Thursday, November 12, 2015

For All the Saints: John the Merciful

An interesting saint on the Orthodox calendar today: John the Merciful, Patriarch of Alexandria, who died in 619. He puts me to shame as an example of generosity and lovingkindness, so I copy some information about him here, to remind me later.

As the Orthodox calendar that I've consulted indicates: "On the day of his elevation to the Patriarchate, he ordered a careful census of his 'masters,' as he called the poor and beggars. It was found that there were 7,500 indigents in the city, and St John ordered that all of them be clothed and fed every day out of the Church's wealth…. His lack of judgment in giving to the poor sometimes dismayed those around him. Once a wily beggar came to John four times in four different disguises, receiving alms each time. When the holy Patriarch was told of this, he ordered that the man be given twice as much, saying 'Perhaps he is Jesus my Savior, who has come on purpose to put me to the test.' Still, the more generously he gave, the more generously God granted gifts to the Church, so that money was never lacking either for the poor or for the Church's own real needs. One of the clergy once gave only a third of what the Patriarch instructed to a rich man who had fallen into poverty, thinking that the Church's treasury could not afford to give so much. Saint John then revealed to him that a noblewoman who had planned to give an enormous gift to the Church had, shortly thereafter, given only a third of what she originally planned.

"Once, when he was serving the Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral, the Patriarch stopped just before the consecration, instructed the deacon to repeat the litanies, and sent for one of his clergy who bore a grudge against him and would not come to church. When the man came, the Patriarch prostrated himself before him and, with tears, begged his forgiveness. When they were reconciled, he returned to the altar and proceeded with the service."

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