Saint John the Merciful, Patriarch of Alexandria was born in Cyprus to an illustrious family where he married and had children. After some years, his wife and children died, and so the widower became a monk, zealous in fasting, prayer, and charity. His immense virtue was soon seen by all men, including the emperor, who elevated him to Patriarch of Alexandria as soon as the see became vacant. In this position, Saint John focused on correcting heretical teachings and driving out heretics from Alexandria. As his chief task however, the saint was adamant on serving the poor and destitute. He compiled a list of all the poor and oppressed in Alexandria, numbering over a thousand men. He then ordered that these people be provided for at the expense of the church’s treasury. Every Wednesday and Friday, Saint John received all those in need, settling quarrels, helping the falsely accused, and distributing alms. The other days of the week, he visited the houses of sick people and helped them in any way he could. At this time, Jerusalem was ravaged and burned by Persian invaders, and many of the faithful were taken captive. The generous saint gave a huge sum from the church treasury for the ransom of his people. Saint John was known for his gentleness and meek attitude towards people, even pausing the liturgy at one point when he remembered that a fellow clergy member was upset with him, and asked for his forgiveness in front of the whole congregation. One famous story about Saint John is when his nephew was insulted and sought vengeance. He asked his uncle the Patriarch to avenge him and he agreed. The “punishment” for the man who had insulted the Patriarch’s nephew was excused from paying rent for his house for the whole year. Such was the love of the saint, who believed in forgiving offences rather than retaliating. After having sailed to his native Cyprus, the Merciful Patriarch reposed in peace.
Ἦχος πλ. δ’.
Ἐν τῇ ὑπομονῇ σου ἐκτήσω τὸν μισθόν σου Πάτερ, Ὅσιε, ταῖς προσευχαῖς ἀδιαλείπτως ἐγκαρτερήσας, τοὺς πτωχοὺς ἀγαπήσας, καὶ τούτοις ἐπαρκέσας· Ἀλλὰ πρέσβευε Χριστῷ τῷ Θεῷ, Ἰωάννη Ἐλεῆμον μακάριε, σωθῆναι τὰς ψυχὰς ἡμῶν.
Ἦχος β’. Τὰ ἄνω ζητῶν.
Τὸν πλοῦτον τὸν σόν, ἐσκόρπισας τοῖς πένησι, καὶ τῶν οὐρανῶν, τὸν πλοῦτον νῦν ἀπείληφας, Ἰωάννη πάνσοφε· διὰ τοῦτο πάντες σε γεραίρομεν, ἐκτελοῦντες τήν μνήμην σου, τῆς ἐλεημοσύνης ὦ ἐπώνυμε.
By endurance you gained your reward, venerable Father; / you persevered in prayer unceasingly; / you loved the poor and provided for them in all things. / Blessed John the Merciful, intercede with Christ God that our souls may be saved.
You distributed your wealth to the poor / and in return obtained wealth from heaven, John the Merciful. / Therefore, we honor you and celebrate your memory, O namesake of mercy.