May 8th (V - 21)
Icon of Apostle John the Theologian and Monk Arsenius the Great
Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian (+ c. 98-117). Monk Arsenius the Great (+ 449-450). Monks Arsenii the Toil-Lover (XIV) and Pimen the Faster (XII) of Pechersk, in the Farther Caves. Monk Arsenii of Novgorod (Transfer of Relics, 1785). Monks Zosima and Adrian of Volokolamsk (XVI). Saint Milos the Melodist. Martyred Soldiers.
The Holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian occupies an unique place in the ranks of the chosen disciples of Christ the Saviour. Often in iconography the Apostle John is depicted as a gentle, majestic and spiritual elder, with features of innocent tenderness, with the imprint of complete calm upon his forehead and the deep look of a contemplator of unuttered revelations. Another main trait of the spiritual countenance of the Apostle John is revealed through his teaching about love, for which the title "Apostle of Love" is preeminently designated to him. Actually, all his writings are permeated by love, the basic concept of which leads to the comprehension, that God in His Being is Love (1 Jn. 4: 8). In his writings, Saint John dwells especially upon the manifestations of the inexpressible love of God for the world and for mankind, the love of his Divine Teacher. He constantly exhorts his disciples to mutual love one for another.
The service of Love -- was the entire pathway of life of the Apostle John the Theologian.
The qualities of calmness and profound contemplation were in him combined with an ardent fidelity, tender and boundless love with intensity and even a certain abruptness. From the brief indications of the Evangelists it is apparent, that he was endowed in the highest degree with an ardent nature, and his hearty passionateness sometimes reached such a stormy zealousness, that Jesus Christ was compelled to give the admonishment, that it was discordant with the spirit of the new teaching (Mk. 9: 38-40; Lk. 9: 49-50, 54?56) and He called the Apostle John and his brother by birth the Apostle James "Sons of Thunder" ("Boanerges"). During this while Saint John shows scant modesty, and besides his particular position among the Apostles as "the disciple whom Jesus loved", he did not stand out among the other disciples of the Saviour. The distinguishing features of his character were the observance and sensitivity to events, permeated by a keen sense of obedience to the Will of God. Impressions received from without rarely showed up in his word or actions, but they penetrated deeply and powerfully into the inner life of the holy Apostle John. Always sensitive to others, his heart ached for the perishing. The Apostle John with pious tremulation was attentive to the Divinely-inspired teaching of his Master, to the fulness of grace and truth, in pure and sublime comprehending the Glory of the Son of God. No feature of the earthly life of Christ the Saviour slipped past the penetrating gaze of the Apostle John, nor did any event occur, that did not leave a deep impression on his memory, since in him was concentrated all the fulness and wholeness of the human person. The thoughts also of the Apostle John the Theologian are imbued with suchlike an integral wholeness. The dichotomy of person did not exist for him. In accord with his precepts, where there is not full devotion, there is nothing. Having chosen the path to service to Christ, to the end of his life he fulfilled it with complete and undivided devotion. The Apostle John speaks about wholistic a devotion to Christ, about the fulness of life in Him, wherefore also sin is considered by him not as a weakness and injury of human nature, but as evil, as a negative principle, which is completely set in opposition to the good (Jn. 8: 34; 1 Jn. 3: 4, 8-9). In his perspective, it is necessary to belong either to Christ or to the devil, it is not possible to be of a mediocre lukewarm, undecided condition (1 Jn. 2: 22, 4: 3; Rev. 3: 15-16). Therefore he served the Lord with undivided love and self-denial, having repudiated everything that appertains to the ancient enemy of mankind, the enemy of truth and the father of lies (1 Jn. 2: 21-22). Just as strongly as he loves Christ, just as strongly he contemns the Anti-Christ; just as intensely he loves truth, with an equal intensity does he contemn falsehood, -- for light doth expel darkness (Jn. 8: 12; 12: 35-36). By the manifestation of the inner fire of love he witnesses with the unique power of spirit about the Divinity of Jesus Christ (Jn. 1: 1-18; 1 Jn. 5: 1-12).
