The Last Years of ST. MARK OF EPHESUS
AND THE FALSE UNION OF FLORENCE
By ARCHIMANDRITE AMVROSSY POGODIN
VI. THE CONCLUSION OF THE UNION
TO THE OTHER afflictions which the Orthodox delegation suffered in Florence was added the death of the Patriarch of Constantinople. The Patriarch was found dead in his room.
On the table lay (supposedly) his testament, Extrema Sententia, consisting in all of some lines in which he declared that he accepted everything that the Church of Rome confesses. And then: "In like manner I acknowledge the Holy Father of Fathers, the Supreme Pontiff and Vicar of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Pope of Old Rome. Likewise, I acknowledge purgatory. In affirmation of this, I affix my signature."
There is no doubt whatever that Patriarch Joseph did not write this document. The German scholar Frommann, who made a detailed investigation of the "Testament" of Patriarch Joseph, says: "This document is so Latinized and corresponds so little to the opinion expressed by the Patriarch several days before, that its spuriousness is evident."  The ''Testament" appears in the history of the Council of Florence quite late; contemporaries of the Council knew nothing of it.
And so the Greek delegation lost its Patriarch. Although the Patriarch was no pillar of Orthodoxy, and though one may reproach him in much, still one cannot deny that with his whole soul he grieved for Orthodoxy and never allowed himself or anyone else to injure St. Mark. Being already in deep old age , he lacked the energy to defend the Church of which he was head, but history cannot reproach him for betraying the Church. Death spared him from the many and grievous humiliations which the Orthodox Church subsequently had to endure. And on the other hand the absence of his signature on the Act of Union later gave occasion for the defenders of Orthodoxy to contest the pretension of the Council of Florence to the significance and title of ''Ecumenical Council," because the Act of every Ecumenical Council must be signed first of all by the Patriarchs.
After the death of the Patriarch, as Syropoulos informs us, Emperor John Paleologos took the direction of the Church into his own hands. This anticanonical situation, although often encountered in Byzantine history, as well in a positive as in a negative manifestation, was strictly condemned by St. Mark in one of his epistles, where he says: ''Let no one dominate in our faith: neither emperor, nor hierarch, nor false council, nor anyone else, but only the one God, Who both Himself and through His Disciples has handed it down to us." 
Let us set forth in brief the further history of the negotiations between the Orthodox and the LatinsÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¹or, to speak more truly, the history of the capitulation of the Orthodox.
The Orthodox were obliged to accept the Latin teaching of the filioque and acknowledge the Latin dogma of the Procession of the Holy Spirit, in the sense of His Existence, from the Two Hypostases. Then the Orthodox were obliged to declare that the filioque, as an addition within the Symbol of Faith, had always been a canonical and blessed act. By this alone there were reduced to naught all the objections of the Greeks from the time of Patriarch Photios, as well as the works of St. Mark of Ephesus and the interdictions for changing the Symbol of Faith which had been made at the Third and Fourth Ecumenical Councils. One should also note that not all the Roman Popes had approved of the filioque, and several had considered its introduction into the Symbol of Faith completely uncanonical. But now all this was forgotten. Everything was sacrificed to the demands of Pope Eugenius and his cardinals.
Further, it was demanded of the Orthodox to accept the Latin teaching concerning the consecration of the Holy Gifts and renounce their own as expressed in the performance of the Divine Liturgy of the Eastern Church.  Besides, this was expressed by the Latins in disdainful declarations concerning the Liturgical practice of the Eastern Church.
Finally, the Orthodox were obliged to sign and acknowledge a confession of Papism, expressed thus:
"We decree that the Holy Apostolic Throne and Roman Pontiff possess a primacy over the whole earth, and that this Roman Pontiff is the Successor of the blessed Peter, Prince of the Apostles, and is the true Vicar of Christ, the Head of the whole Church, Pastor and Teacher of all Christians; and that our Lord Jesus Christ in the person of St. Peter has given him full authority to shepherd, direct and rule the whole Church, as is likewise contained in the acts of the Ecumenical Councils and in the holy canons."  The Orthodox were likewise forced to acknowledge purgatory.
