May 12, 2020

Saint Theodore of Kythera as a Model for our Lives

By Protopresbyter George Papavarnavas

Saint Theodore was from Koroni in the Peloponnese and lived at the end of the ninth century and beginning of the tenth century. His mother was barren, which is why she prayed and begged God, together with her husband, to grant them a child. And when they became worthy of their desire, they gave him the name Theodore, because to them he was a gift from God. After Theodore learned sacred letters, he was ordained a Reader by the Bishop of Koroni. When his parents reposed, he was placed under the protection of a Priest from Nafplio, who had been friends with his parents. He later married, and from his marriage he had two children, whom he and his wife raised "in the education and admonition of the Lord." Later, he was ordained Deacon by the Bishop of Argos and with his blessing he went to Rome and venerated the places of the martyrs. Upon his return, he went to Monemvasia where he remained for some time in a secluded cell where he lived in asceticism and prayer. Then, despite the request of his family to not live in asceticism too far away, he decided to go to a remote place, because he loved silence and wanted to dedicate himself completely to God. Eventually he went to Kythera, where at that time it was considered a "deserted" and "uninviting" place, after it was abandoned by its inhabitants due to the raids of the Saracens of Crete, and he lived as a monk in the old Christian Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus.

It is worth noting that several years after his death, this church was rebuilt by the Monemvasians and was dedicated to the memory of Saint Theodore, and over time a Monastery was created. Around 1630 it was renovated by Bishop Athanasios of Kythera, and various modifications and additions were made to it.

His end was seen as venerable and peaceful.

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

First, children are a gift from God to their parents and this is how they should consider them, and be thankful for them continuously to the Gift-giver. They should not be received as their property, that is, as something that belongs to them and with whom they can do whatever they want, but they should try to raise them with love and freedom. This is very important, because love without freedom is tyranny, just as freedom without love is anarchy. This, after all, is true education (which gives birth to a sacrificial ethos, which is characterized by true freedom, which is mainly an internal state and is acquired when the passions are conquered and transformed) and true love (which by its nature is sacrificial). This means that those who experience inner freedom and true love serve others and sacrifice for them and do not sacrifice others for their own good. Where there is true love, "justice" and "human rights" do not prevail, but people try to offer each other as much as they can, and literally sacrifice themselves for each other. But when their love is "cooled" due to the passions, and especially of the great passion of pride, then everyone asks for their "rights", and they even resort to the courts to find their "justice".

We are living, unfortunately, in an age where indifference to others and the demand for our "rights" prevails. The distancing from God enslaves man to the devil and passions, which are the unnatural movements of the forces of the soul. This is a mental and spiritual illness. The Church, through the way of life she teaches, heals man, when he follows her way of life of his own free will, and she leads him from the unnatural to the natural, and then to the supernatural, which is union with God, who is the source of life, light and love. And the way of life that the Church teaches is asceticism, that is, the application of all the commandments of Christ, the study of the divine Scriptures, which creates inspiration, the sacramental life, and, most importantly, the reception of the Body and Blood of Christ, with its required preconditions, and prayer. Thus, man is renewed, revived, empowered, and can face the difficulties, temptations, and problems of everyday life, without being disappointed and dominated by ignorance and despair. Many times the problems of our present life pass us by and it is impossible to face them with our own limited strength, without the help from "above", without the power and Grace of God. That is why the man who places his hope in God is blessed, because he will never be disappointed, he will not be subjected to various temptations, no matter how great they may be, but with the power of God he will defeat them and overcome them.

Second, it is not easy to be locked in a confined space on your own without human companionship. But many times the presence of people, even relatives and friends, creates various problems, since coexistence is not always easy. In order to be able to live alone, and to be able to coexist with others, one must make a great effort to overcome one's passions, and this can only be achieved through the power and Grace of God, who seeing the struggle against them will strengthen him, He will give him grace and He will strengthen him.

It is not easy for man to live alone in the wilderness, when he carries within him "the rage of the passions." In order to be able to live alone, he must have deep repentance, unceasing prayer and spiritual courage, and then he will not feel alone, because he will be united with God and will be accompanied by the saints and the angels. Then he will be "separated from all", but also "more united with all", since he will pray for the whole human race.

He will be overwhelmed with spiritual joy, and he will sense all people, as well as all creation, as a gift from God, which he will respect and love.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.