To the Apostle John was given to express the last word of the Divine Revelation (i.e. the final book of the Holy Scripture), ushering in the most treasured mysteries of the Divine inner life, known only to the eternal Word of God, the Only-Begotten Son.
Truth is reflected in his mind and in his words, wherein he senses and grasps it in his heart. He has comprehension of eternal Truth, and as he sees it, he transmits it to his beloved spiritual children. The Apostle John with simplicity affirms or denies and speaks always with absolute precision (1 Jn. 1: 1). He hears the voice of the Lord, revealing to him what He Himself hears from the Father.
The theology of the Apostle John abolishes the borderline between the present and the future. Looking at the present time, he does not halt at it, but transports his gaze to the eternal in the past time and to the eternal in the future time. And therefore he, exhorting for holiness in life, solemnly proclaims, that "all, born of God, sin not" (1 Jn. 5: 18; 3: 9). In communion with God the true Christian partakes of life Divine, whereby the future of mankind is accomplished already on earth. In his explanation and disclosing of the teaching about the Economia of salvation, the Apostle John crosses over into the area of the eternal present, in which Heaven would co-incide with earth and the earth would be enlightened with the Light of Heavenly Glory.
Thus did the Galilean fisherman, this son of Zebedee, become Theologian proclaiming through Revelation the mystery of world-existence and the fate of mankind.
The celebration on 8 May of the holy Apostle John the Theologian was established by the Church in remembrance of the annual drawing forth on this day at the place of his burial of fine rose ashes, which believers gathered for healing from various maladies. The account about the life of the holy Evangelist John the Theologian is situated under 26 September, the day of his repose.
The Monk Arsenius the Great was born in the year 354 at Rome into a pious Christian family, which provided him a fine education and upbringing. Having studied the secular sciences and mastered to perfection the Latin and Greek languages, the Monk Arsenius acquired profound knowledge, combined with a pious and virtuous life. His deep faith impelled the youth to leave his preoccupation with the sciences and choose service to God. When he entered into the ranks of the clergy at one of the Roman churches, he was then elevated to the dignity of deacon.
The emperor Theodosius (379-395), ruling the Eastern half of the Roman empire, heard about his erudition and piety, and he entrusted to Arsenius the education of his sons Arcadius and Honorius. Against his will, in obedience however to the command of the Roman pope Dymas, the Monk Arsenius was compelled to withdraw from service at the holy altar, at which time he was 29 years old.
Having arrived at Constantinople, Arsenius was received with great honour by the emperor Theodosius, who gave him charge to educate the imperial sons not only as regards wisdom, but also piety, guarding them from the passions of youth. "Though also they be imperial sons, -- said Theodosius, -- yet must they be obedient unto thee in everything, as to their father and teacher".
With fervour the monk concerned himself with the education of the youths, but the high esteem with which he was surrounded troubled his spirit, which yearned for service to God and the quietude of monastic life. In fervent prayer the monk besought the Lord to show him the way to salvation. The Lord hearkened to his prayer and one time he heard a voice, telling him: "Arsenius, flee people and be saved". And then, removing his rich clothing and replacing it by that of a wanderer, he secretly left the court, got upon a ship and sailed off to Alexandria, from whence he quickly hastened to a skete monastery. Arriving at the church, he besought the presbyter to accept him into the monks, calling himself a wretched wanderer, though his very manner betrayed him as not a simple but rather cultivated man. The brethren led him off to the Monk Abba John Koloves (Comm. 9 November), famed for his holiness of life. That one, wishing to test the humility of the newcomer, during the time of the refectory meal did not seat Arsenius amongst the monks, but rather threw him sugar, saying: "Eat if thou dost wish". With great humility Saint Arsenius fell to his knees, came up to the sugar laying there and did eat, having gone off into a corner. Seeing this, Starets-elder John said: "He will be a great ascetic!" Then accepting Arsenius with love, he tonsured the beginning ascetic into monasticism.