And so Orthodoxy was to cease to exist.
Something even more painful was the fact that Orthodoxy had been sold, and not merely betrayed. For when a majority of the Orthodox delegates had found that the Vatican's demands were completely unacceptable, certain warm partisans of the Union had asked the Pope to inform them openly what advantages Byzantium would derive from the Union.
The Pope grasped the "business" side of the question and offered the following: (1) The Vatican would provide the means to send the Greeks back to Constantinople. (2) 300 (!) soldiers would be maintained at Papal expense in Constantinople for the defense of the capital against the Turks (3) Two ships would be maintained on the Bosphorus for defense of the city. (4) A crusade would go through Constantinople. (5) The Pope would summon the Western sovereigns to the aid of Byzantium. The last two promises were purely theoretical.
However, when the negotiations came to a dead end, and the Emperor himself was ready to break off further negotiations, the whole affair was settled by four metropolitans, partisans of the Union; and the affair was concluded with a lavish entertainment given by the Pope; theological disputes concerning the privileges of the See of Rome were conducted over wineglasses.
The end came at last. An Act of Union was drawn up in which the Orthodox renounced their Orthodoxy and accepted all the Latin formulas and innovations which had only just appeared in the bosom of the Latin Church, such as the teaching on purgatory. They accepted also an extreme form of Papism, by this act renouncing the ecclesiology that was the essence of the Orthodox Church. All the Orthodox delegates accepted and signed the Union, whether for themselves or, in the case of some, for the Eastern Patriarchs, by whom they had been entrusted to represent them. The signing, on July 5, 1439, was accompanied by a triumphant service, and after the solemn declaration of the Union, read in Latin and Greek, the Greek delegates kissed the Pope's knee.
Administratively speaking, the whole Orthodox Church signed: Emperor John, the metropolitans and representatives of the Eastern Patriarchs, the Metropolitan of Kiev Isidore, and the Russian Bishop Abraham. Only one hierarch did not sign.
It would be superfluous to mention his name: St. Mark of Ephesus. But no one paid the least attention to him. What was one man, and he humiliated and fatally ill, in comparison with the all powerful Vatican, headed by the mighty Pope Eugenius IV? What was this one Greek in comparison with the whole multitude of Greek dignitaries headed by Emperor John, and the Greek metropolitans? There is a Russian proverb: ''One alone on the field is no warrior." However, in this one man was represented the whole might of the Orthodox Church. This one man represented in himself the whole Orthodox Church. He was a giant of giants, bearing in himself all the sanctity of Orthodoxy and all its might! And this is why, when Pope Eugenius was solemnly shown by his cardinals the Act of Union, signed by all the Greek delegates, he said, not finding on it the signature of St. Mark: "And so we have accomplished nothing."
All the success of the Vatican was illusory and short-lived. The Pope attempted by every means to compel St. Mark to sign the Union, a fact that is attested both by Andrew of Rhodes  and Syropoulos.  The Pope demanded that St. Mark be deprived of his rank then and there for his refusal to sign the Act of Union. But Emperor John did not allow him to be harmed, because in the depths of his heart he respected St. Mark.
Syropoulos relates the final meeting of St. Mark with the Pope. "The Pope asked of the Emperor that St. Mark appear before him. The Emperor, having summoned him beforehand, persuaded him, saying:'When the Pope asks you to appear before him already two and three times, you must go to him; but have no fear, for I have spoken and requested and arranged with the Pope so that you will be given no offense or injury. And so, go and listen to everything he says, and reply openly in whatever manner will seem to you the most suitable.' And so Mark went to appear before the Pope, and finding him sitting informally in his own quarters with his cardinals and his bishops, he was uncertain in what fashion he should express respect to the Pope. Seeing that all who surrounded the Pope were sitting, he said: 'I have been suffering from a kidney ailment and severe gout and have not the strength to stand,' and proceeded to sit in his place. The Pope spoke long with Mark; his aim was to persuade him also to follow the decision of the Council and affirm the Union, and if he refused to do this, then he should know that he would be subject to the same interdictions which previous Ecumenical Councils laid upon the obstinate, who, deprived of every gift of the Church, were case out as heretics. To the Pope's words Mark gave an extensive, commanding reply.
