December 16, 2013

Saint Marinos the Martyr as a Model for our Lives

St. Marinos the Martyr (Feast Day - December 16)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

The Holy Martyr Marinos lived in the third century, during a period of persecution against the Church. He was born and raised in Rome and received the office of a Senator. Gentleness, goodness and forbearance were his characteristics, as well as his great love, especially for the poor and needy, which created suspicion among his colleagues, who soon discovered that he was a Christian. And because they envied him for his many gifts, his irreproachable life and his blameless pattern of behavior, they denounced him and had him arrested by imperial order. The Saint boldly confessed his faith in Christ and refused to sacrifice to idols, which resulted in his being sentenced to death. He endured torture with admirable fortitude and patience and finally he was beheaded. His much-enduring and martyric body was buried by Christians, and his soul "flew" to the heavenly mansions where it rejoices together with the martyrs and all the saints.

The sacred writer of the synaxarion notes that when the martyr Marinos was led to the place of his torture and execution, he saw some of his friends crying, and addressing them he told them not to cry or be sad, but to rejoice, because he was walking from darkness to light, from the stadium to the prize and from death to eternal life.

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

First, envy is a terrible passion, since it darkens the mind of people and does not allow them to understand what is in their best interest. "For envy does not know where there is profit" (Praises for Holy Wednesday). Besides, the biggest crime in all of history, which was the condemnation of the God-man Christ to death by the cross, was due to envy. Matthew the Evangelist mentions that Pilate knew that "they handed Him (Christ) over, due to envy".

Saint Gregory of Nyssa calls envy the most wicked passion, the father of death, the first entrance of sin, the root of evil, the birth of sadness, the mother of calamity, a precondition for disobedience, the beginning of shame. He also calls it a deadly sting, a hidden weapon, a sickness of human nature, poisoned bile, voluntary languishing, a bitter arrow, a nail of the soul, a fire that burns the heart and a flame that flares the bowels. He also says that envy removed us from our home, from Paradise, taking the view of the snake against Eve. Our envy was the dividing wall from the Tree of Life, it stripped us of our sacred garb and covered our shame with the leaves of a fig tree. Envy armed Cain against nature which resulted in the first death, worthy of a sevenfold punishment. Envy made Joseph a slave. Finally he emphasizes that misfortune for the envious person is not his own calamity, but a strange happiness. Happiness for him is not his own good, but the misfortune of another. In other words, an envious person is tortured and suffers because of the happiness of another and rejoices in their suffering, which is why they are like vultures. That is, just like vultures eat carcasses and take satisfaction in horrible smells, even though they die from the scent, so also do people suffer from the disease of envy, they are "nourished" by the misfortune of another, while they suffer and are ruined by their happiness, as if it is myrrh.

Second, the terrible passion of envy is a passion of the spirited (θυμός, thymic or angered) part of the soul, and is cured by humility and love. When the spirited part of the soul operates normally, it is directed against the devil and sin. But when it is twisted and operates against nature, it turns against other people, even against irrational creation, which it hurts and destroys. In other words, the spirited part of the soul is bravery, which was given by God to man to help in the struggle against sin and to apply God's will. According to Saint Maximus the Confessor, love is the bridle that holds anger and does not allow it to turn to envy, which can lead people even to crime, which is why he urges: "The spirited part of the soul is restrained by love."

The Pharisees at the time of Christ saw Christ being a benefactor of people, healing the illnesses of their souls and bodies, and instead of rejoicing, they resented Christ. Indeed, they were blinded by pride and envy, and attributed the works of God to the devil. They would say that Christ cast out demons from the possessed by the power of the ruler of demons. In this way they committed the great sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which cannot be forgiven simply because proud and envious people do not repent. Unfortunately this sin is still committed today by many of those who suffer from the illness of pride, which begets envy.

The people of God, in all seasons, are envied, persecuted and slandered, but the uncreated Grace of God covers them, protects them, comforts them and supports them. Saint Gregory of Nyssa says that as many as climb to the highest rungs of the spiritual life, will remain immune to the arrows of envy, as it happened with the Prophet Moses, who was envied even by his sister Mariam. But he was at such a height, that the arrows of envy could not reach him and injure him and thus he remained unscathed.

Whoever overcomes their passions, by the Grace of God and their personal struggle, they have gained true love, which is why they "rejoice with those who rejoice" and "weep with those who weep". And the arrows of envy cannot banish from their heart - in which dwells the Grace of the Holy Spirit - joy and peace.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Μάρτυς Μαρίνος", November 2013. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.