dimanche 13 mars 2016

Saint NICÉPHORE Ier de CONTANTINOPLE, patriarche et confesseur


Nicéphore portant une lettre à l'empereur Michel II en faveur de la restauration du culte des images, 
Chronique de Jean Skylitzès.

Saint Nicéphore Ier


Patriarche de Constantinople ( 829)

Il naquit à Constantinople durant la persécution impériale contre les saintes Images. Après de solides études profanes, il fut secrétaire du jeune empereur Constantin VI. Choisi pour participer au Septième Concile de Nicée, il y fut présent et actif en tant que commissaire impérial. Élu patriarche, alors qu'il était encore laïc, il reçut successivement et rapidement tous les ordres sacerdotaux. Mais cette ascension rapide ne fut pas du goût des moines du Studion. Il connut bien d'autres difficultés, en particulier avec l'empereur Léon l'Arménien qui combattait le culte des Saintes Icônes. Exilé, il préféra abdiquer devant le pseudo-concile des évêques soumis à l'empereur. Pendant ses quatorze années de bannissement, il écrivit un remarquable traité de théologie sur le culte des Images, en partant de la philosophie d'Aristote.

Près du Bosphore, en 829, le trépas de saint Nicéphore, évêque de Constantinople. Zélé défenseur des traditions de ses pères, il s’opposa fortement à l’empereur iconoclaste Léon l’Isaurien pour défendre le culte des saintes images. Chassé par celui-ci de son siège et longtemps relégué dans un monastère, il s’en alla paisiblement vers le Seigneur.

Martyrologe romain

SOURCE : http://nominis.cef.fr/contenus/saint/7221/Saint-Nicephore-Ier.html

Nicéphore, Discours contre les iconoclastes.
Traduction, présentation et notes par M.-J. Mondzain-Baudinet, éditions Klincksiek, Paris, 2000, 381 p. (« Esthétique »).

Les trois Antirrhétiques dont cet ouvrage nous offre la traduction figurent parmi les œuvres majeures de saint Nicéphore Ier le Patriarche (758-828) qui fut l’un des principaux défenseurs des icônes lors du second iconoclasme. 

Elles ont pour but de répondre aux arguments développés lors du concile iconoclaste de Hiéreia (754), les deux premières réfutant l’une après l’autre les Questions que l’empereur Constantin V avait formulées en vue de ce concile.

Elles ne se réduisent pourtant pas à des œuvres polémiques de circonstance : comme le souligne la traductrice, « l’enjeu iconique y est traité sous le mode universel ». Elles figurent, avec l’Apologétique du même auteur, les Discours de saint Jean Damascène et les Antirrhétiques de saint Théodore Studite, parmi les ouvrages fondateurs d’une théologie de l’icône, puisque l’icône y est
défendue comme totalement solidaire du fait de l’Incarnation. Contre certaines positions origénistes et monophysites dont lui paraissent avoir hérité les iconoclastes, saint Nicéphore consacre maints développements d’une grande profondeur à soutenir que le Verbe a assumé une pleine humanité qui, en tant que telle, impliquait la possibilité d’être représentée. On a donc affaire, au fond, à de véritables traités théologiques qui, sur certains points ont fourni à la christologie orientale des précisions significatives.

Il faut rendre hommage au travail très soigné de M.-J. Mondzain-Baudinet. La traduction est précise, et en marge de celle-ci figurent les subdivisions du texte grec de la P.G. qui a servi de référence, ainsi que les indications des sources scripturaires, patristiques et philosophiques de Nicéphore et des Questions qu’il réfute. Ces dernières ont été récapitulées en fin de volume, suivies de la traduction de l’Horos (Définition de foi) de Nicée II, d’un glossaire des hérésies citées par Nicéphore, d’un index des sources bibliques et autres. En début de volume figurent, après une introduction biographique et doctrinale, une bibliographie bien fournie sur les Sources, Nicéphore et l’Iconoclasme, ainsi qu’une chronologie. On trouve à la fin de l’ouvrage un important index relatif d’une part à la doctrine de l’icône et d’autre part au portrait de l’iconoclaste. Cette dernière partie, assez surprenante, consiste en une récapitulation des injures adressées par Nicéphore à Constantin, destinée non à nous rappeler la violence de la polémique et le style des disputes de l’époque, mais à illustrer l’une des thèses que la traductrice développe, dans son introduction, selon une perspective délibérément philosophique, en utilisant les catégories de l’esthétique et de la sémiologie : l’image de l’iconoclaste est une anti-icône. Les seules réserves que pourront faire les patrologues concerneront cette introduction qui, en raison de la méthode d’analyse utilisée, paraît souvent en décalage avec l’esprit et le sens profond du texte. 

