Tuesday, August 11, 2009

St. Nephon II, Patriarch of Constantinople

Icon of St. Nephon Patriarch of Constantinople - Commemorated on August 11th (taken from: http://www.imdleo.gr/diaf/files/photos/03_icons/teleytaia/008-agNifon1.jpg)
"Niphon was born in Greece. He was tonsured a monk in his youth and, at first, lived a life of asceticism outside the Holy Mountain [Athos] and, after that, on the Holy Mountain in various monasteries, remaining the longest in Vatopedi and Dionysiou. He was loved by all the holy Agiorites as much for his rare wisdom, as well as for his unusual meekness. He became the Bishop of Thessalonica against his will. Two years later, he journeyed to Constantinople on business and there, was elected to the vacant throne of the partiarchate. He was banished by the Sultan to Jedrene where he lived in exile. The Wallachian [Romanian] Prince Radul besought him from the Sultan and named Niphon as archbishop of the Wallachians. Because of Radul's transgressions, Niphon departed Wallachia and returned to Mount Athos to the community of Dionysiou where he lived a life of asceticism until his ninetieth year, when he took up habitation in the Kingdom of God in the year 1460 A.D."

"Banished under accusation, the saint went to Athos, at first to the Vaptopedi monastery, and then to the monastery of St John the Forerunner (Dionysiou). He concealed his rank and held the lowest 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 towards him on the way and solemnly greeted him as Patriarch. But even after this, the saint shared various tasks with the brethren. He died on August 11, 1460 at 90 years of age."
The Cave of St. Nephon, near Dionysiou Monastery, Mount Athos, where he would pray (taken from: http://www.imdleo.gr/diaf/files/photos/01_pneymatika/2008/58_oik_patr_sp.JPG)

"If a man sets off on the path of righteousness let him walk only by the path of righteousness with both feet and let him not step with one foot on the righteous path and, with the other foot on the unrighteous path. For God said through the prophet about the righteous who commit unrighteousness: "All his righteousness that he has done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he has trespassed and in his sins that he has sinned, in them shall he die" (Ezekiel 18:24). The Wallachian Prince Radul was a just man and performed many good deeds. He brought St. Niphon out of bondage in Jedrene and made him the Archbishop of Bucharest. But suddenly, Radul committed a dreadful transgression: he gave his sister to be the wife of the corrupt Prince Bogdan of Moldavia while Bogdan's wife was still living. Radul did not heed the protests of Niphon. Niphon prophesied an evil end for Radul, publicly excommunicating him from the Church and departed from Wallachia. Shortly thereafter, there was a drought and a great famine in Wallachia and Radul fell into an incurable illness and his entire body was covered with sores. And because of the stench, no one was able to approach him. When Radul was buried, his grave shook for three days, as once did the grave of Empress Eudoxia, the persecutor of St. John Chrysostom."
Icon of St. Nephon II, Patriarch of Constantinople (+1508) (taken from: http://vatopaidi.files.wordpress.com/2009/08/nifon001.jpg)

St. Nephon also composed the "Prayer of Absolution" read at the Burial Service by the Bishop:

"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 you 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 the same power, also, transmitted to us from them, this my spiritual child, [Name], is absolved through me, unworthy though I be, from all things wherein, as mortal [He-She] have 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 if a priest; or has sinned by any oath; or has been bound, as a man, by any sins whatsoever, but has repented him 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."

Patriarch Bartholomew visiting Dionysiou in 2008 in honor of the 500th year since the repose of St. Nephon. Here he is kneeling in prayer at St. Nephon's tomb in the Dionysiou cemetary (taken from: http://www.imdleo.gr/diaf/files/photos/01_pneymatika/2008/53_oik_patr_taf.JPG)

