14My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
SAINT MARK EVGENIKOS OF EPHESOS (Part II)
Pope Eugene sent another one of his representatives, Ambrogio Traversari (1386-1439). When he came to Saint Mark’s door, the Saint uttered, "If thou dost also SLANDER THE SEVEN ECUMENICAL SYNODS OF THE HOLY FATHERS, THOU, IN THE SAME MANNER, SHALL DIE WITHIN FORTY DAYS." Indeed, Ambrogio died in that time.
When the Greek bishops had affixed their signatures to the council’s decree, the emperor sent ten bishops to witness the signing of the Pope. When Pope Eugene took up the document, he closely studied the signatures of the Greek bishops. Then, while Pope Eugene was signing the decree, he asked whether the Ephesians had signed it. When he was told that Mark of Ephesos had not, he involuntarily exclaimed, "Then WE HAVE ACCOMPLISHED NOTHING!" He then stood up and demanded that Saint Mark be forced to sign the union or be delivered up to judgment as a stubborn opponent to the decree.
The Pope continued to threaten Saint Mark to no avail. Undaunted, the defender of Orthodoxy, Saint Mark, gave the Pope a decisive answer, saying,
"Thy Synods condemn those who will not obey the Church and maintain opinions contrary to what she teaches. I neither preach to my own glory nor have I said anything new or unknown to the Church. I keep intact the pure and unadulterated teachings which the Church has received and preserved, and continues to preserve, from unanimously with that of the Eastern Church, until the beginning of the schism. Even during the present Synod, you have lauded this exact pious worship of the past. No one can censure or condemn this pious teaching. Therefore, I I remain steadfast in this teaching and do not desire to deviate from it, how is it possible to judge me as a heretic? First, one must judge the teaching which I believe, and then judge me. However, the confession is holy and Orthodox, how can I justifiably be judged?
The Pope, perceiving Saint Mark’s inflexibility, finally understood there was no hope of dissuading THE LONE AND BRAVE GUARDIAN OF ORTHODOX TRUTHS. He told Saint Mark to leave his presence. The Emperor also had much to do with preventing Saint Mark from being further threatened by the Pope and his organization.
A False Union
"The decree of union was as a spider’s web," Saint Mark later wrote to Scholarios. This council can be called neither "holy" nor "ecumenical," for the following reasons: The document was not the fruit of brothers coming freely in Christ to discuss matters of the Faith. Forced measures were employed against the Greeks to reduce them to fear and trembling that they might sign. Bishop Abraham of Suzdal was even imprisoned. Others also were wearied from starvation and the threat of death; whereas others were pressured by the emperor and his pleas for aid to their homeland. Some shamefully accepted the bribe money, while others were actually persuaded by the Latin arguments. Saint Mark identified this synod as the "assembly of Caiaphas" (Matthew 26:3, 57), that is, there were clandestine meetings and agreements in cells and apartments, not out in the open as in proper to an ecumenical gathering. When it came to the signing, "Many did not know the exact contents of the document they were signing," declares Syropoulos.
The Greeks departed on the 19th of October, 1439, sailing on two Venetian vessels. Saint Mark traveled in the same galley with the emperor. The emperor treated Saint Mark with reverence and love, which may seem paradoxical to most. George Sholarios confirms this when he caracterized the emperor as "beholding Mark with wonder as a virtuous and wise man."
When the Greeks passed through Kerkyra (Corfu), the Orthodox Christians of these places received them. However, when they were informed about the union made by the Greek bishops, Syropoulos describes them as "exceedingly disgusted and repulsed." The zealous Orthodox of Methone reproached them… Now, however, we have nothing to say to them, You have worked a great evil for us in what you have done at Florence!"
The Russians turned their backs on apostate Byzantium since she had forfeited all claims to leadership in the Orthodox world by betraying the True Faith. On account of this, Byzantium lost an embittered Russia. In her judgment of the Florentine Union, the Church of Russia had shown herself to be a worthy daughter of Orthodoxy.
On the 1st day of February, in the year 1440, ships carrying the Greeks sailed into the Golden Horn. Through the merchants that had been in Ferrar and Florence, the fame and achievements of Saint Mark arrived before him in the Capital. After hearing of his valiant steadfastness, the people were waiting to applaud and cheer their hero.
