On this date in 1947, the first Tony awards were presented. The presenters didn’t really like the recipients, but they put on a good show.
Our eastern saint today is Eutychius, Patriarch of Constantinople (ca. 512 – 582). He was a scholar of science, but turned to the study of divine revelation, joining a monastery in Amasea (in eastern Anatolia). He was either sent as a representative of Amasea to the Fifth Ecumenical Council, or called the Fifth Ecumenical Council after he became Patriarch. However that was, when then-patriarch Mennas fell ill, he chose Eutychius to be his successor. Either that, or Emperor Justinian saw the Apostle Peter in a dream, and was told to make Eutychius patriarch. (All of this confusion exists in spite of the fact that, as one source avers, a complete life of the saint was written by his own chaplain and is still extant.) Pope Vigilius was in town at the time, and either did or didn’t approve of the council, and ended up not going either because he was ill, or had his nose out of joint for reasons unspoken. The council itself addressed the Three Chapters Controversy, which had to do with Monophysitism and Chalcedon and you don’t really want to know.
Along about then the emperor decided to proclaim Aphthartodocetae, which taught that Jesus’ earthly body was incorruptible and unhurtable. The patriarch helpfully explained this was kind of heretical, and Justinian thanked him by having him arrested and tried in abstentia (he refused to dignify the show trial) — for using ointment, eating enjoyable food, and (get this) praying too long. Found guilty, he was shipped back to Amasea, where he performed healing miracles for twelve years to keep himself busy. When his successor passed away, he returned to the capitol in triumph, lauded by all, and when he celebrated his first liturgy at Hagia Sophia, so many people wanted to take communion from his own hand that it took six hours.
At the end of his life, he almost threw it all away by adopting the doctrine that our resurrected bodies will be lighter than air. He got into a long battle over this with (future Pope) Gregory the Great, and the emperor himself (Tiberius) stepped in (unsuccessfully) to reconcile the two. Finally on his deathbed, he recanted and said, pointing to his arm, “Yeah, it’ll be this stuff right here.”
Our western saints today are the 120 Martyrs of Hadiab (or Martyrs of Persia) (d. 345), of whom exactly nine were virgins (I just report these things). These were graciously housed in a prison by King Shapur II (or XXVI) of Persia for six months, although through some oversight the king neglected to feed them. Fortunately a mysterious and fabulously wealthy (and yet virtuous) lady, Yasandocht (or something like that), supported them out of her generosity and bank account. Between repeated torture sessions they were implored by their captors to worship the sun, but they did not make a pun about worshipping the Son because the son/sun pun really only works in English. When word came to Jazdundocta that they were to be executed the next day, she “flew” to the prison (this must be hyperbole) to comfort them. She gave each a long, white robe, made them a fancy dinner all by herself (the take-out joints were closed), read the holy scriptures to them, and exhorted them to courage and steadfastness and that sort of thing. Then she went home.
The next day she turned up again, and as they were led away to be executed, she kissed their hands and asked them to pray for her. After being offered one last time a reprieve if they would only worship the sun, they demurred and were decapped. After everybody (living) had gone home, Yasandocht showed up with 240 undertakers, who wrapped the bodies in fine linen and reverently buried them well outside of town in graves of five each. Why wasn’t Yazdandocta excuted along with them, you ask? I don’t know either.
Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.
April 6 (Wikipedia)
Patriarch Eutychius of Constantinople (Wikipedia) – Main source
Eutychius of Constantinople (Orthodox Wiki)
St Eutychius the Patriarch of Constantinople (OCA)
Eutychius I (Catholic Encyclopedia)
Three-Chapter Controversy (Wikipedia)
Martyrs of Hadiab (SQPN) – Main source
The Martyrs in Persia (St. Patrick DC)
March 21 Saints of the Day – Thomas, Patriarch of Constantinople and Benedicta Cambiagio Frassinello
On this day in 1970, Vinko Bogataj crashed during a ski-jumping championship in Germany; his image became the “agony of defeat guy” in the opening credits of ABC’s Wide World of Sports. Hundreds of kids who might otherwise have taken up skiing went into basketball or curling instead.