Prayer for one about to die, written by St. Nephon
"O Lord, the God of powers, great and awesome, abundant in might and transcendent in goodness, full of mercy and compassion, incline and hear me who am vile and sinful. O my Christ, Who saved Jonah out of the belly of the whale and Daniel from the mouths of lions, deliver me at the time of death from the dreadful darkness of the prince of evil. Do not let the devil come over the deathbed of Thy servant. May my soul, O Lord, never see the darkness of the demons, neither in this life, nor in the future one, neither in the agony of death, nor at my ascent to heaven. May not the accursed dragon deride my miserable soul when it abandons this depraved body. Do not let the filthy spirit of fetor and stench snatch it, O my Lord, my Christ, my Jesus, my God, my Light, and carry it away to perdition. O my Master, God of Heaven and earth, may my eyes never see his hideous and darksome face. But at the time of my end, O my holy, thrice holy and glorified King, send me Thy mercy and Truth. O my God, at that time send Michael, the commander-in-chief, over Thy servant. Send me Gabriel, Uriel, Raphael, the great and bright generals, with all their immaculate and thrice-blessed army, to crush the insatiable dragon of Hades who gnashes his teeth and wants to snatch and devour anyone living piously. O my God, at the time of my departure, sink him and all his filthy army into the abyss, in Tartarus, into outer darkness and the 'gnashing of teeth.' At that time, O my Lord Jesus Christ, my delight, my Resurrection, send the merciful and philanthropic Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, to receive my own spirit in His incomparable sweetness and immortal holiness. Send him to strengthen me with a flaming sword preceding me and crushing the evil rulers of darkness. For, if these abominations of iniquity plunge into the fire, into darkness, into the abyss, into Hades, I will be able without pain to cross the ethereal spheres to come close to Thee, the Triune Sun, to fall before Thy compassion, to kiss Thy immaculate feet, to be filled with the Deity, with Thy Holy Spirit, and confess the countless wonders Thou didst for my sake: How Thou broughtest me to repentance, gave me life, 'and out of the depths of the earth again Thou broughtest me up'! I will enumerate them all before the holy angels, that I may be overcome by the effulgence of the sweetest and most delightful divine pleasure. And transported by Thy ineffable fragrance, grace, and divine beauty, I shall chant to Thee then the great Song of Songs!. . . Hear me, O my God, even though I may transgress Thy law before Thee every day. Hear me, my King, My Redeemer, and make me worthy to enter Thy glory, just as I beseech Thee night and day, and pray to Thee, and supplicate Thy immortal and life-giving majesty. O my Lord Jesus Christ, I ardently beg Thee again and always: at the time of my departure, send me the resplendent Virgin, the most pure temple, the sacred treasury of Thy wealth, O my Christ, to strengthen me. Send me at that time the holy Forerunner and Baptist John, the luminous stars - the Apostles - the prophets and the martyrs, the preachers and evangelists, confessors, ascetics, and righteous, that Thy creature may be glorified. Yes, immortal Lord, hear me, the sinner, and enable me to attain Thy inexpressible, never aging and thrice blessed glory. But, my Lord, give rest also to every servant of Thine in the throes of death, wherever this prayer will be heard, that the foul demons be disgraced. Crush them, O Master, with Thy mighty hand. Disperse them, O Mighty One, with Thy flaming sword. Burn them with the lightning of Thy fire-breathing power, O Thou Who art the plenitude of greatness, loftiness and awe. My God, may this prayer be for refreshment and comfort, repose and tranquillity, sweet fragrance and joy, support and refuge, courage and help to all those who are on their deathbeds. Yea, Lord, God of my holy Fathers, who pleased Thee from the beginning of time to the present, do not scorn my petition, O Holy One. Do not turn away from my supplication, O Compassionate One. But implant within my prayer a double-edged sword, divine, heavenly, deadly to the demons and vengeful against the spirits of wickedness; yet filled with sympathy, forgiveness, compassion and goodness. If by chance the one dying has many sins and this prayer is read over him, may Thou lighten his burden at that time, O Lord, have mercy on his soul, O Holy One, and sanctify his ascent toward Thee. Crown him with Thyr compassions, inscribe him in the book of Thy mercy, grant him the bliss of Paradise. Overlook his iniquities with the immensity of the wealth of Thy loving-kindness. Forgive him, have mercy on his miserable soul and save it. Have pity on him, help him, have mercy on him, shield and protect him according to Thy great mercy. Show him Thy love for man. Send him angels of peace. Send him Thy immaculate love. Open to him Thy glorious embrace, flood him with all the immaterial fragrances, that the loathsome and deceitful demons may flee from him in shame. O Lord, turn them into ashes in the fire of Gehenna, for they dare to disturb and frighten the poor soul. O Lord, let this take place wherever my poor supplication is heard. Yea, O Master, Jesus Christ, Light of light, hear me, O Good One, and impart grace and mercy to my prayer. Be a helper and protector for salvation to everyone who invokes the name of vile Nephon. Hear me, O Lord; Hear me, O Lover of mankind, Holy One, and grant my request beseeching Thy mighty Name. Amen!"

Icon of St. Nephon, Patriarch of Constantinople (taken from: http://christopherklitou.com/icon_11_aug_niphon_patriarch_of_constantinople.htm)

Apolytikion in the Fourth ToneThe truth of things hath revealed thee to thy flock as a rule of faith, an icon of meekness, and a teacher of temperance; for this cause, thou hast achieved the heights by humility, riches by poverty. O Father and Hierarch Nephon, intercede with Christ God that our souls be saved.
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!


Iuliana said...

The Saint died in 1508. Last August we commemorated 500 years from his death in Craiova, the city where some the relics of Saint Nephon are: his head and one arm.

Agioi_Anargyroi said...

You are correct that St. Nephon is generally considered to have died in 1508 AD, including the fathers of Dionysiou Monastery.

Thomas said...

St Niphon Bishop of Constantia is the one who wrote the prayer for the one who is about to die, not St Niphon II, Patriarch of Constantinople.