Saint John of the Ancient Caves
April 19 is the Commemoration of Saint John of the Ancient Caves.
Saint John of the Ancient Caves is so called because he lived during the eighth century in the Lavra of St Chariton. This was called the “Old,” or ancient cave, since it was one the oldest of the Palestinian monasteries. The Lavra was situated not far from Bethlehem, near the Dead Sea.
St John in his early years left the world, went to venerate the holy places of Jerusalem, and settled at the Lavra, where he labored in fasting, vigil, and prayer. He was ordained to the holy priesthood, and glorified by his ascetic life.
The Greek term lavra was employed from the fifth century on specifically for the semi-eremitical monastic settlements of the Judean desert, where lauras were very numerous. The first lauras of Palestine were founded by St. Chariton (born 3rd century, died ca. 350): the Laura of Pharan (northeast of Jerusalem), the Laura of Douka (northeast of Jericho) and Souka Laura or Old Laura in the area of Tekoa. Saint Euthymius the Great (377-473) founded one of the early Lavras in fifth-century Palestine. The Lavra of Saint Sabbas the Sanctified (†532), known as Mar Saba, is one of the most ancient and almost continuously functioning monasteries in the Christian world.