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November 22, 2019

Saint Menignos the Fuller as a Model for our Lives

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Menignos lived in the 3rd century A.D., during the reign of Emperor Decius. He was from Colonia on the Hellespont, from the city of Parion, named this way because it was founded by residents of the island of Paros, and it was between Kyzikos and Lampsakos. He was a fuller by trade, that is, a launderer who washed and cleaned clothes. During that time a great persecution broke out against the Christians, and among those who gave their confession of Christ and sealed it with their blood was Menignos.

When Menignos heard that imprisoned Christians were freed in a wondrous manner, the flame of faith rose within him. While he was at the river washing clothes, he heard a voice calling his name and saying: "Menignos, come to Me and I will give you much grace." This startled and troubled the Saint, but he continued working. Then a second time he heard: "Menignos, come to Me, and you will receive the good things prepared for those who love My name." He then immediately departed full of joy, handed over the washed clothes, and presented himself before the ruler. With boldness and courage he confessed his faith in Christ, saying to the eparch that the emperor is not a god, as he was saying, but the only true God was the one worshiped by the Christians. He was the one who freed the Christians from prison and grants eternal life. For this he was subjected to horrific torture, which he endured with prayer, and finally he was beheaded.

The faithful, with many precautions, took his relic and buried it, but did not take his head. Then the Saint appeared to one of them and said, "You were in a hurry to take of my relic and forgot my head, with which I confessed Christ." Then they went back to the place of the martyrdom and despite the fact that it was very dark at night, they did not find it difficult to find the head, since a bright star shined upon it, and they buried it with his sacred relic.

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

In the synaxarion of the Saint we find among other things the following verses:

The head of Menignos the Fuller was cut off by the sword,
You were like a cloth. Although filthy, you were washed.

In other words, Menignos the Fuller, by having his head cut off by the sword, washed and cleansed himself of filth just as he washed and cleaned clothes. By washing and cleansing himself through his confession and martyrdom of his passions and sins, which he possessed as any man does, he was able to present himself cleansed before the Lord.

The blood of martyrdom cleanses people of all filthy passions and sins. We must stress here that besides water baptism, there is also the baptism by blood. There were many martyrs who were never baptized in water, since they had been pagans beforehand, but upon witnessing the martyrdoms of the Christians and having witnessed their gentleness, calmness and inner peace as well as seeing the miraculous events taking place, they believed and confessed their faith in Christ also which resulted in the immediate spilling of their blood for Christ. Their martyrdom by blood cleansed them of every filthy passion and sin, and their souls flew to heavenly places cleansed. Apart from martyrdom by blood, there is also the martyrdom of the conscience, which consists of the application of all the commandments of Christ, obedience to the Church, and patience during the troubles we face in life, without complaints but rather giving glory to God.

Basil the Great says that the martyrdom of the conscience was experienced by the martyrs by willingly being killed and persecuted. He stresses that the martyrdom of the conscience is a continuous struggle for people in order to attain perfection in Christ, as well as patience in our every day problems and difficulties of life. The result of the ascetic life is the cleansing of the passions, illumination of the nous, and the gracing of the ascetics with gifts of the Holy Spirit. Saint Theodore the Studite says that the martyrdom of the conscience is none other than the ascetic life, which is the struggle against sin and the passions, the attempt to control thoughts, and war against the demons. Elder Sophrony of Essex, in his book on Saint Silouan, refers to a pious man (probably Saint Silouan) who all his life entreated the Lord to be found worthy of a martyric death. When the time came for his peaceful repose, he said with sadness: "The Lord did not hear my prayer." As soon as he uttered these words, however, he was informed that his whole life was a martyrdom, and thus his prayer was heard. The martyrdom of the conscience, in contrast to the martyrdom by blood, could last a lifetime.

The gospel is for everyone. Therefore, in any place where people live, no matter what kind of life they live, and occupy themselves with any occupation, they could, at the same time, be a martyr of conscience, a fuller or launderer of themselves, as well as others, when they love and pray for them. Saint Menignos offers us the message of becoming fullers of both ourselves and our fellow human beings. Of course, of ourselves first of all, because who can help others get clean, if they are not clean themselves or struggling to get clean? One must first strive to cleanse one's self in order to be able to cleanse others, as St. Gregory the Theologian puts it, "cleanse yourself first then cleanse others."

A martyric life means a heavenly life. Because Christ sweetens the pain, dries the tears, graces the contest of the athlete and transforms the heart into a paradise, where He reigns in love, peace and joy.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.