June 20, 2017

Saint Kallistos I, Patriarch of Constantinople (+ 1363)

St. Kallistos I of Constantinople (Feast Day - June 20)


Kallistos passed through perishable beauty with a right mind,
Now he is beholding beauty imperishable.

Saint Kallistos was a disciple of Saint Gregory of Sinai, and lived an ascetic life as a monk at Mount Athos for twenty-eight years, initially in the Skete of Magoula, near Iveron Monastery. There he was also ordained a Priest. Kallistos was noted for his virtue and deep education. He followed Saint Gregory of Sinai to Paroria where they established hesychastic hermitages, but he soon returned to Mount Athos and entered Iveron Monastery. The Holy Community of Mount Athos chose him to lead the opposition against the Bogomils, who had infiltrated Mount Athos. Kallistos was an enthusiastic follower of the hesychastic teaching of Saint Gregory Palamas. He also founded the Monastery of Saint Mamas at Tenedos, a small island near the Dardanelles.

Kallistos was elected to the Patriarchal Throne of Constantinople on 10 June 1350, succeeding Patriarch Isidore, and the emperor had him escorted from Mount Athos to Constantinople. He was a very active patriarch. Noteworthy is his sigillion of December 1350 against those who fled to sorcerers. He dedicated a homily to this subject titled Homily Against Sorcery and Sorcerers.

Synod of 1351 at Blachernae

In 1351, he convened the Ninth Ecumenical Synod in Constantinople at Blachernae that finally established the Orthodoxy of Hesychasm and condemned the anti-hesychasts. Kallistos mounted a vigorous campaign to have the Palamite doctrine accepted by the other Eastern patriarchates as well as all the metropolitan sees under their jurisdiction. However, it took some time to overcome initial resistance to the doctrine. One example of resistance was the response of the Metropolitan of Kiev who, upon receiving tomes from Kallistos that expounded the Palamite doctrine, rejected it vehemently and composed a reply refuting it.

In 1353, Patriarch Kallistos refused to crown Matthew Kantakouzenos, son of Emperor John VI Kantakouzenos, as emperor with his father in opposition to the legal emperor John V Palaiologos and, as a result, was deposed. After his deposition in 1353, Kallistos withdrew to live in silence at the monastery he had built in honor of Saint Mamas at Tenedos.

Signature of Patriarch Kallistos I from the Synodal Tome of 1351

In 1354, after John VI abdicated and became a monk, Kallistos returned as patriarch. After his return, Kallistos worked to strengthen the administration of the patriarchate. He reorganized the parish system of churches under the surveillance of a patriarchal exarch. He also strove to strengthen patriarchal control over various jurisdictions, even to the extent of excommunicating Stephen Uros IV Dusan of Serbia, for establishing the Serbian archbishop as an independent patriarch.

In 1355, Patriarch Kallistos of Constantinople wrote to the clergy of Trnovo that those Latins who had baptized by single immersion should be re-baptized. He called the baptism by one immersion most improper and full of impiety. His view was based on the Apostolic canons which clearly state that those baptized by one immersion are not baptized and should be re-baptized. He also strongly advised that the Holy Myrrh used for Chrismation should not be the myrrh taken from the relics of Saints Demetrios and Barbaros.

The Chapel of Saint Kallistos attached to the Cathedral of the Holy Theodoroi at Serres

Also in 1355 he helped Saint Athanasios build the Monastery of the Transfiguration at Meteora. At this time also the Athonite Monasteries of Pantocrator and Simonopetra were established. He wrote the monastic rule for Pantocrator Monastery. He also wrote both the biographies of Saint Gregory of Sinai and Saint Theodosios of Trnovo.

In 1363 he was en route to Serres as a member of the embassy of Emperor John V Palaiologos seeking aid from Helena of Bulgaria, Empress of Serbia against the Ottoman Empire's expansion into Thrace. On his way to Serres he stopped at Mount Athos. Seeing him, Saint Maximos of Kavsokalyva foretold his death, saying, "This old man will never see his old woman again" (by "old woman" he meant Constantinople). Saint Maximos then began to walk behind him chanting the funeral psalm, "Blessed are the undefiled in the way" (Psalm 119:1). Arriving in Serres he met with the Empress, but he came down with an infectious disease and died, though it was speculated at the time that he may have been poisoned.

Patriarch Kallistos was buried in a magnificent chapel, to the left of the entrance of the Cathedral of the Holy Theodoroi in the city of Serres.

18th cent. icon of St. Kallistos at Pantocrator Monastery

Apolytikion in the First Tone
Proving to be a wise Patriarch of the Queen City, and the boast of Mount Athos, the treasure of Serres, the friend and advocate of the divine hesychasts of Christ, wherefore all of us Father Kallistos with joy sing hymns and cry out: Glory to Christ Who glorified you, glory to Him Who made you wondrous, glory to Him Who through you gives to us that which is beautiful.