Thursday, December 16, 2010

Saint Theophano the Empress

St. Theophano the Empress (Feast Day - December 16)



By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

Theophano was born of eminent parents, Constantine and Anna, who were kin to several emperors. Her parents were childless for a long time and prayed to the Most-holy Theotokos to give them an offspring. And God gave them this daughter, Theophano.

Imbued with the Christian spirit from her childhood, Theophano surpassed all her companions in all the Christian virtues. When she grew up, she entered into marriage with Leo, the son of Emperor Basil the Macedonian. She endured great hardships alongside her husband. Responding to slander - that Leo carried a knife in his boot and planned to kill his father at an opportune time - the gullible father, Basil, locked his son and daughter-in-law in prison. Thus, two innocent souls languished in prison for three years.

Once, during the Feast of the Prophet Elias, the emperor summoned all his noblemen to his court for a banquet. Suddenly the emperor's parrot unexpectedly spoke these words, "Alas, alas, my Lord Leo!" and repeated these words a number of times. This brought great anxiety to all of the imperial noblemen, and they all begged the emperor to release his son and daughter-in-law. The grieved emperor did so.

After his father's death, Leo became emperor and was called "the Wise". Theophano did not consider her imperial dignity as anything, but, completely devoted to God, she cared only about the salvation of her soul, fasting and praying, distributing many alms, and restoring many monasteries and churches. Neither an untrue word nor an excessive word nor, least of all, slander proceeded from her lips.

Before her death she called all her closest friends, took leave of them and gave up her soul to her God in the year 892. The Emperor Leo wanted to build a church over her grave in her name, but since the patriarch objected to this, he built a church to All Saints, saying that if Theophano became a saint, she would be glorified together with the other saints. The Feast of All Saints was then instituted to be celebrated on the Sunday after the Feast of the Holy Trinity.

Read also: The Feast of All Saints Was Inspired By An Empress


HYMN OF PRAISE: Saint Theophano the Empress

From a royal throne, it is better seen:
The vanity of the world, clever vanity,
And the imperial throne is mercilessly struck
By the tumultuous waves of this world.

Theophano clearly examines
The insane, open sea of this world,
And her heart, her troubled heart,
Is firmly anchored to the Living God.

The kings of this world-are they kings?
They are but many sentries on a quick rotation!
Death counts and carries out the change of these sentries-
Kings of the world: passing shadows!

Theophano, like the wise virgins,
The lamp of her heart lit by the spirit,
Illumined the path with a wonderful light,
Happily avoiding the pits of sin.

Now blessed in the Eternal Kingdom,
Among the stars, and shining like one,
Where there is no pain or change,
Theophano now reigns.


From the Synaxarion:

Saint Theophano, who was born in Constantinople, was of royal lineage. Instructed in letters, and adorned with many virtues, she was united in marriage to Emperor Leo the Wise (reigned 886-912). But counting the glory of the earthly kingdom as nought, she spent her nights and days in serving God with psalms and hymns and prayers, working various good deeds until she surrendered her spirit to God in peace, while still in her youth, being, according to some, about twenty years of age, according to others, twenty-seven. Her holy relics are still preserved in the patriarchal church in Constantinople as a source of healing for those that draw nigh with faith and longing. She was also the builder of the Holy Patriarchal and Stavropigeal Monastery of St. Anastasia the Protector from Potions in Chalke (883).


Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Preferring heavenly things unto the earthly, thou while on earth didst live the life of the Angels, raised up on godly longing, O Theophano. Wherefore, thou hast been vouchsafed Heaven's graces and visions, standing with the Angels' hosts and the Saints' fair assemblies before the King of all, Whom thou didst love; pray Him to grant us His mercy and blessedness.

Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
As we celebrate today thy radiant feast-day, O divine Theophano, we cry with rev'rence unto thee: Preserve thy servants, who sing thy praise, from every manner of peril and suffering.



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