The Life of St. John the Theologian – Chapter 2

5 September 12

The Life and Struggles of the
Holy Apostle and Evangelist
John the Theologian


The following was recorded by St. Prochorus, one of the seven Deacons, concerning the holy apostle and Evangelist, the beloved John the Theologian.


“To me Prochorus fell the lot to follow after John. Following the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord, John stayed on in Jerusalem near the Theotokos, and was a support to the Christians there. After the dormition of the Theotokos we departed Jerusalem for Joppa, and abode there in the house of Tabitha. A ship came in from Egypt, laden with fabrics, and unloaded its cargo before continuing westward. So we took ship in Joppa and put to sea, remaining in the hold of the ship. John then began to weep and said to me: ‘Prochorus my child, great tribulation and perils await me at sea, which will sorely afflict my soul. However, whether I shall live or be slain by this danger, God hath not revealed unto me. Nevertheless, if thou survivest the sea, make thy way to the city of Ephesus in Asia, and tarry there for three months. If, at the end of that interval, I reach that city, we will continue our mission; but if I fail to arrive, then return to Jerusalem, to James, the Lord’s brother; and whatever he commandeth thee, that do.’ Indeed it happened that a great tempest arose at the tenth hour of the day [4:00 P.M.], and continued into the night until 3:00 A.M., when the ship foundered, and all therein were cast into the waves of the sea, catching hold of whatever wreckage they were able. At the sixth hour of the day [12:00 noon], the sea cast all of us, that is forty-two souls, upon the shore about a mile from Seleucia. Only the holy John was missing at sea.

We all lay supine on the dry land. It was impossible for us to speak one with another, so overcome were we by hunger, fear, and exertion, that we lay there from the sixth to the ninth hour [3:00 P.M.] Little by little we came to ourselves and went into Seleucia. After the trauma of the shipwreck, we sought bread from the inhabitants, and thus we ate. Gradually, our fear subsided, and the others who were stranded with me began to rise up against me, saying evil things: ‘That fellow who was with thee was a magician and cast a spell upon us, that he might lay hold of the ship’s cargo! Now that he hath pirated it and disappeared we know not what hath happened. And because thou wast together with him, we will not permit thee to leave this city, because thou art deserving of death. Tell us where that fraud is! Behold, al from the ship hath survived, save for that fellow. Where is he?’ The men then began to incite the entire city against me, filling them with the tale. I was therefore arrested and put into jail. The following day, the governor of the city brought me to a public place and commenced to question me harshly: ‘Who art thou? Of what religion art thou? What is thine occupation? What is thy name? Tell us everything now before we punish thee,’ I answered in my defense: ‘I am from Judaea. I belong to the Christian Faith. I name is Prochorus. I and my fellow passengers, my accusers, have been shipwrecked.’ The civic magistrate inquired: ‘How is it that all of you have reached land, except thy companion? Wherefore, it must be as the other claim, that ye conspired that only thyself might be found among the seamen, that none might suspect, while the other would seize the money and cargo. Therefore, thou art a criminal, guilty of shedding innocent blood, and worthy of death. Indeed, it is for this, perhaps, that thy partner hath been swallowed up by the sea, and divine justice spared thee that thou mightest find find thine end in this city? Therefore, tell us exactly where thy partner is?’

“When I heard this, I told them, weeping and wailing: ‘I am a Christian, a disciple of an apostle of the Christ. The Lord gaveth the command to His twelve apostles to go throughout the world, teaching and baptizing in the name of  the Father, and of the Sin, ad of the Holy Spirit. After Christ ascended into the heavens, all of the apostles gathered together and chose lots to show where each was ordained by God to preach. My teacher, John, chose the lot for Asia Minor and at that time, perceived that it would be exceedingly difficult; and, since he hesitated, it was also revealed to him that he sinned in so doing and would be chastised by the sea. He told me all this beforehand, and it happened exactly as he said it would. He also told me that, in whatever place I landed, I should remain there for a certain number of days, and, if he came, we would fulfill our Teacher;s command; however, if he did not come after a certain period of time, I was to return to my homeland, Judaea. As you can see, my teacher is not a sorcerer, nor am I; we are Christians.’

