St. John (Hovhannes) of Odzun, who has also been recognised as “the Philosopher”, is one of the greatest fathers of the Armenian Church. According to hagiographers, he possessed both spiritual and mental brilliance. During the 11 years of his reign (717-728), Catholicos Hovhannes managed to withstand Byzantine and Arab pressures and incursions, while struggling against sects. Hovhannes of Odzun endowed to us a rich and priceless literary legacy. His work entitled “Canons of the Armenians” is the first voluminous collection in Armenian history, which contains ecclesiastical canons and laws. He is also famous as the author of numerous sermons and church hymns. Among the most important initiatives undertaken by Catholicos Hovhannes of Odzun, is the church council convened in Dvin in 725, with the aim of reforming the Armenian Church. He also convened the meeting in Manazkert in 726, dedicated to the goal of strengthening the union of the Armenian and Assyrian Churches and to address the Justianian and Severus debate regarding the humanity of Jesus.
It was St John of Odzun who declared the Cross to be the symbol of the Armenian Church, stressing its significance in opposition to the local grassroots movement which opposed the Cross and all else pertaining to ritual, organisation and the visible Church.
St John of Odzun explained that since God took human, material form, in the person of Jesus Christ, it is possible for human beings to represent God’s image, to live as icons of God. When bowing down before an icon of Christ, consider yourself actually bowing before Christ enthroned; while looking at the visible, recall to your mind the invisible.
The tomb of Catholicos Hovhannes is in the Church of Srbanes (St. Hovhannes) in the village of Ardvi, near his birthplace of Odzun. The church has remained a sanctuary for the faithful of the Armenian Nation.
The names of Vartabeds (church divine or archimandrite) St John (Hovhan) of Vorotan (1315-1388) and St. Gregory of Datev (1346-1410) are closely interrelated. Gregory of Datev, the greatest Vartabed and theologian of the Armenian Church, studied under Hovhan of Vorotan, and later raised the famous school founded by his teacher in the Monastery of Datev. Gregory of Datev authored numerous significant theological works. Included in his literary legacy are the “Book of Questions” and the collections of his sermons. He is closely associated with Hovhan of Vorotan, because as a result of the notes and records made by Gregory, a portion of the literary legacy of Hovhan has survived to this day.
Finally, the blessed memory of St. John the Patriarch of Jerusalem is commemorated on the same day, along with the aforementioned three fathers of the Armenian Church. St. John was Patriarch of Jerusalem in the 4th Century. He is remembered to this day as being a great orator and a defender of Christianity through his sermons.