Archive for the ‘St. Nicephorus of Constantinople’ Tag

Feast of St. Methodius I of Constantinople and St. Joseph the Hymnographer (June 14)   1 comment

Above:  The Expansion of Islam, 700-900

Scanned from Hammond’s World Atlas–Classics Edition (Philadelphia, PA:  The Publishers Agency, Inc., 1957), H-11

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SAINT METHODIUS I OF CONSTANTINOPLE (LATE 700S-847)

Defender of Icons and Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople

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SAINT JOSEPH THE HYMNOGRAPHER (LATE 700S-886)

Defender of Icons and the “Sweet-Voiced Nightingale of the Church”

Alternative feast day = April 3

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Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.

–Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), Pensées

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A DUAL BIOGRAPHY OF ALMOST CERTAINLY THREE MEN

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On the Roman Catholic calendar Sts. Methodius I of Constantinople and Joseph the Hymnographer, contemporaries, share a feast day yet not a feast.  My process of preparing this post reveals that the fact they their stories contain many of the same background characters, however, so merging the feasts is efficient and feasible.

FROM SICILY TO ROME

Above:  St. Methodius I of Constantinople

Image in the Public Domain

St. Methodius I, born in Syracuse, Sicily, in the late 700s, came from a wealthy family.  He, educated in Syracuse, traveled to Constantinople for the purpose of seeking a position in the Byzantine imperial court.  He founded a monastery on the island of Chinos and supervised construction of that monastery instead.  St. Methodius I left Chinos soon after the the completion of the construction of that monastery, for St. Nicephorus I, from 806 to 815 the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, summoned him to the imperial capital and appointed him the apokrisiares, or church advocate, during the reign (813-820) of the Iconoclastic Emperor Leo V the Armenian.

Above:  St. Joseph the Hymnographer

Image in the Public Domain

St. Joseph the Hymnographer, frequently and perhaps hopelessly confused by many hagiographers with St. Joseph of Thessalonica, brother of St. Theodore Studites, also made his way to Constantinople.  St. Joseph the Hymnographer, born on the island of Sicily in the late 700s, came from a Christian family.  His parents were Plotinos and Agatha.  He moved to Thessalonica, where he became a monk.  There St. Gregory the Dekapolite, also a defender of icons, met our saint, whom he took to the imperial capital during the reign (813-820) of Leo V the Armenian.

IN ROME

St. Nicephorus I sent St. Methodius I on a mission to Rome.  During that time Leo the Armenian dismissed the Ecumenical Patriarch and exiled the absent St. Methodius I.

St. Gregory also sent St. Joseph to Rome, to deliver a message to Pope Leo III (in office 795-816).  St. Joseph remained in Rome for years.

BACK TO CONSTANTINOPLE

Both of our featured saints returned to Constantinople after Leo the Armenian died in 820 and during the reign (820-829) of Emperor Michael II the Stammerer.  Although Michael II initially halted the Iconclastic persecution and freed the political prisoners, he eventually resumed the persecution and imprisoned St. Methodius I, who had continued to resist Iconoclasm.  St. Joseph, a priest by this time, was back in the imperial capital also.  There he founded a church and an associated monastery.  In his absence St. Gregory had died.  St. Joseph transferred relics of his mentor to the new church.

THE REIGN OF THE EMPEROR THEOPHILUS (829-842)

The next ruler was Theophilus (reigned 829-842), an Iconclast.  The Emperor freed St. Methodius I, who persisted in resisting Iconoclasm.  Theophilus tolerated this until he became convinced that leniency toward St. Methodius I angered God, who supposedly punished the empire with defeats to Arab armies.  So, in 835, the Emperor ordered the arrest and torture of St. Methodius I, who had retorted that God was angry not over the veneration of icons but the destruction of them.  Byzantine guards broke St. Methodius I’s jaw and permanently scarred his face.  They also kept him incarcerated with two robbers in a cave on the island of Antigonus for seven years.

St. Joseph also resisted the Iconclastic policy of Theophilus.  Our saint therefore spent eleven years in exile in the Cheronese, in Crimea.

EXIT SAINT METHODIUS I

The reign of Emperor Michael III the Drunkard spanned from 842 to 867.  Until 856, however, the regent was his mother, the Empress Theodora.  She ordered defenders of icons freed.  The Empress also elevated St. Methodius I to the office of Ecumenical Patriarch.  In that capacity he presided over the church council that restored the veneration of icons.  He lived peacefully during his final years, dying in 847.

