Two Saints, One Islam

For some reason, the saints on these two days in mid-March, buried in the midst of these Lenten days, have had some connection with Islam: March 12th was the commemoration of Saint Theophanes the Chronicler (ca. 758 – 818), from a noble Byzantine family, who used his wealth to set up his own monastery – must be nice! – and live a life dedicated to God. During the iconclastic crisis – wherein images were deemed sacrilegious and smashed – he was an avowed iconodule, one who rightly venerated icons, as a great aid in our devotion to those whom they represent. He signed the decrees to that effect at the Second Council of Nicaea in 787, which taught that images were not only permitted, but to be supported. Theophanes is famous for his ‘Chronicles’, a history of the Church from the mid-3rd century to his own time, a very useful document, even if, like many such in those days, and our own, it contained any number of inaccuracies. We will always be sifting the truth. It was His connection to Islam is that Theophanes who first mentioned that Mohammad was an epileptic, which may to some extent explain his false visions. Our saint did die a martyr, not from Islam, but at the hands of his own emperor, Leo V the Armenian, who revived iconoclasm, and imprisoned Theophanes under harsh conditions to get him to sign on board with his heresy. The saint refused, and was eventually exiled after his brutal treatment, dying seventeen days later.

Saint Roderick (+857) was a priest in Spain during the era of its domination by Islam, and is counted amongst the martyrs of Cordoba. The Muslims – Moors – would generally tolerate Christians as second-class citizens – dhimmi – subject to various restrictions and taxation. Father Roderick had two brothers, one Muslim, the other with no religion, who quarreled. Like Moses, Roderick intervened, and they both turned on him, beating him senseless. When he awoke, the Muslim reported that Roderick had converted to Islam. When the priest said he had no such thing, it was to no avail – he was falsely convicted as an apostate Muslim, the penalty for which in sharia law was death, and so beheaded.

We may pray to them both, to intercede for what peace God wills, as we journey towards the eschaton, when the truth will be manifest. +