April 7, 2021

Saint Kalliopios as a Model for our Lives

St. Kalliopios (Feast Day - April 7)
By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas
Saint Kalliopios came from Perge of Pamphylia and lived during the reign of Emperor Maximian. His pious mother Theokleia raised him "in the education and instruction of the Lord". When the persecution against the Christians broke out, Kalliopios, who was distinguished for his spiritual courage and fighting spirit, presented himself alone before the ruler Maximus, who was then in Pompeiopolis.

Saint Kalliopios, therefore, boldly confessed his faith before the ruler and he subjected him to horrible tortures. He tied his hands behind his back, stretched his body on a wheel and lit a fire underneath. An Angel of the Lord, however, put out the fire and stopped the wheel. Then, full of wounds, he was taken to prison. His mother asked to visit him and she remained in prison with him. At midnight, while they were praying and chanting, the prison was filled with heavenly light and a voice was heard encouraging the martyr. Finally, because Kalliopios remained steadfast and unshakable in his faith, he was crucified, and thus he became a communicant of Christ's crucifixion. In fact, the day on which he was crucified was Holy and Great Thursday and the dawn of Holy and Great Friday. He was crucified with his head down, which is why the Holy Hymnographer, praising the martyr, exclaims: 

Kalliopios inverted is nailed to the wood,
Glorifying the Word who was nailed upright.
On the seventh Kalliopios found life without end.
His mother, when she heard that he would be crucified, praised God for the great honor she owed to her son and hurried to meet the executioners to give them money, so that they would not change their minds and kill him in any other way. When the martyr surrendered his holy soul into the hands of God, the moment his body was taken down from the cross, his mother hugged him, and as she was holding him in her arms, she gave up her spirit, and thus they were buried together.

The life and conduct of the martyr, together with his mother, give us the opportunity to highlight the following:

First, death by crucifixion was considered the most dishonorable way of killing and the wood of the cross was a wood of shame and condemnation. Dangerous criminals, such as murderers, robbers, etc., were usually sentenced to crucifixion in order to suffer as much as possible, because for the crucified, death came slowly and torturously. It was a real martyrdom. In fact, in the end they broke their limbs and thus died in horrible pain. From the time, however, when Christ was crucified, the wood of the cross was sanctified. It became a very powerful weapon against the demons, a staff and a support to believers, but also their boast, since after lifting their cross and following Christ they become partakers of His crucifixion, but also of His Resurrection. That is why the martyrs considered it their highest honor and blessing to die by crucifixion. Saint John Chrysostom says that the cross before the crucifixion of Christ was considered a word that meant condemnation, but now it has become an object of honor and a condition of salvation. And then he emphasizes that the power of Christ "appeared more on the cross, than when He raised the dead, when He calmed the sea and the winds, when He banished the demons," because then, "when they crucified Him, when they drove the nails into Him, when they derided Him, when they maligned Him, he managed to change the wicked thoughts of the thief, to see His power from both sides." On the cross "the whole creation was shaken and the stones cracked, and the soul of the thief which was more insensitive than the stone, was moved and honored." And "in order to learn how revered the cross is, that is why he called it a glory."

Therefore, the lifting of the personal cross of each one of us, which is mainly the struggle for the conquest of our passions, as well as patience in sorrows, diseases and the various daily temptations, is a participation in the Passion of Christ, as well as in His glory.

Also, the Cross, as Saint Gregory Palamas emphasizes, is a mystery, which, long before the wood of the Cross of Christ on Golgotha was erected, acted and saved our Forefathers in the Old Testament. He characteristically says that "even before the nailing to the cross, the cross saved."

Secondly, Christ said to those who announced the coming of His mother and His brothers, that is, to the children of Joseph, who are also called brothers, that "My mother and brothers are those who do the will of my Father." This means that those who truly love Christ, sacrificially, and strive to live according to His commandments, become mothers, brothers, and sisters of Christ, by "living in Him," and "Him in them", that is, He "lives and walks" in them. And because they truly love Christ, that is why they also love the images of Christ, namely people, all without exception, and even their enemies. As far as their children are concerned, they love them with a pure love, radiant, free from the passions of selfishness and self-interest. They treat them not as their personal possessions, but as gifts from God, and they truly rejoice when they are given completely to Christ and are ready to sacrifice themselves for His love. These parents, of course, care for the education, the progress, and the advancement of their children, but at the same time they take care of their eternal future, that is, for the care and salvation of their immortal soul.

Therefore, real parents are not those who simply give birth, because so do the irrational animals, but those who regenerate, in the sense that they care for the spiritual rebirth and salvation of their children.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.