September 2, 2015

Synaxarion of Saint John IV the Faster, Patriarch of Constantinople

St. John the Faster (Feast Day - September 2)

On the same day, commemoration of our Father among the Saints, John the Faster, Patriarch of Constantinople.


You did not delight in fleeting pleasures,
John the Faster from fleeting pleasures.

Our Holy Father John the Faster, lived in the sixth century during the reigns of three emperors: Justin, Tiberius and Maurice. He was born in Constantinople, and when he came of age he became an engraver by trade. John was pious and God-fearing, a lover of the poor and a lover of strangers.

One time he received a monk from Palestine whose name was Eusebius. This monk was walking next to John on his right, when he suddenly heard a voice say: "It is not forgivable for you, Abba, to walk on the right side of the great John." By this voice it was foretold by God that John would receive the great office of a hierarch.

After these things he became friends with Saint John III, known as Scholasticus (Feb. 21), who was Patriarch of Constantinople, and by him he was numbered into the order of Readers. Later he was ordained by him a Deacon and then a Presbyter.

When John was a Deacon, he went to the Church of Saint Lawrence in the afternoon. There he found a hermit whom he did not know. This hermit showed the divine John the steps behind the Holy Altar, and they went up to the sacred synthronon, where the Hierarch sits. As he showed him this, suddenly a great number of saints appeared. And he heard a voice mingled with a sweet and harmonious melody. All of these saints were dressed in bright white robes. This vision was a true sign of the splendor Saint John was to receive.

Because he was a distributor of aspron coins for the Church of Constantinople, once when he was outside of Constantinople in the plains he was left with only one purse of coins, from which he was richly distributing alms. And because there were still many more poor people to distribute the coins to, he would give more and more to them, so instead of the purse emptying it became more and more full. When he came to the open market, called Voun, he distributed alms to everyone. There an envious man yelled out: "Lord have mercy, when will this purse become empty for us?" And immediately the purse became empty. The Saint angrily looked at the man, and said: "May God forgive you, brother, because if you had not said those envious words, that purse would have endured distribution for a long time and would not have emptied."

When Patriarch Eutychios reposed in April 582, the divine John was compelled to become Patriarch of Constantinople, but he was not persuaded. For his resistance he saw a fearful ecstasy. He saw a great sea that reached up from the earth to the heavens. There also appeared a fearsome fiery furnace. A great number of Angels also appeared, telling the divine John: "It is not possible for things to take place in any other way. Only be silent. See and do not resist, knowing that you will be tried by these two methods of education, by sea and fire." It appeared they said these things with great fear. Wherefore, having seen these things, the Saint gave himself over to the will of God against his will, and he was ordained Patriarch of Constantinople. This took place after he endured extreme asceticism and was perfected in every virtue.

Once the Saint was passing through the place called Hebdomon, where he saw a large tornado out at sea. Through prayer and the sign of the Cross he calmed it down. Another time John Scholasticus of Gaza had a flow of blood from his eyes and was unable to see, so he went to Saint John asking him to commune him of the divine Mysteries. When the Saint communed him, he said: "This body of Jesus Christ, which healed the man born blind, can heal also your blindness." And O the wonder! With these words John was healed of his blindness.

There came a time when a great plague struck Constantinople. The Saint gave one of his servants two baskets, one was empty and the other was full of stones, and he said to him: "Go and stand at the road called Voun, and count the dead that pass through there. And as many dead that you find, you will put a stone into the empty basket." The servant did this all day, and at night he counted the stones, finding that there were 323 dead people. He did the same the next day, and counted less dead people. And he did this until the seventh day, when there were no more dead people to count, for the plague had completely ceased due to the entreaties of the Saint.

This Saint had such self-control, that for a space of six months he did not drink water, and during a period of thirteen and a half years as patriarch he ate nothing but stalks of lettuce, or a little melon, or grapes, or figs, and took exceedingly little and carefully measured sleep. His manner of sleep was this: he sat in a certain place and would put his knees to his chest, and in this manner he would sleep. In order to not sleep more than he wanted, he would light a candle. Inside the candle he placed a needle. Beneath the candle with the needle he placed a pot. When the candle would burn to the point where the needle would be left by itself, it would fall into the pot. The sound of the needle hitting the pot would wake up the Saint and he would get up. If he did not hear the needle fall into the pot, the next night he would keep vigil all night. In such a manner this thrice-blessed man battled against his passions through prayer, fasting and vigils. Through prayer also he turned away the barbarians who came to wreak damage on Constantinople. Thus he protected his flock from both visible and invisible enemies.

One day, on a Friday, certain people said to the Saint: "Tomorrow, Master, there will be a theatrical show in the hippodrome, namely running and horse racing." The next day was the Saturday of Pentecost. The Saint responded: "The hippodrome will operate on Pentecost?" He therefore beseeched God to show a sign so the people may become frightened and prevent them from attending the games. And O the wonder! On Saturday afternoon, when the sky was cloudless, there was a fearsome tornado and much wind. And there was such a downpour of rain that all the people left the hippodrome, thinking that the end of the world was upon them. It caused such a disturbance to the weather as it was never before experienced by the people, and everyone was terrified.

There was a woman who had a demon possessed husband, who ran to a hermit for healing. The hermit told her: "Go to the most holy Patriarch John of Constantinople, and he will heal your husband." The woman did this, and through the prayers of the divine John her husband was healed., so they returned home rejoicing. Through the prayers of the Saint barren women were able to bear children, and many who were sick received healing.

After serving as Patriarch for thirteen years and five months, he reposed on September 2, 595. Kyriakos served as Patriarch after him, who is celebrated on the 27th of October.

When the Saint reposed and went to the Lord, his relic was displayed for the Christians to embrace him. Then the most glorious Eparch Neilos went forward to kiss him, and O the wonder!, as he went to kiss the relic the relic got up and kissed him back in return, as if he was alive, and a secret was whispered into his ear, which the divine Neilos never revealed for the rest of his life. When all the people saw this wonder, they were baffled and glorified God, who glorifies His saints. Then he was reverently and honorably buried, and placed in the Holy Altar of the Church of the Apostles.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Anointed by the Holy Spirit, thou didst serve God like an earthly angel, O Shepherd and Hierarch John. Thou didst purify thyself through fasting and grant cleansing to those who eagerly run to thee.

Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
Thou didst become like thy namesake the Forerunner, O John, for thou wast radiant with fasting and purity; Christ has made thee a worthy shepherd of His flock; beseech Him to save those who venerate thee.