Monday, March 13, 2023

John of Damascus

John of Damascus (c. 675―749) is a Byzantine Greek monk, priest, theologian and poet ― born and raised in Damascus, but who lived most of his life in monasteries near Jerusalem.

He is particularly known for his defense of the use of icons. Images of Christ and of the saints were, and continue to be, central to Orthodox worship. This was against the iconoclastic campaigns Emperor Leo III started in 726. John of Damascus argued, that although the Old Testament prohibited graven images, when Christ came in the flesh as “the image of the invisible God” such restrictions were no longer applicable. His writings played a significant role during the Second Council of Nicaea (787), which convened to settle this dispute.

The following is an excerpt from Christopher Childers' translation of “Paschal Canon” which can be read in its entirety in the new anthology To Heaven’s Rim: The Kingdom Poets Book of World Christian Poetry, Beginnings to 1800, in English Translation, which was edited by Burl Horniachek. I am fortunate enough to have worked alongside Burl in the completion of this significant work.

from Paschal Canon

The day of resurrection, may all God’s people brim
------------------with light. The Lord’s Passover!
From out of death to life, from Earth to heaven’s rim,
------------------we’re borne by the Prime Mover
our God Christ, as we sing out his victory hymn.

May all our senses be perfected; may we see,
------------------in resurrection’s sheer
untouchable brightness, Christ the Lightning, and may we
------------------perceive His voice, and hear
His ringing welcome, while we hymn His victory.

Let fitting celebrations exalt the smiling skies;
------------------let raptures seize the earth.
Let all the seen and unseen cosmos melt in cries
------------------of universal mirth.
The transport of the ages, Christ, awakes to rise.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Wipf & Stock.