February 21, 2020

Saint Zacharias, Patriarch of Jerusalem (+ 632)

St. Zacharias of Jerusalem (Feast Day - February 21)


Blessed are you and your death Zacharias,
Zacharias the president of blessed land.

Saint Zacharias had been keeper of the sacred vessels (skevophylax) of the Church of Constantinople before he became Patriarch of Jerusalem in 609. In the year 614 on the 20th of May the Persian emperor Chosroes fell upon Jerusalem, looted it, stole the True Cross of the Lord, and led many Christians into captivity, including Saint Zacharias. Of the captured Christians as many as 90,000 perished.

In 627, after rebuilding his army, Emperor Heraclius (610-641) moved into Persia. Winning a decisive victory at Nineveh, Heraclius defeated Chosroes and compelled the Persian king to return the Life-Creating Cross and the surviving captives, including Patriarch Zacharias. Emperor Heraclius himself carried the Cross on his shoulders into the Holy City.

Patriarch Zacharias and the Honorable Cross had been held in bondage for fourteen years. During that time many miracles occurred in Persia as a result of the Honorable Cross, so that even the Persians said: "The Christian God came to Persia." When the Honorable Cross and Patriarch Zacharias returned to Jerusalem, a new triumphal Exaltation of the Holy Cross took place on 21 March 630.

Patriarch Zacharias spent his remaining days in peace and reposed in the Lord in 632. Patriarch Modestus, who had acted as locum tenens during Patriarch Zacharias' captivity succeeded him on the patriarchal throne. (According to other ancient sources, Saint Zacharias died on his return to Palestine from captivity, and Saint Modestos became Patriarch when the Holy Cross returned to Jerusalem). Saint Modestos wrote of him: "History will always remember the imprisoned Patriarch Zacharias, the heroic champion of the Holy Land, with great admiration and respect for refusing to be separated from the most venerable Cross."