THE DIVINE GLORIOUS CHAMPION OF THE FAITH AND
GUARDIAN OF ORTHODOXY
ST. MARK OF EPHESUS
St. Mark of Ephesus, defended Orthodox truths single-handed prevented the Orthodox from being swallowed up by the Pope of Rome.
Mark was born in 1392 in Constantinople and from his youth yearned for monastic life which he embraced at the age of twenty-six, having abandoned a budding secular career that would have elevated him highly in the government of the Emperor. His name had been Manuel, but after becoming a monk he took the name Mark, which one of the Apostles is called, symbolized by a lion. Mark, like a roaring lion, dispersed all the unionists along with the papists. He prevented the union which would have destroyed the entire Church of Constantinople by placing it under the slipper of the Pope. The Orthodox were much like Esau, ready to sell out the truths of Orthodoxy not for lentils, but to save the City.
It is not beneficial or lifegiving but is suicidal to harbor a desire to surrender Orthodoxy, abandon Christ and choose the Pope as head of the Church. Orthodoxy stands with the whole truths handed down to her from Christ and the Apostles, and the Holy Fathers which are safely secured in the Church by the Holy Spirit. Christ does not desire the union of His Church with anyone, rather He calls all mankind to “Come unto me . . .”, that is, unite yourselves to me, for I am your Head, your Teacher and your only Hope. The Papacy does not seek unity with Christ but chose to substitute a vicar in place of the Godman.
Returning to Mark’s background, he reluctantly accepted ordination out of obedience to the Patriarch, and was elevated to Metropolitan at the age of forty-six. When preparations were made to meet with the Latins to attempt a reunion, Mark held high hopes that such a union would take place. At his time in history, the Byzantine Empire had been reduced to the City of Constantinople, and the enemy was making preparations to grab that prize. The Turkish threat was a serious menace, and many knew that it was only a matter of time before the city fell into the hands of the Moslems.
There is plenty of information available about Mark as his brother and George Scholarios, who would become Patriarch of Constantinople, knew him best and wrote his biography. They saw the great piety of Mark and delighted when he celebrated the Divine Liturgy, for he lived a stern ascetic life and celebrated like an angel on earth. His preparation by education was well accomplished in his holy soul, and he was like a bee gathering, examining and searching the writings of those who came before him. He absorbed the entire spirit of Orthodoxy which would enable him, together with his holy love and zeal to stand at the gates of Hades and without help accomplish a double defeat. He exposed the perfidy of the unionists and the deceitful arguments of the Papacy which was the original cause of their separation from the Church.
As Manuel he had loved God with all his heart and drew close to him, seeking his fear and strength, being filled with His divine spirit. God was preparing Manuel to be transformed into St. Mark of Ephesus, Guardians and Defender of Orthodoxy! George Scholarios remarks that Manuel was a pure spirit, being much unlike those who dwelt in the capitol and more like an ascetic due to his way of life. It was his gracious spiritual qualities that had attracted the Patriarch to ordain him.
The meeting of the Orthodox with the Latins started in Ferrara, and ended in Florence due to the plague in the former city. Mark being filled with divine grace, kept in mind a single purpose, which was to preserve and defend true doctrine in its entirety without any compromise. Discussions went on and Mark’s faithfulness was a most beautiful and radiant sight to behold. Opposed by his own fellow bishops and compatriots, he stood as an immovable rock on the firm foundation and structure of Orthodoxy. His arguments with the Papists were not out of bitterness but of love, he frequently urged the Latins to “come back to the faith of the fathers, both yours and ours.”
All the Orthodox who meet with the Papists in our day ought to save the Churches finances and their own souls by breaking off all communication and negotiations. Dialogue is not only forbidden but is poisonous and harmful to the soul. Why? Because they recognize an enemy a being a friend, not their enemy alone but he is inimical toward all of Orthodoxy. History clearly identifies their motive for they do not keep it secret. Let Mark remind them of the truth that he himself witnessed, for he says: “In fact, we have broken all ties with them for the very reason that they are heretics.”
“They are not only schismatics but heretics . . . therefore we must not have a union.” Mark told Patriarch Joseph: “In matters of the Faith, there must be no concessions and no wavering.” “Let no one dominate in our Faith, neither emperor, nor hierarch, nor false council, nor anyone else, but only God, who both himself and through His disciples has handed it down to us.”
Despite Mark’s noble and sincere effort to bring his Orthodox brethren back to the Faith, on July 5, 1439. The all betrayed Orthodoxy and signed a union pact accepting the Pope’ demand, including his authority, leaving Mark the only one who said: “I will not sign. I will never do that which you ask me even if you put my life in peril.”
After the capitulation of the representatives of Orthodoxy by acceptation of the papal error, the Pope wanted to talk with Mark, and flanked by his cardinals, Pope Eugene, warmed Mark of the danger he was facing stern punishment by going against the ecumenical synods. Mark sat down as he listened to he Pope. Let all of us remember his holy reply to the Pope. “The synods condemn those who will not obey the Church and maintain opinions contrary to what she teaches. I neither preach to my own glory, Nor have I said anything new or unknown to the Church. I keep intact the purer and unadulterated teachings which the Church has received and preserved, and continues to preserve, from Christ our Savior. This doctrine was also clung to by the Church of Rome, unanimously with that of the Eastern Church, until the beginning of the schism. Even during the present synod, you have praised this exact pious worship of the past. No one can censure or condemn this pious teaching. Therefore, I remain steadfast in this teaching and do not desire to deviate from it, how is it possible to judge me as a heretic? First one must judge the teaching which I believe, and then judge me. If, however, the confession is holy and Orthodox, how can I justifiably be judged?”
The first step toward betrayal is meeting with heretics for it is monologue not dialogue that is commanded, Orthodox participants must do exactly as divine St. Mark did, who in turn did exactly what St. Paul commands: “ A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition reject, knowing he that is such is subverted and is self condemned” (Titus 3:10). For this reason the dialogues taking place are contrary to the will of God for God does not desire a union of the Papacy and Orthodoxy, and we can readily see its bitter fruits in the so-called Unia churches, who look like Orthodox, sing like Orthodox, liturgize like Orthodoxy, but belong to the Pope. However, a return of the Papacy to true doctrine would always be acceptable, but they have made it very clear, they believe in one form of unity, under the authority of the Pope of Rome, for they believe that they are the true Catholic Church while Orthodoxy has gone astray and must be reunited to the Pope.