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February 13, 2021

Saint Symeon the Myrrhgusher as a Model for our Lives

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Symeon the Myrrhgusher lived the 12th and the beginnings of the 13th century A.D. He was the first glorious ruler of Serbia, of the Nemanjic dynasty. Through marriage he was the father of three children, two sons and a daughter. His two sons are Saints of the Orthodox Church. One is Sava, the first Archbishop of the Serbs, and the other is Stephen II the First-Crowned. Symeon was a ruler who loved God and was a philanthropist, an opponent of heresies and a champion of Orthodoxy. His first son, Sava, became a monk on Mount Athos and from there sent his father a letter in which he primarily mentioned the futility of the world. When Symeon read this letter, he decided to go to Mount Athos, where he remained until the end of his earthly life as a monk, and, indeed, as a submissive of his son. His wife also became a nun. Also, their example was imitated by some of their relatives.

It is worth noting that Symeon and his son Sava became the founders of the Holy Monastery of Hilandari.

The end of Symeon was peaceful. At his annual commemoration, his tomb gushed myrrh, and for this reason he is called Myrrhgusher.

His life and conduct give us the opportunity to emphasize the following.

First of all, honors and rank do not give man honor and value, but man is one who honors honor and gives value to rank, in the way of his life and his conduct. And we see this clearly in the Saints, whose greatness is not in their origin from "noble" ancestors, in their material wealth or their worldly ranks, but in humility, inner purity, simplicity, and sacrificial love, which are the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

The man who is filled by the Grace of the Holy Spirit transmits this Grace through his presence, his works, his word and his general behavior. That is, what one has he offers. The works of each, as well as his word, written and spoken, reveal his inner content, that which he has enclosed in his heart, since "from the excess of the heart proceeds that which comes forth from the mouth."

True and inalienable wealth is the Grace of God and the one who has it is indeed rich, even if he does not have material goods, but only that which is necessary, "food and clothing", in the words of the Apostle Paul, for whom, however, it is sufficient. In reality, the accumulation of material goods, external wealth, reveals inner poverty, spiritual poverty and the absence of meaning of life. The man who has as his purpose the accumulation of material wealth, in order, as he thinks, to achieve social value, and the feeling he has of insecurity in his illness and old age, will leave him in the end to remain empty internally and unsatisfied, because money, estates, honors and ranks cannot fill the void of his soul, which, in fact, with the passage of time grows and thus remains unsatisfied. And this man, according to Saint Nektarios Bishop of Pentapolis, is the most evil of men, for he seeks his own joy and happiness, outside of his heart, in vain, temporary and cheap things, while, according to the words of Christ Himself, "the Kingdom of God is within you." To the contrary, the man who has based his hope in God and lives according to His will, even if he is poor of material goods, is in fact the richest, the most fortunate and the most blessed of men.

Secondly, childbearing is one of the fruits of marriage, but it is not, of course, its purpose. The purpose of marriage is the same as the purpose of man's life, and it is none other than theosis, which is union with God, our Creator, in the present age and in the future. Man is an icon of Christ and is called to look like his prototype. In other words, he is called, by the Grace of God and his personal struggle, to arrive from the image to the likeness, or according to Saint Gregory the Theologian "from being to well-being to eternal well-being". Neither marriage is the purpose of man's life nor virginity, but each is a way of life that results in the same purpose, in the "living of eternal divine life in the light".

The birth of children in marriage, according to the Apostle Paul, is a "great mystery", it gives joy to their parents and relatives, and their upbringing, however, presupposes struggle, troubles and pain, without, however, meaning that in the troubles, pain and struggle for the raising of a child there is no joy, which gives rise to his daily presence and above all his advancement and progress. Children are God's gift to their parents, and as such they must accept and thank the Gift-giver and beg Him to bless them and protect them from all evil.

The same parents, those who love Christ and the Church, should raise their children in such a way that they become not just good people and good citizens, but "fellow-citizens of the saints and the people of God". There is no greater joy for faithful parents than to see their children advance in the spiritual life and walk the path of virtue and sanctity. Many times, in fact, children are made to benefit spiritually and to sanctify their parents, and to proceed continuously towards perfection, which has no end, since the Saint can be sanctified even more, according to the words of Revelation: "He that is holy, let him be holier still."

The search for the true meaning of life, when done with sincerity, leads to Christ, who, for those who truly love Him and keep His commandments, is a father and brother, friend and companion, a staff and support.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.