ܕܡܪܥܝܬܐ ܕܐܘܚܕ̈ܢܐ ܡܥܪ̈ܒܝܐ ܕܐܡܝܪܟܐ
|St. John Bar Aphtonya, November 08|
John bar Aphtonya is unquestionably one of the eminent, eloquent, and noble monks and abbots of Edessa. Generous, and chivalrous, he was born the fifth child among his brothers, shortly after the death of his father. Thus he was raised by his virtuous mother. After receiving some learning, she had him enter the Monastery of St. Thomas in Seleucia while he was still very young, motivated by piety and true faith. At the monastery he was trained in the monastic life and studied religious and logical sciences. The magnanimous and commendable character as well as the beautiful virtues he showed after assuming the monastic habit and after his consecration as a priest, turned attention to him; and as a result, he was chosen to head his brethren the monks. Despite the afflictions which befell the monastery because of the tyranny of Justin I in 521, he administered the monastery with utmost patience and wisdom. Later, he moved with his monks to the Jazira on the left bank of the Euphrates opposite Europas (Jarabulus), where he founded in 530 a monastery on the site known as the Monastery of Qinnesrin (The Eagles' Nest) or the Monastery of Bar Aphtonya. This monastery became a very famous institution for monasticism and for the sciences of philology, philosophy and theology. From it graduated the most illustrious Syrian scholars. In the year 533-534, Bar Aphtonya journeyed to Constantinople, where he served as a secretary to an ecclesiastical council held in that city. He died at his monastery on the 8th of November, 538, at the age of fifty-five. He is commemorated by the Church.
The Abbot John was well-versed in Syriac and in Greek. In Greek he wrote a commentary on the book Song of Songs and a treatise on the doctrine which the Orthodox submitted to the Emperor Justinian. He also composed five eloquent maniths (poets) on the miracles of Christ the Lord; a hymn on the mystical Washing of the Feet; a hymn on the Himyarite martyrs; nine hymns on the Nativity of Our Lord and on the Resurrection; three hymns eulogizing Severus of Antioch and a hymn for burying the dead. He is also thought to have composed three antiphons for the reception of the Holy Eucharist.223 His writings were translated into Syriac. To him was also ascribed the lengthy biography of Severus which, in fact, does not belong to him. (The History of Syriac Literture and Sciences, Patriarch Ignatius Ephrem Barsoum, Prasseggiata Press, p 96)