“It so happened at that time that an official, Seleucus, who held the rank of notarius, arrived from Antioch on official business. He also heard my case and ordered the magistrate to release me. Therefore, I was set at liberty, and so I left the city. I walked for forty days until I reached Mareotis, which is by the sea. Nearby the shore stood the inn in which I was sojourning. There I remained, in great sorrow and affliction. Afterwards, I grew weary and slept, and just as I opened my eyes, I gazed out towards the sea, and behold! a great wave broke upon the shore and cast forth a man. I hastened quickly to assist him, still having fresh in my mind my own harrowing experience at sea. As I raised him up from the sand, we recognized each other and embraced, crying aloud and giving thanks to the God of all. As John gradually came to himself, we each told the other his experiences. He recounted for me the forty days and nights he spent in the sea, being violently tossed about, I, in turn, told him what I had suffered at the hands of my fellow castaways.

“After this, we entered into Mareotis seeking bread and water, and there we ate and drank. We then took the road to Ephesus and, when we arrived in the city, we sojourned at a spot called ‘the place of Artemidus.’ Close by this place was the residence of the chief person of the city, Discorides. John turned ot me and said, ‘Prochorus y child, for now let none of the inhabitants of this city know who we are or our business, until God shall reveal it to us, that we may proceed boldly.’ As he spoke a rather stout woman was approaching. She was apparently the caretaker of the bath. Because she was so obese, she had no offspring, like the sterile mule. On account of her strength, this woman was wont to mistreat her servants at the bath-house, and she would strike them with her hands. Therefore, none dared to be lax in his duties for fear of her. It was said of her that she went to war and cast stones, and not one missed its mark. One would think she would be sober-minded on account of her physical appearance, but quite the contrary, she further disfigured it with cosmetics and by painting her eyebrows. So exaggerated was this that to some she would appear cheerful, but to the more discerning onlooker, one eye appeared reproachful and the other appeared to indulge in license. This woman’s name was Romana.

“When she came out of the bathing hose establishment, she noticed out humble appearance and came over to us where we were sitting, all the while thinking to herself: ‘These foreigners have need of food. Perhaps they can be useful to me in the bath-house, and will not make heavy demands for high pay; and out of fear of me they will not be negligent in their work.’ She spoke to John first saying: ‘Where art thou from, man?’ John answered: ‘I am from a foreign country.’ Romana continued: ‘Which one?’ He answered: ‘Judaea.’ She persisted: ‘What is thy religion?’ The apostle replied: ‘My roots are from Judaism, but I am by grace a Christian, and I have suffered shipwreck.’ Romana then asked: ‘Dost thou wish to enter my employ to maintain the fie in the public bath? In return, I shall provide thy food and for thine other bodily necessities.’ John answered: ‘I can do that.’ The woman then addressed me: ‘And where art thou from?’ But John answered: ‘He is my brother.’ Romana then said: ‘I can use him too. I need a bath-attendant to fetch water for the bathers.’ Therefore she gave us our daily food, approximately two pounds of bread, and spending money for the rest of our needs.

“After four days of our employment in the bath house, John, inexperienced on the job, stood thinking to himself ear the furnace, when Romana happened to come in. She saw John standing about and struck him with such a blow that he fell prostrate to the ground. She yelled: ‘Fugitive, exile, embezzler, useless! If thou art unqualified, why didst thou accept the job? I will put an end to thy knavish trickery. Thu camest to work for Romana, whose reputation has been heard of in Rome. Thou art my servant, mischief-maker, and thou wilt not be able to leave here, because if thou dost leave, I will seek thee out in every place and, when I find thee, I shall slay thee. When thou eatest and drinkest then thou art merry, but when it comes ot work art thou overcome by laziness? Better change thy ways, wicked one, for thou art Romana’s servant!’

“After Romana left the bath-house and went to her house I, who had heard everything and witnessed the blows she dealt him, became sorrowful and worried, though we were not many days in her employ. I did not reveal my thoughts to John; nevertheless, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, he perceived my distress, and said to me: ‘Prochorus my child, thou knowest the calamitous shipwreck that befell us because I wavered in my thoughts at Jerusalem; and not only because of this, but fr other sins that I have committed unknowingly. Indeed, for this reason I passed forty days and nights in the sea, until it pleased god that I be deposited on dry land. And now thou art grieved and hast lost thy hope because of the petty temptation of a silly woman and her cold-hearted threats? Go, to thy work, which thou hast agreed to do and be industrious; for our Lord and Creator, Jesus Christ was smitten, spat upon, lashed and crucified, by those whom He created. This is an example unto us to spur us always to bear good-will; for He said unto us: ‘In your patience possess ye your souls.’ Thus did John speak to me; so I heeded and went out to do the task appointed by Romana.

