JOHN was born of a noble family at Nicopolis, in Armenia, in the year 454; but he derived from the virtue of his parents a much more illustrious nobility than that of their pedigree. After their death, he built at Nicopolis a church in honor of the Blessed Virgin, as also a monastery, in which, with ten fervent companions, he shut himself up when only eighteen years of age, with a view of making the salvation and most perfect sanctification of his soul his only and earnest pursuit. Not only to shun the danger of sin by the tongue, but also out of sincere humility and contempt of himself, and the love of interior recollection and prayer, he very seldom spoke; and when obliged to, it was always in a very few words, and with great discretion.
To his extreme affliction, when he was only twenty-eight years old, the Archbishop of Sebaste obliged him to quit his retreat, and ordained him Bishop of Colonian in Armenia, in 482. In this dignity John preserved always the same spirit, and, as much as was compatible with the, duties of his charge, continued his monastic austerities and exercises. Whilst he was watching one night in prayer, he saw before him a bright cross formed in the air, and heard a voice which said to him, “If thou desirest to be saved, follow this light.” It seemed to move before him, and at length point out to the monastery of St. Sabas. Being satisfied what the sacrifice was which God required at his hands, he found means to abdicate the episcopal charge, and retired to the neighboring monastery of St. Sabas, which at that time contained one hundred and fifty fervent monks. St. John was then thirty-eight years old.
After living there unknown for some years, fetching water, carrying stones, and doing other menial work, St. Sabas, judging him worthy to be promoted to the priesthood, presented him to the Patriarch Elias. St. John took the patriarch aside, and, having obtained from him a promise of secrecy, said, “Father, I have been ordained bishop; but on account of the multitude of my sins have fled, and am come into this desert to wait the visit of the Lord.” The patriarch was startled, but God revealed to St. Sabas the state of the affair, whereupon, calling for John, he complained to him of his unkindness in concealing the matter from him. Finding himself discovered, John wished to quit the monastery, nor could St. Sabas prevail on him to stay, but on a promise never to divulge the secret.
In the year 503, St. John withdrew into a neigh, boring wilderness, but in 510 went back to the monastery, and confined himself for forty years to his cell. St. John, by his example and counsels, conducted many fervent souls to God, and continued to emulate, as much as this mortal state will allow, the glorious employment of the heavenly spirits in an uninterrupted exercise of love and praise, till he passed to their blessed company, soon after the year 558; having lived seventy-six years in the desert, which had only been interrupted by the nine years of his episcopal dignity.
Reflection.—A love of Christian silence is a proof that a soul makes it her chiefest delight to be occupied on God, and finds no comfort like that of conversing with Him. This is the paradise of all devout souls.