Saint of the Month - St. John the Merciful-Nov.12
St. John the Merciful-Nov. 12
Saint John the Merciful, Patriarch of Alexandria,
was born on Cyprus in the seventh century into the
family of the illustrious dignitary Epiphanius. At the
wish of his parents he entered into marriage and had
children. When the wife and the children of the saint
died, he became a monk. He was zealous in fasting
and prayer, and had great love for those around him.
His spiritual exploits won him honor among men,
and even the emperor revered him. When the
Patriarchal throne of Alexandria fell vacant, the
emperor Heraclius and all the clergy begged Saint
John to occupy the Patriarchal throne.
The saint worthily assumed his archpastoral service,
concerning himself with the moral and dogmatic
welfare of his flock. As patriarch he denounced every
soul-destroying heresy, and drove out from
Alexandria the Monophysite Phyllonos of Antioch.
He considered his chief task to be charitable and to
give help all those in need. At the beginning of his
patriarchal service he ordered his stewards to
compile a list of all the poor and downtrodden in
Alexandria, which turned out to be over seven
thousand men. The saint ordered that all of these
unfortunates be provided for each day out of the
Twice during the week, on Wednesdays and Fridays,
he emerged from the doors of the patriarchal
cathedral, and sitting on the church portico, he
received everyone in need. He settled quarrels,
helped the wronged, and distributed alms. Three
times a week he visited the sick-houses, and
rendered assistance to the suffering. It was during
this period that the emperor Heraclius led a
tremendous army against the Persian emperor
Chosroes II. The Persians ravaged and burned
Jerusalem, taking a multitude of captives. The holy
Patriarch John gave a large portion of the church
treasury for their ransom.
The saint never refused suppliants. One day, when
the saint was visiting the sick, he met a beggar and
commanded that he be given six silver coins. The
beggar changed his clothes, ran on ahead of the
Patriarch, and again asked for alms. Saint John gave
him six more silver coins. When, however, the
beggar sought charity a third time, and the servants
began to chase the fellow away, the Patriarch
ordered that he be given twelve pieces of silver,
saying, “Perhaps he is Christ putting me to the test.”
Twice the saint gave money to a merchant that had
suffered shipwreck, and a third time gave him a ship
belonging to the Patriarchate and filled with grain,
with which the merchant had a successful journey
and repaid his obligations.
Saint John the Merciful was known for his gentle
attitude towards people. Once, the saint was
compelled to excommunicate two clergymen for a
certain time because of some offense. One of them
repented, but the other fellow became angry with
the Patriarch and fell into greater sins. The saint
wanted to summon him and calm him with kind
words, but it slipped his mind. When he was
celebrating the Divine Liturgy, the saint was
suddenly reminded by the words of the Gospel: “If
you bring your gif to the altar and remember that
your brother has something against you, leave your
gif before the altar ... first, be reconciled with your
brother, and then come and offer your gif” (Mt.
5:23-24). The saint came out of the altar, called the
offending clergyman to him, and falling down on his
knees before him in front of all the people he asked
forgiveness. The cleric, filled with remorse, repented
of his sin, corrected himself, and aferwards was
found worthy to be ordained to the priesthood.
There was a time when a certain citizen insulted
George, the Patriarch’s nephew. George asked the
saint to avenge the wrong. The saint promised to
deal with the offender so that all of Alexandria
would marvel at what he had done. This calmed
George, and Saint John began to instruct him,
speaking of the necessity for meekness and humility.
Then he summoned the man who insulted George.
When Saint John learned that the man lived in a
house owned by the church, he declared that he
would excuse him from paying rent for an entire
year. Alexandria indeed was amazed by such a
“revenge,” and George learned from his uncle how to
forgive offenses and to bear insults for God’s sake.
Saint John, a strict ascetic and man of prayer, was
always mindful of his soul, and of death. He ordered
a coffin for himself, but told the crafsmen not to
finish it. Instead, he would have them come each
feastday and ask if it was time to finish the work.
Saint John was persuaded to accompany the
governor Nicetas on a visit to the emperor in
Constantinople. While on his way to visit the earthly
king, he dreamed of a resplendent man who said to
him, “The King of Kings summons you.” He sailed to
his native island of Cyprus, and at Amanthos the
saint peacefully fell asleep in the Lord (616-620).
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