Saint Nicéphore le Confesseur

patriarche œcuménique de Constantinople (758-822) Fête le 2 juin

Saint Nicéphore est né vers 758 dans la capitale de l'empire. Ses parents Théodore et Eudoxie appartenaient à la haute hiérarchie byzantine, tout en pratiquant la piété et la vertu. Confrontés à la persécution iconoclaste ils demeuraient fidèles à la Foi orthodoxe. Pour cette raison son père secrétaire de l'empereur Constantin V Copronyme (741-775) fut destitué et envoyé en exil à Nicée, où il mourut.

Fort de la piété familiale leur fils entra néanmoins dans le service de l'État. En 787, sous la régence d'Irène, il participe au septième concile œcuménique "Nicée-II". Simple laïc, il siège en tant que "commissaire impérial" (βασιλικος μανδατωρ). Avant l'ouverture des travaux on le charge d'aller chercher Grégoire de Néo-Césarée : iconoclaste repenti, ce vieil évêque est le dernier survivant du pseudo-concile des hérétiques réuni par l'empereur à Hiera en 754.

Dans les années qui suivirent il fit retraite dans l'un des cloîtres de la rive orientale du Bosphore.

En 806 il fut désigné pour succéder au patriarche Tarase. Cette promotion d'un laïc rencontra les critiques des moines du Stoudion.

Mais c'est du parti hérétique, à partir de l'événement en 813 de Léon V l'Arménien que vinrent les principales tribulations, avec le retour de l'impiété et du mouvement de destruction des icônes.

Nicéphore rappela : "nous ne pouvons pas plus toucher aux traditions les plus anciennes que nous ne saurions remettre en cause la Croix et l'Évangile".

L'empereur tenta donc de réunir dans son palais un certain nombres de prélats qui lui semblaient acquis.

Pourtant ils résistèrent.

L'un d'eux, Émilien, évêque de Cyzique déclara : "Puisqu'il s'agit d'une affaire ecclésiastique, discutons-en au sein de l'église conformément à la coutume, pas dans le palais".

Euthyme, évêque de Sardes observa : "Depuis la venue du Christ, 800 ans se sont écoulés, et pendant tout ce temps nous n'avons jamais cessé d'avoir des icônes et de les vénérer. Qui donc manifesterait l'audace d'abolir une si ancienne tradition ?"

Saint Théodore le Stoudite s'exprima après les évêques. Il dit au Prince : "Monseigneur, ne troublez pas l'ordre de l'Église. Dieu y a placé des apôtres, des prophètes, des pasteurs et des professeurs. Vous avez reçu la charge de l'État, laissez celle de l'Église à ses pasteurs."

Fou de colère, l'Empereur le fit expulser. Peu de temps après, il convoqua en vue d'un concile les évêques favorables à l'hérésie et chercha à y mettre en accusation le patriarche Nicéphore.

À leurs sommations, celui-ci répondit : "Qui vous a donné autorité ? Était-ce un autre patriarche ou celui qui est à Rome. Dans mon diocèse vous n'avez aucun pouvoir."

Il leur lut alors le canon qui excommunie quiconque tend à exercer un pouvoir quelconque dans la juridiction d'un autre évêque. Il fut cependant suspendu de force et condamné au bannissement par l'empereur.

En 820 un nouveau souverain hérétique en la personne de Michel II le Bègue maintien la persécution et la lutte contre les images.

En 828 le 2 juin saint Nicéphore naissait au ciel après 14 années d'exil.

Confesseur de la foi orthodoxe il a laissé de nombreux écrits théologiques et historiques.

