« Joannes, bishop of Antioch Joannes Silentiarius, bp. of Colonia Joannes Cappadox, bp. of Constantinople »

Joannes Silentiarius, bp. of Colonia

Joannes (113), surnamed Silentiarius, bp. of Colonia and afterwards one of the most celebrated of the monks. His Life was written by Cyril of Scythopolis. He was born in 454, at Nicopolis in Armenia. His father and mother, noble and wealthy Christians, gave him a Christian education. John consecrated himself to God when 18 years old, built a church at Nicopolis in honour of the Virgin Mary, and taking ten brethren set up a monastery. In his 28th year (c. 481) the bp. of Sebastia, metropolitan of the district, at the request of the people of Colonia, consecrated him bishop of that see against his will. He continued his monastic life, specially avoiding the baths. "He thought it the greatest of all virtues never to be washed"; "determined never to be seen, even by his own eyes, without his clothes." His character had the happiest effect on his own family.

When he had been bp. ten years he went to Constantinople with an appeal to the emperor. Here he embarked on a ship unknown to his friends, made his way to Jerusalem, and dwelt there in a hospital for old men, wherein was an oratory of George the Martyr, but was supernaturally guided to the community of St. Sabas, who presided over 150 anchorets and received John, and appointed him to some petty office. A guest-house was being built; the former bp. of Colonia, the noble of the Byzantine court, fetched water from a torrent, cooked for the builders, brought stones and other materials for the work. Next year the steward appointed John to the humble duty of presiding over the kitchen. At the end of three years he was appointed steward. Sabas, ignorant of his ecclesiastical rank, considering it high time for John to be ordained, took him to Jerusalem, and introduced him to archbp. Elias. John was obliged to confess that he was a bishop. Archbp. Elias wondered at his story, summoned Sabas, and excused John from ordination, promising that from that day he should be silent and nobody should molest him. He never left his cell for four years afterwards, and was seen by none but the brothers who served him, except at the dedication of a church in the community, when he was obliged to pay his respects to archbp. Elias. The patriarch was captivated with his conversation and held him in lifelong honour. In 503 John went into the desert of Ruba. Here he remained silent about seven years, only leaving his cave every third or fourth day to collect wild apples, the usual food of the solitaries.

Sabas eventually persuaded John to return to his old community when 56 years old, A.D. 510. Here he continued to live a life that seemed to the people of those days absolutely angelical and many stories are told of his miraculous endowments. He must have died c. 558. Cyril. Mon. ap. AA. SS. Bolland. 13 Mai. iii. 232; Baron. Annal. ad ann. 457, lviii. etc.; Ceillier, xi. 277.


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