(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's saint, Marcian, comes from Volume 4 of the series.)
In recent years there has been a rash of new religions erupting on the community skin, a kind of social disease to which the seasoned Christian is immune, but which afflicts the well-intentioned but more impressionable young. The merchants of these new religions, which can be bett er described as cults, achieve a measure of ephemeral success for which they are indebted not so much to the validity of their ideology as to the modern tools with which some people could be persuaded to become stockholders of the Brooklyn Bridge. The power of the public relations counsel, sometimes known as press agent, is augmented by the far-reaching effects of the newspapers, radio and the awesome television set, with which the Pied Piper of Hamelin could have recruited youngsters from pole to pole.
Christianity has lasted nearly two thousand years, during which numberless religions have come and gone, time enough to prove the truth of the word of Jesus Christ and the authenticity of Orthodox worship. But even the Son of God needed help to get His message to the people, and for this He selected a group of public relations men known as the disciples, who in turn enlisted the aid of apostles, a sextet of whom are singled out annually in a single honor in their memory. They are the saints Stachys, Amplias, Urbanus, Apelles, Narkissos, and Aristobulos. These six holy men, cited in the Bible in the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans, went out into the spiritually shadowed world of the Apostolic Era, a time been newspapers, it would have availed them little, and when their only means of communication was the painstakingly slow word of mouth. Unaided by the miracle of the modern media, and armed only with the miracles of the Lord, they trudged from person to person, group to group in an apostolic tour de force that has echoed down the centuries and will reverberate for endless centuries to come.
St. Stachys was among the first seventy apostles of Christ. His total dedication to the Savior was evinced in his ceaseless efforts to gain a foothold for the new faith. He was ordained the first bishop of Byzantium, then an important cultural center, eventually to become the city of Constantinople and spiritual center of the Byzantine Empire under the first Christian emperor, Constantine the Great. The man who presided at his ordination was no less than the disciple of Christ, St. Andrew.
St. Apelles was an intellectual in an eminent degree and was highly respected by the mighty St. Paul. His oratory was such that he is credited with having brought converts into the fold in numbers that warmed the hearts of the disciples and the small army of pious men whose sole aim in life was the creation of an everlasting Christian Church.
Another man ordained bishop by St. Andrew was St. Amplias, the first bishop of the ancient city of Odyssopolis, where he was to take a stand against paganism at the cost of his life. Martyred by his enemies, he is remembered as a minister of the Lord in the highest tradition.
St. Urbanus was ordained by St. Andrew as the bishop of all of Macedonia, a region already rich in tradition and an area recognized throughout the civilized world for its literary and artistic contributions. St. Urbanus was more than equal to the task of converting Macedonians, who for centuries had a sophistication of ideas on faith that were not easily dislodged. Urbanus set a fine example in Macedonia but did not escape the avenging pagans. He was martyred in the cause of Christ.
The Narcissus of mythology saw his image in a pool and fell in love with himself, but there was a real Narkissos who became an apostle and loved the Lord above all else. St. Narkissos is mentioned by St. Paul as the head of a great “Christian household.” He too was ordained by St. Andrew as bishop of Athens, then, as now, the most fabulous city in the world. But even his Athenian followers could not save him from the pagans who took his life.
St. Aristobulos was made bishop of Brittany by St. Andrew. In this Christian outpost he served Christ for twenty years before finally being martyred.