On December 31, we celebrate the feast day of St. Theophylact of Ochrid, a saint of the Church who overcame disappointment and disillusionment to fulfill God’s purpose for his life.
Theophylact enjoyed robust health and worldly comforts; he had a brilliant mind and had received an excellent education, both secular and religious. Living in Constantinople, he gained a reputation as a scholar and took advantage of all the cultural offerings of the capital city. Theophylact was ordained a deacon and given the responsibility for tutoring Prince Constantine Doukas, for whom he wrote a treatise, The Education of Princes. Theophylact was leading a charmed life.
But God and the Emperor conspired to provide a new challenge for Theophylact. After hearing an especially enthusiastic and flattering sermon which the deacon preached, Emperor Alexius had Theophylact appointed as Archbishop of Ochrid (Ohrid) in Bulgaria.
By Constantinopolitan standards, the Bulgarians of that time were primitive, uncouth people and they resented Byzantine rule. The citizens of Ochrid were not happy to receive their new – foreign – archbishop and he was not happy to be there. Theophylact tried everything he could to be released from his appointment and was very homesick for his beloved Constantinople.
But blessed Theophylact turned his disappointment to generosity for the Bulgarians and the Church. He became an advocate for the poor, pleading for tax relief for people whose children were sold into slavery to pay their taxes. Above all, Theophylact offered his abilities as a theologian to the Church during his “exile.” He wrote commentaries on the Gospels, the Epistles, Acts, the prophets, and numerous letters and homilies (which we at St. Gregory’s often hear quoted!). These gifts of St. Theophylact have continued to enlighten and inspire Christians throughout the world since his death in 1107.
May we, like St. Theophylact, recognize that the disappointments of our lives can be opportunities for serving God by helping others. Blessed Theophylact, pray for us.