February 5, 2018

Saint Polyeuktos the New, Patriarch of Constantinople (+ 970)

St. Polyeuktos of Constantinople (Feast Day - February 5)


A prayerful end you were granted O shepherd of the Lord,
Indeed bearing the name of one who discourses of God.

Our Holy Father among the saints Polyeuktos was the Patriarch of Constantinople from 956 to 970. He was noted for the power of his oratory and was called a "second Chrysostom" in his day.

Polyeuktos was born in Constantinople at an unknown date. He was made a eunuch in childhood by his parents who hoped he would be able to enter the civil service of the Roman Empire. However, instead he became a monk. In his monastic life he distinguished himself for his holiness and learning.

In 956, he was appointed Patriarch of Constantinople by Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitos, as patriarchal successor to the imperial prince Theophylaktos Lekapenos. While he gained his position through Constantine VII, Patriarch Polyeuktos remained independent of the emperor. He soon questioned the legitimacy of the marriage of Constantine's parents and went as far as to restore the good name of Patriarch Euthymios I Syncellos who had so vigorously opposed their marriage.

In 957, during the reign of Emperor Constantine VII, the Russian Princess Olga came to Constantinople while Polyeuktos was patriarch. Patriarch Polyeuktos baptized her, while Emperor Constantine stood as her godfather, and prophesied: "Blessed are you among all the women of Russia, for you have rejected darkness and desired the light. Moreover, the children of the Russian land will bless you in every generation."

Although he had supported Nikephoros II Phokas in his rise to the throne against the machinations of Joseph Bringas, Patriarch Polyeuktos excommunicated Nikephoros for having married the empress Theophano on the grounds that he had been the godfather to one or more of his sons. The Patriarch had previously refused Nikephoras communion for a year for the sin of having contracted a second marriage. Although his first wife had been dead several years when he married Theophano, the religious views prevalent in the Eastern Roman Empire of the tenth century only begrudgingly tolerated remarriage, which was considered a sin, after the death of ones first wife.

Patriarch Polyeuktos had the good grace to oppose sin on all fronts. He excommunicated the assassins of the emperor Nikephoros and refused to crown the new emperor John I Tzimiskes, who was the nephew of the late Emperor and one of the assassins, until he had punished the assassins and exiled John I's lover, the empress Theophano, who organized the assassination of her husband.

He raised Bishop Petrus of Otranto in 958 to the dignity of Metropolitan, with the obligation to establish the Greek Rite throughout the province; the Latin Rite was introduced again after the Norman conquest, but the Greek Rite remained in use in several towns of the archdiocese and of its suffragans, until the sixteenth century.

During his Patriarchate the Monasteries of Great Lavra and Iveron were established on Mount Athos.

Saint Polyeuktos reposed in peace on January 16, 970.