En 846 par ordre de Theodora son corps retournera à Constantinople, le 13 mai, date à laquelle il est célébré en occident.
Source  : site Orthodoxos Synaxaristis


SAINT NICEPHORE de Constantinople

26/03 - 13/03


TRANSFERT des RELIQUES de notre Saint Père NICEPHORE, 
Patriarche de CONSTANTINOPLE

Lorsque Saint Méthode monta sur le trône épiscopal de Constantinople après la déposition du Patriarche hérétique Jean (842), il s'adressa sans tarder à l'empereur Michel et à sa mère, l'impératrice régente Théodora, en leur disant qu'il n'était pas juste de laisser en exil le corps du Saint Patriarche Nicéphore qui, après avoir vaillamment confessé le Dogme Orthodoxe sur la vénération des Saintes Icônes, était mort loin de son troupeau spirituel après quatorze ans d'un âpre exil. La souveraine ayant acquiescé à cette proposition, Saint Méthode suivit les envoyés impériaux en compagnie d'un grand nombre de Prêtres et de moines jusqu'au Monastère de Saint Théodore, où le Saint avait été enseveli dix-neuf ans plus tôt. Ils trouvèrent la précieuse Relique incorrompue et la déposèrent sur un navire impérial, en l'escortant solennellement au chant d'hymnes spirituelles. Lorsque le navire parvint en vue du port, l'empereur et tout le Sénat vinrent à sa rencontre, tenant à la main des cierges allumés, et ils vénérèrent pieusement la Sainte Relique, puis, la portant sur leurs épaules, ils l'amenèrent à la Grande Eglise (Sainte-Sophie), où l'on célébra une veille de toute la nuit en l'honneur du Patriarche. A l'issue de cette cérémonie, on transporta le corps de Saint Nicéphore, avec la même pompe, jusqu'à l'église des Saints-Apôtres, pour l'y déposer en compagnie des empereurs et de ses saints prédécesseurs.

SOURCE : http://www.histoire-russie.fr/icone/saints_fetes/textes/nicephore_2.html

Nicephorus of Constantinople BM (RM)

Born in 758; died June 2, 828; feast day formerly June 2. It's no wonder that Nicephorus was a staunch opponent of iconoclasm; his father, the emperor's secretary, had been tortured and exiled for refusing to accept Emperor Constantine Copronymus's decrees banning sacred images. Nicephorus became imperial commissioner known for his eloquence, scholarship, and statesmanship. He built a monastery near the Black Sea.


Although he was still a layman and did not desire any preference, he was named patriarch of Constantinople in 806 to succeed Saint Tarasius. Nicephorus incurred the enmity of Saint Theodore Studites for giving absolution to the priest who had illicitly married Emperor Constantine VI and Theodota while Constantine's wife Mary was still alive. The two were later reconciled.

Nicephorus devoted himself to reforming his see, restoring monastic discipline, and reinvigorating the faith of his flock. The patriarch also brought Saint Methodius of Constantinople, who later became patriarch, from his monastery on Chios. He resisted the efforts of Emperor Leo the Armenian to reimpose iconoclasm, but was deposed by a synod of iconoclastic bishops assembled by the emperor. Several attempts were made on the life of Nicephorus and he was exiled to the monastery he had built on the Black Sea, where he spent the last 15 years of his life.

Nicephorus wrote several treatises against iconoclasm and two historical works, Breviarum and Chronographia (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney).

