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August 18, 2014

Saints Floros and Lavros as Models for our Lives

Sts. Floros and Lavros (Feast Day - August 18)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saints Floros and Lavros were twin brothers. They entered life on the same day and they also departed it on the same day, after giving their testimony for Christ and sealing it with the blood of their martyrdom. They lived in the first Christian centuries during a period of persecution, however it is unknown exactly when. They came from Byzantium and were catechized in the faith of Christ by Saints Proclus and Maximus, who were also martyred for Christ. Also, from these Saints they were also taught the art of stonemasonry, which they practiced and made their livelihood with. After the martyrdom of their teachers they left for Illyria and settled in the city of Ulpiana, where they continued practicing their trade. The prefect admired their skills and gave them a blueprint and the required money to build a temple to idols. The Saints distributed the money to the poor and when they built the temple - by the Grace of God and with the help of an angel, who helped and served them - they demolished the idols with the poor, and they consecrated the temple and dedicated it to the worship of the true God.

Merentios, the priest of the idols, when he saw all of the above, asked the Saints to baptize him, just as they previously baptized his son Athanasius, who had been blind in one eye. And since he had not found healing by fleeing to medical science, he resorted to the Saints, who healed him by invoking the name of Christ. The prefect, when he learned everything the Saints did, ordered, full of rage, for the poor who demolished the idols to be thrown into a burning furnace, and for the Saints to be tortured. After harsh and unspeakable torture they were thrown into a dry well and in this way they were perfected and received the crown of martyrdom. Later, the faithful collected their bones, which were fragrant and healed many illnesses.

Their lives and dispositions give us the opportunity to highlight the following:

First, the profession of stonecutter and the way it is practiced has many things to teach the faithful members of the Church, who struggle to transform their passions and acquire communion with God, which is why it is worth imitating the way a stonecutter works. That is, just as a stonecutter takes a stone, and after throwing away all the useless pieces they place them and consider it a piece of art, following persistent and difficult effort, so also does a believer, who desires their regeneration and salvation, must work carefully and skillfully in order to cast away from their nous and heart all the debris - namely all the unclean and wicked thoughts, as well as every type of idol - in order to be able to put in order and change their heart into a temple of the Holy Spirit, in which will be celebrated the eternal worship of the true God. Further, just as a stonecutter, in order to complete his work in such a way that it appears elegant, needs great patience, so also does the believer who works for the regeneration of their life need immense patience. But, because the work of inner regeneration is not possible without the power of God, this is why together with patience the believer must make much prayer; for the regeneration and salvation of man is the work of God. Man is a co-worker with God, by being obedient to His will and showing in this way his choice, his love and his philotimo.

Also, just as a stonemason, if something does not go well during the course of their work, must continue to work and not abandon their effort, leaving the job undone that they began to build, but every time they must seek and find an alternative solution - namely the proper way to continue and reach the completion of their obligated project - so also the same must be done by the faithful. That is, they must not lose hope after every fall, because repentance is possible and it exists. Further, no difficulty, no matter how great it is, must prevent them from caring about their spiritual advancement, but with every difficulty they must turn to God and seek His help, and after being refreshed they can continue with greater zeal along their spiritual journey. And this should be done continuously until the end, until the time of their departure from this transitory life.

Second, just as Saints Floros and Lavros before they consecrated the Sacred Temple that they built and made ready for the worship of the true God, demolished the idols with the help of the poor, who they previously gave charity too, and then after the consecration of the Sacred Temple they spilled their blood for Christ, so also must every believer desire to build a house of God in their hearts, in order for it to be a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. That is, we need to demolish all the idols of the passions, which lead us to distance ourselves from God, with the help of almsgiving, which is born out of love for God and neighbor. And love, almsgiving and all the virtues, in their authentic form, are fruits of the Holy Spirit, and are obtained with sweat and blood, namely a persistent and arduous struggle to live the divine commandments.

The art of stonemasonry and the art of salvation are alike in that they both chisel; the first with stones and the second the inner man.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Μάρτυρες Φλῶρος καί Λαῦρος", July 2014. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.