(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. Silas, whose account is found in Volume 3 of the series.)
Saints Silas, Silvanos, Apainetos and Crescens
For every name chosen by parents from the Bible to apply to their children there are numberless names which are neglected solely because of their strangeness, particularly in recent decades, but those who by today’s standards bore odd-sounding names are no strangers to Jesus Christ. The name of Silas is not objectionable, yet any child branded today with the name of Silvanos, Apainetos or Crescens might grow up to question the appellative taste of his parents. But each of these is a name engraved in glory in the scroll of the seventy apostles who preached the word of Christ and who are listed in an honor roll elsewhere. Apropos of names, there are indeed some strange names being carried about these days by those who have never seen their namesake in the Bible, whose characters carry with them a strangeness but do not lack for meaning.
The first of the four commemorated on July 30 is Silas, whose close companionship with the mighty St. Paul was enough to place him among the saints and who, as part of the Seventy Apostles of the Messiah, contributed mightily to the cause of Christianity, the more so because he managed to elude the executioner and to live a full life, each day of which was pledged to the missionary work of the Savior. St. Luke, the Glorious Physician and author of the Book of Acts of the New Testament, speaks in chapter fifteen of “Judas and Silas being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed.”
Serving in Antioch with Barnabas and Paul, Silas was chosen by the latter to project their mission into Syria and Cicilia, as recorded in Acts 15:40 wherein it says, “And Paul chose Silas and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the Grace of God. And he went through Syria and Cicilia confirming the churches.” These regions were hostile to the New Faith of Jesus Christ but in spite of the abuse and indignities heaped upon the apostles, the salvation of mankind was brought to crowds who could see the light of Christianity through the miasma of their irreligious way of life. Before he departed for Rome, Paul installed Silas as bishop of Corinth where he served honorably every day of his long life.
Another of the Seventy Apostles favored of God was Silvanos, who is mentioned in the New Testament passage which reads, “By Silvanos, a faithful brother unto you, as I suppose, I have written briefl y, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God wherein ye stand.” (1 Pet. 5:12). The great St. Peter uses the word “briefly” to acknowledge that much more can be said of the apostle Silvanos, who as the bishop of Thessaloniki encountered more than his share of resistance to the worship of a carpenter from distant Nazareth by a Greek colony as proud of their idolatry as of their art and literature. Bishop Silvanos did not fi nd an easily swayed audience in his mission, but he did find audiences with an intelligence to which he appealed with huge success. His was another long service to Christ in a complete triumph of Greek Christian conversion, which placed the ancient myths in their proper place, not as truth but as fancy that has since served to amuse readers of every civilized language.
Another gallant soldier lost in the ranks of the Apostolic Seventy was Apainetos, whose unfamiliar name is inscribed for eternity in the New Testament when St. Paul says, “Salute my well-beloved Apainetos, who is the first fruit of Achaia unto Christ.” (Rom. 16:5). Chosen by the apostles to serve as bishop of Carthage in Africa, Apainetos met with a Carthaginian crowd which was as hostile as any of the proud Greeks. But with the oratorical skill born of truth, he had remarkable success in the conversion to Christianity of those whose priorities lay elsewhere. The Christian religion became the preeminent influence in an ancient city of Africa which was much more familiar with the Hannibals that predated the Messiah by centuries.
The last of the sacred Seventy Apostles, and certainly not the least, was Crescens, whose apostolic merit is to be found in the magnificent St. Paul’s letter to Timothy in which he writes the instruction, “Do thy diligence to come shortly to me...and Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.” (2 Tim. 4:10). Following his mission to Galatia, Crescens was ordained bishop of Chalcedon, a city in which he firmly planted Christianity as a faith which found greater expression than in most other areas for centuries to come.
Text from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints. Image from GOArch.org.