November 15, 2016

Holy Martyrs Gurias, Samonas and Habibus as Models for our Lives

Sts. Gurias, Samonas and Habibus (Feast Day - November 15)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saints Gurias and Samonas lived during the reign of Diocletian. They were pious men, "full of the Holy Spirit and faith." They preached Christ with zeal, and during the cruel persecution against the Church they were arrested by the governor Antoninus. With boldness and courage they gave a good confession of the faith and they endured cruel tortures with fortitude and patience. At the end they were beheaded and in this way they delivered their souls into the hands of God.

Saint Habibus was born in Edessa of Asia Minor shortly after this, during the reign of Emperor Licinius. He had missionary zeal. After being ordained a deacon he preached his faith with boldness, strengthening and comforting the faithful, and he was beneficial to all. He had the gift of being able to communicate with people, that is, being able to understand them and to be understood, at least the well-intentioned. And with his graceful words, bright example, and the miracles he did by the grace of God, he attracted many pagans to the true faith. Arrested by the governor, he confessed with boldness his faith, and with the patience of Job he faced cruel torture. Full of wounds they threw him into a fire, and thus he was offered as a burnt offering to the Trinity.

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

First, the lives of the saints are nothing other than the gospel applied in practice. The saints loved God with all their soul, all their heart, all their strength and all their mind, and consequently people as well, and even their enemies, "in the Holy Spirit." This "in the Holy Spirit" must be emphasized, because no one can love and confess God, nor love other people, especially enemies, unless it is done "in the Holy Spirit." This is what Saint Silouan the Athonite writes, saying that the Holy Spirit teaches us to love our enemies, and without the Holy Spirit it is impossible to love our enemies. And Saint John of Kronstadt, as a spiritual father, as well as an excellent educator, loved the sinner who repented sincerely, and he said that in order to be a successful spiritual father and teacher, one must truly be able to love people.

"Many educators," he would say, "are used to calling their students their children, but authentic love is not always hiding behind this expression, because it is not easy to love children that are not yours as if they are your own. No one can truly call someone their child that is not their child except in the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth and love." Perhaps even our children according to the flesh we cannot truly love, with pure and unconditional love, a love which respects their freedom, unless the grace of the Holy Spirit dwells and is energized in their hearts. True love, says Saint John of Kronstadt, is that "which feeds on the love for Christ, and the flame of this love is continuously fanned by the grace of the Holy Spirit, which is why it is authentic and it never fails. Within this love is hidden an inexhaustible sweetness and a complete joy." Conversely, false love, as well as the natural love of a parent for their child, is something that diminishes, changes and vanishes.

Second, one of the biggest problems among people, who make their life difficult or unbearable, is that of communication, that is, people who find it difficult to communicate with others and understand others, especially over big and serious issues. This is due to a different way of thinking, which affects different living conditions, and especially it is due to human passions, such as avarice, sensuality and vanity, which come from selfishness.

For two people to be able to communicate with each other, they must have sound brakes, because someone damaged in their brain, either from sickness or demonic influence, does not understand anything no matter what you say. It is also necessary that they speak the same language. And by this I do not mean they must speak Greek or English or any other language, but when they hear the pronunciation of words or expressions they must understand the same things. Because sometimes words and expressions are understood differently, due to their origins or different positioning on certain subjects. There is of course the situation where someone does not want to understand, even if they understand the true dimension of the issues, because they want to harm the interests of others. Then, when nobody talks to each other, we should have the disposal to be understanding, and not try to impose our views on others or our conclusions. And if they are truly understanding, they should try to place themselves in the position of others.

People today are for the most part doleful and frustrated because they cannot easily find someone who is willing to listen to their pain and to be understood by others. A spiritual father told me that he received someone in confession who told him: "I have no one that listens to me without interrupting me, nor am I able to speak with my friends, because they constantly interrupt me and talk to me about themselves, and I see in their gaze their unwillingness to listen to my pain. So please, before I confess, I want you to listen to me for about twenty minutes, without interrupting me, and then put on your stole so I can confess."

The lives of the saints, therefore, are nothing other than the gospel applied in practice. And the gospel nourishes and strengthens us spiritually, which is the only way of understanding and harmonious coexistence among people.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Μάρτυρες καί Ὁμολογητές Γουρίας, Σαμωνᾶς καί Ἄβιβος", October 2016. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.