May 20, 2014

Saint Lydia of Philippi as a Model for our Lives

St. Lydia of Philippi (Feast Day - May 20)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Lydia was from Thyatira and lived in Philippi of Macedonia. She was a person with sacred concern. The material-loving religion of idols did not give her rest and she did not tolerate the worship of quarrelling gods who become enraged. A blessed earthquake took place within her, which demolished the idols and simultaneously became the reason to lead her on the path to the garden of prayer of the Jews. There she came to know the Law of Israel and this ignited within her the thirst to seek and find the Savior of the world, Whom she later heard about through the Apostle Paul.

At the time Saint Lydia was in Philippi of Macedonia, the Apostle Paul was in Troas and saw a vision of a man dressed in a Macedonian outfit, begging him and inviting him to come to Macedonia, saying: "Come to Macedonia and help us" (Acts. 16:9). The Apostle Paul considered this a divine call and so he went to Macedonia and specifically the ancient city of Philippi, where he preached the Gospel in the place of prayer for the Jews, by the banks of the river Krenides. Many God-fearing women were gathered together there, some of whom believed in his words. But the one most enthusiastic of the message was Saint Lydia, who stated categorically to the Apostle Paul that she believed in Christ and wanted to be baptized, and he baptized her together "with her household". Thus she became not only the first Christian of Macedonia, but also of Europe. To show her gratitude, she gave hospitality to Paul and his entourage in her house. And to achieve this, she persisted until she pressed them. Luke the Evangelist writes in the Acts of the Apostles: "When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. 'If you consider me a believer in the Lord,' she said, 'come and stay at my house.' And she persuaded us" (16:15).

The sacred hymnographer, in his Apolytikion to Saint Lydia, says among other things:

You revered God with an upright intellect, you glimmered with grace through the teaching of Paul, and were the first in Philippi to believe in Christ with your household, godly-minded one, therefore we honor you with songs of praise, Lydia of Philippi. Glory to those who were well-pleasing unto You, Glory to those You have shined upon, Glory to those who have been granted through You better things.

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

First: "You revered God with an upright intellect".

Uprightness of intellect is inextricably tied to the purity of the heart, to love, to prayer and to true worship of the Triune God, and you could say that is the conduit through which enters within man the Grace of God and regenerates him. This is why the Prophet David, after his fall into the double sin of adultery and murder, after he sincerely repented, he begged God with tears to cleanse his heart and give him an "upright spirit". "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew an upright spirit within me." And the Prophet Isaiah, while urging the people to repent and return to the path of God, said that man will be able to see the Savior of the world and partake of the glory of God when they forsake the rugged road of sin, on which it treads, and return to the smooth road of God. That is, when they properly prepare themselves to obtain uprightness, honesty and humility. "A voice of one calling: 'In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken'" (Is. 40:3-5).

Nowadays, unfortunately, uprightness and honesty have just about disappeared. Conversely, wickedness, dishonesty, machinations and intrigues have become redundant. But each of us have the ability to work on ourselves, and with the Grace of God and our personal struggle we can acquire a "clean heart" and an "upright spirit". It should be noted that the personal development of each of us will also improve society, since society consists of all of us. It is the only way to change society for the better and there is no other way.

Second: "To believe in Christ with your household, godly-minded one".

It is truly a beautiful image for one to see an entire family embrace the true faith, to be baptized, and then to give hospitality to the Apostle of Christ and his entourage. Indeed, this event - the communion of sanctified people - is a true blessing, as well as a source of inspiration for the further course of the future of the family, and especially the children, since the association of children with people who are healthy models of life is the best thing that can happen in their lives. When the parents love God and their fellow men, it also means that they have love towards one another and this has a great impact on the psychology of children, in forming their personality and making their way smooth in society. The example of parents is the foundation on which we build the spiritual edifice of children's lives. Also, a child's experiences remain indelible in the memory and heart and therefore when children are associated with bearers of the Orthodox tradition, then they cherish their own tradition, and they can make a distinction with other traditions and will not likely be altered in any condition of life they is found in. Rightly it has been said that the people and the nations that do not know and mostly do not experience their traditions are threatened with extinction.

The experience of the Orthodox tradition in its authentic form creates the prerequisites for the acquisition of inner purity, uprightness and honesty, and when this is accomplished, then "you will see the glory of the Lord, and all flesh will see the salvation of God" (Is. 40:5).

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Αγία Λυδία η Φιλιππησία", April 2012. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.