February 7, 2014

Saint Parthenios of Lampsakos as a Model for our Lives

St. Parthenios of Lampsakos (Feast Day - February 7)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Parthenios lived during the reign of Constantine the Great. He came from a small town in Bithynia and was the son of Deacon Christopher. He did not learn much of letters, but he was a most reverent and virtuous man. From his father he learned love towards God and man, and for this reason he was a lover of God, a lover of man and merciful. He occupied himself with fishing, which he performed with admiration, and the fish he caught he distributed to the poor or he sold them and distributed the money. Further, he would visit the grieving and the sick and comforted them with inspired words and his philanthropic works. This ministry of his and his whole way of life was honored by Bishop Philip of Melitopolis, who ordained him a Priest. Later Metropolitan Achilles of Cyzicus ordained him Bishop of Lampsakos.

Lampsakos was an ancient city of Asia Minor on the Hellespont. It was located across from the Thracian peninsula of Gallipoli, the ancient city of Cardia, which was about four kilometers away, and eight kilometers from the current Gallipoli. The majority of the inhabitants of Lampsakos in the days of Saint Parthenios were pagans, whom however he "won" by his love, good works, as well as the miracles he performed. Several pagans were healed of incurable diseases.

Saint Parthenios is considered the patron of those suffering with cancer, because he healed and continues to heal many with cancer. When he departed this temporal life, the majority of his fold were pious Christians, living members of the Church of Christ.

The life and deeds of Saint Parthenios give us the opportunity to emphasize the following:

First, true love, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit, has so much power that it can cause a spiritual earthquake in the depths of the human soul, even an earthquake of many "richters", yet it does not cause frustration and despair, but hope and spiritual rebirth, since previously it tears down anything rotten or old.

If the venerable Parthenios faced the pagans as enemies, likely he would have encouraged them to go against him and against the Church. Also, if he tried to convince them with rational arguments that they were in error, again I think the results of his work would have been minimal, because reason causes contradiction and usually does not lead to the desired result. Saint Parthenios used the language of humility and love that leads unerringly to communication and understanding without frictions and barren controversies, so he had excellent results, because as the wise folk saying goes: "Bread is best eaten with honey rather than vinegar."

Second, miracles are a result of the philanthropy of the Holy Triune God. Many miracles are done through the Saints, the friends of God, either with prayer and their intercessions, or their words which are words of God, for which reason they have the power to lead people to spiritual rebirth. Indeed, the miracles associated with spiritual healing and inner regeneration are greater than the miracles that heal bodily diseases, because they not only prolong biological life, but cause eternal life and salvation.

Miracles do not generate faith, but they are the result of faith. In some cases it may even be argued that miracles generate faith or make it stronger, when it comes to people of other religions, who are well-meaning and perceive in critical situations in their lives that "god" is unable to help them and for this reason resort to the Church. In the List of Saints of the Orthodox Church we encounter several people of other religions, particularly pagans who believed in some sort of miracles, who confessed their faith in Christ and then sealed their confession with the blood of their martyrdom.

In a short story that takes place in the period of Turkish rule, it refers to a pious priest who lived in the region of Ioannina, and he was invited by Turks to read prayers over the sick or parturient women who were tormented and could not give birth. Papa-George, which was his name, read over the sick and before the prayer ended healing came and their problem was solved. This event quickly spread like lightning, and for this reason he was invited to this house and to that house to pray. This took place with the blessing of the Metropolitan of the region. After the Metropolitan passed away, however, the successor Metropolitan believed the slander that Papa-George was giving communion to those of other religions, commemorated them at the Holy Prothesis, etc., and he made him stop all his priestly activities. In reality however this priest in question merely read the prayer "On Behalf of All Illnesses" and God healed in a miraculous way.

Then the sufferings of Papa-George are described, since the Turks did not understand what it meant to "stop all priestly activity". Indeed, for a considerable period of time he was sustained by his "daily bread". After some time, however, this Metropolitan was transferred and a new Metropolitan examined things carefully and proclaimed that he would stop the priestly activities of any priest who refused to read prayers over those of other religions, because it has been demonstrated that our faith is true by the miracles of healing. "Thou art our God Who alone doeth wonders."

In conclusion it should be stressed that what saves man is not a miracle, which is done by the philanthropy of God, but true repentance and deep humility that generate love for God and man.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "ΟΣΙΟΣ ΠΑΡΘΕΝΙΟΣ ΕΠΙΣΚΟΠΟΣ ΛΑΜΨΑΚΟΥ", February 2005. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.