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September 20, 2021

The Testament of Saint John the Stranger (Ioannes o Xenos)

Saint John the Stranger (Ioannes o Xenos) was a hermit on the island of Crete who founder a number of monastic establishments there. He reposed in 1031 and is commemorated in the Orthodox Church on September 20. Below is his testament that has been handed down to us. The attached source link at the bottom provides more information on this text, the translation and on Saint John in general.
I, Ioannes the monk and the hermit, known as xenos, commanded.

1. Being a source of incorruption our God created man at first in incorruption; having seen him, He gave <him the possibility> and He settled <him> at the life-giving place. So, due to the deceit and the advice of the evil-minded serpent, the forefather having not observed the command, was condemned to death. And then, O brethren, there is no man who will live and will not face death. Thus, I too, the lowly monk and known as xenos, having been laid down on a bed by sickness and expecting the finality of death, look, how I have arranged and manifestly set out everything regarding me, and what holy God through his oikonomia (dispensation) revealed to me; and this is how matters regarding me stand. I was born of rich parents <coming> from a village called Siva; and having been conceived by them, I came out of the maternal womb, longing for the solitary life from a young age. Thereafter, from mountain to mountain and in desert places wandering, being maltreated and harassed by the icy cold, I spent considerable time following the command (of God) and being burnt up by the burning heat of the sun and the frost of the winter. And having dwelt and lived together with the wild beasts and animals, I came as far as the mountain of Lithines, which is called Raxos. And in that place, having remained a considerable number of days and having traversed all over the mountain and having found a dense and trackless forest, I found also at that same place a cave, in which when I entered it, I found two monuments, one on the north side and the other on the south. Having gazed at them, I came out of the cave thinking to myself, what are these? And as I walked for a little, a voice came down to me from above calling me by name and commanding me in these words: "Ioannes, Ioannes, Ioannes, these that you saw here, are two monuments of Eutychios and Eutychianos, and in this place you are destined to raise a sacred and holy naos (temple) in their name". And having heard these, I stayed at the place; and having taken a great deal of trouble and given myself with my whole soul, I began to remove from the ground the trees and undergrowth and to clean the aforesaid monuments; and having done these things after many days, I raised a sacred and holy naos of Saints Eutychios and Eutychianos.
2. And having done this and having left behind there one brother, I left; and once more, crossing over from mountain to mountain I went away as far as the peak of the mountain Myriokephalon above the village called Tourma of Kalamon; and I found an immense pagan building [that was] up on the mountain, called Myriokephalon. And due to the harshness of winter I went in there and at the moment I entered it I spent seven days blind; and as I was praying to the Lord, on the seventh day a voice came to me such as this: "O Ioannes, come out from in there and look towards the East". And as if I was guided by someone, I came out of the building and as I stood facing towards the East I saw a great light and such a voice was giving orders, that "here in this place you are destined to raise an oikos (shrine) of her who is praised by all, the Theotokos, the Antiphonetria". And as soon as this happened, I went among the philochristoi (lovers of Christ) and being in need of their help (begging help), I bought out the area from the heirs themselves; and having put myself into a great deal of trouble, the just previously mentioned heirs of the aforementioned place, the so-called Myriokephalon, first presented to me a document; I defined precisely the area and enclosed it all round. Then, after explaining the divine command to the philochristoi, I raised this monastery of the Mother of God and perfect in purity Theotokos, the Antiphonetria, and I gained the following (things) which She consented (to accept) and regulated; and thus, I tonsured a man, monk Loukas. And coming out of that monastery, I found another place that was called Melix; and having gone above, on top of the low mountain, I built up <the church of> Saint Georgios the Douvrikas; there, neither a tree nor green grass can be found but the place was always dry; and after having thought out a certain way, I constructed a cistern for water to be collected. Having been guided by God, the heirs of that same place gave me as a gift another place as well; and I made a vineyard and a garden. They also gave me land of four zeugaria (pairs) fit for cultivation, and thus, when a pious man came to me, I tonsured him; and he was named by me and with the help of the Holy Spirit, the monk Nikodemos. And I set him up as a priest; and having left him behind at the said euktirion (oratory), I left straightaway and I arrived at another place, the so-called Anon, which was a nice place of good quality and close to the village of Pege. Having asked the inhabitants of this village, they raised a naos, called Saint Georgios the Opsaropiastes, and because they realised my humility, about which I am not allowed to boast, the aforementioned villagers gave me arable land of two zeugaria and a few small trees, which I consecrated to the aforesaid kellion (cell); and having tonsured the monk Eutychios priest, I left straightaway.
