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 Lives of the  SAINTS - Sword of the Spirit St. Alexander, Archbishop of Constantinople 


And take the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. (Eph. 6:17)

St. Alexander was an archpastor (rural bishop) in the time of the most holy Mitrofan, the first Patriarch of Constantinople. [ruled as Patriarch from 315 to 325] This Alexander was richly adorned with all manner of good works. When the First Ecumenical Council was called in Nicea, Alexander was sent to the Council as a zealous champion of piety, for Patriarch Mitrofan was unable to attend the Council by reason of his great age and bodily infirmities. Acting as the Patriarch's representative, Alexander zealously defended the Orthodox Faith against the impious Anus. When the Council had finished its work, and Alexander was already on his way back to Constantinople,. an angel of the Lord appeared to blessed Mitrofan and said:

"In ten days shalt thou receive a crown from God. Let thy servant Alexander ascend the Patriarchal throne after thee..."

The righteous Emperor Constantine, together with many fathers of the Church, came to the most holy Patriarch Mitrofan who was already on his death-bed. When asked whom he blessed to receive the Patriarchal throne after him,. Mttrofan answered:

"The Lord has revealed to me that my servant Alexander, truly worthy to be chosen and worthy of the Gift of the Holy Spirit, shall have the throne after me."

As Patriarch of Constantinople, Alexander shepherded Christ's rational flock with diligence, driving off the wolves-heretics and pagan Hellenes, for it was not only against the Arians, but also against the pagan philosophers that Alexander had to wage a great struggle

Once certain of' the pagan philosophers were .emboldened to persuade the Emperor that in rejecting the ancient faith of his fathers, and also Roman and Greek laws., he had taken on some new faith and new laws which, they claimed, had led to the decline of the Empire. The philosophers received the Emperor's consent to enter into a debate on faith with Bishop Alexander, Although not learned in pagan philosophy, God's luminary Alexander was filled with the Holy Spirit and he did not shrink from the debate

 When the philosophers had gathered in great number, they chose from among themselves one whom they considered to be the wisest. The latter was presented to the holy one while the rest prepared to listen attentively. Beginning the debate, the most holy Patriarch Alexander said to the philosopher:

"In the name of my Lord Jesus Christ , I command you to be silent!"

Immediately the philosopher lost his tongue and became dumb, so that he could not utter a single word.

All the assembled philosophers became frightened and ashamed; some of them fled in disgrace, while others came to believe in Christ. The very philosopher who had lost the gift of speech, let it be known through signs that he acknowledged his error and confessed the Christian faith to be the true one. He fell at the feet of the holy one and immediately his tongue was loosened and he began glorifying our Lord Jesus Christ far everyone to hear. Afterwards he was baptized together with other friends of his. The Emperor and all the faithful rejoiced at this event, and all glorified Cod1 Who had given such miraculous power to His saint.

Upon another occasion St; Alexander vanquished the impious Arius with his prayer. It happened that a few years after the First Ecumenical Council, the heretic Arius was called to Constantinople. Here he cunningly deceived the pious Emperor Constantine in the following manner: Constantine asked Arius whether he believed as the Holy Fathers of the Nicean Council had decreed. Having concealed on his breast a document on which he had written his own false creed, Anus struck himself on the breast and declared: "This is what I believe!"

Thus, to all appearances the heretic ostensibly expressed his agreement with the doctrine affirmed at Nicaea. Inwardly, however, he believed that which he had written with his own hand and which was concealed on his breast. And the deceiver swore before the Emperor, saying this is what he believed.

Not suspecting such wickedness, the Emperor believed Arius' words and sent him to the holy Patriarch Alexander, directing him to receive Arius into communion with the Church as an Orthodox Christian.  At the same time a certain Sunday was designated on which Arius was to be brought into the cathedral to be joined together with the faithful. St. Alexander, however, refused to receive Arius because he was the founder of a heresy.

Meanwhile; Saturday came and Sunday was approaching. On Saturday night, the archpastor of God gave himself over to prayer before the altar. With tears he prayed to God to take the very soul from his body so that he would not see. the day wherein Arius would be restored to the Church and to the partaking of the Holy Mysteries; or else, having pity on His Church, to strike Arius from the midst of the living.

St Alexander spent the whole night in prayer. Morning came and the time for Liturgy drew nigh. Arius emerged from the royal palace with great pride and directed his steps toward the cathedral; he was surrounded by imperial officials who were in a agreement with his heresy and by a multitude of men-at-arms.

When Arius approached the place which is called "the market-place of Constantine," (here stood a marble column surmounted by a statue of the Emperor), his stricken conscience began to trouble him and he was seized with fear. Because of this fear, he felt an urgency to satisfy a bodily need and began to look for some hidden place. Not far was just such a place for public use. Entering therein, Arius was suddenly stricken with an acute internal disorder. As with Judas, the belly of the wicked one burst open and his insides spilled forth  In this horrible way the heretic perished.

Those who were standing nearby and waiting for Arius to come out, seeing that he did not come out after a long interval, themselves went in to get him and found him lying dead in the midst of filth and blood. Immediately the news spread throughout the city of the terrible and unexpected death of Anus. The heretics were put to shame, while the Orthodox rejoiced that Christ the True God had taken vengeance on His enemy and blasphemer. And even more did the holy Patriarch Alexander give thanks to Christ God that He had taken pity on His Church and saved her from that ravenous wolf.

The pious Emperor Constantine the Great, learning of Arius' death,. became even more firmly established in the Faith and defended the dogmas of the Council of Nicaea to the very end of his days.

Such was the power before God of the righteous prayer of God's great archpastor Alexander. Like a sharp sword it slew God's enemy and secured the triumph of the Orthodox Church. St. Gregory the Theologian recalled this later on in his address to the people of Constantinople:

"In truth I tell you that you are disciples of the praiseworthy Alexander, that zealous champion and confessor of the Holy Trinity, who with word and deed took up arms against heretical delusion. You remember his apostolic prayer through which he destroyed the founder and leader of the heretics in a place fit for a godless he a then, in order to pay back disgrace for disgrace, and in order that, through a justly merited dishonorable death, the mortal evil of heresy, which had ruined many souls, would be made manifest forever."

St. Alexander shepherded the Church of Christ for a number of years until he reached a ripe old age. When he lay dying, his flock gathered. around their shepherd and asked:

"To whom wilt thou leave us, thy children, father? Whom dost thou set as our shepherd instead of thee; who will be able, following in thy footsteps, to firmly guide the Church?"

Alexander, pointing to two just men- namely, Paul the Presbyter and Macedonius the Deacon, answered and said:

"If you would have a wise shepherd, adorned with good works, then choose Paul; if you would have a shepherd who is fair to behold shining with external beauty, then, choose Macedonius."

Having said this, the holy Patriarch Alexander passed away to the Lord, having lived 98 years from his birth. After him, the throne was occupied by St. Paul, the first Patriarch of Constantinople with this title (his memory is celebrated on November 6th).  

(Translated from St. Dimitri Rostov's Lives of Saints by John Hudanish; slightly abridged.)

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