John, the son of Zebedee and Salome, and the brother of James the Greater, was a fisherman who fished with his brother and father in the lake of Genesareth. It is believed that he was, for a time, a disciple of John the Baptist, but was called by Jesus to be His disciple, together with James, Peter and Andrew.
Picture left: St. John by Gustave Doré.
At the Last Supper, he was seated next to Christ, on Whose breast he leaned. It is believed that he was the "other disciple" who, with Peter, followed Jesus after his arrest. John alone remained at the foot of the Cross on Calvary (John 19:25-27), and it was he who took Mary into his care after the crucifixion. After the Resurrection, John and Peter were the first disciples to hasten to the tomb (John 20:1-10), and it was John who was the first male disciple to believe in the risen Christ (v. 8). According to tradition, all of the Apostles died as martyrs except John.
He was known as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23) and putative author of the Gospel that bears his name. He is also believed to be the author of the "Book of Revelation" and the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Letters of John. His feast day is December 27.
John's brother, James the Greater, is believed to have been the second martyr and the first Apostle who was martyred. The first martyr was St. Stephen whose feast day is December 26 (Hone); see also Hymns to St Stephen.
Some hymns on this site dedicated to Saint John the Evangelist:
In addition there are these two poems from The Poetical Works of Christina Georgina Rossetti, with a Memoir and Notes by William Michael Rossetti (1904), page 159:
Earth cannot bar flame from ascending,
Hell cannot bind light from descending,
Death cannot finish life never ending.
Eagle and sun gaze at each other,
Eagle at sun, brother at Brother,
Loving in peace and joy one another.
O St. John, with chains for thy wages,
Strong thy rock where the storm-blast rages,
Rock of refuge, the Rock of Ages.
Rome hath passed with her awful voice,
Earth is passing with all her joys,
Heaven shall pass away with a noise.
So from us all follies that please us,
So from us all falsehoods that ease us,–
Only all saints abide with their Jesus.
Jesus, in love looking down hither,
Jesus, by love draw us up thither,
That we in Thee may abide together.
'Beloved, let us love one another,' says St. John,
Eagle of eagles calling from above:
Words of strong nourishment for life to feed upon,
'Beloved, let us love.'
Voice of an eagle, yea, Voice of the Dove:
If we may love, winter is past and gone;
Publish we, praise we, for lo it is enough.
More sunny than sunshine that ever yet shone,
Sweetener of the bitter, smoother of the rough,
Highest lesson of all lessons for all to con,
'Beloved, let us love.'
There is also this poem from Catherine Winkworth:
Source: Lyra Germanica: First Series, Songs for the Household, 1855
If I will that he tarry till I come, what is
that to thee?
Follow thou Me.
From the Gospel of John, Chapter 21, Verse 22.
If Thou, True Life, wilt in me live,
Consume whate'er is not of Thee;
One look of Thine more joy can give
Than all the world can offer me.
O Jesus, be Thou mine for ever,
Nought from Thy love my heart can sever,
As Thou hast promised in Thy Word;
O deep the joy whereof I drink,
Whene'er my soul in Thee can sink,
And own her Bridegroom and her Lord!
O Heart, that glow'd with love and died,
Kindle my soul with fire divine;
Lord, in the heart Thou'st won, abide,
And all in it that is not Thine
O let me conquer and destroy,
Strong in Thy love, Thou Fount of Joy,
Nay be Thou Conqueror, Lord, in me;
So shall I triumph o'er despair,
O'er death itself Thy victory share,
Thus suffer, live, and die in Thee.
And let the fire within me move
My heart to serve Thy members here;
Let me their need and trials prove,
That I may know my love sincere
And like to Thine, Lord, pure and warm;
For when my soul hath won that form
Is likest to Thy holy mind,
Then I shall love both friends and foes,
And learn to grieve o'er others' woes,
Like Thee, my Pattern, true and kind.
The light and strength of Faith, oh grant,
That I may bring forth holy fruit,
A living branch, a blooming plant,
Fast clinking to my vine -- my root:
Thou art my Saviour, whom I trust,
My Rock, -- I build not on the dust, --
The ground of faith, eternal, sure.
When hours of doubt o'er cloud my mind,
Thy ready help then let me find,
Thy strength my sickening spirit cure!
And grant that Hope may never fail,
But anchor'd safely on Thy cross,
Through Thee who art mine All, prevail
O'er every anguish, dread, and loss.
The world may build on what decays,
O Christ, my Sun of Hope, my gaze
Cares not o'er lesser lights to range;
To Thee in love I ever cleave,
For well I know Thou ne'er wilt leave
My soul, -- Thy love can never change.
Wouldst Thou that I should tarry here,
I live because Thou willest it;
Or Death should suddenly appear.
I shall not fear him, Lord, one whit,
If but Thy life still in me live,
If but Thy death me strength shall give,
When earthly life draws near its end;
To Thee I give away my will,
In life and death remembering still
Thou wilt my good, O truest Friend.
See also: December 27 - St. John (Hone).
Concerning the martyred Apostles, see:
Crying Voice In The Wilderness: The Apostles , http://www.cryingvoice.com/Christian_martyrs/Apostles.html
All sites accessed April 2, 2006. All links open in a new window at an external site.
If you would like to help support Hymns and Carols of Christmas, please click on the button below and make a donation.