3. And at that place once again I went back up to the monastery of the supremely holy Mother of God of Myriokephalon; and finding the monks that I had left behind, not even having the wherewithal to manage, I came forth to the philochristoi and being in need of them (begging their help) according to the command of Christ, I put six zeugaria together and left for the village of Mousela; having found a good place, I bought out from the heirs themselves, the Mesostavlites, two plots of ground, which they had in this same area. And the people who were staying there, after seeing this, presented to me two more plots of ground. And at that place I raised the Saint Patapios as a metochion, and thus I made a rich garden; I planted trees in it. And then, I planted a vineyard of twelve modioi; I also constructed buildings with roof-tiles for the monks to have their accommodation, and from them to earn their daily nourishment. From the philochristoi I collected one hundred and fifty beehives, which were put away in Kyrianon, a place which also belonged to the area of the monastery; and I planted there too trees of all kinds, and I planted also wintry plants. And in this way I planted a vineyard and trees of all sorts up in the monastery and I restored it as an orchard; I left behind twelve monks. And having gone off to our orthodox emperors and having requested from them a chrysobull, I obtained <one authorising> the monastery to receive annually from the state for the sake of the salvation of their souls gold coins to the value of one litra, twelve gowns, twelve mantles, and a purple cloth altar cover, and <authorising> the monastery to be untouched by all and by any kind of civilian and ecclesiastical official, and <forbidding> by any means the local metropolitan or any of the bishops to be able to exercise power over the rights of the monastery or over the things that I had gained, books, holy icons <with which> I equipped the cells as has been said; and in no way for any sovereignty or authority <to be able> to claim from these either any customary tax or a kaniskion or anything at all; but for all of them, to be totally selfgoverned and independent under the hands of the stated monastery, and to make only a (liturgical) reference to the all holy and ecumenical Patriarch Alexios and similarly his successors. And coming back from Constantinople with the things I had gained from the philochristoi there, sacred vessels, books, holy icons, I equipped the monastery that you see; and in this way everything the philochristoi, the archons, the bishops and the rest, consecrated to the monastery, one thousand three hundred sheep, three hundred goats, sixteen horses, five she-asses and four pack-saddled young mules to convey the nourishment of the monks from Mousela, the other metochion, Melix, and Anon; all the trays, the vessels made of iron and the vessels made of copper, the high copper vessels, the bronze jars, the table vessels, and the rest; these that were also written down, were registered (and approved). All these devolved to me from the philochristoi, as if to our Lord Jesus Christ and with the help of the wholly undefiled Mother. These that the philochristoi did not need, they offered and dedicated, and for years as all of them were burning <because of the religious zeal and enthusiasm> more and more, they were all giving <everything> to me the unhappy and mortal.
4. Knowing the command of Christ and my own state, and reproaching <myself>, for it was impossible for me to have a break for an hour's quiet at all, I left the monastery and thus, I reached the place called Koufos, and in the middle of the village I raised a naos of the supremely holy Mother of God; I planted a vineyard and I also gained plots of ground of forty modioi; and having tonsured monk Kyrillos and fully organised the kellion, I left. And having gone away to a desert place on the rear shore, I stayed there a considerable number of days and I founded an euktirion, the Saint Pavlos, and up above in Azogyreas, the Saint Georgios; and there I made an apiary to belong to the said monastery. And once again, due to the great number of my sins the philochristoi did not leave me to rest. And then I settled in another desert place in the district of Kissamos far away at Akti, where I preferred to remain because of the disturbance <caused by> people. And thus, having gathered all the matters that were related to me and having them written down, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, this I pronounce clearly and command to all; that all the churches I raised, as has been said, and all these things that I acquired, movable property, immovable property and self-moved property, all are to belong to the monastery of Myriokephalon until the end of the present world. And if anyone of the people on earth, either emperors or patriarch or metropolitan or bishop or archon or anyone else at all, dares to detach <anything> from the euktiria that I raised or from any of the immovable property that belongs to them, which I consecrated to the said monastery, the person who will dare anything against it, at first let him be seized by the bonds of immobility, and let his share and lot be with Judas, to be subject to hanging and to the anathema of the three hundred and eighteen God-bearing Fathers and let him be destined for the eternal hell fire. But if anyone guards all these which I created and acquired, the holy and heavenly God and the mediator of the world will forgive them all their debts in this age and the future age, now and forever, and to the ages of the ages, amen.
Source: The Life of loannes Xenos: Critical Edition and Commentary by Sophia Oikonomou.