The Book of Saints, produced by St. John Chrysostom Coptic Orthodox Church, Laguna Niguel, California. May their prayers be with us all, amen.
Episode 060: St Marina the Martyr
St Marina the Martyr
On the 23rd day of the Coptic month Abib we celebrate the departure of St. Marina of Antioch.
Marina was born to a wealthy family of pagans in the city of Antioch. She was raised with no knowledge of Christ in her life. Yet at a young age Marina’s parents passed away and she went to live with a nanny, who was a practicing Christian. Each and every night Marina would hear the stories of how ordinary people became martyrs for Jesus Christ. The nanny spoke with such reverence for these “saints” that Marina was inspired and yearned to taste the sweet mercy of the Lord. Though men were drawn to her beauty, she was drawn to a life with God.
And it came to pass that one day Marina was indeed tested and tempted by the Devil’s snares. The governor of Antioch, a rich and powerful man who was accustomed to getting what he wanted, fancied Marina and desired her. But when his soldiers came to her, she told them that she belonged to Jesus Christ. When the governor heard this, he was distressed for he lusted after her with blinding passion. So he had her brought to him by force and offered her to worship his false gods and to forsake the One True God. But she refused.
He demanded to know how she, at such a young age, could defy him for she was only fifteen. To which she replied, “I am Christian. I believe in the Lord Christ, and my name is Marina.”
He made many promises, including marriage, but she still did not bend to his will. She cursed the idols he worshipped and insulted him calling him a fool. He became enraged. He ordered her body to be scraped with hot iron combs, and then rubbed with vinegar, salt and lime. From his selfish and greedy view, if he could not have her then no one will have her. The governor only saw her outwardly beauty. God cares not for the beauty of the ever-dying flesh – but for the eternal growth of our spirit inside.
And through this spirit, strengthened by the Holy Spirit, she endured with patience.
Disgusted by their futility, the governor ordered her to be tossed into prison. Thinking she would die from the wounds they had created. But the Lord God sent an angel to heal all her wounds.
While she was standing up praying, giving thanks to the Lord with her hands extended in the form of a cross, a huge and terrifying serpent came forth. When she saw it she was frightened and her whole body trembled. The serpent swallowed her up, and her soul almost departed from her. She made the sign of the cross and prayed while she was in the belly of the serpent. It split open and fell on the ground dead. Marina was unharmed.
The next morning, the governor ordered her to be brought before him assuming she was dead. When he saw that she was alive and well, he marveled at her trickery. “Your sorcery has become evident today, so listen to me. Worship our gods and much good would be for you, and I will give you all that I have promised you.” To the unbelieving governor, Marina’s healing was the act of sorcery – for that is all he knew. Marina looked at him and at the worthless idols with contempt and proclaimed, “I worship the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, the God of heavens and earth, and whatever you wish to do with me, do, for I will not give into your will.”
Again, angered and frustrated, the governor ordered her hanged on a squeezing wheel, to squeeze the life out of her. And again cast her in prison, assuming she would die. The angel of the Lord came to her, and healed her yet again.
In the midst of her praying and giving thanks to God, the Devil appeared to her and said, “O Marina, if you obey the governor that would be for your good for he is merciless, and he wishes to erase your name from the face of the earth.” Realizing that this vile creature was the Devil, she caught the hair of his head, took an iron rod and beat him. “Stop it O Satan!” She
Episode 058: St Colluthus
St Colluthus of Antinoe
On the 23rd day of the Coptic month of Bashons we celebrate the life of Saint Colluthus of Antinoe.
Colluthus was the son of God fearing parents. His father was a governor over the city of Antinoe, and before Colluthus was born, his father prayed to the Lord Jesus to grant him a son, and God did. He taught him the Christian principles, the church doctrine and Colluthus was pure from his youth. His father wanted him to get married, but he did not accept. However, his sister was married to Arianus who became the governor after her father. When the his parents departed, he built a place for strangers to stay. He also studied medicine and practiced it to cure the sick without charging them money.
When Emperor Diocletian apostatized, Arianus the governor followed him to keep his position, and started to persecute Christians. Then Colluthus rebuked him for forsaking the worship of the one True God, and Colluthus cursed the idols of the Emperor. Arianus did not hurt him for the sake of his sister, but he sent him to the governor of El-Bahnasa, where he was put in prison for three years. His sister meditated for his release until another governor took over who threatened Colluthus and tortured him. The angel of the lord came to him to comfort and strengthen him, until at last, the governor cut off his head. He was granted the crown of Martyrdom. His family prepared his body for burial and kept him in a place until the end of the persecution, when they built a church to honor him.
Lessons from this story
In the parable of the sower, there are four sets of seeds; those that fall to the wayside and are eaten by birds, those that fall on stony ground, grow without deep roots and wither in the sun, those that fall in thorny bush and are strangled as they grow, and lastly those that fall on good ground and grow deep roots.
