Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Commemoration of our Father among the saints, the Hieromartyr Eleutherios
I was privileged to chant the Orthros (Matins) service to St. Eleutherios this morning who is also the patron saint of the Antiochian Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America (DOWAMA). As we prepare for our Lord's coming in the flesh for us and for our salvation, all these great saints whom we commemorate day by day remind us that if it were not for Christ's incarnation (which, as St. John Chrysostom says is the greatest gift God could give), then the miracles these saints wrought, the conversions they engineered, the generosity of their giving would all be for nothing. We commemorate these saints, the witnesses, our friends not because of what they did but for what they did because of and for the sake of Christ.
My non-Orthodox friends and family, God love them, don't understand the need for saints because, to them, we have Christ and we need no one else. This isn't an issue of need, for the saints who stand with the heavenly hosts aren't receiving glory. They only give glory to God and our honouring of them gives honour to Christ. Well, why not then just give honour to God? Because it goes back to our Lord's incarnation. If God had not been incarnate, no saints could have existed. God assumed everything that we are so that we may be entirely healed as St. Gregory the Theologian would remind us. Our Lord's coming in the flesh, His Baptism at the hands of St. John the Forerunner, His crucifixion, death, resurrection, ascension into heaven, sitting at the right hand and His second and glorious coming are all done for us and for our salvation so that our flesh, our sinful flesh which Adam and Eve had corrupted at the beginning, need no longer bar us from true communion with God. Thus, let us rejoice in the fellowship of the saints, who became god-like because of Christ's great dispensation and economy by becoming what we are.
From the Prologue of Ohrid for St. Eleutherios:
From a good tree comes good fruit. This wonderful saint had noble and greatly eminent parents. Eleutherius was born in Rome, where his father was an imperial proconsul. His mother Anthia heard the Gospel from the great Apostle Paul and was baptized by him. Having been left a widow early, she entrusted her only son for study and service to Anicetus the Bishop of Rome. Seeing how Eleutherius was gifted by God and illumined by the grace of God, the bishop ordained him a deacon at the age of fifteen, a priest at the age of eighteen, and a bishop at the age of twenty. Eleutherius's God-given wisdom made up for what he lacked in years, and this chosen one of God was appointed Bishop of Illyria with his seat in Valona (Avlona), Albania. The good shepherd guarded his flock well and increased their number day by day. Emperor Hadrian, a persecutor of Christians, sent the commander Felix with soldiers to seize Eleutherius and bring him to Rome. When the raging Felix arrived in Valona and entered the church, he saw and heard the holy hierarch of God; suddenly his heart changed, and he became a Christian. Eleutherius baptized Felix and departed for Rome with him, returning joyfully as if he were going to a feast and not to trial and torture. The emperor subjected the noble Eleutherius to harsh torture: flogging, roasting on an iron bed, boiling in pitch, and burning in a fiery furnace. But Eleutherius was delivered from all these deadly tortures by God's power. Seeing all this, Caribus the Roman eparch declared that he also was a Christian. Caribus was tortured and then beheaded, and so was Blessed Felix. Finally, the imperial executioners cut off the honorable head of St. Eleutherius. When his mother, the holy Anthia, came and stood over the dead body of her son, she also was beheaded. Their bodies were translated to Valona, where even today St. Eleutherius glorifies the name of Christ by his many miracles. He suffered during the reign of Hadrian in the year 120.
Troparion to St. Eleutherios (Plagal Tone 1 to the melody "Let us worship the Word"):
Adorned with the robe of priest
Stained with the streams of your blood,
O wise and blessed Eleutherius, over-thrower of Satan
You hastened to Christ your Master. Pray unceasingly for those who faithfully honor your contest!
Through the intercessions of our father among the saints, Eleutherios, may Christ our true God have mercy upon us and save us.