Rev. Alban Butler (171173). Volume XII: December. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.
St. Theodorus Grapt, Confessor
THIS saint was of the country of the Moabites; but his parents, who were rich and virtuous, went and settled at Jerusalem, in order to procure him the advantages of a holy education. He was placed by them, when he was very young, in the monastery of Sabas, and by his progress in learning, the extraordinary purity of his manners, and the habitual mortification of his senses, attained in a short time to an eminent degree of virtue, and acquired a high reputation in the world. The patriarch of Jerusalem obliged him to receive priestly orders, and when Leo, the Armenian, waged a cruel war against holy images, sent the saint to that emperor to exhort him not to disturb the peace of the church. The tyrant, instead of relenting, caused St. Theodorus to be scourged, and banished him, with his brother Theophanes, a monk of the same monastery, and his companion, into an island in the mouth of the Euxine sea, where they suffered much by hunger and cold. But they had not staid long there before the emperor died, in 882, when they returned to Constantinople, and St. Theodorus published some writings in defence of the truth. Michael the Stutterer, who succeeded in the imperial throne, and is thought either to have had no religion, or to have leaned most to that of the Manichees or Paulicians, was for steering a middle course between the Catholics and the Iconoclasts. He cast St. Theodorus into prison, and afterwards sent him into exile. His son and successor Theophilus, a violent Iconoclast, and barbarous persecutor, who ascended the throne in 829, caused the two brothers to be whipped; then banished them into the island of Aphusia. Two years after, they were brought back to Constantinople, buffeted in presence of the emperor till they fell down quite stunned at his feet, then stripped and publicly scourged. When they had lain some days in prison, and still persisted in their refusal to communicate with the Iconoclasts, the emperor commanded twelve Iambic verses, composed for that purpose by an Iconoclast courtier, to be inscribed on their foreheads. The sense of the verses was as follows: These men have appeared at Jerusalem as vessels of iniquity, full of superstitious error, and were driven thence for their crimes; and having fled to Constantinople they forsook not their impiety. Wherefore they have been again banished from thence, and are stigmatized on their faces. Though the wounds which they had received by their stripes were yet much inflamed and very painful, they were laid upon benches, whilst the letters which composed those verses were cut or pricked upon their faces. The operation was long and tedious, and interrupted by the coming on of the night; and the confessors were sent back to prison, their faces being still bloody. They were soon after banished to Apamea, in Syria, where St. Theodorus died of his sufferings. From the inscription cut in his forehead he is surnamed Grapt, which signifies in Greek, marked or engraved. Theophilus died about the same time, and the Empress Theodora, a zealous Catholic, becoming regent for her son Michael, St. Methodius was made patriarch, and restored holy images in 842. Theophanes was then honoured for his glorious confession of the faith, and constituted bishop of Nice, that he might more effectually concur in overthrowing a heresy, over which he had already triumphed. St. Theodorus Grapt is named in the Roman Martyrology with his brother Theophanes on this day. The Greeks honour the former on the 27th of December, and St. Theophanes, whom, on account of sacred hymns which he composed, they style the poet, on the 11th of October. See the authentic life of St. Theodorus Grapt, in Metaphrastes, Baronius, and Fleury, l. 47, &c. The twelve iambic verses, which were written on their foreheads, with a red-hot steel pencil, are recited in the Greek Synaxary on this day.