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Archive for February, 2010

stgregorypalamas.jpg

Troparion Tone 8
Light of Orthodoxy, pillar and doctor of the Church, adornment of monks, invincible champion of theologians, O Gregory the wonderworker, praise of Thessalonica, preacher of grace, ever pray that our souls may be saved.

Kontakion Tone 2
Organ of wisdom, holy and divine, bright clarion of theology, we praise thee in harmony, O divine speaker Gregory: But as a mind standing before the First Mind, direct our mind to Him, father, that we may cry: Rejoice, preacher of grace!

From the OCA website:

This Sunday was originally dedicated to St. Polycarp of Smyrna (February 23). After his glorification in 1368, the commemoration of St. Gregory Palamas (November 14) was appointed for the Second Sunday of Great Lent as a second “Triumph of Orthodoxy.”

Introduction to Saint Gregory Palamas (from Saint Gregory Palamas Monastery)
A Homily on the Dormition of Our Supremely Pure Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary
St Gregory Palamas: On the Holy Icons
Knowledge of God according to St. Gregory Palamas (from Orthodox Psychotherapy, Chapter Six)
St. Gregory Palamas and the Tradition of the Fathers by Fr. George Florovsky
The Teaching of Gregory Palamas on Man by Panayiotis Christou
Light to the World: The Life of Saint Gregory Palamas (1296–1359) (from AGAIN magazine)

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Troparion Tone 6
In thy divine teachings thou wast a physician for souls, O Father Cassian,/ and setting aright the thoughts of monastics by grace,/ thou didst lead them to life everlasting./ Wherefore, we all honor thee with love.

Kontakion Tone 2
Having delighted in discipline, abstinence, and continence,/ O divinely wise one,/ and having bridled your carnal desires,/ you were seen increasing in faith./ And you flourished like the tree of life in the midst of Eden,/ O all-blessed, most sacred Father Cassian.

Note: St. John’s feast day is actually 29 February, but is translated in non-leap-years to 28 February.

St John’s The Institutes (begin) and The Conferences (begin) are among his most well-known works, but he also has an anti-Nestorian work On the Incarnation (begin).

St. John is also falsely by some in the West labelled a semi-Pelagian, and his synergisitic understanding of grace called a heresy. I defend him against such misunderstandings and calumny in my “St John Cassian: On Grace and Free Will” (a part of the soteriology diablog).

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Troparian Tone 2
We venerate Your most pure image, O Good One,
and ask forgiveness of our transgressions, O Christ God.
Of Your own will You were pleased to ascend the Cross in the flesh
to deliver Your creatures from bondage to the enemy.
Therefore with thanksgiving we cry aloud to You:
You have filled all with joy, O our Savior,
by coming to save the world.

Kontakion Tone 8
No one could describe the Word of the Father;
but when He took flesh from you, O Theotokos, He accepted to be described,
and restored the fallen image to its former beauty.
We confess and proclaim our salvation in word and image

About the icon of the triumph of Orthodoxy.

From Greek Orthodox Archdiocese website:

The dominant theme of this Sunday since 843 has been that of the victory of the icons. In that year the iconoclastic controversy, which had raged on and off since 726, was finally laid to rest, and icons and their veneration were restored on the first Sunday in Lent. Ever since, that Sunday been commemorated as the “triumph of Orthodoxy.”

Orthodox teaching about icons was defined at the Seventh Ecumenical Council of 787, which brought to an end the first phase of the attempt to suppress icons. That teaching was finally re-established in 843, and it is embodied in the texts sung on this Sunday.

In the liturgy, after the Nicene Creed, is said:

Deacon: This is the faith of the apostles! This is the faith of the fathers! This is the Orthodox faith! This faith has established the universe!

Furthermore, we accept and confirm the councils of the holy fathers, and their traditions and writings which are agreeable to divine revelation.

And though the enemies of Orthodoxy oppose this providence and the saving revelation of the Lord, yet the Lord has considered the reproaches of His servants, for He mocks those who blaspheme His Glory, and has challenged the enemies of Orthodoxy and put them to flight!

As we therefore bless and praise those who have obeyed the divine revelation and have fought for it; so we reject and anathematize those who oppose this truth, if while waiting for their return and repentance, they refuse to turn again to the Lord; and in this we follow the sacred tradition of the ancient Church, holding fast to her traditions.

