Thursday, December 27, 2018

What is a Johannite?

Several years ago I was researching Martinism when I came across the Apostolic Johannite Church (AJC). I started to research the AJC and found them to be aligned with my spiritual beliefs. As today is the Feast Day for St. John the Beloved, I thought I'd talk about the AJC and what being a Johannite is about. 

There is a lot of confusion as to what a Johannite is and a lot of misinformation. Per Father Anthony Silvia, the word "Johannite" refers to a "spiritual tradition carried in part through the initiatory tradition of John the Baptist, exemplified in the relationship between Christ and the Apostle John, brought to fruition in the community addressed by the Gospel of John, the Gospel embraced by early Gnostics, and which, some belief, produced the Book of Revelation and the Apocryphon of John." Many mistakenly believe that an emphasis is placed on St. John the Baptist as a power play against Jesus Christ, his cousin. Johannite's still believe Jesus Christ to be the God Made Flesh, the Logos Incarnate. While some churches condemn goddess worship as pagan while at the same time venerating figures such as Mary Theotokos (Mother of God), being a Johannite, I fully acknowledge and study, what is today known as, the Sacred/Divine Feminine. Being a Johannite Christian also means that one is a Gnostic and Gnosticism isn't a spectator sport as Father Tony Silvia puts in his book "Sanctuary of the Sacred Flame."

The AJC can be described as an esoteric, Gnostic, and Christian. From their website: "The Apostolic Johannite Church is a global network of Johannite communities that focus on supporting individual and direct experience of the Divine through fellowship, meditation and prayer, service and ritual, lively discussion and study." The church draws from the Old Testament, New Testament, the Corpus Hermeticum, and the Gnostic Gospels. The Statement of Principles defines the beliefs, boundaries. and scope of the AJC:

The modern AJC was established in 2000 by Most Reverend James Foster, but traces its roots to early 1800s France and Dr. Bernard Raymond Fabre-Palaprat who founded his own church "after discovering a document that contained, among other things, an alternate translation of the Gospel of John." It is said that Dr. Fabre-Palaprat kicked off the era of Gnostic Restoration. Many Gnostic orders and churches trace themselves to St. John the Beloved who passed on the authority and knowledge down a succession of Johannite patriarchs until Theoclete who passed the mantle to Hugh de Payens, first Grand Master of the medieval Knights Templar, and which passed the authority to each subsequent Templar Grand Master. After the suppression of the Templars in 1307, the authority passed to Jean-Marc Larmenius and the Templar order went underground. The theory of the Larmenius Charter goes on to say that the Templars fled to Scotland which plays into the story of the Royal Order of Scotland and the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. The Johannite leadership passed from Larmenius to eventually Dr. Fabre-Palaprat. The Johannite tradition was dismissed as a conspiracy theory until 1945 when the Nag Hammadi texts were discovered which validated and corroborated the legends.

AJC congregants meet in Missions, Narthex, and Parishes. A Parish is "a fully functioning body of the Apostolic Johannite Church with regular clergy and services." A Narthex is "a local study group under the direction of a lay or clerical leader." The word "narthex" is an architectural term and refers to the front part of a church before you enter the sanctuary. In the Church, as a description of a Johannite body, it is the first stage in the development of a local parish. It is most often run by a layperson or a cleric in minor orders in preparation for the priesthood. A Mission is a "group of AJC members that meet irregularly and are ministered to by visiting Johannite clergy."

There are ten Holy Orders in the AJC, five Minor and five Major. The Minor Orders are Cleric, Doorkeeper, Reader, Exorcist, and Acolyte. The Major Orders are Subdeacon, Deacon, Priest, and Bishop, with the additional "Order" of the Patriarch (technically Patriarch is not one of the Orders, but we refer to it as an Order so that there is ten total, for symbolic reasons). To become a Priest, one must go through the Saint Raphael the Archangel Theological Seminary which is an eight (8) semester program used for the AJC only.

The governance of the church is broken down into a Patriarchate, Episcopacy, Priesthood, Diaconate, and religious orders. The head of the church takes on the name Iohannes (Latin for "John") with a Roman numeral to dictate his or her place in the line of succession, and is known by the title "Sovereign Pontiff and Patriarch". The Episcopacy is composed of Archbishops of the church who take on the title Mar with a new name. Mar is Syriac for "my Lord" and is used to address Bishops.

The religious order of the church is known as the Order of the Temple and St. John. It is broken down into two different elements: the public Oblates of the Temple and St. John (ObTSJ) and the private Knights of the Temple and St. John (KTSJ). The Oblates are a bridge between the Lay and Clerical state, and which is led by a Prior, who is a member of the Laity. The word Oblate comes from Oblation, "a thing presented or offered to God." In joining the Oblates, one first serves a year before being received as a Novice. To do that, one must also be recommended and sponsored by a priest and take religious vows. The Knights of the Temple is by-invitation-only whose officers are composed of members of the clergy with the Patriarch of the Church serving as Abbott of the Order. The Order is governed by The Rule which is an active way to live out the Statement of Principles of the Johannite Church and thus has its basis in these same principles.

Being a Freemason and a Christian, the AJC seems like a natural fit since both St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist play an important role in these institutions and both revolve around an initiatic tradition passed down through the ages. I am currently serving in my first year in the Oblates and I have enjoyed the support the church has given me this year.

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