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April 11, 2014

Saint Antipas as a Model for our Lives

St. Antipas the Hieromartyr (Feast Day - April 11)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

The sacred hymnographer calls him a divine myrrhgusher, a fellow athlete of the Martyrs, all-famed Hierarch and holder of the first-seat of Pergamon, and great physician of those with dire dental disease. Christ Himself praises him in the Apocalypse by calling him His faithful martyr: "Antipas, My faithful martyr" (2:13).

He was Bishop of Pergamon in Asia Minor in apostolic times. He worked with love and zeal against idolatry in the city the Apocalypse calls the "throne of Satan". With persistence and patience he sowed the word of God through many adversities and great temptations. The pagans revolted with hatred against him. He was arrested, interrogated and tortured, but remained standing as a steadfast pillar and gave a good confession of faith, which was sealed with the blood of his martyrdom.

He lived in an era dominated by the worship of idols, and the attempt to impose it with violence. The merciless persecution against Christians was a daily routine. Today the faithful are not arrested and undergo torture to change their faith, but people do make and worship idols in our times. Those who resist and insist on worshiping the God of their Fathers and are obedient to the Church, will be insulted, slandered, despised, considered in the dark and backward. Conversely, when one renounces their faith and insults Christ and the Church, they are considered articulate and progressive. The construction of idols constitutes spiritual immaturity. When a person, who is considered as living with God, loses communion with Him, then substitutes are created and they "worship creation rather than the Creator". Many times they even go so far that they make themselves an idol, that is, they make an idol of and worship their own self.

To anyone struggling to purify themselves of their passions while sowing the word of God in a world that is constantly making and worshiping idols, it is like spilling blood daily. The preaching about love in a society which is dominated by unfair competition and material interests, is a work that invites hatred and envy and amounts to martyrdom. For one to stand upright and steadfast in their beliefs, they need to have strong spiritual antibodies, living faith which is expressed as authentic love for God and neighbor and as personal communion with the living God of the Church, Who is a Person.

Saint Antipas, as mentioned above, is the protector and healer of all those who suffer from all diseases of the teeth. Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite says that during his martyrdom he prayed from the depth of his heart and among other things asked the following grace from Christ: "All those who call upon me in their prayers, may they be relieved of the pain they suffer and particularly from the excruciating pain of the teeth". The saints heal physical and psychic illnesses in the name of the Holy Triune God and with His power. Where human power and knowledge fails to advance, then the uncreated grace of God acts, because "what is impossible for people is possible for God".

We Orthodox Christians do not worship the saints, but we honor them. Worship is awarded only to the uncreated Triune God, who acts through His saints. In other words, miracles are not done by the saints in the sense that they are done by their own power or as if they are giving something of their own, but they are done through the saints, since they are instruments and the means through which is administered to us a "gift for the profit of our own request". Therefore, what must make an impression on us is their life and state of being which we must try to imitate, and not miracles which for God are something very simple and which, moreover, are not always good for us.

What honors us as Christians and also as people and gives meaning to our lives with soteriological implications and ramifications, is to demolish every kind of idol and to be stable in our faith, which is expressed as trust and obedience to Christ and His Church.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "ΑΓΙΟΣ ΑΝΤΙΠΑΣ", April 2000. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.