(Welcome to our Saint of the Day series! Each weekday, we present you with an excerpt from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints series, published by Holy Cross Orthodox Press. Today we commemorate St. Eutychios, whose account is found in Volume 2 of the series.)
Saint Eutychios, Patriarch of Constantinople
A series of ecumenical councils in the early centuries of the Church have come to be known not only for the theological standards which they established but also for the attitudes concerning the worship of Christ which were preserved in their original concept as set forth by no less a body of men than the disciples and apostles of the Savior. Convened at critical periods when the very foundations of the Christian Church were threatened, these councils succeeded in unifying a Christianity confused by numbers of revisionists and reactionaries.
One name closely associated with these vital councils was Eutychios, a pious monk who had earned a reputation for extreme piety and wisdom prior to the convening of the Fifth Ecumencial Synod and was looked upon as second only to the patriarch himself in the esteem of the general public and of the emperor as well. This extremely capable monk hailed from Amaseia, Pontos, but in 553 was called to Constantinople to preside over the newly-formed Synod. Shortly before the council was scheduled to meet, Patriarch Menas died suddenly, and following a period of mourning, the Emperor Justinian named Eutychios as the new patriarch.
Patriarch Eutychios restored calm among the members of the clergy who had been summoned from the various regions of the empire only to be unnerved by the untimely passing of Patriarch Menas. Addressing himself to each member, Eutychios called the meeting to order in complete command of a situation which might otherwise have gotten out of hand and ended in chaos. With emperors holding full sway, the only real voice of the people, particularly for their spiritual welfare, lay in the council. Because they were officially recognized by the emperor, these meetings took on added dimensions, other than concerning themselves with dogma alone, as important as this was in both the Church and society.
The burning issue at the Fifth Synod was the heresy of Nestorianism which had broken out again in what became known as the “Three Chapters Controversy,” which had reference to the heretical offerings of three theologians named Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret of Kyrrhos and Ibas of Edessa.The “Three Chapters,” however, were put to rout by the brilliant dogmatic defense of Patriarch Eutychios. For his staunch defense of the faith, the patriarch won the plaudits of the clergy and a grateful tribute from the emperor.Recognized as one of the greatest of all patriarchs, Eutychios applied himself to a complete unification of the Church and a mutual respect as well as understanding of those fragments, which from time to time would seek to assert their dogmatic will over the majority who clung to the traditions established in the first five hundred years of Christianity.
Eutychios saw less of the emperor, who was turning an ear to dissidents who persuaded him that as an emperor he should agree on a Monophysite view of Jesus Christ, namely, that the Savior had but one nature, the divine, the human having been absorbed by the divine. Justinian, more for political than religious reasons, eventually sided with the Monophysites.The breach between the patriarch and the emperor was widened over this matter, with political intrigue playing a considerable part in this thrust at the heart of Christianity.
But the faithful patriarch was exiled finally, taking refuge in the monastery of his youth in Amaseia, Pontos, where he spent twelve years apart from the empire but all the closer to God. During this period, he ministered to the needs of the spiritually disheartened and lost none of the high esteem he had enjoyed prior to his banishment.
After the death of Justinian, he was restored to the ecumenical throne where he resumed his defense of the faith, highlighted by his disputes with Pope Gregory. He died peacefully on April 6, 582.
Text from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints. Image from Wikipedia.