The Last Father

Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. John Damascene. For many years I have considered him the patron saint of my computer. Of course, I’m the same guy who thinks Blessed Kateri Takeitwithya is the patroness of fast food restaurants!

Actually, St. John Damascene (died c. 750 A.D.), priest and monk, is considered the last of the Greek Fathers and one of the greatest. He was also named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII because of the timeless excellence of his writings.

Perhaps his most famous work is An Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, which is considered his theological masterpiece. He is known for his defense of sacred images against the Iconoclasts in the decades leading up to the Second Council of Nicea.

St. John Damascene has several extant homilies and other writings on the Blessed Virgin Mary that are of interest to me. In particular, he wrote three homilies on the Dormitian, or “falling asleep” of Mary, that provide patristic support for the dogma of the Assumption. Here’s a beautiful quote from one of those homilies:

“Even though your most holy and blessed soul was separated from your most happy and immaculate body, according to the usual course of nature, and even though it was carried to a proper burial place, nevertheless it did not remain under the dominion of death, nor was it destroyed by corruption.

“Indeed, just as her virginity remained intact when she gave birth, so her body, even after death, was preserved from decay and transferred to a better and more divine dwelling place. There it is no longer subject to death but abides for all ages.”

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