“The following day, very early in the morning, Romana came again and said to John: ‘If thou hast need of more food, tell me, and I will give it to thee; only be careful in thy work.’ John said to her: ‘The food and other provisions are sufficient for us; and I ill attend to my work.’ Romana then asked him: ‘Why is it that all accuse thee of being incompetent in thy work?’ John answered: ‘In the beginning I made mistakes, but with the passage of only a short time, thou wilt learn that I am apt; for all the trades are a little difficult for apprentices.’ Then she departed for her home. A wicked demon, however, assumed the appearance of Romana and, standing before John, said: ‘Again I shall chastise thee, , runaway, for thou hast turned my work upside down! I can no longer endure thee! Fire the furnace that I may cast thee inside! I do not want to look upon thee any longer! Depart and get thee from hence, offensive plotter, and take thine abettor with thee! Return to thy home where they cast thee out because of thy misdeeds!’ The devil then laid hold of one of the irons of the furnace and threatened John saying: ‘I will slay thee perverse one! Get thee away from here! I no loner want thee in my service! Depart or I will deal thee a deadly blow!’ By the grace of the Holy Spirit, John knew that the words and actions were those of the devil who dwelt in the bath-house. Therefore, he invoked the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and expelled the demon forthwith.

“The following day Romana came into the bath-house and said to John: ‘Again there are complaints that thou art not careful in thy work. Now this is deliberate, for thou seekest a pretext whereby I might discharge thee. But this is not going to happen, not now or in the future, because from the punishments that I will mete out , thou wilt be rendered useless.’ Through all this, John did not utter a word. She observed his patience, meekness, and calm demeanor, and thought he was a peasant and lacking in education. To further try him, she spoke harshly and threatened: ‘Art thou not my servant, O mischievous one?’ John answered: ‘Yea we art thy servants-I, John the fireman, and Prochorus the water man.’

“Now Romana had a friend who was a lawyer and, seeking his legal opinion, she told him a lie: ‘My parents reposed, leaving me two slaves who, after many years, ran away from my house. Therefore, I destroyed the certificates of their purchase. Now they have returned to my house and acknowledge themselves to be my slaves. Is it possible to draw up duplicate papers of ownership?’ The attorney  replied: ‘If they admit now, before three witnesses, that they were once thy slaves, it is possible to make new papers.’ Through the Holy Spirit this entire scheme was revealed to John, and he said to me: ‘Prochorus my child, Romana seeks for us to make a written acknowledgement that we are her slaves and she went to see a lawyer about the matter. He has agreed to whatever she hath chosen to tell him. Now she is looking for three witnesses who will certify that we are her slaves. Therefore, let no sadness enter thine heart, but rather rejoice; for by this will our Lord Jesus Christ reveal everything to this woman, as to who we are.’ Just then Romana entered the bath-house and, grasping John by the arm, she began to rain blows down upon him, and said: ‘Wicked servant, runaway! When thy mistress entereth, thou must greet her and do reverence! Mayhaps thou didst imagine thou wast a freeman? Know this: thou art Romana’s slave!’ And, once again, she slapped him to scare him, and said: ‘Thou art not my servant, runaway!’ And John said: ‘But thou hast said otherwise, that we are thy servants. I am John the fireman, ad this is Prochorus the water man.’ Romna again asked: ‘Whose servants are you, O wicked ones?’ John answered: ‘Whomever thou desirest to say.’ She replied: ‘That ye are mine.’ John then said: ‘Written down or not, we admit that we are thy servants.’ Then she quickly said: ‘I want it in writing before three witnesses.’ John told er: ‘Do not tarry; let us take care of the matter today.’ She then took us before the temple of Artemis and, in the presence of three witnesses, she wrote out or papers of sale. Then we returned to our work.

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