August 10, 2019

Saints Lawrence the Archdeacon, Sixtus the Pope of Rome and Hippolytus as Models for our Lives

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

These three Saints lived in the third century. Archdeacon Lawrence was one of the most famous clerics of the Church of old Rome. He was a man of many and varied gifts, which he used for the glory of Christ and His Church. Among other things, he also took charge of the ecclesiastical administration. There was a severe persecution against the members of the Church, during the reign of Emperor Decius, and Pope Sixtus II of Rome, a genuine imitator of the Chief-Shepherd Christ, led his flock and was the first to sacrifice himself. He confessed his faith in Christ with a great deal of courage, and after severe torture he was beheaded. Archdeacon Lawrence was subsequently arrested, and confessed his faith in Christ with courage and boldness. It is worth noting that, when they arrested him, before torturing him, because they had learned that he was managing the Church's property, they ordered him to surrender its treasures. He accepted and went to bring them. After some time he returned with carriages, each of which was full of poor people, widows, the disabled and orphans. And to the question of the governor as to why he brought them all before him, he replied that all the treasures of the Church were reserved in them. Then the furious pagans rushed against him and roasted him alive on a large rack. What was left of his martyric remains were gathered by a pious Christian, whose name was Hippolytus, and buried with proper reverence and honor. When this event became known, the ruler ordered him to be arrested and severely tortured. They tied him to wild horses, where they dragged him on stones and thorns, and so he ended in martyrdom his earthly life.

Their lives and their conduct give us the opportunity to highlight the following.

First, the most valuable treasure of a person is not material wealth, which easily vanishes and is lost, but it is that which must exist in the depth of their existence. Indeed it exists in the hearts of people who struggle to live in accordance with the will of God, and try, with asceticism, the sacramental life and prayer, to transform their passions, so that "Christ may be formed in them," and they become temples of the Holy Spirit.

This inner treasure is seen and understood only by those with spiritual eyes and the ability to penetrate deep into the existence of people and to see that which is invisible. In other words, whoever has a pure and illuminated nous, which is the eye of the soul, and is the organ through which "God is seen and His light is understood," these are able to see the glory of God and through divine grace are able to see the inner man, as the Apostle Paul calls it, and this inner man is hidden from the sight of sinners, namely carnal people. The Apostle Peter calls this the "the hidden heart of man." That is to say, as mentioned above, in addition to the external features of a human being, which can be seen, there is also an invisible inner life, a hidden spiritual treasure, "the hidden heart of man, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight."

This treasure of great worth is in reality the uncreated grace of God, which dwells and remains in a pure heart, floods people with selfless love, and is offered without expectation of a return. Then a person with philanthropy, mercy and service to their neighbor gains heavenly treasures. These heavenly treasures are eternal, and they are safe from all decay, and from thieves, because these heavenly treasures "neither moth nor rust corrupt" nor do "thieves break in and steal." In this situation people have given their hearts entirely to God, because, as Christ Himself says, "where your treasure is, there your heart is also."

Therefore, let us love this incorrupt treasure of much worth, especially its source, namely the Triune God.

Second, a true leader is one who rises up, leads their people, takes care of them, and is especially ready to sacrifice themselves for them. Usually worldly leaders are seen as sovereigns by the people and not as their servants, in accordance with the words of Christ, who sought to teach His disciples how to behave, that they should not be sovereigns, but servants. At the request of the two Zebedee brothers who asked to sit at His right and left side, when He "came in His glory," who in reality wanted to have a seat above the other ten disciples, He referred to rulers of the world, and showed the disciples the right way of exercising authority. He told them: "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Therefore, the work of a true leader is service towards others in imitation of Christ, serving their flock and ready to sacrifice themselves for them. Also, to guide and inspire their flock in good works, especially leading them along the path of the will of God, finding the meaning of life, and finally salvation, which is eternal rest in divine grace.

The treasury of the heart is intimately connected with the treasury of heaven, and the hope of future good things with service towards others. Especially our love and service to the least of Christ's brethren.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.