St. Methodius I also wrote some hymns.

EXIT SAINT JOSEPH THE HYMNOGRAPHER

St. Joseph’s fortunes under Theodora were mixed.  In 842 she made him the keeper of the sacred vessels at the Church of Hagia Sophia, Constantinople.  He had to go into exiles again, however, due to the political consequences of his condemnation of the cohabitation of Bardas, brother of Theodora.  St. Joseph returned from exile in 867, after the death of Bardas.

St. Joseph, back in Constantinople, ended his days as the Father-confessor for all priests in the city.  He died in 886.

St. Joseph wrote about 1000 hymns and liturgical poems of the Orthodox Church.  Some of them have come to exist in English-language translations, in hymnals of various denominations, usually Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Moravian, and Presbyterian.

THE MATTER OF CHRONOLOGY; OR, PEOPLE LEAD THEIR LIVES FORWARD, NOT BACKWARD

I have endeavored to write as accurately as possible.  As I have mentioned, hagiographers have long confused St. Joseph the Hymnographer with St. Joseph of Thessalonica.  This fact has complicated my task.  Even Orthodox Church resources I have consulted have offered untrustworthy information.  I have discerned some of this via simple mathematics.  According to some sources, the birth of St. Joseph the Hymnographer occurred in 816 and his family fled Sicily when he was 15 years old (in 831), due to the Arab invasion.  Also according to these sources, some years later St. Joseph arrived in Constantinople and carried a message to the Pope during the reign of Emperor Leo V the Armenian.  The reign of Leo the Armenian was 813-820, however.  ST. JOSEPH THE HYMNOGRAPHER DID NOT MOVE BACKWARD IN TIME.  I have also read of mutually exclusive exiles of St. Joseph during the reign of the Emperor Theophilus.  I have utilized Ockham’s Razor when making decisions about what to write.

I acknowledge readily, O reader, that my biography of St. Joseph the Hymnographer almost certainly contains elements of the life of St. Joseph of Thessalonica instead, due to the sources available to me.

CONCLUSION

Sts. Methodius I of Constantinople and Joseph the Hymnographer were faithful servants of God who suffered for their faith, due to imperial politics.  Their legacies have survived, fortunately.  The Orthodox Church has continued to venerate icons.  Also, many Christians, in their successive generations, to the present day, have sung hymns by St. Joseph.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 23, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE ALMSGIVER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIACH OF ALEXANDRIA

THE FEAST OF CASPAR NEUMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF PHILLIPS BROOKS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF MASSACHUSETTS

THE FEAST OF THOMAS A. DOOLEY, PHYSICIAN AND HUMANITARIAN

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Almighty God, we praise you for your servants

Saints Methodius I of Constantinople and Joseph the Hymnographer,

through whom you have called the church to its tasks and renewed its life.

Raise up in our won day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit,

whose voices will give strength to your church and proclaim the reality of your reign,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 46

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Mark 10:35-45

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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Feast of Sts. Plato of Symboleon, Theodore Studites, and Nicephorus of Constantinople (March 13)   1 comment

Above:  Triumph of Orthodoxy Icon

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT PLATO OF SYMBOLEON (CIRCA 734-814)

Eastern Orthodox Abbot

His feast transferred from April 4

Uncle of 

SAINT THEODORE STUDITES (759-826)

Eastern Orthodox Abbot

His feast transferred from November 11

Sometimes Ally of

SAINT NICEPHORUS (A.K.A. SAINT NICEPHORUS PATRIARCHA) OF CONSTANTINOPLE (758-828)

Patriarch of Constantinople

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DEFENDERS OF ICONS

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As I continue my exploration of the Communion of Saints, learning much along the way, I find stories of saints whose lives intersected.  As compelling as each life might be individually, he composite account is the one which is most coherent much of the time.  Today I tell the story of three great saints–an uncle, a nephew, both abbots, and a Patriarch. The abbots disagreed much of the time with the Patriarch, but all three loved and served the same Lord and Savior.  And all three suffered for their faith.

We begin with St. Plato of Symboleon (circa 734-814).  Orphaned at age thirteen, his uncle, the Byzantine imperial treasurer, raised him.  St. Plato sold his possessions eleven years later, gave the proceeds to his sisters and the poor, and entered the Symboleon Monastery in Bithynia, in Asia Minor.  He became abbot there in 770 then left to assume the abbotcy at Saccadium Monastery (founded by his sister’s children) twelve years later.  He resigned that post in 794 in favor of St. Theodore Studites, his nephew, and resumed life as a regular monk.

