St Sophronius of Jerusalem (d. c. 638)

St Sophronius of Jerusalem (d. c. 638)

This holy man lived in a very difficult time and, as patriarch of Jerusalem in 638, he saw the Holy City taken over by the Muslims and himself an exile. It was the bitter crown of a very dedicated life.


He was born in Damascus, Syria, and as a young man was a brilliant student. He became a monk, lived at St Sabas in Jerusalem with a friend, the famous John Moschus, and then made a tour of monastic settlements in Egypt. The patriarch of Alexandria at the time was St John the Almsgiver, who invited the two friends to stay for a time in Alexandria.


Later, the two friends made a trip to Rome where John Moschus died. Sophronius returned to the Holy Land and was elected patriarch of Jerusalem. At this time; both East and West were disturbed by the Monothelite controversy, which denied a human will in Christ, and Sophronius became the defender of orthodox teaching. He wrote, traveled to Alexandria and Constantinople, and furthered the calling of a council to condemn the heresy. This was done by the Council of the Lateran in 649, which brought about the imprisonment and death of the reigning pope who had called the council, Pope St Martin I.


Earlier, in 636, Sophronius's home city was taken by the Saracens and in 638 they surrounded Jerusalem. Sophronius strengthened his people by his words and example, but the city fell and Sophronius fled to Alexandria where he died soon afterward of a broken heart. In Jerusalem, the remains of the great Temple were destroyed, replaced by the Dome of the Rock by Caliph Omar.


We have in Latin one of the many sermons of St Sophronius, which he gave at Christmas 634, when Bethlehem had been captured by the Muslims and the usual Christmas pilgrimage to the place of Jesus' birth could not be made. The loss of his patriarchal city, the holiest in all Christendom, undoubtedly hastened his death.




From Rev. Clifford STEVENS, The One Year Book of Saints, p. 84, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., 1989.