February 13, 2014

Saints Priscilla and Aquila as Models for our Lives

Sts. Aquila and Priscilla (Feast Day - February 13)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

The Apostles Aquila and Priscilla were a blessed couple. They came from Pontus and lived in Corinth. Both were tentmakers by profession and had the great blessing in life to learn from the Apostle Paul, when he went to Corinth. They gave him hospitality in their home and they worked together, since they were fellow tentmakers. As is known, the Apostle to the Gentiles in order to cover his daily expenditures and so as not to be a burden to anyone, occupied himself in tentmaking. Saints Aquila and Priscilla were associated with him and they became trusted friends and colleagues. He was for them an unerring teacher and enlightened spiritual father. That they had no children of the flesh surely made it easier for their travels and it gave them the opportunity to follow him on his various journeys. They ministered to him and at the same time he nurtured them by the life-uttered wisdom of his divinely inspired teachings. In some of his epistles, such as 1 Corinthians and 2 Timothy, he sends them greetings. In his epistle to the Romans he praises them and thanks them personally, but also on behalf of the local Churches, for their dedication and unending love. "Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the Churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them" (Rom. 16:3-4).

Studying the Acts of the Apostles, written by Luke the Evangelist, we see them together with the Apostle Paul in Syria then in Ephesus. In Ephesus they met Apollos, whom they brought near and developed in the exact "way of God". Apollos was an ardent preacher of the Gospel, but he did not know about the coming of the Holy Spirit "through the laying on of hands of the Apostles" upon the baptized. He only knew of the baptism of Saint John the Forerunner, which was a baptism of repentance.

Taking cue from the life and deeds of this holy couple, we can develop much, but we will limit ourselves to the following:

First, the fact that they had no children did not play a negative role in their lives and it was not able to make their love grow cold and for there to be coldness in their relationship, as it happens, unfortunately, in many cases. This is because the quality of their love was such that it could not be affected by this. It was true love, selfless and not carnal and passionate. They both loved God and that love united them together. The fact that they did not procreate they saw as God's will and did obeisance, thus maintaining internal peace and unity between themselves.

Of course, children are the fruit of a married couple and their absence may create some problems. This, however, does not mean that the presence of children in the marriage is without problems. There needs to be increased awareness among couples that children are the fruit and not the purpose of marriage. Because the purpose of marriage according to Christ, just as virginity according to Christ, is theosis, the salvation of the soul. Marriage and virginity are two roads that lead to the same end. When childbearing is considered the purpose of marriage, then it is natural that when the opposite exists there is frustration with all its consequences. If the absence of children in marriage is considered a problem and trial, their presence and upbringing is in reality a golgotha and cross. The acceptance of God's will, in any case, ensures internal peace and unity between spouses. The selfless offering of one's self and ministering to the "least of Christ's brethren", contributes greatly to the acquisition of internal fullness.

Second, they accepted the guidance and advice of the Apostle Paul to the various problems that arose in their relationship, and this resulted to ensure unity between them and increased love. And this is very important, that it may not decrease, that is, that love may not fade over the passage of time, but rather grow and become stronger. Couples should have a spiritual father and seek his advice, not to bind their freedom. In contrast, it secures it and helps them avoid the most serious mistakes and to reach, as much as possible, a correct solution to their various problems encountered at times in their lives. The spiritual father is able to help substantially, because he does this with the illumination of God, but he also stands outside the problem and because of this has the ability to see things clearer and treat them with sobriety and composure.

During the ceremony of the mystery of marriage, when the "Dance of Isaiah" is chanted, the Priest leads the Newlyweds holding in his hand the Gospel. This means that the Priest, as a spiritual father, must walk ahead and the Newlyweds must follow, that is, take his advice and obey. And, of course, he should guide them not based on his own thoughts and reflections, but in accordance with the spirit of the sacred Gospel.

The words of the Apostle Paul for Aquila and Priscilla, "they risked their lives for me", reveals the greatness of the souls of these Saints, their way of life, and the quality of their love, which was tested and withstood the harshest conditions and with the passage of time increased and grew stronger.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "«ΖΕΥΓΟΣ ΑΓΙΟΛΕΚΤΟΝ» ΑΚΥΛΑΣ ΚΑΙ ΠΡΙΣΚΙΛΛΑ", February 2002. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.