Concerning the interdictions with which the Pope threatened him, he said: 'The Councils of the Church have condemned as rebels those who have transgressed against some dogma and have preached thus and fought for this, for which reason also they are called ''heretics''; and from the beginning the Church has condemned the heresy itself, and only then has it condemned the leaders of the heresy and its defenders. But I have by no means preached my own teaching, nor have I introduced anything new in the Church, nor defended any foreign and false doctrine; but I have held only that teaching which the Church received in perfect form from our Saviour, and in which it has steadfastly remained to this day: the teaching which the Holy Church of Rome, before the schism that occurred between us, possessed no less than our Eastern Church; the teaching which, as holy, you formerly were wont to praise, and often at this very Council you mentioned with respect and honor, and which no one could reproach or dispute. And if I hold it and do not allow myself to depart from it, what Council will subject me to the interdiction to which heretics are subject? What sound and pious mind will act thus with me? For first of all one must condemn the teaching which I hold; but if you acknowledge it as pious and Orthodox, then why am I deserving of punishment?' Having said this and more of the like, and listened to the Pope, he returned to his quarters." 
V. AFTER THE COUNCIL
St. Mark returned to Constantinople with Emperor John on February 1,1440. What a sorrowful return it was! No sooner had the Emperor managed to set foot on land than he was informed of the death of his beloved wife; after this the Emperor out of sorrow did not leave his quarters for three months. None of the hierarchs would agree to accept the post of Patriarch of Constantinople, knowing that this post would oblige one to proceed with the Union. The people who met them, as the Greek historian Doukas testifies, asked the Orthodox delegates who had signed the Union: "How did the Council go? Were we victorious?" To which the hierarchs replied: "No! We sold our faith, we bartered piety for impiety (i.e., Orthodox doctrine for heresy) and have become azymites." The people asked then: "Why did you sign?" "From fear of the Latins," ''Did the Latins then beat you or put you in prison?" ''No. But our right hand signed: let it be cut off! Our tongue confessed: let it be torn out!" 
A painful silence set in. Despite the Great Lent, the season most filled with prayer, churches were empty and there were no services: no one wished to serve with those who had signed the Union. In Constantinople revolution was ripening. St. Mark alone was pure in heart and had no reproach on his conscience. But he too suffered immeasurably. Around him united all the zealots for Orthodoxy, especially the monks of the Holy Mountain (Athos) and the ordinary village priests. The whole episcopate, the whole courtÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¹all was in the hands of the Uniates, in absolute submission to the representatives of the Vatican, who came often to inspect how the Union was being carried out among the people. The Church was in extreme danger; as St. Mark wrote: "the night of Union encompassed the Church." 
St. Mark became weak in body, but in spirit he burned, and because of this, as John Eugenikos writes, "by Divine Providence he miraculously escaped danger, and the radiant one radiantly returned and was preserved for the fatherland, being met by a universal enthusiasm and respect."  The Byzantine people did not accept the Union: while all the exhortations of the partisans of the Union were ignored, the flaming sermons of St. Mark found an enthusiastic response, as Professor Ostrogorsky notes.  Contemporaries of these events, passionate Uniates, note with indignation and perplexity St. Mark's activity for the harm of the Union. Thus Joseph, Bishop of Methonensis, writes: ''Having returned to Constantinople, Ephesus disturbed and confused the Eastern Church by his writings and addresses directed against the decrees of the Council of Florence."  Andrew of Rhodes calls the letters of St. Mark, which he sent out for the strengthening of Orthodoxy, ''most noxious" and ''seductive."  And present-day Church historians, both Orthodox and Latin, acknowledge that the shattering of the Union of Florence was due to the writings and activity of St. Mark. 
