April 12, 2022

Saint Anthousa, Daughter of Emperor Constantine Copronymos, as a Model for our Lives

St. Anthousa (Feast Day - April 12)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Anthousa lived in the 8th century in Constantinople. She was the daughter of the Emperor Constantine Copronymos, whose name is connected with one of the darkest pages of politics, but also of ecclesiastical history, where he was always believed to be a persecutor and a warlord. Many believers were tortured during that period and many sealed the confession of their faith with the blood of their martyrdom.

Saint Anthousa grew up in the palace and could have all the amenities, but she chose to live ascetically. Her external appearance was like that of a princess, but underneath the glittering outer garments she wore a hairy garment to humble her body, that is, the "mind of the flesh", which is opposed to the "mind of the spirit", which is "life and peace". Her father wanted her to marry someone that was like-minded as him, but the Saint refused, since, after all, she wanted to dedicate herself completely to God. After the death of her father, she distributed her property to the poor and became a nun by the then Patriarch of Constantinople, Saint Tarasios.

Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite notes with emphasis that the Saint "never was absent from the church, never showed idleness, nor neglect in her prayers," as well "her humility was so great" that she "served all the sisters."

She lived for 52 years and had a peaceful end.

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

First, at the beginning of her synaxarion we read the following verses:

The fragrant fruit from a putrid root,
Revered Anthousa faded from the earth and life.

In other words, the revered Anthousa in her earthly, venerable life blossomed and became a very fragrant fruit, even though she came from a putrid root.

The content of the above verses is reminiscent of the popular proverb which says that "from a rose comes a thorn, and from a thorn comes a rose." In the case of the Saint, the latter is verified, that is, that a rose came out of a thorn, according to the Holy Synaxarist, a very fragrant fruit from a putrid root. Usually the opposite happens, but there are always exceptions. That is, what usually happens is that when the root is healthy, then the flower is also sweet and the fruit is sweet. On the contrary, when the root is putrid, then the flower is also foul and the fruit is rotten. We can safely say, that which is written in the synaxarion was in reference to the father of the Saint, who was impious and fought against the Orthodox faith. Nevertheless, his daughter became not only faithful and pious, but also holy. She was raised in an environment where the faith had changed and was warred against, but she kept the authentic faith in her heart and lived according to it. She was raised in an environment without icons, and yet she maintained the image of God in purity. She preserved her whole being, her soul and body, pure, and became a "holy vessel" of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and is a model and example for all of us to imitate.

It teaches us that if we really want to live the way God wants us to, then nothing can stop us, not the family environment, not society, not anything else, and what we often say to justify the lukewarmness of our faith, our negligence and our idleness, are cheap excuses and "pretexts to sin". We must come to understand that it was not the fault of others for our passions, our mistakes and our sins, but our own. Of course, there is no denying that the home environment, as well as social conditions, affect to some extent the life and conduct of people, but the most important role in life and especially in the spiritual progress of man we ourselves play a role, because, when we have the disposition and desire to live the life according to Christ, then we have Christ as our supporter, helper, protector, and guardian from every evil. He will always strengthen and empower us, especially in the difficult and extreme moments of our life.

Therefore, we must understand that others are not responsible for our spiritual idleness, but also that we should take care to take seriously the issue of our salvation.

Second, man was fashioned according to the image and towards the likeness of God. The image is a given, while the likeness, which is deification, is achieved by the Grace of God and the effort of each of us. Man is in the image of the Son and Word of God and not of God the Father. The image of God the Father is the Son and Word of God. That is, man is an image of the image. And as an image of the Word of God, that is, of Christ, man must strive to be as similar as possible to his original. This means that he must transform his passions, which are the unnatural function of the powers of the soul. That is, by the Grace of God and our personal struggle, his heart must be purified "from all contamination of flesh and spirit", and from the unnatural to attain to the natural, and then to the supernatural. After all, the purpose of our lives is our sanctification, as the Apostle Paul emphasizes: "This is the will of God, our sanctification." And this purpose is achieved through our participation in the Passion and the Cross of Christ, which has as a consequence the participation in His Resurrection.

The garden of the heart, in order to bloom and bear fruit that is "very fragrant", must be cultivated and sown with the divine seed, that is, the Gospel. And this cultivation is done with toil, pain and tears, but also with spiritual rejoicing, which is instilled in the heart by the Grace of the Holy Spirit, which bears the fragrant fruits of the virtues. This truth is expressed by the sacred psalmist, when he says: "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. Going they went and wept, casting their seeds. But coming they shall come with joyfulness, carrying their sheaves."

Everything in the Church is joyful-sadness. Sadness "through sin", joy "through salvation".

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.