Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of Saint Mark. Third Tone.
O All-Laudable and most divine Mark, in thee the Church found a great zealot by thy confession of the Holy and Sacred Faith; for thou didst champion the doctrines which the Fathers taught and didst cast down darkness' boastful pride. Wherefore pray thou to Christ God for them that honor thee, that we be granted the forgiveness of sins.
Kontakion of Saint Mark. Third Tone
Clad, O Godly-minded one, with an invincible armor, thou didst dash to pieces the pride of the Western rebellion; thou wast brought forth as the champion of Orthodoxy, as the Comforter's own Rejoice, O Mark, thou boast of the Orthodox flock.
SAINT MARK OF EPHESUS AND THE FALSE UNION OF FLORENCE
The great teacher and invincible defender of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. Saint Mark Evgenikos (Greek: Μάρκος Ευγενικός), was the offspring and scion of the imperial city, Constantinople. Reared by most pious parents, and instructed in secular and spiritual wisdom, he became pre-eminent in both. Saint Mark lived as an ascetic on the Princes' Islands and later in the Monastery of Saint George Magana in Constantinople. He passed through all the degrees of the Priesthood, and was finally advanced to the dignity of Archbishop and the lofty throne of the Metropolis of Ephesus. At the insistence of Emperor John Paleologos, the Saint was sent to the council of the Latins (Roman Catholic) in Florence, Italy in 1439 AD, to unite the Churches that had been divided for so many years. He astounded the Papal teachers with the divine wisdom of his words, and was the only one who did not sign the blasphemous decree of that false council. Because of this, the Holy Church of Christ has ever honored this great man as benefactor, teachers, sole defender, and invincible champion of the Apostolic Confession.
In spite of the Byzantine emperor John VIII Palaeologos and the Pope of Rome Eugenius IV he held Rome (Latins) to be in schism and heresy for it acceptance of the Filioque clause added to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed and for the claims of the Papacy to universal jurisdiction over the Church, and was thus the only Eastern bishop to refuse to sign the blasphemous decree of that false council. Sometimes he is called "the conscience of Orthodoxy."
In addition to the other afflictions which the Orthodox delegation suffered in Florence was added the death of the Patriarch of Constantinople. The Patriarch was found dead in his room. Although the Patriarch was no pillar of Orthodoxy, and though one may reproach him in much, still one cannot deny that with his whole soul he grieved for Orthodoxy and never allowed himself or anyone else to injure Saint Mark. Being already in deep old age, he lacked the energy to defend the Church of which he was head, but history cannot reproach him for betraying the Church. Death spared him for the many and grievous humiliations which the Orthodox Church subsequently had to endure. And on the other hand the absence of his signature on the Act of Union later gave occasion for the defenders of Orthodoxy to contest the pretension of the Council of Florence to the significance and title of "Ecumenical Council", because the Act of every Ecumenical Council must be signed first of all by the Patriarchs.
After the death of Patriarch, Emperor John Paleologos took the direction of the Church in his own hands. This anticanonical situation, although often encountered in Byzantine history. Saint Mark condemned the actions of the Emperor and in one of his epistles he writes: "Let no one dominate in our faith; neither emperor, nor hierarch, nor false council, nor anyone else, but only the one God, who both Himself and through His Disciples has handed it down to us."
The Orthodox delegation was forced to accept the Latin teaching of the Filioque and acknowledge the Latin dogma of the Procession of the Holy Spirit, in the sense of His Existence, from the Two Hyposteses. Then the Orthodox were obliged to declare the Filioque, as an addition within the Symbol of Faith, had always been a canonical and blessed act. One should note that not all the Roman Popes had approved of the Filioque, and several considered its introduction into the Symbol of Faith (The Creed), completely uncanonical. But now all this was forgotten. Everything was sacrificed to the demand of Pope Eugenius and his cardinals.
Further, it was demanded of the Orthodox to accept the Latins (Roman Catholic) teaching concerning the consecration of the Holy Gifts and renounce their own as expressed in the performance of the Divine Liturgy of the Eastern Church.
Finally, the Orthodox delegation was obliged to sign and acknowledge a confession of Papism, expressed thus: "We decree that the Holy Apostolic Throne and Roman Pontiff possess a primacy over the whole earth, and that this Roman Pontiff is the Successor of the blessed Peter, Prince of the Apostles, and is the true Vicar of Christ, the Head of the whole Church, Pastor and Teacher of all Christians; and that our Lord Jesus Christ in the person of Saint Peter has given him full authority to shepherd, direct and rule the whole Church, as is likewise contained in the acts of the Ecumenical Councils and in the holy canons". The Orthodox delegation was likewise forced to acknowledge and accept purgatory.
