I’m going to talk about Saint John the Warrior. No, his feast day isn’t today, but it was last Friday by the new calendar, and he is my father’s patron saint.
St. John had a really interesting life. He was, as his name suggests, a warrior under Julian the Apostate.
A quick overview here, for those not caught up on Eastern Roman history (and I’m going entirely from my memory here, so it might be a little rusty). Since Emperor Constantine the 1st, the Roman emperors were more or less Christian, and Christianity was the favored religion in the empire. However, Paganism wasn’t entirely outlawed. Through much palace intrigue, Emperor Julian was left fairly isolated while growing up, and he read much of the ancient Roman and Greek philosophers and poets, and his teachers were pagan. Eventually, as his name suggests, when he came to power he went apostate. He did his utmost to stamp out Christianity and bring back the Roman religion, with Jupiter, Juno, Minerva, and all the rest. Thus began the last of the great Roman persecutions of Christianity.
Anyway, back to St. John. As I had said, St. John was a warrior in the Roman army at this time. On the surface he was the model soldier, persecuting the Christians and delivering them up to death. But, while with one hand saluting Caesar, with the other he ushered the Christians to safety, providing them with food, clothes, money, and warnings. A great many Christians were saved through him. As well as this, he visited those imprisoned and brought relief to widows, orphans, and the sick.
Eventually Emperor Julian caught wind of the saint’s actions and ordered him to be brought to Constantinople, there to be tried and executed. He was tortured, but to no avail, and eventually tossed in prison and left.
At last, Julian the Apostate fell in the war with the Persians, and St. John was freed. Upon his release he did not return to the army, but devoted the rest of his life to medicine and healing, spending it all in the service of his neighbors. He lived a pure and holy life and died of old age.
We do not know when he died, and the location of his grave gradually passed beyond memory. Then, later, he appeared in a dream to a devout woman and revealed the location of his grave to her. His relics were placed in the church of St. John the Theologian in Constantinople, and through them the Lord healed many.
The Orthodox Church prays to St. John as an intercessor in sorrows and difficult circumstances, and for the recovery of stolen objects.
O miracle-worker John,
thou hast been shown to be a truly faithful servant and soldier of God, the all-good Sovereign;
for, having suffered, in manly fashion,
for the Faith and finished thy course in benediction,
in the heavens thou dost behold the Lord and Creator of all most splendidly,
and helpest men who suffer amid all manner of trials.
Thou dost strengthen soldiers in battle,
rescuing them from capture by the enemy,
from wounds, sudden death and cruel misfortunes.
Wherefore, entreat Christ the Master,
O ever-memorable one,
that He deal mercifully with us in every circumstance,
that He lead us not into temptations,
but save our souls, for He is a lover of mankind.