December 27 – Theophanes and Theodore Graptus; Fabiola

Theophanes & Theodore Graptus (literally, “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 but one). 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, so 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).

Fabiola of Rome (d. 399), a patrician by birth, was a battered wife by marriage, until she divorced the cretin and married a better. This put her out of favor of the Church, until both men died and she did “public penance” on the steps of the Lateran. We are not told what this penance was, although admittedly I didn’t dig very hard. I suggest you don’t either.

Thus unencumbered, she put her wealth to use helping the poor and needy. After some time at this, she got a hankering to live in a monastery in the Holy Land, and went to join her acquaintance Paula (Jan 26), a nun in Bethlehem and the right-hand-man, I mean right-hand-nun, to theologian, translator, and polemicist Jerome (Sep 30).

Once Fabiola got to the holy land, however, things got far too interesting. The Huns threatened invasion (one pictures them standing on the far bank of the Jordan, shaking a fist and saying “Just you wait, buddy!”), and Jerome and the Jeromettes[1] (insert usual quip about rock group names here) had to flee to Jaffa after their war of words with the Bishop of Jerusalem[2] got a little too hot. Not long after this either she or Jerome decided maybe the Holy Land thing wasn’t her bag (accounts differ), and she went home to Rome.

Once home she teamed up with Paula’s ex-son-in-law[3] Pammachius (Aug 30) to create a hospice at Porto (at the mouth of the Tiber) for sick pilgrims on their way to Rome. This is the first such institution in the West (concerning the first in the East, North, or South-by-Southwest, my sources say nothing). One source holds her up as yet another early Christian woman involved in the practice of medicine. She is a patron of divorcees and abused spouses.


[1] By which I mean the nuns who helped him in his translating work.
[2] Concerning Origen. Don’t bother looking for him in the index. He’s not a saint, he’s a very naughty boy.
[3] Paula’s daughter and Pammachius’ wife, (St.) Paulina, had died some years earlier.