To those who deny the existence of God, and assert that the world is self-existing, and that all things in it occur by chance, and not by the providence of God, Anathema!

All: Anathema! (…and after each exclamation.)

Deacon: To those who say that God is not spirit, but flesh; or that He is not just, merciful, wise and all-knowing, and utter similar blasphemies, Anathema!

To those who dare to say that the Son of God and also the Holy Spirit are not one in essence and of equal honor with the Father, and confess that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit are not one God, Anathema!

To those who foolishly say that the coming of the Son of God into the world in the flesh, and His voluntary passion, death, and resurrection were not necessary for our salvation and the cleansing of sins, Anathema!

To those who reject the grace of redemption preached by the Gospel as the only means of our justification before God, Anathema!

To those who dare to say that the all-pure Virgin Mary was not virgin before giving birth, during birthgiving, and after her child-birth, Anathema!

To those who do not believe that the Holy Spirit inspired the prophets and apostles, and by them taught us the true way to eternal salvation, and confirmed this by miracles, and now dwells in the hearts of all true and faithful Christians, and teaches them in all truth, Anathema!

To those who reject the immortality of the soul, the end of time, the future judgment, and eternal reward for virtue and condemnation for sin, Anathema!

To those who reject all the holy mysteries held by the Church of Christ, Anathema!

To those who reject the Councils of the holy fathers and their traditions, which are agreeable to divine revelation and kept piously by the Orthodox Catholic Church, Anathema!

To those who mock and profane the holy images and relics which the holy Church receives as revelations of God’s work and of those pleasing to Him, to inspire their beholders with piety, and to arouse them to follow these examples; and to those who say that they are idols, Anathema!

To those who dare to say and teach that our Lord Jesus Christ did not descend to earth, but only seemed to; or that He did not descend to the earth and become incarnate only once, but many times, and who likewise deny that the true Wisdom of the Father is His only-begotten Son, Anathema!

To the followers of the occult, spiritualists, wizards, and all who do not believe in the one God, but honor the demons; or who do not humbly give their lives over to God, but strive to learn the future through sorcery, Anathema!

(From the Service of the Triumph of Orthodoxy.)

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Troparion of St Leo Tone 3
Thou wast the Church’s instrument/ in strengthening the Church’s teaching of true doctrine;/ thou didst shine forth from the West like a sun/ and didst dispel the heretics’ error./ O righteous Leo, entreat Christ our God to grant us His great mercy.

Kontakion of St Leo Tone 3
From the throne of thy priesthood, O glorious one,/ thou didst stop the mouths of the spiritual lions;/ thou didst illumine thy flock with the light of the knowledge of God/ and with the inspired doctrines of the Holy Trinity./ Thou art glorified as a divine initiate of the grace of God.

The Tome of St. Leo

Catholic Encyclopedia article on St. Leo
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While I have previously here remarked on the fact that both my patrons saints left academia to pursue monastic vocations, it took the jest of a friend and co-worker to cause me to wonder if my leaving academia more than two years ago was, in fact, perhaps inevitable. Since, after all, both my patron saints left academia, isn’t there some sort of spiritual gravitational pull impacting me in that regard?

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Troparion Tone 8
The doors of repentance do Thou open to me, O Giver of life,
for my spirit waketh at dawn toward Thy holy temple,
bearing a temple of the body all defiled.
But in Thy compassion, cleanse it by the loving-kindness of Thy mercy.

Theotokion Tone 8
Guide me in the paths of salvation, O Theotokos,
for I have defiled my soul with shameful sins,
and have wasted all my life in slothfulness,
but by thine intercessions deliever me from all uncleanness.

Troparion Tone 6
Have mercy on me, O God, according to Thy great mercy
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit
And according to the multitude of Thy compassions, blot out my transgressions.
Both now and ever and unto ages of ages, Amen.
When I think of the multitude of evil things I have done, I, a wretched one,
I tremble at the fearful day of judgment;
but trusting in the mercy of Thy loving-kindness, like David do I cry unto Thee:
Have mercy on me, O God, according to Thy great mercy.

Kontakion of the Sunday of Forgiveness Tone 6
O Thou Guide unto wisdom, Bestower of prudence, Instructor of the foolish, and Defender of the poor;
establish and grant understanding unto my heart, O Master.
Grant me speech, O Word of the Father;
for behold, I shall not keep my lips from crying unto Thee:
O Merciful One, have mercy on me who have fallen.

