1. Saint Theophanes the Confessor was born in 759 at Constantinople into a pious and renowned family. His father was a relative of the Byzantine emperor Leo the Isaurian (717-741). Three years after Theophanes was born, his father died, leaving his family under the care of the emperor himself.
Theophanes grew up at the court and became a dignitary under the emperor Leo IV the Khazar (775-780). His position obliged him to enter into marriage, but he persuaded his bride to live with him in virginity.
After the death of his parents, Theophanes and his wife visited monasteries in the Sygrian district (Asia Minor), Theophanes met the Elder Gregory Stratitios, who predicted to Theophanes’ wife that her husband would earn the crown of martyrdom.
Later the wife of Theophanes was tonsured a nun in one of the monasteries in Bithynia, and Theophanes went to a monastery in the Cyzicus region. With the blessing of his Elder, Theophanes founded the Kalonymon monastery on an island in the Sea of Marmara and secluded himself in his cell, transcribing books. Theophanes attained a high degree of skill in this occupation.
Later, Saint Theophanes founded another monastery in Sygria, at a place called the “Big Settlement”, and became its igumen. He participated in all the work of the monastery, and was an example to all in his love for work and ascetical effort. He received from the Lord the gift of wonderworking, healing the sick, and casting out demons.
The Seventh Ecumenical Council met in Nicea in 787, which condemned the heresy of Iconoclasm. Saint Theophanes was also invited to the Council. He arrived dressed in his tattered garments, but he revealed his wisdom in affirming the veneration of the holy icons.
At the age of fifty, Saint Theophanes fell grievously ill and he suffered terribly until the day he died. Even on his deathbed, the saint continued to work. He wrote his CHRONOGRAPHIA, a history of the Christian Church covering the years 285-813. This work has remained an invaluable source for the history of the Church.
During the reign of the emperor Leo the Armenian (813-820), when the saint was advanced in age, the Iconoclast heresy returned. They demanded that Saint Theophanes accept the heresy, but he firmly refused and was locked up in prison. His “Big Settlement” monastery was put to the torch. The holy confessor died in 818 after twenty-three days in prison.
After the death of the impious emperor Leo the Armenian, the “Big Settlement” monastery was restored and the relics of the holy confessor were transferred there.
2. Saint Gregory Dialogus, Pope of Rome, was born in Rome around the year 540. His grandfather was Pope Felix, and his mother Sylvia (November 4) and aunts Tarsilla and Emiliana were also numbered among the saints by the Roman Church. Having received a most excellent secular education, he attained high government positions.
Leading a God-pleasing life, he yearned for monasticism with all his soul. After the death of his father, Saint Gregory used his inheritance to establish six monasteries. At Rome he founded a monastery dedicated to the holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called, where he received monastic tonsure. Later, on a commission of Pope Pelagius II, Saint Gregory lived for a while in Constantinople. There he wrote his Commentary on the Book of Job.
After the death of Pope Pelagius, Saint Gregory was chosen to the Roman See. For seven months he would not consent to accept this service, considering himself unworthy. He finally accepted consecration only after the persistent entreaties of the clergy and flock.
Wisely leading the Church, Saint Gregory worked tirelessly in propagating the Word of God. Saint Gregory compiled the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts in the Latin language, which before him was known only in the verbal tradition. Affirmed by the Sixth Ecumenical Council, this liturgical service was accepted by all the Orthodox Church.
He zealously struggled against the Donatist heresy; he also converted the inhabitants of Brittany pagans and Goths, who had been adhering to the Arian heresy, to the True Faith.
Saint Gregory headed the Church for thirteen years, ministering to all the needs of his flock. He was characterized by an extraordinary love of poverty, for which he was granted a vision of the Lord Himself.
Pope Saint Gregory the Great, as he is known, died in the year 604, and his relics rest in the cathedral of the holy Apostle Peter in the Vatican.
3. Saint Simeon the New Theologian was born in the year 949 in the city of Galatea (Paphlagonia), and he was educated at Constantinople. His father prepared him for a career at court, and for a certain while the youth occupied a high position at the imperial court. When he was fourteen, he met the renowned Elder Simeon the Pious at the Studion Monastery, who would be a major influence in his spiritual development. He remained in the world for several years preparing himself for the monastic life under the Elder’s guidance, and finally entered the monastery at the age of twenty-seven.
