November 14, 2013

Saint Philip the Apostle as a Model for our Lives

The Holy Apostle Philip (Feast Day - November 14)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

The Apostle Philip belonged to the chorus of the Twelve Apostles and came from Bethsaida of Galilee. He was, that is, a fellow countryman of the brothers Andrew and Peter, also among the Apostles. When he was invited by Christ into apostolic rank, not only did he respond to the call, but he rushed full of joy and excitement to announce the happy event to his friend Nathaniel, saying: "We found Jesus".

When Christ spoke to His disciples shortly before His passion, and was giving them His final words of advice, the Apostle Philip asked Him to show them God the Father: "Lord, show us the Father, and it will be sufficient for us." Then Christ asked him: "I have been with you so long, and you have not come to know Me, Philip?" And then He said those apocalyptic words: "He who has seen Me, has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own authority, but the Father who dwells in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me, or else believe on account of the works themselves."

The name of the Apostle Philip is mentioned in other cases in the New Testament, such as the incident with the Greeks who went up to worship in Jerusalem. At this point it should perhaps be noted that according to Saint Cyril of Alexandria, these Greeks were not pagans. This is why they went up to Jerusalem to worship, but they weren't circumcised. They were monotheists and observed some ethical provisions of the Jewish law which agreed with implanted natural law.

The Apostle Philip preached the Gospel in Asia Minor and had as followers and assistants the Apostle Bartholomew and his sister according to the flesh Mariamni. He was perfected with a martyric death in Hierapolis of Asia Minor. Arrested by pagans, he was cruelly tortured and nailed on wood while praying, and he gave up his soul into the hands of the living God.

His life and times give us the opportunity to emphasize the following:

Christ, as we saw above, asked the Apostle Philip: "I have been with you so long, and you have not come to know Me, Philip?" It is obvious that Christ was referring to existential and ontological knowledge, which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. The disciples of Christ acquired this knowledge on the day of Pentecost. This happens at all times with the true disciples of Christ, namely the saints, who know Him when they experience their personal Pentecost, that is, when they arrive at the vision (theoria) of God. Naturally this happens after the heart has been purified of the passions, after a persistent and arduous struggle, and the nous is illumined with the Grace of the Holy Spirit.

Purification from the passions takes place by sharing in the Mysteries of the Church, together with unceasing prayer and long-term asceticism, which requires great patience and deep humility. Saint Mark the Ascetic says: "True knowledge is patience during the unfortunate events of life, and not to consider our fellow man as the cause for our calamities."

The one who truly desires to know God, as well as anyone that knows Him, endures the trials and temptations of life without complaint and with a doxological mood. Of course, there are varying degrees of knowledge of God. Perfect knowledge coincides with the vision of God. The foundation for the acquisition of the knowledge of God is made with true repentance, which is considered by the Fathers of the Church as the first degree of theoria.

The existentialist Sartre argued that others are our hell, while the Fathers of the Church say that others are our life. "Having seen your brother, you have seen your God." Instead, often times we become, by our behavior, hell for others. This is why anyone who desires to strive to attain the true knowledge of God, determined to remain in the proper perspective, should not consider other people as the cause of their calamities, but only themselves, with their wrongs, their passions, their weaknesses and their sins.

Saint Mark the Ascetic then sets the criteria for the true knowledge of God, which is distinguished from delusional and false knowledge. These are meekness, humility and love. When there are no such characteristics, then one walks the line of delusion and their knowledge is not true.

At this point, perhaps we should clarify what meekness is, because many have the impression that to be meek means to never be angry, and thus confuse it with the natural gift of calmness, but meekness is still befuddled. In reality, "meekness is an immutable state of the mind, which remains the same when it receives honors and when it receives contempt" (Saint John of the Ladder).

The regenerated man recognizes the above characteristics, namely meekness, humility and love, as well as those who endure without complaint and are in a doxological mood during the sad events of life, and considers the cause of misfortunes only himself and no one else.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "ΑΠΟΣΤΟΛΟΣ ΦΙΛΙΠΠΟΣ", November 2007. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.