September 4, 2015

Saint Hermione the Prophetess as a Model for our Lives

St. Hermione the Physician (Feast Day - September 4)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Hermione was one of the four daughters of Saint Philip the Deacon. According to Acts of the Apostles, the Apostles told the people to elect seven deacons, whom they ordained to serve in the agape meals, which was a common meal Christians would participate in. One of those deacons was Saint Philip, who was led by the Holy Spirit to catechize and baptize the Ethiopian eunuch of Candace on his return from Jerusalem (the other six deacons were Stephen the Protomartyr, Prochoros, Nikanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicholas). This deacon Philip had four daughters, who were virgins and prophetesses. Two of them, Hermione and Eutyches, went to Ephesus to meet with the Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian, to receive his blessing and learn from him. Since, however, they did not catch him on time, because he was transpositioned to the heavenly mansions, they met with Petronios, a disciple of the Apostle John, who became their guide and teacher in the spiritual life.

Besides being a prophetess, namely a God-taught theologian, Saint Hermione was also aware of medical science, which she performed diligently and made sure to heal people in both their souls and bodies. As a prophetess, she led them on the path of repentance and communion with God with the power of the word of God, and as a physician she healed them of physical illnesses. Even illnesses that medical science was unable to heal, the Saint healed by invoking the name of Christ.

The fame of Saint Hermione spread not only throughout Ephesus, but in almost all of Asia Minor, and many who were sick ran to her, finding healing without discrimination. Fanatical pagans, however, arrested her and brought her before Emperor Trajan, who was on his way to fight against the Parthians (114 A.D.) and was passing through Ephesus. The Saint confessed before him her faith in Christ, with boldness and courage, and he ordered her to be beaten. Having endured the beating with admirable fortitude she then, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, told Trajan that he would defeat the Parthians. When he heard this he was pleased, so he let her go free.

Thus, Saint Hermione continued to preach the gospel and to heal people until she was arrested again by Hadrian, Trajan's successor, who ordered her to be tortured harshly. They threw her into a cauldron with boiling molten tar and sulfur, but she remained unharmed. They then placed her on a frying pan. When they once again saw that she was invulnerable they brought her to the pagan temple to sacrifice to idols, but the idols fell and demolished. Then they attempted to behead her, but this did not take place because the hands of the two executioners, Theodoulos and Theotimos, became paralyzed. The Saint healed them and they confessed their faith in Christ, which they sealed with the blood of their martyrdom. And before other executioners arrived to behead her, Christ received her holy soul, and her body was buried by the faithful of Ephesus.

Her life and conduct gives us the opportunity to highlight the following:

Those who know Christ "in the Holy Spirit" and have tasted of His humility and love, pray, as Saint Silouan the Athonite says, with love and pain for all people, as well as for all of creation. And depending on the gifts they have, which are gifts of God, they help people indiscriminately. They take care to console them, support them, ease their pain and lead them on the path to healing, regeneration and communion with God. Hence, they become physicians of the illnesses of the soul, and often times even of the body, which are cured by Christ after their God-persuading prayers. Also people who studied medical science, which deals with the treatment of the body, when they are conscious members of the Church and they pray, can offer many things to people. Indeed, with their medical knowledge they heal physical illnesses, within their capabilities, but also with their peaceful demeanor they support and strengthen the sick, giving them joy, consolation and courage. Thus they are for all people, especially the poor and weak - "the least of Christ's brethren" - a support and true blessing.

The struggle of people in the Church, which takes place with asceticism, prayer and the sacramental life, has as its aim for people to acquire communion with Christ, Who is "the Physician of our souls and bodies", and in this way they can be healed of their passions, their thoughts and their subjugation to creation and material goods. And when they succeed in treating the illnesses of their soul, they are released or relieved from their physical illnesses, which often are due to the illnesses of the soul. It is natural for the soul to influence the body and the body the soul, since people are psychosomatic beings, and "when the body is sick so is the soul", and vice versa. For example, pain in the vital organs of the human body, such as the head, stomach, etc., are often due to our thoughts, especially when we don't know how to face them properly, as well as through worries which come from our passions and the various difficulties in life.

The health of the body is a valuable good, even though loss often times leads a person to repentance and salvation. An even more valuable good is the health of the soul, which is immortal by grace, and so we need more diligence and care.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Ἁγία Ἑρμιόνη ἡ ἰατρός", August 2014. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.