Lives of Saints - St. John the Faster, Patriarch of Constantinople Christianity - Books
You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery;'                but I tell you that everyone who gazes at a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.                If your right eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it away from you. For it is more profitable for you that one of your members should perish, than for your whole body to be cast into Gehenna.                If your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off, and throw it away from you. For it is more profitable for you that one of your members should perish, than for your whole body to be cast into Gehenna.                'It was also said, 'Whoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorce,'                but I tell you that whoever puts away his wife, except for the cause of sexual immorality, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries her when she is put away commits adultery.                'Again you have heard that it was said to them of old time, 'You shall not make false vows, but shall perform to the Lord your vows,'                but I tell you, don't swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is the throne of God;                nor by the earth, for it is the footstool of his feet; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.                Neither shall you swear by your head, for you can't make one hair white or black.                But let your 'Yes' be 'Yes' and your 'No' be 'No.' Whatever is more than these is of the evil one.                'You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.'*                But I tell you, don't resist him who is evil; but whoever strikes you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also.                If anyone sues you to take away your coat, let him have your cloak also.                Whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.                Give to him who asks you, and don't turn away him who desires to borrow from you.                'You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor,* and hate your enemy.*'                But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you,                that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven.               
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St. John the Faster, Patriarch of Constantinople

If fasting guaranteed an entry into Heaven, lifelong felons and violators of every Christian creed could starve themselves into the company of the righteous. The practice of fasting complements the decent behaviour of the genuine Christian in emulation of the Saviour who fasted in the desert for forty days in warding off temptation. Not for forty days, but for more than forty years a man named John observed the custom of fasting, reserved for certain solemn occasions for the average Christian, in the process of which he also exemplified piety to the degree that he became the ecumenical patriarch of Orthodoxy, His self-denial earned him the name of John the Faster, a man who observed to the letter everything expected of an Orthodox priest but voluntarily went a step beyond in a regimen of diet usually expected of an eremite of the desert and not a man whose high office held forth the dishes that delight a Greek stomach.

Born in Cappadocia, Asia Minor in the sixth century, the remarkably durable John was formally educated in Byzantium where he was tutored by a renowned monk of Palestine whose name was Eusebios and who instilled in John the longing to serve Jesus Christ. It was after he was ordained a priest that John decided that he could fulfill his purpose in the Church with a self- imposed diet that allowed for the barest of sustenance. In resisting the temptation to eat the delicacies that delight the palate, he became inured to hardship and trained to resist any form of temptation, physical or spiritual. He did this in deadly earnestness, with no desire to impress anyone with his hardiness, which was asserted throughout his lifetime in spite of his meager fare.

An unseen hand nourished the dedicated John who was not the gaunt figure people expected to see wherever he went in his service to Christ. His rise through the ranks of the clergy was a rapid one, and it was inevitable that he would be made ecumenical patriarch, serving as spiritual leader of Eastern Christianity for thirteen years -- from 582 to 595. At church and state functions where banquets offered all manner of food, the ecumenical patriarch never went beyond the simple necessities of life which seemed to afford him greater pleasure than the offerings consumed by the heartiest of eaters. When he was referred to as the Faster, it was with reverence because his miraculous state of health was attained through prayer and meditation. This combination seems to have given him a proximity to God which was manifested not only in the miracle of his well-being but in miracles attributed solely to him through the power of the Divine.

It was not miracles but John's hard work that raised the patriarchate to an exalted level, one that is outstanding in a long history of exalted patriarchs. He took personal command of all the projects set forth to improve the lot of the Christians through aid for the poor, the establishment of hospitals, orphanages and churches for the service to all mankind. In the course of these vast undertakings, however, there was more than one manifestation of his ability to summon forth a small miracle, but he did his best to minimise his mystical power, calling on all to give thanks to God for his blessings.

A most holy man, John was quite human and combined his human nature with the mystical one on an occasion when he was provoked to righteous anger by an action of the state. A day of festivity at the Hippodrome was set by the authorities in a state celebration, but it happened to fall on the day of Pentecost. When a call for a delay of the festivity was issued by an outraged patriarch, it was ignored by those whose interests lay irreverently outside of respect for the holy day. This so distressed John the Faster that he retired to a chapel and prayed for rain so earnestly that he was answered with a deluge that washed out the entire affair. Conversely, he prayed for the safety of a ship on which he was a passenger and which was about to flounder in a storm, the answer to which was bright sunshine and just enough wind to fill the ship's sails.

At odds with the popes of Rome because of his insistence of retaining the title of Ecumenical, which applies to this day, St. John the Faster died peacefully on 15 September 595.


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