St. John of Monemvasia: A Role Model for Fasting

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My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.

SAINT JOHN OF MONEMVASIA--A Role Model for Fasting

[It is through the lives of the Saints and Martyrs that we learn how to live the Orthodox Christian faith. The child martyr, Saint John of Monemvasia, has much to teach us about fasting and being a Christian. Read the Lives of the Saints!]

Saint John was born in 1758 in the village of Geraki in the southern Greek province of Monemvasia. He was born to a devout Orthodox Christian couple and his father was a priest in the village where they lived. The couple instilled in the child the Orthodox Christian faith and the lessons of Holy Scripture, and young John was a good and pious lad and increased in wisdom and the love of God.

In 1770 (when John was twelve years old) Albanian Moslems, at the command of the Sultan, marched through the Peloponnese Peninsula raiding villages, burning houses and killing some Christians while enslaving others. When the Moslems came to the village of Geraki, John's father was rounded up with other leaders of the village and brutally slaughtered. John and his mother were enslaved and bought by a Moslem from Thessaloniki.

The new Moslem owners a childless couple, and upon seeing the handsome, polite, grace-filled John, they desired to adopt him as their own son. Only one obstacle existed--John had to denounce his Christian faith and accept Islam. John refused. The couple tried in many ways to win the child over by promises of flattery, wealth and glory but he would not deny Christ. He was firm in his resolve and would not yield. His owners became angry and impatient with John's refusal to become Moslem, and they began abusing him verbally and physically.

Months passed, the summer progressed and the holy feast of the Dormition (Koimisis) of the Theotokos drew near. The first fourteen days of August leading up to the feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God are a time of strict fasting and prayer. John, being a good and devout Orthodox Christian, kept the fast despite his circumstances. His Moslem slave owners noticed that he was not eating the food that he was being given and began pressuring him to know why. At first he was silent, but eventually confessed with boldness: "I am an Orthodox Christian and I observe the teachings of my faith. This is a holy time for us and certain foods are forbidden. I will not eat anything that my faith prohibits." The slave master was furious and desired to make John break his fast. He began starving John for days at a time, and then would offer him foods that were not permitted during the Dormition fast, but John would not break his fast. (He was about twelve or thirteen years old.)

In addition to the frequent periods of starvation, the pious youth was harshly tormented. He was beaten, cut with knives, suspended upside-down and burned, yet he endured these violent acts patiently and without complaint. Only prayers proceeded from his pure lips. "My Lord and my God, I love You with all my heart. Be with me; give me strength to endure until my last breath." Such were the words that he uttered.

John's mother was with him through this, watching him become emaciated from starvation. She began urging him to eat the foods offered to him by the Moslems but her efforts to convince him to break that fast were futile. "My mother, I know you mean well and are concerned about me. I love you and have always tried to obey you but I love God more. Fasting is very important for the soul--especially for the soul engaged in spiritual warfare. Many temptations are lurking about me and I need the strength found in prayer and fasting, for prayer and fasting support each other and become stronger. Don't you remember the story of Abraham, who loved and obeyed God so much that he was willing to sacrifice his own son for Him? Have you forgotten, my mother? You must be willing to sacrifice your son also for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. I am a priest's son. It is my responsibility to set a good example to others and to practice the faith that you and my father have taught me. So please, my dear mother, do not pressure me to eat as our slave owners do. Instead pray for me."

A few days later, the slave-owner returned and threatened John with greater violence if he would not convert to Islam. Once more, John emphatically refused to become a Moslem. In a rage, the wild man stabbed him in the chest and within two days the loving obedient child of God delivered his pure soul into His hands. At the boy's request, his mother took his precious relics back to his village where pious Christians venerated them to this day. On October 24th, the Holy Orthodox Church remembers Saint John of Monemvasia, the beloved child of God. (Source: Orthodox Christian Parenting. Cultivating God's Creation by Zoe Press)

Next: Wisdom from the Table

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"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom

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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,

The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George