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March 5, 2022

Saint Conon of Isauria as a Model for our Lives (1)

St. Conon of Isauria (Feast Day - March 5)
By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

The Venerable Martyr Conon lived during the times of the Holy Apostles and was from the village of Vadini in Isauria. His parents Nestor and Nada became Christians, and Nestor was found worthy to be a confessor and a martyr. Conon, together with his pious wife, devoted himself entirely to the spread of the true faith. His idolatrous compatriots reacted to the gospel preaching and claimed that their own faith was true. Then Conon said to them that he could prove to them that the God he worships is the only true God, in the following way: "When you go up to the mountain and sacrifice to your gods, notify me and we will set off together. You will go up with your horses and I with my feet, and whoever arrives first, their faith is true." They also agreed on the appointed day and then they set off with their horses like lightning. When they arrived, however, at their destination and saw him waiting for them, they could not believe their eyes.

Conon told them to become Christians, in keeping with their agreement. They hesitated and wanted to ask their gods if indeed the God who Conon worships is the only true God. Then the Saint commanded the demon that was observed in the idol to say who the true God was, and when he was pressed, the demon said that the true God is the one who Conon worships. After that they were catechized and baptized. They loved the Saint so much that when the ruler Magnus came to their place and subjected him to horrible tortures to deny Christ, they all rose up against the ruler and forced him to flee. Two years after this incident the Saint handed over his holy soul into the hands of the living God.

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

All the events of the Divine Economy, which took place in the New Testament, had a prototype and were prophesied in the Old Testament, and therefore there is unity between the two Testaments. That is, all that the Prophets said about the Word of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, hundreds of years ago, that is, about His incarnation by the Holy Spirit and Mary the Virgin, His teachings, His miracles, His voluntary Passion, the Crucifixion, the three-day Burial, the Resurrection and His Ascension, as well as the preaching of the Apostles to all nations, etc., all took place in the New Testament, and are described by the eyewitnesses and earwitnesses of the incarnate Son and Word of God, namely the Apostles and the Evangelists.

The Prophets proclaimed to the people not their own thoughts, but the will of God, that is, what God told them, and therefore they said, "Thus saith the Lord." And when they had to prove that the God they preached was the true God, they did not hesitate to do so, as the Apostles did, as did the Saints of the Church throughout the ages. This reveals the unity that exists between the Prophets, the Apostles and the Saints, as well as the fact that the living faith in the Triune God is proved experimentally.

The miraculous event mentioned above, which led to the belief of thousands of people, is reminiscent of another similar incident from the Old Testament, where the Prophet Elijah proved to the priests of the idols, and in general to the idolators all over the world, that his God was the only true God. This incident is known, but it will be mentioned briefly, because it reveals the unity of the two Testaments, Old and New, but also their difference.

The Prophet Elijah said to the priests of the idols that Baal, whom they worship, is a false god, non-existent, while his own is the only true God, and that he can prove it. He told them to prepare the carcasses for the sacrifice and not to light a fire, but to pray to Baal and he to his God, and whoever sends fire from heaven, theirs is the true God. They agreed and called on Baal from morning till noon, but there was no fire. The Prophet Elijah, when it was his turn to invoke the God of his Fathers, in order to make the miracle more believable, told them to threw water on the carcasses, and in fact three times. And then, as soon as he raised his hands to heaven and prayed, immediately fire fell and burned the carcasses, which were swimming in the water. Thus, it was proved beyond doubt that the God of Elijah is the only true God.

The Prophet Elijah, however, after this miraculous event, killed the priests of the idols, while the holy martyr Conon gave them life and in fact eternal life, since after their baptism they acquired the ability to commune of the Body and Blood of Christ "for the remission of sins and life everlasting." This is also the difference between the two Testaments, which, after all, Christ Himself pointed out to His disciples James and John, on the occasion of an incident which the Evangelist Luke preserves. He says that when Christ once passed by with His Disciples outside a village and wanted to enter it, but its inhabitants, who were Samaritans, did not receive Him, His disciples James and John said to Him: "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?” But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them" (Lk. 9:52-56).

The Church verifies its teaching, that is, it proves in practice that the Triune God is the only true God "who alone does wonders." And whoever wants to believe try the experiment. If you pray to the Triune God and humbly tell Him that, if He exists, I want to know You and live according to Your will, then you will taste the sweetness of His love.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.