March 8, 2016

Saint Theophylaktos, Bishop of Nicomedia (+ c. 840)

St. Theophylaktos of Nicomedia (Feast Day - March 8)


You were exiled in the flesh, as if it was your homeland,
Divine Theophylaktos, guarded by God.
On the eighth Theophylaktos went near to God.

Saint Theophylaktos (Theophylact) was from the East, and his native city is unknown. He came to Constantinople in the eighth century during the time of the iconoclast heresy, where he received a great education and quickly gained fame and had friendly relations with government officials and dignitaries.

After the death of the iconoclast emperor Leo IV the Khazar (775-780), Emperor Constantine VI (780-797) ascended the throne. At the same time, Patriarch Paul (Aug. 30), not having the strength to continue guiding the flock in the face of iconoclasm, voluntarily resigned his office in 784. Saint Tarasios (Feb. 25) was chosen in his place. At that time, he was an eminent imperial counselor. Under the supervision of the new Patriarch, the Seventh Ecumenical Synod (787) was convened to condemn the iconoclast heresy. A relatively peaceful time began for the Church, and monasteries again began to fill with monastics.

Theophylaktos, a gifted disciple of Saint Tarasios, with the blessing of the Patriarch, went to a monastery on the coast of the Black Sea with Michael (May 23). God granted the zealous ascetics by their God-pleasing labors and intense prayer the gift of wonderworking. During a drought, when the workers in the field were weakened by thirst, the Saints prayed and an empty vessel became filled with enough water to last the entire day. After several years in the monastery, Patriarch Tarasios consecrated them both as Bishops around the year 780. Saint Michael was made Bishop of Synnada, and Saint Theophylaktos was made Bishop of Nicomedia.

Heading the Church of Nicomedia, Saint Theophylaktos cared for the flock entrusted to him. He built churches, hospices and homes for wanderers, as well as the Hospital of the Holy Unmercenaries Kosmas and Damianos; he generously distributed alms, was the guardian of orphans, widows and the sick, and personally attended those afflicted with leprosy, not hesitating to wash their wounds with warm water.

When the iconoclast Leo the Armenian (813-820) came to the imperial throne, the terrible heresy burst forth with renewed strength. After the death of Saint Tarasios in 806, his successor Saint Nikephoros (June 2) called together a number of Bishops to help him in fighting the iconoclasm of Emperor Leo the Armenian. Among them was Saint Euthymios, Bishop of Sardis (Dec. 26), who had attended the Seventh Ecumenical Synod in 787. Euthymios was exiled three times for the sake of the holy icons, and for defying the Emperor Theophilos’ command to renounce the veneration of the icons, was scourged from head to foot until his whole body was one great wound, from which he died eight days later, around the year 830. Saint Joseph of Thessaloniki (July 14), Saint Michael of Synnada (May 23), Saint Aimilianos of Cyzicus (Aug. 8) and Saint Theophylaktos boldly rebuked Leo to his face, telling him that because he despised the long-suffering and patience of God, utter destruction was about to overtake him, and there would be none to deliver him. Leo the Armenian, according to the Saint’s prophecy, was slain in church on the eve of our Lord’s Nativity, in 820.

For his bold prophecy, Saint Theophylaktos was sent into exile to the fortress Strobilos in the Cibyrrhaeot Theme (southern coast of Asia Minor), where he languished for 30 years until his death around 840. After the restoration of icon-veneration in the year 842 under the empress Saint Theodora (Feb. 11) and her son Michael, the holy relics of Saint Theophylaktos were returned to Nicomedia and interred in the Church of the Holy Unmercenaries Kosmas and Damianos, which he built.

Saint Theodore the Studite called Saint Theophylaktos a pillar of truth, a support of Orthodoxy, a protector of piety, a bulwark of the Church.

A chapel dedicated to Saint Theophylaktos was erected in the imperial palace in the 10th century, probably by Emperor Romanos I the Lekapenos (920-944), the father of Patriarch Theophylaktos of Constantinople (931-956).

Saint Theophylaktos was the first patron saint of the island of Hydra, until the martyrdom of Saint Constantine of Rhodes on 14 November 1800, who then became established as its patron. However, the first mayor of Hydra, Lazarus Kountouriotis, in gratitude for the miraculous intervention of Saint Theophylaktos in preserving the island during the earthquake on 8 March 1837, dedicated a large portable icon of the Saint to the Monastery of Panagia Phaneromeni, founded around the middle of the 17th century, which is the current Cathedral Church of the Dormition in Hydra. This icon, which was painted in 1837, is today found in the Ecclesiastical Museum of Hydra. Another large portable icon of the Saint dated to 1780 is in the Parish Church of the Ypapanti of the Lord in Hydra. A Chapel to the Saint can also be found in the village of Parparia on the island of Chios, and a Church was erected in his honor in Tinos by Hieromonk Theophylaktos of Crete.

A Service of Praise was composed in his honor by Euthymios of Simonopetra.

Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Second Tone
Thou didst live a life hidden in God, O all-famed Theophylaktos, but Christ revealed thee unto all as a shining light set upon the spiritual lampstand, and He placed in thy hands the tablets of the Spirit's doctrines; whereby do thou enlighten us.

Apolytikion in the Third Tone
Thou wast an unsleeping guardian of the Church and a refuter of ungodliness. Thou didst reverence the icon of Christ, and so endure exiles and afflictions. Venerable Father Theophylaktos, entreat Christ our God to grant us His great mercy.

Kontakion in the Second Tone
We praise thee as a firm champion of Orthodoxy, and a strong censor of heresy. And so we cry to thee: O Theophylaktos, divine initiate, save from every temptation those who faithfully hymn thee, and pray that our souls may be saved.

1837 Portable Icon in the Ecclesiastical Museum of Hydra

1780 Portable Icon in the Church of the Ypapanti in Hydra

Chapel in Parparia, Chios

Church in Tinos

Interior of the Church in Tinos