Saint of the Day – 4 April – Saint Plato (c 734-813) Monk, Confessor, Defender of sacred images and of the Sacraments of Marriage and Holy Orders. Born in c 734 in Greece and died on 19 March 813 of natural causes in Constantinople.
Plato was born into a wealthy but pious Christian family of the parents, Sergius and Euphemia but was orphaned when he was only around 13 years of age. He was taken to be raised by relatives, who gave him a fine education. When he grew up, he occupied himself, in the first years, in the management of the property which his parents had left him upon their death. He was very temperate and hard-working and acquired great wealth by his own toil. However, the future Monk’s heart blazed with love for Christ. He gave away all his property, set his servants free and withdrew into a Monastery named Symbolon near Mount Olympos.
His prayerful zeal, love of work and geniality won him the love of hif fellow brethren. When he was not praying, he worked at menial labour and copyied manuscripts. He also compiled anthologies, from the works of the holy Fathers.
When the Abbot, Theoctistus died in 770, the Monks chose Plato as Abbot, even though he was still a very young man. After the death of the Emperor Constantine Kopronymos (775), Plato went to Constantinople. The Archbishop wanted to make him Bishop of Nicomedia, or theAbbot of one of the Monasteries in Constantinople but such was the saint’s humility, that he hastened back to the Symbolon Monastery, to escape such honour. In 782, he withdrew to the desolate place of Studion with his nephews Theodore and Joseph. On the mount they built a Church in honour of the holy Apostle John and founded a Monastery, whose Superior was Plato.
When Saint Tarasius and the Empress Irene convened the Seventh Ecumenical Council in Nicea in 787, Plato took an active part in its work. Being learned in Holy Scripture, he successfully unmasked the error in the Iconoclast heresy and defended the veneration of holy icons. When Plato approached old age, he transferred the administration of the monastery to Theodore.
In 795 the emperor Constantine VI (78-797) repudiated his Rmpress, Mary and he married one of his relatives, Theodota. Even though the holy Bishop Tarasius, condemned this marriage, Joseph, a prominent Priest of Constantinople, violated the Bishops’s prohibition and celebrated the marriage of the Emperor.
When they learned of this, Plato and Theodore excommunicated the Emperor from the Church and sent a letter about this to all the Monks. The enraged Rmperor gave orders to lock Plato in prison and to banish Theodore to Thessalonica. Only after the death of the Emperor in 797 did they receive their freedom. Theodore settled in Constantinople and became iAbbot of the Studion Monastery. Plato lived as a simple Monk at this Monastery under obedience to his nephew.
In 807, Joseph, the Priest who had presided at the wedding of Constantine and Theodoat, was restored to his position and made treasurer of the Church by order of Emperor Nicephorus. Plato considered this scandalous and loudly condemned it. The Emperor had him guarded for a year by a troop of insolent soldiers and false Monks. After which, Plato was unjustly condemned by a Council of Court Bishops, then banished for four years to be to the isles of Bosphorus, until he was freed in 811 by the new Emperor Michael I. Plato. Plato then returned to his cell and his life of prayer.
In 813, Plato saw that his end was near and directed his grave be dug. He then had himself carried to it and lived laying in it, spending his last days in prayer and receiving guests from his grave, including his former enemy, the Priest Joseph, who came to ask for Plato’s prayers and forgiveness.
The Roman Martyrology states of him on 4 April: “At Constantinople, Plato, a Monk, who for many years combatted with invincible courage, the heretics who were breaking sacred images.”