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January 4, 2014

Saint Apollinaria the Syncletike as a Model for our Lives

St. Apollinaria the Syncletike (Feast Day - January 4)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Venerable Apollinaria was from an illustrious family and lived in the 5th century AD. The daughter of a supreme administrative ruler of Rome, she was renowned for her beauty and in particular her strong faith in Christ. On a pilgrimage to the Holy Land she was accompanied by several slaves, men and women, whom, however, after the pilgrimage, she set free, after having given them plenty of money. She herself did not return to Rome, but went to Alexandria where she embraced the monastic life and was distinguished by her wisdom and virtue. After a sufficient period of time she learned that her sister was tormented by an unclean spirit. She went to Rome and after God-persuading prayers her sister was healed. Her relatives and friends wanted to keep her close, but she, despite the fact that she loved them very much, returned to her hermitage, where she "was perfected in peace".

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

First, man was created by God in His image and according to His likeness and endowed with the gift of free will, or freedom of choice. God did not create masters and slaves, rulers and subjects, rich and poor, higher and lower people, but these distinctions are the result of the misuse of the freedom of man and disobedience to the commands of God. The first-formed in Paradise had communion with God, and between each other there was genuine love which is why they truly enjoyed life. Their relationship with their Creator and between themselves, as well as with creation, disintegrated after their fall into sin. They then lost communion with God, the love between them "became frozen", and creation rebelled against them.

When man, by the Grace of God and his personal struggle, is regenerated spiritually, or is even in the prospect of spiritual regeneration, he cannot accept inequalities and discrimination, and for this reason, depending on himself, he condemns them.

The first Christians, as we see them in the Acts of the Apostles, abolished economic inequality that existed between them, since those who had money gave it to the Apostles in order to distribute it to those in need, so that no one was deprived of anything. Even those who owned property sold them and offered the profit so that all could equally enjoy the good things of God, since all things were common to all. "Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need " (Acts 2:44-45).

Equality and common giving existed among the early Christians and it is preserved today in coenobitic monasteries. There all things are held in common and there is no appearance of the phenomenon that one has material goods and another is deprived of what is necessary, as it often happens in human communities where there are many rich and many poor, even those who are completely deprived of that which is necessary for their survival. The accumulation of material goods and their exploitation for selfish purposes reveals spiritual nakedness, insecurity and a lack of meaning of life. Wherever there are people who take seriously the issue of salvation and struggle to know Christ and have fellowship with Him, there inequalities and discriminations are blunted and over time cease to exist. And this is because by the Grace of God and their own personal struggle they are freed from selfishness and gain inner freedom and unconditional love, and so they do not wish to have slaves, but only friends.

Unfortunately, however, the slave trade still exists today in various forms. And the worst is that consciences are sold and bought. Fortunately, however, today there are those, even a few, who neither buy nor sell and prefer to be penalize rather than be unjust. This is a comforting fact and indeed these people are an oasis in the desert of modern individualism and a friendless society.

Second, the situation of those people who exist with the entrance of demons within themselves is tragic, because not only do they suffer, but their relatives as well. The entrance of demons within a person is due to various causes. But what is certain is that the devil has no power over the creations of God, reasonable or unreasonable, unless a man himself, making poor use of his freedom, gives him the right. Even when the demons entered the swine in the city of the Gerasenes, it happened because it was allowed by Christ.

The expulsion of demons takes place by prayer and fasting, as Christ Himself says: "This kind cannot come out except by prayer and fasting" (Matt. 13:22). And where there are people who have made prayer and fasting their way of life, then the race of demons is expelled and the demon possessed are freed.

Prayer sweetens the heart more than honey and fasting strengthens the will, and in this way man rejoices, and becomes strong like a lion which does not fear anything and is thus free. Besides, according to the riddle of Sampson the Judge in the Old Testament, what is sweeter than the honey of prayer, and what is stronger than a lion, namely a man of God?

In other words, by his state in Christ man acquires internal completeness and spiritual courage, which is why he is able to confront as a conqueror temptations, the sorrows of this life, the fear of death and the tricks of the devil, and in this way he truly rejoices in his life.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "ΟΣΙΑ ΑΠΟΛΛΙΝΑΡΙΑ Η ΣΥΓΚΛΗΤΙΚΗ", December 2010. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.