Saint Simeon the Pious recommended to the young man the writings of Saint Mark the Ascetic (March 5) and other spiritual writers. He read these books attentively and tried to put into practice what he read. Three points made by Saint Mark in his work “On the Spiritual Law” (see Vol. I of the English PHILOKALIA) particularly impressed him.
First, you should listen to your conscience and do what it tells you if you wish your soul to be healed (PHILOKALIA, p. 115). Second, only by fulfilling the commandments can one obtain the activity of the Holy Spirit. Thirdly, one who prays only with the body and without spiritual knowledge is like the blind man who cried out, “Son of David, have mercy upon me (Luke 18:38) (PHILOKALIA, p. 111). When the blind man received his sight, however, he called Christ the Son of God (John 9:38).
Saint Simeon was wounded with a love for spiritual beauty, and tried to acquire it. In addition to the Rule given him by his Elder, his conscience told him to add a few more Psalms and prostrations, and to repeat constantly, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me.” Naturally, he heeded his conscience.
Durint the day, he cared for the needs of people living in the palace of Patricius. At night, his prayers grew longer and he remained praying until midnight. Once, as he was praying in this way, a most brilliant divine radiance descended upon him and filled the room. He saw nothing but light all around him, and he was not even aware of the ground beneath his feet.
It seemed to him that he himself became light. Then his mind rose upward to the heavens, and he saw a second light brighter than the light which surrounded him. Then, on the edge of this second light, he seemed to see Saint Simeon the Pious, who had given him Saint Mark the Ascetic to read.
Seven years after this vision, Saint Simeon entered the monastery. There he increased his fasting and vigilance, and learned to renounce his own will.
The Enemy of our salvation stirred up the brethren of the monastery against Saint Simeon, who was indifferent to the praises or reproaches of others. Because of the increased discontent in the monastery, Saint Simeon was sent to the Monastery of Saint Mamas in Constantinople.
There he was tonsured into the monastic schema, and increased his spiritual struggles. He attained to a high spiritual level, and increased his knowledge of spiritual things through reading the Holy Scriptures and the writings of the Fathers, as well as in conversation with holy Elders.
Around the year 980, Saint Simeon was made igumen of the monastery of Saint Mamas and continued in this office for twenty-five years. He repaired and restored the monastery, which had suffered from neglect, and also brought order to the life of the monks.
The strict monastic discipline, for which Saint Simeon strove, led to great dissatisfaction among the brethren. Once, after Liturgy, some of the monks attacked him and nearly killed him. When the Patriarch of Constantinople expelled them from the monastery and wanted to hand them over to the civil authorities, Saint Simeon asked that they be treated with leniency and be permitted to live in the world.
About the year 1005, Saint Simeon resigned his position as igumen in favor of Arsenius, while he himself settled near the monastery in peace. There he composed his theological works, portions of which appear in the PHILOKALIA.
The chief theme of his works is the hidden activity of spiritual perfection, and the struggle against the passions and sinful thoughts. He wrote instructions for monks: “Theological and Practical Chapters,” “A Treatise on the Three Methods of Prayer,” (in Vol. IV of the English PHILOKALIA) and “A Treatise on Faith.” Moreover, Saint Simeon was an outstanding church poet. He also wrote “Hymns of Divine Love,” about seventy poems filled with profound prayerful meditations.
The sublime teachings of Saint Simeon about the mysteries of mental prayer and spiritual struggle have earned him the title “the New Theologian.” These teachings were not the invention of Saint Simeon, but they had merely been forgotten over time.
Some of these teachings seemed unacceptable and strange to his contemporaries. This led to conflict with Constantinople’s church authorities, and Saint Simeon was banished from the city. He withdrew across the Bosphorus and settled in the ancient monastery of Saint Makrina.
The saint peacefully fell asleep in the Lord in the year 1021. During his life he received the gift of working miracles. Numerous miracles also took place after his death; one of them was the miraculous discovery of his icon.
His Life was written by his cell-attendant and disciple, Saint Nicetas Stethatos.
Since March 12 falls during Great Lent, Saint Simeon’s Feast is transfered to October 12.
Tr by oca.org