SOURCE : http://www.saintpatrickdc.org/ss/0313.shtml

St. Nicephorus

Patriarch of Constantinople, 806-815, b. about 758; d. 2 June, 829. This champion of the orthodox view in the second contest over the veneration of images belonged to a noted family of Constantinople. He was the son of the imperial secretary Theodore and his pious wife Eudoxia. Eudoxia was a strict adherent of the Church and Theodore had been banished by the Emperor Constantine Copronymus (741-75) on account of his steadfast support of the teaching of the Church concerning images. While still young Nicephorus was brought to the court, where he became an imperial secretary. With two other officials of high rank he represented the Empress Irene in 787 at the Second Council of Nicaea (the Seventh Ecumenical Council), which declared the doctrine of the Church respecting images. Shortly after this Nicephorus sought solitude on the Thracian Bosporus, where he had founded a monastery. There he devoted himself to ascetic practices and to the study both of secular learning, as grammar, mathematics, and philosophy, and the Scriptures. Later he was recalled to the capital and given charge of the great hospital. Upon the death of Patriarch Tarasius (25 February, 806), there was great division among the clergy and higher court officials as to the choice of his successor. Finally, with the assent of the bishops Emperor Nicephorus (802-11) appointed Nicephorus as patriarch. Although still a layman, he was known by all to be very religious and highly educated. He received Holy Orders and was consecrated bishop on Easter Sunday, 12 April 806. The direct elevation of a Iayman to the patriarchate, as had already happened in the case of Tarasius, aroused opposition in the ecclesiastical party among the clergy and monks. The leaders were the abbots, Plato of Saccadium and Theodore of Studium, and Theodore's brother, Archbishop Joseph of Thessalonica. For this opposition the Abbot Plato was imprisoned for twenty-four days at the command of the emperor.


Nicephorus soon gave further cause for antagonism. In 795 a priest named Joseph had celebrated the unlawful marriage of Emperor Constantine VI (780-97) with Theodota, during the lifetime of Maria, the rightful wife of the emperor, whom he had set aside. For this act Joseph had been deposed and banished. Emperor Nicephorus considered it important to have this matter settled and, at his wish the new patriarch with the concurrence of a synod composed of a small number of bishops, pardoned Joseph and, in 806, restored him to his office. The patriarch yielded to the wishes of the emperor in order to avert more serious evil. His action was regarded by the strict church party as a violation of ecclesiastical law and a scandal. Before the matter was settled Theodore had written to the patriarch entreating him not to reinstate the guilty priest, but had received no answer. Although the matter was not openly discussed, he and his followers now held virtually no church communion with Nicephorus and the priest, Joseph. But, through a letter written by Archbishop Joseph, the course which he and the strict church party followed became public in 808, and caused a sensation. Theodore set forth, by speech and writing, the reasons for the action of the strict party and firmly maintained his position. Defending himself against the accusation that he and his companions were schismatic, he declared that he had kept silent as long as possible, had censured no bishops, and had always included the name of the patriarch in the liturgy. He asserted his love and his attachment to the patriarch, and said he would withdraw all opposition if the patriarch would acknowledge the violation of law by removing the priest Joseph. Emperor Nicephorus now took violent measures. He commanded the patriarch to call a synod, which was held in 809, and had Plato and several monks forcibly brought before it. The opponents of the patriarch were condemned, the Archbishop of Thessalonica was deposed, the Abbots Plato and Theodore with their monks were banished to neighbouring islands and cast into various prisons.

This, however, did not discourage the resolute opponents of the "Adulterine Heresy". In 809 Theodore and Plato sent a joint memorial, through the Archmandrite Epiphanius, to Pope Leo III, and later, Theodore laid the matter once more before the pope in a letter, in which he besought the successor of St. Peter to grant a helping hand to the East, so that it might not be overwhelmed by the waves of the "Adulterine Heresy". Pope Leo sent an encouraging and consolatory reply to the resolute confessors, upon which they wrote another letter to him through Epiphanius. Leo had received no communication from Patriarch Nicephorus and was, therefore, not thoroughly informed in the matter; he also desired to spare the eastern emperor as much as possible. Consequently, for a time, he took no further steps in the matter. Emperor Nicephorus continued to persecute all adherents of Theodore of Studium, and, in addition, oppressed those of whom he had grown suspicious, whether clergy or dignitaries of the empire. Moreover, he favoured the heretical Paulicians and the Iconoclasts and drained the people by oppressive taxes, so that he was universally hated. In July, 811, the emperor was killed in a battle with the Bulgarians. His son Stauracius, who had been wounded in the same fight, was proclaimed emperor, but was deposed by the chief men of the empire because he followed the bad example of his father. On 2 October, 811, with the assent of the patriarch, Michael Rhangabe, brother-in-law of Stauracius, who raised to the throne. The new emperor promised, in writing, to defend the faith and to protect both clergy and monks, and was crowned with much solemnity by the Patriarch Nicephorus. Michael succeeded in reconciling the patriarch and Theodore of Studium. The patriarch again deposed the priest Joseph and withdrew his decrees against Theodore and his partisans. On the other side Theodore, Plato, and the majority of their adherents recognized the patriarch as the lawful head of the Byzantine Church, and sought to bring the refractory back to his obedience. The emperor had also recourse to the papacy in reference to these quarrels and had received a letter of approval from Leo. Moreover, the patriarch now sent the customary written notification of his induction into office (Synodica) to the pope. In it he sought to excuse the long delay by the tyranny of the preceding emperor, interwove a rambling confession of faith and promised to notify Rome at the proper time in regard to all important questions.

