St. Photios

St. Photios, 15th century

Wednesday July 15, 2020 / July 2, 2020

6th Week after Pentecost. Tone four.
Fast. Food with Oil

The Placing of the Honorable Robe of the Most Holy Theotokos at Blachernae (5th c.). St. Photius, Metropolitan of Kiev (1431). St. Juvenal, patriarch of Jerusalem (458). “Pozai” (17th c.), “Theodotiev” (1487) and “Akhtyr” (1739) Icons of the Most Holy Theotokos

The Scripture Readings

1 Corinthians 2:9-3:8
Matthew 13:31-36
Hebrews 9:1-7 Theotokos
Luke 10:38-42; 11:27-28 Theotokos

St. Photios, Metropolitian of Kiev and all Russia

Commemorated on July 2, September 16

      Sainted Photii, Metropolitan of Kiev and All Russia, was by birth a Greek from the Peloponnesian city of Monembaseia (Malbasia). While still in his adolescent years he entered a monastery and took tonsure under the monastic-elder Akakios, a great ascetic (afterwards becoming the metropolitan of Monembaseia). In 1408, when Photii was in Constantinople with the Patriarch on matters entrusted by the metropolitan, the question arose about a replacement for the Russian cathedra-chair after the death of Saint Kiprian (+ 1406, Comm. 16 September). The choice of Patriarch Matthew (1397-1410) fell upon Photii, known for his learning and holiness of life. On 1 September 1408 Saint Photii was made metropolitan and in the next year arrived in Rus’.
      He spent half an year at Kiev (September 1409-February 1410), concerning himself over the settling of affairs in the southern dioceses of the Russian Church, included then within the principality of Lithuania, or more precisely as they then called it, of Lithuania and Russia. The saint perceived that the throne of the metropolitan – the spiritual centre of churchly life in Rus’ – could not remain in the Kiev lands, where everything increasingly fell under the dependence of Catholic Poland. Following the example of former Russian metropolitans, who transferred their place of dwelling first to Vladimir, then to Moscow, in 1410 on the day of Holy Pascha, Metropolitan Photii arrived in Moscow.

St. Photios, 15th Century

     As entrusted him by the Apostles, Saint Barnabas went to Antioch to encourage the believers: “Having come and having seen the grace of God, he rejoiced and he urged all to cleave to the Lord with sincerity of heart” (Acts 11: 23). Then the Disciple Barnabas went to Tarsis, and thereafter he brought the Apostle Paul to Antioch, where for about a year they taught the people in the Church. It was here that the disciples first began to be called Christians (Acts 11: 26).

For 22 years the saint asceticised in the difficult service of arch-hierarch of the Russian Church. In grievous conditions of war, fratricidal strife, and pillaging incursions of Tatars he knew how to highly advance the spiritual significance, the material prosperity and well-being of the churches under the Moscow cathedra. Favourable conditions in the Church allowed for Saint Photii to render great assistance to the increasingly impoverished Constantinople Patriarch, and to strengthen the international position of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian realm. The enemies of Orthodoxy more than once tried to subvert the churchly-patriotic service of Saint Photii. In the Spring of 1410, when Saint Photii arrived in Vladimir from Moscow, khan Edigei, having laid waste this portion of the Russian Land for two years, undertook a new campaign with the intent of taking captive the metropolitan himself. A Tatar detachment, headed by the princeling Talychoi “the Exile”, suddenly and quickly took Vladimir. But God preserved His righteous saint: the evening before, not suspecting danger, the saint had gone off to the Svyatoozersk monastery beyond the city. When the Tatars attempted pursuit, he concealed himself in a small settlement, surrounded by impassable swamps, at the River Sen’ga. Unable to capture the metropolitan, the rapacious Tatars gave themselves over to a plundering of Vladimir, and especially the Uspensk cathedral church. The doorsman of the cathedral, Patrikei, endured terrible torments and accepted a martyr’s death from the plundering Tatars, but he did not reveal the place, where the church sacred items and treasury were hidden.
      Through the efforts of holy Metropolitan Photii was restored the canonical unity of prayer of the Russian Church: the separate Lithuanian metropolitanate, established on the initiative of prince Vitovt for the southern and western eparchies (dioceses), was abolished in the year 1420. The saint this same year visited the returned eparchies and greeted the flock with a Circular Missive of teaching. The wise and highly-erudite pastor left behind many an instruction and missive. Great theological significance was had in his denunciation against the heresy of the Strigol’niki, which had arisen at Pskov prior to his time. By his wise efforts the heresy was put to an end (in 1427).
      Important Church-historical sources compiled by Saint Photii are his “Order of Selection and Installation of Bishops” (1423), “Discourse on the Seriousness of the Priestly Dignity and the Obligations of Church-servers”, and also the “Spiritual Testament”, in which he relates about his life. A great work of the saint was likewise the compiling under his guidance of the Obscherussk (All-Russian) Chronicle collation (in about the year 1423).
      On 20 April 1430 the holy arch-pastor was informed by an Angel about his impending end and he reposed peacefully in the time allotted him by the Lord, on the feastday of the Placing of the Robe of the Mother of God, on 2 July 1431. His relics were uncovered in the year 1471. In the Armoury Palace of the Moscow Kremlin are preserved two dalmatic-robes (“sakkos”) of holy Metropolitan Photii.

© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.

HYMN OF PRAISE

THE HOLY THEOTOKOS [THE HOLY BIRTH-GIVER OF GOD]

To the All-pure Virgin, we prostrate

And through her, the mercy of God we seek.

In eternal glory, she shines,

And to the Lord Christ, for us prays.

Full of power are her prayers–

Precious are the prayers of the Mother to the Son!

All whom her Son created She loves,

As a taper burns, her prayers shine forth!

And she searches out our needs in all places:

She is there to comfort, wherever sorrow poisons.

To the sick, her name is sweetness,

And to the demons, a scourge.

When we invoke Christ’s Cross and the name of the Theotokos,

Courage and new strength they give us.

To the All-pure Virgin, we prostrate,

And through Her, the mercy of God we seek.

REFLECTION


Every device of which man boasts as an invention of his own mind is revealed as a manifestation of divine providence. Every invented device has a two-fold significance: one physical and one spiritual. Even the clock, a wonderful device, was not invented merely to tell us the time of day or night, but also to remind us of death–this is its spiritual significance. When the small hand completes its rounds of seconds and minutes, then the large hand arrives at the ordered hour, and the clock strikes. So will the clock of our lives strike, numbering the days, months and years of our lives. That is why St. Tikhon of Zadonsk counsels every Christian to reflect:

1. How the time of our life continually passes;

2. How it is impossible to bring back time that is past;

3. How the past and future are not in our control, but only that time in which we are now living;

4. How the end of our life is unknown;

5. How we must be prepared for death–every day, every hour, and every minute;

6. How, because of that, we must always be in the state of continual repentance;

7. How at every hour we must be as repentant and spiritually disposed as we would wish to be at the hour of our death.

CONTEMPLATION


To contemplate the burning bush on Horeb (Exodus 3):

1. How the bush was completely engulfed by flame, but was not consumed;

2. How the All-pure Virgin, carrying the Lord within herself, also bore the divine fire–but was not consumed;

3. How the grace of the divine fire also rejuvenates, heals and illumines my sinful soul.

HOMILY


About the trial of our faith

“That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearance of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7).

Brethren, our faith is tried more often than a reed is rocked by the winds. Trials are like the winds: they will uproot a weak faith, but a strong faith will be strengthened even more. Trials are also like the flame in which straw is burned and gold is purified.

Man’s theorizings and suppositions also try our faith. These are often very strong and bitter winds, but we can overcome them–if we are willing to cling to the words of God, and if, in opposition to these theorizings, we are able to properly emphasize the teachings of the Faith of Christ.

Our faith is further tried by fear and shame: fear of men who persecute the Faith, and shame toward men who arrogantly despise the Faith. These also are strong winds, which we must resist if we wish to remain alive. How will we resist them? By the fear of God, which should always be greater in our soul than the fear of men, and by shame before the apostles, saints and martyrs, who were not ashamed of their faith before the emperors, princes and sages of this world.

Our faith is further tried by suffering and misery. This is the fire in which our faith is either burned like straw or tempered like pure gold. Our faith will survive these trials if we remember Christ crucified on the Cross for us, and the many thousands of martyrs for the Faith, who by endurance conquered all, emerging from the flames like gold, and continuing to shine down through the centuries among the angels and among men.

Our faith is also tried by death–the death of our relatives and friends, and the death of mankind in general. This is the bitter fire in which the faith of many has been burned. Is death the end of everything? It is not–believe me! It is the beginning of everything, of a new and just life. Believe in the Resurrection of Christ, believe in life beyond the grave, and believe in the General Resurrection and the Dreadful Judgment.

O Good Lord, strengthen the faith in us and have mercy on us.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.