Augustine Sokolovski

In the person of Saint Photius (820–896) of Constantinople, the Church honors the memory of the apologist of the Eastern Orthodox Greek theological tradition in the face of the Latin theology of the Franks, which was then gaining strength. It is to the credit of this holy Patriarch of Constantinople that one should include the ability to perceptively not only see innovations in the contemporary Western tradition, but also to rightly identify their fundamental divergence from the thinking of the Greek Fathers of the Church, and, consequently, a threat to the communion of the Churches.

An important characteristic of Photius's worldview was the conviction that it was Greek thinking that was forever destined to dominate the intellectual development of world Christianity. Photius boldly entered polemics with the Latin tradition. He was one of the first who decided to polemicize with the Latins and openly criticize them. A characteristic feature of Photius's thinking was the awareness of the need to enlist the support of the Orthodox imperial power of the Empire to Constantinople in opposing the ambitions of the Roman papacy.

Photius was one of the most erudite authors and theologians of his time. In his famous work, which went down in history under the name “Libraries,” he briefly described the literary, philosophical, and theological works he had read, about three hundred books in total, most of which have not reached us. Thus, it was his library that became the main source of information about forever lost works. Photius ascended the patriarchal throne twice, in 858–867 and 877–886, and was deposed twice. He ended his life in exile, which gave him the glory of a confessor in the face of the intrigues of the powers that be.

It was Photius who was given the grace to go down in history as one of the initiators of the future enlightenment of Christian Rus'. Let us remember that during his patriarchate, Constantinople was besieged by the Russians, and was delivered through the intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos. The time of Photius was a turning point in history. The Orthodox Capital was threatened from the north by the Slavs, and from the east by the Arab Caliphate. The Roman Papacy declared itself as an independent force that sought primacy in all of Christianity. Photius sought to prevent this.

Alas, descendants failed to appreciate the significance of the personality of Patriarch Photius. In subsequent centuries, he was not only largely forgotten, but was also subjected to severe criticism from representatives not only of the Latin tradition, but from modern Russian scholars, who saw in him an apologist for the Empire of Constantinople. We, Orthodox Christians of the 21st century, have to rethink the contribution of this holy theologian to the development of our own tradition, and, most importantly, by prayerfully remembering and invoking his name, we will contribute to the revival of genuine living veneration of Patriarch Photius among the saints.