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Saint of the Day: St. James (Iakovos)

Refusing to disavow Christ, he openly declared his faith in Jesus and exhorted those below not to be intimidated into retaining old beliefs that would exclude them from the company of Christ.
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Saint of the Day: St. Averkios

Averkios prayed at the side of the stricken girl and she was forthwith restored to health, in return for which the grateful emperor granted aid requested by Averkios for his people.
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Jane Goodall and the "Green Patriarch"

We're really excited about Sacred Commerce, our most recent publication here at Holy Cross Orthodox PressSacred Commerce features essays on faith and the environment from a number of eminent scholars and theologians, including conservationist Jane Goodall. At the beginning of her essay, "Biodiversity and Conservation: A Conversation with the World of the Spirit," Jane expresses her interest in connecting with the Ecumenical Patriarch:

"I must profess from the outset that the reason I insisted on making the time to attend this conference was in order to have the opportunity to meet and talk with His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. And the voice that I would like to contribute to this gathering concerns the work that I am currently doing. As you know, a lot of my life was initially devoted to learning about our closest living relative, the chimpanzee. Now my job is to give animals a voice in gatherings such as this around the world so that they may be better understood..."

Goodall goes on to emphasize that, far from being disparate disciplines, the worlds of nature and spirit are integrally connected. 

"My message is that the conservation can never work in the vacuum. It's no good to go out there and say we are going to build a fence around a piece of wilderness and that will do the trick. It won't. We have got to address the human problems and show how all of these things are interconnected and how contact between the natural world and that of the spirit -- of morality and ethics --is ever so precious and all too important." 

You can read the rest of Jane's essay and more in Sacred Commerce: A Conversation on Environment, Ethics, and Innovation, edited by John Chryssavgis and Michele L. Goldsmith. 


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Saint of the Day: St. Hilarion the Great

(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, Hilarion, comes from Volume 4 of the series.) 

St. Hilarion the Great

"Of the multitude of men of God whom the Church has seen fit to make saints of the Faith, few have been given the title 'Great,' since the addition of that title to men who have proven themselves would seem superfluous and one could never have the distinction of being a saint without being great in the first place. Nevertheless, there have been instances where the application needs to be made in reference to a saint who had in his lifetime an extra portion of the goodness that makes greatness. Such a man was Hilarion, a saint known to only a few, but one whom no one could deny the coveted title of 'Great'once his remarkable life story unfolds.

Born in 293 near Alexandria, Hilarion was of a Greek lineage whose landed aristocracy offered the comforts and culture of a pagan society so steeped in the traditions of idolatry that he appeared the least likely to become a traitor to his class for the sake of a carpenter from Nazareth. It was when he was sent to Alexandria for higher education that the perceptive student fell in with Christian companions who seemed far better company than his own group. Hilarion was not only baptized into the Christian faith but embraced Christianity with a pledge to devote himself to the service of Jesus Christ.

It is quite possible that his parents never became aware of Hilarion’s conversion and assumed he had gone further afield to broaden his education, whereas in reality he went deep into the desert to seek out the now famous hermit St. Anthony, whom he had respected from afar and under whom he earnestly desired to attain a greater spiritual attainment. He was received warmly by St. Anthony, who was joined by fellow monks in the tutelage of this most eager Christian, and he remained for several years among the ascetics to become second only to Anthony in proximity to God.

He returned to see his parents again only to find that they had died in the intervening years and had bequeathed him a sizable portion of their estate. He regretted he had not returned in time to bring to them the light of Christianity, but with a prayer on his lips for their departed souls, he disposed of his entire wealth, selling the entire estate and then donating the receipts to various charities. Keeping nothing for himself, he returned to the desert clad in the meager sack clothing given to him by St. Anthony and settled in a desolate area seven miles removed from Majuma in a barren sector of Egypt.

Subsisting on the meager fare he could forage from the bleak desert, living in a crude hut that barely afforded room for his small frame, he spent fifteen years in meditation, prayer and occasional fasting, although by most standards his was a fasting of fifteen years’ duration, during which time his sustenance came mainly from his true spirit. Like others who had taken up extreme asceticism, he was sought out by pilgrims, but unlike others of his kind, the pilgrims grew in numbers to the point where his isolation melted in crowds, who had the benefit not only of his wisdom but of the power of healing that had come to him from the Lord through his sustained years of deprivation and devotion.