This parable is an allegory for believers. In comparing St Colluthus to his brother-in-law, there are two of these above mentioned seeds. St Colluthus representing the seeds that fall on good ground and grow with deep roots, yielding crops versus his brother-in-law Arianus who is like the seeds on stony ground. His faith grew for a little while, but when the sun came (Diocletian) his faith withered away.
History is filled with these examples, even among ourselves we see some who grow deep in the faith, while others are caught up in the world (strangled by the thorny bush) or whose faith was only superficial like St Colluthus’s brother-in-law. Faith is not an academic pursuit, though knowing the lives of saints, the scriptures and church writings are important, we must remember that we are blessed with a wealth of resources to help us understand our faith in depth. But these early saints had none of that. Their faith was derived wholly from an inner peace of knowledge, not mentally, but emotionally. They knew the faith by feeling the faith, breathing the faith and living the faith.
We make an effort to make these stories relevant in your daily life to reinforce the importance of personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Not just the church, not just the family and friends in the church, but Jesus Christ above all. As you continue to grow, to learn, to mature in your spiritual life always remember if the only thing you know, the only thing hold dear is your trust in Jesus Christ, then no matter what happens here you will be safe there.
Oh God you are the great teacher who guides us through this world along the ever-narrowing path that leads to eternal life. Surround us always with your angels and saints that they may pray on our behalf to eventually bet met at the door by the thief on the right who says “welcome.” May the prayers of St Colluthus be with us all, amen.
Episode 057: St George, Friend to St Abraam
St George, friend of St Abraam
On the 18th day of the Coptic month of Bashons we celebrate the life of St George, the friend to St Abraam.
George, the companion of St. Abraam, was a shepherd for his father’s herd, who were saintly Christian parents. As he desired becoming a monk, he left his family when he was only fourteen years old. He went to the wilderness of St. Macarius. While he was walking on the road, the devil appeared to him in the form of an old man and said, "Your father thought that a wild beast had killed you, and he rent his garment, grieving over you. You should return to him and comfort his heart. Then return to the wilderness". George was astonished at this revelation. Saying to himself: "The Bible says: 'He who loves his father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me.'" And when he said that, the devil became like smoke and fled from him. Immediately, the angel of the Lord in the form of a monk appeared to him, and guided him to the monastery of Abba Orion. He remained there for ten years, not eating any cooked food, fruit or wine.
He then desired to live alone in the inner wilderness and went to the monastery of the Roman Saints Maximus and Domadius in Scetis. At the same time, St. Abraam arrived to the monastery. They went together to the monastery of St. Macarius and met St. Yoannis, the archpriest of Sheahat. He gave them a cell close by him to live in, which was known as the cell of Bageeg, where St. Abraam departed. Shortly after George also departed. He was seventy-two years old.
Lessons from this story
What a comparative experience this young boy had. Having left his home at the young age of 14 years, he would not have the knowledge nor the learned discernment to know a devil from an angel - for both appeared to him in a similar form. One an elderly man, the other a monk. Only his knowledge of the Bible helped to know which was true guide and which was false prophet.
In our daily lives we interact with all types of people. For business, for pleasure, during service, or a multitude of other situations. It is virtually impossible to know who would guide us correctly and who would led us astray. Most people's intentions can be figured out pretty quick, but sometimes we are often completely shocked or unprepared for a person’s intentions.
Living a prayerful life, inviting God the Father into every aspect of our life is a sure fire way to make sure no ill intentions befall us. Does this mean we will not make bad mistakes? Of course not. God grants us free will. But we should be smart about our requests to God.
God loved Solomon greatly for he “have not asked riches or wealth or honor or the life of your enemies, nor have you asked long life—but have asked wisdom..” (2 Chronicles 1:11) Wisdom is perhaps the greatest gift the Lord God could grant us, more so than riches, power or worldly lusts. Through wisdom we can navigate the world filled with so many temptations that are designed to literally draw us to hell. Even though they appear as minor offenses, each of them is designed to desensitize us to wrongdoing.
In his innocence of the world and being raised by devout Christians, George was well prepared to repel against the temptations of the devil, using his love for his father as a trick to turn George a way from a path of piety and monastic living. But the Lord tickled the memory of George’s knowledge of the Bible and the devil was revealed.
This telling of this saint’s story can help us highlight the importance of daily prayer, daily bible reading and lending our decisions on the guidance of the Lord. There is a saying, “haste makes waste”, this is true for us as well. If we hastily make decisions, they are typically being led by emotions. Don’t be in a rush to make a decision. Pause, pray and wait for the guidance of the Lord.
