June 26, 2018

Saint Theoleptos, Metropolitan of Philadelphia (+ 1322)

St. Theoleptos of Philadelphia (Feast Day - June 25)

Saint Nikodemos, in his Introduction to the writings of Saint Theoleptos in the Philokalia, tells us the following about him:

"Theoleptos, the truly great luminary of Philadelphia, flourished during the reign of Andronikos II Palaiologos, around the year 1325. He first lived the solitary life at the Holy Mountain, and from there received the dignity of Primate of the Metropolis of Philadelphia. Saint Gregory (Palamas) the Archbishop of Thessaloniki was his guide and mystagogue in lessons of excellence. He initiated him in sacred watchfulness and noetic prayer, although he still lived in the world, as is written in the life of Gregory written by Patriarch Philotheos.

The present discourse written by him, is an excellent presentation and exact rule concerning the contemplation which is internally energized by the name of Christ. His chapters which follow have been composed excellently with divine meanings and clear formulations. All these have been included here with the rest, because they are of a necessity like no other and notable for all those zealously seeking to acquire in a short summary the divinely-wise teachings of spiritual philosophy."

In the Introduction to the Philokalia in English, we are given the following information about him:

"In the past the full significance of Theoleptos in the development of fourteenth-century Orthodox theology has been underestimated, largely because most of his writings remain still unpublished. The texts included in The Philokalia represent no more than a small part of his total output. Born at Nicaea around 1250, Theoleptos was at first married, but at an early age he separated from his wife and became a monk. He suffered imprisonment because of his firm opposition to the union between the Orthodox Church and the Church Of Rome, promulgated at the Council of Lyons (1274) and upheld by the Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos. Following Michael's death, Theoleptos was elevated to the see of Philadelphia in 1284, and held the position of metropolitan there for nearly forty years. He led the heroic defense of the city against Turkish attack in 1310, and died in 1322. He was widely respected as a spiritual father, and his work in this sphere is known to us above all through his letters of direction to the nun Irene-Evlogia Choumnaina, abbess of the double monastery of Christ Philanthropos Sotir in Constantinople. St Gregory Palamas, who in his early years was a disciple of Theoleptos, in the Triads singles him out for mention as one of the leading teachers of hesychasm who lived 'in our own day,' and describes him as 'an authentic theologian and a trustworthy visionary of the truth of God's mysteries.'

The main text included here, On Inner Work in Christ and the Monastic Profession, was addressed by Theoleptos to Irene-Evlogia, but in the manuscript used by St Makarios and St Nikodemos all the expressions originally in the feminine have been changed to the masculine. In our translation we have taken account of alternative readings supplied by Fr Severien Salaville. On Inner Work in Christ is a brief but comprehensive survey of the monastic vocation, offering practical advice on the outward ordering of daily life - on behavior in church and the refectory, on conversations within the community and with outside persons, on psalmody, spiritual reading, work and sleep - but dealing above all with inner prayer. Theoleptos draws a close parallel between monastic life and the sacrament of baptism. He is apophatic in his approach, emphasizing the need to lay aside 'all representational images,' thereby attaining 'an ignorance surpassing all knowledge.' He refers several times to the invocation of the name of Jesus, and briefly mentions illumination by the divine light. Here, drawing on earlier tradition, he anticipates the themes taken up by Palamas later in the fourteenth century."

Saint Philotheos Kokkinos, in his Life of Gregory Palamas, says that Saint Theoleptos "served Gregory as the very best of spiritual fathers and guides, and from him Gregory received an excellent initiation in sacred watchfulness and noetic prayer."

Regarding what Saint Gregory Palamas wrote of him, he says the following about his first guide in hesychasm:

"But why do I refer to saints of past times? For shortly before our own day men of attested sanctity, recognized as endowed with the power of the Holy Spirit, have transmitted these things to us by their own mouths. You have heard of Theoleptos, whose name signifies ‘inspired by God’ and who is recognized in our days as an authentic theologian and a trustworthy visionary of the truth of God’s mysteries — the Bishop of Philadelphia or, rather, he who from Philadelphia as from a lampstand illumined the world."