The Monk Arsenius with zeal passed through his obediences and soon he surpassed many of the wilderness fathers in asceticism. One time at prayer the monk again heard the Voice: "Arsenius, flee people and dwell in silence -- this is the root of sinlessness". -- From that moment the Monk Arsenius settled outside the Skete, in a solitary cell, and having taken on the exploit of silence he seldom left from his seclusion, arriving in church only on Sundays and feastdays, and in observing complete silence he conversed with no one. To the question of one monk, why he so hid himself from people, the ascetic answered: "God sees, that I love all, but I am not able to be simultaneously with God and with people. The Heavenly Powers all have one will and unanimously do they praise God, upon the earth however each man has his own will and thoughts of various people. I am not able, to forsake God and live with people".
Dwelling in constant prayer, the monk however did not refuse arriving monks counsel and guidance, giving short, but perceptive answers to their questions. One time a monk from the Skete coming to the great elder saw him through a windowlet standing at prayer, surrounded by a flame. The handcraft of the Monk Arsenius was woven baskets, for which he took the leaves of Phoenician palms from which he plaited baskets, having soaked them in water. For a whole year the Monk Arsenius did not replace the water in a container, from which issued forth a putrid stench. To the question -- why thus he did this, the monk answered that by it he would humble himself, since having lived in the world he had been surrounded by fragrant smells, and now instead he would endure the stench, so that after death he should not know the stench of hell.
The fame of the great ascetic spread far, and many wanted to see him -- by this they disturbed the quietude of the great ascetic, and as a result the monk was forced to move around from place to place. But those thirsting to receive guidance and blessing still found him.
The Monk Arsenius taught: many take upon themselves great exploits of repentance and vigil, but rare is the one who would guard his soul from jealousy, anger, remembrance of evil, judgement and pride, being in such like adorned graves, filled within by the stench of bones. A certain monk asked the saint what he should do, when he in reading the Psalms did not understand their meaning. The elder answered, that he should continue the reading of the Psalms, since the evil powers flee from us, not able to bear the power of the written Word of God. The monks happened to hear, how the saint often urged himself on in his efforts with the words: "Work, Arsenius, do not loaf around; thou hast come not for rest, but for work". The monk also said: "Many a time repented I about my words, but about my silence -- never".
The great ascetic and keeper of silence was bestown the gift of gracious tears, by which his eyes were constantly filled. He spent 55 years at monastic exploits, meriting from his contemporaries the title "the Great", and he died at age 95 in the year 449 or 450.
The Monk Arsenii the Lover-of-Work lived during the XIV Century. This ascetic was distinguished by his love for toil, and having pursued asceticism in the Caves of the Kiev monastery of the Uspenie of the MostHoly Mother of God, he knew not rest, he prayed constantly and partook of food only with the setting of the sun. For his humility and love of work he was bestown by the Lord the gift of wonderworking. The memory of the monk is also made conjointly with the Saints of the Farther Caves -- on 28 August.
The Monk Pimen, Fast-Keeper of Pechersk, won fame by his exploit of fasting. The relics of the saint rest in the Farther Caves. His memory is also 28 August.
The Monk Arsenii of Novgorod, Fool-for-Christ, reposed in the year 1570, (the account about him is located under 12 July, -- the day of his repose). The celebration was established on 8 May in connection with the transfer of his relics in 1785, and with the "Saints-name-in-common" ("tezoimenitstvo") of this day.
The Monks Zosima and Adrian of Volokolamsk, founders of the Sestrinsk monastery on the banks of the River Sestra, pursued asceticism during the XV-XVI Centuries. Their remains were buried in the Uspenie-Dormition church of the monastery founded by them.
© 2000 by translator Fr. S. Janos