Saint Severus of Antioch

Severus was born in the city of Sozopolis in Pisidia in c. 459, or c. 465, into an affluent Christian family, however, later monophysite sources would assert that his parents were pagan. According to Severus’ hagiography, he was named after his paternal grandfather as he had received a vision in which he was told, “the child who is for your son will strengthen Orthodoxy, and his name will be after your name”.

He came from a wealthy family and was sent to Alexandria to study after his father’s death. He continued his studies in Beirut where he came under the influence of a group of Christian students. He began to study the writings of Ss Gregory of Nazianzen and Basil and at some time in this period he was baptised.

Once, the saint was strolling outside the city, a shut-in saint came out of his cave crying, “Welcome to you Severus, teacher of Orthodoxy, and Patriarch of Antioch.” Severus marveled at how he called him by his name, for he did not know him before, and how he foretold what would become of him.

In 508, he journeyed with two hundred monks to Constantinople to defend the doctrine and remained there about three years until 511. A year and a few more months later, Flavian II, patriarch of Antioch, was deposed, and Severus was elected by the Holy Spirit to succeed him to the Apostolic See. He was consecrated a patriarch in Antioch on November 06th, 512, after which he opened the treasures of his knowledge in preaching and explaining the realities of faith and morals.

During his leadership as a patriarch he never deviated from the path of his asceticism and abstinence. So, he removed luxurious living from the patriarchal palace, while devoting his energy to reform and the dispensation of church affairs by visiting the neighboring dioceses and monasteries in person or by letter. When Justin I, the Chalcedonian, succeeded Anastasius in 518, he called upon this Holy Father and gave him great honors to persuade him to change his stand and to follow the Emperor’s belief, but the Saint refused. The Emperor became angry, but the Saint did not fear his anger, and so the Emperor ordered him to be killed. Theodora, the Emperor’s wife who was Orthodox in faith, knew about what the Emperor intended to do, so she told the saint to flee from his face. So Justin banished a group of Orthodox bishops, antagonizing Severus who left for Egypt on the 25th of September, he was traveling everywhere and visited monasteries disguised as a monk. He strengthened the faith of the believers in the Orthodox doctrine. He dwelt in the city of Sakha in the home of a holy lay leader called Doretheos. God performed through him many signs and miracles by his hands, and remained there for twenty-four years.

In Egypt, Severus administered the church through his deputies or his letters. With indefatigable energy, he wrote book after book against heresies and deceivers, answered letters and gave personal opinions on legal matters. When he faced a difficult problem, he searched for light in the Holy Bible or turned to the resolutions of councils for assistance. In 535, he went to Constantinople in answer to the invitation of Justinian I, in pursuit of unity. At the capital, he won Anthimus, patriarch of Constantinople, to his side, but the gap between the two parties remained wide. Then he returned to Egypt and resided at the residence of Dorotheus in the city of Sakha until his death on 5 February 538. He was 73 years old. Dorotheus had Severus’ body moved to the Zogag Monastery, and the relocation of the saint’s body is celebrated on 19 December. There after a light illness he fell asleep.

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