Emperor Michael was an honourable man of good intentions, but weak and dependent. On the advice of Nicephorus he put the heretical and seditious Paulicians to death and tried to suppress the Iconoclasts. The patriarch endeavoured to establish monastic discipline among the monks, and to suppress double monasteries which had been forbidden by the Seventh Ecumenical Council. After his complete defeat, 22 June, 813, in the war against the Bulgarians, the emperor lost all authority. With the assent of the patriarch he resigned and entered a monastery with his children. The popular general, Leo the Armenian, now became emperor, 11 July, 813. When Nicephorus demanded the confession of faith, before the coronation, Leo put it off. Notwithstanding this, Nicephorus crowned him, and later, Leo again refused to make the confession. As soon as the new emperor had assured the peace of the empire by the overthrow of the Bulgarians his true opinions began gradually to appear. He entered into connection with the opponents of images, among whom were a number of bishops; it steadily grew more evident that he was preparing a new attack upon the veneration of images. With fearless energy the Patriarch Nicephorus now proceeded against the machinations of the Iconoclasts. He brought to trial before a synod several ecclesiastics opposed to images and forced an abbot named John and also Bishop Anthony of Sylaeum to submit. Bishop Anthony's acquiescence was merely feigned.

In December, 814, Nicephorus had a long conference with the emperor on the veneration of images but no agreement was reached. Later the patriarch sent several learned bishops and abbots to convince him of the truth of the position of the Patriarch on the veneration of images. The emperor wished to have a debate between representatives of the opposite dogmatic opinions, but the adherents of the veneration of images refused to take part in such a conference, as the Seventh Ecumenical Council had settled the question. Then Nicephorus called together an assembly of bishops and abbots at the Church of St. Sophia at which he excommunicated the perjured Bishop Anthony of Sylaeum. A large number of the laity were also present on this occasion and the patriarch with the clergy and people remained in the church the entire night in prayer. The emperor then summoned Nicephorus to him, and the patriarch went to the imperial palace accompanied by the abbots and monks. Nicephorus first had a long, private conversation with the emperor, in which he vainly endeavoured to dissuade Leo from his opposition to the veneration of images. The emperor received those who had accompanied Nicephorus, among them seven metropolitans and Abbot Theodore of Studium. They all repudiated the interference of the emperor in dogmatic questions and once more rejected Leo's proposal to hold a conference. The emperor then commanded the abbots to maintain silence upon the matter and forbade them to hold meetings. Theodore declared that silence under these conditions would be treason and expressed sympathy with the patriarch whom the emperor forbade to hold public service in the church. Nicephorus fell ill; when he recovered the emperor called upon him to defend his course before a synod of bishops friendly to iconoclasm. But the patriarch would not recognize the synod and paid no attention to the summons. The pseudo-synod now commanded that he should no longer be called patriarch. His house was surrounded by crowds of angry Iconoclasts who shouted threats and invectives. He was guarded by soldiers and not allowed to perform any official act. With a protest against this mode of procedure the patriarch notified Leo that he found it necessary to resign the patriarchal see. Upon this he was arrested at midnight in March, 815, and banished to the monastery of St. Theodore, which he had built on the Bosporus.

