his episcopal rank, John was accepted into the community as a simple novice.
For the next four years Bp. John toiled obediently at every task he was assigned under the guidance of igumen St. Savas. When a guesthouse was built at the Lavra, John served the workers their food and assisted in the construction of the building. He again helped the workers when a cenobitic monastery for novices was built. But, when St. Savas found John worthy of ordination to presbyter, John was forced to reveal his rank to Patriarch Elias of Jerusalem.
Patr. Elias then told St. Savas that John could not be ordained. Moreover, he instructed that John was to live in silence, and that no one should bother him. Soon the Lord also revealed John's secret to St. Savas. Thus, St. John spent the next four years in his cell, receiving no one and not going out, even for church.
In need for ever greater solitude and increased abstinence, John left the Lavra and withdrew further into the desert. There he spent more than nine years eating plants and grass and surviving a devastating incursion of Saracens only because the Lord sent him a defender: a ferocious lion. When the Saracens tried to harm John, the lion attacked them and scattered them in fright.
After having spent an extended time in Scythopolis, St. Savas persuaded John to forsake the wilderness and to return to the monastery. After he returned to the Lavra, the Lord, in a miraculous way, revealed to everyone at the Lavra that the monk John was actually a bishop
When St. John reached the age of seventy, his spiritual Father St. Savas died. John grieved deeply over this, since he was not present at his repose. Later, St. Savas appeared to him in a vision, and having consoled him, foretold that there would be much toil ahead in the struggle against heresy.
St. John the Silent spent sixty-six years at the Lavra of St. Savas the Sanctified. Through his constant ascetic efforts, by his untiring prayer, and humble wisdom, St. John acquired the grace of the Holy Spirit. At his prayers, many miracles took place, and he was able to discern the thoughts of people. He healed the sick and those possessed by demons. Even during his lifetime he saved those who invoked his name from certain destruction. Once, he scattered fig seeds on barren rock, and a beautiful and fruitful tree sprang up. In time, the tree grew so much that it overshadowed his cell.
St. John the Silent departed to the Lord in peace in 558 at the age of 104..