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Three Pillars of Orthodoxy Icon - S470

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This 21st-century Bulgarian icon, painted by the hand of Georgi Chimev, features Saints Photius the Great, Gregory Palamas, and Mark of Ephesus.

Also known as the Three New Holy Hierarchs, these holy Hierarchs had significant roles in guiding the Orthodox Church through the tumultuous 9th through 15th centuries, and are similar in importance to the Three Holy Hierarchs.

Saint Photius (or Photios) became Patriarch of Constantinople in the year 857. Righteous and well-educated, he was suited for the struggles he would face in the Ecumenical throne, as he fearlessly fought the errors of the Manichaeans and Iconoclasts, and in his Mystagogy on the Holy Spirit he explained the errors of the Filioque clause, which was beginning to spread throughout the Western Church. He reposed on February 6, 891, and his feast is kept on that day.

Saint Gregory Palamas became an Athonite monk while still a young man. He fought the heresies of Barlaam and Acindynus, upholding the Orthodox belief that God's grace and energies are uncreated, making it possible to have genuine communion with God. Saint Gregory became Metropolitan of Thessalonica in 1347, and produced many important works of theology. This "Star of Orthodoxy" reposed on November 14, 1359, and his feast is kept on that day, as well as on the second Sunday of Lent.

Saint Mark of Ephesus entered the monastic life as a young man, and became a devoted student of the hesychast teachings of Saint Gregory Palamas. He became a deacon, and later a priest, and was appointed Metropolitan of Ephesus. He attended the Council of Florence in 1439, and became famous as the only Eastern bishop who refused to sign the reunion of East and West while separated by such deep theological differences. He reposed on June 23, 1444, and this feast is kept on January 19.

These hierarchs are commemorated each on their own feast day, and by some, all three of them together on the first Sunday of November.

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