September 18, 2016

Saint Eumenios of Gortyna as a Model for our Lives

St. Eumenios of Gortyna (Feast Day - September 18)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Eumenios was from Crete. He probably lived before 732 A.D., when Crete was ecclesiastically dependent on Rome probably between 667 and 680. This is extracted from the fact that the Saint reconciled the emperors Constantine IV Pogonatos, Heraclius and Tiberius, as we read in his Service composed by Joseph the Hymnographer.

From his youth Saint Eumenios was dedicated with much diligence to asceticism and prayer. He was distinguished for his deep humility, not calumniating and not judging anyone, nor did he allow anyone to criticize others in front of him. That is, he strictly applied the words of the sacred Psalmist: "I will silence whoever secretly slanders his neighbor" (Ps. 101:5 LXX).

He humbly accepted, under pressure, to become a Bishop and shepherd his flock with wisdom and love.

Once he visited Rome and and made the faith of the Christians there firm with his divinely-wise teachings and many miracles which he accomplished with the Grace of God.

On his return he passed through the Thebaid, where, like another Prophet Elijah, he put an end to the drought that prevailed there with his prayers and gave relief to the suffering people there who lacked water. While in the Thebaid he departed to the Lord at an old age. Christians in the region, although they loved the Saint, found that they should not hold on to the body, so they sent it back to his flock in Gortyna, where he was buried next to the venerable relics of his predecessor, Saint Cyril.

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

First, to condemn others, to calumniate and to despise your neighbor are great sins, but also serious social plagues - just like every sin - because the one who commits them causes injury to themselves, since they cut themselves off from communion with God and lose His Grace, but they also cause problems to other people in the body of society. They also hurt themselves by delivering themselves towards temptation, since whoever condemns, criticizes and despises others, then falls into great temptation, which results in suffering and torment, until they are humbled, repent and correct themselves.

The Holy Fathers of the Church stress the devastating effects of condemnation, calumniation and despising others, and they urge the faithful to avoid them like they would avoid poisonous snakes.

Abba Dorotheos, an ascetic of the eighth century, in his discourse "That We Should Not Judge Others," says: "Nothing angers God so much or strips a man so bare or carries him so effectively to his ruin as calumniating, condemning, or despising his neighbor." He then makes a distinction between the three, stating that it is one thing to calumniate, another thing to condemn and another to despise. He says: "Calumny is saying that so-and-so has told a lie, or got into a rage, or gone whoring, or the like. A man has already committed calumny if he speaks about his brother's sins as if with sympathy. Condemning a man is saying he is a wicked liar, or he is an angry man, or he is a fornicator. For in this way one judges the condition of his soul and draws a conclusion about his whole life, saying it is of such a kind and condemns him as such. This is a very serious thing... But there are times when we not only condemn but also despise a man; for it is one thing to condemn and quite another to despise, as I have said. Contempt adds to condemnation the desire to set someone at nought — as if the neighbor were a bad smell which has to be got rid of as something disgusting, and this is worse than rash judgment and exceedingly destructive." And he concludes by saying: "Those who want to be saved scrutinize not the shortcomings of their neighbor but always their own and they set about eliminating them."

During the period of Holy and Great Lent the Church urges us to pray a wonderfully devout prayer which we address to God: "O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk. But give rather the spirit of prudence, humility, patience, and love to Your servant. Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother, for You are blessed, unto ages of ages."

Whoever repents and laments for their own sins, will not occupy themselves with the sins of others. They do not calumniate, they do not condemn and they do not despise anyone but themselves, and so they are led towards repentance, prudence, humility, patience and love.

Second, drought on the earth from lack of rain creates many problems for people, as well as for creation, because without water there is no life. With the rain, however, not only is it watered, but it nourishes people, animals, trees and plants, because when it rains the earth sprouts, becomes fruitful, and offers its fruits. Therefore, when a Saint prays and God hears their prayer and puts an end to drought on the earth by sending rain, then this man of God becomes a benefactor of mankind, since he irrigates and nourishes. However the Saints do not only solve the external drought of the earth, but the internal drought of the soul, because by their writings and words, and especially by their bright example, they nourish and refresh souls, which because of the heat of the passions and sin they are dried up and sterile and without spiritual fruit. And when someone is spiritually nourished and their thirst is quenched with the lives and writings of the Saints, and they learn to pray, then with prayer and asceticism and the sacramental life, we attract into our hearts the "dew" of the Holy Spirit, which causes pleasure, sweetness, joy and peace.

People of God never condemn anyone. They are strict with themselves and lenient with others. They are also the greatest benefactors of humanity, since they truly love humanity, irrigating and nourishing it both spiritually and physically, not only preserving life, but giving fullness and completeness of life.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Ἅγιος Εὐμένιος Ἐπίσκοπος Γορτύνης", August 2016. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.