February 10, 2015

Saint Zeno the Letter Carrier as a Model for our Lives

St. Zeno the Letter Carrier (Feast Day - February 10)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Zeno came from Cappadocia and lived in the fourth century. For several years he worked as a messenger of the letters of the Emperor Valens, which somewhat makes him a postman, and this is why those who work in post offices in Greece honor his memory and revere him as their patron. Of course, at that time there were no organized post offices, but there were plenty of people who engaged in the handling of letters, which was then the basic means of communication between people and their loved ones who were in distant places.

After the death of Valens, Saint Zeno clothed himself in the monastic schema and followed an ascetic way of life. He lived for a particularly long time in a tomb praying. Once criminals raided the monks with the purpose of robbing from them, causing great destruction, and Saint Zeno was among them. However, they did not hurt Saint Zeno, because when they approached his cell they were suddenly blinded and so were unable to be aware of his presence.

Saint Zeno "was perfected in peace" in deep old age.

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

First, the work of being a scribe of letters at that time was not entrusted to just anyone by those sending the message, but to persons who had their absolute trust, because it demanded secrecy and accountability. The same is certainly the case for the messenger of letters, whose work was more difficult and it was entrusted to people who were familiar to those sending the message, who knew people and places, as well as the shortest and safest passages in order to reach their destination. Needless to say that the letter carrier most often traveled on foot, which is why letters arrived to their recipients after a long delay. And when it came to invitations for the recipients to attend a certain event in a certain place, such as when a Sacred Metropolis sent an invitation from the Metropolitan to the Bishops and Clergy of his province, to attend a gathering or a feast, then they had to be sent a long time beforehand, otherwise it would not have been possible for the invitation to arrive on time for its recipient to attend. Certainly the difficulties were many and great, and while the work of a scribe held great responsibility, the work of a letter carrier also bore responsibility and was dangerous.

But over the years things changed, to the degree that its hard to grasp the extent of the situation back then. Today there are postal services and letter carriers are a specific occupation of service who deliver letters, parcels and money with great ease, with the modern means of transportation. Of course, there are still dangers today, but significantly less. Things, in terms of communication between people, have been simplified, and letters have ceased to be the only means of communication. But it must be stressed that letters were more than a means of communication, since some of them are literary masterpieces, as well as historical monuments and are, over time, sources for researchers on several issues. They provide information linked with culture, geography, architecture, etc. Also, many of the letters of the saints are theological treatises, and, as is known, of the books of the New Testament, 21 of the 27 are letters.

Second, in transient societies there always existed and still are criminals and crooks of every shape and kind, and they will continue to exist until the Second Coming of Christ, when He will separate the "sheep" from "goats". In every era what merely changes is the way in which they act and move. Today most of them are people above suspicion, respectable citizens, "decent" gentlemen with a "suit and tie". And they can be given different names, depending on the "work" being done, such as, for example, usurers, black marketeers, exploiters of pain and needs of their fellow men, collectors without consciences, degraders of human dignity, etc. Especially during difficult times, such as that which we are undergoing, where the economic crisis is mainly a crisis of values and standards, there all kinds of cunning people and exploiters who 'work' and act this way undisturbed. And the simple and weak people, in terms of cosmic power and authority, remain completely defenseless and unprotected. The worst, however, is that they are more often threatened by those who are entrusted with the work and duty to protect them and who should take care to protect their rights and dignity.

It is time, however, for us to awaken and learn not to base our hopes in the powerful of our days, as well as in money, estates and generally material things, but in the living God, the Virgin Mother and His friends the saints, who will never disappoint us. When man entrusts himself to the care and love of God, then with their way of life they become garbed in God's armor which can resist the attacks of the devil and help them to avoid traps and pitfalls, which are set by perverse people.

Material goods are necessary for the survival of man on earth, but our true and inalienable wealth lies within the heart of the individual who was reborn by the grace of the Holy Spirit. And, of course, he takes care to carefully hide this wealth in the depth of his heart, but with this noble love, despite his material poverty, he enriches many, since he transfers to them strenghth, joy, peace, love and true consolation.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Όσιος Ζήνων Ο Ταχυδρόμος", January 2011. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.