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April 29, 2015

Holy Apostles Jason and Sosipater as Models for our Lives

Sts. Jason and Sosipater (Feast Day - April 29)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saints Jason and Sosipater belong to the chorus of the Seventy Apostles and were disciples of the Apostle Paul. Jason came from either Tarsus or Thessaloniki, according to an old manuscript as noted by Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite, while Sosipater was from Achaia. They became Bishops: Jason of Tarsus and Sosipater of Iconium. After pastoring their Churches in a God-pleasing manner, they were led by the Holy Spirit to Kerkyra, where they built a sacred church in honor of the Protomartyr Stephen. There they served the Divine Liturgy and preached daily the divine word, attracting many to the true faith.

The spiritual work done by these two Apostles with selfless love and divine zeal annoyed the devil and his cohorts, which resulted in them being arrested by the pagan king Kerkyllinos and imprisoned. Even in prison the two Apostles did not cease preaching the Gospel, and they managed to attract seven famous bandits of Kerkyra to the faith, together with the prison guard Anthony, and even the daughter of King Kerkyllinos who was named Kerkyra. The fact that Kerkyra became a Christian made a big impression on the people, thus increasing significantly the number of believers. Kerkyllinos tried to dissuade his daughter Kerkyra, but when this proved to be impossible she was imprisoned and ordered to be corrupted by an Ethiopian. But once the Ethiopian was near the door of the prison, he was attacked by a beast. Saint Kerkyra attended his wounds and taught him the true faith. After the death of Kerkyllinos, his successor Datianos brought Saint Sosipater to be tortured and burned alive. Then, however, Saint Jason managed by his zeal and the Grace of God to lead Datianos to the true faith together with his entire family. After this shocking event, the spiritual work of Kerkyra began to take root deeply and to grow. Saint Jason completed his life in deep old age. Saint Sosipater is also celebrated on November 10th.

The life and conduct of the Apostles Jason and Sosipater give us the opportunity to highlight the following:

First, the spiritual seed of the two Apostles had rich fruition because they primarily taught by their way of life and example. They lived ascetically and were very careful with their spiritual preparation. They prayed without ceasing and their missionary activity was the result of their internal work. They had personal communion with the personal God of the Church, they taught by experience, which is why their words came from a purified heart, and thus they were life-giving and regenerative. After all, missionary work that bears results, according to Saint Seraphim of Sarov, is that which is made with intensity, with pain of soul and by example. He says the following remarkable things:

One must not open to others their hearts without need. Among a thousand people there is perhaps one who is able to enter into its mysteries. With a normal person one must speak of human matters. But with those who have their intellects open to the supernatural, they must speak of heavenly things. One must not discuss spiritual matters with people who are not interested, but we must remember the words of the Lord: 'Do not give dogs what is holy; do not cast your pearls to swine. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces' (Matt. 7:6). Missionary work can do more harm than good, when it is done carelessly and with just anybody. Rather, missionary work that is done with prayer, with intensity towards the inner life, and by example, is the only type that has value.

Second, the Saints loved what they did. They truly loved people, which is why they were able to approach them and converse with them easily and comfortably. Only if you truly love can you understand others, and only then is it possible to be accepted by others. They loved and they even prayed for those anthropomorphic beasts who imprisoned them, tortured them and killed innocent people solely because they had a different faith from theirs and were thus able to domesticate many.

The weapons of the holy Apostles, with which they tore down the strongholds of the devil, the enemy of human salvation, and "conquered", or rather benefited entire peoples, were authentic faith, selfless love and the hope of eternal divine life. These three virtues, which in their original form are the fruit of the Holy Spirit, are inseparable from one another, since they are born from each other. "Love creates passionlessness. Passionlessness gives birth to hope in God. Hope gives birth to patience and long-suffering. These give birth to all temperance. Temperance bears fear of God. Fear gives birth to faith in God" (St. Maximus the Confessor).

In an age like ours, dominated by the arrogance of power which commits the greatest crimes in the name of faith, peace, love and freedom, it is imperative to emphasize the value of genuine Orthodox faith, which creates authentic love, true peace, unconquerable hope, and respect for the human person.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Ἀπόστολοι Ἰάσων καὶ Σωσίπατρος", April 2003. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.