Monthly Archives: May 2015

Saint John, Evangelist and Theologian – Commemorated May 8th

Icon St John the TheologianSt. John is call an evangelist, which means a person who wrote a Gospel. He is the first saint to be called a theologian because of the depth and breadth of theological wisdom in his Gospel and other writings.
The first three Gospels by Matthew, Mark and Luke are called the synoptic Gospels. This word comes from the Greek and means that they can be viewed together. In other words, if you set these Gospels in columns next to each other you will find they often agree on the order of our Lord’s words and deeds, often to the extent of quoting our Lord in the same words. This shows there is a connection among these Gospels.
In the first three Gospels our Lord characteristically speaks in short, pity sayings such as “whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt 6:21) or “with men this is impossible but with God all things are possible:” (Mt 1:26). Our Lord uses parables, short stories with profound meaning; we might think of the parable of the good Samaritan (Lk 10:25-37) or the prodigal son (Lk 15:11-32).
When we get to the fourth Gospel things look different. Jesus is not teaching in short sayings and parables, but in long theological speeches. This had led many people to say that this Gospel is so different than the first three it couldn’t have possibly been written by an eyewitness such as St. John, but it must have been written much later by someone who did not know Jesus personally. What can we say about this? First of all, scholars and the Fathers of the church agree that St. John’s Gospel  was the last Gospel written perhaps decades after the first three. This means that St. John, a brilliant theologian and teacher, had all this time to meditate on Christ’s words and deeds and often sees theological depth in them not clearly expressed by the other three evangelists, so when he wrote his Gospel he incorporated the fruit of his teaching and meditation and seamlessly weaves together Christ’s own words with his own. In other words, St. John is making explicit what is implicit in Mathew, Mark and Luke.
Also, we should mention that the first three Gospels focus on Christ’s preaching in Galilee where he was preaching for simple, everyday people, so he taught in parables and short sayings. But St. John lays special focus on Christ’s ministry in Jerusalem where Our Lord is often teaching to highly educated scribes, Pharisees and priests, so his teaching has a more formal character.
In addition, much of the fourth Gospel was material our Lord was using to teach his apostles and they obviously needed more formal teaching that farmers and fishermen in Galilee.
So when we read St. John’s Gospel, we should remember that it is based on Christ’s words and deeds as presented by a profound, theologian who was also a disciple of Christ.

Troparion — Tone 2

O beloved Apostle of Christ our God, / Come quickly to deliver your helpless people. /
He on whose breast you leaned, will accept you as intercessor. / Entreat Him, O
Theologian, to disperse the clouds of darkness, / Granting us peace and great mercy!

Kontakion — Tone 2

Who shall declare your greatness, O Virgin disciple? / For as a fountain of healing you
flow with miracles, / Interceding for our souls as Theologian and friend of Christ.

Fr. John

Saint Athanasius the Great (296-373 AD) – Commemorated May 2nd

At every Divine Liturgy we sing or say the Nicene Creed, so called because the first part of the Creed was adopted by the Fathers of the First Ecumenical (General) Council held in the city of Nicea in the year 325 AD. In that Creed we say “I believe in One God, the Father All-Mighty…. And in one Lord Jesus Christ,.. true God of true God… begotten not made, of one essence with the Father,”  to express the basis of the Orthodox Church.
In the beginning of the fourth century AD St. Athanasius was a deacon and assistant of the Patriarch of Alexandria. At that time there was a priest in Alexandria named Arius who believed that Jesus Christ was not quite God. Arius was willing to say that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, our Savior and the Redeemer, but was not quite God. This caused a storm of controversy in the church between those who believed Jesus is “true God of true God” and those who believed that Jesus is just a special creature of God. Because of this controversy, which was threatening to split the church, the Emperor Constantine called a council of bishops to meet in the city of Nicea in 325 AD. St. Athanasius was there as assistant to the Patriarch of Alexandria. After intense debates the Fathers of the council agreed to adopt the Nicene Creed which says Jesus Christ is “true God of true God… of one essence with the Father.” Arius was condemned. However, even after this decision the controversy continued, the church was split and new emperors came to the throne who supported Arius. St. Athanasius himself became Patriarch of Alexandria in 328 and was Patriarch for forty-five years. Of those 45 years he was in exile for 17 of them, at the orders of four separate emperors. Nevertheless, St. Athanasius defended the Orthodox doctrine of the divinity of Christ as proclaimed at the council, by word and in numerous writings. St. Athanasius and those  who agreed with him triumphed at the second ecumenical council in 381 and the Nicene Creed was affirmed and enriched. St. Athanasius of Alexandria was one of the great defenders of Orthodoxy and at great personal cost greatly contributed to the Orthodoxy of the church.

Troparion — Tone 3

You were a pillar of Orthodoxy, Hierarch Athanasius, supporting the Church with divine
doctrines; you proclaimed the Son to be of one Essence with the Father, putting Arius to
shame. Righteous father, entreat Christ God to grant us His great mercy.

Kontakion — Tone 2

You planted the dogmas of Orthodoxy and eradicated the thorns of false doctrine; you
propagated the seeds of the Faith watered with the rain of the Spirit. Therefore, we praise you, Righteous Athanasius.

Fr. John