Leo now raised to the patriarchate Theodotus, a married, illiterate layman who favoured iconoclasm. Theodotus was consecrated 1 April, 815. The exiled Nicephorus persevered in his opposition and wrote several treatises against iconoclasm. After the murder of the Emperor Leo, 25 December, 820, Michael the Amorian ascended the throne and the defenders of the veneration of images were now more considerately treated. However, Michael would not consent to an actual restoration of images such as Nicephorus demanded from him, for he declared that he did not wish to interfere in religious matters and would leave everything as he had found it. Accordingly Emperor Leo's hostile measures were not repealed, although the persecution ceased. Nicephorus received permission to return from exile if he would promise to remain silent. He would not agree, however, and remained in the monastery of St. Theodore, where he continued by speech and writing to defend the veneration of images. The dogmatic treatises, chiefly on this subject, that he wrote are as follows: a lesser "Apology for the Catholic Church concerning the newly arisen Schism in regard to Sacred Images" (Migne, P.G., C, 833-849), written 813-14; a larger treatise in two parts; the first part is an "Apology for the pure, unadulterated Faith of Christians against those who accuse us of idolatry" (Migne, loc. cit., 535-834); the second part contains the "Antirrhetici", a refutation of a writing by the Emperor Constantine Copronymus on images (loc. cit., 205-534). Nicephorus added to this second part seventy-five extracts from the writings of the Fathers [edited by Pitra, "Spicilegium Solesmense", I (Paris, 1852), 227-370]; in two further writings, which also apparently belong together, passages from earlier writers, that had been used by the enemies of images to maintain their opinions, are examined and explained. Both these treatises were edited by Pitra; the first Epikrisis in "Spicilegium Solesmense", I, 302-335; the second Antirresis in the same, I, 371-503, and IV, 292-380. The two treatises discuss passages from Macarius Magnes, Eusebius of Caesarea, and from a writing wrongly ascribed to Epiphanius of Cyprus. Another work justifying the veneration of images was edited by Pitra under the title "Antirrheticus adversus iconomachos" (Spicil. Solesm., IV, 233-91). A final and, as it appears, especially important treatise on this question has not yet been published. Nicephorus also left two small historical works; one known as the Breviarium", the other the "Chronographis", both are edited by C. de Boor, "Nicephori archiep. Const. opuscula historica" in the "Bibliotheca Teubneriana" (Leipzig, 1880). At the end of his life he was revered and after death regarded as a saint. In 874 his bones were translated to Constantinople with much pomp by the Patriarch Methodius and interred, 13 March, in the Church of the Apostles. His feast is celebrated on this day both in the Greek and Roman Churches; the Greeks also observe 2 June as the day of his death.

Kirsch, Johann Peter. "St. Nicephorus." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 13 Mar. 2016 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11050a.htm>.


Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Donald J. Boon.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. February 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

SOURCE : http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11050a.htm

March 13

St. Nicephorus, Patriarch of Constantinople, Confessor

From his life by Ignatius, deacon of Constantinople, afterwards bishop of Nice, a contemporary author; and from the relation of his banishment by Theophanes. See Fleury, l. 45, 46, 47. Ceillier, t. 18. p. 467.

A.D. 828

THEODORUS, the father of our saint, was secretary to the emperor Constantine Copronymus: but when that tyrant declared himself a persecutor of the Catholic church, the faithful minister remembering that we are bound to obey God rather than man, maintained the honour due to holy images with so much zeal, that he was stripped of his honours, scourged, tortured, and banished. The young Nicephorus was from his cradle animated to the practice of virtue by the domestic example of his father: and in his education, as his desires of improvement were great and the instructions he had very good, the progress he made was as considerable; till, by the maturity of his age, and of his study, he made his appearance in the world. When Constantine and Irene were placed on the imperial throne, and restored the Catholic faith, our saint was quickly introduced to their notice, and by his merits attained a large share in their favour. He was by them advanced to his father’s dignity, and, by the lustre of his sanctity, was the ornament of the court, and the support of the state. He distinguished himself by his zeal against the Iconoclasts, and was secretary to the second council of Nice. After the death of St. Tarasius, patriarch of Constantinople, in 806, no one was found more worthy to succeed him than Nicephorus. To give an authentic testimony of his faith, during the time of his consecration he held in his hand a treatise which he had written, in defence of holy images, and after the ceremony laid it up behind the altar, as a pledge that he would always maintain the tradition of the church. As soon as he was seated in the patriarchal chair, he began to consider how a total reformation of manners might be wrought, and his precepts from the pulpit received a double force from the example he set to others in an humble comportment, and steady uniform practice of eminent piety. 1 He applied himself with unwearied diligence to all the duties of the ministry; and, by his zealous labours and invincible meekness and patience, kept virtue in countenance, and stemmed the tide of iniquity. But these glorious successes rendered him not so conspicuous as the constancy with which he despised the frowns of tyrants, and suffered persecution for the sake of justice.

