December 28, 2013

Saint Domna as a Model for our Lives

St. Domna the Martyr (Feast Day - December 28)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Domna lived in the time of the pagan emperor Maximian and was priestess of the idols in Nicomedia, specifically the Temple of the Twelve Gods. She had the good habit of studying and this was the reason behind her discovering the true faith. Because she was benevolent the Grace of God overshadowed her while reading the epistles of the Apostle Paul. Her spiritual eyes opened, namely her nous, and she understood what she was reading was the truth and that Christ is the true Savior of mankind. "Then He opened wide their mind to perceive the scriptures" (Lk. 24:5). She asked to be baptized together with her servant Indes, and the Mystery of Baptism was performed by Bishop Cyril of Nicomedia.

After baptism her way of life changed radically and it became obvious to all those who watched her and consorted with her. She distributed her wealth to the poor, and whatever she made from the palace where she worked she gave to all those who were in need while she lived in fasting, asceticism and prayer. Her way of life irritated the pagans and, when they learned she became a Christian, they decided to punish her as an example. Then she made out to be a fool (crazy) and brought herself to the Bishop for treatment. With the blessing of the Bishop she dressed in men's clothing and helped the men, without being recognized, in burying the relics of the Martyrs. At the time Maximian was absent. When he returned to Nicomedia he asked to meet with Domna, and upon learning that she renounced the idols to follow Christ, he commanded her to be arrested. She was arrested during the general persecution and her faith remained firm, thus she was beheaded and in this way delivered her holy soul into the hands of Christ, whom she loved so much.

Her life and deeds give us the opportunity to emphasize the following:

First, idols are works of the imagination and human passions. "The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands." And demons act through the idols, which mislead people and lead them to irrational and destructive acts and actions, such as hatred, envy and even murder, since the worship of Satan requires human sacrifices. Apart from the idols of the old age, which unfortunately even today some worship, there also exist contemporary idols. These can be any person or thing, when they are absolutized, autonomized and worshipped. Such idols can be clubs, organizations, groups of any kind, but also a beloved person or thing, and even ourselves with all our passions and weaknesses: "Our passions have become our idols" (Great Canon). Essentially it is a relinquishment of our liberty, which is a God-given good, and our voluntary enslavement to persons, things and situations that satisfy our weaknesses and passions and through which the devil acts. Knowledge of the truth, which is Christ ("I am the truth"), frees us from the tyranny of the passions and the oppression of demons and offers existential and true freedom. Therefore, the struggle made in Christ within the Church for the transformation of the passions, is simultaneously a demolishing of idols and it paves the way for finding true freedom, genuine love and the real meaning of life.

Second, the study of Holy Scripture together with the lives and sayings of the Saints nourishes us spiritually, but it also creates inspiration and the mood for prayer. Of course, this takes place when this study is done with humility, reverence and a willingness to live the divine commandments. When one is benevolent and struggling to live according to the will of God, then they are overshadowed by uncreated divine Grace and this gives inspiration to the spiritual life, as well as to all God-pleasing works.

The Saints, but also those who are struggling to achieve their personal sanctification, have inspiration in all works according to God, which they work and perform with gusto and enthusiasm. Rightly it has been said that the true Christian is an artist and a poet, an inspired creator, and whatever they do they do with hunger and love. We live in a time when everyone is talking about their rights, ignoring, intentionally or unintentionally, their duties and obligations. Struggles for the safeguarding of individual rights should not be at the expense of society, because indifference to others reveals psychic illness, which creates many social anomalies. The study of the divinely inspired writings, moreover, reminds us of the duties we have towards our fellow human beings, and we as members of society. These are necessarily and inextricably linked with the respect and love for all without exception. "An excellent path towards our obligations will be found in the study of the divinely inspired writings" (Basil the Great).

The various acts and actions that affect the community and especially those most vulnerable, who have been wronged and have no way to react and defend themselves, their families and their property may sometimes be legal and legitimate, however they are not always ethical and permissible. Besides, the law of love is superior to human laws, which, sometimes, are made only to serve human passions, irrational desires and unfair trade.

The study of the divinely inspired Scriptures, and the lives and sayings of the Saints, contributes greatly to the creation of true people, who do not create problems in society, but rather are for it a source of inspiration and blessing.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "ΑΓΙΑ ΔΟΜΝΑ", December 2008. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.