Gleanings from a Book: A Forest in the Desert the Life of St. John the Short, by Creative Orthodox


There are very few Orthodox Christian graphic novels. Presumably this is due to the fact that it takes so much time and energy to create one, especially if one wishes to accurately share the life of a saint. St. John the Short was no ordinary person, and therefore this is no ordinary graphic novel. I am grateful that Creative Orthodox* spent so many years researching St. John’s life and painstakingly creating this book. Presenting the story of St. John the Short through the use of this storytelling medium makes his story accessible to people of so many different ages. Young and old alike will enjoy this book and learn so much about (and from!) St. John’s life. As they read, they will be strengthened in their faith. This graphic novel effectively brings to life St. John the Short’s wisdom and insights.

“A Forest in the Desert” shares the life of St. John the Short. It begins with his first youthful attempt to go into the desert and become a monk, follows through his actual monastic calling, and continues all the way through his monastic life. The book offers a glimpse into monastic life as it was in his lifetime. The stories about St. John are intertwined with glimpses into his wisdom, expressed here in his own words. There are also accounts of miracles which God wrought through him, including the healing of a leper and that of a demon-possessed woman; an amazing encounter with the three Hebrew youths from the fiery furnace in Babylon; and more.

The book closes with an epilogue which allows the reader further insights into some of the saints mentioned in St. John’s story. There follow pages of interesting notes, with additional details about some of the events and/or illustrations on previous pages. Each note is clearly labeled with its corresponding page number and adds depth to the book as a whole. Following the notes are illustrations of several of St. John’s sayings.

Creative Orthodox has beautifully utilized the medium of the graphic novel, finding just the right words while also knowing when it is better to communicate with an illustration instead. Many times the drawings say more than words could, thus communicating ideas and events in a way that is easily (and quickly!) understandable. The drawings, done with pen and ink, are simple enough to appreciate at a glance, but detailed enough to convey what they are meant to illustrate. And, while they are not icons, the illustrations (and this book as a whole) point the reader to Christ through the life of this wonderful saint, St. John the Short.

I am truly grateful that Creative Orthodox was kind enough to share the ebook version of this extraordinary graphic novel so that I could read it and share it with you. I have already read it more than once, and have gleaned more from the life of this inspiring saint with each reading.


*Note: Michael Elgamal created “Creative Orthodox” so that his work would not be about him. Follow Creative Orthodox’s work through the social media links found here: https://creativeorthodox.com/

Order your copy of this graphic novel here: https://www.facebook.com/pg/creativeorthodox/shop/

Here are a few gleanings from the book:

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“When it comes to the lives of the Fathers, it’s not the exact dates or details that benefit us the most, it’s their character and virtues that give us an example to follow in our own lives. St. John the Short is a prime example in obedience…It’s his compassion and love for Christ and God’s creation that never cease to amaze me. He served his community, loved everyone unconditionally, and took good care of his spiritual children.” (Preface, “A Forest in the Desert the Life of St. John the Short”, by Creative Orthodox)

***

“…whatever you do when pursuing asceticism, do for the love of Christ. We don’t live in asceticism only because it helps us overcome the passions. We do it because we love God. Everything we do: psalmody, vigils, seclusion, sleeping on the ground, and any ascetic practice are sacrifices we offer up to God. it is our way of expressing our love for Christ and offering up our own bodies as sweet incense…” (Abba Amoin, explaining the reason for monastic practices to St. John the Short, p. 44, “A Forest in the Desert the Life of St. John the Short”, by Creative Orthodox)

***

“One day, the Elder Amoi was inspired. He took a piece of dry wood and called John. He asked him to fill a bucket with water and follow. They walked for hours… Abba Amoi planted the stick firmly into the ground. ‘I want you to walk to the well daily, fill up a bucket with water, and come here to water the stick.’ …John understood that watering a dry stick wouldn’t bring it to life, but he quietly obeyed out of love for his abba. And this was how John’s biggest trial started. It wasn’t a one-time test of endurance. It was a daily test of love, perseverance, and obedience… John continued to water the stick every single day for three consecutive years. And the stick into a beautiful tree. Abba Amoi took the fruit of the tree, gathered the monks, and gave it to the elders, saying, ‘Take, eat from the fruit of obedience.’” (pp. 65-70, “A Forest in the Desert the Life of St. John the Short”, by Creative Orthodox)

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“The foundation of our house is our brother. If I guard the foundation, we will build our house and crown it with a roof.” ~ St. John the Short (p. 102, “A Forest in the Desert the Life of St. John the Short”, by Creative Orthodox)

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“…you frequently find yourselves asking, ‘Why do we fast so often?’ I’ll tell you why. When a king seeks to conquer a city, he surrounds the city walls and blocks access to its water well, spoiling the city’s food supplies. The defending city will soon give in to hunger and thirst and will fall to the attacking army. This is exactly like fasting. When you abstain from eating, you control yourself and guard your soul to rule over evil.” ~ St. John the Short (p. 126, “A Forest in the Desert the Life of St. John the Short”, by Creative Orthodox)

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“The saints of God are like trees. Their lives start with seeds sown by Christ that grow with guidance and attention to eternal life into beautiful trees, that form a garden of goodness. Each one is very much alive and continually gives fruit.” (from the Epilogue, p. 169, “A Forest in the Desert the Life of St. John the Short”, by Creative Orthodox)

***

“My thoughts with my mind are in heaven, but my meditation is buried in the dust below every creature… Know this, that among all the duties of perfection none are higher than humility and obedience to God and the holy fathers. This is what makes the soul shine with the Lord’s light.” ~ St. John the Short (p. 179, “A Forest in the Desert the Life of St. John the Short”, by Creative Orthodox)

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2 thoughts on “Gleanings from a Book: A Forest in the Desert the Life of St. John the Short, by Creative Orthodox

  1. Pingback: A Handful of Orthodox Gift Ideas for Christmas | Orthodox Christian Parenting

  2. Pingback: A Handful of Orthodox Gift Ideas for Christmas | Orthodox Christian Sunday Church School Teachers

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