Romans 13:11-14:4

And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.

Matthew 6:14-21

For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann says, of this morning’s Gospel:

Lent is the liberation of our enslavement to sin, from the prison of “this world.” And the Gospel lesson of this last Sunday (Matt. 6:14-21) sets the conditions for that liberation. The first one is fasting–the refusal to accept the desires and urges of our fallen nature as normal, the effort to free ourselves from the dictatorship of flesh and matter over the spirit. To be effective, however, our fast must not be hypocritical, a “showing off.” We must “appear not unto men to fast but to our Father who is in secret.” The second condition is forgiveness–“If you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you.” The triumph of sin, the main sign of its rule over the world, is division, opposition, separation, hatred. Therefore, the first break through this fortress of sin is forgiveness: the return to unity, solidarity, love. To forgive is to put between me and my “enemy” the radiant forgiveness of God Himself. To forgive is to reject the hopeless “dead-ends” of human relations and to refer them to Christ. Forgiveness is truly a “breakthrough” of the Kingdom into this sinful and fallen world. (Great Lent: Journey to Pascha, p. 28)

He continues, discussing the Vesperal service of this evening, at the point of the Prokeimenon:

Turn not away Thy face from Thy servant for I am afflicted!
Hear me speedily.
Attend to my soul and deliver it!

Listen to the unique melody of this verse–to this cry that suddenly fills the church: “. . . for I am afflicted!”–and you will understand this starting point of Lent: the mysterious mixture of despair and hope, of darkness and light. All preparation has now come to an end. I stand before God, before the glory and the beauty of His kingdom. I realize that I belong to it, that I have no other home, no other joy, no other goal; I also realize that I am exiled from it into the darkness and sadness of sin, “for I am afflicted!” And finally, I realize that only God can help in that affliction, that only He can “attend to my soul.” Repentance is, above everything else, a desperate call for that divine help.

Five times we repeat the Prokeimenon. And then, Lent is here! Bright vestments are put aside; lights are extinguished. When the celebrant intones the petitions for the evening litany, the choir responsds in the lenten “key.” For the first time the lenten prayer of St. Ephrem accompanied by prostrations is read. At the end of the service all the faithful approach the priest and one another asking for mutual forgiveness. But as they perform this rite of reconciliation, as Lent is inaugurated by this movement of love, reunion, and brotherhood, the choir sings the Paschal hymns. We will have to wander forty days through the desert of Lent. Yet at the end already shines the light of Easter, the light of the Kingdom. (Great Lent: Journey to Pascha, pp. 29-30)

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As We Bid Farewell to Cheese . . .

. . . let us remember it’s God-given power:

Oh, shredded three-cheese blend, so wonderfully melted between tortillas and over scrambled eggs, I hardly knew thee!

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On Tea Parties and Such

Full disclosure: I’ve not attended any of these “tea parties” (as the Santelli-rant-derived designation goes), and in terms of my voter registration, I’m independent, pretty much most of the time fed up with either of the primary parties which are represented on my various ballots. I was a sporadic voter out of college, but have voted in every general election since 2000, and the non-presidential cycles, and almost every primary since 2006. Beyond that, my political philosophy does not align neatly with any one party or candidate, so most of the time it’s a matter of prioritizing my priorities.

I have, however, kept an eye, via the media, on the tea party movement as it’s starting to be called–especially when punditry critical of it has to resort to sexually vulgar terms to refer to it, sort of like third grade boys repeating a new obscenity endlessly and feeling giddily cool about it. I’m not claiming to understand the tea party movement, but clearly the pundits critical of it either do understand it and fear it, or just simply and ignorantly fear it–and therefore dismiss it with vulgarities.

I think the tea party movement could well be among the most powerful political movements seen in America in a long time. I saw could, because I believe it presently is at a critical juncture. The strength of the movement is, quite frankly, in its decentralization. This seems oxymoronic, but, in fact, if the movement begins to be more organized, especially if it comes under a single leader, whether Gov Palin or whomever, its message will become diffused and weak, because it will be co-opted by forces which are antithetical to its existence. The conventional wisdom would seem to offer that to achieve power, the tea partiers must organize and centralize, then win in the general election nationally (and statewide wherever possible). I think this is exactly opposite of what should happen. The tea party movement should work itself into local leadership primarily, and from there move to “bigger” offices. Yes, the federal and state governments have huge impact on our lives–and that, in my view (fueled by Jacques Ellul’s Anarchy and Christianity) is the problem–but it’s the county that has my everyday purchases jacked up to 10%. It’s the local school board that impacts the education of our children, and so forth. I believe the genius of the tea party movement is its decentralization. By building a decentralized local foundation, it is less susceptible of toppling when national or state leaders lose elections.

