The Three Hierarchs are considered the Patron Saints of education and culture, because they used the art of education and the Greek classics to teach about God. Honored as Doctors of the Church, Sts. Basil, Gregory and John were intellectual giants of equal stature, serving God and man with an equally high level of devotion and spirit.
Ephrem Syrus (d. 373) mentions a Feast dedicated the saints in his writings. St. Chrysostom of Constantinople (d. 407) was the first Christian we know of to assign the Feast to a particular day: the first Sunday after Pentecost.1 The Feast did not become established in the Western Church, however, until the Roman bishop Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to Christian usage as a church on May 13, 609 or 610.2 The Feast was observed annually on this date until the time of Bishop of Rome, Gregory III (d. 741) when its observance was shifted to Nov. 1, since on this date Gregory dedicated a chapel in the Basilica of St. Peter's to "All the Saints." It was Gregory IV (d. 844), who in 835 ordered the Feast of All Saints to be universally observed on Nov. 1.3
As mentioned above, All Saints Day is celebrated by Roman Catholics, the Orthodox, Anglicans, and Lutherans However, because of their differing understandings of the identity and function of the saints, what these churches do on the Feast of All Saints differs widely. For Roman Catholics, the Orthodox, and to some extent, Anglicans, All Saints is a day to remember, thank God for, but also to venerate and pray to the saints in heaven for various helps. For Lutherans the day is observed by remembering and thanking God for all saints, both dead and living. It is a day to glorify Jesus Christ, who by his holy life and death has made the saints holy through Baptism and faith.
St. John's is the only saint's birthday celebrated throughout the church calendar year. St. John is remembered on three other days as well, but they all deal with the discovery of his Holy relics.
His father, Zacharias, a Hebrew priest, was struck dumb by the Archangel Gabriel at the altar when he would not believe the archangel's news that his wife Elizabeth (a very old woman) would conceive a son. He got his voice back when writing, on the day of the child's circumcision, that his name would be John. When Herod sent soldiers to kill the infants in Jerusalem in search of Jesus, St. John also was at risk. Elizabeth hid the baby, and in anger Herod had Zacharias killed near the temple. Elizabeth hid in a cave with the baby and died when he was forty days old. St. John remained in the wilderness where he was raised by angels. The presence of St. John and his disciples was not felt until about one year before the beginning of the ministry of Jesus. He preached repentance in the wilderness and not the cities, and the crowds came to him. He is known as the Baptist and Forerunner of Christ, because of his role in preparing the people for the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
The son of Jonah and brother of Andrew the First-Called, of the tribe of Simeon and the town of Bethsaida, he was a fisherman and was at first called Simon, but the Lord was pleased to call him Cephas, or Peter (Jn 1:42). He was the first of the disciples to give clear expression to his faith in the Lord Jesus, saying: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God" (Mt 16:16). His love for the Lord was very strong, and his faith in Him went from strength to strength.
When the Lord was put on trial, Peter denied him three times, but it needed only one look into the face of the Lord, and Peter's soul was filled with shame and repentance. After the descent of the Holy Spirit, Peter became a fearless and powerful preacher of the Gospel. After his first sermon in Jerusalem, about 3,000 souls were converted to the Faith. He preached the Gospel throughout Palestine and Asia Minor, in Italy and Illyria. He performed many wonders, healing the sick and raising the dead, and even his shadow had the power of healing the sick. He had a major struggle with Simon the Magician, who declared himself to be from God but was actually a servant of the devil. He finally put him to shame and overcame him.
Peter was condemned to death on the order of the wicked Emperor Nero, a friend of Simon's. After installing Linus as Bishop of Rome and exhorting and encouraging the flock of Christ there, Peter went to his death with joy. When he saw the cross before him, he asked the executioner to crucify him upside-down, because he felt himself unworthy to die in the same way as his Lord. And so this great servant of the greatest Master went to his rest and received a crown of eternal glory.
THE HOLY APOSTLE PAUL
Born in Tarsus and of the tribe of Benjamin, he was formerly called Saul and studied under Gamaliel. He was a Pharisee and a persecutor of Christians. He was wondrously converted to the Christian faith by the Lord Himself, who appeared to him on the road to Damascus. He was baptized by the Apostle Ananias, named Paul and enrolled in the work of the Great Apostles.
He preached the Gospel everywhere with burning zeal, from the borders of Arabia to the land of Spain, among both the Jews and the heathen, and receiving the title of "The Apostle to the Gentiles." His fearful sufferings were matched only by his superhuman endurance. Through all the years of his preaching, he hung from day to day like a thread between life and death.
Filling his days and nights with toil and sufferings for Christ, organizing the Church in many places and receiving a high level of perfection, he was able to say: "I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me" (Gal 2:20). He was beheaded in Rome in the reign of Nero, at the same time as St. Peter.
June 19/July 2
CELEBRATED ON THE SATURDAY CLOSEST TO JULY 2ND
TROPARION tone 5
Lo, thy care for thy flock during its sojourn /
prefigured thy supplications which are ever offered up for the whole world: /
Thus do we believe, having come to know thy love, /
O holy hierarch and wonderworker John. /
Wholly sanctified by the sacred celebration of the all-pure Mysteries, /
whereby thou wast thyself ever strengthened, /
thou didst hasten unto the suffering, O gladsome healer. /
Hasten thou now also to the aid of us /
who honor thee with all our hearts.
KONTAKION tone 4
Thy heart hath gone out unto all who entreat thee with love, /
O holy hierarch John, /
and remember the struggle of thy whole industrious life /
and thy painless and easy repose, /
O faithful servant of the all-pure Directress.