November 18, 2015

Saint Plato of Ancyra as a Model for our Lives

St. Platon of Ancyra (Feast Day - November 18)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Plato was from Ancyra (Ankara) and lived in the late third century. He was born and raised in a wealthy family, but he was frugal, ascetic and merciful. Also he was zealous and inflamed in his earnest work to spread the gospel, at a time when the Church was being persecuted and believers arrested, cruelly tortured and killed. For his actions he was denounced by the prefect Agrippinos, who arrested him and tried to persuade him to renounce his faith, at first with flattery and deceit. He suggested he marry his niece provided, of course, that he renounce his faith and sacrifice to idols. Plato, unsurprisingly, rejected the proposal, boldly confessed his faith in Christ, and did not flinch before his horrible and inhumane torture. He gave a good confession and then sealed it with the blood of martyrdom. After being mercilessly flogged they burned his flesh with lit torches, but because he remained alive they decapitated him and thus he received the unfading crown of martyrdom.

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

First, the saints loved poverty and made it their lifestyle. If they were born poor they did not want to become rich, but they loved poverty and with this lifestyle it went from becoming involuntary to voluntary. They knew very well that, according to the word of the Apostle Paul: "Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evil, and on account of this passion many have fallen away from the faith and invited upon themselves many griefs" (1 Tim. 6:9-10). Those who were born rich became poor voluntarily, having distributed all their belongings to the poor and living frugally and temperately. They applied to their lives the exhortation of the Apostle Paul to his disciple the Apostle Timothy, Bishop of Ephesus: "For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction" (1 Tim. 6:7-8).

The experience of the saints is one of crucifixion and resurrection. This means that the saints experienced the pain of the Cross as well as the joy of the Resurrection of Christ. However, without the Cross there is no Resurrection, nor joy, since the source of true joy is the Cross of Christ, for "through the Cross joy has come to all the world."

The saints in their lives faced varied temptations, and the way they faced them is an example and model for all people, since all have undergone or will undergo temptations in their life. However, whoever lifts their cross and follows Christ, will find inner rest, because the yoke of Christ is easy and light. Christ is near those that follow Him, as well as within them, and He empowers them, strengthens them, simplifying and sweetening their pain, and He truly comforts them. Whoever doesn't want to follow Christ, they will lift the cross of sin, which is heavy and uncomfortable, since a person will find no outside help, strength, consolation, and this results in a person sinking into despair and hopelessness.

Second, each era has its own features and history, which is connected not only with states and nations and the powerful of the earth, but with each individual person who writes their own history, each differing from one another. The personal history of each person relates to themselves, their families as well as their social environment, and the histories of the saints concern the whole world, since the saints - who by their lifestyle are characterized by unconditional love and prayer for the world - do not only belong to their physical family, but they are members of the great family of Adam, so they belong to the whole world. This is why the histories of the saints are also part of ecclesiastical history, since the saints are true members of the Church. True ecclesiastical history is the lives of the saints.

Therefore, those who wish to indulge in Church history should not only deal with external events, which describe, primarily, the falls and mistakes of the passionate and ill members of the Church, but with the Synaxarion, which describes the life and conduct of those members of the Church who have transformed their passions and arrived at communion with God, and are healthy models for our life. At the same time, however, with the lives of the saints, we must also study the Gospels, as well as the writings of the saints, which is the Gospel applied in practice. Saint Porphyrios of Kavsokalyva advises parents to love the sacred Gospel and to encourage their children to do the same because, as he said, "When children love the word of God and study Holy Scripture everyday, together with the lives and words of the saints, then they will learn to avoid telling lies and to speak the truth." He emphatically stressed that "children from a young age must learn to tell the truth, but for this to take place they must learn from a young age to be humble." With the study of Holy Scripture and the writings of the Holy Fathers, together with the lives of the saints, children will learn humility, which belongs to God, and "this is necessary for the human soul. It is something organic. And when it is missing, it is as if something is missing from the organism of the heart. The heart gives life to the entire organism. And humility gives life to the soul."

Whoever has spiritual wealth in the heart, which is the Grace of the Holy Spirit, will love poverty and the poor, which substantially enriches, leading us on the path towards communion with God, namely the finding of meaning for our lives.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Ἅγιος Πλάτων", October 2015. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.