Today is the feast of St Nicephorus, Patriarch of Constantinople and Confessor. He was born in Constantinople around A.D. 758 during the iconoclast controversy. His father was a high government official who was exiled for his orthodoxy on the veneration of icons. Nicephorus received a good education, both Christian and secular, and became a secretary to the Emperor Constantine, still a child, and his mother the regent Empress Irene. He was imperial representative at the 7th Œcumenical Council at Nicæa in 787.
When that Council restored the veneration of icons, Nicephorus, considering his task in the world to have been accomplished, retired to a monastery that he had founded at Agathou on the Bosphorus.
St Tarasius, the Patriarch of Constantinople who had guided the Church through the 7th Œcumenical Council, was so impressed by Nicephorus’s piety, learning and strength of character, that he recommended him as his successor even though Nicephorus was still a layman. The clergy of Constantinople responded with enthusiasm and Nicephorus was enthroned on Great and Holy Pascha, 12 April 806, after being ordained successively to each of the clerical orders.
When the Emperor Leo the Armenian reignited the iconoclast persecution in 814, St Nicephorus protested. Despite his eloquent defence of the veneration of icons, he was exiled to the monastery at Agathou, then to the even more remote monastery of St Theodore. He continued to write in defence of the veneration of icons until his death on 2 June 829, keeping up the spirits of the orthodox.
When the Empress Theodora restored the veneration of icons in 843, as a witness to the Triumph of Orthodoxy the saint’s relics were brought back to Constantinople with great pomp and placed in the Church of the Holy Apostles.
Occasional comments by a convert to Orthodoxy.