Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Saint Eugenia the Martyr as a Model for our Lives

Holy Virgin Martyr Eugenia (Feast Day - December 24)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Eugenia lived in the third century and came from a noble family of Rome, but grew up in Alexandria of Egypt where her father was appointed Provincial Governor. Her parents were pagans and were called Philip and Eugenia. Saint Eugenia, however, was baptized secretly from her parents and when she grew up, because they were forcing her to marry a pagan, she left and went to a male monastery, where she was received because she disguised herself as a man and changed her name to Evgenios. She did this so that her parents would not find her and force her to return to them.

Saint Eugenia showed great zeal and exceeded the male monastics in asceticism, the virtues and spiritual feats. This resulted in her being recommended for the position of Abbot of the monastery, after the Abbot departed this vain world. At first "Monk Evgenios" refused, but seeing the great love and perseverance of the monks, "he" gave in.

At that time Abbot Evgenios encountered a very great temptation. Since he was young and beautiful, a nun, when she saw him, was conquered by a satanic eros and wanted fraudulently to lure him into sin. Naturally, Evgenios did not consent to her lawless appetite, and she slandered him by saying that he corrupted her, and even accused him of corrupting other women. As a result Abbot Evgenios was dragged before the Governor of Alexandria to be tried. Because the governor and his colleagues blasphemed Christ, derided Christians and slandered the angelic order of monks, Saint Eugenia, despite her initial determination to endure everything in silence, was forced to speak and reveal the truth. The result confounded the slanderer and she was punished as an example, but also the Provincial Governor, her father, came to believe in the true God, was baptized and then became a confessor and martyr for Christ.

After the martyrdom of her father, Saint Eugenia moved to Rome together with her mother. There she was arrested and after horrific tortures was beheaded, and by this she sealed her testimony for Christ with the blood of her martyrdom.

The life and disposition of Saint Eugenia gives us the opportunity to highlight the following:

Slander, which is an unfair and false accusation of someone, is a great sin for the slanderer, but also a great temptation for the one being slandered. A hymn chanted in the Service of the First Hour during Holy and Great Lent says, among other things, the following: "Deliver me from slanderous people and I will keep Your commandments." In other words, the believer is asking God to deliver them from the slanders of people, and by this he will keep His commandments.

Whoever does not want to reach the point of becoming a slanderer, must learn to not be a lover of accusations. That is, to not accuse anyone except themselves. Because the one who reproaches and blames themselves acquires humility, from which is born love, and this is why they do not accuse others. They are forgiving towards others, and try to justify their errors and weaknesses, while they are strict only with themselves. Conversely, one who is lenient with themselves refuses to take responsibility for their actions, they justify themselves continuously, they are strict with others and blame them for the slightest thing, and they censure and condemn them. One of the characteristic features of the Saints is that they are strict with themselves and lenient with others. They never criticize and condemn unless they do so to themselves, and they consider themselves not only below other people, but even below irrational creation. And they believe that everyone else will be saved and only they are worthy of hell, but they do not despair.

Characteristic are the words of the shoemaker of Alexandria, to whom God sent Saint Anthony in order to learn about his life and disposition: "Everyone can be saved, but I alone am separated." That is, this man of God would say that all other people would be saved, but he alone would be condemned to hell, because he considered himself the most sinful man in the world and worse than everyone and everything. Yet he did not despair, but placed his hope in God, believing that God could save him if He wanted, despite his sinfulness. And this is why we continuously and uninterruptedly call upon divine mercy, saying: "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me."

Also, we must be very careful with what is known as suspicion, because suspicion can lead people to falsehood and slander. Abba Dorotheos calls suspicion "intellectual falsehood" and urges us to avoid it because, as he stresses, those who rely on their suspicions are led to incorrect conclusions, which results in accusing and injuring innocent people.

It has been observed that sooner or later the slanderer will be punished, or rather penalized, in accordance with spiritual law. Of course, there is also repentance. On the other hand, the slandered, naturally, hurts and is pained, is tortured and suffers, but God never abandons them, rather He empowers them and gives them rich Grace and His blessings. It suffices that they are patient and place their hope in God.

The spiritual experience of the saints testifies that for each temptation allowed by God, He in turn gives countless blessings. It suffices that we endure without complaint, thanking and glorifying God for all things.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "ΟΣΙΟΠΑΡΘΕΝΟΜΑΡΤΥΣ ΕΥΓΕΝΙΑ", December 2009. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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