St. Mark did not remain long in Constantinople, but soon, without informing the Emperor, left for Ephesus, his see, which it is possible he had not yet visited, since immediately after his consecration in Constantinople he had left for the Council in Italy.  Two reasons, it would appear, impelled St. Mark to leave Constantinople for Ephesus: pastoral concern for his flock, which found itself under the Turks in the most woeful circumstances; and the desire to unite spiritually around himself those who were zealous for Orthodoxy, in so far as in Constantinople he had actually been under house arrest. It would appear that it is precisely from Ephesus that St. Mark sent his letters, his confession of faith, and his account of his activity at the Council of Florence.
Concerning the activity of St. Mark in Ephesus, John Eugenikos writes briefly thus: "Actively traveling everywhere throughout the regions of the great Evangelist and Theologian John, and doing this over long periods and with labor and difficulty, being sick in body; visiting the suffering holy churches, and especially constructing the church of the metropoly with the adjoining buildings; ordaining priests; helping those suffering injustice, whether by reason of persecution, or of some trial from the side of the unrighteous; defending widows and orphans; shaming, interdicting, comforting, exhorting, appealing, strengthening: he was, according to the divine Apostle, everything for everyone."
 John Eugenikos further declares that inasmuch as the Saint had sufficiently sacrificed himself for his flock, while his constant desire had been monastic solitude and seclusion, he finally desired to go to the Holy Mountain. But there was yet another reason, a more weighty one, about which John Eugenikos was silent for political reasons; St. Mark himself relates this in one of his letters: he had no mandate from the authorities and for this reason his stay in Ephesus was as it were illegal, and he was compelled to leave his flock, this time forever. 
The ship on which St. Mark sailed to Athos put in at the island of Limnos, one of the few islands that still belonged to Byzantium. Here St. Mark was recognized by the police authorities and, by a directive which they already possessed from Emperor John Paleologos, was arrested and imprisoned. For the space of two years St. Mark suffered in confinement. John Eugenikos thus informs us of this period in the Saint's life: "Here who would not deservedly marvel, or would not acknowledge the greatness of soul and enduring of misfortunes which he showed: suffering in the burning sun and struggling with privations of the most necessary things and tormented by diseases that came one upon the other, or enduring painful confinement while the fleet of the impious Moslems surrounded the island and inflicted destruction."  Once the island was threatened by imminent disaster from a Turkish fleet which surrounded the island. But the danger unexpectedly passed, and the saved inhabitants ascribed their salvation to the prayers of St. Mark, imprisoned in the fortress. 
St. Mark never complained about his miserable condition; only in one letter can we see how he suffered and how he was wanting in support from people. He writes thus to the Pro-hegumenos of Vatoped Monastery: "We have found great consolation from your brothers who are here, the most honorable ecclesiarch and the great economos and others, whom we have seen as inspired images of your love and piety; for they have shown us love and have calmed and strengthened us. May the Lord grant you a worthy reward for their labor and love!" 
Finding himself in such painful circumstances, St. Mark continued his battle for the Church, as he writes in one of his letters: "I have been arrested. But the word of God and the power of Truth cannot be bound, but all the stronger flow and prosper, and many of the brethren, encouraged by my exile, overthrow the reproaches of the lawless and the violators of the Orthodox Faith and the customs of the fatherland."  He knew that his confession was indispensable, because, as he wrote: "If there had been no persecution, the martyrs would not have shone, nor would the confessors have received the crown of victory from Christ and by their exploits strengthened and gladdened the Orthodox Church."  In two years Emperor John ordered St. Mark released and allowed to go where he wished. This liberation occurred on the day when the Seven Martyr-youths of Ephesus are commemorated, and St. Mark dedicated to them a poem of thanksgiving.  St. Mark no longer had the physical strength for ascetic labors on the Holy Mountain; he had become quite feeble, and so he left for his home in Constantinople.
The last year and one-half or two years of his holy life St. Mark spent in painful circumstances of disease and persecution by the Uniate episcopate and Court. At this time he restored many to Orthodoxy by his personal influence.  Especially beneficial for the Church was the return of George Scholarios, who subsequently occupied the position of leader in the battle for Orthodoxy; after the fall of Constantinople he was elected Patriarch of Constantinople.
