John the Righteous of Damascus
St. John was baptised in infancy, and had a tutor called Cosmas who taught he the sciences and theology. Cosmas became a poet and singer, and subsequently accompanied his adopted brother (St. John) to the monastery in which both became monks.
In spite of his theological training St. John does not seem, at first, to have contemplated any career except that of his father, to whose office he succeeded. Even at court he was able freely to live a Christian life, and he became remarkable there for his virtues and especially for his humility. Nevertheless, after filling his responsible post for some years, St. John resigned office, and went to be a monk in the lavra of St. Sabbas near Jerusalem.
John and Cosmas settled amongst the brethren, and wrote books a composed hymns. Patriarch John V of Jerusalem knew them well by reputation and wished to have them among his clergy. First he took Cosmas and made him bishop of Majuma, and afterwards he ordained John priest and brought him to Jerusalem. St. Cosmas ruled his flock admirably until his death, but St. John soon returned to his monastery.
St. John’s three letters in defence of the holy icons, for which he was slandered before the khalif and his hand was cut off, had become known and read everywhere, and had earned him the hatred of the persecuting emperors. If his enemies never succeeded in injuring him, it was only because he never crossed the frontier into the Roman empire. After his miraculous healing by the Theotokos, he spent the rest of his life writing many books on theology and poetry at St. Sabbas, where he died around 750 AD. His most famous work is the Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, which is the best summary of the teachings of the early Church Fathers. He also wrote polemical works against various heresies and sermons on feast days. He is renowned as the writer of many feast-day hymns and canons (including the Pascha service), and as the compiler of the Octoechos, whose verses are a summing up of Orthodox teaching.
Dismissal Hymn (Plagal of the Fourth Tone)
You are a guide of Orthodoxy, a teacher of piety and modesty, a luminary of the world, the God inspired pride of monastics. O wise John, you have enlightened everyone by your teachings. You are the harp of the Spirit. Intercede to Christ our God for the salvation of our souls.
Kontakion (Fourth Tone)
Come, O faithful, let us praise the hymn-writer, the Church’s luminary and wise instructor, the hallowed John, who cast down all her enemies; for since he took up the Cross of the Lord as a weapon, he drove off the heresies, with their every delusion. And as our fervent champion with God, he grants all the forgiveness of trespasses.
Barbara the Great Martyr
Saint Barbara was from Heliopolis of Phoenicia and lived during the reign of Maximian.
She was the daughter of a certain idolater named Dioscorus. When Barbara came of age, she was enlightened in her pure heart and secretly believed in the Holy Trinity. About this time Dioscorus began building a bath-house; before it was finished he was required to go away to attend to certain matters, and in his absence Barbara directed the workmen to build a third window in addition to the two her Father had commanded. She also inscribed the sign of the Cross with her finger upon the marble of the bath-house, leaving the saving sign cut as deeply into the marble as if it had been done with an iron too. (When the Synaxarion of Saint Barbara was written, the marble of the bath-house and the cross inscribed by Saint Barbara were still preserved, and many healings were worked there.) When Dioscorus returned, he asked why the third window had been added; Barbara began to declare to him the mystery of the Trinity. Because she refused to renounce her faith, Dioscorus tortured Barbara inhumanely, and after subjecting her to many sufferings he beheaded her with his own hands, in the year 290.
Apolytikion of Great Martyr Barbara in the Fourth Tone
Let us honor the holy Barbara for, with the aid of the Cross as her weapon, she crushed the snares of the enemy, and was rescued from them like a bird.
Kontakion of Great Martyr Barbara in the Fourth Tone
O noble Champion, following God who is reverently praised in Trinity, you abandoned the temples of idols. Struggling amid suffering, O Barbara, you were not overwhelmed by the threats of the tyrants, O brave One, even singing aloud, “I worship the Trinity, the one Godhead.”
Also celebrated today are:
- New Hieromartyr Seraphim, Bishop of the Phanar in Greece
- Juliana the Martyr of Heliopolis
- Alexander Hotovitzky, New Hieromartyr of Russia, Missionary to America