Church

SAINT THEOPHANO THE EMPRESS (16 December)

Theophano was born of eminent parents, Constantine and Anna, who were kin to several emperors. Her parents were childless for a long time and prayed to the Most-holy Theotokos to give them an offspring. And God gave them this daughter, Theophano. Imbued with the Christian spirit from her childhood, Theophano surpassed all her companions in all the Christian virtues. When she grew up, she entered into marriage with Leo, the son of Emperor Basil the Macedonian.

She endured great hardships alongside her husband. Responding to slander–that Leo carried a knife in his boot and planned to kill his father at an opportune time–the gullible father, Basil, locked his son and daughter-in-law in prison. Thus, two innocent souls languished in prison for three years. Once, during the Feast of the Prophet Elias, the emperor summoned all his noblemen to his court for a banquet. Suddenly the emperor’s parrot unexpectedly spoke these words, “Alas, alas, my Lord Leo!” and repeated these words a number of times. This brought great anxiety to all of the imperial noblemen, and they all begged the emperor to release his son and daughter-in-law.

The grieved emperor did so. After his father’s death, Leo became emperor and was called “the Wise.” Theophano did not consider her imperial dignity as anything, but, completely devoted to God, she cared only about the salvation of her soul, fasting and praying, distributing many alms, and restoring many monasteries and churches. Neither an untrue word nor an excessive word nor, least of all, slander proceeded from her lips. Before her death she called all her closest friends, took leave of them and gave up her soul to her God in the year 892 A.D. The Emperor Leo wanted to build a church over her grave in her name, but since the patriarch objected to this, he built a church to All Saints, saying that if Theophano became a saint, she would be glorified together with the other saints. The Feast of All Saints was then instituted to be celebrated on the Sunday after the Feast of the Holy Trinity.

Apolytikion of Saint Theophano

Preferring heavenly things unto the earthly, thou while on earth didst live the life of the Angels, raised up on godly longing, O Theophano. Wherefore, thou hast been vouchsafed Heaven’s graces and visions, standing with the Angels’ hosts and the Saints’ fair assemblies before the King of all, Whom thou didst love; pray Him to grant us His mercy and blessedness.

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