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October 11, 2017

Synaxarion of Saint Theophilos the Confessor

St. Theophilos the Confessor (Feast Day - October 10)


By your works Theophilos you showed forth your calling,
For you contested on behalf of the divine-human icon.

Our blessed Father Theophilos was born three stades from Tiberiopolis, which in Bulgarian is known as Strumica, to pious and Orthodox parents. He was baptized when he was three years old. His parents then took him to a mountain called Selention,* and there they found our Holy Father Stephen, received his blessing, and returned again to their home. From that time the sacred child occupied himself with sacred letters.

When he was thirteen years old, he went up to Saint Stephen. When he saw the youth, he said: "For what purpose, O child, did you come to us?"

The youth replied: "You called for me O honorable Father. This is why I left my parents and came."

"When did I call for you?" the Saint said, "and what did I say?"

"While I was walking around my father's field, I heard you say to me, 'Child Theophilos, you have strayed from the Lord, who said, Take up your cross and follow Me.' I was therefore wounded in my heart because of your words, and I followed you O Father, until we arrived at the door to your cell. And immediately, when I saw the door was shut, you became invisible from my sight, and I found myself alone. And it appears to me, O holy Father, that the way you are speaking to me now, is like that which I heard you speak to me then, and that you are the same as he who called for me, and no other. Therefore I beg you, do not turn away your servant, as I seek for my salvation."

The Saint thanked God, accepted the child, and taught him the asceticism and order of monastic conduct for three years. After three years, the Saint called for the Abbot of the Lavra of that place, and he delivered over the youth to him. The Abbot took the youth, and tonsured him a monk.

The parents of Theophilos were not without care, but they searched various places to find their hidden child. After a few years had passed and they had given themselves over to much effort in finding him, they learned that he could be found at the monastery on Selention, so they went there and begged the Abbot with all their souls to allow their child to appear before them. The Abbot would not grant their request. But when he saw their sadness, and their extreme and insufferable grief, he hastened without wanting, and he showed them Theophilos. As soon as he saw his parents, they began to lament and to rejoice, embracing and kissing him. And what did they not say? And what movements did they not make, which were enough to move to tears even those without a soul or emotion?

After enjoying their son for a few days, and recognized precisely the grace of the Holy Spirit dwelling in him, then they assured the Abbot with an oath, that upon returning to their home, they would take Theophilos with them. They also said the following: "We, honorable Father, once desired to build a monastery with our funding. Therefore now is the favorable time to build it, and to place our son there, to devote himself and worship God." The Abbot at first did not want to let him go. But later, he revealed this to the brothers of the monastery, who judged it reasonable to supplicate God with a three day fast and all-night vigils, and thus this matter would be solved from above. After the fasting and vigils - Many and wondrous are Your works O Lord! - behold a voice came from above in the church, ordering them to let Theophilos go with his parents. Therefore the parents took their longed-for son, together with other brothers from the monastery, and they returned to their house rejoicing.

Shortly after they built a monastery, in which the Saint conducted himself as an ascetic for many years. Because the common enemy of mankind, the devil, never rests, he entered the ill-named beast Leo the Isaurian, who waged war against the holy icons and initiated a battle in the year 716. When he heard of Saint Theophilos, he ordered that he be brought before him. The Saint stood before him and confessed that the holy icons must be venerated, for which by order of the tyrant, he was flogged with a cowhide. Then his hands were tied behind his back and he was forced to go to Nicaea with Saint Longinus the Stylite. When the Saints arrived in Nicaea, they stood before the tribunal. The judge ordered that blessed Longinus be laid down on the ground, and to have the sacred icons he had with him placed on his head and burned. The wondrous Theophilos, whose boldness and rebuke the impious one could not bear, was tied in the form of a cross to two pillars, and he was flogged on his front and back with dry cowhide.

When the sinner saw that blood was pouring out from his body like a faucet, and the ground was turning red, he got up from his throne, and he began himself to strike the Saint in the face for a long time. Since he would not stop beating him, he ordered that inflamed iron shoes be bound to his feet, and that he be forced to run in front of them. Then the governor whose name was Ypatikos, felt shame towards the virtue of the Saint, and he said: "Perhaps, Theophilos, only you and your companions are senseless and stupid, and you are zealous to venerate the icons, or the emperor is stupid, as well as all of us in authority?" The Saint said: "If you want, let us examine from Holy Scripture the issue of holy icons and let us discuss it. I know that you have a precise knowledge of the Scriptures. And if you convince me with a reasonable defense, I will reject the veneration of icons. But if you are convinced by my words, that the veneration of icons is reasonable, then perhaps you will venerate them?" The governor said: "Unambiguously I will venerate them."

The Saint then happily began to converse regarding the honor and reverence of icons. The governor was persuaded by his words, and said to the Saint: "I, O honorable elder, want to try to persuade the emperor, that he may agree to this mentality, and that he may venerate the holy icons, if I am able. And you have by my word the permission and freedom to return to your cell." The Saint was deeply grieved that he was not able to complete the path of martyrdom. Though having wounds on his body for Christ, he rejoiced. Upon returning to his monastery, it brought great joy and gladness to his brothers and friends and relatives, as well as in the surrounding areas. A short time after his return to the contest at the monastery, the renowned one knew that he was to be taken from this earth to the heavens. After settling the matters of the monastery, and catechizing and teaching and embracing all the brothers, he departed to his desired Christ.


* There is no agreement about the location of Tiberiopolis and Mount Selention. Some identify it with Strumica which was part of Bulgaria and is in today's Macedonia. Most likely, however, is that Tiberiopolis was in Bithynia, and Mount Selention is a corruption of Mount Saint Auxentios, with a further identification of Saint Stephen with Saint Stephen the New of Mount Saint Auxentios. Furthermore, the author of the lost Life of Saint Theophilos was the bishop of the Phrygian city of Hierapolis. That he stood before the emperor and was taken to Nicaea also indicates that everything took place in Asia Minor.