Dormition of the Theotokos Greek Orthodox Church in Oakmont, PA
 

How Saints Endured the Pain of Martyrdom and Suffering
By Elder Paisios the Athonite (†1994)


Martyrdom of the Four Martyrs of Milan — Nazarius, Gervasius, Protasius and Celsus

In the past, people were so brave! In the Monastery of the Flavians in Asia Minor, the Turks had captured a man and slaughtered him. Then they told his wife, 'Either you deny Christ, or we will kill your children too.' And she replied, 'My husband is now with Christ, and I entrust my children to Christ and I will not renounce Christ.' What bravery! If Christ is not in us, how can there be such bravery? Today, people without Christ are building their home on rubble...

What love the holy Martyrs had for Christ, what bravery! ... [For example,] St. Gideon the Karakallenos (†1818) — what amazing forbearance he had! To his executioners he said, 'Take my hand, take my leg, take my nose.' In short, take everything! Incredible! But for a man to reach that point, he must not love himself, he must love God. A mother runs into a fire to save her child. She doesn't feel any pain, because her love is stronger than the burning of the fire. Her love for her child masks the pain. So you can imagine how much more the love for Christ can mask the pain of martyrdom!...

Martyrdom of St. Stephen For the Saint approaching martyrdom, the love for Christ is stronger than the pain; it neutralizes it. The Martyrs felt the executioner's sword to be sweeter than the bow of a violin. When the love of Christ really blossoms, then martyrdom becomes a festival; fire refreshes better than a bath, because the burning feeling is dispelled by the burning of divine love. A flaying becomes a caress...

Divine eros takes hold of the heart, takes hold of the mind, and man goes 'mad'. He does not feel the pain of anything else, because his mind is on Christ; and his heart is overflowing with joy. So many Saints went to their martyrdom and felt such joy, one would think they were going to a festival!...

If one does not start sacrificing something now, like giving up some desire or selfishness, how will he ever be able to sacrifice his life at a given time? If, even now, he thinks of the labor, and tries to avoid working a little harder than the next person, how will he ever attain the state of risking his own life to save another's? ... When there is no spirit of sacrifice, everyone looks only to save himself...

These years are like a pressure-cooker that is boiling and whistling. It takes endurance, bravery and manliness. If something should happen, be sure not to leave yourselves completely unprepared. Be prepared from now to face any potential difficulty. What did Christ say? Didn't He say, 'Be ye ready?' (Luke 12:40)...

St. Demetrios the Great Martyr being pierced in the side like Christ, together with St. Loupos his faithful servant Living in such difficult times as today, gives us one more reason to be all the more prepared. It is not only sudden death that we may encounter; there are other dangers as well. Therefore, dispel the spirit of ease and comfort for ourselves. Let the spirit of philotimo prevail. May you always have the spirit of sacrifice...

A woman, who had everything, once told me that having children is a dizzy bother. She couldn't be bothered to be a mother! When a mother thinks like that, she becomes useless; for mothers, after all, are suppose to love naturally... When a person has a sense of sacrifice, he does not complain, he is not lazy; he rejoices. That is the key: to have a spirit of sacrifice...

Oh, what joy it brings! Nowadays people don't savor this joy of sacrifice, and this is why they are tormented. They have no ideals in them; they are too bored to live. A generous heart and self-denial are what drives us. Without this force, we are tormented....

The miracle happens when someone can be compassionate and feel the other's pain. It is this very pain that moves God and brings about the miracle. For there is nothing else that moves God as much as a noble and sacrificial spirit. But now, in our time, this kind of nobility is rare, because self-love and self-restraint have entered the picture. Seldom does someone say, 'Let me give my turn, my place, to someone else, and it's alright if I am delayed.'...
Martyrdom of St. Ignatius of Antioch
The good is good, only when the one who does it sacrifices something from himself -- some sleep, some rest and so on. That is why Christ said [of the widow], 'But she, out of her need, hath cast in all the living that she had.' When I am at ease and do some good, it does not have the same value. But when I am tired and some one asks me, let's say, for directions and I do it, then it has value...

Can you imagine what joy is experienced by the one who sacrifices himself? One cannot even express the joy he feels. Sublime joy emanates from sacrifice. Only when we sacrifice ourselves can we be related to Christ, for Christ is sacrifice. Man can live in Paradise from here and now, or he can live in Hell. Whoever does good is overjoyed, for he is rewarded with divine consolation. Whoever does evil, suffers.


Reprinted with permission from J.Sanidopoulos Mystagogy Site


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