May 12, 2021

Saint Germanos of Constantinople as a Model for our Lives

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Germanos was born in Constantinople in 640 AD. His father was the patrician Justinian, a man worthy of mention and famous for his virtue, who during the reign of Emperor Heraclius administered much public authority. His colleagues, but also others who knew him, admired him for his learning and especially for his piety and virtue. However, this caused him to be envied by the grandson of Heraclius, Constantine Pogonatos, who killed him, saying that Justinian thought of revolting against his empire. "For envy does not know where there is profit," and thus the Saint was orphaned at the age of twenty.

Saint Germanos, for his learning and especially for the sanctity of his life, was elected Metropolitan of Cyzicus at the age of thirty-seven and later ascended to the Patriarchal Throne of Constantinople. He shepherded his flock sacrificially, guiding them on the path of salvation with his inspired words and his divinely-inspired writings. He also used his hymnological charisma and, as Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite typically says, he "sweetened with melodies and songs and troparia the difficult and heavy features of vigils", which on the Holy Mountain last many hours.

When, however, the iconoclast Leo the Isaurian became Emperor, then the rich pastoral and preaching work of the Saint was stopped. He was removed from his throne because, as was natural, he refused to obey the emperor's impious decrees. He retired to his paternal estate, where he remained until the end of his earthly life. He continued to live in asceticism and prayer, as well as by writing. Unfortunately, most of his works, theological and hymnological, were not preserved, because by order of the iconoclast emperor they were thrown into the fire, "so that the orthodox doctrines would not be taught and the cacodoxy of the impious heretics and iconoclasts would not be rebuked." From the hymns he composed, 104 Stichera and 22 Canons were preserved, and from his writings the following were preserved: "On Heresies and Synods", "Three Dogmatic Letters", "Eight Discourses on the Feasts of the Lord and the Mother of God" and "Homily on the Consecration of the Temple of the Theotokos and the Swaddling-Clothes of our Lord Jesus Christ".

The Seventh Ecumenical Synod, which condemned the heresy of the iconoclasts, justified and glorified Saint Germanos, restored him to the hierarchical office and annulled the Pseudo-Synod of Hieria that took place in 754, which deposed and anathematized him.

He reposed in peace when he "attained a deep old age". His holy relic during the burial, but also afterwards, freed many people from various diseases, of the body and the soul.

His life and his conduct give us the opportunity to highlight the following:

First, the hymns of the Church that are chanted in the Holy Services and the Divine Liturgy are the works of empirical theologians, who, with their hymnographic charisma, formulated the doctrines of the faith in a manner that is pleasing and melodic, to sweeten our hearing, cause gladness in our hearts, and at the same time to nurture, to support and to elevate man spiritually, but also to lead him to communion with God, since dogmas are strong spiritual food, but also spiritual guideposts.

Indeed, with the melody of the ecclesiastical hymns, the hearing rejoices, the mind is sweetened, the heart is satisfied and man is pacified. When one chants and is happy, then his joy increases, and when he is sad, his sorrow is banished. Saint James the Brother of God exhorts those who have joy to chant, and Basil the Great teaches that ecclesiastical hymns drive away sorrow and bring to him who chants spiritual joy, gladness and and calmness. Also, Alexandros Papadiamantis, this great writer, the "singer of Romiosini", as a bearer and spokesman of the Orthodox tradition, but also as an excellent chanter, rides along the same wavelength, when he exhorts the readers of his stories to chant the "songs of God". And he addresses this exhortation because he knows from personal experience that the "songs of God" calm the soul of man and bring him peace, consolation and spiritual rejoicing and gladness.

Let us love the "songs of God" and sing them daily, to feed ourselves spiritually, to teach ourselves, to have joy, to have comfort, to have calmness.

Secondly, in his "Homily on the Veneration of the Honorable and Life-Giving Cross", Saint Germanos refers to, among other things, the command of fasting, which, as he characteristically emphasizes, provokes the one who fasts to be fragrant and illumined. That is, his mouth is fragrant and his nous is illumined by the Grace of God. On the contrary, disobedience to the command of fasting, as he says, causes a stench and darkens the nous, which happened to the First-formed in Paradise. He says: “Even if the mouths of those who are fasting from hunger give off a foul odor, they are nevertheless offered as fragrant incense, pleasing to God. After all, this is also evident from the opposite. Because, when our forefathers still chewed on the fruit of disobedience, and while the fruit was fragrant, their mouth was still smelly and foul-smelling, since it contained in it the engagements of our corruption." And he goes on to say that, "When the fruit of the wood of Paradise was eaten and devoured, then it proved to be more bitter than bile, and caused such darkness in me as a man, that I should consider everything as twisted. And when I was in the middle of Paradise, I thought that I could hide, because I perceived the rustling of the leaves as footsteps."

Once a believer was asked why he is fasting and he answered that it was because "my Church is fasting". This shows love and obedience to Christ, who is the Head of the Church, who connected love for His Person with obedience to His commandments, when He said: "If you love me, keep My commandments."

Those who love the Services of the Church, and especially the Divine Liturgy, and the divinely inspired hymns, "the songs of God", which are contained in the liturgical books, those with the aroma of divine Grace that emanates from their mouths and their hearts, these cause the whole world to be fragrant. And because they rejoice, comfort and pacify, that is why those near them rejoice, comfort and pacify "thousands of people".

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.