November 11, 2013

Saint Menas the Great Martyr as a Model for our Lives

St. Menas the Wonderworker (Feast Day - November 11)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Menas lived in the third century during the reign of Maximian and Diocletian. His parents were pagans, but he became a Christian in his teenage years. From a young age he sought the truth, because the carnal life of idolatry could not satisfy him and he was looking for that which would fill his soul and give answers to existential questions. After fulfilling his military duty he withdrew into a deserted place, on Mount Kyateion, where he lived with fasting, abstinence and prayer for some time. He then returned back to the city and confessed Christ before the pagans, which resulted in his arrest and he became subject to horrible torture. They flayed his flesh with bristled clothes, threw him into a fire, and lastly dragged him over a rough road until his flesh was completely torn. Because he continued to live, they beheaded him and so he received the crown of martyrdom.

He received from God the gift of working miracles, and through his God-persuading intercessions he healed sicknesses of the soul and body. Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite records some of the many miracles of the Saint. One of them follows, showing clearly how God works through His saints the salvation of men, as well as how the spiritual law works.

A Christian and a Jew were inseparable friends and always trusted each other. Once, the Jew traveled and entrusted his friend with a sum of money for safekeeping until his return. But the Christian was defeated by the demon of avarice and kept the money of his friend, saying to him: "This time you didn't entrust money to me". The Jew was saddened and asked him to swear an oath in the Church of Saint Menas. Indeed, they went together to the church and the Christian swore his lies. When he came out of the church he tried to mount his horse to leave, but it became wild which resulted in him being thrown down and out of his pocket fell a key and his golden seal, without him noticing. He then climbed back on his horse and went with his friend to eat together. While they ate a servant came who was looking for the Jew, to hand over to him something he was holding. The Jew recognized his purse and the money and asked him who gave it to him. The servant responded that a brilliant young cavalry man gave it to him, who told him to give it to that Jew over there. The two friends were left to stare in amazement at each other. Then the Jew wanted to become a Christian and was baptized, while the Christian asked forgiveness from his friend and then confessed, having repented sincerely. God ordered things this way in order to correct the offender and benefit the other by his entrance into the Church.

The love of money is one of the biggest passions. Saint John of Sinai, author of The Ladder, calls it a many-headed demon and says:

Avarice, or love of money, is the worship of idols, a daughter of unbelief, an excuse for infirmities, a foreboder of old age, a harbinger of drought, a herald of hunger. The lover of money sneers at the Gospel commandments and is a willful transgressor. He who has attained to love scatters his money. But he who says that he lives for love and for money has deceived himself.

The love of money pushes a person along the dark road of lies, theft and appalling loneliness, since by this behavior he has essentially lost his friendships and communication. The miser tries to satisfy his avarice, but ultimately remains insatiable, since the more material goods he acquires, the greater is his desire to acquire more. He is hard and unmerciful and "never prays with pure prayer". In fact, he is pathetic, because "the lover of money will never be absent of rage and sorrow".

Love of money, which is born of self-love, is cured with "unwavering faith and the remembrance of death". Self-love, which is an unhealthy love for ourselves, is born of insecurity and the fear of death. When a person is above death in the limits of his personal life, through repentance and removal from the cross of Christ, by struggling to apply the will of God in their life, then they become a lover of God and a lover of man.

In the teachings of the Holy Fathers of our Church it is emphasized that avarice is not an exclusive trait of the rich, but there are poor people who are stingy just as there are rich people who are compassionate and merciful. Saint Gregory Palamas brings forward Patriarch Abraham as an example, who though he was rich, yet not only was he saved, but he became a location of the saved, because he was a lover of God and a lover of man. And Saint John of the Ladder, when speaking of avarice he refers to Job, who had plenty of material goods, saying: "In Job there was no trace of avarice; therefore, when he lost everything, he remained undisturbed."

The Saints, in being lovers of God they were lovers of men. They were friends of God, but also the best friends and protectors of those who have suffered injustice and not reciprocated their injustice, as well as all those who pray and invoke their intercessions.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "ΑΓΙΟΣ ΜΕΓΑΛΟΜΑΡΤΥΣ ΜΗΝΑΣ", November 2004. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.