St John the Silent bishop of Colonia of St Sabbas Monastery
Commemorated on December 3 and March 30
When John had been living in silence for four years, our venerable father Sabbas went to Scythopolis, where he dwelt for a long time. Wishing to live in the most remote part of the wilderness, John departed for the desert of Rouba, where he remained for nine years. He was almost fifty years old at this time. While living there he ate only the plant called melagria. Once he went out to gather it and returning, lost his way. Weakened by much walking, he collapsed and was near death. Suddenly he was lifted up into the air by God’s power, like the prophet Habakkuk, and set down before his cave. Later the godly one traced the path he had taken and found that he had become lost about four miles from the cave.
Not long after this a brother came and lived with him. When the feast of Pascha drew near, the brother said to the elder, “Father, let us return to the lavra. We have nothing to eat on the great feast except melagria.”
Saint John did not wish to go, because the godly Sabbas had not returned to the lavra from Scythopolis. He answered, “There is no reason for us to leave, Brother. We must believe that He Who fed the people of Israel for forty years as they wandered in the desert will also feed us, sending us not only bare necessities, but much more. It is said in the Scriptures, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee, and, Take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? Or, What shall we drink? For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Have patience, child, as you walk the way of sorrow. Those who give rest to their bodies here prepare eternal punishment for themselves, while the mortification of the flesh leads to unending repose.“
The brother, however, was unwilling to heed the godly one’s words, and set off for the lavra. After his departure a stranger came to John leading an ass loaded with various delicacies: warm fresh bread, wine, oil, fresh cheese, eggs, and a pailful of honey. The man left all these things with the saint and immediately disappeared. The venerable one understood that God had visited him, and joyfully gave thanks to the Lord. Meanwhile, the brother who had left for the lavra became lost and wandered for three days in the desert. Utterly exhausted, hungry and thirsty, he barely succeeded in making his way back to John’s cave. When he saw what manner and quantity of food God had sent the blessed one for the feast, he marveled, and because of his lack of faith, was ashamed to look the saint in the face. Falling at the elder’s feet, he asked forgiveness. John pardoned him, saying, “Know, Brother, that God can indeed prepare a table for His servants who dwell in the wilderness.”