|Sts. Adrianos and Natalia (Feast Day - August 26)|
By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas
The Holy Martyr Adrian and his wife Natalia came from Nicomedia and lived during the era of persecutions, in the years of Emperor Maximian (298 AD). That difficult period of the Church revealed an innumerable multitude of Confessors and Martyrs, brave athletes of spiritual athletics, who watered with their blood the tree of genuine faith and true freedom. At the same time they revealed with their behavior and way of life what it means to have noble love, true chivalry, and the transcendence of death within the limits of personal existence and the experience of actual life, which kills death.
During the second period of the reign of Maximian, twenty-three Christians were arrested, thrown in the dungeons and tortured. These Martyrs were visited by Saint Adrian, and he asked them why they endured the unbearable suffering, and they responded: "We endure it to win good things which are prepared in the Heavens by God for those who suffer for His love, the goods of which those able to hear are unable to hear nor words able to describe." After this response the blessed Adrian told them to write his own name alongside those of the Martyrs, since having confessed Christ they tied him up and imprisoned him. When his wife Natalia learned the news, she went to the prison and lovingly kissed his bonds, and she blessed the willingness he exhibited and begged the others tied up with him to pray to God for him.
Saint Natalia lived the martyrdom of her husband up close and she supported him wholeheartedly. With admirable courage and unimaginable temper she remained close to him, encouraged him, and gave him the spirit to urge him to endure the torments till the end for the love of Christ, and thus taste of true life and perfect joy at the eternal feast of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, together with the Saints and the Angels. And when Saint Adrian completed his martyrdom with the other Martyrs, and their holy relics were thrown to the fire to be burned, then the blessed Natalia took the hand of her husband, which was cut off, and she kept it as a precious treasure. When the holy relics were thrown into the fire, it began to rain and the fire extinguished. Then a certain Christian gathered the holy relics and buried them in Argiroupolis. When Natalia also, after some time, delivered her holy soul into the hands of God, they buried her near the holy relics of her husband and the other Holy Martyrs.
The Holy Martyrs are athletes, or rather champions of the spiritual stadium, who competed well and lawfully and were crowned by God, the overseer of the struggles: "Holy Martyrs, who competed well and were crowned...." Apart from the all too familiar physical athletic stadium, in which there are occasional events and champions are awarded, there are two other stadiums and two other types of athletes. The first is the stadium of everyday life, where everyone is invited to give their own struggle for survival and prosperity. The other is the stadium of spiritual struggles, where athletes give, apart from the struggles of everyday life, another inner and existential struggle. It is a struggle which takes place in the heart and is perceived only by those who have spiritual experiences. They struggle to purify their hearts from the passions and become true people. Every age and every society needs true people. A people with sincere simplicity, selfless love and a spirit of sacrifice and offering for others, and not out of self-love and to exploit the suffering of others.
The first stadium of physical exercise is remarkable and those who compete in them are worthy of praise. The second stadium of biological existence is to be neither praised nor condemned, since all people are obligated to live within it and have an instinct of self-preservation and survival. The third stadium, the spiritual struggle, which is the most beautiful, is usually chosen by the few. It consists of those restless spirits who are not content with sensual pleasures, but want a higher spiritual life, which makes them worthy of being people. They undergo a spiritual struggle to dominate over their passions and live with true pleasure in their hearts. Because the heart is the place in which man experiences heaven and hell in this life, as well as in the future life, since human life has no end.
The Orthodox Church is a spiritual hospital, but at the same time it is a stadium of spiritual combat. With the way of life it offers it has shown an innumerable number of athletes and champions of the spiritual life. These are the Apostles, the Prophets, the Venerable Ones, the Martyrs, the Confessors. In one word, they are all the Saints, but also those who are constantly struggling, day and night, with prayer, the sacramental life and asceticism to achieve their personal sanctification.
Physical training is remarkable and commendable and "is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come" (1 Tim. 4:8). Let us love it.
Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "ΑΓΙΟΙ ΜΑΡΤΥΡΕΣ ΑΔΡΙΑΝΟΣ ΚΑΙ ΝΑΤΑΛΙΑ", July 2004. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.