Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Saint Menas, the Athlete who Resisted


By Metropolitan Seraphim of Kastoria

When Saint John Chrysostom spoke of the saints of our Church and their living presence among us night and day, he also said: "The death of the martyrs is a consolation of the faithful, a boast of the churches, an establishment of Christianity, a dissolution of death, a proof of the resurrection, a ridicule of demons, a rebuke of the devil, a teaching for the virtuous life, an incentive to hold in contempt present things and a way to desire future things, a consolation for the evils we suffer and a cause for patience, a cause to endure, as well as a root and source and mother of all good things."

The saints are our consolation. They refer to us daily before the Holy Altar, which is established on their martyred relics, their holy life, their struggles and their heroic deeds, which they did for the glory of the name of Jesus Christ, and invite us to imitate them.

We feel spiritual gladness and jubilation when we embrace their grace-flowing relics, which exude the grace of the Holy Spirit. We are amazed by their conduct and testimony. "They labored, while we rejoice; they wrestled, while we exalt; theirs is the crown, and ours is the boast, or rather the glory of the entire Church." Together with the saints we run to Christ, since their memory is an invitation to Eucharistic communion.

They establish our liturgical feast and gather us around the Holy Altar that we may thank the Lord for the friends He has given us and to glorify Him for His rich mercy that He gives us daily.

When the saints were living, they glorified Christ by their earthly life. And now that they are in the Heavenly Sanctuary, the Throne of the Slaughtered Lamb, they rejoice that their memory has become the cause for glorifying the name of God.

Such a spiritual magnet for our Church, and especially the Holy Metropolis of Kastoria, is Saint Menas the Wonderworker. He is the patron and guardian, and our helper in our needs, as well as the one responsible for our liberation in 1912 on the day of his feast. He is the one who oversees the lives of the people of Kastoria not only for the past 102 years, but always. This is revealed by the many holy icons that decorate the holy iconstasis' of the Post-Byzantine sacred churches, as well as the famous frescoes at Saint Nicholas of Kasnitzi and the narthex of the Irresistible Kastriotissa or Koubelidiki.

This is why the pious people of Kastoria, wherever they are, always remember Saint Menas, and take recourse to his intercessions and mediation, and enjoy the protection and assistance of this miraculous Saint. If one studies the life of the Saint, one finds: 1) Resistance and 2) Miracles.

First, Saint Menas resisted. He raised strong opposition to sin in his time. He knew the ascetic of Egypt, Saint Anthony the Great, and that no one can enter the Kingdom of Heaven without tribulation. And as trees don't budge from the winds but become more rooted and tall, so also do those who received blessings from God, who must face temptations and difficulties.

Second, Saint Menas resisted by not worshiping the idols of his time. He rose up, according to his sacred synaxarion, and threw off his military belt, which distinguished him as a high ranking officer and veteran, when he was informed of the persecution of the Christians. And as a sign of protest he left the army and went to Mount Kotyaio, in order to live as an ascetic with the wild beasts, whose manners were milder than those of the pagans.

Third, he resisted and simultaneously showed bravery during the hours of his confession and martyrdom. He rejected the proposals to return to the army with a promotion by offering a sacrifice to the idols. Therefore, he was subjected to horrific torture when his flesh was torn and his body was burned with lit torches. In this was he was relieved of the leather tunics which Adam and his descendants wore, namely all of us. In the end, he was beheaded on a rock that is preserved today in K├╝tahya. At the same time, he receives from God the grace to work wonders to be present, to help, to liberate, to cover all those who call upon his name.

Fourth, Saint Menas is miraculous. After his martyrdom he has not ceased to be present in the lives of Christians. He saved the inhabitants of Heraklion from being slaughtered in 1826. He appeared as an awesome cavalier having in hand the naked sword while spreading panic among the Turks. He miraculously intervened in the decisive battle of El Alamein in 1942, causing confusion among the Nazi troops, undefeated up to that time.

"The hoof of the horse of Saint Menas we heard that night of the 11th of November in 1912," said those of old in Kastoria.

And the message of Saint Menas, especially today, is RESIST:

Resist the spirit of error and the ways used for the glorification of the demonic system that wants to dominate in our times.

Resist the dregs of sin and being at the bottom of society with its unbearable stench and morbid symptoms.

Resist the mystery of iniquity, in the words of the Apostle Paul, spotlighting not ourselves nor the sign of the Savior on our forehead, but Christ's truth, justice, love, the Orthodox ethos, as well as the brilliance of self-sacrifice for others. Not for people to say well done, but that heaven may speak of us.

Resist!

Resist! insists the miraculous Great Martyr.

Let us resort to him in the difficult days that our country is passing, especially our martyric land. We ask him to redeem us from dangers, needs and sorrows, insults and the damages of our common enemy, repeating the supplication of the sacred hymnographer"

O brilliant Martyr, soldier of the Lord, Menas, the protector of the pious, cease not to protect us who approach you for succor and receive the voice of those who reverently cry out: Rejoice, champion Martyr"(Akathist to Saint Menas).

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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