During this time, i.e., the last two years of St. Mark's life, much happened. The Eastern Patriarchs condemned the Council of Florence and named it "tyrannical and foul," and refused to recognize the Union. When Metropolitan Isidore, one of the most unprincipled betrayers of Orthodoxy, appeared in Moscow preceded by the Papal cross, he was arrested by the Grand Prince of Moscow Vassily Vassilievich, and subsequently he was helped to flee to Rome, where he received a cardinal's hat.
A tradition is preserved that St. Mark was much gladdened by the conduct of the Grand Prince of Moscow and set him up as an example to the Byzantine authorities. 
In Constantinople itself, however, the Union was being significantly strengthened. One may say that the Union not only became the State Church of Byzantium, but also gradually took possession, through the episcopate, of the whole of Church life. Only certain individuals, grouped around St. Mark, represented at that time the Orthodox Church. Permanent representatives of the Vatican, including Cardinal Isidore, saw to the official loyalty to the Union of the Byzantine Church and Court, placing in connection with this the fulfillment also of the Papal promises to Byzantium. The danger to the Church was immense, and St. Mark was aware of this. He was aware that before everything else should be placed the battle for Orthodoxy, for, as he said, ''murdered souls which have been tempted concerning the sacrament of Faith."  And he, the leader of the battle, marching at the head of the army, was scarcely able to walk, exhausted by disease and harassed by the wiles of men. But the power of God is accomplished in weakness!
VIII. THE DEATH OF ST. MARK
St. Mark died on June 23, 1444,  at the age of 52. George Scholarios writes thus of St. Mark's death: ''But our sorrow was increased yet more by the fact that he was taken away from our embrace before he had grown old in the virtues which he had acquired, before we could sufficiently enjoy his presence, in the full power of this passing life! No defect nor cunning had the power to shake his mind, nor to lead astray his soul, so strongly was it nourished and tempered by virtue!
Even if the vault of heaven should fall, even then the righteousness of this man would not be shaken, his strength would not fail, his soul would not be moved, and his thought would not be impaired by such difficult trials." 
He suffered terribly for fourteen days before his death. Of St. Mark's death itself there has been preserved the account of his brother, the Nomophilax John, who relates: "Thus, having lived with love of God and in everything excelled in his sojourn from his youth to the divine Skhema: in the most holy Skhema, in the degrees of priestly service, in the hierarchal dignity, in arguments concerning the Orthodox Faith and in devout and passionless confession,ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¹having attained fifty-two years of bodily age, in the month of June on the twenty-third day he departed rejoicing to Him to Whom he wished, according to Paul, to be dissolved to be with Him, Whom he glorified by good works, Whom he theologized in Orthodox fashion, Whom he pleased his whole life long. He was sick for fourteen days, and the disease itself, as he himself said, had upon him the same effect as those iron instruments of torture applied by executioners to the holy martyrs, and which as it were girdled his ribs and internal organs, pressed upon them and remained attached in such a state and caused absolutely unbearable pain; so that it happened that what men could not do with his sacred martyr's body was fulfilled by disease, according to the unutterable judgment of Providence, in order that this Confessor of Truth and Martyr and Conqueror of all possible sufferings and Victor should appear before God after going through every misery, and that even to his last breath, as gold tried in the furnace, and in order that thanks to this he might receive yet greater honor and rewards eternally from the just judge." 
Although his agony was painful in the extreme, death itself came easily, and the Saint joyfully gave to God his blessed and radiant spirit. John Eugenikos tells us this:
"Long before his death he gave instructions and like a father gave commands to those present concerning the correction of the Church and our piety and open preservation of the true dogmas of the Church, and concerning turning away from innovation; and adding his final words: 'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, into Thy hands I commit my spirit,' he thus departed to God." 
Before the end, on the very day of his death, St Mark gave over to his former student and spiritual son the leadership of the Orthodox Church, although George Scholarios was at that time still a secular prince.
St. Mark was buried in the Mangana Monastery in Constantinople. "Amidst a throng of people and guards with numerous marks of respect, there was placed in the sacred monastery of Mangana dedicated to the divine Martyr George, with honor, as a treasure, the sacred and greatly honored vessel of a sanctified soul and a temple to the glory of God, Who is glorified and wondrous in His Saints."