When the delegation arrived on shore, the Constantinopolitans overwhelmed the bishops with questions, asking, "How did the synod end?" and "Have we gained the victory>" Bishop Anthony of Herakleia and others answered sorrowfully, "WE HAVE SOLD THE FAITH; WE HAVE EXCHANGED PIETY FOR IMPIETY; WE HAVE BETRAYED THE PURE RELIGION, WE HAVE EXCHANGED ORTHODOXY FOR HETERODOXY, AND BETRAYING OUR FORMER UNDEFILED SACRIFICE, WE HAE BECOME AZYMITES."
The people were justifiably angry. Horrified, the faithful avoided the bishops that had signed and even cast insults at them. The clergy that remained in Constantinople also would not concelebrate with the UNIONISTS. In due time, the Eastern Patriarchs announced that they were NOT bound by anything that their representatives had signed. One described the people’s behavior toward Saint Mark thus: "The Ephesian beheld that the crowd glorified him BECAUSE HE DID NOT SIGN. The multitudes venerated him as the Israelites of old did Moses and Aaron. All lauded him and called him "Saint." Even those that were against Saint Mark said, "HE RECEIVED NEITHER GIFTS NOR GOLD" from the Pope.
The emperor found that it was easier to sign the union than to enforce it. Influenced by his aged mother, Helena Dragases of the Serbian Dynasty in Eastern Macedonia, the emperor did not force it on his people. The Byzantines DID NOT ACCEPT THE UNION and ignored all exhortations by the partisans of the union. An almost painful silence enshrouded by the Church when, during the Great Fast of 1440, the churches were empty and there were no services. NO ONE WANTED TO SERVE WITH THE BISHOPS WHO HAD SIGNED.
SAINT MARK THE HERO
All zealous for Orthodoxy, Athonite monks, and even village priests, flocked around Saint Mark and revered him as a hero. The holy man continued to shatter the strength of the apostates and the Council of Florance with his writings and addresses directed against the union. As had been expected, Saint Mark refused the dignity of the Patriarchal throne. Anthony of Herakleia bowed with remorse, and openly rejected the union, declaring it contrary to the ancient tradition of the Holy Catholic Church. He also refused the honor of being a Patriarch, deeming himself guilty.
The Activities of the Saint
Saint Mark, the bright adornment of ascetics, now forty-nine years old and afflicted with terminal cancer, was still strong in spirit and would not remain silent. In his letters to all Christians, he encouraged them to depart from the Florentine Union, AS A UNION OFFENSIVE TO GOD. In a letter to Hieromonk Theophanes of Evia, Saint Mark wrote: "FLEE, BRETHREN! FLEE COMMUNION WITH THE INCOMMUNICABLE AND THE COMMEMORATION OF THE UNCOMMEMORATIVE. BEHOLD, I, MARK, THE SINNER, TELL YOU THAT WHOEVER COMMEMORATES THE POPE AS AN ORTHODOX PRELATE IS GUILTY. MOREOVER, ONE WHO MINDS THE DOGMAS OF THE LATINS WILL BE JUDGED WITH THE LATINS, AND WILL BE DEEMED A BETRAYER OF THE FAITH."
April 1443 marked the first official judgment against the FALSE COUNCIL OF FERRARA-FLORENCE, which was initiated by the Patriarch Joachim of Jerusalem (1435-1450). The Patriarch Philotheos of Alexandria, Patriarch Dorotheos of Antioch, and Metropolitan Arsenios of Caesarea in Cappadocia met. They all condemned the Florentine Council as "VILE" and only for "the glory of the Latins together with Pope Eugene." Also, Patriarch Metrophanes II of Constantinople was condemned as a heretic.
The Repose of Saint Mark
Long before his death, the Saint, as a father, gave instructions to those present concerning the direction of the Church and OUR CORRECT FAITH, by admonishing many to return away from every innovation. However, the time of his earthly translation approached, that he might receive the everlasting reward. In 1444, having retired to his boyhood home in Galata, a section of Constantinople, the holy man suffered terribly for fourteen days prior to his repose. On the day of his blessed repose, the last thoughts of the Saint were not for himself but FOR ORTHODOXY, TO WHICH HE HAD DEVOTED HIS WHOLE LIFE. His brother John notes that Saint Mark was fifty-two years old when he reposed on the 23rd of June 1444.
Our Holy Orthodox Church commemorates Saint Mark Evgenikos, Metropolitan of Ephesos, single-combatant, champion, and guardian of Orthodoxy on the 19th of January. [ Source:The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church]
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
+ + +
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God