October 3, 2017

Synaxarion of Saint John the Chozebite, Bishop of Caesarea

St. John the Chozebite (Feast Day - October 3)


Delivered from a life of infinite temptations,
John mightily seized infinity.

Our Holy Father John was from Thebes in Egypt, the son of great and notable parents. He received the monastic angelic schema from his grandfather, who was also a monk, and bidding farewell to him, he went to Jerusalem. Because he did not accept the Holy and Ecumenical Fourth Synod of Chalcedon, and separated himself from the catholic Church, and wanting to venerate the honorable Cross, he was prevented from approaching it. For he had heard a voice in his dreams say to him: "Those who are not in communion with the catholic Church, are not worthy of venerating the Cross of the Lord." Waking up, therefore, he went to the church and was corrected. He then returned to his elder and grandfather, and bidding farewell once again, he left the monastery. And finding a very small cave in an untrodden and precipitous place called Chozeba, he resided therein, and fed himself from the shoots of the trees in that place.

God, wanting to glorify him, revealed him in the following manner. There was a great ascetic at that place named Ananias. A wealthy man once brought to him his son, who was being disturbed by an unclean spirit, and he was not received by the Saint out of his much humility. But he urged those who brought the youth to go to the deeper parts of that place to John the Egyptian in order to be healed by him. Upon finding John, they revealed their cause for which they came to him. At first the Saint was not persuaded to pray for the youth. After being constrained to do so, he prayed. He then turned and said to the demon: "In the name of Christ, O unclean spirit, I do not order you, but the servant of God Ananias orders you, come out of this youth." When the unclean spirit heard this, he immediately came out, and the youth was restored to health.

Because this astonishing miracle made the Saint famous throughout the area, he was ordained, even against his will, as Bishop of Caesarea. Due to the cares of the office, however, and being unable to pursue an eremitic and quiet life, he left Caesarea and went back to the desert. But then he was unable to hide himself from the crowds. For a farmer had a young child that was disturbed by an unclean spirit, and putting him in a straw basket which he covered with grass, he placed him near the window of the Saint and left. When the child cried, the Saint heard him. When he got up and saw him, he immediately recognized the demon dwelling in him. Thus by his prayers he banished the demon, and restored the child to health.

Except the banished demon did not rest, but it changed its form into that of a man. And finding the Saint in an untrodden and precipitous place, he fell down at his feet as if he were asking for a blessing. The Saint was astonished by this unexpected sight, and his feet became entangled and he overstepped, falling to the bottom of the precipice. But the murderer-of-man labored in vain, for the Saint remained unharmed by the grace of God. But the envious one stirred up another temptation for the Saint. He brought against him a murderer and a thief. This man sometimes beat the Saint, other times he would take his garment, and another time the inhuman one burned down his hut. Suffering these things, the Saint said only these words to himself, as he himself later narrated: "O Lord, if these things are pleasing to You, I thank You." When the Highest heard this in the heavens, he freed him from this temptation, for the robber was taken by the authorities and put to death. From then on the Saint received much relief. But the treacherous devil did not cease from digging pits against the Saint.

One time as he was going to visit certain brothers, he met a woman along the way, who entertained shameful thoughts instilled in her heart by the devil. Falling at the feet of the Saint, she begged him to make her worthy to enter his cave, as if to receive a blessing and sanctification. The Saint consented to receive her, and immediately the defiled and unbridled one shut the door, undressed herself revealing her entire body, and went to do such shameless things, which should not even be spoken with words, attempting to defile the undefiled one. But the invincible and unshakeable servant of Christ at once eluded this instrument of the devil, and he emerged out of his hut untouched.

One day the blessed John heard of the fame of a certain ascetic named Markianos, and he desired to see him. Because however he self-imposed a rule to not leave his cave, even if a great need arose, he was not eager to break that bond and leave. What did the all-bestowing providence of God arrange however? An Angel of God took Markianos from his cell, and brought him high in the air, quietly and without noise, and placed him in the cave of the blessed John. After the Saints saw each other and embraced, and were satisfied with spiritual conversation between them, lastly the divine John said: "Glory to Holy God, that He made me worthy to see my most-desired Markianos." Immediately after these words, divine Markianos was again taken by an Angel from before the eyes of John and brought back to his cell.

However the extravagance of this miracle brought various thoughts to Saint John, that perhaps it was a demonic phantasm. As he pondered and wrestled with his thoughts, he dissolved the rule that he adhered to and came out of his cave. Going to the cell of Markianos, he found him along the way. When he greeted him and heard him call him by name, he was now assured concerning his earlier paradoxical arrival by the Angel. Bidding each other farewell once again, he returned with joy to his cave.

But why should I say more? The divine John banished demons from people, he healed incurable sicknesses, he made water gush forth from various places, he managed to bring down rain from heaven by his prayers, and many other signs and wonders were wrought through him by God. Therefore as a beacon of asceticism and miracles he shined upon the earth, and his life came to an end at a good old age, and in peace he delivered his soul to the Lord.