25 Feb Saint Tarasius, Patriarch of Constantinople
Today is the feast day of Saint Tarasius. Ora pro nobis.
Saint Tarasius's date of birth unknown. He was the son of the Patrician and Prefect of Constantinople, George, and his wife Eukratia, and entered the service of the State. In 784 when Paul IV Patriarch of Constantinople died Tarasius was an imperial secretary, and a champion of the veneration of images. It may be that before his death the patriarch had recommended Tarasius as his successor in the patriarchate to the Empress Irene who was regent for her son Constantine VI (780-797). (2)
Tarasius was chosen, by the unanimous consent of the court, clergy and people to succeed to the Patriarch of Constantinople. Saint Tarasius declared that he could not in conscience accept the government of a see which had been cut off from the Catholic communion — which had occurred through the fault of his predecessor, who afterwards recognized his error in approving a group of dissidents — except on condition that a general Council be convoked to settle the dispute concerning holy images, which was dividing the Church at that time. (2)
So on 25 December, 784, Tarasius was consecrated patriarch. In 785 he sent the priest George as his legate to Hadrian I with a letter in which he announced his appointment. In his reply the pope expressed his disapproval of the elevation of Tarasius directly from the laity to the dignity of a bishop contrary to canonical regulation, but allowed clemency to rule in view of the orthodoxy of the new patriarch's views, and recognized him as patriarch. After this by joint action with the pope and the imperial Court Tarasius called the Second Council of Nicaea, the Seventh Ecumenical Council, which rejected Iconoclasm. Union with the Roman Church was restored.
The Council was opened on the 1st of August, 786, in the Church of the Apostles at Constantinople; but, being disturbed by the violences of the Iconoclasts, it adjourned, to meet again the following year in the Church of Saint Sophia at Nicea. The Council declared the positive thought of the Church in relation to the matter under debate, which was whether or not holy pictures and images should be allowed a relative honor. Afterwards synodal letters were sent to all the churches, and in particular to the Pope, who approved the council.
The life of the holy Patriarch Tarasius was a model of perfection for his clergy and people. His table contained barely the necessaries of life; he allowed himself very little time for sleep, rising the first and retiring last in his spiritual family. Reading and prayer filled all his leisure hours.
After the Emperor repudiated his legitimate wife and, with the collaboration of a servile priest, married a servant whom he had crowned as Empress in her place, he used all his efforts to gain the Patriarch of Constantinople over to his desires. Saint Tarasius resolutely refused to countenance the iniquity, even when imprisoned by the irritated monarch. Soon afterwards, the emperor lost his empire and his life, having spurned the reproaches of Saint Tarasius. The holy man gave up his soul to God in peace after governing his church for twenty-two years in great purity of life, on the 25th of February, 806. (1)
After his death he was venerated as a saint. His name is also placed in the Roman Martyrology under the date of 25 February. (2)
Image: Patriarch Tarasios of Constantinople (4)
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff