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Saints and Feasts: Saint Sophronius the Patriarch of Jerusalem

Saint Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, was born in Damascus around 560. From his youth he was distinguished for his piety and his love for classical studies. He was especially proficient in philosophy, and so he was known as Sophronius the Wise. The future hierarch, however, sought the true philosophy of monasticism, and conversations with the desert-dwellers.

He arrived in Jerusalem at the monastery of St Theodosius, and there he became close with the hieromonk John Moschus, becoming his spiritual son and submitting himself to him in obedience. They visited several monasteries, writing down the lives and spiritual wisdom of the ascetics they met. From these notes emerged their renowned book, the LEIMONARION or SPIRITUAL MEADOW, which was highly esteemed at the Seventh Ecumenical Council.

To save themselves from the devastating incursions of the Persians, Sts John and Sophronius left Palestine and went to Antioch, and from there they went to Egypt. In Egypt, St Sophronius became seriously ill. During this time he decided to become a monk and was tonsured by St John Moschus.

After St Sophronius recovered his health, they both decided to remain in Alexandria. There they were received by the holy Patriarch John the Merciful (November 12), to whom they rendered great aid in the struggle against the Monophysite heresy. At Alexandria St Sophronius had an affliction of the eyes, and he turned with prayer and faith to the holy Unmercenaries Cyrus and John (January 31), and he received healing in a church named for them. In gratitude, St Sophronius then wrote the Lives of these holy Unmercenaries.

When the barbarians began to threaten Alexandria, Patriarch John, accompanied by Sts Sophronius and John Moschus, set out for Constantinople, but he died along the way. Sts John Moschus and Sophronius then set out for Rome with eighteen other monks. St John Moschus died at Rome. His body was taken to Jerusalem by St Sophronius and buried at the monastery of St Theodosius.

In the year 628, Patriarch Zacharias of Jerusalem (609-633) returned from his captivity in Persia. After his death, the patriarchal throne was occupied for two years by St Modestus (December 18). After the death of St Modestus, St Sophronius was chosen Patriarch. St Sophronius toiled much for the welfare of the Jerusalem Church as its primate (634-644).

Toward the end of his life, St Sophronius and his flock lived through a two year siege of Jerusalem by the Moslems. Worn down by hunger, the Christians finally agreed to open the city gates, on the condition that the enemy spare the holy places. But this condition was not fulfilled, and St Sophronius died in grief over the desecration of the Christian holy places.

Written works by Patriarch Sophronius have come down to us in the area of dogmatics, and likewise his “Excursus on the Liturgy,” the Life of St Mary of Egypt (April 1), and also about 950 troparia and stikheras from Pascha to the Ascension.

While still a hieromonk, St Sophronius reviewed and made corrections to the Rule of the monastery of St Sava the Sanctified (December 5). The saint’s three Odes Canons for the Holy Forty Day Great Fast are included in the the contemporary Lenten Triodion.

Troparion — Tone 5

Patriarch Sophronius, you were glorious in the splendor of sobriety, / and through the radiance of your words you revealed ineffable enlightenment from heaven. / For by your life you attained wisdom / and now you confirm the Church / as an illustrious hierarch and intercessor for us with the Lord.

Kontakion — Tone 8

You were most wise among patriarchs, Sophronius of Jerusalem. / You struggled with divine zeal, spreading the commandments of truth with your lips. / You set right the foundations of the Church and firmly established the monastic order. / You brought to light wise sermons, and instructed by them, / therefore we cry out to you: “Rejoice, splendid boast of the Orthodox.”

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