SYNAXIS OF THE HOLY POWDER (OR MANNA) WHICH EMITTED FROM THE TOMB OF SAINT JOHN THE THEOLOGIAN
Synaxis of the Holy Powder (or manna) which emitted from the tomb of Saint John the Theologian , Arsenios the Great
ST. JOHN’S FIRST UNIVERSAL LETTER 1:1-7
THAT WHICH WAS from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life – the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us – that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing this that our joy may be complete.
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
JOHN 19:25-28, 21:24-25
At that time, standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things, and who has written these things; and we know that his testimony is true. But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.
Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian
When Saint John was more than one hundred years old, he told seven of his disciples to take spades and follow him to a certain place outside the city of Ephesus, and then he told everyone to sit down while he went off to pray by himself for a while. When he returned, he told his disciples to dig a grave as long as he was tall, in the form of a cross. After giving them instructions and kissing them, he climbed into the grave and said: "Take some earth, my mother earth, and cover me."
They covered him with earth up to his knees, and he said: "Now take some more earth and cover me up to my neck."
As soon as he they had done this, Saint John spoke again: "Bring a linen cloth and place it on my face, then kiss me again for the last time, because you shall not see me anymore in this life."
After the Apostle dismissed them, they buried him and wept bitterly. Later, they returned and opened the grave, but the Saint's body was not there. They wept and returned to the city.
Every year, on May 8, a red dust appears on his grave, which heals the sick, through the prayers of the Holy Apostle John. People call this dust "manna from the earth."
Saint Augustine knew about this dust, and Saint Gregory of Tours also wrote about it. Some sources call this Feast "rodismos" (ροδισμός) i.e. Day of the Roses. Some think that this manna is called ροδής (a pink ointment, or a rose-colored dust). Others say that by this name they celebrate the roses of spring, just as we decorate the church with greenery and flowers on Pentecost.
Saint John’s principal Feast Day is September 26, but today the Church commemorates Saint John because of the annual pilgrimage to his grave.
There is a special title to be used when commemorating Saint John at the Dismissal: “The holy, glorious Apostle and Evangelist, Virgin, Beloved friend of Christ, John the Theologian.”1
1 John M. Fountoulis, Apanteseis Eis Leitourgikas Aporias (Thessalonike, 1973) pages 12 – 17.
Venerable Arsenius the Great
Saint Arsenius the Great was born in the year 354 at Rome into a pious Christian family, which provided him a fine education and upbringing. He studied rhetoric and philosophy, and mastered the Latin and Greek languages. Saint Arsenius gave up philosophy and the vanity of worldly life, seeking instead the true wisdom praised by Saint James “pure, peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits” (Jas. 3:17). He entered the ranks of the clergy as a deacon in one of the Roman churches, dedicating himself to the service of God.
The emperor Theodosius (379-395), who ruled the eastern half of the Roman Empire, heard about his erudition and piety, and he wished to entrust Arsenius with the education of his sons Arcadius and Honorius. Arsenius, however, protested that he had given up secular studies in order to serve God. Against his will, but in obedience to the will of Pope Damasus (December 11), Saint Arsenius agreed to teach the imperial children, hoping to teach them Christian piety as well.
When he arrived at Constantinople, Arsenius was received with great honor by the emperor Theodosius, who charged him to educate his sons not only in wisdom, but also in piety, guarding them from the temptations of youth. “Forget that they are the emperor’s sons,” said Theodosius, “for I want them to submit to you in all things, as to their father and teacher.”
With fervor the saint devoted himself to the education of the youths, but the high esteem in which he was held troubled his spirit, which yearned for the quietude of monastic life. Saint Arsenius entreated the Lord to show him the way to salvation. The Lord heard his prayer and one time he heard a voice telling him, “Arsenius, flee from men, and you shall be saved.” And then, removing his rich clothing and replacing it with old and tattered garments, he secretly left the palace, boarded a ship for Alexandria, and he made his way to Sketis, a monastery in the midst of the desert.
