Today is the feast of St Amphilochius, Bishop of Iconium.
He was born around A.D. 340 in Cæsarea (modern Kayseri, Turkey) in the province of Cappadocia in Asia Minor. He studied rhetoric at Antioch under Libanius, the famous pagan sophist who was also the teacher of St John Chrysostom, and became a barrister in Constantinople. He abandoned the practice of law in the capital, however, and returned to Cappadocia to care for his aged father.
His aunt (his father’s sister) was St Nonna, the mother of St Gregory the Theologian. Back in Cappadocia, he came to know the friends of his theologian cousin: St Basil the Great and St Basil’s younger brother, St Gregory of Nyssa, who, together with his cousin, would be known to future generations as the Three Cappadocians, the inspired theologians who gave definitive shape to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.
He became the disciple of St Basil, who dedicated his treatise, ‘On the Holy Spirit,’ to him.
When in 373 St Basil was asked by the citizens of Iconium (modern Konya, Turkey) in Lycaonia, the province just to the west of Cappadocia, to find them a bishop, he proposed Amphilochius, who accepted with humility. In his pastoral office, he relied on the advice of St Basil until the latter’s death in 379.
The Emperor Theodosius the Great, who had become Augustus in the East in 379, summoned a council to meet in Constantinople in 381 to restore orthodoxy in the Church against the heresies of Eunomius, bishop of Cyzicus, and Macedonius, who had been Patriarch of Constantinople several decades earlier and who had died in 364. This came to be known as the 2nd Œcumenical Council.
Eunomius led the extreme Arian party, holding that the Son was unlike (anomœos) the Father in every way. Macedonius was a semi-Arian whose followers had formed a sect, referred to as the Pneumatomachi, which denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit.
In company with SS. Gregory the Theologian and Gregory of Nyssa, St Amphilochius attended the council. Together with the other God-bearing fathers present, they reaffirmed the Nicene declaration that the Son is consubstantial (homoousios) with the Father. They also affirmed the full divinity of the Holy Spirit, joining in the declaration of it as consubstantial with the Father and the Son.
At the council, St Amphilochius met St Jerome, who commented, ‘[he] recently read to me a book [St Basil’s?] On the Holy Spirit, arguing that He is God, that He is to be worshipped, and that He is omnipotent.’ (De viris illustribus, cap. 133)
He fell asleep in the Lord around the end of the 4th century in his episcopal see.
St Paul the Confessor was born in Thessalonica c. A.D. 300. He was ordained deacon and priest by St Alexander, Archbishop of Constantinople, and was consecrated his successor as archbishop of the city in 340. Like St Alexander, he was a defender of the creed proclaimed by the 1st Œcumenical Council and earned the title of confessor by suffering for his faith at the hands of the authorities.
The Emperor Constantius (second son of St Constantine the Great, who reigned 337–361, first as Augustus in the East, then as sole ruler) was a supporter of Arianism and deposed Paul from his see immediately. St Paul took refuge in Rome, where St Athanasius of Alexandria was also in exile. With the support of the pope, Julius I, and the Augustus of the West, Constans, St Constantine the Great’s third son, both saints were restored to their archdioceses, although not for long.
With the death in 350 of Constans, who had been a defender of Nicene orthodoxy, Constantius once again unleashed his wrath on St Paul, banishing him to Lesser Armenia. There at some time between 351 and 357 he was killed by an Arian mob as he celebrated the Liturgy, thus adding the title Martyr to that of Confessor.
Joannicus was born in Bithynia in A.D. 754 and died on this day in 846. He was a soldier until he was forty years old but then left the army and devoted his life to asceticism and penitence, at first as a hermit and later as abbot, healer and spiritual guide. He was the founder of many monasteries and became one of the most influential monastics of the 9th century, earning the epithet ‘the Great.’ He was also a fervent defender of the veneration of icons in the midst of the iconoclast persecution of the monks that followed the 7th Œcumenical Council.
The Emperor Theophilus, who reigned from 829 to 842, the most fanatical of the iconoclast emperors, beginning to doubt his heresy in the last year of his life, asked St Joannicus’s counsel. The saint replied, ‘Whoever refuses due honour to the images of Christ, of the Mother of God and of the Saints will not be received into the kingdom of heaven, even if he has lived an otherwise blameless life. As those who treat images of the Emperor with disrespect are severely punished, so those who dishonour the image of Christ will be cast into everlasting fire.’
With the restoration of the veneration of icons by the Empress Theodora in 843, St Methodius, Patriarch of Constantinople, spent the next years restoring order in the Church, disciplining those of the clergy who had fallen into the iconoclast heresy but showing leniency to those ready to repent. This policy of moderation was unacceptable to some of the more rigid iconophiles, including the monks of the Studium Monastery in Constantinople. St Joannicus, who was a friend of St Methodius’s, therefore came to Constantinople and lent his great influence to the policy of lenience.
Occasional comments by a convert to Orthodoxy.