My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
On the 6th of February, Our Holy Orthodox Church Commemorates
SAINT PHOTIOS THE GREAT, Patriarch of Constantinople and our
Most Resplendent Father and Teacher of the Church.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn, Fourth Tone
Since thou wast of like way with the Apostles, and a teacher of the
world, O Photios, entreat the Master of all, that peace be granted
unto the world and great mercy to our souls.
Kontakion Hymn. Plagal of Fourth tone
Let that resplendent and far-shining star of Christ God’s Church, let
that divinely-given guide of all the Orthodox, be now crowned with
comely garlands of songs and praises; the Good Comforter’s
divinely-sounding harp of truth and the steadfast adversary all
heresy: Let us cry to him: Rejoice, O Photios most venerable.
The many struggles that this thrice-blessed one undertook for the Holy Orthodox Faith against the Manichaeans, the Iconoclasts, and other heretics, and the attacks and assaults that he endured from Pope Nicholas I, the haughty and ambitious Pontiff of Rome, and the great persecutions and distresses he suffered, are beyond number. Contending against the Latin heresy of the FILIOQUE, that is, the doctrine that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father AND THE SON, he demonstrated clearly with his Mystagogy on the Holy Spirit HOW THE FILIOQUE CLAUSE, ADDED BY THE LATINS TO THE CREED, DESTROYS THE UNITY AND EQUALITY OF THE HOLY TRINITY. He has left us many theological writings, panegyric homilies, and epistles, including one to Boris, the Sovereign of Bulgaria, in which he set forth for him the history and teachings of the Seven Ecumenical Synods.
EXCERPTS FROM THE GREAT SYNAXARISTES OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH ON
THE LIFE OF SAINT PHOTIOS THE GREAT, PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE:
"Without the Pope of Rome, supposedly, nothing in the Church could be decided. Therefore, according to Pope Nicholas Ist, Christianity itself COULD NOT EXIST WITHOUT ROME. Thus, Pope Nicholas also sought to take from the Eastern Byzantine Emperor all of Southern Italy, Sicily, and the entire Balkan peninsula, together with all the Slavic lands which had just begun to accept the Christian Faith from Constantinople. However, Pope Nicholas Ist was to find that, though he was able to subject an illiterate West, the Easterners viewed with scorn and contempt his quest for SUPREMACY OVER THEM.
Without careful inquiry and without waiting to be fully informed about Patriarch Photios, Pope Nicholas wrote to both Photios and the Emperor. He addressed Patriarch Photios, however, as a simple layman, without giving him any Episcopal title, though he knew him to have been lawfully consecrated. This pretense was the Pope’s way of saying THAT NO BISHOP COULD APPROACH THE PATRIARCHAL CHAIR, EXCEPT BY THE CONSENT OF THE LATIN PONTIFF. The legitimacy of Photios’s ordination did not depend upon the Papal will, but upon the judgment pronounced upon Patriarch Ignatius, and the regularity of the election of Photios. A Synod comprised of 318 Bishops, including Western legates, had publicly approved Photio’s election and Ignatius’ deposition.
After convoking a council in Rome in 863, held in the Lateran, Pope Nicholas Ist, unjustly DEPOSED AND EXCOMMUNICATED Patriarch Photios. The basis for these charges was that Patriarch Photios had taken the Patriarchal throne in an UNCANONICAL MANNER. Pope Nicholas also threatened that if Photios did not conform to the decision of the Lateran Council, Photios would remain EXCOMMUNICATED until his deathbed. Nicholas also wrote letters to Emperor Michael III and to Photios, refusing to address Photios as Patriarch, but simply as a "very wise man."
Not stopping there, Pope Nicholas also wrote to the Eastern Patriarchs of ALEXANDRIA, ANTIOCH, AND JERUSALEM, commanding them to make known to their faithful the decisions of the Apostolic See of Rome. The supremacy of Peter has, in fact, been held by the Latins (Roman Catholics) from 860 UNTIL THE PRESENT. The Pope (Nicholas 1st) ordered that Patriarch Photios and Ignatius be sent to Rome TO BE JUDGED BY HIM. The Eastern Church was greatly insulted by this unheard-of action. In spite of this, Saint Photios, showing true love, never gave way to wrath. He considered that silence would be the practical way to maintain unity between East and West. Any further communication would have been pointless. The Emperor also terminated further contact with the Pope.
The Eastern Churches simply viewed the Bishop of Rome AS ONE AMONG MANY EQUALS. Nevertheless, without any authority, Pope Nicholas PRONOUNCED AN ANATHEMA AGAINST PHOTIOS, in a Council which he held in Rome, in early 863. Pope Nicholas was mistaken to presume upon this authority. In fact, the very Synods to which Nicholas appealed had ordained that a bishop should only be tried and condemned by the brethren of his Province. The Synods DID NOT GRANT ANY MORE AUTHORITY TO THE BISHOP OF ROME THAN TO THE OTHERS. Patriarch Photios, who was well-versed in the ancient Canons, viewed the excommunication of Pope Nicholas as null. Therefore, he continued zealously the discharge of his Episcopal duties.
The conflict between Rome and Constantinople reached a climax. Patriarch Photios championed not only THE AUTONOMY OF THE BYZANTINE CHURCH but also the most vital interest of the Empire. Emperor Michale III afforded him full support. Michael sent the Pope a letter that declared Byzantine belief in their own independence and supremacy. He also demanded, in the form of an ultimatum, that the Papal decision against Photios be withdrawn. He also wrote, with cutting acrimony, that the Byzantines rejected Rome’s claim to supremacy. IN THE CHURCH OF CHRIST, THE HEAD IS OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. IT IS HE WHO GOVERNS HIS CHURCH BY THE HOLY SPIRIT, THROUGH HIS RIGHTEOUS ONES, AND THROUGH THE SYNODS.
As a result of Patriarch Photios’ circular letter among the Oriental Patriarchates, in the summer of 867, a Great Ecumenical Synod was convened, comprising about 1,000 bishops, clerics, and monks. Among those in attendance, there were three bishops of the Latins West. Many were the good causes for the Synod to excommunicate Pope Nicholas Ist and condemn Rome’s ecclesiastical customs; the Pope’s claims for primacy, his insulting actions against the Eastern Church, Papal invasion into Buglaria, heretical teachings of Frankish missionaries sent by him, and the innovative addition of the Filioque.
At the Synod, the letters of Pope Nicholas were read, and, by a UNANIMOUS VOTE, he was held unworthy of the Episcopate. The sentence against Pope Nicholas was AN EXCOMMUNICATION, but not a deposition. Though Nicholas’ condemnation of Photios in 863 was unjust, yet the judgment of this Synod WAS CANONICAL. Any Church has a right to separate herself from the communion of those THAT SHE DEEMS GUILTY, NO LONGER CONSIDERING THEM BISHOPS. This Synod also REJECTED THE FRANKISH DOCTRINE OF THE PROCESSION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AS HERETICAL. The Synod also pronounced Latin interference in the affairs of the Byzantine Church as unlawful.
Having tended the Church of Christ in holiness and in an evangelical manner, and with fervent zeal having rooted out all the tares of every alien teaching, he departed to the Lord in the Monastery of the Armenians on February 6, 891.
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomoa
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God