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November 4, 2020

Saint Porphyrios the Mime as a Model for our Lives


By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Porphyrios came from Ephesus in Asia Minor and lived in the 3rd century AD. From a young age he was raised with the mimes in the theaters and became a great man in his field. A mime is one who today is called an actor, but the word "mime" before it came to denote an actor meant in ancient times the theatrical text itself, which was a short dialogue with scenes from mythology or everyday life.

At the time when Saint Porphyrios lived, the Emperor of Rome was Aurelian, who was considered cruel, inhuman and full of hatred for the Church. For this reason, among the other measures he took against it, he ordered the mimes to mimic on stage the faith, the martyrdoms and the mysteries of the Christians. Porphyrios was made by the Prefect of Caesarea, Alexander, the head of the actors of that area and gave many performances in which he imitated the Church and its Mysteries. In one performance he intended to act out the Mystery of Baptism, which is why the actors who were with him disguised themselves as Bishops, Priests, Deacons and Chanters. Porphyrios, the lead, was the man who was to be baptized. He therefore approached the font with pretended seriousness, entered the water, and he who disguised himself as the Bishop baptized him in the name of the Holy Trinity. When he came out of the font, Porphyrios wore a white garment, like the newly baptized, but did not continue his role, as he had planned. That is, he did not start mocking Christ and the Church, but remained motionless and looked ecstatic, because something unexpected happened. What happened? As soon as Porphyrios came out of the font, Angels of God appeared before him, dressed in white, and holding candles, they chanted with indescribable joy, "Those who have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. Alleluia". And then they taught the newly baptized one how to make the sign of the Cross on his forehead and body. The spectators who claimed to see this miracle believed in Christ, openly confessed their faith and sealed their confession with the blood of their martyrdom.

Porphyrios was arrested and called to confess his faith in idols, but overwhelmed by the Grace of the Holy Spirit, he confessed Christ openly. After the tortures, he was beheaded and thus received the crown of martyrdom from the prize-giver Christ.

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

First, the Mystery of Baptism is performed together with the Mystery of Chrismation. With Baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity, a person becomes a member of the Church of Christ, and with the Chrismation he receives the Grace of the Holy Spirit and is illumined, which is why Baptism is also called Illumination. After the third immersion in the font, the priest anoints the newly baptized with the Holy Myrrh, and then he sprinkles the face with water, wipes it crosswise and says to him: "You have been justified, you have been baptized, you have been illumined, you have been chrismated, you have been sanctified, you have been washed, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." This means that he received the Grace and illumination of the Holy Spirit, and that is why his nous, which is the eye of the soul, was purified, illumined and given the opportunity to see the glory of God. Then, however, in order to be able to keep this Grace, he must strive to keep the commandments of God, to live a life of humility, prayer and the sacraments. And if he then loses Grace because of pride or spiritual negligence and carelessness, he can regain it through repentance, which the Fathers of the Church call a "second baptism". The struggle to keep the divine commandments is lifelong and one needs to be armed with a lot of patience and spiritual courage in order to endure the temptations and adversities of this life without giving up. And so, "falling and getting up again" he walks the "straight and narrow path", which leads to true life, to true joy.

Secondly, during the performance of the Holy Mysteries, and especially of the Divine Liturgy, a large number of Angels and Archangels are present, who serve the Hierarch and the Priest, and those who have a pure and illumined nous. And there are, of course, in our day - since "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" - people, both clergy and laity, who have seen and see the Angels next to the liturgist and liturgizing together with the officiant. After all, the liturgist during the Divine Liturgy - when the Little Entrance takes place with the Holy Gospel - asks God to send Angels and Archangels to liturgize with him. He says: "Master Lord Jesus Christ our God, who made in the heavens orders and armies of angels and archangels in the service of Your glory, make also this entrance an entrance of holy angels, to liturgize together with us and glorify Your goodness."

The Angels rejoice and celebrate when one becomes a member of the Church through Baptism, and with Chrismation becomes a vessel that is pure and "filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit." But they rejoice even when someone returns to the way of the divine commandments from which he departed, with sincere repentance, since no sin can defeat the love and mercy of God. That is why when one repents sincerely he is accepted by God, Who accepts him, cleanses him from the filth of sin and gives him His Grace and blessing. For this reason one should not despair, since the mercy of God never leaves man, but pursues him until He saves him, as long as man responds positively to the love of God.

If we have ever strayed from God and the Church, we should not grieve, but rather we should rejoice, because we have been able to return with true repentance.
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.