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June 27, 2014

Saint Sampson the Innkeeper as a Model for our Lives

St. Sampson the Innkeeper (Feast Day - June 27)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Sampson lived in the sixth century and came from a rich family of Rome. He studied the sciences of his time and especially medicine, which he also practiced. He had much love for all without discrimination. When his parents departed from this world, he distributed his property and inheritance to the poor and departed for New Rome. In Constantinople he lived in poverty and served and healed those who suffered mentally and physically. Many incurable diseases were healed by his prayers, yet so the people would not understand and praise him, he pretended they were healed from ointments and herbs. Once he healed Emperor Justinian from an incurable and painful disease and then he, out of gratitude to the Saint, built a large hospital for him, which was also an inn, hence his name as "the Innkeeper", where he gave free hospitality to the poor and needy.

Here it must be said that the Saint persistently refused any material support from the Emperor, but gave in eventually out of respect to the supreme leader, and so as not to deprive him of the joy of his grateful offering, as well as for the love of the poor people and the sick he gave hospitality to, treated and cured. This showed his utter Orthodox ethos. He did not exploit his acquaintance with the Emperor to raise money, since prior to this he had a lot of it and distributed it to the poor. Neither did he use his face to face favor with Justinian to gain prestige. Prestige is also something he had and gave up. This showed his holiness and great love and why the people trusted his person.

At this point I would like to talk a little about Emperor Justinian, whose ethos was revealed in how he exercised his power, which consisted of respect and love towards God and care for the people. By building and financially supporting and maintaining the hospital/inn he strengthened, in the person of Saint Sampson, the Church in its social work. With the shrewdness that distinguished him he saw the problem and he gave the money to alleviate human suffering, and his spiritual sensibilities understood the enormous social contribution, and he came as a helper and supporter of this huge project.

When studying the miraculous and wonderful life of Saint Sampson, one effortlessly concludes that his social work was the result of his internal work, it was a fruit of the Holy Spirit who lived in his sanctified existence. He also had an ecclesiastical mindset. He did not work as an individual, but he was organically bound to the body of the Church, and he had reference to the Bishop, who is the mystery of the sensible presence of Christ on earth. He was obedient to the Patriarch of Constantinople, who honored his ethos and his gifts by ordaining him a Priest.

He was a true leader. He gave generously without expecting reciprocation. He ministered to everyone, because he knew very well that love has no boundaries. His pockets had holes. From his hands much money passed, but he kept nothing for himself. Certainly he was not married, but I think that even a family man, if he has learned to live as God wants, would merely want the essential and necessary. Besides, there are poor who are covetous, and there are rich, like Saint Sampson, who are benevolent and merciful.

Sensitivity to human suffering reveals that a soul has undergone internal changes, "the change to the right hand of the Highest". Such an existence loves the trouble and toil endured for the love of others. They minister to Christ in the person of the least, the despised, who before the eyes of God could be princes. When one loves, he gives, and gives from the heart without putting reason first. He does not ask, but gives, and to get what he needs to give he leaves to God to take care of. The more you give the more God sends. God gives that we may offer. When we stop giving then He will cease to send.

Society today does not lack people who possess human knowledge, but it does lack people with the heart of Saint Sampson. Let us attain such a heart that our life and our society may be more humane.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "ΣΑΜΨΩΝ Ο ΞΕΝΟΔΟΧΟΣ", June 1997. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.