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May 4, 2020

Saint Ahmed the Calligrapher as a Model for our Lives

St. Ahmed the New Martyr (Feast Day - May 3)

By Protopresbyter George Papavarnavas

Saint Ahmed lived in Constantinople in the seventeenth century and was a scribe for the Chief Accountant. He had a Russian slave who was an Orthodox Christian, whom he allowed to go to church on major feasts. But when she would return from church, he noticed an unspeakable scent coming out of her mouth, so he asked her what she was eating that made her mouth so fragrant. She replied that she ate antidron and drank holy water. As soon as he heard this, he invited an Orthodox clergyman and told him to prepare a place for him to go to church, when the Patriarch would officiate.

So he went to the Divine Liturgy and at the moment when the Patriarch was blessing the people, saying "Peace be unto all", he saw rays of light coming out of his fingers and sitting on everyone's heads, except his own. As soon as he saw this miracle, he asked to know the faith of the Christians. Indeed, he was catechized, baptized, but for a long time he did not reveal his faith. However, at a gathering where the business tycoons were arguing over who among them was the greatest, when asked to give his opinion, Ahmed cried out that the greatest of all was the faith of the Christians, and with a very loud voice he confessed the basic truths of the gospel. He was then arrested by the Turkish authorities and, because he remained steadfast in his faith, was subjected to horrific torture, and was eventually hanged.

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

First, the Orthodox Church is the "One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church," which possesses the authentic faith that is a revelation of the Triune God. And this faith, when experienced in the right way, gives inner fulfillment and meaning to life. Whoever seeks this faith with good intention will surely find it, because God does not overlook those simple and pure souls who seek Him with a good disposition and desire to know Him, and at the right moment He reveals Himself to them. He does not reveal Himself to those who do not seek Him, because He does not want to violate their freedom, and most importantly because He does not want to destroy them. For those who do not have the necessary preconditions to accept Him, that is, repentance and inner purity, His presence for them will not be illuminating, but caustic. He will not be a light that will illuminate them, but a fire that will consume them. That is why Christ, after His Resurrection, did not appear to His crucifiers to astonish and crush them, but appeared to His Mother, His Disciples, and the Myrrhbearing women, that is, to those who believed in Him as the God-man, who truly loved Him, freely, sacrificially, and had the opportunity to see Him in His glory, and this vision became for them light and life and not fire, that is, Paradise and not Hell.

When the Bishop or the Priest bless the faithful in the Divine Liturgy, saying "Peace be unto all", then they all accept the peace of God, but this inward peace is not for everyone, but for those who are "children of peace". Luke the Evangelist mentions that when Christ sent His disciples to preach the gospel, He told them: “Whatever house you enter, begin by saying, ‘Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you." That is, he told them to give peace to the people in whose houses they were entering. He knew, however, that not everyone was ready to accept the peace of God, so He told them that if there was no "child of peace" there, that is, one who has the ability to accept peace, then the peace will return to you.

In other words, in order to feel the peace of God in one's heart, one must have the right spiritual antennas, so that one can tune in to the frequency to which God transmits, and that frequency is, as Saint Paisios the Athonite would say, humility and love.

Second, the Apostle Paul in his Second Epistle to the Corinthians writes, among other things, that "we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life." Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite, interpreting this verse, says that "the meaning of these words is that some are saved from the preaching of the gospel, or they are lost, but the gospel remains the same, and always has its own virtue and aroma, and those who preach it always remain what they are, that is, the aroma of Christ." Those who are lost are "lost by their own unbelief and bad intentions." And he goes on to say that "as the light, even if it blinds the diseased eyes, it is still light, and honey, even if it seems bitter to those with distorted and spoiled taste, it is still sweet honey; it is the same with the gospel, it is always fragrant and brings salvation, even if some are lost by not believing in it."

The Saints are indeed "the aroma of Christ" and they fragrance the world with an inexpressible fragrance, which comes from the Grace of the Holy Spirit who dwells in their whole being, both in their soul and in their body. After the departure of their soul from their body, this Grace remains in the body, which gives forth a fragrance. And when their bodies are dissolved, their holy relics, despite the fact that they look like "bare bones" on the outside, nevertheless they are fragrant and work miracles, and thus "our true God" is glorified. Therefore, the saints fragrance people with their life and conduct, as well as with their divinely inspired words, with an inexpressible fragrance.

Those who do have the ability to smell this fragrance feel that their hearts are flooded with spiritual joy and gladness, but also that their desire for sincere repentance and unceasing prayer increases. And they literally burn as incense in the fire of God's love and give forth a fragrance "throughout the universe."

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.