On September 26th the Orthodox Church commemorates the Repose of St. John the Apostle, Evangelist and Theologian.
St. John was the Son of Salome the Myrrh-bearer and Zebedee a fisherman. He was also the brother of the Apostle James and together they were known as the Sons of Thunder!
He was the youngest of the Apostles and was the closest to Jesus during His earthly ministry. He was called the one whom Jesus loved and was present at the healing of Jarius Daughter, the transfiguration; he followed Jesus after His arrest, was in the courtyard of the High Priest, and stood with the Theotokos at the foot of the Cross.
He wrote the Gospel about 95 AD and also wrote 3 pastoral letters as well as the Book of Revelation. When he was over 100 years old, knowing the time of his death was near, he asked his disciples to dig a cross shaped grave for him. After it was dug he laid down in it and was buried alive. It is said each year on May 8th a very fine dust rises from the grave and this is used to heal the sick.
St. John was the Disciple the reclined against Jesus chest during the last supper. He therefore was able to listen to the heartbeat of God. He listened to God at the very center of creation and the center of life.
This action gave us the example that we all need to listen for God in each other. We are all created in the image and likeness of God and all carry the Divine Spark of that creation. St. Benedict urged his monks in his Rule for Monasteries to receive all as Christ. We need to see the image of God in every person as God is present in each and every created human regardless of what they do. Each life is precious from the moment of conception until its natural death.
To listen to God is to listen deep within ourselves. St. John leaned on Christ and listened to His heartbeat. He listened deep within Christ to hear Him through His heart. For the Fathers and Mothers of the Church the heart was the very center of our being, the place where the soul resided, and the very place where God dwells in each of us. To listen to God is to listen to our very souls.
John writes from a very human perspective and His Gospel was written to supplement the other three. He writes about the nature of the Trinity and their relationships to one another. He writes about the glory of God working through the earthly ministry of Jesus, through His person, His works, and His words. There is a mystical, theological perspective that dominates his Gospel. He speaks of the revelation of the Divine Light that will be resisted by this age resulting in great spiritual warfare. He also writes about the strong sense of community in the early church and uses the term. True disciples are those who believe in Jesus as the incarnate Son of the Father, and are united with Him, and who express this life here and now. And he speaks of Love! The love of God and the love of neighbor.
St. John teaches us that we need to pause and listen for the heartbeat of God in each person and in all of creation.
What are you listening for?