God bless us with wisdom in our daily lif
Episode 056: The Relics of St Leontius
St Leontius the Syrian
On the 1st day of the Coptic month of Paona we celebrate the life of St Leontius the Syrian and the consecration of the church in his name..
This Saint was martyred in the city of Tripoli on the 22nd day of Abib. A Christian woman, the wife of a great nobleman and prominent army commander, gave money to the soldiers to retrieve his holy body. She wrapped it in expensive cloth and laid it in a coffer inside her house. She made a picture of him and she hung a lighted lamp before it.
It happened that Emperor Diocletian became angry with her husband and shut him up in prison in the city of Antioch. She became sad, and prayed to God, and asking St Leontius to intercede on her behalf, to save her husband from prison. God accepted her prayers. St. Leontius appeared to her husband in prison and told him, "Do not grieve or be sorrowful, for you shall be delivered tomorrow, and you shall eat with the Emperor at his table, and shall return safely to your home."
The Saint then went to the Emperor, and woke him up. When the Emperor saw the Saint, he became terrified. The Saint told the Emperor, "I have come to you, O Emperor, to order the release of the army commander. Honor him, and let him go to his house, lest you be destroyed." The Emperor, who was trembling, replied saying, "Whatever you command me, O my lord, I will do." The next morning, the Emperor brought the commander out of prison, honored him, and dined with him at his own table. The Emperor told him about the horseman that appeared to him, then dismissed the former prisoner to return to his hometown.
When he arrived in Tripoli, he told his wife and his family what had happened to him. His wife told him, "The good that happened to you was through the blessings of St. Leontius." Then she uncovered the body of the Saint, and he took the blessing of the Saint. When he saw his face, he realized that he was the one that had appeared to him in prison.
After the death of Diocletian, they built a church in his name, relocated the body to it with great veneration, and that church was consecrated on this day.
Lessons from this story
Relics of the saints are very important to the orthodox church. For those are unfamiliar with this, it means we preserve the bodies of saints and when a church is built, under the auspice of the saint, a small portion of the body, or relic, is honored and painstakingly stored in the new church.
Why? Because God wastes nothing. After the feeding of the 5,000, from five loaves and two fish, Jesus instructed his disciples to gather up all the fragments. Jesus Christ performed a miracle, turning that meager amount of food into a banquet of food for 5,000 people. This miracle was not to be trampled on or discarded, but venerated. So all the fragments were gathered up. We see this same care at the orthodox altar when the body of Christ is shared through communion. If the smallest crumb falls from the paten, the priest stops, the deacons assist and the priest gets down on his hands and knees and either eats the crumb or burns it.
Life is precious to God for all life emanates from Him. When a miracle happens through a saint, that body represents the body of Christ, the presence of God’s power, mercy and grace. These lives of the saints that we share with you are not just their story in the hopes you may emulate or be inspired by them, but a reminder that each one of use has within us the same breath of Life as these saints do. So when you see a priest stopping the congregation to lean over pick up a crumb that has fallen, remember the parable of the lost coin or the lost sheep. As the priest bends down to pick up the piece of the body of Christ, that is exactly what God does for us everyday.
You are always important to Him.
Thank you God for your Grace, mercy and Kindness. Help us always appreciate you every aspect of our lives. An
Episode 055: St Isaac, Priest of Cyprus
St Isaac, Priest of Cyprus
On the 19th day of the Coptic month of Bashons we celebrate the life of Saint Isaac, Priest of Cyprus.
Isaac was born in an Egyptian village to poor parents, but he was rich in his righteous works. When monks from a nearby monastery were in his village selling monk-made crafts, he followed them back to the wilderness. He served them under the yoke of obedience. When he became a monk, he excelled in asceticism and worship to the point that he never possessed two garments at the same time. They asked him once: "Why don't you possess two garments?" He answered: "Because when I was in the world before being a monk, I did not have two garments at the same time."
He wept very often during his prayers, and he mixed his bread with the ashes of the censer and ate it. Once he became sick of a grievous sickness, and some of the brethren brought him food, but he did not eat it. One of the brethren described to him the benefits of food and urged him again to eat some of it. He insisted on not eating anything of it, and said to him: "Believe me my brother that I desire to remain sick for thirty years."
When he became seasoned and everyone heard about his virtues, the fathers by consensus decided to ordain him a priest. He fled and disappeared among the fields. When they were looking for him, they passed by the field, where he was hiding in and sat to rest. They had with them a donkey, which went into the field and stood where the father was. When they went after the donkey to catch it, they found him, and they wanted to bind him so that he could not escape again. He said to them: "I will not escape now, for I know that this is the will of God." He went with them, and they ordained him a priest, and he increased in obedience to the elders and in teaching beginners Christian virtues. When the time of his departure drew near, they asked him: "What can we do after you leave us?" He told them: "Do exactly as you have seen me do, if you wish to remain steadfast in the wilderness", then he departed.
