September 21, 2013

Holy Apostle Kodratos as a Model for our Lives

St. Kodratos (Quadratus) the Apostle (Feast Day - September 21)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

The various lives of the saints describe the Apostle Kodratos as a great apologist of Christianity, zealous, wise and an orator with excellent intellectual capacity. As Bishop of Athens - a city in which flourished different philosophical schools which is why it required a Bishop with superior qualifications - he rebuked the godless paganism of the philosophers and led many well-intentioned to the truth. These pagans, because they were unable to face him, slandered him and thus removed him from his flock, though they were unable to bend his fighting spirit. They exiled him to Magnesia in Asia Minor, but there he was also able to lead crowds of people to the path of salvation by the Grace of God and with divine zeal. He also wrote an apology for the correct faith and sent it to Emperor Hadrian of Rome, which resulted in his arrest and torment, and he sealed his confession for Christ with the blood of his martyrdom.

The sacred hymnographer calls him an luminary without error who discerned the doctrines of life: "Thy life became radiant with wisdom; thou didst draw down the fire of the Spirit and discern the doctrines of life, Kodratos, Apostle of Christ. Therefore, we cry to thee as to a luminary without error: Glory to Christ Who has glorified thee; glory to Him Who has crowned thee: glory to Him Who through thee works healings for all" (Apolytikion).

Below we will examine the following:

First: "Thou didst...discern the doctrines of life"

The sacred hymnographers of the Church, as authentic theologians, managed to convey, in a concise manner, the entire theology of the Church in their texts of hymns. This is why, as Orthodox Christians, as one great contemporary theologian said characteristically: "We chant the truths of our faith, we sing them."

The venerable and God-bearing Fathers of the Church, as theologians who saw and were taught by God, but were also genuine shepherds of God's people, expressed and endorsed in Local and Ecumenical Synods the truths of the Orthodox faith, because at times they were corrupted by heretics. They did this in order to protect the members of Christ's Body from the infectious disease of heresy, which lead to sickness and eternal death. Heresies distort and alter the faith, which is not an ideology, but a way of life. And as is well known, when the faith is altered, then the therapeutic method for man from the passions is lost and our salvation is at stake. This is why the sacred hymnographer calls the truths of the faith "doctrines of life", because living them leads to communion with God, Who is the source of life.

Therefore, the saints way of life, as well as all the members of the Church who desire to strive to achieve their personal sanctification, is directly linked to doctrine, which are also called boundaries, because they are boundaries between truth and error.

Heresy is a disease of the logistical part of the soul, which is occupied and enslaved by an evil spirit, and therefore it is primarily treated through prayer. The saints, because they are illuminated by the Holy Spirit, have the gift of the discernment of spirits which is why they can discern the divine from the demonic, the authentic from a counterfeit, truth from error, and in this way they protect the faithful from heresy.

Dogmas do not bind human freedom, but they help people free themselves from the shackles of the passions and tyranny of the devil. In fact, this is authentic and true freedom. They who by the Grace of God and their personal struggle have purified their heart and dominated their passions are the truly free ones. Of course, the devil will not stop warring against them until the end of their earthly life, but it is impossible to subject them, because with a heart that has been cleansed of the passions "there dwells the energy of the uncreated Grace of the Holy Spirit." And so in this case the devil, as characteristically stated by Saint Diadochos of Photike, "cannot enter the heart, but he acts outside the perimeter of the heart."

Therefore, Orthodox doctrines are spiritual nourishment, as well as a way of life, which lead to the acquisition of internal freedom and genuine love.

Second: "Therefore, we cry to thee as to a luminary without error"

Those who have the responsibility to drive or guide a boat or plane know this: whatever they do they must do with absolute safety, and among other things they must have a special instrument called a compass. Also, those who engage in sports know that without a coach no one can become a proper athlete, and without a referee it is impossible to conduct an athletic event. The same by analogy can be said about the spiritual life. That is, one cannot walk "the path of the commandments of God" and arrive safely at their destination, without risk of straying or being misled, unless led by a spiritual compass, who is an experienced spiritual guide, a "luminary without error". Such luminaries without error and spiritual guides were the saints, as well as those spiritual fathers who struggled to achieve their personal sanctification, who at the same time were inspired by the sanctified lives of the holy Fathers of the Church and their divinely inspired teachings. These can guide the faithful unerringly on the path of virtue and perfection, because they have the ability to enter the depth of human problems and understand their deeper causes.

The intellectual preoccupation with the "doctrines of life" is not beneficial to people, because they do not change them internally. They who are benefited and saved are those who have changed dogmas into spiritual food and drink, that is, into an everyday lifestyle. And this takes place within the Church by the Grace of God and each one's personal struggle under the guidance of a "luminary without error".

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Απόστολος Κοδράτος ο εν Μαγνησία", August 2012. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.