Friday, September 25, 2009

The Translation of St. John the Theologian

Icon of St. John the Theologian (Icon courtesy of used with permission)

The Translation of the Holy glorious Apostle and Evangelist, beloved John the Theologian - Commemorated on September 26th

"The Holy, Glorious All-laudable Apostle and Evangelist, Virgin, and Beloved Friend of Christ, John the Theologian was the son of Zebedee and Salome, a daughter of St Joseph the Betrothed. He was called by our Lord Jesus Christ to be one of His Apostles at the same time as his elder brother James. This took place at Lake Gennesareth (i.e. the Sea of Galilee). Leaving behind their father, both brothers followed the Lord.

The Apostle John was especially loved by the Savior for his sacrificial love and his virginal purity. After his calling, the Apostle John did not part from the Lord, and he was one of the three apostles who were particularly close to Him. St John the Theologian was present when the Lord restored the daughter of Jairus to life, and he was a witness to the Transfiguration of the Lord on Mount Tabor.

Detail from the icon of the Mystical Supper from Vatopedi: St. John reclining on Christ's breast (taken from:; another beautiful depiction  is available here:

During the Last Supper, he reclined next to the Lord, and laid his head upon His breast. He also asked the name of the Savior's betrayer. The Apostle John followed after the Lord when they led Him bound from the Garden of Gethsemane to the court of the iniquitous High Priests Annas and Caiphas. He was there in the courtyard of the High Priest during the interrogations of his Teacher and he resolutely followed after him on the way to Golgotha, grieving with all his heart.

St. John and the Theotokos at the Crucifixion (Icon courtesy of used with permission)

At the foot of the Cross he stood with the Mother of God and heard the words of the Crucified Lord addressed to Her from the Cross: "Woman, behold Thy son." Then the Lord said to him, "Behold thy Mother" (John 19:26-27). From that moment the Apostle John, like a loving son, concerned himself over the Most Holy Virgin Mary, and he served Her until Her Dormition.

Panagia and Christ enthroned, with St. John the Theologian supplicating (Icon courtesy of used with permission)

After the Dormition of the Mother of God the Apostle John went to Ephesus and other cities of Asia Minor to preach the Gospel, taking with him his own disciple Prochorus. They boarded a ship, which floundered during a terrible tempest. All the travellers were cast up upon dry ground, and only the Apostle John remained in the depths of the sea. Prochorus wept bitterly, bereft of his spiritual father and guide, and he went on towards Ephesus alone.

St. John being washed ashore near St. Prochoros (Icon courtesy of used with permission)

On the fourteenth day of his journey he stood at the shore of the sea and saw that the waves had cast a man ashore. Going up to him, he recognized the Apostle John, whom the Lord had preserved alive for fourteen days in the sea. Teacher and disciple went to Ephesus, where the Apostle John preached incessantly to the pagans about Christ. His preaching was accompanied by such numerous and great miracles, that the number of believers increased with each day.

During this time there had begun a persecution of Christians under the emperor Nero (56-68). They took the Apostle John for trial at Rome. St John was sentenced to death for his confession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, but the Lord preserved His chosen one. The apostle drank a cup of deadly poison, but he remained alive. Later, he emerged unharmed from a cauldron of boiling oil into which he had been thrown on orders from the torturer.

Sts John and Prochoros exiled to Patmos (Icon courtesy of used with permission)

After this, they sent the Apostle John off to imprisonment to the island of Patmos, where he spent many years. Proceeding along on his way to the place of exile, St John worked many miracles. On the island of Patmos, his preaching and miracles attracted to him all the inhabitants of the island, and he enlightened them with the light of the Gospel. He cast out many devils from the pagan temples, and he healed a great multitude of the sick.

Fresco from the exonarthex of the Monastery of St. John, Patmos (most likely depicting the magician Kinops sending demons to attack Sts. John and Prochoros, and the demons being driven away through prayer) (
Sorcerers with demonic powers showed great hostility to the preaching of the holy apostle. He especially frightened the chief sorcerer of them all, named Kinops, who boasted that they would destroy the apostle. But the great John, by the grace of God acting through him, destroyed all the demonic artifices to which Kinops resorted, and the haughty sorcerer perished in the depths of the sea.

