March 2, 2017

Saint Euthalia as a Model for our Lives

Holy Virgin Martyr Euthalia (Feast Day - March 2)

By Archimandrite Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Euthalia lived in Sicily during the early Christian centuries, when persecution raged against the Church. The exact date of her birth and martyrdom are not known. She came from a pagan family. Her mother had an issue of blood and saw in a dream the Holy Martyrs Alpheus, Philadelphus and Cyrinus (May 10), who told her to believe in Christ and be baptized, in order for her to be healed and saved. When she awoke, she told her daughter Euthalia everything she saw and heard in her dream, then they were both catechized and baptized, and indeed after her baptism she was healed. The brother of the Saint, however, was a fanatic idolater, and when he was informed that his mother was baptized a Christian he abused her, and if not for the intervention of her servant he would have killed her. His sister made a harsh comment about his behavior against their mother, then he asked her if she was a Christian also. When she boldly confessed her faith in Christ, her brother struck her mercilessly, then handed her over to a servant that he may rape her. The Saint prayed fervently and that servant was blinded. Then her brother, like another Cain, beheaded her, and so the pious virgin Euthalia received the unfading crown of martyrdom.

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

First, dreams, according to Saint John of Sinai, the author of the Ladder, are "a movement of the mind while the body is at rest." In Holy Scripture we read that righteous people saw dreams that came from God, Who through dreams revealed His will. The devil also, however, works through dreams, by which he has deceived many, which is why the Church through the Holy Fathers urges believers to have no confidence in dreams. If a certain dream comes from God and is not accepted by someone, in order to guard themselves from pride and delusion, then God will inform them another way.

Dreams take place for various reasons. Some of these are related to the events of the prior day, while others come from stomach problems, excessive intake of food, as well as by the synergy of the devil. Saint John of Sinai says that "the heart of gluttons dreams only of food and eatables, but the heart of those who weep dreams of judgment and castigation." Dreams that come from the devil increase pride and create terror, grief, agitation and confusion. The devil tempts proud and passionate people day and night, while awake and while asleep. Repentance, humility and prayer are the stronger weapons against the devil, which prevents him from creating problems in any way, including dreams. Those who struggle to live in repentance, and generally in accordance with the will of God, their dreams "are associated with the future judgment" and do not cause terror, but peace and quiet.

We have written about dreams in previous articles. What we mainly want to emphasize here, and should be given particular attention, is that dreams should be given no importance or trust. What we need is hope in God and full confidence in His Providence.

Second, sicknesses are inevitable in people's lives, because from the time of our birth we carry within us decay and death. We have to realize this and be prepared, so as not to be caught unawares by sicknesses and death. Sickness, when faced with patience, helps people mature. And when during the course of sickness people do not complain, are not indignant, but pray and give thanksgiving to God, then the taste of the sweetness of the uncreated Grace of God fills their hearts with consolation and serenity. To beg God to release us from sickness is not bad, but it is best to ask Him to give us strength and patience to endure till the end. With patience, the involuntary passions become voluntary and so we participate in the Passion of Christ. For whoever wants to become a partaker of the glory of Christ must also become a partaker of His sufferings.

The Saints did not arrive at theosis without trouble or pain, but they tasted many and various temptations in life and unbearable physical illness. They faced them all, however, with patience and trust in the love of God, which is why they were glorified. As an example, we will include a small excerpt from an epistle of Basil the Great to Saint Eusebius, Bishop of Samosata, in which this great Father of the Church describes how he was afflicted by physical illness, and certainly was not the only one.

"This day, on which our beloved and excellent brother and deacon, Elpidius, has arrived, is the fiftieth of my illness. I am much reduced by the fever. For lack of what it might feed on, it lingers in this dry flesh as in an expiring wick, and so has brought on a wasting and tedious illness. Next my old plague, the liver, coming upon it, has kept me from taking nourishment, prevented sleep, and held me on the confines of life and death, granting just life enough to feel its inflictions. In consequence I have had recourse to the hot springs, and have availed myself of help from medical men. But for all these the mischief has proved too strong. Perhaps another man might endure it, but, coming as it did unexpectedly, no one is so stout as to bear it. Long troubled by it as I have been, I have never been so distressed as now at being prevented by it from meeting you and enjoying your true friendship" (Letter 138).

Saint Paisios said to someone who suffered from heart failure and begged God for healing, the following remarkable words: "Have patience. Do not ask for healing. You have a checkbook in heaven and making deposits into it; do not want to close it. Have patience." This advice/exhortation let us try to apply in our lives.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Παρθενομάρτυς Εὐθαλία", February 2015. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.