April 19, 2018

Saint Tryphon, Patriarch of Constantinople (+ 933)

St. Tryphon, Archbishop of Constantinople (Feast Day - April 19)


Hating luxury Tryphon longed for God,
He stands before God in His dwelling-place.

Our Holy Father Tryphon was a monk somewhere in Asia Minor from the time of his youth, distinguished by his meekness, lack of malice, full submission to the will of God, and his firm faith and love for the Church. At this time the emperor Romanos I Lekapenos (919-944) ruled in Constantinople. He wanted to elevate his younger son Theophylaktos to the patriarchal throne. Initially he had him made synkellos at the age of eleven in 924 to Patriarch Nicholas I Mystikos. When Patriarch Stephen (925-928) died, Theophylaktos was only sixteen years old and ostensibly installed on the patriarchal throne. The emperor then suggested that Tryphon be locum tenens of the patriarchal throne until Theophylaktos came of age.

Saint Tryphon meekly accepted the burden of patriarchal service and for almost three years he wisely governed the Church. When Theophylaktos turned twenty in 931, the emperor told Tryphon to resign the patriarchal throne. Tryphon did not consider it proper to hand over the throne to an inexperienced youth who cared more about worldly matters than ecclesiastical matters, and he refused to do so. The emperor could not intimidate Tryphon, since his life was blameless. Then Romanos employed the cunning counsels of Bishop Theophilos of Caesarea, who due to his horrible diet was called "pig" by the faithful.

The deceitful bishop went to Patriarch Tryphon and urged him not to obey the emperor, and not to resign the patriarchal throne. Then Bishop Theophilos craftily obtained Patriarch Tryphon’s signature on a blank sheet of paper. Not suspecting any treachery, the guileless Saint took a clean sheet of paper and wrote: “Tryphon, by the mercy of God, Archbishop of Constantinople, the New Rome, and Ecumenical Patriarch.”

When they presented this paper to the emperor, he ordered them to write over the Saint’s signature: “I hereby resign the position of Patriarch, because I consider myself unworthy of this office.” When this false document was read before the imperial dignitaries, servants removed Tryphon from the patriarchal chambers.

Saint Tryphon patiently endured the injustice done to him, and returned to his own monastery. He lived there as a simple monk for a year before his death in 933. His body was taken to Constantinople and buried with the Patriarchs, and his Synaxis was annually celebrated in the Great Church.

Though Saint Tryphon was removed from the patriarchal throne in 931, it took nearly two years before Theophylaktos was permitted to take on his patriarchal duties, and he became Ecumenical Patriarch on 2 February 933. At this time or before he was castrated to help his career in the Church. Theophylaktos was the third Patriarch of Constantinople to be the son of an emperor and the only one to have become patriarch during the reign of his father. His patriarchate of just over twenty-three years was unusually long, and his father had secured the support of Pope John XI for his elevation to the patriarchate, who had legates sent to Constantinople for the consecration.

Theophylaktos' detractors describe him as an irreverent man primarily interested in his huge stable of two thousand horses, and who was ready to abandon the celebration of the Divine Liturgy in the Hagia Sophia to be present at the foaling of his favorite mare. Theophylaktos even introduced theatrical elements to the Divine Liturgy, something which was not universally supported by the conservative clergy around him. Perhaps ironically, Theophylaktos died after falling from a horse in 956.