September 1, 2013

The Holy Forty Virgin Martyrs as Models for our Lives

Abba Ammoun and the Venerable Forty Virgin Martyrs
(Feast Day - September 1)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Ammoun was a Deacon at Adrianople in Thrace and was the teacher and spiritual guide of the Forty Venerable Virgin Martyrs. The exact period in which they lived is not mentioned in the Synaxaria, but it is certain they lived during the persecutions of the early Christian centuries. Deacon Ammoun and his forty disciples were arrested by the ruler of Adrianople named Vavdos for refusing to sacrifice to idols, and were then taken to the governor of Thrace named Licinius. They boldly confessed their faith and endured horrible torture with admirable bravery and unceasing prayer. What is striking is that the tyrant applied to the forty martyrs and their Teacher a different form of death. The first ten he burned alive, the next eight he beheaded, and the next ten he killed with the sword after striking them in the mouth then stabbing them in the heart. Finally, of the last twelve, six of them died after heated metal balls were put into their mouths, and six were stabbed with knives. Their Teacher was killed after they put a burning cap over his head, though another source says he was beheaded.

To follow, it seems appropriate to provide the names of the Venerable Virgin Martyrs, especially for those that may bear their name, to celebrate their memory and invoke their intercessions:

Adamantine, Athena, Akrive, Antigone, Arivea, Aspasia, Aphrodite, Dione, Dodone, Elpinike, Erasmia, Erato, Ermeneia, Evterpe, Thaleia, Theanoe, Theano, Theonymphe, Theophane, Kalliroe, Kalliste, Kleio, Kleonike, Kleopatra, Koralia, Lambro, Margarita, Marianthe, Melpomene, Moscho, Ourania, Pandora, Penelope, Polymnia, Polynike, Sapfo, Terpsichore, Troada, Haido, and Harikleia.

Information pertaining to the life and works of the Saints may be limited, but it is enough to give us the opportunity to emphasize the following:

First. These holy women knew very well that there could be no healthy spiritual life without guidance from an experienced spiritual guide, because serious mistakes could occur that have tragic consequences for people in their eternal future. Also, one cannot obtain knowledge without qualified teachers or receive proper exercise of the sport without the appropriate coaches. The teacher of the spiritual life admonishes and teaches with both words and more so by their life and works, because he does not offer dry cerebral knowledge, but life experience.

It is commonly accepted that the personality of teachers, at all levels of learning, have a significant impact on students. Together with the knowledge they offer, they primarily offer themselves, and they certainly influence to a small or great extent, positively or negatively, the personality of their students. For this reason, extreme caution is required because there are many cases where their behavior has left an indelible stamp on the psyche of children throughout their lives.

Second. True education is that education that appeals to the whole human being, it is psychosomatic, and it is not only for the brain to load it with knowledge. Certainly they will offer necessary knowledge, but it is primarily beneficial to give them a correct orientation. That is, to show how they will actualize the purpose of their existence, which is not just in a place of Higher Education or a vocational occupation, but rather their restoration of communion with God, with other people, and all of creation.

Progressive education is that education which is not divorced from the tradition of the land, but it serves to help young people, particularly to learn about it and experience it. Because progress is respect for tradition and the inclusion of "service" in new shapes that correspond to modern times. Today, unfortunately, one can observe in our land the confusion of identifying tradition with conservation, but this is a great mistake. Tradition is one thing while conservation is another. Conservation is a contempt for each new element of tradition, the respect for everything old without discrimination, and the agonizing effort of being trapped in outdated methods of the past. Tradition is not a static situation, but dynamic growth and progress. We continuously proceed dynamically forward, without underrating or despising our roots and our culture.

It should also be noted that what also needs to take place in our land, in addition to improving our educational system, is to define clearly and plainly the content and purpose of education. To clear up what kind of education we want for our children and what kind of citizens we want to give to our society. Will it be a traditional and progressive education that will help to heal man of his passions or will it stimulate and raise and infuriate their passions? Will they be citizens who will know the purpose of their existence and the way to achieve it, as well as how to overcome death and give them the ability to taste the fullness of true life, or people without meaning or purpose, giving them methods to increase their material goods, by whatever means necessary, and to live locked in the prison of self-interest, regardless of everything else?

The holy martyrs, as carriers of progressive education, that leads to the realization of the purpose of human existence and indeed the enjoyment of life, help us to give the right answer.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "ΣΑΡΑΝΤΑ ΟΣΙΟΠΑΡΘΕΝΟΜΑΡΤΥΡΕΣ ΓΥΝΑΙΚΕΣ ΚΑΙ ΑΜΜΟΥΝ Ο ΔΙΔΑΣΚΑΛΟΣ ΤΟΥΣ", September 2004. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.