(Welcome to our Saint of the Day series! Each weekday, we present you with an excerpt from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints series, published by Holy Cross Orthodox Press. Today we commemorate St.Aristobulos, whose account is found in Volume 1 of the series.)
The outermost region of the world at the time of Jesus was the British Isles; they were as remote to the early Christians of the eastern Mediterranean as the reaches of outer space are to us today. The moat of the English Channel kept many travelers, friends and foes alike, from setting foot on this isle, but it was no barrier to the apostle who dared to go that far from the land of the Savior.
After the crucifi xion and resurrection of Jesus, a group of seventy men banded together who pledged to carry the message of salvation throughout the world. They were called the “Ebdomekonta,” from the Greek word meaning seventy. The man who undertook the trek to the western edge of the then-known world was Aristobulos, as hardy and dedicated a Christian as ever took up the cause of Christ. But in retrospect the likelihood of a virtual nonentity becoming a saint in the first century to take his place in a select company numbering thousands all the way back to the time of Christ was highly improbable. Nevertheless St. Aristobulos can number himself among men whose memories we hold most sacred, only a few of whom were of humble station and most of whom comprise some of the fi nest minds in all history, lay or ecclesiastical.
The reference made by St. Paul in no way diminished his prospects for sainthood, but that was far from his goal when he ventured forth, all but lost in the host of missionaries with whom he shared a rare courage and a devout faith in perilous times. It is not unlikely that the original seventy, in whose ranks he was virtually obscured, swelled in numbers as converts joined this army of Christ in ever-increasing numbers. The remarkable group that formed to leave not only the Holy Land but the continental limits of Europe as well were introducing the New Faith to new frontiers, making them pioneers as well as missionaries.
When viewed in this light, St. Aristobulos deserves the highest regard for being foremost among men who were a breed apart in a joint effort which lesser men would have avoided irrespective of the depth of their faith. Today the name Aristobulos, for the most part, is a name on a church calendar, but in his day he was the symbol of the utmost in devotion to Jesus Christ.
Aristobulos was a favorite of St. Paul. What pleased St. Paul most was his tremendous missionary spirit and his willingness to journey to any area, friendly or hostile, just as long as he could take with him the word of God and the message of the Messiah. His unbridled enthusiasm made him the most likely candidate for the very difficult trek to the islands. In Romans 16:10, St. Paul’s considerable respect for his friend is evidenced as he says: “Salute them which are of Aristobulos’ household.”
Wherever Aristobulos went in that uncharted land his encounters would have made lesser men retreat to more hospitable atmospheres. Nevertheless, with infinite patience and inspired persuasion his movement drew support.
With boundless energy and a cool detachment and disregard for adversity, Aristobulos’ labors bore fruit; the Christian Church in this forsaken land became a reality. His mission, which many viewed as the least likely to succeed, was fulfilled beyond expectation with the steady growth of Christianity and the establishment of churches.
The British Isles became an integral part of the Christian world. The light of salvation glowed through the forest of the land that was to become a mighty empire, with no little thanks to its Christian character.
Aristobulos seems to have been spared persecution principally because the scattered array of opponents to his holy mission were put to rout by his oratory. Surviving many crises and dangers, he preached for many years until his voice was stilled by death on March 15.
St. Aristobulos’ feast day is also observed together with the other members of the “Seventy” on October 31.