John was born on the island of Cyprus. His father was Prince Epiphanius. John was raised as a true Christian from childhood. At the insistence of his parents, he married and had children. However, by God's providence, his wife and children passed from this world into the next. Renowned for his compassion and piety, John was chosen as Patriarch of Alexandria in the time of Emperor Heraclius. He governed the Church of Alexandria for ten years as a true shepherd, safeguarding it from pagans and heretics. He was a model of meekness, charity and love for his fellow men. He said: "If you desire nobility, seek it not in blood but in virtues, for this is true nobility." All the saints have been distinguished by mercifulness, but St. John was completely dedicated to this wonderful virtue. Once, while celebrating the Liturgy, the patriarch remembered the words of Christ, Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift (Matthew 5:23-24), and he remembered that one of the clergy in that church had a grievance against him. He quickly left the Holy Gifts, approached that priest, fell before his feet and begged for forgiveness. And only when he had made peace with this man did he return to the table of oblation. Another time, as he was on his way to the Church of Saints Cyrus and John, it happened that he met a needy and unfortunate widow who spoke to him at length about her misfortune. The patriarch's escorts became bored by the woman's lengthy complaint, and urged the bishop to hurry to the church for the service, intimating that he could hear the woman's story afterward. John said to them: "And how will God listen to me, if I do not listen to her?" He would not leave until he heard the widow's complaint to the end.
When the Persians attacked Egypt, Patriarch John boarded a boat to escape from danger. Along the way he fell ill and, when he arrived in Cyprus, he reposed at his birthplace, in the year 620. After he entered the Immortal Kingdom of his Lord, his miracle-working relics were translated to Constantinople, then to Budapest, and finally to Presburg.
Ahijah prophesied a thousand years before Christ. He prophesied to Jeroboam, Solomon's servant, that he would reign over ten of the tribes of Israel (I Kings 11:29-31).
Nilus was at first a prefect in the capital city, Constantinople. As a married man, he had a son and a daughter. Seeing the sinful life of the capital, he agreed with his wife to withdraw from the world. This they did. His wife and daughter went to a convent in Egypt. Nilus and his son Theodulus went to Mount Sinai. Nilus lived a life of asceticism on Mount Sinai for a full sixty years. He wrote wonderful books on the spiritual life. He entered peacefully into rest in about the year 450, in the eightieth year of his earthly existence, and took up his habitation in the blessed heavenly life. These holy words are his: "Physical passions have their origin in physical desires, and against them abstinence is necessary; but spiritual passions are born of spiritual desires, and against them, prayer is necessary."
Nilus was born in the Morea. As a hieromonk he went with his uncle to the Holy Mountain and there lived a life of asceticism as a recluse in a deserted place called "the Holy Rocks." When he entered into rest, myrrh flowed from his body in such abundance that it ran down from the top of the mountain into the sea. This miracle-working myrrh attracted ailing men from all over. A disciple of St. Nilus was so distracted by the many visitors that he complained in prayer to St. Nilus, and the flow of myrrh ceased at once. St. Nilus lived a life of asceticism in the fullest sense, like the saints of old. He entered into rest in the seventeenth century.
St. Nilus of Sinai spoke to the monks:
"Repeat the name of Jesus in your heart!
Exercise your heart in innocence,
And your body in purity and abstinence.
If you are insulted, endure the insult,
And thus the insulter will feel the injury.
Weep for the sinner, even when he advances:
He is on an eternal journey to meet justice.
If you endure misfortunes, they will serve you-
Misfortunes are thorns on which roses grow.
Whenever you pray to God, ask not for pleasant things,
But for that which brings benefit to the soul!
Fear not death, but await the death of the body;
Feel shame before the angels, before you feel the shame of men.
Avoid temptation and do not seek it,
But when it comes of its own accord, show yourself a hero.
He who often partakes of Communion with the gracious Christ
Is a temple in which Christ abides.
Speak little and rarely with men,
But speak more and more often with God."
Thus, did Nilus of Sinai teach the monks,
And his deeds bore witness to his words.
Their time of death and the necessity of preparation for it was revealed beforehand to many holy men and women. This is a great gift from heaven, but as we do not expect this gift, we unworthy ones need daily repentance to prepare for our departure. One can flee from men, but never from God. When St. John the Merciful fled Egypt from the Persians, a gloriously radiant man with a golden sceptre in his hand appeared to him on the boat and said: "The King of kings is calling you to Himself." John understood these words and began to prepare for his repose, which came soon. The holy King Stefan of Deè< face="AGaramond">ani's beloved St. Nicholas often appeared to him, and did so before Stefan's repose, saying: "Stefan, prepare for your departure, for soon you will appear before the Lord." Both saints were very similar in their compassion. Despite the immeasurable wealth that St. John had at his disposal as Patriarch of Alexandria, he personally had only one-third of a dinar at his repose, and he willed even that to the poor. When St. Stefan of Deè< face="AGaramond">ani was in the Monastery of the Pantocrator in Constantinople, a generous Serbian nobleman secretly sent him a substantial sum of money. "I give thanks to the good gentleman for his love," replied Stefan to the bearer, "but he would give me greater joy if he would distribute this money, intended for me, to the poor."
Contemplate the courage of the Apostle Paul (Acts 28):
on how strangers become members of the household
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God (Ephesians 2:19).
Before the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, it seemed that only the Jews were close to God and that the pagans were farther away from God. But as a matter of fact, the Jews and the pagans were equally estranged from God, and from true reverence for Him. Then He came, Christ the Savior, and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh (Ephesians 2:17) and by that, brought both Jews and pagans by one Spirit unto the Father (Ephesians 2:18). In the new creation, or the new man, or the Church of God, the Spirit is one; and everyone who enters the Church of God receives this Spirit, so that no matter how much the Church increases in members, there always remains the one Spirit of God; and no matter how many nations or tribes or races enter the Church of God, the Spirit does not change, but remains forever and ever, one and the same Spirit. That is why pagans are not strangers and foreigners in the Church, but are fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, as are all other members of the Church. For the Church is founded on holiness, and her cornerstone is the Saint above saints, and according to the plan, all of her members should be holy. All those who lived before Christ but expected Christ and hoped in Him, as well as those who lived after Christ, and who recognized Christ as Lord, Son of God, Savior, Redeemer, Resurrector and Judge, are also called saints. Sin separates and alienates from God, but through the Lord Jesus Christ, division and alienation have vanished, and all the faithful-whether former Jews or pagans-became members of the household of God, by and through the Lord Jesus Christ.
O my brethren, the Lord Jesus Christ gave us something greater and more precious than this life: He gave us peace and friendship with God, and this is greater and more precious than life in alienation from God.
O Lord Jesus Christ, Creator of Peace and Giver of Peace, sustain us to the end in peace with God.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.