April 13, 2016

Saint Martin the Confessor, Pope of Rome (+ 655)

St. Martin of Rome and the Two Bishops With Him (Feast Day - April 13 Gr., April 14 Slav. & September 20)


For Martin
As you rejoiced to take on flesh like a garment Savior,
Martin rejoiced to put off the flesh.
On the thirteenth the celebrated Martin died.

For the Two Bishops
The men of the sacred clergy sentenced to exile,
Truly considered it exceedingly generous.

Our Holy Father Martin the Confessor, Pope of Rome, was a valiant defender of the Roman Church who suffered greatly in order to preserve the divinity of Christ against the Monothelite heresy during the seventh century.

Born in Tuscany, Martin was highly educated and joined the clergy of the Church of Rome. As a priest he represented the See of Rome in Constantinople. After the death of Pope Theodore I in 649, Martin was chosen to succeed him. Martin became pope on July 5, 649. He appointed John, Bishop of Philadelphia (Amman), to be Administrator of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem after the death of Patriarch Sophronios, who had died in 638. Martin, as Pope, justified this appointment "by the apostolic power which came from Jesus Christ through Saint Peter."

During his papacy, the Monothelite heresy began to flourish. The heresy advanced the teaching that Christ had two natures but one will, contrary to the Orthodox position that He had two wills - human and divine. The heretics were able to find adherents in high levels of society, such as Emperor Constans (641–668) and Patriarch Paul of Constantinople (641–654). Emperor Constans even published a book titled Pattern of Faith (Typos) that all people were forced to read. The book supported the heresy. When Pope Martin read the book, he staunchly supported Orthodoxy and even convened the Lateran Synod with one-hundred and five bishops at Rome in order to condemn the Monothelite heresy. At the same time, the pope wrote a letter to Patriarch Paul imploring him to adhere to the purity of the Orthodox Faith and to counsel the emperor to renounce this heretical sophistry.

This letter angered both the emperor and the patriarch. When the emperor learned this, he sent the military commander Olympius to kill the pope. Since the commander was too scared to assassinate the pope himself, he hired someone to perform the deed. The hired assassin became blinded upon approaching Saint Martin and was unable to kill him. The military commander fled from Rome in fear and soon died in battle against the Saracens.

The emperor continued his pursuit to eliminate the Saint by hiring another military commander named Theodore to accuse him of collaboration with the Saracens and that he did not honor the All-Pure Mother of God. When the commander arrived in Rome and read the accusation against him, Pope Martin responded that this was slanderous and that he has no association with the Saracens, the adversaries of Christianity. "As regards the All-Pure Mother of God; if one does not honor her and does not confess her and does not reverence her, let him be cursed in this world and in the next."

The arrest orders were found impossible to carry out for a considerable period of time, but at last Martin was arrested in the Lateran on 17 June 653 along with Saint Maximus the Confessor. The commander resorted to capturing Martin at night and bringing him to the island of Naxos in the Aegean Sea. Subsequently he was brought to Constantinople with two other Bishops, where he arrived on 17 September 653. During the course of nearly three years, Martin was starved and abused by prison guards.

The Saint was brought to trial, weak and ill from the abuses he endured in prison, and stood against false witnesses who claimed he was treasonous to another group of peoples. The judge condemned the Saint without hearing his defense. Unable to bare the tortures anymore, the Saint said, "The Lord knows what a great kindness you would show me if you would deliver me quickly over to death." Many believed the false witnesses and jeered him as he was brought to prison, shouting “Anathema to Pope Martin!”, while those who believed the Saint were not able to bear seeing him so humiliated and fled in tears. Martin was to be deposed from his rank and executed.

Two years prior to Pope Martin's death, the repentant Patriarch Paul died. When the emperor visited him before his death, Paul turned his head toward the wall and wept, confessing that he had greatly sinned against Pope Martin and begged the emperor to release him. The emperor again sent a notary and other persons to the Saint in prison to interrogate him. The Saint answered, “Even if they cripple me, I will not have relations with the Church of Constantinople while it remains in its evil doctrines.” His death sentence to exile was carried out at Cherson in the Crimea, where he arrived on 15 May 655 with the two other Bishops. Saint Martin died due to hunger and sickness on September 16, 655. The two other Bishops also died in exile. Pope Martin's relics were interred in the Church of the Most Holy Theotokos outside Cherson and later brought to Rome. He is considered the last Pope to die by martyrdom.


By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

Saint Martin the Pope, before the Senate speaks:
May my body be crushed and burned,
And the most cruel sufferings, I will joyfully endure;
But, the True Faith, I will not deny.

The Good Savior was God and Man,
Two natures different with two wills, He bore,
But, two natures in one person,
And, both wills in a single light.

Such a Faith, all the Fathers passed on to us,
For such a Faith, many suffered.
May I suffer also; of all, the least
The servant of my Lord, of all the most sinful!

Thus, Martin confessed his faith to all
And truth did he speak before the heretics.
O what is the worth of man when he fears God:
Above little men, he [Martin] stands as a mountain!

Apolytikion in the Third Tone
Thou didst strengthen the Church with true doctrine, O wise Hierarch Martin; thou didst declare the two natures of Christ and put heresy to shame. Pray to Him to grant us His great mercy.

Kontakion in Plagal of the Fourth Tone
O High Priest and Teacher of Mysteries, thou didst pour forth streams of doctrine; thou didst expound the true theology that Christ has two natures and wills. Intercede for those who cry: Rejoice, blessed Father Martin.