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August 25, 2018

Saint Epiphanios, Patriarch of Constantinople (+ 535)

St. Epiphanios of Constantinople (Feast Day - August 25)


Epiphanios died and was carried away drunk,
Lying dead in a deep sleep he forthwith treaded grapes.

Epiphanios was the Patriarch of Constantinople from February 25, 520 to June 5, 535, succeeding John II Cappadocia.

The first conspicuous duty of Epiphanios was the charge of the catechumens at Constantinople. In 519, the year before his election, he was sent with Patriarch John II and count Licinius to Macedonia to receive the documents of those who wished reunion with the Church of Rome, at the request of the apocrisiarius of Dorotheus, Bishop of Thessaloniki.

On 25 February 520, he was elected Archbishop of Constantinople by the Roman Emperor Justin I, with the consent of bishops, monks and the people. He is described in the letter of the Synod of Constantinople to Pope Hormisdas as "holding the right faith, and maintaining a fatherly care for orphans".

He accepted the conditions of peace between East and West concluded by his predecessor, Patriarch John II with Pope Hormisdas; ratifying them at a synod at Constantinople, where he accepted also the decrees of Chalcedon. Dioscorus, agent of Hormisdas at Constantinople, writes of his fair promises, but adds, "What he can he fulfill we don't know. He has not yet asked us to communion". Four letters remain of Epiphanios to Hormisdas, telling him of his election, sending him his creed, and declaring that he condemned all those whose name the Pope had forbidden to be recited in the diptychs.

Epiphanios adopted the Symbol of Nicaea, the decrees of Ephesus, Constantinople, and Chalcedon, and the letters of Pope Leo I in defence of the faith. His second letter was accompanied by a chalice of gold surrounded with precious stones, a patina of gold, a chalice of silver, and two veils of silk, which he presented to the Church of Rome. In order to make the peace general, he advised the Pope not to be too rigorous in exacting the extrusion of the names of former bishops from diptychs. His excuse for the bishops of Pontus, Asia, and the East is composed in very beautiful language. The answers of Hormisdas are given in the Acts of the Synod of Constantinople held under Menas, in which he states his trust in the prudence and experience of Epiphanios, and recommends leniency towards the returning, severity to the obdurate. Epiphanios is to complete the reunion himself.

The severe measures by which Justin was establishing the supremacy of the Orthodox in the East were arousing Theodoric the Great, the Ostrogothic and Arian master of Italy, to retaliation in the West. Pope John I, the successor of Hormisdas, became alarmed; and in 525, at the demand of Theodoric, proceeded to Constantinople to obtain the revocation of the edict against the Arians and get their churches restored to them (Marcellinus Comes).

Great honor was paid to Pope John in the eastern capital. The people went out twelve miles to receive him, bearing ceremonial tapers and crosses. Emperor Justin prostrated himself before him, and wished to be crowned by his hand. Patriarch Epiphanios invited him to celebrate the Divine Liturgy; but the Pope, mindful of the traditional policy of encroachment, refused to do so until they had offered him the first seat. With high solemnity he said the office in Latin on Easter Day, communicating with all the bishops of the East except Patriarch Timothy of Alexandria, the declared enemy of Chalcedon.

In 531 the dispute between Rome and Constantinople was revived by the appeal of Stephen, Metropolitan of Larissa, to Pope Boniface II, against the sentence of Epiphanios. Stephen was eventually deposed, notwithstanding his appeal.

Epiphanios died after an episcopate of fourteen years and three months, on the 5th of June 535. All that is known of him is to his advantage. Besides his letters to Hormisdas, we have the sentence of his synod against Severus of Antioch and Peter Mongus. Forty-five canons are attributed to him. It is said that in 535 he also granted autocephaly to the Metropolis of Ochrid.