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Troparion Tone 8
The doors of repentance do Thou open to me, O Giver of life,
for my spirit waketh at dawn toward Thy holy temple,
bearing a temple of the body all defiled.
But in Thy compassion, cleanse it by the loving-kindness of Thy mercy.

Theotokion Tone 8
Guide me in the paths of salvation, O Theotokos,
for I have defiled my soul with shameful sins,
and have wasted all my life in slothfulness,
but by thine intercessions deliever me from all uncleanness.

Troparion Tone 6
Have mercy on me, O God, according to Thy great mercy
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit
And according to the multitude of Thy compassions, blot out my transgressions.
Both now and ever and unto ages of ages, Amen.
When I think of the multitude of evil things I have done, I, a wretched one,
I tremble at the fearful day of judgment;
but trusting in the mercy of Thy loving-kindness, like David do I cry unto Thee:
Have mercy on me, O God, according to Thy great mercy.

Kontakion of the Sunday of the Last Judgment Tone 1
When Thou, O God, wilt come to earth with glory, and all things tremble,
and the river of fire floweth before the Judgment Seat
and the books are opened and the hidden things made public,
then deliver me from the unquenchable fire,
and deem me worthy to stand at Thy right hand, O most righteous Judge.

As Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann writes:

If God loves every man it is because He alone knows the priceless and absolutely uniqute treasure, the “soul” or “person” He gave every man. Christian love then is the participation in that divine knowledge and the gift of that divine love. There is no “impersonal” love because love is the wonderful discovery of the “person” in “man,” of the personal and unique in the common and general. It is the discovery in each man of that which is “lovable” in him, of that which is from God.

In this respect, Christian love is sometimes the opposite of “social activism” with which one so often identifies Christianity today. To a “social activist” the object of love is not “person” but man, an abstract unit of a not less abstract “humanity.” But for Christianity, man is “lovable” because he is person. There person is reduced to man; here man is seen only as person. The “social activist” has no interest in the personal, and easily sacrifices it to the “common interest.” . . . Social activism is always “futuristic” in its approach; it always acts in the name of justice, order, happiness to come, to be achieved. Christianity cares little about that problematic future but puts the whole emphasis on the now–the only decisive time for love. The two attitudes are not mutually exclusive, but they must not be confused. . . . Christian love, however, aims beyond “this world.” (Great Lent: Journey to Pascha, pp. 25-26)

Matthew 25:31-46:

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

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Troparion of St Photios the Great Tone 5
As a radiant beacon of wisdom hidden in God,/ and a defender of Orthodoxy revealed from on high,/ O great Photios, adornment of Patriarchs,/ thou dost refute the innovations of boastful heresy,/ O light of the holy Church,/ preserve her from all error,/ O luminary of the East.

Kontakion of St Photios the Great Tone 8
With garlands of chant let us crown the Church’s far-shining star,/ the God-inspired guide of the Orthodox, the divinely sounded harp of the Spirit and steadfast adversary of heresy/ and let us cry to him: Rejoice, O most venerable Photios.

From the Prolog:

Photius was a great beacon of the Church. He was the emperor’s relative and a grandson of the glorious Patriarch Tarasius. He was a vigorous protector of the Church from the authority-loving pope and other Roman distortions of the Faith. In six days he went through all the ranks from a layman to patriarch. He was consecrated patriarch on Christmas day, 857 A.D. and died in the Lord in the year 891 A.D.

A life of St. Photios from the OCA website:

Saint Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople, “the Church’s far-gleaming beacon,” lived during the ninth century, and came from a family of zealous Christians. His father Sergius died as a martyr in defense of holy icons. St Photius received an excellent education and, since his family was related to the imperial house, he occupied the position of first state secretary in the Senate. His contemporaries said of him: “He so distinguished himself with knowledge in almost all the secular sciences, that it rightfully might be possible to take into account the glory of his age and compare it with the ancients.”

