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June 9, 2022

Holy Five Virgin Martyrs Thekla, Mariamna, Martha, Maria and Ennatha as Models for our Lives

Holy Five Canonical Virgins (Feast Day - September 26 & June 9)

 By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

The Holy Virgin Martyrs Thekla, Mariamna, Martha, Maria and Ennatha came from Persia and lived in the 4th century AD, during the years of King Shapur. They lived near a village called Ἀza and were dedicated to God. There they lived in asceticism and prayer and were guided by a priest named Paul, who, unfortunately, was greedy and kept for himself the money given by the faithful for the needs of the hungry. And this passion of his, because he did not strive to defeat it, led him, unfortunately, to eternal loss.

In the area where the nuns and their spiritual father Paul lived, there lived also a magician, who understood that Paul had money and he wanted in every way to get it. That is why he presented himself before the king and told him that these women and Paul were Christians. The king called for them and ordered them to deny Christ. Then the nuns openly confessed their faith in Christ, but Paul did not do the same. Instead, he asked the king not to take his money away from him, and when he told him that you could keep your money if you deny Christ, then he said that he would deny Him. Later, however, the king set a condition for him to keep his money, which was for he himself to behead the nuns, who in the meantime had been severely tortured. At first he hesitated to carry out this heinous act, but then, defeated by the passion of greed, he took the sword from the hands of the executioner and beheaded them. Before beheading them, they tried with warm words of faith and love for Christ to awaken his conscience and lead him to repentance, but, unfortunately, he remained unrepentant. The money, however, which he loved so much, he did not enjoy, since at the end the magician took it, and then in his despair he committed suicide, like Judas, that is, he put a noose around his neck and hung himself.

Their lives and their conduct give us the opportunity to highlight the following.

First, the true spiritual father is the one who guides his spiritual children according to the will of God, and connects them with Christ and the Church. They owe obedience to him, when he also respects the ecclesiastical institutions and obeys the Church. Otherwise, when, defeated by his passions, he moves away from the path "that led him to life", and leads them along other paths, then they will have to separate from him. They should turn away from him, if they cannot persuade him to repent, and God will not forsake them, since He is the Savior of mankind.

Secondly, the unrest, the conflicts and the wars in human societies, nations and states are due to human passions, and especially to the terrible passion of avarice, which led the Disciple of Christ, Judas, to die. Saint Chrysostom, referring to Judas, who betrayed Christ for thirty pieces of silver, says that "the pieces of silver made the world upside down". And, indeed, avarice is the cause of upheavals, conflicts and wars. And when man is possessed by this passion, as well as by the other passions, that of lust, of vanity, of envy, of vengeance, etc., then he becomes a slave of the devil, who operates through human passions to fight us and enslave us, and eventually destroy us. And just as physical illnesses, when they are chronic, make treatment difficult and sometimes impossible, so the passions, when they are long-lasting, gain power and dominance over man, and then it is difficult to overcome and defeat them. That is why we need a constant, persistent and painful struggle, but also fervent prayer for help from above, since "what is impossible with man is possible with God". In other words, one must strive, but at the same time seek the mercy and help of God. After all, in the Church everything is divine-human. God is the one who acts in the salvation of man, and man cooperates in the work of his salvation.

Passions are the unnatural function of the powers of the soul, which after the fall of man into sin have been perverted and diverted from their natural function. That is, the passions are not something external that enters into man and where he must eliminate them. That is why the struggle of man is not to uproot his passions, but to overcome them and to transform them, that is, to lead the powers of the soul, where rationality (logic and mind) is, and desire is, and passion is, from the unnatural to the natural to the supernatural. This struggle bears fruit when it is done with humility, prayer, asceticism and the sacramental life, because then the Grace of God overshadows man and strengthens him. Otherwise, the devil acquires power over him and leads him to eternal loss.

In the "Hymns of Ascent" of the third tone, which are chanted on Sundays during Matins, and specifically in the first troparion, it is written: "Thou didst move the captivity of Sion away from Babylon, O Word. Draw me also forth from the passions unto life." Here the sacred hymnographer has in mind the Babylonian captivity of the Israelites and their liberation, as described in the Old Testament. And he begs God to free him from his passions, as He freed the Israelites from their Babylonian captivity, and to lead him to life. It is clearly seen that the passions are connected with the loss of life, of the eternal divine life, and the transformation of the passions is connected with life, that is, with Christ, who, as He declared Himself, "the Way, the Truth and the Life". Eventually, whoever is enslaved to his passions, he is under the dominion of the devil, who leads him to eternal loss.

Let us love Christ, who is "Life", and let us daily call upon Him fervently, saying: "Draw me also forth from the passions unto life."

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.