|St. Euphrosynos the Cook (Feast Day - September 11)|
By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas
Within the spiritual pasture of the Orthodox Church one encounters various flowers all of which are beautiful, but each has its own color and aroma and its own unique fragrance. That is, in the List of Saints we will come across people who have all the features of holiness, but are yet completely different from each other, because each of them have their own personal gifts, their own characteristics, their own culture and their own way of thinking and living. One comes in contact with people who lived in different times and in different circumstances of life, from all the so-called social classes and from all professions and functions. Some were doctors, others teachers, lawyers, actors, postmen, cooks, hotel owners, workers, farmers, etc. Many of these were illiterate, others somewhat literate, and still others were completely educated, but certainly all were wise according to God. And this shows that no bread-winning profession is able to prevent a person from living according to the will of God and achieving their own personal sanctification if, of course, they really desire it.
Saint Euphrosynos practiced the profession of cook and even, as his biographer testifies, was sought after for his profession, because he made such delicious meals. He was illiterate, but he loved God very much and lived in a God-pleasing manner. Despite his profession which allowed him to eat many delicious foods, he was very ascetical. The money that was left over from his immediate needs he deposited in the bank of heaven by giving alms to the poor. Eventually he left the world and went to a monastery, where he also served as a cook, except with one difference. While as a chef in the world, with the art and experience available, he made delicious foods, yet in the monastery he prepared mediocre foods. To his fellow monks who asked him why he did this, he responded that "good cooking is not such a good helper for the kingdom of heaven. The too much delight that bodies ask for will be lost for the needs of the soul, and I will not destine you here for hell."
He ended his earthly life in a solitary hermitage and until the Second Coming of Christ he will taste the delights of the goods of the heavenly Kingdom of the Holy Triune God.
The life and conduct of Saint Euphrosynos give us the opportunity to emphasize the following:
First, the purpose of man's life is his personal sanctification. "Be ye holy, for I am holy" (1 Pet. 1:16). This is not impossible in our times or any other time, which is why there are always saints and there always will be "until the end of the age." Certainly it is difficult and requires great effort, since in this struggle one comes face to face with the devil, with their sins and with their passions, and it is essential to have living examples, because the saints, old and contemporary, inspire by their example and uphold through their intercessions. Initially, however, this primarily requires a spiritual father to exist as a guide, because, unfortunately, many are they who have become deluded without spiritual guidance. When one travels alone they will surely stray from the path of spiritual growth because it is steep and hard and has many pitfalls set by the devil and from which one cannot escape without obedience and humility. Saint Anthony saw the traps set by the devil for spiritual strugglers and wondered: "Who can escape them?" And he heard the voice of the Lord tell him: "Humility".
Second, some have argued that what the Gospel teaches does not apply today and especially in society where there are many problems and great temptations. Certainly there are obstacles and temptations in society, but if one goes into the desert and lives by themselves they will also be tempted by the passions they carry within them as well as by the devil. Therefore, the above doesn't make sense and this is clearly seen in the life and conduct of Saint Euphrosynos, who lived many years in society, and even due to his business had daily contact with many people. Among many other difficulties and temptations he encountered gluttony, which was defeated by temperance and almsgiving. Therefore, there is no obstacle for those wishing to experience the spiritual life and achieve their personal holiness, except the lack of will and enslavement to unreasonable passions.
Others bring forward the argument that in their spiritual poverty and indolence they do not have much of an education. But it is proven that in the daily experience of life there are uneducated people who are virtuous and holy, just as there are educated people who are atheists or are in error and daily live their lives in lawlessness. Saint Kosmas Aitolos would say that evil in the world will come from the educated who live without faith in the true God of the Church, while, as it is known, he himself played a leading part in building schools, so that young people could mainly learn to study Holy Scripture, in order to prosper.
Saint Euphrosynos must become for all of us a standard of living, no matter what so-called social class we belong to or what profession we practice.
Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "ΑΓΙΟΣ ΕΥΦΡΟΣΥΝΟΣ Ο ΜΑΓΕΙΡΑΣ", September 2005. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.