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August 25, 2015

Saint John of Karpathos

St. John of Karpathos (Feast Day - August 25)


John was filled with divine grace,
As an ascetic and divine Hierarch.
On the twenty-fifth John's earthly life was noetically raised.

St. Nikodimos the Hagiorite says in the Philokalia that he has little information about St. John of Karpathos: "It is not known when he was active or where he underwent his ascetic struggles." Our knowledge today is only a little more extensive thanks to the efforts of Metropolitan Ambrose of Karpathos and Kasos in the mid-1980's, when he sought to include him in the official list of saints of the Orthodox Church with the blessing of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. August 25th was designated as the feast day of Saint John of Karpathos in 1985, and a Divine Service was composed for the celebration.

The primary source of information about St. John of Karpathos comes from the Bibliotheca (201) of St. Photios the Great. Presumably John came from the island of Karpathos, situated between Crete and Rhodes. It is thought that he lived there as a monk in a coenobium, and then became bishop of the island in the late seventh century; he may be identical with a Bishop John of the island ‘Karpathion’ who signed the acts of the Sixth Ecumenical Synod in 680-681 (Mansi XI, 653E, 693B), but this is hypothetical. What is certain was that he was deeply knowledgeable of Holy Scripture and experienced in Hesychastic/Neptic spirituality.

The monks in India, to whom his two writings are addressed in the Philokalia, were perhaps living in Ethiopia. His primary aim is to offer encouragement to those tempted to abandon the monastic life, but are just as encouraging for all Christians to live the authentic Christian life amid temptations.

Every church on the island of Karpathos today contains at least one icon or fresco of Saint John of Karpathos, and there is a large icon of his in the Church of the Holy Apostles in Karpathos, where his memory is celebrated every year on August 25th.

Apolytikion in the First Tone
An expounder of virtue, and teacher of monastics, you were perceived as the president of Karpathos our Father John which you lived as an angel on earth; you were enlightened with the light of the Spirit, wherefore as a healer of Christ, we honor you crying out: Glory to Him Who gave you strength, Glory to Him Who crowned you, Glory to Him Who through you grants us an abundance of grace and mercy.

Kontakion in the Second Tone
As an esteemed ascetic of piety, and divinely inspired Hierarch of the Savior, the island of Karpathos celebrates you, O all-blessed John; you sanctified it by your life, as its offspring and divine boast, wherefore keep watch over it always with your intercessions.

Rejoice, companion of the Venerable Ones, and the divine shepherd and guide of Karpathos. Rejoice, John the treasury of grace, and our intercessor and mediator to the Lord.

Excerpts from the writings of St. John of Karpathos ("For the Encouragement of the Monks in India", 81-84) are below:

Sometimes our soul grows despondent at the huge swarm of its sins and temptations, and says, ‘Our hope is gone and we are lost’ (Ezek. 37:11; LXX).

Yet God, who does not despair of our salvation, says to us: ‘You shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord’ (Ezek. 37:6).

To the soul that doubts how it can ever give birth to Christ through great acts of holiness, these words are said: ‘The Holy Spirit shall come upon you’ (Luke 1:35).

Where the Holy Spirit is present, do not expect any more the sequence and laws of nature and habit.

The Holy Spirit whom we worship is all-powerful, and in an astonishing way He brings into existence what does not as yet exist within us.

The nous that was previously defeated He now makes victorious: for the Paraclete who in compassion comes upon us from above ‘is higher than all’ (John 3:31), and He raises us above all natural impulses and demonic passions.

Struggle to preserve unimpaired the light that shines within your nous.

If passion begins to dominate you when you look at things, this means that the Lord has left you in darkness; He has dropped the reins with which He was guiding you, and the light of your eyes is gone from you (cf. Ps. 38:10).

Yet even if this happens, do not despair or give up, but pray to God with the words of David: ‘O send out Thy light and Thy truth to me in my gloom, for Thou art the salvation of my countenance and my God’ (cf. Ps. 43:3, 5); ‘Thou shalt send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created; and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth’ (Ps. 104: 30; LXX).

Blessed is he who, with a hunger that is never satisfied, day and night throughout this present life makes prayer and the psalms his food and drink, and strengthens himself by reading of God’s glory in Scripture.

Such communion will lead the soul to ever-increasing joy in the age to come.

Do all in your power not to fall, for the strong athlete should not fall. But if you do fall, get up again at once and continue the contest.

Even if you fall a thousand times because of the withdrawal of God’s grace, rise up again each time, and keep on doing so until the day of your death.

For it is written, ‘If a righteous man falls seven times’ – that is, repeatedly throughout his life – seven times ‘shall he rise again’ (Prov. 24: 16; LXX).