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Anastasios of Sinais Response Concerning Unworthy Rulers 1

Question: The Apostle Paul said the authorities of the world have come from God.2 So do we have to accept that every ruler or king or bishop was ordained to this dignity by God? Response: God says in the Law: I will give you rulers according to your hearts.3 On the one hand, it is obvious that the rulers and kings that are worthy of this honour are ordained by God to this function. Again, the others who are unworthy are ordained according to dispensation or also Gods volition to an unworthy people precisely on account of their unworthiness. Now listen to some relevant narrations: When Phocas the Tyrant4 became king, and the bloodsheds began with Bonosus5 the hangman, there was a monk in Constantinople who was a holy man having great boldness before God. One day, he said in simplicity as though he was testing God, Lord, why did you make him King? And then, after saying this for several days, the voice of God came to him, saying, Because I couldnt find anyone else worse. There was another city in the area of the Thebaid that was full of lawlessness. The inhabitants practiced foul and indecent things. In this city, some man of the depraved circus in the country suddenly acquired a

certain false compunction. He went and was tonsured a monk and was clothed in the monastic schema. However, he did not stop his evil deeds at all. So, it happened that the bishop of that city died. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to some holy man and told him, Go and prepare the city to ordain the former circus man as bishop.

So, he went and did what he was ordered. When the aforementioned was ordained, or rather was again depraved, the bishop began to imagine that he was something and became high-minded. Then the angel of the Lord appeared and said to him: "Why are you high-minded, wretch? Truly I tell you, you did not become a bishop because you were worthy of the priesthood, but because this city deserves such a bishop." So this is why if you ever see some unworthy and evil king or ruler or bishop, do not be surprised and dont blame Gods providence. But rather learn from it and believe that we are given up to such tyrants on account of our iniquities, and yet again we dont leave our evil works. 1) Questions and Responses, Question 16, PG 89, 476 B-477A. 2) Rom. 13:1. 3) Cf. Jeremiah. 3:15: and I will give you shepherds after my heart. 4) Flavius Phocas Augustus: Emperor of Byzantium (602-610), notorious for his cruelty and debauchery. 5) Bonosus was a General under Flavius Phocas. Hagiorite Testimony Magazine, Quarterly Edition, Xeropotamou Monastery, Issue 7