|St. Theophano the Empress (Feast Day - December 16)|
On the sixteenth of this month [December], we commemorate the renowned empress and wonderworker Theophano, who was the wife of the emperor Leo the Wise.
Coming near to the Lord, Empress Theophano,
Your virtues remained polished.
She was born and raised in Constantinople, of the royal blood of the notorious Martiniakos family, the daughter of Constantine the Illustrious, and her mother was Anna, who were from the East. Daily they grieved because they did not have a child, and for this they beseeched the Lady Theotokos, always resorting to her all-revered Temple, in the place called Vassou in Sphorakion, offering their fervent entreaties. They would say: "Unbind O Mistress, the Lady of the world, unbind the childlessness, which saddens and drains us your servants." Hence having asked with faith, they received a female child, who became the empress Theophano. When she was weaned from the milk, and turned six years old, she was educated in the sacred writings, and was adorned with all that is good and virtuous. When her parents saw that she was virtuous, they leapt for joy, hoping that they would soon receive the fruits of their beautiful child. In time, therefore, this most graceful woman, together with age progressed in greater virtues, and increased in higher good things. Emperor Basil the Macedonian sought a beautiful and virtuous maiden, and he found this in Theophano, in whom assembled all good things, and he sought to have her lawfully married to his son the emperor Leo the Wise. Therefore all of Constantinople was filled with joy and gladness for this royal and honorable wedding.
Not much time passed until the devil sowed through the tongue of the abba Santavarinos a weed and wicked word. Wherefore when the father Basil heard this, he imprisoned both his son Leo with his wife Theophano for three years. But when the inauguration arrived for the Prophet Elias, then the father and son reunited, and together they went out and did the usual procession. When the emperor fell into an illness, he proclaimed his son Leo emperor and king. From then on the honorable empress passed her time in the royal palaces, contemplating the salvation of her soul, and deeming the glory of her reign as nothing. And all the joyful things of this life she considered to be like a spider's web.
Wherefore this renowned woman day and night served God with psalms and hymns, with almsgiving, and with all manner of temperance. Externally she made her appearance in her royal robes, while internally and in hiding she wore a tattered garment of hair, which was made of goat hair, and in this way she wore out her body. And she turned away from the extravagant dining table. Rather the blessed one ate meager and wild foods, namely bread and beans, and she was satisfied with this, so there was no luxuriousness or revelry. Whenever a coin fell into her hands, she distributed it to the poor. And not only this, but also her precious jewels and garments the blessed one sold and distributed the money to the hungry. She gave to the widows and orphans what they needed for their self-sufficiency. She increased the wealth of monasteries and dwelling-places of ascetics, with coins and properties. Her servants she considered to be her sisters. She never called a person only by their high name, such as "George!", "Demetrios!" or "Nicholas!", but addressed them as "Sir": "Sir George!", "Sir Demetrios!" and "Sir Nicholas!".
She never spoke a vow with her tongue, nor said a lie with her mouth, or criticized. Never did she cease to mourn from her heart in hiding, and to make her mattress wet with tears. And though her bed was made with golden and royal coverings, at night she would come in and not get into bed, but slept on the ground, where she only laid down a mat, or material made of hair, from which she rose up frequently, to send up her prayers to God. Hence due to her discipline and laborious toil, her body became dominated with illness. However, due to the temperance of the blessed one she considered her illness to be a treat. For this reason, whatever special foods were prepared for her due to her illness, she distributed to the hungry. Because she was accustomed to studying the divine words, the mouth of this thrice-blessed woman never ceased to offer up the psalms of David. Never did she forget to praise the Lord seven times a day. Nor did the renowned one sleep without tears. This was because she pitied the distresses of others, and with them she entreated the Lord to make Him gracious to herself and also to others.
Thus being sympathetic and compassionate, she alleviated the circumstances of those who hurt, helped the helpless and consoled those who suffered from afflictions and faintheartedness. And to make her story short, the empress denied the world and its joys for the Lord, and lifted the cross of Christ on her shoulders with its light yoke, and followed after Him with longing. Wherefore she did not fail to attain to the eternal good things she hoped for. And as the time for her departure came, knowing the time of her death beforehand, she invited everyone to give her final embrace, with whom she mutually embraced for her final embrace, and in peace she delivered her blessed spirit into the hands of God.*
* Her holy relic is currently found in the Patriarchate of Constantinople incorrupt.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Preferring heavenly things over 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.