On the final day of his earthly life, the last thoughts of St. Mark were not for himself, but for Orthodoxy, to which he had devoted his whole life. Appealing to his followers to stand firm in the battle for Orthodoxy, he turned especially to one man in whom he hoped to find a successor to himself as leader in this battle. This hope was richly fulfilled in the person of George Scholarios, who became an ardent champion of Orthodox and, as first Patriarch of Constantinople after the fall of Byzantium, was instrumental in freeing the Church from the yoke of the false Union. He was subsequently canonized under his monastic name of Gennadios and is commemorated on August 31 (Source: Orthodox Christian Information Center).
I WISH TO EXPRESS MY OPINION in more detail, especially now that my death is approaching, so as to be consistent with myself from beginning to end, and lest anyone should think that I have said one thing and concealed another in my thoughts, foe which it would be just to shame me in this hour of my death.
Concerning the Patriarch I shall say this, lest it should perhaps occur to him to show me a certain respect at the burial of this my humble body, or to send to my grave any of his hierarchs or clergy or in general any of those in communion with him in order to take part in prayer or to join the priests invited to it from amongst us, thinking that at some time, or perhaps secretly, I had allowed communion with him. And lest my silence give occasion to those who do not know my views well and fully to suspect some kind of conciliation, I hereby state and testify before the many worthy men here present that I do not desire, in any manner and absolutely, and do not accept communion with him or with those who are with him, not in this life nor after my death, just as (I accept) neither the Union nor Latin dogmas, which he and his adherents have accepted, and for the enforcement of which he has occupies this presiding place, with the aim of overturning the true dogmas of the Church. I am absolutely convinced that the farther I stand from him and those like him, the nearer I am to God and all the saints; and to the degree that I separate myself from them am I in union with the Truth and with the Holy Fathers, the Theologians of the Church; and I am likewise convinced that those who count themselves with them stand far away from the Truth and from the blessed Teachers of the Church. And for this reason I say: just as in the course of my whole life I was separated from them, so at the time of my departure, yea and after my death, I turn away from intercourse and communion with them and vow and command that none (of them) shall approach either my burial or my grave, and likewise anyone else from our side, with the aim of attempting to join and concelebrate in our Divine services; for this would be to mix what cannot be mixed. But it befits them to be absolutely separated from us until such time as God shall grant correction and peace to His Church.
THEN, TURNING TO THE DIGNITARY SCHOLARIOS, HE SAID:
I speak now of the dignitary Scholarios, whom I knew from his early youth, to whom I am well-disposed, and for whom I have great love, as for my own son and friend… In my intercourse and conversation with him even to the present time, I have conceived a clear picture of his exceptional prudence and wisdom and power with words, and therefore I believe that he is the only one to be found at the present time who is able to extend a helping hand to the Orthodox Church, which is agitated by the attacks of those who would destroy the perfection of the dogmas, and likewise, with the help of God, to correct the Church and affirm Orthodoxy, if only he will not wish himself to retreat from the deed and hide his candlestick under a bushel. But I am thoroughly convinced that he will not act thus and, seeing the Church in distress from the waves and the Faith in dependence upon infirm man (I speak according to human standards), and knowing that it is possible for him to help her, he will not to such a degree disobey his conscience as not to haste with all speed and readiness to enter the battle; for being wise, he is not at all unaware that the destruction of the Orthodox Faith would be the general perdition.
It is true that in the past, considering that the battle which was being conducted by others, especially by me, was sufficient, he did not reveal himself as an open champion of the Truth, being compelled, it may be, by counsels or by individuals. But I too at an earlier time carried nothing or quite little into the battle, having sufficiency neither of strength nor of zeal; and now I have already become nothing: and is there anything less than nothing? And so if then he likewise supposed that we ourselves could set something right, and he considered it superfluous for himself to do what others could do, as well as what, with his completely insignificant help, would be harmful to others, as he often explained to me, asking pardon—then at the present time, when I am departing from hence, I see no other equal to him who could take my place in the Church and the Faith and in the dogmas of Orthodoxy. Therefore I consider him worthy, being called or rather compelled by the times, to reveal the spark of piety hidden in him and fight for the Church and sound doctrine; so that what I could not accomplish, he might set right, with the help of God. For by the grace of God he can do this, with the mind he has been given and his power of words, if he will only desire to use these at the propitious time.
