November 17, 2018

Saint John the Dermokaitis

St. John the Dermokaitis (Feast Day - November 27)

The memory of Saint John the Dermokaitis ("the Branded") is preserved in the Synaxarion of Delahaye, noting that he was an ascetic on Mount Olympos in Bithynia. He may be the same individual as John the Monk, who was known for the sanctity of his life, under Emperor Romanos I Lekapenos (919-944). Emperor Romanos sent a sealed epistle to this John the Monk, containing a confession of his sins.

Theophanes Continuatus reports that when Emperor Romanos was in exile on the Prince's Islands, having been deposed by his own sons, he had a dream in which he was dragged naked by two eunuchs to an enormous fire tended by a great number of demons, which occupied the entire Tzykanisterion, the imperial polo court at the palace. Two other people - one of Romanos' sons and the Bishop of Herakleia - were thrown in and burned, and the next day the emperor learned that they had both been put to death at the very time of his dream. Romanos was saved at the last moment in his dream by the Mother of God who appeared suddenly, stopped the eunuchs, asking them to be merciful, and clothed the terrified naked emperor.

This dream had a tremendous effect on the emperor. It led him to the staging of an exuberant performance of self-humiliation, involving a public confession of his sins. Stripped of his clothes, in front of 300 weeping monks, he prostrated himself and asked for forgiveness from each and every one of them. All this culminated in an extensive whipping session, provided by a neophyte.

After this he is reported to have written down a list of his sins, and then spared no trouble or expense in having large numbers of monks and holy men in various locations pray and shed tears on his behalf. Among these holy men was John the Monk. When this was done, the document was miraculously found to be wiped clean. The old emperor finally acquired an official letter of absolution, and he was buried with this precious document when he died shortly afterwards.