Saint Eutychius, Patriarch of Constantinople

April 6

Our holy father Eutychius was born in a Phrygian village in about 512. He was brought up by his grandfather, the skevophylax of the Church of Augustopolis, and afterwards went to Constantinople to continue his studies. Understanding that the wisdom of this world is folly, he dreamed of embracing the monastic life. However, God showed him that He called him to another service for the upbuilding of the Church, and he was ordained priest at the age of thirty by the Metropolitan of Amaseia, who wished him to be Bishop of Lazica. When someone else was elected to this see, Eutychius was able to realize his holy project and retire to the monastery of Amaseia, where he later became its abbot.

The Emperor Justinian (527-65), wishing to purge the Church of all traces of the Nestorian heresy, convened a local council to condemn, even after their deaths, those known as the Three Chapters: Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoretus of Cyrrhus and Ibas of Edessa. The Metropolitan of Amaseia, unable to attend the Synod because of bad health, sent Eutychius to represent him. During the Synod sessions, the devout and learned Eutychius was much appreciated by the Fathers for his profound knowledge of Holy Scripture and his ability to refute the arguments of the heretics. Recalling the example of King Josiah, who had the bones of idolaters dug up and burned (II Kings 23:16), he declared that one could anathematise the dead to protect the Church against the perverse influence of their doctrine.

The holy Patriarch Menas (25 Aug.), who had a fatherly affection for Eutychius, predicted after receiving a divine revelation that he would be his successor, and Eutychius was in fact designated by the Emperor to succeed him, to the great joy of the people. As soon as he was installed, this good shepherd, desirous of stabilising the peace of the Church by means of an Ecumenical Council, persuaded the Emperor to convene the Fifth Holy Ecumenical Council in Constantinople in 553.+ The Council of 165 Fathers, at which Eutychius presided, confirmed the doctrine of the four preceding Councils and promulgated fourteen anathemas condemning the writings of Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoretus of Cyrrhus and Ibas of Edessa,++ as well as anathematising Origen and Evagrius, whose written works, in spite of their considerable influence on the doctrine of the Fathers of the Church, had at that time occasioned the rise of a dangerous Origenist current. The Council ended with a great liturgical celebration, the Fathers went home and the Church was able to enjoy peace for twelve years. However, on the instigation of the Father of Evil, certain sophists led Emperor Justinian, who was always willing to rally to the Monophysite cause, into the nets of the new heretical doctrine of Aphtartodoceticism, according to which the body of Christ was impassable and incorruptible by nature, so that the Lord was unable to endure the sufferings of the Passion except by a miracle of His own will.* Realising that such a doctrine was only a sort of Monophysitism, which called into question the reality of the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, in another guise, Saint Eutychius opposed the doctrine supported by the Emperor and the Court theologians with all his strength. On 25 January 565, while he was celebrating the Divine Liturgy in the Hormisdas Palace, he was dragged from the sanctuary by men-at-arms and locked up in a monastery in Chalcedon. A tribunal of bishops, compliant to the Sovereign’s will, deposed the holy prelate and condemned him to exile, under the pretext that he ate choice meats and prayed on his knees for long hours.

After some time spent in a monastery on the island of Prinkipo, the Saint was sent back to his own monastery in Amaseia, giving thanks to God for having been counted worthy to suffer for the cause of the Truth. At Amaseia, he was able to enjoy a welcome tranquillity, and to perform numerous miracles for the afflicted who came to ask for his prayers.

At the end of twelve years of exile, he was recalled to the Patriarchal Throne of Constantinople by the joint Emperors Justin II and Tibrius (576). The whole city, from its highest dignitaries to the simple people, gave him a rapturous welcome, crying out along his way: Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord! (Lk. 13:35). The Saint, by his prayers, ended an epidemic which had ravaged the city for some time and, when he celebrated the Divine Liturgy in Saint Sophia’s, spent six hours distributing the Holy Gifts to the crowd.

During this second period of his episcopate, which lasted for a little more than four years, Saint Eutychius strengthened his Church in the true Faith and confirmed his teachings by the power of his miracles. He entered into rest in peace on Thomas Sunday in 582, after having predicted to the Emperor Tiberius, who came to his bedside, that he would follow him four months later. His body was buried under the altar of the Church of the Holy Apostles, beside the relics of the holy Apostles Andrew, Luke and Timothy.**

+This Council is commemorated on 25 July.
++It should be noted that the last two were not personally condemned, for they had presented themselves at the Council of Chalcedon (451) to retract their works written in support of Nestorius.
*In spite of the witness of St Eutychius’ Life and of the historian Evagrius, it is surprising that the Emperor-Theologian let himself be led into such a gross error. Perhaps it was a tendentious interpretation of his political strategy of reconciling the Monophysites. The deposition of St Eutychius would therefore have been for another reason.
**His precious head is venerated today in the monastery of Chilandar on Mount Athos.
Source: The Synaxarion: The Lives of the Saints of the Orthodox Church. Volume Four, March & April. Holy Convent of The Annunciation of Our Lady, Ormylia (Chalkidike), 2003.