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March 21, 2017

Saint Thomas I, Patriarch of Constantinople (+ 610)

St. Theodore I of Constantinople (Feast Day - March 21);
icon depicts All the Holy Patriarchs of Constantinople


Thomas departed this life which was numbered,
In a befitting manner finding life without number.

Saint Thomas lived during the reigns of the Emperors Maurice and Phocas and at the time of the Patriarchs John the Faster and Kyriakos. Thomas attracted the attention of Patriarch John by his great virtue, sensible mind and piety, so he was ordained by the Patriarch as Deacon of the Great Church of Hagia Sophia and was Sakellarios to the Patriarch. Following the repose of Patriarch John, Thomas remained in his position throughout the patriarchate of his successor Kyriakos.

Following the death of Patriarch Kyriakos, Thomas was elected Ecumenical Patriarch in the year 607 on January 23rd. During his reign Thomas had another wing added to the Patriarchal residence, which was next to Hagia Sophia, and it served as a banquet hall that became known as "Thomaitin". Below this was the Patriarchal library.

In the Life of Saint Theodore of Sykeon, we read of the great esteem Patriarch Thomas had for Saint Theodore. Of this we read: "When Theodore disembarked at the imperial city the most blessed Patriarch, Thomas, received him and they embraced each other with much joy. Theodore also introduced to him his disciple John, whom he wished to be ordained abbot, bearing witness to his virtuous life. The Patriarch immediately agreed thereto, invested him with the pallium and appointed him abbot, escorting him to their own monasteries in the countryside." The esteem was so great that Patriarch Thomas even sought to adopt him as a brother: "When [Theodore] had left the palace the most blessed Patriarch, Thomas, would give Theodore no peace, for he held him in great respect and had such full confidence in him that after many entreaties he persuaded him to adopt him as a brother, and Theodore promised to ask of God that in the future life, too, they might not be separated from each other."

At this time, an extraordinary event occurred in Galatia. On one occasion when there was a procession with crosses, the crosses began to sway on their own and began to strike one another. All the people were amazed at this. When the Patriarch learned about this being an actual occurrence, he asked Theodore of Sykeon about it. As the biographer of Saint Theodore records:

"Next [Thomas] asked [Theodore] whether the tale about the extraordinary shaking of the little crosses during processional litanies was really true; and on learning from the Saint that the story told him about them was true, he began privately to beg him to explain to him what such a sign meant. However, Theodore, pleading his own insignificance and calling himself an abject sinner, asserted that he did not know how to answer the question. Then Thomas fell at his feet and held them and protested that he would not get up from the ground unless he consented to satisfy him on this point, saying, 'I know and am convinced that you understand not only this sign, but many others as well; for you cannot have been content up till now to consider this as of no account and not to seek an explanation of it; if, however, it has been concealed from you till this moment and you have not been anxious to learn about it, yet now if you ask God, He will certainly reveal it to you.' Then the servant of Christ, having consented to satisfy him, made him get up and weeping bitterly said to him, 'I did not wish you to be troubled, for it is not to your profit to learn these things. But since you insist, the shaking of the crosses portends many painful and dangerous things for us - it means instability in our faith and apostasy, and the inroads of many barbarous peoples, and the shedding of much blood, and destruction and captivity throughout the world, the desolation of the holy churches, the cessation of the divine service of praise, the fall and perturbation of the Empire and perplexity and critical times for the State; and further it foreshadows that the coming of the Adversary is at hand. Therefore do you, as governor of the Church and shepherd of the people, implore God continuously, as far as in you lies, to spare His people and to order these things with pity and with mercy.' At these words the most blessed Patriarch was seized with an agony of fear and began with tears to beg Theodore to pray God to take away his life and not let him be overtaken by any of the disasters he had foretold.

And from that time forth the Patriarch continually lived in retirement in his palace and poured out confessions to Theodore and besought him with tears saying, 'Since you have with your whole heart deigned to accept me as your brother and are thus so closely bound to me and to my welfare, pray to God on my behalf that He may take my spirit and that I may not see the dangers which are to come upon us. My courage fails me and I have not the strength to see these things come and live.'"

Theodore went on to reply to the Patriarch: "Do you command that I come to you or that we see each other over there before God." This is how Saint Theodore indicated that the Patriarch would die soon. Patriarch Thomas replied: "Do not interrupt, Father, your silence; it is enough for me that you said we'll meet there before God." That very same day the Patriarch became ill and died. Shortly after him, Saint Theodore also died. Holy Patriarch Thomas reposed after serving as Patriarch for three years and two months, on Friday, 20 March, 610 A.D., and he was buried that Sunday on 22 March.

Immediately upon his repose discords and disasters began. Thomas' successor, Patriarch Sergios I, fell into the Monothelite heresy, war began with Persia that proved very injurious to the Empire, devastation came to the regions of Asia Minor where the Orthodox lived, Jerusalem fell to the Persians, and the Persians captured the Life-Giving Cross and took it to Persia. The shaking of the crosses therefore had something to do with these disturbances and especially with the taking of the True Cross.