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September 25, 2013

Saint Euphrosyne as a Model for our Lives

St. Euphrosyne (Feast Day - September 25)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

The life of Saint Euphrosyne is admirable and her way of life uncommon. She is a model of spiritual bravery, purity and chastity.

Born in Alexandria in the fifth century, she was an only daughter and very rich. Material wealth, fortunately, did not manage to harden her soul to become selfish and stingy, as it most often happens, but she remained benevolent and merciful. Her parents loved God and loved people, and they managed to give her true wealth of the heart, namely, to inspire love for God and for people.

At the age of twelve she was orphaned of a mother and her father showed greater zeal and diligence towards her upbringing. When she turned eighteen he wanted to marry her to a young man of high social status. But Euphrosyne chose the path of virginity in Christ and her decision was firm and irreversible. For this reason one day she divided her belongings among the poor and left secretly, to avoid her father discovering her and obligating her to return to the world and marry against her will. She changed her clothing and dwelled in a male monastery, changing her name also to Smaragdos. She lived in a male monastery for thirty-eight whole years without anyone knowing her secret.

In asceticism and virtue she far surpassed her fellow monastics, with the result that everyone marveled at the divine way of life of Smaragdos, and many struggled to emulate "him". Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite admired her angelic way of life, writing: "It was given to her to shine among the men by her virtues, like a precious emerald (smaragdos) gemstone among other stones. Blessed Euphrosyne appeared like an emerald (smaragdos)."

Often parents, perhaps due to too much love, which is certainly not entirely free of selfishness, insist to impose upon their children their own decisions, in order to be benefited by their children. The legitimate reaction of children, which is sometimes dynamic and contains elements of exaggeration, create family conflicts with societal implications. True love is linked with freedom, and vice versa. As is often said by His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos and is written in his books, love without freedom is a dictatorship and freedom without true love is anarchy.

Saint Euphrosyne never stopped truly loving her father and praying for him. When he realized the end of earthly life was near he asked her to meet him. In the meantime he had become a monk in the same monastery without it passing through his mind that he would meet his daughter there. During this meeting he learned her secret and her real name. It is worth noting that Paphnutios, her father, is also a Saint and that both father and daughter celebrate their feast on the same day.

Inside the male monastery she made a superhuman struggle to live according to Christ. She had to continuously impersonate, but also took great pains to not be outdone in asceticism and spiritual performance by her fellow monastics. And truly, as the sacred hymnographer says, she rejected the weaknesses of a female and became manly, that is, she had a manly mindset. In this way she overcame the difficulties to defeat the various temptations and live with "imcorruptible purity and chastity, which is acquired by corruptible people with toil and sweat" (St. John of Sinai).

Indeed, purity and chastity is acquired with much toil and sweat. Saint John of Sinai, in his wonderful book called "The Ladder", devotes one chapter (15) to purity and chastity, where he writes among other things:

1. Purity means that we put on the angelic nature. Purity is the longed-for house of Christ and the earthly heaven of the heart. Purity is a supernatural denial of nature, which means that a mortal and corruptible body is rivaling the celestial spirits in a truly marvelous way.

2. He is pure who expels love with love and who has extinguished the material fire by the immaterial fire.

3. Chastity is the name which is common to all the virtues.

4. He is chaste who even during sleep feels no movement or change of any kind in his constitution.

5. He is chaste who has continually acquired perfect insensibility to difference in bodies.

6. The rule and limit of absolute and perfect purity is to be equally disposed towards animate and inanimate bodies, rational and irrational.

Saint Euphrosyne reminds us, among other things, that if one desires and truly wants to live according to Christ, there is nothing in the world that can deter them. Surely you will encounter temptations and difficulties will come, perhaps faced by people and situations, but if one truly loves the spiritual life, they will be patient and reach their goal, because love "always hopes, always perseveres", and it devises incredible ways to express itself.

For one to live with purity and chastity one must perform great labors and shed much sweat. By their bright example the Saints assure us that this life, despite its difficulties, is lovely. And it hides such joys that it is impossible for the "natural man" to even imagine.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "ΟΣΙΑ ΕΥΦΡΟΣΥΝΗ", September 2002. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.