May 14, 2014

Saint Isidore of Chios as a Model for our Lives

St. Isidore the Martyr of Chios (Feast Day - May 14)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Isidore came from Alexandria and was a sailor in the royal fleet during the reign of Emperor Decius. He was raised in a pagan family, but the religion of idols did not satisfy him or internally fulfill him. Since he had a restless spirit, he sought the truth in order to find inner fulfillment and meaning in life. Because he was a benevolent man it did not take him long to find the truth in the Person of Christ, Who is the enhypostatic truth. For the truth is not an abstract concept, but a hypostasis - a person. When Christ was on trial before Pilate, He was asked what was truth, and Christ did not respond, but Pilate also did not wait for an answer. Saint Silouan the Athonite says that if Pilate really cared to learn what truth was, or rather who truth was, and put the question differently, asking rather "who is truth", the Lord would have responded: "I am the way the truth and the life."

Saint Isidore was on the fragrant island of Chios with the royal fleet and a complaint came to the attention of the pagan commander Numerian that the sailor Isidore was a Christian. The Saint was immediately arrested and brought before Numerian. But despite his efforts to persuade him to sacrifice to idols, first with flatteries and then with threats, the Saint remained firm in his faith, and for this he was tortured hard and thrown in jail. When his father was informed of this he hurriedly arrived in Chios in order to attempt to dissuade him, at first with caressing and then with sweet words. He embraced him paternally and begged him fervently to return to paganism. But Isidore tried in turn to persuade him to abandon the worship of idols, which is actually the worship of demons, and believe in the Triune God, the only true God, Who is the Light, the Truth and the Life of humanity. His father then threw off his mask and revealed his true face. He suddenly grew angry, his face altered, the caresses and sweet words departed, and he began to speak horribly to his son and cursed him in a fit of rage, urging Numerian to kill him. So he was again tortured hard, and despite the horrible torture it was seen he was still going to live, so he was beheaded and his soul flew to the heavenly mansions "where they celebrate with a clear tone" and there is "life without end".

The events related to the burial of the relics of Saint Isidore are related in a previous article from December, when we discussed the life of Saint Myrope. That is, despite the orders of Numerian for the body of Saint Isidore to remain unburied and to be guarded by armed soldiers, Saint Myrope found a way to take it and bury it with appropriate honors. And this, as we saw, became the occasion for her martyrdom.

The life and deeds of Saint Isidore give us the opportunity to highlight the following:

Genuine and unselfish love is the fruit of communion between man and God and without the Grace of God no one can truly love. Even natural love, such as that which a parent has for their child and which is possessed by irrational animals, such a person may not have who is completely estranged from God, as we saw in the case of the father of Saint Isidore. Without Divine Grace man becomes wild, like a wild animal, perhaps even worse than a wild animal, because they do not ever knowingly kill their children.

The sacred Psalmist, wanting to emphasize the above, and especially that God is a true Father, Who never abandons His children under any circumstance, says: "My father and my mother have abandoned me, but the Lord has received me." That is, though my father and mother may leave me, God will take me in and show me in every circumstance and every way His love. This is why we should never forget that the Triune God is our Father and truly loves us, so that we will never despair no matter what happens to us, but to always support ourselves in our hope in Him and to have complete trust in His love. Furthermore, we should be sure that even though everyone may abandon us, He will never forsake us or disappoint us. Our ancient ancestors told us the wise adage, that "the fortunate always have friends, while the unfortunate don't even have parents". We unfortunately see this every day, and it is especially experienced by those who had a lot of money and lost it all. But some can say they are now truly fortunate, because now they are in a position to truly recognize who truly loves them.

Indeed, when temptations come in our life, then "the thoughts of the heart are revealed" and we can number our friends, because then we can separate the counterfeit from the genuine. This is why we should not fear temptations. Of course, we should not seek them, but when they come we should accept them gratefully, glorifying God, because they are beneficial in many ways, especially because they become the occasion to reveal the thoughts of the heart.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "ΑΓΙΟΣ ΙΣΙΔΩΡΟΣ ΠΟΥ ΜΑΡΤΥΡΗΣΕ ΣΤΗΝ ΧΙΟ", February 2005. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.