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September 15, 2015

Saint Symeon, Archbishop of Thessaloniki (+ 1429)

St. Symeon of Thessaloniki (Feast Day - September 15)

Saint Symeon, Archbishop of Thessaloniki, is one of the most important figures of the Orthodox Church in the later Roman period prior to the fall of Constantinople and Thessaloniki to the Ottomans. We do not have much information about his life. He was born in the latter half of the fourteenth century in Constantinople. After completing his education he entered the monastic life in a monastery of Constantinople, probably in that which was founded by the Xanthopoulos brothers.

Having cultivated the virtues of the angelic life: humility, meekness, self-control and prayer, he succeeded Gabriel on the episcopal throne of Thessaloniki some time between 1416 and 1418 after being ordained a Hierarch in Constantinople. In spite of poor health and frequent illness, he fed his flock unfailingly with the honey of his words, giving them courage to endure the trials that beset them, and exhorting them to place all their hope in God, to be loyal to the Emperor, and to have confidence in their patron Saint Demetrios.

In the middle of his episcopal reign Thessaloniki came under the Venetians (1423-1430), which he encouraged the people to bear in order to prolong the Turkish invasion of their city. Six months before the city fell to Murad II on the 29th of March 1430, Saint Symeon dreamt that he was in a richly decorated house and heard a voice telling him not to tally there admiring its beauties, but to get out quickly before it fell to the ground. For this reason the Lord received his soul on the 15th of September 1429, before Thessaloniki fell to the Ottomans. All the inhabitants of Thessaloniki mourned his passing, not only Orthodox but also Latins and Jews, for he was a father and shepherd to all. He was not formally numbered among the saints by the Ecumenical Patriarchate until the 14th of April 1981.

The pastoral, liturgical, theological and apologetic contribution of Saint Symeon is significant. He is especially known for his works in liturgical theology, composing hymns and prayers, and compiling a vast spiritual commentary on all the rites and ceremonies of the Orthodox Church, so that these treasures are not lost to us, even though the glory of the Roman Empire is no more. Theologically he was a champion of the hesychasm of Saint Gregory Palamas. He was also an all-encompassing defender of Orthodoxy against every heresy and falsehood.

Apolytikion in the First Tone
You showed yourself to be a shepherd of Thessaloniki in the Spirit, and a divine student of the mysteries of grace, wisdom and the light of the virtues, radiant Hierarch Symeon, for this reason you are a divine mystagogue, and we honor you crying out: Glory to Christ Who glorified you, Glory to Him Who crowned you, Glory to Him Who grants to us through you grace and mercy.