Theodore of Studios
THEODORE OF STUDIOS
THEODORE OF STUDIOS (759–826), theologian and monastic reformer of the Byzantine church. Born to an aristocratic family in Constantinople, Theodore received an excellent secular and religious education under the close supervision of his mother, Theoktiste, and his mother's brother, the abbot Platon.
Eighth-century Byzantine society was greatly disturbed by the Iconoclastic Controversy. Theodore's family had sided with the Iconophiles, those who favored the use of icons in Christian worship. His uncle Platon was a leader against the Iconoclasts, and Theodore followed in his footsteps, as a result of which he suffered persecution and was sent into exile three times.
When the persecution of the Iconophiles ceased under Emperor Leo IV, many monks, including Platon, returned to Constantinople. Under his influence, Theodore's family moved in 780 to Bithynia, where they established a monastic community on their estate of Fotinou, not far from the village of Sakkoudion. Here Theodore was ordained a priest in 787 or 788 and his monastic career began. In 794 Platon resigned as abbot in Theodore's favor. When Theodore became abbot, he reorganized the monastery according to the rule of Basil of Caesarea (c. 329–379), and the Sakkoudion community prospered for a while with a hundred monks. Because of Saracen raids in Bithynia, Theodore and most of his community were allowed by the patriarch in 798 or 799 to move to the monastery of Studios in Constantinople.
Under Theodore's leadership, the Studios monastery underwent a period of renaissance and exerted great influence on Byzantine society. It had more than seven hundred monks and perhaps as many as a thousand. Theodore became one of the most powerful men in Constantinople and found himself in conflict with both emperors and patriarchs. He tried to integrate monasticism and society and engage monks not only in spiritual matters but in social welfare activity, in hospitals, in xenones (hospices), and in work among the needy.
Theodore was a prolific author of doctrinal, apologetic, canonical, and ascetic theology. He also wrote poetry, homilies, and letters. His doctrinal and apologetic works defend the use of icons as part of the christological teachings of the church and stress that the event of the Incarnation fully justifies the use of iconography. His canonical and ascetic works aimed at the improvement of monasticism's image and discipline. His poetry includes many church hymns and liturgical services which remain in use, as well as iambic epigrams for different nonreligious occasions. His homilies delivered on various feast days and ecclesiastical occasions display style and logic. Theodore's letters, addressed to private persons, monks, emperors, other state dignitaries, popes, and patriarchs, are an important biographical source. More than 550 of them survive.
Theodore's significance is twofold. First, his writings constitute a mirror of eighth- and early ninth-century Byzantium. Second, his life reveals agonistic efforts to free the church from imperial influence. In this he was more concerned with an orderly and moral society than with mystical theology, more attuned to the legalisms characteristic of Roman theology than to the spiritual aspirations of the Christian East.
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