Saint John the Silent
Jul 18, 2020 / Written by: America Needs Fatima
Feast May 13
John was born in Nicopolis in Armenia in the year 454 into a noble and virtuous family. Unusually devout even from childhood, John did not pursue the careers popular in his family; instead, after the death of his parents, he was divinely inspired to build a monastery where he afterwards lived with ten other young men, living the life of monks. John was only eighteen years old.
Under his direction, they led a devoted life of work and piety, gaining for him a reputation of leadership and sanctity. Because of this, the Archbishop of Sabaste was moved to consecrate John as Bishop of Colonia in Armenia at the young age of twenty-eight. Although he felt himself insufficient and unworthy of the office, John accepted the position with humility and governed his diocese for nine years before he decided to resign and fulfill his desire to live a life of seclusion. Thus he found his way to Jerusalem.
While at prayer one night, John was granted a vision in which he was guided to the monastery of St. Sabas and there the pilgrim was granted permission to dwell in a lonely hermitage to pursue uninterrupted contemplation.
Such was his sanctity that after four years, having disclosed to no one that he had once been a bishop, and St. Sabas wishing to have John ordained to holy orders, the abbot presented him to the Patriarch Elias of Jerusalem. However, upon their arrival at Calvary, John requested a private audience with the patriarch and disclosed his long-held secret. Upon learning of his previous consecration, St. Sabas was startled and reproached John for keeping the knowledge from him. Abashed at being discovered, John desired to abscond from the monastery.
However, St. Sabas was able to convince him to remain by promising to keep his secret. Hence, John continued to reside in his cell for four more years, speaking to no one save the one who brought him his necessities.
In the year 503, trouble – caused by certain disruptive members of the community – was stirring in the cloister and St. Sabas was forced to leave his own monastery; consequently, John also decided to leave and went into a nearby wilderness where he lived in prayer, mortification and silence for six years. Only when St. Sabas was finally restored to his community was he again able to persuade John to also return. However, having become accustomed to conversing only with God, John was unable to find anything but emptiness in all else.
Pursuing once more his own obscurity and humility, he retired to his old solitary cell and remained in that dwelling for forty more years. During that time, he never turned away any of the people who came seeking his instruction and counsel. One of these whom John instructed was a young man of sixteen named Cyril who later wrote John’s life.
John died in 558 at the age of one hundred and four – he had lived in solitude for seventy-six years, interrupted only by the nine years of his episcopate as bishop of Colonia.