March 5, 2021

Saint Conon of Isauria as a Model for our Lives (2)

Saint Conon was born at the end of the first century in the village of Vadini in the province of Isauria in Asia Minor, which was located between the provinces of Lycaonia and Pisidia, and included the areas around Mount Taurus. (From this province came the dynasty of the Isaurians, who ruled in Constantinople from 717 to 797 AD). Conon was considered a fiery and radiant preacher of the gospel and with his shining example, his inspired speech, but also with the miracles he performed by the power of the Triune God, he led to the true faith not only his parents, Nestor and Nada, but many other idolaters. He married a pious young woman, who became his coworker and companion in missionary work.

One day Conon visited an idolatrous temple, crowded with people, and asked a statue if it was a god. The demon that was inside the statue, pressed by the Grace of the Holy Spirit who dwelt in the Holy One, answered that he is no god, and that the only true God is Jesus Christ. Many idolaters then believed in these words and were baptized, with the result that Conon was arrested and severely tortured. Later, however, he was released and continued his missionary work. He reposed in peace.

During Iconoclasm, the Christians transferred his honorable head to Paphos in Cyprus, where it is kept until today in the Holy Monastery of Panagia Chrysorroiatissi. Also, in the villages of Akamas and Lemba of Paphos, two Holy Temples are honored with the name of Saint Conon.

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

When a person denies their status as a member of the Church, which they acquired by their baptism, and essentially expels God from their life, the Creator of creation, then they are enslaved to creation, which they idolize and worship. They create substitutes for God, various idols, which can be anything, which is self-contained and complete, such as, for example, the family (spouse-children), work, a political party, a soccer team, and even themselves, whose talents are endowed by and are a gift from God and should be treated in such a way that God is glorified, but they use them for their material benefit or to enjoy hollow human glory. And everything that is idolized, in fact, is demonized, because in the idols are hidden the demons, which accept the worship. And when a man worships all kinds of idols, in fact he worships the devil. And it is truly tragic, for man, who was created by God to be the king of creation, to have reached the point, with his unnatural life, to be enslaved to creation, sin and the devil. And the worst thing is to believe that the unnatural life of sin is a natural way of life and to say, referring to sin, that "these are natural things", or to support that natural life is to live within nature.

But the natural life is communion with God, which man experienced in Paradise before the fall, and which he now has the opportunity to experience in the Church, because Christ with the Incarnation, the Passion, the Cross and the Resurrection abolished the works of the devil and enabled fallen man to be healed, and to become a natural man, that is, to be united with Christ, Who, as is emphasized by Fr. John Romanides, as a man, "is the only truly natural man, if by natural man is meant living according to the original purpose of man." And when a person is healed and becomes a natural person, then their speech has energy, strength, which is why it inspires, supports, comforts, touches the heart and drips within it Grace, hope, peace, sweetness, and finally transformation, thus it alters it. And when man realizes the "good alteration", then he becomes a son of God according to Grace.

Some argue that we are all children of God. This, however, is not true. We are not all children of God, but creations of God. Of course, we have the opportunity to become children of God, through Baptism and Chrismation, and then through repentance and a Christ-like life. Christ blessed the peacemakers and said that they would be called sons of God. This shows that the children of God are only the peacemakers, who became pure vessels of the Holy Spirit, having first experienced all those previous beatitudes of Christ. That is, they have humbled themselves, mourned, wept for their sins, became meek, hungry and thirsty for the righteousness of God, and purified their hearts from passions and wicked and unclean thoughts.

The evangelist John the Theologian emphasizes very clearly that the children of God are those who accepted Christ and by the Grace of God, certainly and through their personal struggle, were spiritually reborn. He says: "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." And Saint Gregory of Palamas, referring to the healing of the paralytic, who, after destroying the roof, came down before Christ to heal him, says that Christ forgave him for his sins and then called him "child". That is, he gave him the gift of sonship. He says: "What a blessed way to be addressed! He hears himself called 'child' and is adopted as the son of the heavenly Father. He is joined to God who is without sin, having immediately become sinless himself through the forgiveness of his sins."

We all have the ability to become natural people and children of God, as long as we desire it and strive for it.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.