Saint John of Damascus (c. 645-c. 749)
Born in Syria to Christian parents, John was an outstanding theologian who wrote many important works. He received a good education, became a monk, and was ordained a priest. When a major controversy broke out over the veneration of sacred images, John wrote in vigorous defense of them against the iconoclasts. The emperor, Leo III, was a principal opponent of sacred images. In other areas of theology, John carefully studied previous Church writers and gathered a treasury of their teachings. He is also an important writer in the field of Marian theology. His sermons on the Assumption of Mary testify to the development of this doctrine. Besides all this, his masterful work An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith became an important source for later writers. The great medieval theologians, including Thomas Aquinas, often relied on it in developing their own teachings.
John was not only a theologian but a poet who wrote many beautiful hymns. After a very fruitful life of teaching and pastoral work, John died in his monastery, Mar Saba, near Jerusalem. He was popularly acknowledged as a saint. In 1883 Pope Leo XIII declared him a Doctor of the Church.
By his hymns and his eloquent defense of icons, Saint John testifies to the role of beauty in our faith and worship. Christian art and music not only enrich our understanding and practice of our faith, but they also enrich our culture. What are some ways I can incorporate more beauty in my life?
Saint John of Damascus, intercede for us that we may always cherish the gift of faith. Help us to know how to express our faith in works of art and beauty.
© 2013 Daughters of Saint Paul