April 29, 2014

Saint Kerkyra as a Model for our Lives

St. Kerkyra (Feast Day - April 29)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Kerkyra was the daughter of the pagan King of Kerkyra named Kerkyllinos. She was benevolent and thus it was well-pleasing to God that she come to know the true faith, and through Holy Baptism become a member of the Church. At a point in her life she came to know the Apostles Jason and Sosipater. These two Apostles were in Kerkyra preaching the Gospel. They were arrested by the pagan king Kerkyllinos who interrogated them, tortured them hard and then sent them to jail. Saint Kerkyra experienced admiration and was literally moved by the bravery, courage and boldness of the Saints, by the fortitude and patience they showed in their martyrdom and especially by their bright faces, which at the time of their defense shined "like the face of an angel".

The Apostles Jason and Sosipater did not cease preaching the Gospel even in prison, and in this way they managed to attract seven famous bandits of the island to the faith, as well as the prison guard Anthony and the daughter of Kerkyllinos named Kerkyra. The fact that Kerkyra became a Christian made a significant impression on the people, thus increasing significantly the number of believers on the island. When Kerkyllinos was informed about this, he called for his daughter and tried to dissuade her. This proved impossible, so in great anger he order her imprisonment, and even went so far as to send to the prison an Ethiopian to corrupt her. But once the Ethiopian approached the door of the prison he was attacked by a beast and seriously wounded. The Saint by her prayers healed him and he was then catechized. The result was that he became a confessor of the true faith and a martyr of Christ.

Saint Kerkyra was tortured hard by her pagan father, and thus once again was verified the words of Christ: "Your enemies will be those of your own household". She remained "faithful unto death". They killed her with arrows and in this way she delivered her holy soul "into the hands of the living God".

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

First, when someone distances themselves from God, then their heart is hardened by their passions and demonic energies, and so they became like wild beasts, or perhaps even worse, because they can even become wild beasts that harm and kill their own children. Of course, Kerkyllinos was born and raised in a pagan environment and did not know the true God, and so some will say that if he was born in a Christian environment, he would not have become worse than the wild beasts, to the point that he would not have harmed and killed his daughter. This, however, is not absolute, because there are people who were born and raised in a Christian environment and yet exceeded the pagans in their hardness and wickedness, because they distanced themselves from the path of God's commandments, they lost divine Grace and their hearts became hardened. As also there were those who were born and raised in an atheist or pagan environment, but because they were benevolent the Grace of God overshadowed them, they accepted the true faith and became living members of the Church and chosen vessels of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. They acquired perfect love, and many of them were made worthy to become confessors and martyrs of the immaculate faith.

But power often hardens man, since those who have some power - especially those who rule over nations and people - when they don't have the fear of God, they are overcome by arrogance, and behave in cruel and inhumane ways, many times even against their families. But God, through the mouth of the Prophet Isaiah, warns those rulers who do not respect His law and this is why they abuse their power, that He will humiliate them, because they do not love the people and are not interested in their progress and prosperity, as they should. They treat them harshly and inhumanely, they deceive and are lawless, since the "rulers are rebels, partners with thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts. They do not defend the cause of the orphans; the widow's case does not come before them" (Is. 1:23). And indeed they use various pretexts to load the people with "heavy and unsustainable loads", while they not only do not participate at all in lifting these loads, but instead they live in comfort and luxury, provoking both God and the people.

Second, the Orthodox faith, which is a way of life for the members of the Church, softens and calms a person, since it heals them of their passions and brings them from going against nature and helps them go beyond nature to become an earthly angel and a heavenly man.

When parents are conscious members of the Church, and participants in worship and commune from the Immaculate Mysteries with their children, whom they teach to attend church and receive communion from infancy, then the parents and children become calm, sweet, their heart softens, with the result that in the family there dominates a spiritual climate of sweetness, peace and love. In this situation there is cooperation and communication between family members, and when there is some misunderstanding there are preconditions for the problem to be solved quickly and in the right way, that is, without bitterness remaining in the heart, which usually results in revenge. And this is very important, because there are unfortunately cases where couples or siblings or parents with their children have malice and hatred, do not easily forgive and do not communicate with each other for a long time. And most often it is caused by something trivial.

Inside the Church a person has the ability to spiritually regenerate, to be released from the ferocity of the passions, and to be sweet and peaceful with themselves and others.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Αγία Κερκύρα", March 2013. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.