June 4, 2011

Saint Metrophanes, First Archbishop of Constantinople

St. Mitrophanes, Archbishop of Constantinople (Feast Day - June 4)

Saint Metrophanes, Archbishop of Constantinople, was a contemporary of St Constantine the Great (306-337). His father, Dometius, was a brother of the Roman emperor Probus (276-282). Seeing the falseness of the pagan religion, Dometius came to believe in Christ. During a time of terrible persecution of Christians at Rome, St Dometius set off to Byzantium with two of his sons, Probus and Metrophanes. They were instructed in the law of the Lord by Bishop Titus, a man of holy life. Seeing the ardent desire of Dometius to labor for the Lord, St Titus ordained him presbyter. After the death of Titus first Dometius (272-303) was elevated to the bishop's throne, and thereafter his sons, Probus (303-315) and in 316 St Metrophanes.

The emperor Constantine once came to Byzantium, and was delighted by the beauty and comfortable setting of the city. And having seen the holiness of life and sagacity of St Metrophanes, the emperor took him back to Rome. Soon Constantine the Great transferred the capital from Rome to Byzantium and he brought St Metrophanes there. The First Ecumenical Council was convened in 325 to resolve the Arian heresy. Constantine the Great had the holy Fathers of the Council bestow upon St Metrophanes the title of Archbishop. Thus, the saint became the first Patriarch of Constantinople.

St Metrophanes was very old, and was not able to be present at the Council, and he sent in his place the chorepiscopos (vicar bishop) Alexander. At the close of the Council the emperor and the holy Fathers visited with the ailing Patriarch. At the request of the emperor, the saint named a worthy successor to himself, Bishop Alexander. He foretold that Paul (at that time a Reader) would succeed to the patriarchal throne after Alexander. He also revealed to Patriarch Alexander of Alexandria that his successor would be the archdeacon St Athanasius.

St Metrophanes reposed in the year 326, at age 117, and was buried by Saint James of Nisibis (celebrated Jan. 13), one of the Fathers present at the First Ecumenical Council. His relics rested at Constantinople in a church dedicated to him.


Two Clarifications About St. Metrophanes

1. It should be noted that the Canon to the Holy Trinity in the Midnight Office in the Octoechos were not composed by this Metrophanes, but by Bishop Metrophanes of Smyrna, who lived in the middle of the ninth century.

2. St. Metrophanes was not the first Patriarch of Constantinople, as some sources confuse. Constantinople did not become a Patriarchal See until the Fourth Ecumenical Synod in 451 A.D. However, St. Metrophanes was the first Bishop of Constantinople, since it was during his bishopric that the city of Byzantium came to be known as Constantinople, renamed by St. Constantine the Great. Before this time the bishop was known as the Bishop of Byzantium and, according to tradition, a successor of the Apostle Andrew. Furthermore, according to tradition, since we do not possess the actual minutes of the First Ecumenical Synod, though history seems to confirm this, it was during this Synod that it was decided the Bishop of Constantinople be elevated to an Archbishopric. Thus St. Metrophanes was the first Archbishop of Constantinople.

Apolytikion in the First Tone
Proclaiming the great myst'ry, the Godhead in Three Persons, thou didst make most clear unto all men Christ's saving dispensation. A shepherd to sheep endowed with speech, thou dravest off the spiritual wolves, and didst save from their destruction and savagery the lambs of Christ God, who cried out: Glory to Him that hath given thee strength. Glory to Him that hath crowned thee. Glory to Him that confirmed the pure Orthodox Faith through thee.

Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
Thou clearly didst teach the dogmas of the Faith of Christ; and keeping it well, thou didst increase thy faithful flock to a mighty multitude indeed. Wherefore now, O Metrophanes, with the Angels dost thou rejoice, while ceaselessly praying Christ God for us all.