Archive for the ‘Manuel I Comnenus’ Tag

Feast of St. Kassiani the Hymnographer (September 7)   2 comments

Above: Icon of St. Kassiani the Hymnographer

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT KASSIANI THE HYMNOGRAPHER (805/810-865)

Byzantine Abbess, Poet, Composer, Hymn Writer, and Defender of Icons

Also known as Saint Kassia and Saint Cassia

St. Kassiani the Hymnographer comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox churches, and The Episcopal Church.  As of Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018, St. Kassiani’s feast graces the calendar of The Episcopal Church.

An inescapable fact influences this, my Ecumenical Calendar:  most saints on it come from patriarchal societies.  This means that I have more sources for male saints than for female ones.  And I cannot write based on sources that do not exist.  I am sufficiently liberal to affirm the legal and social equality of men and women.  I also affirm that, as a cliché tells me,

Variety is the spice of life.

Ergo, I welcome the opportunity to diversify this Ecumenical Calendar–in this case, regarding chromosomes.

The Byzantine Empire was patriarchal.  In that context, St. Kassiani was only one of two female authors known by her name.  The other one was Anna Comnenus (1083-1153/1154), a daughter of Emperor Alexius I Comnenus (reigned 1081-1118), a sister of Emperor John II Comnenus (reigned 1118-1143), a sister-in-law of Blessed Irene of Hungary (1088-1134), and an aunt of Emperor Manuel I Comnenus (reigned 1143-1180).  Anna, a capable scholar, composed the Alexiad, about her father’s reign.  According to Paul Magdalino, the Alexiad was:

unique not only as a piece of Byzantine women’s literature, but also as an expression of frustrated ambition by a woman who felt that she had been born to imperial power.

–Quoted in Cyril Mango, editor, The Oxford History of Byzantium (2002), 206

St. Kassiani, born in Constantinople, between 805 and 810, came from a wealthy family.  She, according to ancient sources were well-educated, highly intelligent, and beautiful.  Her appearance attracted male attention, but her mind sometimes repelled such attention.  The dowager Empress Euphrosyne orchestrated a bride show–a beauty pageant–for her son, the bachelor Emperor Theophilus (reigned 829-842).  The Emperor selected St. Kassiani to become the Empress.  Then he told her:

Through a woman [came forth] the baser [things],

referring to Eve and the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.  St. Kassiani replied:

And through woman [came forth] the better [things],

a reference to St. Mary of Nazareth giving birth to Jesus.  With that, Theophilus chose another woman–Theodora–to be the Empress instead.

St. Kassiani was better off not being the Empress to Emperor Theophilus.  He was an Iconclast.  He was also

an arrogant, theologizing fanatic who promulgated a new edict againt idolaters (832) and pushed persecution to the limit.

–Peter N. Stearns, General Editor, The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth Edition (2001), 187

St. Kassiani had always been an astute person and a bright bulb.  When she was a young girl, her erudition had impressed St. Theodore Studites (759-826), the abbot of Studion Monastery, Constantinople.  He had liked her literary style, too.

St. Kassiani, rejected by the Emperor, turned to what she would have done anyway–enter monastic life.  By 843, our saint had founded and become the abbess of a convent on Xerólophos, the seventh hill of Constantinople.  This convent had a close relationship with the Studion Monastery.  Like the monks of Studion, our saint defended icons against the Iconoclasts.  Emperor Theophilus had her scourged with a lash for this.  Nevertheless, St. Kassiani wrote a short line of poetry, translated into English as:

I hate silence, when it is time to speak.

Empress Theodora, as the regent for her son, Emperor Michael III (reigned 842-867), ended official Byzantine Iconoclasm permanently, in 843.

St. Kassiani eventually moved to the island of Kasos, where she died in 865.

She left a rich legacy.  Hundreds of poems, fifty hymns, and many musical contributions survived.  She became the only woman whose works the Eastern Orthodox liturgy includes.  Twenty-three of her hymns have long graced the Eastern Orthodox liturgy.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 19, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH OF NAZARETH, HUSBAND OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD

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O God of boundless mercy, whose handmaiden Kassiani brought forth poetry and song:

Inspire in your church a new song,

that following her most excellent example,

we may boldly proclaim the truth of your Word,

even Jesus Christ, our Savior and Deliverer.  Amen.

Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 44:1-15

Psalm 150

Luke 24:44-53

Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018

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Feast of Blessed Irene of Hungary (August 13)   1 comment

Above:  Emperor John II Commenus and Empress Irene with the Madonna and Child

Image in the Public Domain

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BLESSED IRENE OF HUNGARY (1088-AUGUST 13, 1134)

Hungarian Princess and Byzantine Empress

Also known as Piroska

Blessed Irene of Hungary comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via the Roman Catholic Church.

In the olden days, royal marriages were frequently political, sealing alliances between kingdoms and empires.  Thus, in 1105, the new alliance between the Kingdom of Hungary and the Byzantine Empire (which always called itself the Roman Empire) came into existence with the marriage of the Hungarian princess Piroska and the heir to the Byzantine (Roman) throne, the future Emperor John II Comnenus (reigned 1118-1143).  The immediate threat to the Byzantine (Roman) Empire in the west came from Normans, and the threat in the east came from the Seljuk Turks.

Above:  Map of Southeastern Europe in 1105

Image in the Public Domain

Piroska, born in Esztergom, Hungary, was a daughter of Queen Adelaide of Swabia and King St. Ladislaus I (reigned 1077-1095; feast days = June 27 and 30).  Piroska, as Irene, was the Byzantine (Roman) Empress from 1118 to 1134.  She gave birth to eight children, including the Emperor Manuel I Comnenus (reigned 1143-1180).  A grandson was Manuel I’s son, Emperor Alexius II Comnenus (reigned 1180-1183).  Andronicus I Comnenus (reigned 1183-1185), descended from Isaac, brother of John II.  Subsequent rulers of that dynasty descended from Theodora, sister of John II and Isaac.

(Aside:  My source for the family tree of Emperor John II Comnenus and Empress Irene, within the Comnenus Dynasty, is a dynastic family tree chart on page 232 of the sixth edition of The Encyclopedia of World History (2001), Peter N. Stearns, General Editor.   Certain sources on the internet disagree with the genealogical chart in this reference work.  They list other Byzantine (Roman) Emperors as being sons of our saint.  Not all sources are equal.)

Blessed Irene also gave generously to worthy causes.  She gave to help to poor, finance the construction of Christ Pantocrator Monastery in Constinople, and to fund the hospital (open to all) associated with that monastery.

Blessed Irene, aged about 46 years, died in Constantinople on August 13, 1134.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 4, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES SIMEON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND PROMOTER OF MISSIONS; HENRY MARTYN, ANGLICAN PRIEST, LINGUIST, TRANSLATOR, AND MISSIONARY; AND ABDUL MASIH, INDIAN CONVERT AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF HENRY SUSO, GERMAN ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, PREACHER, AND SPIRITUAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN EDGAR PARK, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN THEN CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF PAUL CUFFEE, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY TO THE SHINNECOCK NATION

THE FEAST OF THOMAS HORNBLOWER GILL, ENGLISH UNITARIAN THEN ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

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Almighty God, you have surrounded us with a great cloud of witnesses:

Grant that we, encouraged by the good example of your servant Blessed Irene of Hungary,

may persevere in running the race that is set before us,

until at last we may with her attain to your eternal joy;

through Jesus Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever.  Amen.

Micah 6:6-8

Psalm 15

Hebrews 12:1-2

Matthew 25:31-40

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 724

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