Sunday, March 11, 2012

St. Sophronius of Jerusalem

St. Sophronius (550-638) was patriarch of Jerusalem between 634-638 and a great theologian of the Church, fighting against the Monothelites. During his patriarchate, the Arabs took over the city of Jerusalem, but grace to the saint, the Christians won a relative freedom for worship at the Holy Places.

His life

Saint Sophronius was born in Damascus in 550 (or 560), having an Arabic ancestry. His pious parents were Plinthas and Mira. As a young boy he was very attracted to learning, so that before being a monk, he taught rhetoric. That’s why he was also called the "Scholasticus" or “the sophist”.

He entered as monk in the monastery of St. Theodosius, near Jerusalem. After a while, he left to Alexandria, where he met St. John Moshu, who is the author of the ascetic writing “ Leimon ho leimonon” or the “Leimonarion" (“ The spiritual Meadow” or “The garden of the lemon trees”), considered to be the following history of the Egyptian Patericon (Apophthegmata Patrum). Shortly Sophronius and became his disciple and together they peregrinated through Syria, Palestine, Egypt and Rome. After his mentor's death in Rome, Sophronius returned to Jerusalem, bringing with him the body of John Moshu, which he buried in the cemetery of Saint Theodosius monastery.

The fight for the Orthodoxy of the faith

Along with Saint Maximus the Confessor, Sophronius began to fight the Monothelites, and he is the first to notice the danger of the teaching politically commanded by the byzantine emperor Heraclius I (610-641), in order to force the reunification between the miaphysite (coptic, oriental) Church with the Church from Constantinople, and together with it to strengthen the eastern borders of the empire.

In 633, while Sophronius was still in Egypt, he had a dispute with the Monothelite patriarch Cyrus of Alexandria, and then also with Sergius, the patriarch of Constantinople, which he failed to convince for the righteousness of his faith.

Sophronius was elected patriarch of Jerusalem shortly after 634. In the speech in front of the Election Council, he strongly rejected the monotheletic teaching, and this speech was later sent as an encyclical letter to the Pope Honorius and to all the other Patriarchs, enclosing numerous quotations from patristic sources, supporting the existence of two works in Christ.

The fall of Jerusalem

Patriarch Sophronius participated actively in the fight for the defense of Jerusalem, but he is the one who was forced to mediate with the Arab conquerors the surrender of the Holy Town, taken by Omar, in 637. There is said that, being in front of the door of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, he invited Omar to enter, but the Caliph refused, saying that if he does this, his followers will later claim rights to the church. Things happened exactly so: later all the churches where Omar entered were transformed into mosques, but not the Calvary Church, which remained until today a Christian sanctuary.

St. Sophronius succeeded in obtaining various civil and religious rights for Christians, in exchange of an annual tribute. One year after this sad event, on March 11, 638 he passed away.

The Written Works St. Sophronius of Jerusalem

The work of Sophronius includes dogmatic, pastoral and hagiographic topics, but also hymnography. Even if is not a very rich work, it reveals a good theologian and a fine thinker, whose insight and doctrinal accuracy underlie the doctrinal formula promulgated by the Sixth Ecumenical Council in Constantinople (680-681).

Dogmatic works:

  • -The dogmatic letter from his enthronement, which focuses on the Christological teaching. After presenting the teaching about the Holy Trinity and the Incarnation, he addresses the fundamental principles of the Christology: in Christ there is a hypostasis or person and two natures or essences. Committing work is done by distinct principles because natures have preserved intact their working powers. In Christ There is always two papers, two energies. He doesn’t talk about the two wills, but because talking about the two works, that is default.
  • - The patristic dogmatic Florilegium in two books, including 600 testimonies of the early Fathers and ecclesiastical writers, proving the existence of two works in Christ.

Hagiographical works:

  • - The Life of St. John the Merciful, patriarch of Alexandria (in collaboration with John Moshu)
  • - The life of the holy martyrs Cyrus and John, silverless doctors of the Church
  • - The life of St. Mary of Egypt (there are opinions that this work does not belong to him).

Pastoral works:

  • - 9 sermons from the times of his patriarchate, some being kept only in Latin translation. The Sermon on the Annunciation contains interesting Christological ideas
  • - 2 disciplinary writings about the secret of the confession and the baptism of the Apostles, of which there are only a few fragments
  • - While still a hieromonk, St. Sophronius reviewed and made corrections to the monastical Rule of the monastery of St. Sabbas of Jerusalem


  • - A collection of 23 anacreotical Odes, poems in anacreotic meter. The 14th Ode describes the destruction of Jerusalem by the Arabs
  • - About 950 troparia and stikheras (groups of hymns) from Pascha to the Ascension.

Veneration of St. Sophronius

St. Sophronius is celebrated both in the East and West on March 11, and together with him is celebrated also his spiritual father and friend, st. John Moshu.

In the early twentieth century some of his relics (his skull) were brought to the monastery of the Virgin “Panagia Faneromeni Hiliomodiou”, near Corinth, in Greece.

Kontakion (Hymn of the Saint)

“O, Sophronius of Jerusalem, most wise among patriarchs, who struggled with divine zeal the Commandments, and spread the truth with your lips, you set the foundations of the Church in good order, and transmitted the faitn to those in the monastic ranks. You have brought to light most wise Discourses and, thereby instructed, we cry out to you: Rejoice, O splendid boast of the right faith!”


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