July 11, 2014

Saint Euphemia the Great Martyr as a Model for our Lives

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

She was born in Chalcedon during the reign of Emperor Diocletian, the fiercest persecutor of Christians, in the third century. After being arrested she endured cruel tortures, from which she miraculously survived. Finally she surrendered her soul to Christ after the small bite of a bear. Following her repose she performed many miracles, and her sacred relic remains incorrupt and is kept at the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Around two centuries after her repose, in 451, she gave another confession of faith in a miraculous way. She upheld the decisions of the Fourth Ecumenical Synod, which was held in Chalcedon and condemned the heresy of the Monophysites, who taught that Christ, after the union of the two natures - the divine and human - the human nature was absorbed by the divine nature. The venerable God-bearing Fathers who gathered at this Ecumenical Synod condemned this heresy and then considered it good to be assured through a miracle. Thus they placed the tome with the Orthodox teaching and the tome with the heretical teaching with the sacred relic of the Great Martyr, who was then kept in Chalcedon, then they sealed the coffin and prayed. After a few days they opened it and beheld a truly wondrous sight. The tome of the heretics was found discarded at her feet, while the tome with the Orthodox teaching was held tightly in her arms. In this way the divine teaching of the Orthodox faith was upheld. This event, naturally, delighted the Orthodox and shamed the cacodox, as we chant in her Apolytikion:

O Euphemia, Christ's comely virgin, thou didst fill the Orthodox with gladness and didst cover with shame all the cacodox; for at the holy Fourth Synod in Chalcedon, thou didst confirm what the Fathers decreed aright. O all-glorious Great Martyr, do thou entreat Christ God that His great mercy may be granted unto us.

This miracle shows that the saints are alive even after their repose, and they hear our prayers and protect all those who call upon them. Just as they showed their love while alive, they do the same after their repose, perhaps to a greater degree.

The way in which the Holy Fathers acted shows an Orthodox ethos. The saints have a personal experience of God and uncovered truth, and yet they take their experiences into account through that of the other saints, to receive confirmation. When a person of God receives a revelation or a vision they do not reject it, nor do they believe it. They ask the opinion of an experienced spiritual father and follow his advice. Once when the blessed Athonite Fr. Paisios saw a vision of Saint Euphemia he did not believe it was the Saint before "authenticating" it. This is because the devil can transform into an "angel of light", to lead into delusion, if possible, even the elect. He passed "in waves" as the saying goes. He told her to make the Cross, recite the Creed, confess the Holy Trinity, prostrate and kiss the icons, etc. When he was fully satisfied it was the Saint, then they conversed and he listened to what she had to say.

There are some today who claim to see God, the Virgin Mary and the saints and they converse with them. They are even featured in the media, and they fight with, get angry at and pick on whoever denies their vision. In fact a few days ago we witnessed such an event as seen through the media. Someone who claimed to have seen God, making himself a God-seer, in a packed church during a service, with the anger of a raging bull, verbally attacked the local Metropolitan during his sermon. And the question arises. Is it possible for such a man to have seen God and have within him the grace of the Holy Spirit? May God guard us from such delusions.

He who truly receives a revelation does not rush to reveal it, does not quarrel, is not a contrarian, but rather is humble, modest and endeavors to hide from the eyes of the world. They reveal it only, with much humility, to a discerning spiritual father and they are prepared to receive his advice. The Church teaches that he who does not receive advice, and is not humble, but rather they insist on their will full of arrogance and anger, are in delusion. For this reason Holy Scripture teaches that they who do not understand promptings and admonitions, should refer to the Church. "If they disobey the Church (through the Priest or Bishop), let them be to you as a heathen or tax collector" (Matt. 18:17), in other words, do not have spiritual communication with them.

After the great miracle of Saint Euphemia, which showed clearly that the Orthodox faith is the only true one, one would have expected for the heretics to have repented, to renounce their error and return to the bosom of the Church. Unfortunately, something like this did not take place for most of them, because they suffered from a very great illness called arrogance and pride, which does not allow the holder to recover and repent. Pride is truly a great spiritual illness, which, unfortunately, is healed with great difficulty. The bearer of this illness is a source of disorder also for the wider community.

May God give us wisdom through the intercessions of the saints. And a prudent man according to the teaching of the Church "accepts advice, especially that of a spiritual father counseling him in accordance with the will of God" (St. Thalassios).

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "ΜΕΓΑΛΟΜΑΡΤΥΣ ΕΥΦΗΜΙΑ", July 1999. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.