June 12

Newsletter Archive

This Day in the Life of the Church

June 12, 2024

St. Isaac of Dalmatia


Peter the Great was born on the day of St. Isaac's memory.  The cathedral named after the venerable father became a landmark of the Russian imperial capital. The writer Alexander I. Kuprin (1870-1938) used the name of this cathedral for the title of his autobiographical novel describing how close the White Army approched to the capital during the Russian Civil War: The Dome of St. Isaac’s Cathedral 

The Church celebrates today the memory of the Venerable Father Isaac of Dalmatia.

According to the Life, Isaac came “from the east,” most likely from Syria. He labored in the desert until he heard a voice from heaven commanding him to go to Constantinople. Arriving there, the saint found the capital engulfed in the heresy of Arianism, of which the emperor Valens (364-378) was an adherent. When the emperor was preparing to go to war with the Visigoths in 378, Isaac approached him with exhortations, asking Valens to open the Orthodox churches and stop the persecution of their members. For this, the emperor's entourage beat Isaac, and Valens ordered him to be thrown into a fetid swamp, from which not a single creature could emerge alive. But two angels miraculously delivered the saint from death. Coming to the emperor for the last time, Isaac predicted his defeat in the war and death in fire. The angry emperor ordered the saint to be thrown into prison until his return. According to the saint's prophecy, Valens' army was defeated, and the emperor, fleeing for his life, burned in a wooden hut set on fire by the Goths, who prior to that cut in pieces Roman infantry.

Theodosius I the Great (379-395) ascended the throne after the death of Valens. Having heard about Isaac’s prophecy, the emperor ordered his release from prison and received him with honors in the palace. After this, Isaac, according to the Life, participated in the Second Ecumenical Council (381). However, he is not noted in the lists of participants in the Council. Then the saint wanted to return to the desert, but the pious nobles Saturnin and Victor asked him not to leave the imperial capital and not to leave their spiritual children. Having heeded their persuasion, St. Isaac asked to build him a cell. Each of the nobles built a dwelling for Isaac on his estate, and the saint chose a modest cell built by Saturninus. It was located in the suburbs of Constaninople, outside the city walls. Many people from the city came to Isaac, he visited the residents at their requests to pray with them and bless their homes. Emperor Theodosius also repeatedly invited the saint to the palace. St. Isaac always sought to help the poor, and if a beggar met him on the road asking for alms, he would take off his cloak and give it to them. If he was returning from the city and the gates were already closed, then after the saint’s prayer and the sign of the cross they always miraculously opened. After some time, a monastery was founded around St. Isaac’s cell. Later the monastery received the name Dalmaton, which was considered the oldest one in Constantinople. The saint lived there until the end of his days. Feeling the approach of death, St. Isaac called his disciples, instructed them in the right faith and chose one among them, named Dalmat, whom he appointed as his successor.


T.A.Artiukhova, Isaakii, Dalmat, Favst, Pravoslavnaia Entsiklopedia.


This project has been supported by the Fund for Assistance to the Russian Church Abroad


Copyright 2023 Andrei Psarev.

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