The government having changed hands, the patrician Leo the Armenian, governor of Natolia, became emperor in 813, and being himself an Iconoclast, endeavoured both by artifices and open violence, to establish that heresy. He studied in the first place, by crafty suggestions, to gain over the holy patriarch to favour his design. But St. Nicephorus answered him: “We cannot change the ancient traditions: we respect holy images as we do the cross and the book of the gospels.” For it must he observed that the ancient Iconoclasts venerated the book of the gospels, and the figure of the cross, though by an inconsistency usual in error, they condemned the like relative honour with regard to holy images. The saint showed, that far from derogating from the supreme honour of God, we honour him when for his sake we pay a subordinate respect to his angels, saints, prophets, and ministers: also when we give a relative inferior honour to inanimate things which belong to his service, as sacred vessels, churches, and images. But the tyrant was fixed in his errors, which he at first endeavoured to propagate by stratagems. He therefore privately encouraged soldiers to treat contemptuously an image of Christ which was on a great cross at the brazen gate of the city; and thence took occasion to order the image to be taken off the cross, pretending he did it to prevent a second profanation. St. Nicephorus saw the storm gathering, and spent most of his time in prayer with several holy bishops and abbots. Shortly after, the emperor, having assembled together certain Iconoclast bishops in his palace, sent for the patriarch and his fellow-bishops. They obeyed the summons, but entreated his majesty to leave the government of the church to its pastors. Emilian, bishop of Cyzicus, one of their body, said: “If this be an ecclesiastical affair, let it be discussed in the church, according to custom, not in the palace.” Euthymius, bishop of Sardes, said: “For these eight hundred years past, since the coming of Christ, there have been always pictures of him, and he has been honoured in them. Who shall now have the boldness to abolish so ancient a tradition?” St. Theodorus, the Studite, spoke after the bishops, and said to the emperor: “My Lord do not disturb the order of the church. God hath placed in it apostles, prophets, pastors, and teachers. 2 You he hath entrusted with the care of the state; but leave the church to its pastors.” The emperor, in a rage, drove them from his presence. Some time after, the Iconoclast bishops held a pretended council in the imperial palace, and cited the patriarch to appear before them. To their summons he returned this answer: “Who gave you this authority? was it the pope, or any of the patriarchs? In my diocess you have no jurisdiction.” He then read the canon which declares those excommunicated who presume to exercise any act of jurisdiction in the diocess of another bishop. They, however, proceeded to pronounce against him a mock sentence of deposition; and the holy pastor, after several attempts made secretly to take away his life, was sent by the emperor into banishment. Michael the Stutterer, who in 820 succeeded Leo in the imperial throne, was engaged in the same heresy, and was also a persecutor of our saint, who died in his exile, on the 2nd of June, in the monastery of St. Theodorus, which he had built in the year 828, the fourteenth of his banishment, being about seventy years old. By the order of the empress Theodora, his body was brought to Constantinople with great pomp, in 846, on the 13th of March, on which day he is commemorated in the Roman Martyrology. 3

