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December 2, 2014

Saint Myrope of Chios as a Model for our Lives

St. Myrope of Chios (Feast Day - December 2)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Myrope or Merope was born in Ephesus in the mid-3rd century and lost her father at an early age. Her mother, who came from Chios, was a pious woman and raised her "in the education and admonition of the Lord".

When the persecution of Decius broke out, Saint Myrope and her mother fled Ephesus and went to Chios. There she gave herself over to works of beneficence, specifically helping the sick who were in need. When the persecution spread and arrived in Chios, many martyrs were revealed. Among these a prominent position is held by Saint Isidore (May 14), who, after his martyric repose, played an important role in the life of Saint Myrope in the following manner. The pagan ruler Numerian ordered that the body of Saint Isidore remain unburied, and for this purpose he set a guard to watch over it, threatening to severely punish anyone who dared bury him.

Saint Myrope, who learned to obey God and her conscience first of all, ignored "the unlawful command of the impious tyrant", and having tricked the guards, she took the relic of Saint Isidore and, with the help of her servant, she buried him with great reverence. When Numerian was informed of this, he ordered her arrest, and she boldly confessed to her actions, resulting in her suffering horrible torture and she was thrown in jail. Yet she showed admirable patience, was "faithful unto death" and received the "crown of life".

The life and disposition of Saint Myrope gives us the opportunity to highlight the following:

First, in the olden days almost all people had respect for the dead, even the barbaric tribes. In ancient Greece, as is known from oral tradition and written texts, they buried the dead with great reverence and exceptional honors and disrespect towards the dead was punished very severely. (A typical example is Antigone in the tragedy of Sophocles). The behavior of the pagan ruler to the lifeless body of the martyr shows, the least one could say, incredible stubbornness, deep hatred and inhumanity.

The burial of the dead in the Orthodox Tradition is directly connected with the resurrection of the human body which will take place at the Second Coming of Christ. As a grain of wheat is buried in the earth and then sprouts and bears fruit, so the human body, as the Church teaches through the Apostle Paul, will rise again, will unite again with the soul from which it was separated and become imperishable and spiritual. "So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body" (1 Cor. 15:42-44).

The living conditions of contemporary man, especially in big cities, is tough and the pain is great and sometimes even unbearable. Hence believers seek solace in the Church, that is, in God and His friends the saints. The places the saints lived, as well as their graves, are places of pilgrimage and sources where physical and spiritual illnesses are healed. What is written about Elder Paisios proves this truth: "His grave became a Pan-Orthodox site for pilgrimage. It has great blessing and grace. It gathers those who are hurting and consoles the grieving... The sick are healed and many miracles take place" (Hieromonk Isaac, Life of Elder Paisios the Athonite).

Second, the spiritual bravery of Saint Myrope and her reverence for the body of the Holy Martyr Isidore, reminds us of the bravery of the Holy Myrrhbearing women, who went to the tomb "that contained the body of Jesus", to embalm it with myrrh and spices, according to the burial habits of the Jews. And despite the tomb being guarded and the door shut with a heavy stone, which would have been impossible for them to roll away on their strength alone, they still bravely and courageously went and ultimately achieved their purpose. Something similar happened with Saint Myrope, who with the help of God and Saint Isidore dared and achieved her purpose, first because her deed was God-pleasing, and second because her desire to bury the relic of the Martyr was so strong, that she overcame her natural cowardice and her "singular desire conquered nature".

Saint Myrope belongs in the category of the brave women who are praised in Holy Scripture, who are said to be more honorable and valuable than precious stones. Certainly, a significant role in shaping her overall personality was played be her mother with the right education, providing for her healthy standards, such as the martyrs, the venerable ones and generally all the saints of the Church. Besides, proper education cannot exist without the projection of sound examples, which help children to put their lives in proper perspective and to channel their strength and energy not towards devastating actions for themselves and their families, but in productive works and charitable works.

Without spiritual bravery no virtue can be attained, nor any significant work in the life of man, because great works require great people. Such are not "insured" and well off, but are daring and they sacrifice their comfort, well-being and their individual interests for the interests of the many, especially the hurting and the weak.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "ΑΓΙΑ ΜΑΡΤΥΣ ΜΥΡΩΠΗ η ΜΕΡΟΠΗ", December 2006. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.