Tryphon of Constantinopole

Augustine Sokolovski

On May 2, the Church honors the memory of St. Tryphon of Constantinople. Previously, Tryphon was highly venerated by the church people. Evidence of this, taking into account the circumstances of his patriarchate, is the very appearance of his name in the calendar. Unfortunately, today Tryphon is a forgotten saint and a forgotten patriarch.

Tryphon's patriarchate lasted almost four years. Secular historians characterize it as "colorless" and "meaningless". But God judged otherwise.

Before his election to the patriarchal throne, Tryphon was a monk in one of the monasteries of Asia Minor. After the death of Patriarch Stephen II on July 18, 927, the See of the Archbishops of Constantinople widowed, that is, it was vacant, widowed for many months. Tryphon was loved by the church people for his piety and righteousness. No matter how inappropriate and paradoxical it may sound, those in power did not fail to take advantage of it.

The fact is that the ruling Emperor Roman I Lekapenus (920–944) was preparing to “transfer” the patriarchal throne to his younger, fourth son. However, Theophylact - that was the name of the “heir” to the Ecumenical Throne, was still a minor.

Ironically, in the person of the ascetic and the "little prince" to each other, at that moment, two names seemed to be opposed: Theophylact - translated as "protected by God", and Tryphon, literally: "gentle, pampered, spending life in luxury."

Before the enthronement of the new patriarch, the authorities introduced a new separate ritual: the one who was raised to the sacred degree was offered a blank sheet, on which the delivered one had to put his signature to prove his own literacy. "Tryphon, by the grace of God, Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome, Ecumenical Patriarch."

Recall that Tryphon was a simple monk. "Apart from" impeccability and righteousness, he did not possess any special qualities. This was the time after the victory over iconoclasm of the 8th-9th centuries, when the monks in the Church, due to their enormous contribution to the fight against the defeated heresy, belonged to a special position and power. And, the Patriarch, of course, had to be literate. Obviously, in the context of time and circumstances, such a new sacred rite within the rank of ordination was not perceived as something extraordinary.

However, the initiators of this innovation thought further. They needed a signature to write a further text, in which the future Patriarch promised his renunciation of the see as soon as, in 931, the young Theophylact came of age. And so it happened. Tryphon "renounced" the patriarchate, that is, he was simply deposed and sent to the very monastery in which he had previously labored.

However, the Roman Pope Nicholas I (820-867) refused to recognize the election of Theophylact, because the latter, being 13 years old, was too small (the age of majority was then considered fourteen). But, most importantly, Theophylact ascended the throne of the archbishops of Constantinople under the living Patriarch Tryphon. It turned out that, after the abdication of Tryphon, Constantinople became a widowed see for two years. But it seemed that the circumstances themselves helped Theophylact. In 933, a year after his abdication, the deposed Tryphon suddenly died in the monastery. Then Theophylact was able to become patriarch.

Theophylact lived a long and prosperous life, and died, in the words of Genesis about the death of the biblical patriarchs, "full of days" (cf. Gen. 25:8). He loved worship, where, according to contemporaries, he introduced "theatrical elements" that the ascetics did not like. However, we do not know what those elements were. In addition to worship, he loved horses. To such an extent that he once interrupted the celebration of the liturgy in order to be present at the birth of his beloved mare.

Theophylact remained the only legitimate son of Emperor Romanos who outlived his father. In 944 Romanus was overthrown by his own sons. But the people did not accept their rule, and soon all three, the deposed emperor and his two sons ... were sent by force to the monastery. Theophylact crowned Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus, who had deposed them, as Emperor (+959).

A decade after the abdication of his father Roman, in 955, Theophylact fell while falling from a horse. “Flock to the great supper of God to devour the corpses of the strong, the corpses of horses and those sitting on it,” the Angel proclaims to the birds in the Apocalypse (Apocalypse 19:17-18). It seemed to his contemporaries that these biblical words were fulfilled over him.