Fresco from the exonarthex of the Monastery of St. John, Patmos (most likely depicting Kinops perishing in the sea, and St. John with the people of Patmos) (

The Apostle John withdrew with his disciple Prochorus to a desolate height, where he imposed upon himself a three-day fast. As St John prayed the earth quaked and thunder rumbled. Prochorus fell to the ground in fright. The Apostle John lifted him up and told him to write down what he was about to say. "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, saith the Lord, Who is and Who was and Who is to come, the Almighty" (Rev 1:8), proclaimed the Spirit of God through the Apostle John. Thus in about the year 67 the Book of Revelation was written, known also as the "Apocalypse," of the holy Apostle John the Theologian. In this Book were predictions of the tribulations of the Church and of the end of the world.

Icon of Sts. John and Prochoros on Patmos (Icon courtesy of used with permission)

A picture from the Cave of the Apocalypse on Patmos (taken and altered from:; for a 360 Panoramic view of the Cave of the Apocalypse, see:

After his prolonged exile, the Apostle John received his freedom and returned to Ephesus, where he continued with his activity, instructing Christians to guard against false teachers and their erroneous teachings. In the year 95, the Apostle John wrote his Gospel at Ephesus. He called for all Christians to love the Lord and one another, and by this to fulfill the commands of Christ. The Church calls St John the "Apostle of Love", since he constantly taught that without love man cannot come near to God.

In his three Epistles, St John speaks of the significance of love for God and for neighbor. Already in his old age, he learned of a youth who had strayed from the true path to follow the leader of a band of robbers, so St John went out into the wilderness to seek him. Seeing the holy Elder, the guilty one tried to hide himself, but the Apostle John ran after him and besought him to stop. He promised to take the sins of the youth upon himself, if only he would repent and not bring ruin upon his soul. Shaken by the intense love of the holy Elder, the youth actually did repent and turn his life around.

St. John the Theologian riding a horse to find and save the troubled youth (
St John when he was more than a hundred years old. he far outlived the other eyewitnesses of the Lord, and for a long time he remained the only remaining eyewitness of the earthly life of the Savior.

The burial of St. John the Theologian (taken from:

When it was time for the departure of the Apostle John, he went out beyond the city limits of Ephesus with the families of his disciples. He bade them prepare for him a cross-shaped grave, in which he lay, telling his disciples that they should cover him over with the soil. The disciples tearfully kissed their beloved teacher, but not wanting to be disobedient, they fulfilled his bidding. They covered the face of the saint with a cloth and filled in the grave. Learning of this, other disciples of St John came to the place of his burial. When they opened the grave, they found it empty.

Fresco depicting the repose of St. John the Theologian, and his disciples returning to find his tomb empty, from Decani Monastery (taken from:

Another icon depicting the burial and translation of St. John the Theologian (

The burial and translation of St. John the Theologian (
Each year from the grave of the holy Apostle John on May 8 came forth a fine dust, which believers gathered up and were healed of sicknesses by it. Therefore, the Church also celebrates the memory of the holy Apostle John the Theologian on May 8. [See previous post for more information:]

The Lord bestowed on His beloved disciple John and John's brother James the name "Sons of Thunder" as an awesome messenger in its cleansing power of the heavenly fire. And precisely by this the Savior pointed out the flaming, fiery, sacrificial character of Christian love, the preacher of which was the Apostle John the Theologian. The eagle, symbol of the lofty heights of his theological thought, is the iconographic symbol of the Evangelist John the Theologian. The appellation "Theologian" is bestown by Holy Church only to St John among the immediate disciples and Apostles of Christ, as being the seer of the mysterious Judgments of God."

Icon of the Apocalypse (Christ as the "Ancient of Days", Angels with the Seven Churches, the Seven Lampstands, etc.) - the Vision of St. John the Theologian, from the iconostasis in the Cave of the Apocalypse, Patmos (taken from:

The following are some additional details from another account of St. John's life:

"While he was on Patmos, John received a letter from the Bishop of Athens, Dionysius the Areopagite (October 3) who was then ninety-nine years old. He praised John as the daystar of the Gospel and prophesied that he would soon be freed. Indeed when Trajan succeeded Nerva (AD 98), he recalled Saint John to Ephesus, to the great sorrow of the people of Patmos whom he had converted. John did not want to leave them unconsoled. Strengthened by a sign from heaven, he fasted with them for three days; then, accompanied by Prochorus, he went up into a mountain where he directed all the powers of his soul towards the Lord. Suddenly the sky was rent by fearful flashes of lightening and claps of thunder. Prochorus was overwhelmed and fell to the ground while John remained impassible in contemplation. He heard a voice like thunder proclaiming from the height of heaven: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Prochorus transcribed this message of salvation, revealed to John as was once the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai, but this time not for the Jews alone, but for all even to the ends of the earth.

