December 16, 2014

Saint Modestos of Jerusalem as a Model for our Lives

St. Modestos (Feast Day - December 16)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Modestos lived in the late sixth century and in the early or middle seventh century. His parents were named Eusebius and Theodouli and they were from Sebastia in Palestine. In the synaxaria there is not a lot of information pertaining to his life and the period before he became Patriarch of Jerusalem. During the period of his patriarchate (632-634) he reconstructed the sacred shrines destroyed by the Persians, with the assistance of Christians from the East. He pastored his reasonable flock entrusted to him by the Church with venerableness and righteousness. His great love extended to all of creation, to all the creations of God, which is why he wrote prayers for the protection of animals and for their healing from various illnesses. These prayers are available in the Small Euchologion of the Church and are read by priests when they are invited by farmers for this purpose.

On the day of the feast of Saint Modestos, in various places there is a custom where the faithful take Holy Water from the celebrated church of the Saint and they sprinkle their animals with it, or they invite the priest to read the prayer written by the Saint.

He was perfected in peace.

His life and disposition gives us the opportunity to highlight the following:

First, the first-formed in Paradise before their fall into sin were natural people, just like God made them. This means that they had pure hearts, an illumined nous, communion with God, mutual love and a good relationship with all of creation. However, after their disobedience to the command of God and their fall into sin, things changed. They lost their communion with God, and therefore disturbed the relationship between them. Their love "cooled" and this is clearly shown in their behavior. For Adam, Eve ceased to be "bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh", as he said when he first saw her, suggesting by this his love and amazement, and she became "woman". By calling her this he shows his reversal towards her, and even trying to justify his disobedience by incriminating her, saying that "the woman you gave me, she gave me from the tree and I ate." Yet their relationship with creation also was disturbed, which revolted against them and ceased to be obedient to them. According to the teachings of the Holy Fathers, the air did not want to give him wind to enliven the apostate man and the wells did not want to send him their waters. The animals did not want to serve him, the trees did not want to cover him and offer him their fruit, and plants did not want to feed him. Because of him, as the Apostle Paul says, "we know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time" (Rom. 8:22).

God the Word, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, "when the fullness of time had come", was incarnated, that is, He received human nature, and was without sin, and He divinized it. Thus he gave the ability to fallen man to be healed, to unite with Christ and once more to become a natural man, namely to be like Christ, since according to the teachings of the Orthodox Church, as delivered by the leading dogmatician Fr. John Romanides, Christ, as man, "is the only authentic natural man, if by natural man we mean the living man according to the original purpose." Therefore, the task of the Church is first and foremost to help man be healed. That is, to transform his passions and be made worthy to see God as light that will illumine him, and not as fire that will burn him. In other words, to help him realize the purpose of his life, which is theosis, and thus become a natural man, since, as His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos stresses: "The God-seer is the most natural man, because his nous operates according to nature, he reaches theosis and achieves the original purpose of the creation of man, which is communion with God." Conversely, an impassioned man lives the unnatural life of the passions and sin, and for this reason is fragmented, disorganized and confused, and he cannot find himself nor others.

Second, the saints, who are people that are balanced in all aspects of their life, love creation, but with a love that lacks exaggeration. This means that they are not attached to it, they do not worship creation "instead of the Creator", and they do not place it at a higher place than its Creator, nor even the rational creations of God, namely people. It says in a prayer written by Saint Modestos:

"Lord our God, Who created light, make me worthy to attain Your kingdom, for You, Master, and only You does my soul desire. Do not judge me as unworthy, lover of man, of Your goods, but hear Your servant, and receive this my prayer, and do not forsake those who call upon You, but fill them with Your goods, and grant them Your rich mercy. Remove and repel from all their animals every injury and illness. Yes, Master, look upon me from Your holy dwelling place, towards my prayer, and bless and multiply these animals, as you blessed and multiplied the flocks of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."

We see in this prayer that Saint Modestos begins with God, in accordance with the words of Saint Gregory the Theologian, who said "begin with God", then he proceeds to the person, and then the animals. When this "hierarchy", this order, this harmony is disturbed in society, than many anomalies and serious problems are created.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Ἅγιος Μόδεστος Ἀρχιεπίσκοπος Ἱεροσολύμων", Deecember 2014. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.