In the east today we venerate Thomas, Patriarch of Constantinople (d. 610). After a youth spent in ways his hagiographers didn’t care to relate, Thomas became first a deacon, then sacristan at the Church of the Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia), then patriarch of Constantinople. Just as he was settling into the office (getting his files unpacked, putting pictures of his family on the walls, etc.), he caught word of a strange thing happening down in Galatia. During a procession involving the carrying of crosses, they began to sway and bang into each other, even though the ground was level, there was no wind, and the altar servers were perfectly sober. “Whoa,” the people said. “We’d better tell the Patriarch.”
Troubled, Thomas wrote to the famous ascetic and prophet Theodore the Sykeote (seeing his half-page ad in the Yellow Papyri), asking what it was all about. “Let me pray about it,” said Theodore, and he did. He wrote back saying that the church would soon come into a time of discord and strife and general brouhaha. Christian would fight and kill Christian, and Barbarians would stand at the gates (the chairs having long since been removed), and all manner of other equally unpleasant stuff would happen. (He didn’t necessarily use the word “stuff.”) “I’d rather die than see that happen,” said Thomas. “If you don’t mind.”
“That can be arranged,” said Theodore, and sure enough they both died soon thereafter. All the bad things Theodore prophesied came to pass, and more besides, including the True Cross™ being taken into Persia. But all that is a story for another day.
In the west today we venerate Benedicta Cambiagio Frassinello (1791 – 1858). Brought up in Pavia, Italy, Benedicta had a mystical experience of some sort (vague sources are vague) that left her devoted to prayer and hungering for a religious life (in this case that’s code for “life as a nun”). Nevertheless her parents insisted she marry, so she nuptualed one Giovanni Battista Frassinella (any Italian speakers who can explain to me why his name ends with an “a” but hers with an “o” are welcome to do so). After two years of normal marriage, Giovanni, seeing her great piety, agreed to live “continently” (“not on an island”). Together they raised their little niece until, sadly, she died of cancer, at which point they went separately into religious orders — Giovanni becoming a Somaschan (see link), and Benedicta an Ursuline. Sadly ill health soon drove her back to Pavia, where after a miraculous cure she started a school for young women. The work went so well that the bishop assigned her husband as her helpmeet (there’s a twist for you). Ultimately Benedicta was appointed Pavia’s Promoter of Public Pedagogy (the source said “Instruction” but I like alliteration).
Unfortunately the neighbors sooner or later started gossiping about her working with (horrors!) a man (even if he was her husband) (as if it was any of their business anyway) (there I go editorializing again), so Benedicta handed the keys over to the bishop and retired to a convent in Ronco Scrivia, some 100 km south on the A7. Convent life soon grew dull, however, so she started a new school in her new town, and when that proved only moderately taxing, she started the Congregation of the Benedictine Sisters of Providence, a women’s order dedicated to teaching. Since her husband was back in Pavia, the local gossips had nothing to rail about, and her work continued unhindered. She was canonized in 2002 by Pope John Paul II.
Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.
This Day in History for 21st March
The Prologue of Ohrid (book on paper) – Main source
St Thomas the Patriarch of Constantinople (OCA)
Saint Benedicta Cambiagio Frassinello (SQPN) – Main source
St. Benedicta Cambiagio Frassinello (Catholic Online)
History of Our Order — Somascan Fathers and Brothers
First published September 20, 2002
ISTANBUL – In a discovery which is sure to send shock waves through shock-wave-permeable materials both north and south of the Golden Horn, an unnamed American musicologist discovered the text of an even wordier Liturgy of St. Basil this week in the basement of Hagia Sophia (Church of the Holy Wisdom, now a museum and trendy underground fish-n-chips shop). Read the rest of this entry