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April 14, 2014

Saint Ardalion the Mime as a Model for our Lives

Holy Martyr Ardalion the Mime (Feast Day - April 14)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Ardalion lived at the end of the third century and practiced the profession of mime, or actor. He was truly a great "talent", which is why his presence in the theater caused crowding. On an official day, when the theater was packed and the Provincial Ruler was present, as well as other State officials, Ardalion "staged" his own show, making reference to Christians by highlighting their explicit courage with which they expressed their faith before the powers of the State, the patience they had during horrific torture, as well as the love they showed even to their executioners. He himself played a Christian, who was tortured hard, and even though he suffered, he remained calm and peaceful. Therefore, he was hung high and showed that he was being tormented and suffering, after allegedly they had torn his flesh and he bled like a river. His depiction was so vivid and amazing, that viewers below began to fervently clap for the skill of the artist, who managed to inspire viewers sympathy and admiration for Christians.

When the show ended, Ardalion, after beckoning viewers to settle down, cried aloud that he was really a Christian and that Christ was the true God. The audience froze and the Provincial Ruler who obviously became upset ordered that he be brought before him. He tried to persuade him to change his mind, first with flattery and then with cruel and inhumane torture, but he "remained faithful until death and received the crown of life", since the tyrant, in the end, ordered that he be thrown into the fire.

His life and deeds give us the opportunity to highlight the following:

First, an actor, like an author, has an important work in society, since they reach out to others, and surely to some extent influence life and thought.* For this reason they need to be responsible, serious and above all moral, because usually a person will offer something they have and primarily what they are. Therefore, their goal and purpose must be first and foremost to inspire the viewer or reader and help them ascend to a higher level of thinking and life. In other words, the inspired actor and upright author should tell people the truth "without fear or passion". To serve consciously what they do without compromises and without slavishly bowing their head to every fleeting power.

Art, however, and authorship, for the artist and the author, must not be an end in itself, but a means to achieve the objective, which is to offer work of quality. This, moreover, is the hallmark of the great artist and acclaimed author. That is, "they are to dig deep inside the soul of others and elevate even gradually their humanity", as our great poet Kostis Palamas says, referring to the equally great poet and writer, Alexandros Papadiamantis. The morals of these two renowned artists and writers were admirable and worthy of imitation, as well as their work, which enlivens, delights and inspires those who love that which is genuine and beautiful. Indeed Alexandros Papadiamantis indicates and offers a healthy prototype to life, which is absolutely necessary, especially in our days, where our country is plagued by a crisis in values and standards.

Several years ago, here in Nafpaktos, an accomplished actor incarnated in a wonderful monologue the great fighter of 1821, Yiannis Makrygiannis. In reality he presented to us the memoirs of Makrygiannis in a matchless way. He riveted viewers for about two hours and in the end what I personally felt - and I believe many others as well - was that apart from the alternating joy and grief, there was a delicious aroma of an Orthodox ethos, a Romaic levendia, and a pure and unadulterated faith. And I remembered the above words of Kostis Palamas, because I am sure that this work and wonderful interpretation, helped to elevate "even gradually our humanity".

Second, you cannot stand before people and believe that by your presence and work - literary, artistic or anything else - you will touch the sensitive chords of their soul, if your conscience does not allow you to look at them in the eye or if you are afraid of death. Because the one who does not have a good conscience, and is not dedicated at every moment to sacrifice for what they truly love, is doomed to fail. And the reason is because they are unable to understand others, nor can they feel joy, pain and their distress. It is not possible to understand and feel another, if you do not love or at least if you are not in a position to share with them their joy and their sorrow. And in this case you are truly alone even if you are surrounded by thousands of people. Try to understand others, share in their pain, be glad with them and weep with them, and then you will feel that loneliness does not exist. Because anyone who truly loves is inwardly fulfilled and is united with people and all of creation. And as Saint Silouan the Athonite writes, nobody can love without the Holy Spirit.

Saint Ardalion is a protype of a genuine artist and a true man, who in "word and deed" supports, delights and inspires the wonder and the imitation of everything that is beautiful and true, which is related to life, eternal and true life "in the Light".

* The Greek word for actor is ηθοποιός, which means "creator of morals". [Note by trans.]

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Άγιος μάρτυς Αρδαλίων ο μίμος", March 2012. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.