St. John, Bishop of Euchaita icon
St. John, Bishop of Euchaita icon

St. John, Bishop of Euchaita icon

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Orthodox icon of Saint John, Bishop of Euchaita, from which we are celebrating the miracle of the Saturday of the first week of Great Lent.

Commemorated October 5th.

Saint John Mauropous was born in Paphlagonia around 1000. He came to Constantinople, and quickly gained a reputation as a teacher of rhetoric. Among his students, Michael Psellos was to be the most important. While teaching at the University of Constantinople, he helped reorganize it. It was also Psellos who introduced him to the emperor Constantine IX Monomachos (1042-1055). In 1046 he became a monk and was ordained a priest at the Monastery of Petra, which was dedicated to the Honorable Forerunner John. For a couple of years, Mauropous belonged to the favored circle of poets and scholars that Emperor Constantine gathered around him, and he functioned as a court orator. But for an unknown reason, these friends suddenly fell from favor around the year 1050, and presumably on this occasion, Mauropous was appointed Metropolitan of Euchaita. In many letters, Mauropous complained of this "honorable exile", and asked his friend Psellos to urge the succeeding emperors to call him back to the capital. This seems to have succeeded at the end of Mauropous' life: he retired to the Monastery of Petra in Constantinople. Towards the end of his life he became blind and his hands paralyzed, and he was confined to bed. He reposed in peace presumably in the 1070s.

It seems that Mauropous had prepared during his lifetime a collection of his own literary works. The manuscript Vaticano Graeco 676 is a very close copy of this collection. That collection consists of ninety-nine poems (epigrams, polemical and autobiographical poems, funeral orations in verse), seventy-seven letters and thirteen speeches (with for the most part were religious in content).

Apart from these works, Mauropous composed a huge amount of liturgical canons. He wrote about 150 canons, 72 of which are dedicated to the Theotokos, 26 are dedicated to Christ, 11 are dedicated to John the Baptist, 8 to the Apostles Peter and Paul, 9 to John Chrysostom, 8 to John of Damascus, and 1 to the Guardian Angel. Mauropous has been seen as a precursor of the new cultural mentality in mid-11th century Byzantium. The typical blend of religious piety and classical culture links him with his pupil Psellos, and contemporary poets like Christopher the Patrician of Mytilene. A particular theme in his poems and letters are the vicissitudes and dangers of public life and political careers, which is not surprising given the political and social instability of this period.

Most notably, John Mauropous is known for introducing into the Orthodox Church the feast of the Three Hierarchs which is celebrated on January 30th. This common feast of these three great and profound teachers was officially instituted a little before the year 1100, during the reign of the Emperor Alexios I Komnenos, because of a dispute and strife that arose among the notable and virtuous men of that time. Some of them preferred Basil the Great, while others preferred Gregory the Theologian, and yet others preferred John Chrysostom, quarreling among themselves over which of the three was the greatest. Furthermore, each party, in order to distinguish itself from the others, assumed the name of its preferred Saint; hence, they called themselves Basilians, Gregorians, or Johannites. Desiring to bring an end to the contention, the three Saints appeared together to the saintly John Mauropous when he was Bishop of Euchaita, a city of Pontus in Asia Minor, and they revealed to him that the glory they have at the throne of God is equal, and told him to compose a common service for the three of them, which he did with great skill and beauty. This revelation and labor brought the three factions together.