2022- Patriarchal Encyclical on the 15th Centennial of Mor Philoxenus of Mabbug
No. EN 426/22
ܒܫܡ ܐܝܬܝܐ ܡܬܘܡܝܐ ܐܠܨܝ ܐܝܬܘܬܐ ܕܟܠ ܐܚܝܕ
ܐܝܓܢܛܝܘܣ ܦܛܪܝܪܟܐ ܕܟܘܪܣܝܐ ܫܠܝܚܝܐ ܕܐܢܛܝܘܟܝܐ ܘܕܟܠܗ̇ ܡܕܢܚܐ
ܘܪܝܫܐ ܓܘܢܝܐ ܕܥܕܬܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܬܐ ܐܪܬܕܘܟܣܝܬܐ ܕܒܟܠܗ̇ ܬܒܝܠ
ܕܗܘ ܐܦܪܝܡ ܬܪܝܢܐ ܡ̄
We extend our apostolic benediction, benevolent prayers and greetings to our brethren, His Beatitude Mor Baselius Thomas I, Catholicos of India, and their Eminences the Metropolitans; our spiritual children: Very Reverend Corepiscopoi, Reverend priests, monks, nuns and deacons and the entire blessed Syriac Orthodox people throughout the world. May the divine providence embrace them through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and St. Peter, Chief of the Apostles, St. Philoxenus of Mabbug, and the rest of the Martyrs and Saints. Amen.
Dearly beloved in Christ,
The Holy Church in the fifth century was fighting heresies and false teachings which tried to divide the church and weaken the faith of her children. During that time, different heresies came to light and influenced the spiritual leaders, increasing divisions. The political rulers encouraged partisanship and bigotry; this was wearing out the church and creating animosity among the believers. However, divine providence always leads the Church through pious men who strengthen the faith of her children and confirm them in the orthodox teachings of the apostolic faith that was handed down to them. The Church thus flourished on the rock of righteousness where the waves of heresy break and disappear. In those harsh circumstances, a bright lantern shone: Mor Philoxenus of Mabbug, a great scholar of our Syriac Church.
He was born in Tahl in Beth Garmay (Iraq) in the first half of the fifth century; he was called Akhsnoyo (stranger). In his youth, he joined the monastery of Qartmin (Mor Gabriel Monastery) where he learned Syriac and Greek as well as theology. He moved to the school of Urhoy (Edessa) where he pursued his studies in theology and philosophy. Then, he became a monk and was ordained a priest. In 485, Patriarch Peter II appointed him Bishop of Mabbug and consecrated him Archbishop with the name Philoxenus, which means “lover of strangers or hospitality”.
Mor Philoxenus taught and instructed the faithful the doctrines and faith of the church. He was a role model, in words and deeds. He did not compromise in matters of faith, but excommunicated the heretics no matter what their ranks or status was. He was a pioneer in defending the teachings and doctrines of the Holy Fathers. He resisted the enemies of orthodoxy who tried to silence him. However, the Lord always strengthened him to continue his sublime mission.
He was eloquent and wrote many epistles and articles, as well as a book on the “road to discipleship” where he instructs monks to the way of the discipleship to the Lord Jesus Christ. We thus learn about his ascetic lifestyle which shaped his personality and supported his devotion.
In his epistles, he wrote about doctrines in order to confirm the monks who had gone astray from the true faith. His writings included explanations and defenses as well as lessons to follow. He ardently wrote in response to the extremists and against their corrupted teachings. He thus provided strong arguments against their false allegations.
His apologetic style did not avert him from applying his beliefs in his spiritual life; for him, true wisdom was to be steadfast in our knowledge of the Holy books and the true teachings. In this regard, he wrote: “Truly, we have no better thing in this world than this: to show heroism of the soul in times of small and big errors, and not to lose. If someone is wise, he will thus be known; if great, through deeds. For, this is the power of knowledge of the books, nature, Holy books and wise men. Nothing compares to that: neither ministry, nor behavior nor knowledge.”
Mor Philoxenus was exiled to Philippopolis in Thrace (Bulgaria) for five years, then to Gangara in Paphlagonia (Turkey) where he was imprisoned in a small room above a furnace; he suffocated from smoke and died on December 10, 523. The Holy Church remembers him on this day each year.
Today, after one thousand and five hundred years of his martyrdom, we are pleased to declare 2023 the year of the fifteenth centennial jubilee of Mor Philoxenus of Mabbug. We encourage the faithful of our church, clergy and laymen, to dedicate this year to commemorate this important saint and to contemplate his life and his great heroism in remaining steadfast in the faith. He was a shining star in the heavens of our Syriac Orthodox Church.
On the occasion of this jubilee, the Patriarchate will publish some books that contain this great saint’s biography and describe his orthodox faith. We will also organize conference and studies about him and his theological and ascetic writings. The patriarchal TV channel Suboro TV will also broadcast special programs on Mor Philoxenus and his theological heritage. Moreover, we encourage all our Archdioceses throughout the world to organize academic conferences and cultural events which revolve around his life and his works in order to highlight his great contribution to the enrichment of the Syriac spiritual patrimony.
We thank the Lord Who is graceful to His Church and grants her good shepherds like Mor Philoxenus of Mabbug, to pastor her flock and confirm them in the true faith. In the difficult times, He protected her from the attempts of her enemies to destroy her. He thus secured the jewel of the orthodox faith as it was received from the holy apostles and Fathers.
Let us, thus, follow his model and hold steadfast to the apostolic faith, to deserve the crown of glory which is mentioned by St. Paul the Apostle: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (II Timothy 4: 7-8).
May the Lord make this commemoration of the Jubilee a blessing for all who celebrate it, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, Mor Philoxenus of Mabbug, and all the martyrs and saints. ܘܐܒܘܢ ܕܒܫܡܝܐ ܘܫܪܟܐ
Issued at our Patriarchate in Damascus, Syria
On the Tenth of December 2022,
On the Feast of Mor Philoxenus of Mabbug
Which is the Ninth Year of our Patriarchate