It was also on Patmos that John wrote the New Testament book known as the Apocalypse or Revelation. John saw Christ, having the appearance of a young man whose “face was like the sun shining in full strength.” Reassuring John, who “fell at his feet as though dead,” the Lord said: “Fear not; I am the First and the Last; I am He that Lives and was dead; and behold, I am alive forevermore and have the keys of Death and of Hell. Write the things that you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter” (Revelation 1:17ff). Then in successive revelations John was shown what will happen at the end of time: the gathering strength of iniquity, the coming of the Antichrist, his warfare against the faithful and his final struggle against Christ who, in the end, will cast him forever into Hell with the Devil and his angels. It was also given him to see in his vision the violent upheavals that will take place in the world, the fiery end of all things, and the final triumph of the Son of man, the general Resurrection and the Last Judgment." (taken from:
Picture of the Monastery of St. John the Theologian, Patmos (taken from:

On Patmos and the Monastery of St. John the Theologian
"Patmos is the northernmost island of the Dodecanese and is populated with churches and communities of Orthodox Christians. During the period of Roman rule, the island fell into a decline. The population decreased, and the island became a place for banishing criminals or political and religious troublemakers.

In 95 AD, St. John the Theologian was sent into exile on the island as a religious troublemaker. He remained on the island for eighteen months during which he lived in a cave below a known temple, at the time, dedicated to Diana. In this cave, he narrated a vision he was having of Jesus that is the Book of Revelation...In 313 AD, Christianity was recognised by the Roman Empire and this also spread to the Dodecanesse. The empire of the Byzantium exercised control of Patmos and the other islands and by the 4th century the temple to Diana had been removed. Directly over this temple a church dedicated to St. John the Theologian was built but this was destroyed later between the 6th and 9th centuries during a series of raids by various Arab groups.

The island remained deserted until 1088, when the Emperor granted Patmos to the monk Christodoulos. His intention was to establish a monastery and build this monastery over the remains of the little church built over the remains of a temple dedicated to Diana. The monastery has since been in continuous operation for over 900 years. [see the following link for more information of St. Christodoulos:]

During the 11th and 12th centuries, the island of Patmos was also subject to raids by Saracen and Norman pirates, which were the catalyst for building the fortified walls surrounding the monastery, giving it the modern day castle-like appearance. The small town (Chora) within the "castle" was probably established during the middle of the 17th century and has a labyrinth style street arrangement. [3]

During the Turco-Italian War of 1912, Patmos was captured and controlled by the Italians. The island remained under their control until the end of World War II, when it was returned to Greece.

The whole island is dominated by the two monasteries, built in his honour and memory, and Chora, the island’s historic center, are all declared World Heritage sites by UNESCO in 2006.

Icon of Sts. John the Theologian and Christodoulos the Wonderworker, holding the Monastery of St. John, Patmos (

The God-Trodden island
The tradition of the church holds, that the Lord himself stepped foot on the island of Patmos using the following account as reference:

In the Book of the Revelation (Apocalypse, Chapter 1:12-18) a detailed description of the appearance of Christ in His glory is given by the Apostle ... "His countenance was as the sun shineth in its strength" (Rev. 1, 16). St. John continutes by describing his actions to this ... "he fell at His feet as dead" (Rev. 1, 17)

For the church [tradition], this proves that Christ's feet were touching the floor of the cave for if it had been a vision in heaven, he would not have been able to fall at His feet. This wondrous bodily presence of the Lord in the cave is reason ascribed to the great earthquake that made the rock in the Cave of the Apocalypse split in three forming a witness to the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

[According to this church tradition], this is the only location in Europe that God has walked making it the most sacred destination in Europe, followed by Mount Athos.

Icon depicting the Burial and Translation of St. John the Theologian (top right), St. John and St. Prochoros on Patmos (bottom right), and St. Christodoulos, founder of the Monastery of St. John the Theologian on Patmos (
The ship that turned to stone
According to popular belief, if one looks across the water from the Monastery of St. John on a clear day, it is possible to see a rock standing alone in the middle of the sea. The rock looks like an overturned ship with its keel facing up towards the sky.

During the time that the righteous Christodoulos was building the monastery, a pirate ship approached the island with evil intentions. Christodoulos prayed to God to save the island from the pirates, since they had no place to hide to protect themselves. God answered his prayers by capsizing the ship and turning it to stone. The island was saved, and the ship that turned to stone is still around to remind us of this miracle." (taken from:

The Rock of Kynops
"The Rock of Kynops refers to a strange looking rock jutting out of the sea in Petra Bay believed to be the petrified body of a satanical wizard by the name of Kynops destroyed during spiritual combat between Kynops and St. John the Theologian. The story of this combat is attributed to the saint's disciple, Prochorus, and contained in an ancient manuscript still kept hidden in the monastery on Patmos island.

