1st Tuesday of Advent
St. John Damascene
Isaiah 11: 1 – 10; Ps 72; Luke 10: 21 – 24
St. John of Damascus was a passionate defender of the true faith because he was, in his heart, a passionate lover of the Lord. We experienced his passion in the reading at Vigils this morning. Against those who saw the veneration of icons as idolatry, he defended this long practice of veneration by his wisdom and the God-given grace of his life.
What was at stake was the capacity of material things as vehicles of divine grace and the sureness of his faith that the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus – the great mystery – was the basis of such veneration. Jesus, true God and true Man is truly the image, the living icon of the invisible God. Jesus Himself in His sacred humanity gives credence to such veneration.
St. John wrote: “I do not worship matter. I worship the God of matter, who became matter for my sake and deigned to inhabit matter, who worked out my salvation through matter.”
In the Gospel Jesus speaks about the wise and the learned and John Damascene was both – a wise and learned theologian and a monk gifted with a creativity of composing hymns. But John Damascene’s wisdom and creativity were not worldly rather found in a childlike heart – the heart that lives in wonder and seeks and receives the revelation of God as a most precious gift of divine mercy.
This holy man saw in an icon, in a representation of the Lord or the Blessed Virgin or a Saint something much more than a pious picture. He saw something of the transcendent, something of the Kingdom and it touched him deeply. Faith for him was a gift of sight – sight that desires to seek more, desire more, follow more the One who gives the sight – the One who always draws and leads into Himself.
May St. John Damascene intercede for us as we make our own journey of faith – of seeing, of hearing, of following until we come into the fullness of the Kingdom, into the face to face experience of God which our God with passion desires for us.