Today is the Feast day of St John the Righteous of Damascus (+749), who encapsulated the spirit of Orthodoxy in his famous words, “I shall say nothing of my own, but I shall set down things which have been said in various places by wise and godly men.”
St John saw the Incarnation as the key to how God in Christ Jesus works with his creation. He does not stand back thundering laws at it. He steals lovingly into it, in the cave in Bethlehem, and day after day.
SHE opened to us the unspeakable abyss of God’s love for us.
Through her the old enmity against the Creator is destroyed. Through her our reconciliation with Him is strengthened, peace and grace are given to us, men are the companions of angels, and we, who were in dishonour, are made the children of God.
From her we have plucked the fruit of life. From her we have received the seed of immortality. She is the channel of all our goods. In her God was man and man was God. What more marvellous or more blessed?
Second Speech on the Dormition of the Mother of God.
I STAND before the doors of Thy sanctuary, yet I do not put away my terrible thoughts.
But O Christ our God, Who didst justify the Publican, and have mercy on the Canaanite woman, and didst open the gates of Paradise to the Thief, open to me the depths of Thy love for men, and as I approach and touch Thee, receive me like the Harlot and the woman with an issue of blood. For the one received healing easily by touching the hem of Thy garment, and the other by clasping Thy sacred feet obtained release from her sins.
And I, in my pitiableness, dare to receive Thy whole Body. Let me not be burnt, but receive me even as these; enlighten the senses of my soul, and burn the stains of my sins: through the intercessions of her who bore Thee without seed, and of the Heavenly Powers, for Thou art blessed to the ages of ages. Amen.
A Prayer of St John Damascene, used in preparation for Holy Communion.
I VENERATE Mount Sinai, Nazareth, the stable at Bethlehem, and the cave, the sacred mount of Golgotha, the wood of the Cross, the nails and sponge and reed, the sacred and saving lance, the dress and tunic, the linen cloths, the swathing clothes, the holy tomb, the source of our resurrection, the sepulchre, the holy mountain of Sion and the mountain of Olives, the Pool of Bethsaida and the sacred garden of Gethsemane, and all similar spots.
I cherish them and every holy temple of God, and everything connected with God’s name, not on their own account, but because they are holders (δοχεῖα) of the divine power, and through them and in them it pleased God to bring about our salvation.
Third Speech on the Holy Icons.
LET us sing praises to John, worthy of great honor, the composer of hymns, the star and teacher of the Church, the defender of her doctrines: through the might of the Lord’s Cross he overcame heretical error and as a fervent intercessor before God he entreats that forgiveness of sins may be granted to all.
CHAMPION of Orthodoxy, teacher of purity and of true worship, the enlightener of the universe and the adornment of hierarchs: all-wise father John, your teachings have gleamed with light upon all things. Intercede before Christ God to save our souls.