Today some 200-300 metres from the point where the big ships now dock at Skala. In the dock itself, there exists a red (or orange) buoy to mark the spot where, just beneath the surface, is a submerged rock that, some people say, is man-shaped and represents the petrified magician.

The locals share the story that during World War II, the Italians sent divers down to dynamite the rock. After several attempts with an extraordinary amount of explosives nothing would have any affect. Fisherman say that any octopus that is caught near the rock are completely inedible." (taken from:

Panagia and Christ, St. John the Theologian, and Hieromonk Amphilochios, founder of Evangelismos Monastery, Patmos (Icon courtesy of used with permission; but altered)

The island of Patmos is a home to a great number of monasteries and churches, most of which are listed at the following site from the Ecumenical Patriarch: One of the great Elders of our times, Elder Amphilochios Makris, was the Abbot of the Monastery of St. John for many years. See the following for more information:,

May St. John the Theologian, the Beloved Apostle of Christ, intercede for us and help us all!

Fresco of St. John the Theologian, from Gracanica Monastery (

Apolytikion. Tone 2.
Beloved Apostle of Christ our God, hasten, deliver a people without defense. As he accepted that you lean upon his breast, he accepts you as you fall before him. Implore him, O Theologian, and scatter the persistent cloud of nations, asking for us peace and his great mercy.

Kontakion. Tone 2.
Who will recount your mighty works, O Virgin, for you pour out wonders and are a source of healings, and you intercede on behalf of our souls, as Theologian and friend of Christ.

The Ikos.
To learn wholly the high secrets of heaven, to investigate the depths of the sea is rash and beyond comprehension; as therefore it is wholly impossible to number all the stars and the sand on the sea shore, so it is to tell the graces of the Theologian, with so many crowns Christ has garlanded the one he loved; the one who leant on his breast and feasted with him at the mystical supper, as Theologian and friend of Christ.

Icon of St. John the Theologian from his Monastery on Patmos. According to tradition this icon was a gift from Emperor Alexios Comnenos o St. Christodoulos, the founder of the Monastery of St. John, Patmos. (taken from:

9th Ode of the Canon of the Saint. Glory. Tone 8.
Now not dimly, but face to face, you have been granted to see the flood of delight, the river of peace, and the fount of immortality; drawing from which you divine life.

You asked to receive an earthly seat from Christ; but he himself gave you his breast, O Theologian, leaning on which, the only sure stay, you were enriched with goodness, O ornament of Apostles.

You quenched the godlessness of Greek wisdom, wise Apostle, when you proclaimed: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was truly God, though whom all things came to be, both visible and invisible.

Like early dawn you were found, blazing in the night of life with the rays of virginity, revealing to us the dawn of the spiritual Sun of justice, O all-honoured Mother of God.

Another. It is impossible for mortals.
Sovereign Lord of times and seasons, the Redeemer was hanged upon the tree in the middle of the day and entrusted to you, blessed Apostle, as a virgin, the Ever-Virgin, giving an irremovable glory to magnify you.

Even as you join with the divine Powers above and with them cry aloud the divine song, save by your mediations, those who chant and praise in your holy house the One who is supremely good, O Apostle of Christ.

Save from every danger, blessed Theologian, us who with faith call on you for help, in spirit direct our paths towards the Lord and guide us to the way of peace, the commandments of the Almighty.

Let us now bring to God's Mother an outstanding prayer of thanks, and let us now cry out: Hail, most high throne of God; hail cloud of light; hail, paradise, through whom may we be worthy of the delight of Paradise.

Doxastikon of the Praises - Glory. Tone 8.
Evangelist John, Virgin equal to the Angels, Theologian taught by God, with right belief you proclaimed to the world the immaculate side which poured forth blood and water, by which we procure eternal life for our souls.

(hymns taken from the English service text by Fr. Ephraim Lash here:

Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

1 comment:

KK Icons said...

I really appreciate your work here. Thank you. You have inspired me to make some new icons of St. John. The story reminded me of how St. John has been a friend to me, and I owe him. If you can ever use my icons on your site, I would be honored. I will quickly make any icon or illustration you need, if you can't find one to use. You might like my new one of Blessed Sophrony of Essex.--Ksenia (