St. Anthony had passed away meanwhile, and Hilarion slipped away one evening to kneel in prayer at the burial site of St. Anthony, now a shrine known only to a few old monks fearful, that should the gravesite of St. Anthony be made known, his sacred remains would be snatched away by overzealous pilgrims. Hilarion was asked to remain to serve as chief abbot of a nearby monastery, but although he was sixty-five years old and accustomed to isolation, he declined the offer in favor of traveling to places he had longed to see after years of solitude.

He went to Capri where he preached by day and slept in a cave by night, preferring the hard ground to the many offers of comfortable rest. After a time, he departed for the land of Greece where St. Paul had trod, and he was ushered to Epidaurus by St. Hesychios, who had heard of his coming and who witnessed some of the miraculous power of the desert monk whose fame grew greater with the passing of the years. At the invitation of St. Epiphanios, bishop of Salamis, he went to Cyprus where he continued to preach and cure until he died on October 21, 373. Bishop Epiphanios and St. Jerome collaborated on a biography of Hilarion whose remains were ultimately returned to his beloved desert of Majuma by St. Hesychios."

(From Orthodox Saints, Vol. 4by Fr. George Poulos. Icon from the OCA DCE.) 

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Saint of the Day: St. Artemios

(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, Artemios, comes from Volume 4 of the series.) 

Saint Artemios

"The great English historian Edward Gibbon is quoted as having said that St. Athanasios was more capable of ruling the Byzantine Empire than all the sons of Constantine the Great, but had he been so inclined he might have said the same thing about St. Artemios. The comparison was made to underscore the tremendous talents of Athanasios, with whom Artemios is easily compared. A half century of devotion to God and empire ended in 363 when Artemios was martyred.

A close association was formed by Artemios when he became prefect of Egypt under Constantios, third son of Constantine and ruler of the eastern sector of the empire. The partition of the empire was made by Constantine to strengthen it against its enemies. The friendship of Artemios was firmly cemented when, at the request of Constantios, he recovered the sacred remains of St. Andrew from the comparative obscurity of Patras (Achaia) in Greece as well as the remains of St. Luke from Thebes, to be more suitably placed in Constantinople, the Byzantine capital.

Later, a power struggle followed and Julian the Apostate emerged victorious. He tried to set the clock back by reviving paganism. Moreover, he disregarded the Edict of Milan, which guaranteed tolerance to Christians, and began persecuting them. Chief among those who held their Christian ground when the pagan wrath of Julian was directed towards them was the devout and fearless Artemios.

Julian looked the other way as pagan rabble transformed sweet churches of Christ into chambers of horror, with stone idols glowering where once stood the cross. Then Julian himself took up the sword against Christianity, aiming at its strongholds of the east, hoping to draw into the conflict the redoubtable Artemios whom he suspected was responsible for his brother’s death in the power struggle that preceded his claim as Caesar of the empire. By his authority the first vicious pagan thrust was directed towards Antioch, one of the first citadels of the new faith.

Not interested in the innocuous peasant flock that made up the bulk of Christianity, the apostate Julian went directly to the top of the Christian community by having the city’s most influential clergymen, Eugenios and Makarios, brought ignominiously before him and charged with spurious crimes. The two hierarchs were subjected to humiliation reserved for the gravest of offenders and when their mock trials had been completed, were cast into filthy prisons to be further badgered by criminals. While these two unfortunate clerics were being destroyed systematically, the vile Julian paid scant attention because he personally had a bigger fish to catch in the person of Artemios.

As could have been predicted, the venerable Artemios, the most highly respected figure in Egypt, went directly to the emperor to protest the persecution of his friends in Christ. He did not stride innocently into the lion’s den but with the full knowledge of what could happen, facing it with Christian courage. Julian was not interested in any cat-and-mouse games, because although he was more vicious than any of the feline family, he knew that Artemios was no mouse. He further knew that if he followed his standard procedure and simply eliminated the extremely popular Artemios, his power in Egypt would be considerably eroded, if not completely eliminated. For this reason he made it appear as though he was a fair-minded ruler whose intentions were the best and in the common interest.

