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Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Saint Aristobulus of Britain as a Model for our Lives

St. Aristobulus of Britain (Feast Day - March 15)

 By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Aristobulus was considered a brother of the Apostle Barnabas and a member of the chorus of the Seventy Apostles of Christ, as was his brother. Also, he was a travel companion of the Apostle Paul, who mentions him in his Epistle to the Romans, where he writes: "Greet those of the household of Aristobulus." Seeing his various gifts, and especially his missionary zeal and spiritual courage, the Apostle Paul ordained him Bishop of Britain, a country which, as we shall see later, had many peculiarities and difficulties.

Indeed, from the first moment of his transfer to Britain, Saint Aristobulus faced many temptations from a people who were known for their cruelty and possessed by many superstitions. Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite writes that the then inhabitants of Britain were "beastly and savage people" and "from them (the Saint) sometimes was beaten, sometimes dragged through the marketplace and with other similar torments and tortures he managed to bring many to faith in Christ." However, despite the adversities, "the sorrows and the sufferings", Saint Aristobulus remained faithful to his work. He did not abandon the flock that God entrusted to him through the Church, and the result was indeed, miraculous. By the Grace of God, who always strengthened him, empowered him and comforted him, he rebuilt several holy churches and ordained select priests, who became his fellow workers and supporters in his pastoral care.

His memory is also celebrated on the 31st of October, together with four other Apostles from the chorus of the Seventy, namely Stachys, Apelles, Narcissus and Amblias.

Despite the fact that his life was considered turbulent and tormented, nevertheless "the blessed one reposed in peace".

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

First, when one undertakes to perform a divine work, then, as is natural, one will encounter difficulties and temptations, as the wise Sirach writes in the Old Testament: This is done because "the eternal enemy of man", that is, the devil, "by various means and with people", over whom he has power and uses them as his instruments, "will fight him fiercely", because the well-meaning people benefit and are led to repentance and salvation. However, the devil is weak and tempts people as much as God allows; and as Saint Isaac the Syrian says, "God allows His saints to be tempted with every hardship, that through these tests they will receive His help and providence, and to acquire wisdom and prudence and not to become ignorant."

Therefore, one must pray, be patient and not give up one's struggle, no matter how many difficulties one faces. An easy solution, in difficult times, is to leave, "to escape". In reality, however, he does not "escape", since difficulties and temptations will follow him everywhere and always, to the grave. The lifting of the cross that God allows for each one of us, with a disposition of glorification towards God until the end, leads to sanctification and salvation not only of himself, but also of all those who are inspired by his courage and his bright example. On the contrary, whoever abandons his struggle and refuses to lift the light burden of the Cross of Christ, he will then become the instrument of the devil, who, taking advantage of his passions, will burden him with his own burdensome madness and with the passionate thoughts of blasphemy, doubt and disbelief.

Christ, by remaining on the Cross, despite the fact that His crucifiers invited Him to descend, in order to believe, as they said, that He is the Son of God, He instead taught His disciples, throughout the ages, to not abandon carrying their cross. Christ, with His crucifixion, "condemned sin in His flesh," "deceived" death, and abolished "the one who holds the power of death," that is, the devil, and saved the human race. The Cross of Christ is the source of true life and true joy. And the wounds of the Cross are the "seal of authenticity" for all those who believe in Christ.

Second, it is an important saying of Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite, that Saint Aristobulus with the sorrows and sufferings he endured "persuaded many to believe in Christ", because it reveals the great truth, that a bright example is the most fiery sermon, which moves people and leads them to the true faith and the way of life that it entails. In other words, many of these "hard-nosed and unassuming" people, who he was called to shepherd, believed in Christ, influenced by his shining example. That is, when they saw him face the tortures, the humiliations, the unbearable pains and the sorrows with admirable courage, bravery and patience, meekness, peace and tranquility, they did not remain unmoved. And surely, when they looked at him, they would see his face bright, since he was flooded by the uncreated Light of God. Seeing all this, the well-meaning people believed in the true God and with Baptism they became members of the Church, which is the true Body of Christ, and with Chrismation they received the Grace of the Holy Spirit. And some of them, as it was said, became pastors and teachers of the Church.

This should set an example for all of us and teach us not to be disappointed by the sin and unbelief that exists in the world, and in general by the alienation from Christ and the Church of many young people. Because, if we want to carry the light burden of Christ to the end, then, by the Grace of God, our shining example will inspire and teach and, no doubt, many will be the ones who will be moved to love Christ and the Church and they will find the way of salvation and sanctification through repentance.

The most effective mission, as Saint Seraphim of Sarov teaches, is the one that takes place with the intensity of prayer and by example.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.
 
 
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