Apostle John the Beloved – Through thick and thin

Apostle John the Beloved and Theologian (icon)In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. Dear beloved, let us remember the Apostle John the Beloved, and Theologian, may the holy saint pray for us.

We have often marveled at the touching icon of the Apostle John leaning on the bosom of Christ our Lord, and we call the saint the Beloved of Christ. Our Lord loved Apostle John, because Saint John was selfless in loving others, and for his purity. Saint John was also one of the few that the Church regards as Theologians, a title of honor not accorded lightly in Orthodoxy.

When Apostle John received his calling, he stayed close to our Lord, all the days when our Lord ministered. The saint was present when our Lord revived the daughter of Jairus. The Apostle was also present on Mount Tabor at the Holy Transfiguration. The saint was leaning on the bosom of our Lord at the last supper, and followed our Lord as He walked from Gethsemane to the court for interrogation. And when our Lord was crucified on the Cross, the saint was with our Most Holy Theotokos at the foot of the Cross, when our Lord said, “Woman, behold your son”, and to Apostle John, “Behold your Mother” (St John 19:26-27). And the saint lovingly and dutifully took care of our Theotokos until her Dormition, like a son would for his mother. Thereafter, Apostle John took up his calling to Asia Minor to preach the Gospel.

When we walk humbly with repentance and prayers in the world, and profess our faith meekly to God, we know that we seek the Grace and Mercy of our Lord throughout our days and lives. We dare not, and we would not, be conceited to imagine that we are above others. We recognize our sins, our passions, our failings, and our betrayal of our Lord whom we profess to love. We are indeed blessed to believe. We are to gift this same blessing to others whom we may meet in our journeys, as gifts of love, through our silent and humble prayers and kind deeds, and not as unfruitful weapons that distance others from God.

And yet, as we stumble and fall every day, we continue our Podvig, or spiritual struggle, minute by minute, prayer by prayer, day by day, step by step. We know our Lord and King is our Christ, our Savior, and He is our Redeemer and ultimately our Judge (Hebrews 7:26-8:2).

Our Christ and Lord is our Shepherd, and we must be discerning to sieve out the thieves, wolves, hirelings in our journeys towards God. In these days, amidst the sophistication of technology and the complexity of the world, we pray unto our Lord, to gift us with His Mercy that we can attempt to disregard those who would fire up our passions and hatred, to disregard those who would smash our faith in God, to disregard those who would tempt us to meander from the straight and narrow path towards God, just as the Apostle John reminded us in St John 10:9-16 that only Christ is our Shepherd who would give His life to the sheep.

Saint John has showed us just what loving our Lord means. The saint was present. The saint stayed close to our Lord, not just physically, but in body, mind and spirit. The saint was with our Lord and our Most Holy Theotokos and his brethren, through thick and thin.

When we reflect on Deuteronomy 10:16-19, the paradigm of circumcising our heart is very illuminating. When we lay our hearts bare before our Lord, we lay our worst fears, our biggest vulnerabilities, our bleeding pains, and our warts and all, before our Lord. When we circumcise our hearts, we are able to love our Lord because we no longer hide from Him, and we can hope to become little children again, His children. For God loves children, and we are His.

And we are encouraged by the Psalmist in Psalm 116:1-6 (LXX 115), that our Lord hears our pleas for the entirety of our lives, and that we can call upon Him, “Lord, I beseech You, deliver my soul”. And when we pray the Prayer of the Heart, we call upon our Lord and Christ, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Let us close by praying the thanksgiving prayer:

It is truly meet to call thee blest, the Theotokos, ever blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious than the Seraphim, without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word: True Theotokos, we magnify thee.

O virgin Theotokos, rejoice; O Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast borne the Savior of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Fr Raphael+

Deuteronomy 10:16-19
Psalm 116:1-6 (LXX 115)
St John 10:9-16
Hebrews 7:26-8:2