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September 17, 2013

Saints Sophia, Faith, Hope and Love as Models for our Lives

Holy Martyrs Sophia, Elpis, Pistis, Agapi (Feast Day - September 17)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

The three Martyrs, Faith, Hope and Love were daughters of Saint Sophia, just like the virtues of faith, hope and love are the offspring of wisdom, the true wisdom which "comes from above" and gives birth to the fear of God; "the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom".

The three daughters of Saint Sophia, twelve, ten and nine years old respectively, had all the virtues, as indicated by their names, and were full of faith and hope in Christ and love towards God and man. And their mother was Sophia in both word and deed. She had true love which is greater than natural love, the so-called mother's instinct, which is why she sought out the spiritual interests of her children. She encouraged them to proceed towards death for the love of Christ, knowing that in this way she would ensure for them true life, since "the righteous live unto the ages" (Wisdom of Solomon 5:1).

Saint Sophia's pattern of behavior shows the measure of love she had for her children, who were not the property of their birth parents, but animated and reasonable gifts of God to the parents, who are co-workers with God in the work of creation. True love is selfless and does not seek a return, it does not expect reciprocation. We love our children because we love God who gave them to us and they truly love us if we have taught them to love God. In the name of love we should not infringe upon the freedom of our children, nor does true freedom exist without love. A love without freedom is a dictatorship, and a freedom without love is anarchy. What touches the hearts of children, more than words, is to pray for them and to set the right example.

Children who have experienced within their family true freedom and selfless love, have learned to love and generously offer without discrimination. The opposite happens with children who have been deprived of love and freedom. They become authoritarian, reactionary, antisocial, sealed tightly within themselves, aggressive and suspicious. Respect for the freedom of others is taught by God Himself, Who has endowed man with free will and respects what anyone does with human freedom.

An Orthodox education helps one overcome any problems or difficulties in life, without creating or allowing the soul to remain repressed, not infrequently leading to unpleasant situations. Many parents, unfortunately, "take out" their repressed emotions on their children. Whatever they failed to do or be in life, they want to do or become them and they try in every way to enforce it thus violating every concept of freedom and democracy, since democracy and dictatorship is a way of life and a daily behavior. Saint Sophia was a democrat in every sense of the word. She encouraged and allowed without imposing. She knew that her daughters belonged to God and she offered them. Love for Him transcends a mother's pain. She believed in eternal life and lived with the hope of eternal good things. She was temporarily separated from her children to be reunited with them in the kingdom of God. She went above their grave and supplicated God to take her life, to be near them. She had the assurance that her children existed, that they were alive and she would meet them, and that she would see them again.

Those who are hard on young people today I think are being unfair. Young people today, according to the testimony of many educators and others involved with youth, are more honest and straightforward than young people of the past. Their violent behavior, in some cases, and extreme reactions I believe are due to what they require from society, such as tenderness, love and sincerity, but instead they encounter cruelty, heartlessness and hypocrisy. Wherever they meet humanity and kindness they become other people, and of this we have many examples.

Faith, Hope and Love were worthy children of their glorious Mother. They were nursed with the guileless milk of faith, hope and love towards God, which is why they managed to realize the purpose of life, their well-being, which is to be together with Christ in the kingdom of God, where life never ends.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "ΠΙΣΤΙΣ, ΕΛΠΙΣ, ΑΓΑΠΗ ΚΑΙ ΣΟΦΙΑ", September 1997. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.