And he is equally obliged in his relation to God and Faith and Church to fight faithfully and purely for the Faith. And I myself lay upon him this battle, so that he would be defender of the Church and leader of sound teaching and champion of right doctrines and the Truth in my place, having support in God and in the Truth itself, about which the very battle is being waged; so that being a participant in this with the Holy Teachers and God.bearing Fathers, the great theologians, he would receive his reward from the Just Judge when He declares victorious all those who fought for Piety. But he himself must with all his strength exert zeal for the well-being of the right doctrines of the Church, as being obliged to give an answer for this on the Judgment Day to God and to me, who have entrusted this to him and have likewise reckoned upon bringing into the Good Land these words with over a hundredfold fruits to come from them. Let him answer me concerning this, so that departing the present life I might have perfect confidence, and that I might not die in sorrow, despairing over the correction of the Church.
THE REPLY OF LORD SCHOLARIOS:
I, your Holy Eminence, first of all thank your great holiness for the praises which you have spoken of me; for, having desired to show me favor, you have testified of me such great things as I do not possess, and I am convinced that this is not even near to me. But this proceeds from the height of goodness and virtue and wisdom of your great holiness, in which I myself, seeing it from the beginning, have not ceased to delight even to the present time, as is indeed owing in relation to your great holiness, as a father and teacher and preceptor; and being directed, as by a rule, by your perfect understanding of the dogmas and the justness of the judgments which you have accepted and with which I am in accord, and likewise rejecting without doubt what is not in accord with your judgment, I have never refused to fulfill my duty as a son and disciple in relation to your great holiness. You, your great holiness, are yourself a witness to this. You know that I have always acted thus toward you, and revealing the deeper feelings of my convictions, I have given you these vows.
Concerning the fact that earlier I did not step out openly into the battle which your great holiness was waging, but kept silent, no one knows better the reason for this than your great holiness, for I often confided my arguments to you and sincerely opened my heart concerning this and begged forgiveness, and I was not deprived of it. But now, with God’s help, I have come to despise this, and have made myself a sincere and open defender of the Truth, in order fearlessly to proclaim the dogmas of my Fathers and the perfection of Orthodoxy, in accordance with the view of your greatest holiness. I say this not because I see you already taken from hence, for we have not abandoned our last hopes, but we hope in God that you will recover from your infirmity and will be with us and will labor together in this. If, however, by the judgments known to God, you will depart from hence to that place of rest which you have prepared for yourself, and if by reason also of our unworthiness you will go there where you are worthy to dwell,—then, affirming absolutely, I say to you before God and the Holy Angels who now stand invisibly before us, and before the many and worthy men here present, that in everything I shall be in place of you and in place of your tongue, and of that with which you burned and which you handed down with love, I myself, both defending and offering to all, will betray absolutely nothing, but will fight for it to the end, at the risk of blood and death. And although my experience and strength are small, I am nonetheless convinced that your great holiness will fill in my insufficiency with the God-pleasing prayers characteristic of you, both now when you are here with us, and when you shall have departed.
From Orthodox Word, vol III, pp. 89-106. For further reading on St. Mark see:
- The Lives of the Pillars of Orthodoxy (Buena Vista, CO: Holy Apostles Convent and the Dormition Skete, 1990). Contains the lives of St. Photios, St. Mark of Ephesus, and St. Gregory Palamas. Over 600 pages.
- Ostroumoff, Ivan, The History of the Council of Florence (Boston, MA: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1971).