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December 27 Saints of the Day – Fabiola and Theophanes & Theodore Graptus

On this day in 1871 the world’s first cat show was held, in the Crystal Palace, London. The list of judged events had to be tweaked when the cats refused to cooperate in the dressage competition.

FabiolaFabiola (d. 399) was a patrician, and married to a patrician (Roman patricians in those days did not marry beneath their station (Charing Cross Road)). Her husband, however, was a bit of an adulterer, for values of “a bit” equal to “not even a prostitute or a slave could have put up with it” (as said St. Jerome). Still, Fabiola bore this stoically (erm, Christianally) until she didn’t, and sued for divorce in civil court. She soon married again, even though her first husband was not yet dead, which made her a bigamist and adulteress in the eyes of the church. She became a scandal and a pariah in polite Christian society. What rude Christian society said about her, we do not know.

Then her second husband died (my sources don’t say how and we’re not going to speculate). Realizing she wanted to be a communing Christian more than she wanted to be married, she dressed as a penitent (including, Jerome takes pains to point out, not washing her neck!) and sought forgiveness of the Pope (St. Siricius or another one), did penance, and was accepted back into communion. She then shifted gears and began dedicating her considerable wealth to the care of the poor and sick. In particular, she founded a hospital for the poor, the first in the west, with the help of St. Pammachius. She nursed the sick personally, even those with nasty, oozing sores.

After getting the hospital up and running (actually it didn’t go anywhere), she made a pilgrimage to Bethlehem, where she met Jerome and the Translators, a popular Palestinian rock band. Sorry, monastic community. Jerome came to think very highly of her, but she fled the Levant when the Huns invaded. Her funeral in Rome was standing room only (did they have pews in fourth century Rome?), and the streets, windows, and rooftops along the route of her funeral procession were packed full. Jerome wrote a touching eulogy of Fabiola, who is the patroness of victims of adultery.

Theophanes GraptusTheophanes & Theodore Graptus (“Written-upon”) (d. 845, 842, respectively) were brothers from Jerusalem (or from Trans-Jordan) who settled into the Mar Saba monastery and became noted for their intelligence and model behavior (either they were very smart, or the other monks were — no, it doesn’t bear thinking about). At the insistence of the Jerusalem Patriarch, Theophanes became a priest. Theodore was not so invited, but we can be sure it wasn’t because he wasn’t intelligent enough (see previous sentence). The patriarch then sent them as emissaries to Constantinople, in hopes that their good sense would rub off on the iconoclast emperor Leo the Armenian. Leo was not in a mood to be rubbed off on, however, and after scourging the brothers, he exiled them on an island in the Black Sea.

After Leo died, they returned to their monastery in Constantinople, hungry and disheveled (no report on the cleanliness of their necks has come down to us), only to be banished again when Emperor Theophilus started the next iconocataclysm. They were recalled two years later, but not to freedom. They refused to debate with iconoclasts, and when the prefect offered to free them if they would take communion with the iconoclasts just once, Theodore replied, “That’s like saying, ‘Let me cut off your head just once, and you’re free to go’.” For their intransigence, SQUEAMISH PEOPLE DROP DOWN TO NEXT PARAGRAPH, they had a mocking, 12-verse poem (“in iambic pentameter”! one source burbles) carved into their foreheads, an operation which took two days to complete.

They were then banished a third time. Theodore died in exile, but Theophanes survived the iconoclast period, and ended his life as Bishop of Nicea. He was a prolific hymnographer, particularly of canons, second only to Joseph the Hymnographer in his contributions to the Paraklitiki, a part of the Octoechos (a compendium of Byzantine service music).

Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.

This Day in History for 27th December
Thomas Craughwell, Saints Behaving Badly: The Cutthroats, Crooks, Trollops, Con Men, and Devil-Worshippers Who Became Saints (Book on Paper) – Main source
Saint Fabiola (Wikipedia)
Saint Fabiola of Rome (SQPN)
Fabiola of Rome, Widow (St. Patrick DC)
Copy of the Portrait of Fabiola (19 th cent.) (detail) from original (1885) (now lost) by Jean-Jacques Henner, via Wikimedia Commons (public domain)
Theodore M and Theophanes B (St. Patrick DC) – Main source
Venerable Theodore Graptus, the branded, Confessor (OCA)
St Theophanes the Confessor and Hymnographer, Bishop of Nicea (OCA)
Theodorus and Theophanes (Wikipedia)
Theophanes the Branded (Wikipedia)
Octoechos (liturgy) (Wikipedia)
Icon of Theophanes from OCA (copyright unknown)


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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