November 22, 2015 -
"ST. JOHN THE MERCIFUL”
This 7th century Patriarch of Alexandria was born in Cyprus. John was a man of
considerable wealth, but his wife died, and then all of his children. After he had
laid his children to eternal rest, he used all his wealth to relieve the burdens of
When the office of the patriarch became vacant, John was selected and
consecrated to the post. One of his first acts was to request a list of his “masters”
to be made. When asked what he meant, Patriarch John replied that he wanted
to know how many poor there were demanding his services in the great city, for
like his Lord, he had come to minister to THEIR needs!
It is said that as many as 7,500 were found without a livelihood, and the Patriarch
set about helping them. When he found out that the meager savings of the poor
were wasted by the fraud of tradesmen using unequal balances and unjust
measures, the Patriarch began attacking such dealings and stirred up considerable
Twice a week he put his throne outside the church door, and placed two benches
before it, that he might hear the complaints of the oppressed, and then remedy
them if possible. One day he was found crying softly. When asked why, he
answered, “Because none seek my assistance this day.” But he was told, “You
should rather rejoice that there is no need.” Then he thanked God and rejoiced.
John was wise in his charity. To women and girls he gave twice as much as to
men, because they were less able to earn a living. But he would not allow
anything to be given to those who were dressy and adorned with trinkets.
Once he observed that as soon as the Gospel was read at the Liturgy, a portion of
the congregation left and stood outside the church, talking among themselves.
The Patriarch went and seated himself amongst them, saying, “Where the sheep
are, there the shepherd must be also.” With shame they went back into the
church, and thus the habit was broken.
He was mindful of the needs of the slaves. To the masters he spoke: “These men
are made in the image of God. What constitutes you different from them? You
and y our slaves have legs and arms, eyes and mouths and a soul alike. . . . In
Christ, master and slave are equal . . .”
This humble saint lived a simple life. His clothing, furniture and diet were all the
most minimal. John truly evoked the sentiment of one of the Beatitudes:
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”