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May 12, 2014

Saint Epiphanios of Cyprus as a Model for our Lives

St. Epiphanios of Salamis (Feast Day - May 12)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Epiphanios came from Eleutheroupolis in Palestine and lived in the fourth century. His parents were poor farmers who were Jews and raised him in the teachings of Judaism. After their death he was baptized and became a member of the Church of Christ, after being catechized by two scholar ascetics, Lucian and Hilarion. He then went to the desert of Palestine and was taught near famous ascetics. The reputation of Saint Epiphanios reached Cyprus, where he was elected Bishop of Constantia (Salamis).

As a Bishop, he struggled with all his strength to protect the Orthodox faith, which was threatened by the taint of heresy, as well as for the progress and prosperity of his reasonable flock, entrusted to him by Christ, through the Church.

Saint Epiphanios once went to Constantinople without the permission and blessing of the Archbishop of Constantinople, who was Saint John Chrysostom at the time, and he performed an ordination or ordinations. The sacred Chrysostom was informed of this and sent the following message to him:

You do many things contrary to the canons, Epiphanios. In the first place you have made an ordination in the churches under my jurisdiction: then without my appointment, you have on your own authority officiated in them. Moreover, when heretofore I invited you hither, you refused to come, and now you take that liberty yourself. Beware therefore, lest a tumult being excited among the people, you yourself should also incur danger therefrom.

Saint Epiphanios then "reverently departed". That is, he acknowledged his error, and humbly sought forgiveness and departed.

He pastored his reasonable flock entrusted to him by the Church for 36 consecutive years and was "perfected in peace".

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

The Theology of the Saints is inspired by God, since the Saints reached the vision of God, they saw God in all His glory, and they narrated all that they saw and heard. "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched — this we proclaim concerning the Word of life" (1 Jn. 1:1). They infallibly interpreted Holy Scripture and added prestige to the Ecumenical Synods. "In the Synodikon of Orthodoxy the phrase repeatedly used is 'according to the theology of the God-inspired saints and the pious mindset of the Church'. We believe that all the great Fathers who reached illumination and deification gave prestige to the Ecumenical Synods and not the Ecumenical Synods to the Fathers ... and their theology is a narration" (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos).

In their personal lives, however, the saints, "who were clothed with flesh and lived in the world", had falls and made mistakes. What is important, however, is the way they faced them. When it was indicated to them, they recognized it and rushed with great humility to correct it, just as it happened with Saint Epiphanios. This shows the greatness of their soul, because it is not easy for one to acknowledge their mistakes, and humbly ask forgiveness and proceed to, if possible, rectify it. A courageous soul and spiritual maturity are needed for this. What usually takes place with most of us, unfortunately, is that we pass on our responsibilities. That is, we consider everyone else being at fault except ourselves. We even consider these people our enemies and persecutors, who tell us our mistakes.

Most of the problems that disrupt everyday human relations and create tensions and brawling, are mainly due to this fact. That is, the non-recognition errors, the non-assumption of responsibilities and the non-willingness to correct them. Even if we secretly admit our mistakes, we find it difficult to admit them, because we think this reduces us in the eyes of others, and especially because it destroys the fake and false picture we have made of ourselves and we have presented to others.

Families and society in general suffer daily from arrogant behaviors that result in conflicts between their members for minimal, most often, causes, but with sad and tragic results. To quickly dissolve the various misunderstandings and for peace to prevail among the people, there needs to be honesty, humility and spiritual maturity. The way of life taught by the Orthodox Church and truly lived by her members, helps efficiently and effectively in the elimination of the hideous mask, which are worn by people dominated by their passions, especially pride, and it helps them find their true face, the features of which are humility, love and freedom.

Therefore, what matters is not the committing of errors, despite the efforts made daily in human societies, but how we face them, which is related to our personality and spiritual state. When they are properly faced, then people are prevented from reaching extremes. Saint John of Sinai, in his "Ladder", reports the following incident: "I once saw three brothers punished. One was angry, one did not feel any grief, but the third profited greatly from the fact that he rejoiced in his punishment." In other words, there are three people involved in the same incident, but they deal with it in three different ways, depending on the spiritual condition of each. The first became outraged, as unfortunately most of us do. We become not only outraged with others, but also against God, with the result that we poison our lives and we cannot truly be happy. And though the second was not saddened, the third, in fact, was very happy, because internally he was fulfilled.

What is important is to try, by living in the Church, to make spiritual progress, so that we can face the sad events that happen in our lives by divine concession because of our passions and mistakes, in a proper way so that we are not outraged or saddened, but are truly happy in our lives.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "ΑΓΙΟΣ ΕΠΙΦΑΝΙΟΣ ΕΠΙΣΚΟΠΟΣ ΚΩΝΣΤΑΝΤΙΑΣ ΤΗΣ ΚΥΠΡΟΥ", May 2008. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.