Arriving at the church, he asked the priests to accept him into the monastic brotherhood, calling himself a wretched wanderer, though his very manner betrayed him as a cultivated man. The brethren led him to Abba John the Dwarf (November 9), famed for his holiness of life. He, wishing to test the newcomer’s humility, did not seat Arsenius with the monks for the trapeza meal. He threw him a piece of dry bread saying, “Eat if you wish.” Saint Arsenius got down on his hands and knees, and picked up the bread with his mouth. Then he crawled off into a corner and ate it. Seeing this, Elder John said, “He will be a great ascetic!” Then accepting Arsenius with love, he tonsured him into monasticism.
Saint Arsenius zealously passed through his obediences and soon he surpassed many of the desert Fathers in asceticism. The saint again heard the Voice while he was praying, “Arsenius, hide from people and dwell in silence, this is the root of virtue.” From that moment Saint Arsenius settled in a solitary cell deep in the desert.
Having taken on the struggle of silence he seldom left his seclusion. He came to church only on Sundays and Feast days, observing complete silence and conversing with no one. When Abba Moses asked him why he hid himself from people, Saint Arsenius replied, “God knows that I love you, but I cannot remain with God and with men at the same time. The Heavenly Powers all have one will and praise God together. On earth, however, there are many human wills, and each man has his own thoughts. I cannot leave God in order to live with people.”
Though absorbed in constant prayer, the saint did not refuse visiting monks with his counsel and guidance, giving short, but perceptive answers to their questions. Once, a monk from Sketis saw the great Elder through a window standing at prayer, surrounded by a flame.
The handicraft of Saint Arsenius was to weave baskets, for which he used the fronds of date palms soaked in water. For a whole year Saint Arsenius did not change the water in the container, but merely added a little water to it from time to time. This caused his cell to be permeated with a foul stench. When asked why he did this, the saint replied that it was fitting for him to humble himself in this way, because in the world he had used incense and fragrant oils. He prayed that after death he would not experience the stench of hell.
The fame of the great ascetic spread far, and many wanted to see him, and they disturbed his tranquility. As a result, the saint was forced to move around from place to place. But those thirsting to receive his guidance and blessing still found him.
Saint Arsenius taught that many take upon themselves great deeds of repentance, fasting, and vigil, but it is rare for someone to guard his soul from pride, greed, jealousy, hatred of one’s brother, remembrance of wrongs, and judgment. In this they resemble graves which are decorated outwardly, but filled with stinking bones.
A certain monk once asked Saint Arsenius what he should do when he read the Holy Scriptures and did not comprehend their meaning. The Elder answered, “My child, you must study and learn the Holy Scriptures constantly, even if you do not understand their power… For when we have the words of the Holy Scriptures on our lips, the demons hear them and are terrified. Then they flee from us, unable to bear the words of the Holy Spirit Who speaks through His apostles and prophets.”
The monks heard how the saint often urged himself on in his efforts with the words, “Rouse yourself, Arsenius, work! Do not remain idle! You have not come here to rest, but to labor.” He also said, “I have often regretted the words I have spoken, but I have never regretted my silence.”
The great ascetic and keeper of silence was given the gift of tears with which his eyes were constantly filled. He spent fifty-five years at monastic labors and struggles. He spent forty years at Sketis, and ten years on the mountain of Troe near Memphis. Then he spent three years at Canopus, and two more years at Troe, where he fell asleep in the Lord.
Our holy, God-bearing Father Arsenius reposed when he was nearly one hundred years old, in the year 449 or 450.
His only disciples seem to have been Alexander, Zoilos, and Daniel (June 7).
Venerable Arsenius the Lover-of-Labor of the Kiev Far Caves
Saint Arsenius the Lover of Labor lived during the fourteenth century. This ascetic was distinguished by his love for toil, and living in asceticism in the Kiev Caves monastery of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, he knew no rest. He prayed constantly and partook of food only at the setting of the sun. For his humility and love of labor the Lord gave him the gift of wonderworking. His memory is also celebrated together with the Saints of the Far Caves on August 28.
Venerable Pimen the Ascetic of the Kiev Far Caves
Saint Pimen, Faster of the Caves, won fame by his exploit of fasting. The relics of the saint rest in the Far Caves. He is also commemorated on August 28.