Today is the feast of St. John Damascene. Here's a little blurb about him from a little blue Advent book I'm going through:
"Born about 676 in Damascus, Syria, John's Christian education from a captured Italian monk was supplemented by Muslim schools.
"He became chief counselor for the caliph, but when the new caliph became hostile to Christians, John left Damascus to become a monk at St. Sabas Monastery, southeast of Jerusalem.
"After ordination, John lived a quiet life of prayer and writing. He wrote commentaries on St. Paul, adapted choral music for liturgy, and composed hymns. He also successfully defended the use of icons (painted or mosaic religious art) against critics who felt venerating icons was akin to worshipping idols.
"John died in 749, and was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1890."