Lessons from this story
Poor Isaac, he had no honor for himself. Born poor, it was easy for him to leave the dust behind and follow the monks into the wilderness and there he served. But the story said “the yoke of obedience”. The word usage implies that Isaac had no honor for himself at all, only the will of the monks he served. A truly distinguishing gift.
Blindly accepting orders from our superiors does not come with a tiny bit of pride swallowing. Our oldest son was preparing to serve in the United States Air Force and I remember a distinct conversation I had with him about absolute acceptance of whatever order is given. That he has to set aside his own reasoning, logic, and self-pride to serve with absolute obedience. It is the main element of a cohesive military. To disagree is a court-martial.
In our daily life we often interact with people who bark commands at us, and we do, in most cases, follow especially job related. But they always come with a bit of tongue-biting. As much as we would like to lash out, we don’t. This “yoke” referenced in St Isaac’s story really implies a hardship was purposefully placed on him, to test his resolve. So it should not come as a shock that when they finally decided to make him a priest, he ran away.
In his letter to St Timothy, St Paul writes, “Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.” Double honor? Poor Isaac fasted so much from his own self-worth that didn’t even have a crumb of honor for himself. And yet, as a priest, he was expected to receive a double portion. It was not the pride he fled from, for pride was a complete stranger to this lowly servant. No it was so ingrained in him that he was unworthy, that to be given honor of the highest order was not for him, unless he knew it was
Episode 054: St Ammonius
On the 20th day of the Coptic month of Bashons we celebrate the life of St Ammonius.
Ammonius was born in the year 294 in a village near Mariot, in Egypt. He was, as St. Antony was, born to a righteous and wealthy Christian family. He lost his parents while he was young and was given to his uncle as his guardian. He longed for the life of purity, chastity, and holiness. Nevertheless, his uncle forced him to be engaged to a rich girl against his will. Since he could not disobey his uncle, he talked to his bride to be, with a spiritual dialogue. With the help of the Holy Spirit, he was able to have a good influence on her. She then longed for the life of purity and it was planted in her heart the desire to consecrate herself as a bride for the True Bridegroom Jesus Christ. Thus they decided to accept the marriage arrangement, but decided to live as brother and sister.
They remained like this for seventeen years, keeping themselves pure and chaste, after which his wife departed to the eternal bliss. Ammonius saw in a vision St. Antony calling him to put on the monastic garb. When he woke from his sleep, he rose up and went to St. Isidore, who put on him the holy garb. He dwelt with him for some time, after which he went to mount Tounah, to be with St. Antony.
Ammonius remained with St. Antony for a time as his disciple, and studied the cannons of holy monasticism. He built for himself a cell in mountain. He fervently worshipped God there, and the devil envied him. He came to him in the form of a nun and knocked on his door. When Ammonius opened the door and asked the devil to pray with him, the devil became like a flame of fire and vanished.
Then the devil found a woman and moved her to entice Ammonius to fall in sin with her. She wore the best of her clothing, came to him at dusk, and knocked on the door of his cell, saying: "I am a traveling woman, and I have lost my way. It is dark now. Please do not let me stay outside lest the wild beasts kill me, and you become responsible for my blood."
When he opened the door and knew the snare of the devil who sent her, he started to preach to her and put the fear in her heart of the tortures of hell which is awaiting sinners. He indicated to her the delight and the bliss which is awaiting the righteous. God opened her heart, and she understood what he said to her. She knelt to his feet weeping and asked him to accept her and assist her in saving her soul. She took off her apparel and he put on her a sackcloth of hair. He cut off her hair and called her "The simple minded or the naive". He taught her the way of righteousness and she excelled through many prayers and fasting, and surpassed many saints by her fasting and perpetual prayers.
The devil tried to snare him again. But this time in the form of a monk who went around in the monasteries weeping and saying: "Father Ammonius the hermit has married and keeps the woman with him in his cell. He has put the monks to shame and has disgraced the monastic garb." When Father Apollo, who was like the angels, heard of that, he took with him Father Yousab and Father Nohi (Bohi), to the cell of Father Ammonius. They knocked on the door of the cell, and when she opened to them they realized the matter. They entered and prayed together as the custom and sat to talk about the greatness of God. At the end of the day, Father Ammonius told them, let us go to see the "Naive One" for she was baking some bread. When they went out to where she was, they saw her standing in the midst of a great fire, and her hands were stretched out towards heaven praying. They marvelled exceedingly and glorified God. After they had eaten the bread, everyone went separately to sleep and the angel of the Lord revealed to Father Apollo the story of the "Naive One" who was staying with St. Ammonius. And that God brought them there to be present at the time of he