It is by a wonderful effect of his most gracious mercy and singular love that God is pleased to visit all his faithful servants with severe trials, and to purify their virtue in the crucible, that by being exercised it may be made heroic and perfect. By suffering with patience, and in a Christian spirit, a soul makes higher and quicker advances in pure love, than by any other means or by any other good works. Let no persons then repine, if by sickness, persecution, or disgraces, they are hindered from doing the good actions which they desire, or rendered incapable of discharging the duties of their station, or of labouring to convert others. God always knows what is best for us and others: we may safely commend to him his own cause, and all souls which are dearer to him than they can be to us. By this earnest prayer and perfect sacrifice of ourselves to God, we shall more effectually draw upon them the divine mercy than by any endeavours of our own. Let us leave to God the choice of his instruments and means in the salvation of others. As to ourselves, it is our duty to give him what he requires of us: nor can we glorify him by any sacrifice either greater or more honourable, and more agreeable to him than that of a heart under the heaviest pressure, ever submissive to him, embracing with love and joy every order of his wisdom, and placing its entire happiness and comfort in the accomplishment of his adorable most holy will. The great care of a Christian in this state, in order to sanctify his sufferings, must be to be constantly united to God, and to employ his affections in the most fervent interior exercises of entire sacrifice and resignation, of confidence, love, praise, adoration, penance, and compunction, which he excites by suitable aspirations.

Note 1. The Confession of Faith, which, upon his promotion, he sent to Pope Leo III., is published by Baronius, ad an. 811, and in the seventh tome of Labbe’s Councils, &c. In it the saint gives a clear exposition of the principal mysteries of faith, of the invocation of saints, and the veneration due to relics and holy images. [back]

Note 2. Eph. iv. 11. [back]

Note 3. St. Nicephorus has left us a chronicle from the beginning of the world: of which the best editions are that of F. Goar, with the chronicle of George Syncellus at Paris, in 1652, and that of Venice among the Byzantine historians, in 1729. Also a short history from the reign of Mauritius to that of Constantine and Irene, published at Paris, in 1616, by F. Petau; and reprinted among the Byzantine historians, at Paris, in 1649, and again at Venice, in 1729. The style is justly commended by Photius. (cod. 66.) The seventeen canons of St. Nicephorus are extant in the collection of the councils, t. 7. p. 1297, &c. In the second he declares it unlawful to travel on Sundays without necessity. Cotelier has published four others of this saint, with five of the foregoing, and his letter to Hilarion and Eustrasius, containing learned resolutions of several cases. (Monum. Græc. t. 3. p. 451.) St. Nicephorus wrote several learned tracts against the Iconoclasts, as three Antirrhetics or Confutations, &c. Some of these are printed in the Library of the Fathers, and F. Combefis’s Supplement or Auctuarium, t. 1. in Canisius’s Lectiones Antiquæ, republished by Basnage, part 2, &c. But a great number are only found in MSS. in the libraries of England, Paris, and Rome. The saint often urges that the Iconoclasts condemned themselves by allowing veneration to the cross; for the image of Christ upon the cross is more than the bare cross. In the second Antirrhetic he most evidently establishes the real presence of the Body of Christ in the Eucharist; which passage is quoted by Leo Allatius. (l. 3. de Consens. Ecclesiæ Occident. et Grient. c. 15. p. 1223.) He does the same almost in the same words, l. de Cherubinis a Moyse Factis, c. 7. apud Canis. t. 2. ed. Basm. part 2. p. 13. & t. 9. Bibl. Patr. Three Antirrhetics are entitled, Against Mamonas (i. e. Constantine Copronymus) and the Iconoclasts. A fourth was written by him against Eusebius and Epiphanides, to prove that Eusebius of Cæsarea was an obstinate Arian, and Epiphanides a favourer of Manicheism, and a very different person from St. Epiphanius of Salamine. F. Anselm Banduri, a Benedictin monk of Ragusa, undertook at Paris a complete edition of the works of St. Nicephorus, in two volumes in folio; but his death prevented the publication. His learned Prospectus, dated in the monastery of Saint Germain-des-Prez, in 1705, is inserted by Fabricius in Biblioth. Gr. t. 6. p. 640. and in part by Oudin, de Scrip. t. 2. p. 13. [back]

Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73).  Volume III: March. The Lives of the Saints.  1866.

SOURCE : http://www.bartleby.com/210/3/131.html

Venance Grumel. Les « douze chapitres contre les iconomaques » de saint Nicéphore de Constantinople  », Revue des études byzantines Année 1959 Volume 17 Numéro 1 pp. 127-135 : http://www.persee.fr/doc/rebyz_0766-5598_1959_num_17_1_1201