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The Last Church Father: 7 Things to Know and Share

On Dec. 4 we celebrate St. John of Damascus.

He was a priest, a religious, and he is a doctor of the Church.

He’s also the last Church Father.

Here are 7 things to know and share…

 

1) Why is he the last of the Church Fathers?

We need to divide history into different periods. The age of the Church Fathers was not the same as the ages that came before it or the ages that followed it.

But to do this, we have to divide history at somewhat arbitrary points.

Thus, it is customary to regard the age of the Church Fathers as ending in the East with the life of St. John of Damascus (also known as St. John Damascene), who died around A.D. 749.

(In the West, the age of the Church Fathers is commonly reckoned as ending with St. Isidore of Seville, who died in A.D. 636.)

 

2) Who was St. John of Damascus?

As his name implies, he was born in the city of Damascus, in the modern state of Syria, which is just north of Israel.

It’s the same city that St. Paul was travelling to when he experienced his conversion on “the Damascus Road.” (In fact, it’s quite close by modern standards; Damascus is about 135 miles north of Jerusalem.)

John was born in A.D. 675 or 676, and he lived to around 75 years of age, dying around A.D. 749.

He spent most of his life in the Mar Saba monastery, near Jerusalem.

He is also known by the Greek nickname Chrysorrhoas, which means “Streaming with Gold” or “Gold-Pouring,” indicating the quality of his writings.

 

3) Why is he significant?

Pope Benedict XVI explained:

Above all he was an eyewitness of the passage from the Greek and Syrian Christian cultures shared by the Eastern part of the Byzantine Empire, to the Islamic culture, which spread through its military conquests in the territory commonly known as the Middle or Near East.

 

4) What happened in his early life?

Pope Benedict XVI explained:

John, born into a wealthy Christian family, at an early age assumed the role, perhaps already held by his father, of Treasurer of the Caliphate.

Very soon, however, dissatisfied with life at court, he decided on a monastic life, and entered the monastery of Mar Saba, near Jerusalem. This was around the year 700.

He never again left the monastery, but dedicated all his energy to ascesis and literary work, not disdaining a certain amount of pastoral activity, as is shown by his numerous homilies.

 

5) What theological controversy made him important?

It was the eighth-century controversy over whether images should be venereated—the so-called “iconoclast controversy.”

Pope Benedict XVI explained:

In the East, his best remembered works are the three Discourses against those who calumniate the Holy Images, which were condemned after his death by the iconoclastic Council of Hieria (754).

These discourses, however, were also the fundamental grounds for his rehabilitation and canonization on the part of the Orthodox Fathers summoned to the Council of Nicaea (787), the Seventh Ecumenical Council.

In these texts it is possible to trace the first important theological attempts to legitimize the veneration of sacred images, relating them to the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God in the womb of the Virgin Mary.

 

Read more at National Catholic Register 

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