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Our Holy Father Niphon, Patriarch of Constantinople (11 August)

Saint Nḗphon II, the Patriarch of Constantinople, was from the Peloponnesos. His parents were named Manuel and Maria, and he was named Nicholas in Holy Baptism. Later, he was tonsured as a monk at Epidauros, receiving the new name Nḗphon.

After the death of his Elder Anthony, he went to Mount Athos, where he occupied himself by copying books. Afterward, he was chosen as Metropolitan of Thessaloniki. In 1486 he occupied the Patriarchal throne of Constantinople.

Banished in 1488, the Saint went to the Holy Mountain, at first to Vatopedi Monastery, and then to the monastery of Saint John the Forerunner (Dionysiou). He concealed his rank and occupied the lowliest position. By God’s providence, his rank was revealed to the brethren of the monastery. Once, when the Saint was returning from the forest where he had gone for firewood, all the brethren went out to meet him, greeting him as Patriarch. But even after this, the Saint continued to share various tasks with the brethren.

In all, he served three times as Patriarch of Constantinople: 1486-1488; 1497-1498; and 1502.

Saint Nḗphon reposed on September 3, 1508 at the age of 90. Immediately after his death, he was honored as a Saint in many places. On August 16, 1517, in the newly-established monastery of Curtea de Argeş, Patriarch Theoleptos of Constantinople, together with the Synod of the Romanian Lands, and the Igoumens of the Athonite monasteries, performed the solemn glorification of Saint Nḗphon, decreeing that his Feast Day be celebrated on August 11th.

His relics are kept in a shrine at the Monastery of Dionysiou, where there is also a chapel dedicated to him. In gratitude, the Athonite monks gave the Saint’s head and hand to Nyagoe Basarab, who placed them in the Monastery he built at Curtea de Argeş in what is now Romania. In the XVIII century, these relics were placed in a silver reliquary.

At the behest of the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church, they were brought to Craiova, to the church of Saint Dēmḗtrios, the Metropolitan cathedral of Oltenia on October 25, 1949.

In 2009, the relics of Saint Nḗphon were moved to the Cathedral of the Ascension of the Lord at Târgovişte.

Niphon was born in Greece. He was tonsured a monk in his youth and lived a life of asceticism, eventually making his way to Mount Athos. He practiced asceticism in various monasteries, remaining the longest in Vatopedi and Dionysiou. He was loved by all the holy Athonite fathers, as much for his rare wisdom as for his unusual meekness. He was consecrated Bishop of Thessalonica against his will, and then, two years later, he journeyed to Constantinople on business, where he was elected to the vacant patriarchal throne. 

Eventually the Sultan banished him to Jedrene, where he lived in exile. The Wallachian [Romanian] Prince Radul besought him from the Sultan, and named Niphon the archbishop of the Wallachian people. Then, because of Radul’s transgressions, Niphon departed Wallachia and returned to Mount Athos, to the monastery of Dionysiou. There he lived a life of asceticism until his ninetieth year, when he took up his habitation in the Kingdom of God. He reposed in the year 1460 A.D. He composed the “Prayer of Absolution” read at the Burial Service:

[O Lord Jesus Christ, by His divine grace, as also by
the gift and power vouchsafed unto His holy
Disciples and Apostles, that they should bind and
Loose the sins of men: (For He said to them: Receive ye
The Holy Spirit: whosoever sins you remit, they are
remitted; and whosoever sins you retain they are retained.
And whatsoever you shall bind or loose upon earth shall be bound or loosed also in heaven.)
By that same power, also transmitted to us from
this my spiritual child, [Name], is absolved through me, unworthy though I be,
from all things wherein as mortal [he/she] hath sinned against God,
whether in word, or deed, or thought, and with all [his/her] senses,
whether voluntary or involuntary; whether with knowledge or through ignorance.
If [he/she] be under the ban or excommunication of a bishop, or of a priest;
or hath sinned by any oath; or hath been bound, as man, by any sins whatsoever,
but hath repented [him/her] thereof, with contrition of heart:
[he/she] is now absolved from all those faults and bonds.
May all those things which have proceeded from the weakness of [his/her] mortal nature
be consigned to oblivion, and be remitted to [him/her]:
Through His loving-kindness;
through the prayers of our Most-holy, and blessed, and glorious Lady Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary;
of all the holy, glorious and all-laudable Apostles, and all of the Saints. Amen.]

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