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February 6 Saints of the Day – Photios of Constantinople and Vedast of Arras

Photios of ConstantinopleOn this day in 1952, Elizabeth II became the first queen regnant of the United Kingdom since Victoria. At the exact moment of her accession, she was in a treehouse at the Treetops Hotel in Kenya. She left the next day by the ladder and not, as has been mischievously reported, by vine.

The Christian East today venerates Photios of Constantinople (820 – 893). Photios was a government official when Emperor Michael III overthrew his regent (his mom) with the help of his uncle Bardas (her brother). Bardas’s irregular (shall we say) relationship with his widowed daughter-in-law led to his excommunication by Patriarch (St.) Ignatius, who was then forced to resign. Photios, commended by his holiness (or his family ties to Bardas), was chosen as successor. Over the course of six days (December 20-25), he was made a monk, reader, subdeacon, deacon, priest, and finally Patriarch of Constantinople. This looked kinda fishy, so Pope Nicholas sent two legates to the capital, and a council was held; Photios was affirmed by all present, including the legates. Nicholas, unimpressed, held his own council two years later, deposing Photios and excommunicating the erring legates. Photios, unmoved, accused Nicholas of overstepping his bounds.

Somewhere in there, Photios famously sent (Saints) Cyril and Methodius to Moravia to translate the scriptures and services into Slavonic. Next he baptized Bulgarian Khan (St.) Boris, who eroded east-west relations further by playing Pope and Patriarch off each other so well that Bulgaria emerged with its own autocephalous (self-ruling) church.

Back in Constantinople, Michael granted co-emperor status to his friend Basil, who returned the favor by assassinating him. Photios cried foul, and was promptly locked away in a monastery, replaced by his predecessor Ignatius. In the amazing Battle of the Fourth Councils of Constantinople, two councils with that name were held to decide Photios’ fate. The first denounced him and sent him to prison, and is considered the true council by the Catholics. The second denounced the first (and the Pope), and is considered the true council by the Orthodox. Between the two, Ignatius passed away and Photios returned to the patriarchate. When Basil died in a “hunting accident,” he was succeeded by Leo the Wise (Enough to Cover His Tracks), who was either his own son or the bastard of Michael. (Mom had, shall we say, divided loyalties.) Photios was deposed and replaced with Basil’s brother. (Ever wonder where the term “byzantine” came from?) He died peacefully in 891.

VedastThe Christian West today venerates Vedast of Arras (d. 539), also called Vat, Vaast, Waast, Vedastus, Gaston, and Foster (Foster?!). Clovis I, King of the Franks and inventor of the stone arrowhead, defeated the Alemanni in 496, and to celebrate decided to nip off down to Reims and get baptized. Passing through Toul, he popped into the cathedral, presented his library card, and asked to check out a priest to instruct him in the faith on his trip. He was given Vedast, hitherto a simple hermit who “charmed” the bishop “by his virtue,” whatever that means. While en route, Vedast restored the sight of a blind man by praying and making the sign of the cross, and some of Clovis’ court converted to Christianity on the spot.

Vedast was made archdeacon in Reims, and later was sent to Arras as bishop. He arrived to find the neighborhood had fallen apart somewhat after the Romans had handed the keys to the Vandals — his see consisted of one ruined church. He buckled down, though, and in time through wonderworking, patience, meekness, charity, and prayers, he made a diocese fit for a bishop. He was so holy that 128 years after he died, his relics were moved — from the cathedral to a small chapel. The chapel grew into an abbey, which was desecrated by the Revolution, only to be reborn in 1838 as the cathedral. So you see he was moved from the cathedral to the cathedral; it just took 1200 years.

February 6 (Wikipedia)
Treetops Hotel (Wikipedia)
Boris I of Bulgaria (Wikipedia)
Pope Nicholas I (Wikipedia)
Bardas (Wikipedia)
Theodora (wife of Theophilos) (Wikipedia)
Basil I (Wikipedia)
Michael III (Wikipedia)
Patriarch Ignatius of Constantinople (Wikipedia)
Saints Cyril and Methodius (Wikipedia)
Boris I of Bulgaria (Wikipedia)
Photius of Constantinople (Catholic Encyclopedia)
Fourth Council of Constantinople (Eastern Orthodox) (Wikipedia)
St Photius the Patriarch of Constantinople (OCA) — Main source
Photios I of Constantinople (Wikipedia)
Leo VI the Wise (Wikipedia)
Vedast of Arras (St. Patrick, DC) — Main source
Abbey of Saint Vaast (Catholic Encyclopedia)

Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.


About Your Intrepid Blogger

I live in the Tacoma area. When not writing things some people think are funny, I teach technology to 7th and 8th graders at a local middle school.

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