February 11, 2010

Saint Theodora the Empress (+ 867)

St. Theodora the Empress (Feast Day - February 11)

Holy Empress Theodora was from Paphlagonia and was the daughter of a certain Marinos, the commander of a military regiment. She was the wife of the Roman Emperor Theophilos the Iconoclast (829-842), but she did not share in the heresy of her husband. While being the wife of the Emperor Theophilos, the last of the Iconoclasts, she adorned the royal diadem with her virtue and piety; as long as her husband Theophilos lived, she privately venerated icons, despite his displeasure. After the death of her husband, Theodora governed the realm wisely for fifteen years because her son Michael was a minor.

She convened a Synod, at which the Iconoclasts were anathematized, and the veneration of icons was reinstated. Theodora established the annual celebration of this event, the Triumph of Orthodoxy, on the first Sunday of the Great Fast. Saint Theodora did much for the Holy Church and fostered a firm devotion to Orthodoxy in her son Michael.

When Michael came of age in 857, she was retired from governing and spent eight years in the Monastery of Saint Euphrosyne (called Gastria), where she devoted herself to ascetic struggles, and reading books that nourished her soul.

A copy of the Gospels, copied in her own hand, is known to exist. She died peacefully around the year 867.

In 1456, her incorrupt and wonderworking relics were given by the Turks to the people of Kerkyra (Corfu). They remain in the Church of the Most Holy Theotokos of the Cave, in the capital city of the island, and it is a place of pious pilgrimage by Orthodox faithful till this day.

Apolytikion in the Plagal of the First Tone
As a right worthy namesake of gifts bestowed of God, and a divinely-wrought image of holy wisdom and faith, thou didst make the Church to shine with godly piety; for thou didst demonstrate to all that the Saints in every age have shown honor to the icons, O Theodora, thou righteous and fair adornment of the Orthodox.

Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
We sing thy praises as the gem and fairness of the Church, and as a diadem and pattern of all Christian queens, O all-lauded and divinely-crowned Theodora; for in bringing back the icons to their rightful place, thou didst cast usurping heresy out of the Church. Hence, we cry to thee: Rejoice, O Sovereign most ven'rable.

Great Vespers for St. Theodora in Kerkyra