Saint John lived in Egypt in the fourth century, and is mentioned in the Life of St Onuphrius.
he had buried St Onuphrius, St Paphnutius came upon an oasis which
impressed him with its beauty and abundance of fruit-bearing trees. Four
youths inhabiting this place came to him from out of the wilderness.
The youths told Abba Paphnutius that in their childhood they had lived
in the city of Oxyrhynchus (Upper Thebaid) and they had studied
together. They had burned with the desire to devote their lives to God.
Making their plans to go off into the desert, the young men left the
city and after several days’ journey, they reached this place.
man radiant with heavenly glory met them and led them to a desert Elder.
“We have lived here six years already,” said the youths. “Our Elder
dwelt here one year and then he died. Now we live here alone, we eat the
fruit of the trees, and we have water from a spring.” The youths gave
him their names, they were Sts John, Andrew, Heraclemon and Theophilus
The youths struggled separately the whole week long,
but on Saturday and Sunday they gathered at the oasis and offered up
common prayer. On these days an angel would appear and commune them with
the Holy Mysteries. This time however, for Abba Paphnutius’ sake, they
did not go off into the desert, but spent the whole week together at
prayer. On the following Saturday and Sunday St Paphnutius together with
the youths was granted to receive the Holy Mysteries from the hands of
the angel and to hear these words, “Receive the Imperishable Food,
unending bliss and life eternal, the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus
Christ, our God.”
St Paphnutius made bold to ask the angel for
permission to remain in the desert to the end of his days. The angel
replied that God had decreed another path for him. He was to return to
Egypt and tell the Christians of the life of the desert-dwellers.
bid farewell to the youths, St Paphnutius reached the edge of the
wilderness after a three day journey. Here he found a small skete, and
the brethren received him with love. Abba Paphnutius related everything
that he had learned about the holy Fathers whom he had encountered in
the desert. The brethren wrote a detailed account of what St Paphnutius
said, and deposited it in the church, where all who wished to do so
could read it. St Paphnutius gave thanks to God, Who had granted him to
learn about the exalted lives of the hermits of the Thebaid, and he
returned to his own monastery.
These Saints are also commemorated on June 12 with St Onuphrius.