September 2, 2013

Holy Martyr Mamas as a Model for our Lives

Holy Great Martyr Mamas (Feast Day - September 2)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Mamas is depicted in Orthodox iconography as a horseman on a lion, and this is because he had friendly relations with animals, even the so-called wild ones. In the Orthodox Church this fact is not paradoxical, since we encounter it in the lives of many Saints. They were not tamers of wild beasts, as we see in the circus, but they calmed animals with the purity of their hearts, with simplicity and with authentic love. The Grace of the Holy Spirit flooded their existence and it made wild beasts calm and servile.

When he was young Mamas drank milk from a doe. Saint Gregory the Theologian says that each doe ran to catch up with the other in order to be the first to breastfeed the Saint. This took place because he was orphaned as a child. His parents were made worthy to shed their blood for the glory of Christ and the child grew up with an adoptive mother, Ammian, who he would call "Mama", which is why he was named "Mamas". From a young age he appeared to walk in the footsteps of his martyred parents. He had the same life as theirs and was made worthy of the same blessed end.

Whoever has purified their hearts with prayer, asceticism and the sacramental life, are proved worthy of the great gift of the Holy Spirit. They have arrived at a pre-fallen state, acquiring a living communion with the Triune God. In Paradise the First-created had love between them, together with the irrational animals, the trees, the birds, and even the wild beasts, who sat near them as calm lambs. That which disturbed and disturbs the relation of man with the rational as well as irrational creation is sin, which has social implications. Sin is a sickness. Anyone who lives in sin without seeking to get rid of it, together with the various passions that it creates, is a sick person. And sick people are those who sicken social institutions, and social institutions, in turn, sicken people more. The treatment of this sickness occurs with repentance and asceticism, with the attempt for one to live the commandments of Christ, to be purified of the passions and become a person. To experience inner freedom and true love which, according to Saint Maximus the Confessor, is the "seed of passionlessness", and this leads to personal communion with the personal God of the Church, together with a proper communion with our fellow man, as well as all of creation.

The Saints have a soft heart, love nature, and are pained when they see it destroyed, but they do not absolutize it, idolize it or worship it. They are not nature-worshipers, but are worshipers of the Triune God and love everything that He created. They rejoice over and love creation, because within it they see the logoi of being. Every creature of God has the uncreated energy of its Creator. The irrational worship of nature on the one side, and its destruction on the other, are unnatural situations, over both of which prevail selfishness and self-interest. The former protects creation not for the glory of God and out of selfless love, but out of selfishness and individualism, in order to use all of its good things and pass well with it. But in the latter, it has an interest above all to destroy nature with tragic consequences for humanity. Greed creates overconsumption, and this in turn results in hurried overproduction which destroys nature, which then "avenges humans". But in reality, man is the one who destroys himself.

I read at the beginning of last month, in an Athenian daily newspaper, that somewhere between Athens and Lamia there is a pet cemetery. Indeed, for argument's sake, they even published a photograph. They wrote that funerals for animals take place, and a lot of money is spent on their graves, some of which are quite luxurious. On these are written the names of the animals and various verses which reveal a sort of worship of them. The absence of God from a persons life leads to such extreme and unbalanced situations.

Saint Mamas, like all the Saints, was a true man and balanced. He worshiped the Creator of creation and loved and respected His creations, within which was His uncreated energies.

Finally we would like to mention that Saint Gregory the Theologian calls him not only a martyr, but a shepherd, although he had not received the sacramental priesthood. This is because the Saints are true shepherds of the people, who lead them to a correct and balanced life and ultimately to salvation.

"Shepherd thy people in life-giving pastures with the staff given thee by God. And crush the invisible enemies beneath the feet of those who praise thee. For all in danger have thee as a fervent intercessor, O holy Mamas." (Kontakion in the Third Tone)

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasis, "ΜΕΓΑΛΟΜΑΡΤΥΣ ΜΑΜΑΣ", September 1998. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.