St. Theodore Studites (759-826), born at Constantinople, has become a novice at Saccadium Monastery.  Ordained at Constantinople in 787, he returned to Saccadium Monastery, where he became abbot seven years later.  Emperor Constantine VI (reigned 780-797) married for a second time while his first wife was still alive.  A priest named Joseph presided over the wedding.  These actions prompted St. Theodore and St. Plato to to denounce the Emperor, who exiled them and their monks to Thessalonica in 796.  The following year, however, their exile ended after Empress Irene (reigned 797-802) deposed and blinded her son.  The Byzantine Empire, for an officially Christian state, was terribly violent in its actions.

Back in imperial good graces, St. Theodore became abbot at Studion Monastery in Constantinople.  The monastery had fallen on hard times, but the abbot restored it in every way, even increasing the number of monks from about a dozen to nearly one thousand.  And he made Studion Monastery, where St. Plato had become a hermit, the center of Eastern monasticism.  Life was better for our heroes, but the winds of Byzantine imperial politics turned on them again.

St. Nicephorus of Constantinople (758-828) was the son of Theodosius, secretary to Emperor Constantine V (reigned 741-775), an Iconoclast.  The Emperor had Theodosius tortured and exiled for opposing Iconoclasm.  So young St. Nicephorus knew of the fickleness of imperial politics.  Shifting imperial political winds allowed him, all grown up, to have become an imperial commissioner and to found a monastery on the shore of the Black Sea before 806, when he, although a layman, became Patriarch of Constantinople.  St. Theodore Studites opposed this appointment, receiving imprisonment for his opinion.  Emperor Nicephorus I (reigned 802-811) disapproved of such dissent.  Three years later, with the official affirmation of Constantine VI’s second marriage, St. Nicephorus (the Patriarch) forgave Father Joseph for presiding at the wedding ceremony.  Sts. Plato and Theodore Studites, still opposed to that union, had to enter a second exile–this time, to Prince’s Island–in 809, along with St. Theodore’s brother and Archbishop Theodore of Thessalonica.  The Imperium also dispersed the monks of Studion Monastery.  The exile at Prince’s Island ended in 811, with the death of Emperor Nicephorus I.

In the meantime, St. Nicephorus (the Patriarch) had been engaged in doing his job.  He had built up his see and restored monastic discipline.

And what about St. Plato?  His healthy broken, he returned to Constantinople in 811 and died there in 814, bedridden.

Emperor Leo the Armenian (reigned 813-820) united Sts. Nicephorus and Theodore Studites in common cause.  Leo was an Iconoclast; the saints were not.  In 814, with the discovery of private correspondence in which St. Theodore Studites affirmed Papal primacy, the abbot went into a third exile, mixed with imprisonment.  He was in prison for three years then was subject to harsh treatment by an Iconoclastic bishop who wished that authorities would permit him to behead St. Theodore.  And St. Nicephorus, deposed in 815 for opposing the policies of Emperor Leo, survived assassination attempts and spent the rest of his life in exile at the Black Sea monastery he had founded.  He wrote anti-Iconoclastic treaties and two histories, Breviarum and Chronograhia.  He died on June 2, 828.

St. Theodore’s exile ended in 820, shortly after the murder of Emperor Leo the Armenian.  The new boss, Michael II “the Stammerer” (reigned 820-829), also an Iconoclast, refused to restore St. Theodore to any post.  The saint founded a monastery on Akrita for the monks who remained faithful to him.  There he died on November 11, 826.  Most of the hymns he wrote survive to this day.

So ends this tale of orthodoxy, woe, and official violence–all of it in the name of Jesus, who suffered.  May we never cause the suffering of our fellow Christians.  In other words, whom would Jesus persecute?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULEN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ADELAIDE, HOLY ROMAN EMPRESS

THE FEAST OF MARIANNE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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Lord God,

you have surrounded us with so great a cloud of witnesses.

Grant that we, encouraged by the example of your servants

Saint Plato of Symboleon,

Saint Theodore Studites,

and Saint Nicephorus of Constantinople,

may persevere in the course that is set before us and,

at the last, share in your eternal joy with all the saints in light,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 59

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Revised on December 24, 2016

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