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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This Week's Best-Sellers: Prayer Books and a Two Very Popular Romanians

It's Friday! Time to show you this week's best-selling titles. Two-thirds of this week's most popular books were written by Romanians. Who would have guessed?

Let the countdown commence...

8.) The Experience of God, vol. 5: The Sanctifying MysteriesDumitru Staniloae
Written by a beloved theologian of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Fr. Dumitru Staniloae's six-volume series remains an Orthodox classic. This volume takes on the sacraments, their significance, and how they lead us to holiness.

7.) The Experience of God, vol. 4: The Church: Communion in the Holy Spirit, Dumitru Staniloae
Another title from Fr. Staniloae! In Volume 4, Staniloae addresses a common question: how does the Holy Spirit use the Church to bind us all together? 

6.) Pocket Prayer Book, Antiochian Archdiocese
Currently in its fourteenth printing, this perennially popular prayerbook is just the right size for popping into a purse or pocketbook. (Forgive us our excessive alliterations.) Includes occasional prayers and the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. 

5.) Introducing the Orthodox ChurchAnthony M. Coniaris
We often sell this catechetical classic by the dozens--churches around the country use it in their catechism and "Intro to Orthodoxy" classes. Its author, Fr. Coniaris, has served the church for over fifty years.

4.) The Holy Trinity: In the Beginning there was Love, Dumitru Staniloae
Noticing a trend yet? Here we have yet another title by Fr. Staniloae, a slim but potent volume examining the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. 

3.) The Experience of God, vol. 6: The Fulfillment of Creation, Dumitru Staniloae
This last title in Fr. Staniloae's series deals, fittingly, with eschatology. 

2.) Daily Prayers for the Orthodox Christian, Nomikos Michael Vaporis
This prayerbook, published by our very own Holy Cross Orthodox Press, is always one of the best-sellers not only for the week, but the year. Fr. Vaporis' collection includes everything from Small Compline to prayers for before and after Holy Communion. A favorite of Orthodox Christians around the world. 

1.) Orthodox Canon Law Reference Book, Vasile Mihai
We just can't keep this book on the shelves! Fr. Mihai, currently serving in Savannah, Georgia, compiled this practical guide to Canon Law for clergy and laypeople alike. It covers every topic imaginable. (Did you know, for instance, that if a church building catches fire during the Liturgy, the priest is to take the Holy Gifts and continue the liturgy elsewhere? We sure didn't!)

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Saint of the Day: St. Lazaros

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

Saint Lazaros

"Through the miracle of modern medicine, the life-sustaining machine can pump air into a lung, cause a heart to beat, or a kidney to function, but although it can sustain life, it cannot restore it. Restoration of life calls for a true miracle. Such a true miracle is recounted in the familiar story of how Jesus Christ recalled a man named Lazaros from a premature death by his divine grace. A spark of that divinity was transmitted to Lazaros in the process of his deliverance and instilled in him the grace with which he was to become a saint.

Such great emphasis is placed on the return of Lazaros from the dead that his prior life is practically ignored. His true life began after he had died, exactly four days after, since that was the period of time in which he had lain dead before Christ appeared at his tomb in Bethany. A true friend of the departed Lazaros, as well as of his grieving sisters Mary and Martha, Jesus stood before the tomb and commanded Lazaros to come forth, whereupon Lazaros stepped from oblivion into immortality. Thereafter he became a servant of the Lord in the early development of the new faith.

Following the death and resurrection of the Savior, Lazaros undertook an apostolic mission which carried him to many corners of the empire and ultimately to the island of Cyprus, where he settled after his ordination as bishop of Kition. The apostles of Christ encouraged him to stay on this island, and there he spent the final thirty years of his life, implanting Christianity with the firmness that was to sustain Cyprus centuries later through conquest, piracy and subjugation. The association of Lazaros with Cyprus has been obscured by events on that strife-torn island, but evidence of his presence there is still extant after nearly two thousand years.

Christianity had taken a firm hold on the island when Lazaros died at the age of fifty-eight, this time not to be recalled by, but to join the Messiah who had summoned him many years before. He was buried in Cyprus and according to tradition there was inscribed after his name on his casket the words, 'Tetraimeros, friend of Jesus Christ.' The word 'tetraimeros' is translated the 'fourth day,' the day on which he was brought back from the grave. Moreover, he was honored in life as a friend of Jesus and was thus assured a place of honor in the kingdom of heaven.

Lazaros was entombed in a small chapel dedicated to his memory. More than eight hundred years later, Emperor Leo of Constantinople, himself a devout Christian, replaced the chapel which was threatened with ruin with a beautiful cathedral and monastery, a fitting tribute to the personal friend of Jesus. After a time, Leo decided that the proper resting-place for St. Lazaros would be in the capital city of Constantinople. That project was probably frowned upon by the islanders who pridefully cherished the shrine of Lazaros, but in due course, they came to accept the plan to place Lazaros in a more hallowed setting. The remains of St. Lazaros were ceremoniously brought to the cultural center of Constantinople on October 17, 891.

A magnificent cathedral was erected in honor of St. Lazaros and his holy relics lie enshrined there in a bronze casket. The official dedication of the cathedral took place on May 4, 892. About the same time the remains of St. Mary Magdalene were also brought to Constantinople by the devout Emperor Leo. Thus the Emperor sought to honor these two friends of Jesus.

If a man can be measured by the kind of friends he has, then the measure of St. Lazaros cannot be drawn, because he had the friendship of Jesus Christ.

The closeness with the Savior, although it added considerable luster to the life of St. Lazaros – extended by a miracle of the Lord – was the deep commitment to Jesus Christ and subsequent mission in His behalf which has made Lazaros a saint of the Greek Orthodox Church. When the life expectancy standards at the time of Christ are considered, it can be said that Lazaros at age fifty-eight departed this earth after having lived a full life."

(From Orthodox Saints, Vol. 4by 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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