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Statuary St. John Of Damascus

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St. John Of Damascus

St John of Damascus was a Syrian monk and priest. Born and raised in Damascus, he died at his monastery, Mar Saba, near Jerusalem in 749. A polymath whose fields of interest and contribution included law, theology, philosophy and music, he is said by some sources to have served as a Chief Administrator to the Muslim caliph of Damascus before his ordination.

He wrote works expounding the Christian faith, and composed hymns which are still used liturgically in Eastern Christian practice throughout the world. He is considered "the last of the Fathers" of the Eastern Orthodox church and is best known for his strong defense of icons. The Catholic Church regards him as a Doctor of the Church, often referred to as the Doctor of the Assumption due to his writings on the Assumption of Mary.

Biography

The most common source of information for the life of John of Damascus is a work attributed to one John of Jerusalem, identified therein as the Patriarch of Jerusalem. This is an excerpted translation into Greek of an earlier Arabic text. The Arabic original contains a prologue not found in most other translations, and was written by an Arab monk, Michael. Michael explained that he decided to write his biography in 1084 because none was available in his day. However, the main Arabic text seems to have been written by an earlier author sometime between the early 9th and late 10th centuries AD. Written from a hagiographical point of view and prone to exaggeration and some legendary details, it is not the best historical source for his life, but is widely reproduced and considered to contain elements of some value. The hagiographic novel Barlaam and Josaphat, traditionally attributed to John, is in fact a work of the 10th century.

Family background

John was born into a prominent family known as Mansour (Arabic: المنصور‎ al-Mansǔr, "the victorious one") in Damascus in the 7th century AD. His full name was Yuhanna (or Yanah) ibn Mansur ibn Sarjun (Arabic: منصور بن سرجون‎), named for his grandfather Mansur, who had been responsible for the taxes of the region under the Emperor Heraclius. The lack of documentation attesting to his specific tribal lineage has led a number of scholars to assign him either to the Taghlib or the Kalb, two prominent Christian Arab tribes in the Syrian desert. Others suggest that he may have been of Syrian non-Arab origin. Whatever the case, John of Damascus had two names: John, his Christian name, and his Arabic name, given as Qurein or Yana or Iyanis.

Eutychius, a 10th century Melkite patriarch mentions a certain Arab governor of the city who surrendered the city to the Muslims, probably John's grandfather Mansur Bin Sargun. When the region came under Arab Muslim rule in the late 7th century AD, the court at Damascus retained its large complement of Christian civil servants, John's grandfather among them. John's father, Sarjun (Sergius) or Ibn Mansur, went on to serve the Umayyad caliphs. According to John of Jerusalem and some later versions of his life, after his father's death John also served as an official to the caliphal court before leaving to become a monk. This claim, that John actually served in a Muslim court, has been questioned since he is never mentioned in Muslim sources, which however do refer to his father Sarjun (Serigius) as a secretary in the caliphal administration. In addition, John's own writings never refer to any experience in a Muslim court. It is believed that John became a monk at Mar Saba, and that he was ordained as a priest in 735.

Education

One of the vitae describes his father's desire for him to, "learn not only the books of the Muslims, but those of the Greeks as well." From this it has been suggested that John may have grown up bilingual. John does indeed show some knowledge of the Quran, which he criticizes harshly.

Other sources describes his education in Damascus as having been conducted in accordance with the principles of Hellenic education, termed "secular" by one source and "Classical Christian" by another. One account identifies his tutor as a monk by the name of Cosmas, who had been kidnapped by Arabs from his home in Sicily, and for whom John's father paid a great price. Under the instruction of Cosmas, who also taught John's orphan friend (the future St. Cosmas of Maiuma), John is said to have made great advances in music, astronomy and theology, soon rivalling Pythagoras in arithmetic and Euclid in geometry. As a refugee from Italy, Cosmas brought with him the scholarly traditions of Western Christianity.

Defense of holy images

In the early 8th century AD, iconoclasm, a movement seeking to prohibit the veneration of the icons, gained some acceptance in the Byzantine court. In 726, despite the protests of St. Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople, Emperor Leo III issued his first edict against the veneration of images and their exhibition in public places. A talented writer in the secure surroundings of the caliph's court, John of Damascus undertook a spirited defense of holy images in three separate publications. The earliest of these works, his "Apologetic Treatises against those Decrying the Holy Images", secured his reputation. He not only attacked the emperor, but adopted a simplified style that allowed the controversy to be followed by the common people, stirring rebellion among those of Christian faith. Later, his writings would play an important role during the Second Council of Nicaea, which convened to settle the icon dispute.

The biography of John of Damascus recounts at least one episode deemed to be improbable or legendary. It reports that Leo III sent forged documents to the caliph which implicated John in a plot to attack Damascus. The caliph then ordered John's right hand be cut off and hung up to the public view. Some days afterwards, John asked for the restitution of his hand, and prayed fervently to the Theotokos before her icon: thereupon, his hand is said to have been miraculously restored. In gratitude for this miraculous healing, he attached a silver hand to the icon, which thereafter became known as the "Three-handed", or Tricheirousa. The biography adds that after this event John requested permission to leave his post and retired to the Mar Saba monastery near Jerusalem. An editor of his works, Father Lequien, demonstrated however that John of Damascus was already a monk at Mar Saba before the dispute over iconoclasm broke out, a fact which renders the story all the more improbable. It has been argued that John left Damascus to become a monk around 706, when al-Walid I increased the islamicisation of the Caliphat's administration. Muslim sources only mention that his father Sarjun (Sergius) left the administration around this time, and fail to name John at all.

Last days

John died in 749 as a revered Father of the Church, and is recognized as a saint. He is sometimes called the last of the Church Fathers by the Roman Catholic Church. In 1883 he was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII.

Veneration

When the name of Saint John of Damascus was inserted in the General Roman Calendar in 1890, it was assigned to 27 March. This date always falls within Lent, a period during which there are no obligatory Memorials. The feast day was therefore moved in 1969 to the day of the saint's death, 4 December, the day on which his feast day is celebrated also in the Byzantine Rite calendar.

The text in this box was generated from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the CC-BY-SA.

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Title: 4' Carved Wood Or Marble Statue Of St. John Of Damascus
Item Number: KRNM-A676
Description:
KRMUS-676: Hand carved wood statue of St. John Of Damascus with high relief details. Shown with an extra rich finish, can also be painted or polychromed to your specifica...