Joannicus was born in Bithynia in A.D. 754 and died on this day in 846. He was a soldier until he was forty years old but then left the army and devoted his life to asceticism and penitence, at first as a hermit and later as abbot, healer and spiritual guide. He was the founder of many monasteries and became one of the most influential monastics of the 9th century, earning the epithet ‘the Great.’ He was also a fervent defender of the veneration of icons in the midst of the iconoclast persecution of the monks that followed the 7th Œcumenical Council.
The Emperor Theophilus, who reigned from 829 to 842, the most fanatical of the iconoclast emperors, beginning to doubt his heresy in the last year of his life, asked St Joannicus’s counsel. The saint replied, ‘Whoever refuses due honour to the images of Christ, of the Mother of God and of the Saints will not be received into the kingdom of heaven, even if he has lived an otherwise blameless life. As those who treat images of the Emperor with disrespect are severely punished, so those who dishonour the image of Christ will be cast into everlasting fire.’
With the restoration of the veneration of icons by the Empress Theodora in 843, St Methodius, Patriarch of Constantinople, spent the next years restoring order in the Church, disciplining those of the clergy who had fallen into the iconoclast heresy but showing leniency to those ready to repent. This policy of moderation was unacceptable to some of the more rigid iconophiles, including the monks of the Studium Monastery in Constantinople. St Joannicus, who was a friend of St Methodius’s, therefore came to Constantinople and lent his great influence to the policy of lenience.
Occasional comments by a convert to Orthodoxy.