Patron Saint of the Choir
The Apostle and Evangelist St. John, called the Theologian, was the son of Salome and Zebedee. John was at first the disciple of St. John the Baptist. Listening to his witness of Christ as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, he, together with Andrew the First-Called, followed the Savior.
At the Last Supper he was so close to the Lord that in his own words, he lay his head upon Christ’s bosom, whence originated his name “bosom-friend,” which has since become a name for someone who is especially close. After the Lord’s Resurrection, we often see Apostle John together with Apostle Peter, together with whom he is also considered a pillar of the Church, and with whom he often travels to Jerusalem. True to the Lord’s command, he cared for the Holy Virgin Mary as a most devoted son, and only after her Blessed Dormition did he begin to preach in other lands. He lived mainly in Ephesus. He uniquely chose for himself a specific province and directed all the energy of his soul to eradicate paganism there and strengthen the holy faith.
During the time of Emperor Domitian (81-96), Apostle John, as the sole surviving Apostle, was summoned to Rome and by the decree of this persecutor of the Church was thrown into boiling oil, but the power of God saved him unscathed just as it saved the three youths from the fiery furnace. Then Domitian sent him to the desert island of Patmos. Here John wrote the Apocalypse, or Revelations of the fate of the Church and the world. Apostle John returned to Ephesus from exile. The Bishops and presbyters of the Ephesian Church showed him three Gospels written by the Apostles Matthew, Mark and Luke. Having approved these Gospels, Apostle John deemed it necessary to supplement that which was lacking and which he knew well, being the last of the living eyewitnesses.
In his Gospel, Apostle John explains the Savior’s sermons given in Judea. These sermons directed at the learned scribes were more difficult to understand, and most likely due to this fact were not contained in the first three Gospels, which were designated for the newly converted pagans. From ancient times the Gospel according to John were called spirit-filled. In comparison with the other three Gospels, they contain more the sermons of the Lord regarding the deepest truths of faith—on the incarnation of the Son of God, on the Creator, on the redemption of mankind, on spiritual rebirth, on the grace of the Holy Spirit and on Communion. From the first words of the Gospel, John elevates the thoughts of the faithful to the heights of the divine emanation of the Son of God from the Father.
Besides the Gospel and the Apocalypse, Apostle John wrote three epistles which were incorporated into the New Testament books as Ecumenical (universal) Epistles. The main thought in his epistles was: Christians must learn to love. During the last years of his life the Apostle preached only one precept: Children, love one another. His disciples asked: “Why do you repeat yourself?” Apostle John answered: “This is the most important commandment. If you will fulfil it, then you will fulfil all of Christ’s commandments.”
St. John the Theologian died a natural death (the only one of the Apostles to do so), being around 105 years of age, during the time of Emperor Trajan. The circumstances of the Apostle’s death appeared unusual and even puzzling. At his own insistence, the Apostle John was buried alive. On the following day, when the tomb was unearthed, it turned out to be empty.
This event affirmed the belief in the conjecture of some Christians that Apostle John will not die but will live until the Second coming of Christ and that he will unmask the Antichrist. The words said by the Savior not long before his Ascension gave them cause to surmise this. When the Apostle Peter asked after turning to the Apostle John, and what shall this man do?, the Lord answered, If I will that he tarry till I come (the second time), what is that to thee? Follow thou me. Apostle John makes a notation regarding this in his Gospel: Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die (Jn. 21:22-23).
Written by: Bishop Alexander Mileant
Edited by: Mara Milanovic