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June 1, 2015

Saint Justin the Philosopher and Martyr as a Model for our Lives

St. Justin the Philosopher (Feast Day - June 1)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Justin was born about a hundred years after the birth of Christ and was raised in a pagan environment. But his restless spirit could not find rest in the darkness and falsehood of idolatry, so he would continuously seek the light of truth and true wisdom. He prayed to the true God, believing that He existed, and he begged Him to make him worthy to come to know Him. With the perspicacity of his mind, and especially the goodness and purity of his heart, he understood that idols were lifeless, and having no life they could not transfuse life and satisfy the deep longing of humanity, which is the thirst for life. They were not people, they could not see, they could not hear, they could not speak, therefore it was impossible for him to have personal communication with them. He was unable to converse with them, to share his joy and reveal his pain to find support, consolation and meaning in life. For this reason he sought out the living God, who is a Person, and, if a person wants, they could have personal communication with Him. Eventually he recognized Him in the Person of Christ, who revealed Himself with the signs of the Cross, with the "marks of the nails," humble and meek, full of love and wounds, yet almighty.

We know from Holy Scripture and the experience of the Church that God never abandons a person who has good intentions and searches for Him with faith. Rather, He arranges various means, depending on the particular gifts of each person, to lead them on the path of the knowledge of God. For Saint Justin, the means was a meeting and acquaintance with a holy ascetic. This acquaintance, externally, was completely accidental. But it wasn't. Nothing is accidental in our lives, but their cause is the providence and love of God, who works out our salvation and provides for us each individually. Everything that happens in our lives, therefore, takes place according to the good pleasure and delegation of God, without ever infringing on our freedom, because God respects our freedom like no other. Therefore, the responsibility for everything that happens to us is on us, since there is no violation of our free will. According to the theology of our Orthodox Church, the will of God in our lives takes place "according to the good pleasure and delegation" of God. Some things that happen to us, God desires and blesses, while others He simply allows, and grants our made, because in no way does He want to infringe on our freedom. So also did Saint Justin come to know the holy ascetic, according to divine good pleasure, and by him he was taught theology, which is true philosophy, since it is a revelation of God Himself, and not a human discovery.

Justin the Philosopher, with his intelligence and above all his zeal, was distinguished by his progress in wisdom and virtue to such a degree, that he was made worthy of shedding his blood for Christ, whom he came to empirically know and genuinely love. He was indeed a philosopher in the true sense of the word, namely a lover of wisdom, both with a lower case "w" and Wisdom with an upper case "W". This means that he was wise in what he studied and learned in regards to human knowledge and wisdom, but primarily because he loved Christ, who is the Wisdom of God personified. Authentic wisdom, like authentic love, peace, truth, etc., has hypostasis, it is a Person, and that Person is Christ. Justin the Martyr was full of the fear of God, which is the beginning and foundation of Wisdom. This fear has nothing to do with cowardice, but instead it is spiritual bravery, respect and love.

The life and conduct of the people of God is unlike that of the people of the world, who are attached to the "herein", namely this present life, and they face everyday events myopically and according to their individual interests. They are different because the saints see and face events within the prism of eternity. And over individual interests they place not just the public interest, which of course they do, but they mainly place their unconditional love and spiritual interest. They treat people like persons and not individuals, as if they are part of a crowd. This is why they are envied, warred against, and often killed, socially or also biologically. This is what happened to Justin the Philosopher. He was envied by pseudo-philophers, slandered and killed. Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite says in his Synaxaristes that "he was envied by the philosopher Crescens and was secretly killed by him, and thus the blessed one received the crown of the contest."

True philosophy, which is the theology of the Orthodox Church, which was held by Saint Justin, is the experience and attitude toward life, helping a person properly face other people and everyday events in life. Because it offers the method that leads to internal regeneration and the transformation of a person from an individual to a person. Unselfish love and internal freedom, which are characteristic features of a person, create inner fullness, leading to the transcendence of death and the war against social inequality and injustice, through a society of persons.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Ἰουστῖνος ὁ Φιλόσοφος καὶ Μάρτυς", June 2001. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.