Saint of the Day – 12 May – Saint Germanus of Constantinople (c 640-733) Bishop Constantinople from 715 to 730, Defender of the Doctrine of the Church both against Monothelitism and Iconoclasm, poet, hymnist, spiritual writer, some of his works being used and quoted for centuries and still today. Born in c 640 in Constantinople and died on 12 May 733 at Platonium of natural causes at an advanced age. Tradition depicts Germanus as much more determined in his position, even winning a debate on the matter with Constantine, Bishop of Nacoleia, a leading Iconoclast. Pope Gregory II (term 715-731), a fellow Iconodule, praised Germanus’ “zeal and steadfastness.“
The Roman Martyrology includes him today and states: “At Constantinople, Saint Germanus, a Bishop distinguished by virtues and learning, who, with great courage, reprehended Leo the Isaurian, for promulgating an edict against holy images.”
The son of Justinianus, a patrician, Germanus dedicated himself to the service of the Church and became a Priest at the Cathedral of the City. Some time after the death of his father, who had filled various high official positions, Germanus was Consecrated Bishop of Cyzicus but the exact year of his elevation is not known.
According to St Theophanes (c 75- 817/818), he was present in this capacity at the Synod of Constantinople held in 712 at the insistence of the new Emperor, Philippicus, who favoured Monothelitism. The object of the Council was to re-establish Monothelitism and to condemn the Acts of the Sixth General Council of 681. Even Germanus is said to have bowed to the imperial will, with the majority of the Greek Bishops. However, immediately after the dethronement of Emperor Philippicus (713) his successor, Anastasius II, restored orthodoxy and Monothelitism was now definitively banished from the Byzantine Empire. If Germanus really had yielded for a short time to the false teachings of the Monothelites (though this is very doubtful), he now once more acknowledged the orthodox definition of the two wills in Christ.
When the Bishop of Constantinople died, Germanus was raised to the patriarchal see (715), which he held until 730. Immediately (715 or 716), he convened, a Synod of Greek Bishops, who acknowledged and proclaimed anew the Doctrine of the two wills and the two operations in Christ and placed under anathema, Sergius, Cyrus and the other leaders of Monothelitism. Germanus entered into communication with the Armenian Monophysites, with a view to restoring them to unity with the Church but without success. Soon after his elevation to the ecclesiastical dignity the Iconoclastic storm burst forth in the Byzantine Church, Bishop Constantine of Nacoleia in Phrygia, who, like some other Bishops of the Empire, condemned the veneration of the images of Christ and the Saints, went to Constantinople and entered into a discussion with Germanus on the subject.
Germanus represented the traditional use of the Church and sought to convince Constantine of the propriety of reverencing images. Apparently he was converted to the teaching of the Germanus but he did not deliver the letter entrusted to him, by Germanus to the Metropolitan of Synnada, for which he was excommunicated.
At the same time the learned Bishop wrote to Bishop Thomas of Claudiopolis, another Iconoclast and developed in detail the sound principles underlying the reverencing of images, as against the recent innovations. Emperor Leo III, however, did not recede from his position and everywhere encouraged the iconoclasts. In a volcanic eruption between the islands of Thera and Therasia, Leo saw a Divine judgement for the idolatry of image- worship and in an edict (726) explained that Christian images had taken the place of idols and the venerators of images were idolaters, since, according to the law of God (Exodus 20:4), no product of the hand of man may be adored.
Immediately afterwards, the first Iconoclastic disturbances erupted in Constantinople. Germanus vigorously opposed the Emperor and sought to convert him to a truer view of things, whereupon Leo attempted to depose him.
In 722) Leo issued a series of edicts against the worship of images (726–729). A letter by Germanus written before 726 to two Iconoclast Bishops, says that “now whole towns and multitudes of people are in considerable agitation over this matter” but we have very little evidence as to the growth of the debate. Germanus turned to Pope Gregory II (729), who in a lengthy epistle praised his zeal and steadfastness. The Emperor in 730 summoned the Council before which Germanus was cited, to subscribe to an imperial decree prohibiting images. He resolutely refused and was thereupon, compelled to resign his Bishopric, being succeeded by the pliant Anastasius.
Germanus withdrew to the home of his family, where he died some years later at an advanced age. in 733. The Ecumenical Council of Nicaea (787) bestowed high praise on Germanus and included hims in the diptychs of the Saints. He is venerated as a Saint in both the Greek and the Latin Church. His feast is celebrated today, 12 May.
Several writings of Germanus have been preserved,“Narratio de sanctis synodis,” a dialogue “De vitae termino,” a letter to the Armenians and three letters on the reverencing of images, as well as nine discourses. The “Historia ecclesiastica et mystica,” also attributed to him – was a popular work in Greek and Latin translations, for many centuries
Pope Pius XII included one of his texts in the Apostolic Constitution proclaiming Mary’s Assumption into Heaven, a Dogma of the Church.
Among his writings was the hymn translated by John Mason Neale as “A Great and Mighty Wonder,”although Neale misattributed this to Anatolius of Constantinople.