Michael, the young successor to the throne, and St Cyril, the future Enlightener of the Slavs, were taught by him. His deep Christian piety protected St Photius from being seduced by the charms of court life. With all his soul, he yearned for monasticism.

In 857 Bardas, who ruled with Emperor Michael, deposed Patriarch Ignatius (October 23) from the See of Constantinople. The bishops, knowing the piety and extensive knowledge of Photius, informed the emperor that he was a man worthy to occupy the archpastoral throne. St Photius accepted the proposal with humility. He passed through all the clerical ranks in six days. On the day of the Nativity of Christ, he was consecrated bishop and elevated to the patriarchal throne.

Soon, however, discord arose within the Church, stirred up by the removal of Patriarch Ignatius from office. The Synod of 861 was called to end the unrest, at which the deposition of Ignatius and the installation of Photius as patriarch were confirmed.

Pope Nicholas I, whose envoys were present at this council, hoped that by recognizing Photius as patriarch he could subordinate him to his power. When the new patriarch proved unsubmissive, Nicholas anathematized Photius at a Roman council.

Until the end of his life St Photius was a firm opponent of papal intrigues and designs upon the Orthodox Church of the East. In 864, Bulgaria voluntarily converted to Christianity. The Bulgarian prince Boris was baptized by Patriarch Photius himself. Later, St Photius sent an archbishop and priests to baptize the Bulgarian people. In 865, Sts Cyril and Methodius were sent to preach Christ in the Slavonic language. However, the partisans of the Pope incited the Bulgarians against the Orthodox missionaries.

The calamitous situation in Bulgaria developed because an invasion by the Germans forced them to seek help in the West, and the Bulgarian prince requested the Pope to send his bishops. When they arrived in Bulgaria, the papal legates began to substitute Latin teachings and customs in place of Orthodox belief and practice. St Photius, as a firm defender of truth and denouncer of falsehood, wrote an encyclical informing the Eastern bishops of the Pope’s actions, indicating that the departure of the Roman Church from Orthodoxy was not only in ritual, but also in its confession of faith. A council was convened, censuring the arrogance of the West.

In 867, Basil the Macedonian seized the imperial throne, after murdering the emperor Michael. St Photius denounced the murderer and would not permit him to partake of the Holy Mysteries of Christ. Therefore, he was removed from the patriarchal throne and locked in a monastery under guard, and Patriarch Ignatius was restored to his position.

The Synod of 869 met to investigate the conduct of St Photius. This council took place with the participation of papal legates, who demanded that the participants sign a document (Libellus) condemning Photius and recognizing the primacy of the Pope. The Eastern bishops would not agree to this, and argued with the legates. Summoned to the council, St Photius met all the accusations of the legates with a dignified silence. Only when the judges asked him whether he wished to repent did he reply, “Why do you consider yourselves judges?” After long disputes, the opponents of Photius were victorious. Although their judgment was baseless, they anathematized Patriarch Photius and the bishops defending him. The saint was sent to prison for seven years, and by his own testimony, he thanked the Lord for patiently enduring His judges.

During this time the Latin clergy were expelled from Bulgaria, and Patriarch Ignatius sent his bishops there. In 879, two years after the death of Patriarch Ignatius, another council was summoned (many consider it the Eighth Ecumenical Council), and again St Photius was acknowledged as the lawful archpastor of the Church of Constantinople. Pope John VIII, who knew Photius personally, declared through his envoys that the former papal decisions about Photius were annulled. The council acknowledged the unalterable character of the Nicean-Constantinople Creed, rejecting the Latin distortion (“filioque”), and acknowledging the independence and equality of both thrones and both churches (Western and Eastern). The council decided to abolish Latin usages and rituals in the Bulgarian church introduced by the Roman clergy, who ended their activities there.

Under Emperor Basil’s successor, Leo, St Photius again endured false denunciations, and was accused of speaking against the emperor. Again deposed from his See in 886, the saint completed the course of his life in 891. He was buried at the monastery of Eremia.

The Orthodox Church venerates St Photius as a “pillar and foundation of the Church,” an “inspired guide of the Orthodox,” and a wise theologian. He left behind several works, exposing the errors of the Latins, refuting soul-destroying heresies, explicating Holy Scripture, and exploring many aspects of the Faith.

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