November 1, 2009

Saint Hilarion, Bishop of Meglin (+ 1164)

St. Hilarion of Meglin (Feast Day - October 21)

Saint Hilarion, Bishop of Meglin, was born of eminent and devout parents in the village of Promahi, Greece in the late 11th century. His childless mother had long prayed to God that He grant her a child, and in accordance with her prayer, the Most Holy Theotokos appeared to her and comforted her with the words: "Do not grieve, you will give birth to a son and he will turn many to the light of truth." When Hilarion was three years old, the hymn, "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabaoth!" was constantly on his lips. He was well-educated, was tonsured a monk at age eighteen, and founded a monastery dedicated to the Holy Apostles based on the Rule of Saint Pachomios. In 1134, he was consecrated Bishop of Meglin in Bulgaria by Eustathius, Archbishop of Trnovo. Holy Tradition holds that Eustathius was also visited in a vision by the Virgin Mary who announced to him that Hilarion would soon be placed as leader of the Meglin region. Bishop Hilarion led a great, nearly lifelong struggle against the Bogomil and the Armenian heretics. However, by his spiritual learning and unequaled sanctity he put them all to shame, and drew many of them to Orthodoxy. He reposed peacefully, and took up his abode in the Kingdom of His Lord in the year 1164.

Saint Hilarion of Meglin's lifelong struggle and contribution to the Orthodox Church was against the Bogomils. In refuting their teachings, Hilarion said:

"You are not Christians at all, since you are hostile to the Cross of Christ the Savior. You do not acknowledge the One God, you slander the teachings of the Old Testament venerated by Christians. You deceive people by hypocritical meekness while full of pride. True piety is not possible in those who do not see their own heart's corruption, but by those who ask God's grace with prayer and humility. Evil thoughts, envy, vanity, greed, lies are not the deed of some evil thing within man to be conquered by mere fasting. These vices are the fruit of self-love which demands rooting out by spiritual efforts."

At one time, the leaders of the Bogomils met with Hilarion and began to debate with him about the faith. The Bogomils taught that God created the spiritual world and that the devil created the material world. To this, Hilarion replied to them that in Holy Scripture it is written: "For God is the King of all the earth" (Psalm 47:7) and also "The earth is the Lord's and all its fullness" (Psalm 24:1). The Bogomils claimed that the Old Testament is of the devil. To them, the Saint replied: "If the Old Testament indeed proceeded from the devil would Christ have said, 'Search the Scriptures … they are they which testify of Me' (John 5:39), and would He have acknowledged as the greatest commandments those about love toward God and one's neighbor which, at one time, were given through Moses?" The Bogomils also claimed that the body of Christ was brought from heaven. To this, Hilarion replied to them that had it been so, then the body of Christ would have felt neither hunger nor thirst, nor weariness nor suffering, nor would it have been susceptible to death. The Bogomils then expressed their disapproval of the sign of the Cross which Orthodox Christians use. The Saint replied to them: "And what will you do when the sign of the Son of Man, His Cross, appears in the heavens, and when all nations of the earth who do not believe in the Cross will weep?" And he also said to them: "How is it that you say that all evil is from evil material, and meanwhile you do not reverence that Wood by which the whole material world was sanctified?"

Because of Hilarion's prayers and exhortations, many of the Bogomils abandoned their teachings and converted to Orthodox Christianity.

It is noted in the thirteenth century Markianos Code, Codex 524, that during his burial service, myrrh streamed continually from his eyes and that he later appeared on many occasions in visions to the monks of the monasteries to strengthen them in their monastic duties.

The transfer of the relics of Saint Hilarion, Bishop of Meglin, to the Bulgarian city of Trnovo, occurred between 1204-1206, by the Bulgarian Tsar Ioannis Asanis to the Church of the Forty Saints. Prior to this event, the body of the Saint rested in the city of Meglin.

Apolytikion in Plagal of the Fourth Tone
The barren wilderness thou didst make fertile with the streams of thy tears and by thy deep sighing thou hast given fruit through thy struggles a hundred-fold. Accordingly, thou hast become a star for the universe, sparkling with miracles. Therefore, O Venerable Father Hilarion, intercede with Christ God to save our souls.