When the Orthodox delegates had found that the Vatican's demands were completely unacceptable, certain warm partisans of the Union had asked the Pope to inform them openly what advantages Byzantium would drive from the Union. The Pope offered the following:
1. The Vatican would provide the means to send the Greeks back to Constantinople.
2. Approximately 300 soldiers would be maintained at Papal expense in Constantinople
for the defense of the Capital against the Turks.
3. Two ships would be maintained on the Bosphorus for defense of the city.
4. A Crusade would go through Constantinople.
5. The Pope would summon the Western Sovereigns to the aid of Byzantium.
The last two promises were purely theoretical.
The end came at last. An Act of Union was drawn up in which the Orthodox delegation renounced their Orthodoxy and accepted all the Latins formula and innovations which had only just appeared in the bosom of the Latin Church, such as the teaching of Purgatory. They accepted also an extreme form of Papism, by this act renouncing the ecclesiology that was the essence of the Orthodox Church. The signing, on July 5th, 1439, was accompanied by a triumphant service, and after the solemn declaration of the Union, read in Latin and Greek, the Greek delegates kissed the Pope's knee.
Only one Bishop did not sign. That one bishop was Saint Mark of Ephesus. In this one man was represented the whole might of the Orthodox Church. He was a giant of giants, bearing in himself all the sanctity of Orthodoxy and all its might! The Pope demanded that Saint Mark be stripped of his rank then and there for his refusal to sign the Act of Union. But Emperor John Paleologos did not allow him to be harmed, because in the depths of his heart he respected Saint Mark.
To the Pope's words Saint Mark gave an extensive, commanding reply. Concerning the interdictions with which the Pope threatened him, he said: "The Councils of the Church have condemned as rebels those who have transgressed against some dogmas and have preached thus and fought for this, for which reason also they are called "heretics"; and from the beginning the Church has condemned the heresy itself, and only then has it condemned the leaders of the heresy and its defenders. But I by no means preached my own teaching, nor have I introduced anything new in the Church, nor defended any foreign and false doctrine; but I have held only that teaching which the Church received in perfect form from the Savior, and in which it has steadfastly remained to this day: the teaching which the Holy Church of Rome, before the schism that occurred between us, possessed no less than our Eastern Church; the teaching which, as holy, you formerly were wont to praise, and often at this very Council you mentioned with respect and honor, and which no one could reproach or dispute. And if I hold it and do not allow myself to depart from it, what Council will subject me to the interdiction to which heretics are subject? What sound and pious mind will act thus with me? For first of all one must condemn the teaching which I hold; but if you acknowledge it as pious and Orthodox, then why am I deserving of punishment? Having said this and more of the like, and listened to the Pope, he returned to his quarters."
Saint Mark returned to Constantinople with Emperor John Paleologos on February 1, 1440. Saint Mark became weak in body, but in spirit he was on fire. The Orthodox Christians did not accept the Union.
During the last two years of his holy life much happened. The Eastern Orthodox Patriarchs condemned the Council of Florence and name it "tyrannical and foul," and refused to recognize the Union.
Saint Mark died on June 23, 144, at the age of 52. George Scholarios writes thus of Saint Mark's death: "But our sorrow was increased yet more by the fact that he was taken away from our embrace before he had grown old in the virtues which he had acquired, before we could sufficiently enjoy his presence, in the full power of this passing life! No effect nor cunning had the power to shake his mind, nor to lead astray his soul, so strongly was it nourished and tempered by virtue! Even if the vault of heaven should fall, even then the righteousness of this man would not be shaken, his strength would not fail, his soul would not be moved, and his thought would not be impaired by such difficult trials."
The Holy Synod of Constantinople under the presidency of Patriarch Seraphim brought out a decree of glorification of Saint Mark of Ephesus on January 19th was instituted as the date of the Saint's commemoration.
Please note: We as Orthodox Christians must never but never take our Orthodox Christian Faith and Church for granted. Heresy is very much alive and well today and because of this, we must remain constantly vigilant and aware of what is taking place within and without our Church throughout the world.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God