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Hymns of the Eastern Church
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S. John Damascene.

+ circ. A.D. 780

S. John Damascene has the double honour of being the last but one of the Fathers of the Eastern Church, and the greatest of her poets. It is surprising, however, how little is known of his life. That he was born of a good family at Damascus,—that he made great progress in philosophy,—that he administered some charge under the Caliph,—that he retired to the monastery of S. Sabas, in Palestine,—that he was the most learned and eloquent writer with whom the Iconoclasts had to contend,—that at a comparatively late period of life he was ordained Priest of the Church of Jerusalem, and that he died after 754, and before 787, seems to comprise all that has reached us of his biography. His enemies, from an unknown reason, called him Mansur: 1010He was called Ibn-Mansur, from the name of his father.—Assemani, Bib. Orient. ii. 97. R. F. L. whether he were the same with John Arklas, also an ecclesiastical poet, is not so certain.

As a poet, he had a principal share in the Octoechus, of which I have already spoken. His three great canons are those on Easter, the Ascension, and S. Thomas’s Sunday, the first and third of which I shall give either wholly or in part. Probably, however, many of the Idiomela and Stichera which are scattered about the office-books under the title of John and John the Hermit, are his. His eloquent defence of Icons has deservedly procured him the title of The Doctor of Christian Art.


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