January 20, 2015

Saint Euthymios the Great as a Model for our Lives

St. Euthymios the Great (Feast Day - January 20)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Euthymios the Great was the fruit of the prayers of his pious parents Paul and Dionysia. He was born in Melitene, Armenia in 377 A.D. and received the name Euthymios, because his birth caused cheer and joy to his parents [euthymia, or εὐθυμία, in Greek means "cheer"], but also because the angel of the Lord who announced the birth to his parents told them "be cheerful, be cheerful". That is, be happy, because God has heard your prayer and you will become parents. And Saint Euthymios, like another Samuel, was dedicated to God from the womb of his mother.

The father of Venerable Euthymios departed this vain world when his son was three years old, so his mother was entirely responsible for his upbringing. Bishop Eutroios, who appreciated the gifts of the child, took care that he undertook his studies, and always followed his progress and success, and at the right time ordained him Deacon and Presbyter. Indeed, he instructed him to guide the monks of the Monastery of Melitene. After some time the desire of the venerable Euthymios to visit the Holy Land became a reality. After his pilgrimage, however, he wanted to stay in those parts and retire to a deserted spot where he could dedicate himself to the worship of the Triune God, asceticism and prayer. Later, many monks gathered around his hermitage, whom he nurtured and regenerated through his inspired words and especially by his bright example. He also helped in many ways the people who lived in the surrounding areas and led many of them to the true faith. At the age of 90 he reposed in peace.

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

First, the occasion of the coming of a child into the world is an occasion of joy to their parents, as well as their relatives and friends. The mother, at the time of the birth of her child, certainly experiences great pain, but after rejoices just as much, and she forgets her prior pain. Moreover, Christ refers to this fact while speaking with His disciples, and among other things said: "A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world" (Jn. 16:21). But this joy is greater when the child comes into the world after several years and especially after persistent and arduous prayer.

However, a great truth should be emphasized, that the joy over the birth of a child, with the passage of time, depending on the development and progress of the child, either grows or reduces and is eliminated completely, and it is replaced with bitterness and pain. The last takes place when the method of the child's development is not as expected. This is why great struggle is required in the raising of children, as well as constant vigilance and especially prayer when it comes to parents with reverence and the fear of God. Parents who love Christ and the Church should strive to raise their children in the "education and admonition of the Lord" and take care to offer them proper standards. Namely, they should connect them to the Church and with spiritual people, who are proven people of God. Besides, parents are not simply those who bring children into the world, since this is also done by irrational animals, but because they raise children. Of course, parents are not always responsible if their children go astray, because interaction also plays an important role in the life of a child. As the folk saying says: "Tell me with whom you are going and I will tell you who you are". However, parents must always try, as much as they can, make their children successful, especially during the period when their children are young, because it makes it easier to steer them on the path of God, namely the path of spiritual progress.

Second, the sacred hymnographer, in the Dismissal hymn composed for Saint Euthymios, writes among other things the following: "Be glad, O barren one, that has not given birth; be of good cheer, you that have not travailed; for a man of desires has multiplied your children of the Spirit...." Here he encourages the desert, which neither suffers nor gives birth, to rejoice, because the man who desires the Holy Spirit and the works of the Holy Spirit, namely Saint Euthymios, has given it a multitude of children. When the sacred hymnographer speaks of the desert, he means the deserted place where the Saint set up his hut, and where a multitude of people settled, who came near him to be taught in order to live the life in Christ. And so the childless desert emerged with many children.

As with the desert, something similar happens with the heart of man. Just as the desert, thanks to the presence of the saints, from barrenness and childlessness emerges with many children, so the heart of man, which is deserted and barren of virtues when it lacks the Grace of the Holy Spirit, is changed to bear many children when the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within them. In other words, when someone decides to initiate repentance in their life and struggles to live within the Church according to the commandments of God, then they enter into the prospect of the purification of their heart from the passions. And when this is achieved, by the Grace of God and our own personal struggle, then the Holy Spirit dwells within the heart, and from barrenness it is changed to a mother of many children, namely the virtues, and this brings gladness and cheer.

Everyone can change the desert into a place of many children. It suffices that a person has a disposition to struggle and to have conscious zeal.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Ὅσιος Εὐθύμιος ὁ Μέγας", December 2015. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.