After a lengthy harangue, Julian extended the hand of friendship to Artemios, exhorting him to follow his example and return to the ancient rites of pagan idolization, thereby restoring peace and prosperity to the entire community. An egomaniac, Julian was stupid enough to assume that his words would be effective, a mistaken estimation of himself and an underestimation of Artemios, who showed considerable forbearance while listening to this ignorance before replying that there were no words nor enough idols to cause him to disavow Jesus Christ. With the awesome thrust of Roman power behind him, the apostate did not hesitate to have Artemios dragged to a public square for execution. His remains were removed to the Chapel of St. John the Baptist in Constantinople. He died for Christ on October 20, 363."

(From  Orthodox Saints, Vol. 4 by Fr. George Poulos. Icon from Wikimedia Commons.) 

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Saint of the Day: St. Longinus

(Welcome to our new Saint of the Day series! Each weekday, we'll present you with an excerpt from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints series, from Holy Cross Orthodox Press. Today's saint, Longinus, comes from Volume 4 of the series.) 

Saint Longinus

"There were many who witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus Christ some two thousand years ago, among whom were grieving followers, but most of whom were onlookers who impassively watched three men die, one of them the Savior whose moment of death brought darkness in daylight and struck fear into all hearts. It remained for a soldier, who had knelt only before the Roman Emperor Tiberius, to recognize the wrath of God when the earth was suddenly plunged into darkness and to realize the divinity of Christ. When Jesus uttered His last words, 'It is finished,' and the light was gone from the earth, a Roman centurion went to his knees and said, 'Surely this was the Son of God.'

The Roman soldier was Longinus, who had been assigned to stand guard and maintain order while the execution took place. It was his further duty to make certain that the execution was carried out, and he did so with little realization that the Roman governor whom he represented was to order his own death one day. It was grim business he supervised that day, but the hill known as Golgotha, or 'place of the skull,' and the specter of the cross meant nothing to Longinus except that they were all a part of his job; however, when it was all over he was no longer a symbol of the might of the Roman Empire.

When Jesus died, Longinus symbolized, as he knelt before God, the victory of the Savior in the salvation of man. He who had fought for the Empire was now ready to fight and die for the kingdom of heaven. In three days he stood before the tomb of the resurrected Savior and declared himself to be a servant of the Lord. He joined the ranks of the apostles with the full knowledge that, although all Christians faced many dangers, his life was
doubly jeopardized, because in renouncing the emperor he was committing treason, a treason made all the more serious because he had worn the uniform of a centurion and been accorded the respect of the military.

Longinus was quick to absorb the teachings of the Savior and was a great asset to the cause of Christianity in Jerusalem because his conversion was a strong argument for the word of Christ. If the sudden darkness at the instant of the death of the Messiah was not enough to convince all the people, then the transformation of Longinus helped to convert those skeptics whose fear and ignorance had to be supplanted by love. He could have left Jerusalem for the comparative safety of the countryside, but he felt that he could be of greater service to the Lord in the city of Jerusalem where he had served as a soldier. This was to prove his undoing, and he was aware of it.

Soon enough a group of assassins was sent abroad to bring back the head of Longinus at the direction of Pontius Pilate, who had gazed at the innocent Jesus and publicly washed his hands of His trial and judgment, but now that his military establishment had been slighted, stood ready to bathe his hands in the blood of his former centurion. The search party of five had grown weary of the search and was invited to rest at a haven where Longinus had found shelter, and he entertained and fed them. Unaware of their host’s identity, they tarried at his bidding but soon let it be known that they would have to find Longinus or their heads would be severed in his place.

Longinus made himself known to the would-be killers, all of whom were thrown into a state of dilemma because they could not bear to bring themselves to kill a man they had come to respect and admire. Nevertheless, Longinus, in a gesture of supreme sacrifice, prevailed upon them to carry out their orders, not just for their own safety but for others who might fail. On October 16, 36, the head of the valiant Longinus was brought to Pontius Pilate, who in turn ordered it thrown into the public dump.

A blind woman, praying at the tomb of Christ, had her prayers answered when she heard a voice bidding her to take the head of Longinus from the refuse heap and give it a decent burial. When this was done, the woman recovered her sight. Many miracles have been wrought in the name of the stouthearted Longinus."

(From Orthodox Saints, Vol. 4by Fr. George Poulos. Icon from this website.) 

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