April 14, 2014

Holy Martyr Thomais as a Model for our Lives

St. Thomais the Prudent (Feast Day - April 14)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Thomais was born and lived in Alexandria. She followed a married life and always had a blessed family, connecting with her husband in true and sincere love. Their peaceful coexistence was hated by the devil, the inventor of evil, and he wanted to separate them in a tragic way.

Once, when Thomais was alone at home, because her husband was away on business, she received an immoral advance from the father of her husband, her father-in-law, who was possessed by a demon of lust and enslaved to the passion of debauchery, and he wanted to have an erotic relationship with her. The Saint, who always had alive in her memory the feeling of the omnipresence of God and lived in purity and wisdom, resisted firmly and boldly, and tried to convince him that something like this should not take place, because it was opposed to the will of God, which for her was a way of life and an inspiration. Blinded however by his passion, he threatened her with death. Saint Thomais continued to resist, preferring death to the enslavement of the dominion of sin and the power of death. This is because to depart this short present life in a martyric way for the glory of God is not death, but a transition from death to life. It is the victory of life over death.

This unfortunate man fatally stabbed her and after this tragic incident he lost his sight and circulated lost around his house. His neighbors found him in this state when they were looking for his son, and they gave him over to the authorities to be judged. Meanwhile Thomais, as Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite writes, "received a crown of martyrdom through her wisdom".

When the leader of Scete of Alexandria learned of the martyric end of Thomais, he immediately went to the City with some monks and received the relic of the Saint. They carried it reverently to Scete and buried her with honors in the Cemetery of the Fathers. Then the following wonder took place. A certain monk, who was wrestling with the demon of lust and had struggled for a long time, prayed at the spot where the relic of the Martyr was buried seeking her help. And having smeared his body with the oil from the lamp that burned at her grave, he was freed from temptation and given peace. So, at times, other believers, monks and laity, who were tormented with temptations of the flesh, prayed to the Saint and by her intercessions they were strengthened in their struggle to be freed from this passion.

The way in which the Saint encountered this great temptation, and her firm resistance against sin, reminds us of the similar behavior of the wise Joseph in the Old Testament. Joseph, despite his young age (he was eighteen years old), resisted the lawless appetite of the wife of the chief chef of the Pharaoh and left running, ignoring the consequences. The only thing he had on his mind was the will of God, which was his way of life. This is why he said: "How could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?" How can I commit such a terrible sin in the eyes of God? The sense of the omnipresence of God, which accompanied him throughout his life, helped him overcome the temptations and flee from sin.

Here it should be highlighted that the behavior of the Martyr at the time of temptation was a natural consequence of her way of life. Her opposition to the irrational appetite of her father-in-law and her adamant resistance against sin was not a random reaction of the moment, but the natural reaction of a healthy spiritual organism with strong antibodies against a foreign body, such as sin. Throughout her life she struggled with bravery and courage to make personal in her life the commandments of Christ, and to avoid sin, because she knew very well that sin has eternal consequences, since it is not simply a failure or a breach of the law, but an apostasy from eternal divine life. Also, her behavior was directly related to her true love for her husband, whom she could never and in no way imagine the possibility of cheating on him and hurting him.

The way in which one reacts to temptations and tribulations, especially when faced with illness and death, when cornered, that is, when they cannot pretend, reveals their spiritual condition and their entire mentality. The spiritually mature man does not react spasmodically, is not troubled, does not lose courage, but turns his full trust to God and seeks His help. He is sure of the love of God and that through trials he could receive the greatest blessing, if confronted with patience and humility. And when he sins due to human weakness, he does not lose hope. He sincerely repents believing he was responsible for his fall, and only himself and not others or an "evil hour".

In an age like ours where values, that honor a person and distinguishes them from irrational animals, are disregarded and are sacrificed on the altar of easy riches, pleasure and fleeting glory, and the human person is trivialized, the example of the Martyr is displayed brightly and is ever relevant. She is a shining example of wisdom, spiritual courage and healthy resistance against the status quo of sin.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Αγία μάρτυς Θωμαϊς", April 2012. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.